Monthly Archives: November 2012

Teaching in New York and Philadelphia

Prospect Heights, a diverse neighborhood in Brooklyn; so far from Manhattan in many ways, but only 10 miles

On Sunday morning, November 18, Robin drove me to National Airport and I flew American Eagle to New York Kennedy.   It was a clear morning, and I could see a lot, including the Jersey shore so devastated by Hurricane Sandy – though from 15,000 feet you could not really see the damage.  Landed, hopped on the Skytrain to Jamaica, Queens, then the E Train and the 6 Train to Grand Central Station and the fancy Hyatt, for my seventh appearance at Princeton’s Business Today student conference.  At lunch we heard a lucid and concise analysis of recent economic conditions from a former senior guy at NASDAQ, and I met the first of some really interesting students, Alex, a senior at Stanford.  His parents were refugees from China – long before legal immigration was commonplace – and Alex clearly understood that he stood on the shoulders of people who had sacrificed much for him (he diplomatically noted that not all children of Asian immigrants had that view).

At two I got on the 4 Train and rode across the East River to Brooklyn, off at Franklin Street and Eastern Parkway, in the Prospect Heights neighborhood, hugely diverse.  Although I had traversed that borough many times, I mused that I had not actually been there since 1976, when I was doing my Ph.D. research, lodged with friends of a friend (as was common back then).  Whoa, 36 years.  Brooklyn was the site of my overnight digs, Airbnb in a former warehouse.  To say that Kellam Clark’s abode on Dean Street was quirky would not get close to capturing the ambience, but it was friendly and comfy.  Adjacent to the building was a junkyard brimming with cool stuff: two travel trailers, bicycles, old signs, a collection of the varied produce of an industrial nation.  Dropped my suitcase, relaxed for an hour or so, and retraced my path into midtown Manhattan and the conference.  From 4:45 to 6:00 I delivered a talk on government regulation and the airline industry to a small but engaged group of students.

Dean Street, my Sunday-night ‘hood

Kellam’s junkyard, full of all sorts of cool stuff

I was thirsty, and ambled out of the hotel looking for an agreeable watering hole.  Found it, O’Neill’s on Third Avenue, where the barman really was Irish, and knew how to draw a proper pint of Guinness.  Sat down and brought this journal up to date, read a bit, chilled – actually, I warmed up from late-fall cool air.  I felt a little guilty about being away from all the move-in work, but not too guilty!

Dinner was later than in previous years, starting at eight.  Had a lively conversation with Nicolas from Queen’s University in Ontario, but the after-dinner speaker, a former Lehman banker, was pretty dull.  When she was done, I sprinted for the subway and was back at my digs in Brooklyn by 10:30.  Kellam’s warehouse was funky, but really vertical, which was challenging on my knees.  Step one was to go to the second floor, via a really narrow spiral staircase.  Step two, after descending to brush teeth and go back up, was to ascend to the loft bed, reached not by a ladder, but a set up stools fastened together.  Once I made it to the pillow, I was out.  At 4 a.m. I had to pee, so back down the spiral, only to find three Airbnb guests still awake and quietly yakking.  I chatted and headed back to sleep.

Up at 6:15, down-up-down, and out the door, pausing to admire all the stuff inside the warehouse, and snap a few pictures, like the way-cool bathroom sink from the 1930s or ‘40s.  I wished I had more time to chat with Kellam, but it’s clear he’s into reusing everything.  I don’t think he visits Home Depot!

Inside Kellam’s house

Detail, bathroom sink

Walked back to the subway, into Manhattan and the conference hotel.  Met and yakked with more students, and listened to Andrew Tisch, a hotelier and developer, who spoke about U.S. public debt and what we gotta do to fix it.  He ended a sobering talk with a wonderful quote from Newark Mayor Cory Booker:

We who drink deeply from wells that we did not dig, we who eat lavishly from banquet tables set up for us by the sacrifices and struggles of our ancestors, are we just going to luxuriate in all that’s America?  Or are we going to realize that this nation has not finished itself yet, and we must return the blessings of our ancestors by showing the same sacrifice and commitment?

