Monthly Archives: January 2013

Settling In

The center of Georgetown University

The center of Georgetown University

January also was about settling into our new locale.  I obtained a Virginia driver’s license not long after we moved, but it was time to register the Toyota and get license plates from the Commonwealth.  Maybe because mobility is such a value, the simple act of swapping “tags” (as we called them in Texas), not done for 25 years, seemed momentous.

Plates

Settling in also meant continuing to build a local network, and on Tuesday the 15th I took the Metro into town, walked across the Potomac on Key Bridge and onto the compact campus of Georgetown University.  I had only lectured there once, in 2002 when an AA colleague was doing his MBA, but I kept a connection with my host back then, Prof. Lamar Reinsch.  I remembered him as a quality guy, son of West Texas cotton farmers, German immigrants, and he responded quickly and positively to an e-mail sent a couple of months earlier.  That Tuesday he set up a brief meeting with the associate dean for executive education and a colleague, and then we repaired to a fancy lunch at the Faculty Club (you could get used to a place like that!).  We talked more about how I might be of service, and Lamar asked “What are you doing this Saturday?”

Wonderful old-school classroom in Healy Hall, Georgetown University

Wonderful old-school classroom in Healy Hall, Georgetown University

I don’t think there’s been a shorter interval between invitation and delivery, and on Saturday the 19th I motored down the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway, crossed Key Bridge, and delivered a talk on leadership to 25 students in the school’s Executive Masters’ in Leadership program; it was a diverse and very engaged group.  Oh, and another nice lunch beforehand.

Rafik Hariri Hall, home of Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business.  The building was named for the former prime minister of Lebanon, who was assassinated in 2005

Rafik Hariri Hall, home of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. The building was named for the former prime minister of Lebanon, who was assassinated in 2005

It felt really good to be quickly involved with a local B-school, and I have long admired the Jesuit tradition at Georgetown.  It seems to me that colleges with Protestant affiliations have mostly lost the link to faith and values, but it’s still strong at a place like Georgetown, evident in how they present themselves on their website, and in the classroom.  Lamar, who I recalled was a Christian, and I yakked about it, and he confirmed that “Jesuitness” is woven throughout the institution.

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To Kingston, Ontario, Canada

The St. Lawrence River and the 1000 Islands region on the New York-Ontario border

The St. Lawrence River and the 1000 Islands region on the New York-Ontario border

Left early again the following Friday, the 11.  In keeping with my returned commitment to public-transit, Linda drove me just a mile to the Tysons Westpark transit station, where the #981 took off for Dulles Airport, your scribe the lone passenger.  I was bound for Kingston, Ontario, at foot of Lake Ontario, about halfway between Toronto and Montreal.  Rather than fly to either of those and take a train or rental car, it was far easier to fly 300 miles north to Syracuse.  Bought a pass on United Express; flying standby is still a bit stressful, but my United Airlines friend Lora said the flight was wide open, and it was.  Landed SYR, hopped in a Hertz car, and in no time