After breakfast, the students headed to seminars, and I peeled off to a wonderful public atrium with tables and chairs on W. 47th Street, adjacent to a Starbucks (and wi-fi).  Worked for a couple of hours and headed back for lunch and a delightful conversation with Reem, a student at the University of Denver, whose parents emigrated from Iraq in the 1980s (now that was a smart move!).  The lunch speaker, Richard Novogratz, was the best of the four, an energetic, stand-up guy, articulate, informal, and very open (a student asked him if he’d be willing to be specific about one of the failures he mentioned in his talk, and he pretty much told us Goldman Sachs fired him in his early ‘30s for malfeasance).  His five succinct pieces of advice:

  1. Cut parental ties
  2. Take a year off and travel
  3. Chase your passion
  4. Have fun
  5. Invest in all sides of yourself: spiritual, fitness, nutrition

I said goodbye to a bunch of students, grabbed my suitcase, hopped on the subway, and caught the 4:03 train to Philadelphia.  Arrived about 5:30, and walked from 30th Street Station to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the place that changed my life for the better.  It was my second teaching visit in 2012, and at six I met Americus Reed, the way coolest academic host among the 25 schools I visit.  We worked a bit in his office, and at 7:30 met his wife Veronica at Doc Magrogan’s a new seafood place on the north edge of the Penn campus.  Tucked into some tasty Delaware and Virginia oysters (second round of raw oysters in a week – so nice to be near the sea!) – the ones from our new state were called, curiously, “Little Bitches,” from Occohannock Creek near the lower reaches of Chesapeake Bay.  Main course was wood-grilled salmon, scallops, and shrimp.  Apple crisp for dessert, heavy on the cinnamon.  Hopped a cab the short way to the Reeds’ house, and was hard asleep by 10:30.

The Reed house, West Philadelphia

San Francisco is not the only place with Victorian “painted ladies”! Spruce Street, West Philadelphia

Early morning on Locust Walk, University of Pennsylvania

Up at 6:15, out the door, on foot back to campus, for breakfast with Pat Rose, Penn’s placement director, who I’ve known since studying there almost 30 years ago.  We had a good catch-up (I hadn’t seen her since 2009).  At 9:00 it was time to stand and deliver, to MBA students; repeated the talk at 10:30, then a quick lunch, and gave a third performance to undergrads at 1:30.  A fast day.

Benjamin Franklin, founder of the University of Pennsylvania, rendered in bronze, and a little avian friend

Detail, Fisher Fine Arts Building, University of Pennsylvania

Said goodbye to one of my favorite marketing profs, snapped a couple of pictures, and ambled back to the train station and a two-hour ride home to Washington – and back to unpacking.  The notable aspect of the journey home was that it required no car; at Union Station, Washington, I hopped on the Metro Red Line, changed trains, rode to East Falls Church, and caught last trip on Metrobus route 24T to within 500 feet of our house.  It is so cool to live in a place with great public transportation.

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A One-way Trip: Relocating to Suburban Washington, DC

Our new neighbors, sort of — the White House is 13 miles east

The last ten days of October and first November days were spent preparing for the move to McLean, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC (the motives for the relocation were described in a September posting).  Americans are a mobile people, and I am probably typical.  We moved a lot when I was a kid, first for a short-lived, unsuccessful (for my dad) “restart” in Cleveland, Ohio 1957-59, then after the family went from homeowners to renters following my father’s illness 1965-66 – he had no medical insurance and sold the house to pay his healthcare bills. (Is it any surprise that I have long advocated for universal coverage?  But I digress.)  In my adult life, I’ve lived in only five places – a tiny studio with Linda for four years of graduate and law school; a rented duplex in St. Paul; our first house, a splendid but needful 1912 craftsman bungalow in that city; for almost 20 years our big house on Cheyenne Drive in Richardson, Texas, and nearly five years in a new bungalow in Allen, Texas.   So moving again didn’t seem all that unusual, and certainly not emotional, even for a softie like me.

Move preparation demanded significant paring of stuff: not just furnishings (we donated an enormous 2007 GE refrigerator, sold our dining room set on Craigslist), but all sorts of other stuff, smaller things that just accrete in a lifetime.  So out went the almost 20 oak goat-head plaques, recognition of my long service as a judge at the Goat Cook-off in Brady, Texas, as well as more than two decades of paper appointment books, how we tracked our calendars in a time before, first, PDAs, then smartphones.  Why was I keeping them?  And why did I still have a spiral notebook from B-school in 1983?  Some stuff went to landfill, some to recycling.  I did keep some memorabilia from Republic Airlines, but its last telephone directory went to the recycling bin.


And I spent about an hour paring down correspondence from decades earlier; in the process I uncovered replies from prominent people – the Canadian immigration minister, responding to my complaint about being denied entry across from Detroit in 1977 (I had to go back across the river and buy a train ticket); and a short, sincere apology from Pauline Kael, longtime New Yorker film critic, who I dinged for some remarks about New Zealand that I found demeaning.  Back in the day I was quick to dispatch a cranky letter!

The weekend of November 3-4 was for packing; we had hired movers, but still needed to box up books and linens and a ton of framed art and photos.  On Sunday I took a last bike ride around Allen, both on the streets with my road bike and on some pleasant, leafy trails near our house.  A few farewells and hugs to neighbors who we will surely miss.  Time to say goodbye to a good place.

On Monday morning the 5th, we signed a bunch of paper to sell 614 Seeport Drive.  Drove home, packed a few more things into the Toyota, kissed Linda, and at 11:28 I backed out of the driveway and pointed the car toward Virginia, 1320 miles northeast.   It was going to be a long road trip, one of the longest of my life, and I was not real excited about 20 hours behind the wheel.  I saw the Dallas skyline a couple of times in the rearview mirror.  I wasn’t sad about leaving, though the 25 years there was a good run.

Stopped in Sulphur Springs, Texas, for lunch at Whataburger, a wonderful Texas chain that somehow has survived the onslaught from McDonalds and others.  Picked up a couple of their small cheeseburgers (less likely to be messy in the car) and a 32-ounce chocolate malt.  Texas comfort food, for sure.  Cruise control was set at 80, 5 mph above the speed limit.  Rolled into Arkansas, with some nice autumn foliage, past Bill Clinton’s hometown of Hope, around Little Rock, and east to Memphis, crossing the Mississippi about 6:15.

Interstate 30, Southern Arkansas

East of Jackson, Tennessee, not yet close to Nashville, my overnight stop, I was getting hungry, but did not relish chain fast food.  It was raining, but not so hard that I did not notice the billboard for a truck stop and Indian food. Say what?  Chapatis and dal for the big-rig drivers?  I took the exit six miles east of Jackson and found my way to the back of the convenience store, where turbaned Sikhs and ladies in saris watched cable TV from the Punjab.  Ordered a simple vegetable plate (called a thali).  The Indians seemed a little mystified about the enthusiastic Anglo, but I tucked into a lovely, spicy meal.  The cook brought out more hot chapatis.  It was a wonderful experience.  By 10:45 my head was on the pillow at the Holiday Inn Express in Mount Juliet, an eastern suburb of Nashville.  Plumb wore out.

After an omnivore’s lunch, a vegetarian dinner was in order!

Up at six, big (free) breakfast, out the door and east on Interstate 40.  Up and down and up and down.  Past the right-wing faithful on an overpass with a big sign that read “Vote Obama Out /Save America/Vote Republican.”  Through Knoxville and up into the northeastern corner of Tennessee.  Forty was a nice freeway, but I-81 was truck after truck after truck.  The road followed the Appalachians northeast, in valleys between ridges.  A semi almost blocked the opp to snap a picture of the “Welcome to Virginia” sign; it was so good to be in our new home state.  But I was still 370 miles from my destination.  Stopped for a big McDonalds shake and pressed on.  The weather had cleared, and the mountain views were gorgeous.  “This is gonna be a good place to live,” I thought.  I was happy to be in Virginia.

Getting close: on Interstate 66, with 1250 miles of road behind me

And happier still to pull into the parking lot of Robin’s apartment, park the car, give her a hug, and open a cold Yuengling beer.  It was election night, and after Dylan and Carson went to sleep we tucked into Chinese take-out and watched the returns roll in.  When NBC predicted that President Obama would take Ohio and have enough electoral votes to be re-elected, I gave a small whoop, high-fived Robin, and headed to sleep.

On Wednesday morning I drove over to the new house, 7711 Bridle Path Lane, McLean, and was delighted to find a flag bracket to hold Old Glory, the last item I packed into the Toyota two mornings earlier.  Did some work at a Starbucks, drove to National Airport, picked up Linda, and went to buy the house.  Hooray for that!  Literally the first task the day after signing the papers was to put up the two National Geographic big maps, of the world and the U.S., in the garage.  And the next ten days went by fast, moving Robin and the girls in, taking care of a couple of small repairs and installations, and unpacking after the moving van arrived on Tuesday the 13th.   Fitting too much stuff into a somewhat smaller house created some challenges, and some stress (read: yelling), but we got through it.

The Stars and Stripes posted at 7711 Bridle Path Lane, McLean, Virginia. We did not yet own the house, but hoisting our colors was the first order of business on the day after national elections.

Once we owned the place, posting National Geographic maps of the United States and the world was a good first step. The garage, shown here, was soon literally packed with stuff!

On Saturday the 17th, I paused from a lot of remaining work.  I needed some exercise.  Prising a bicycle from the piles and boxes in the garage was no small matter, but I managed to extract the red Trek city bike, pump up the tires, and set off for the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, the former railway right of way that runs 50 miles west-northwest from Alexandria on the Potomac.  According to the iPhone map, the trail ran within 4.4 miles of home, to the south.  As soon as I started pedaling I felt better, and once I reached the trail I continued east on a clear and crisp day, 21 miles round trip, a true and quite large slice of therapy.  And another reminder of what a great place Northern Virginia is: the hills, the big trees (several in a ravine adjacent to our house are at least 150 feet tall), friendly new neighbors, and lots more.

Sunrise from our “tree house”: the woods that flank our lot our so wonderful.

The view from the kitchen

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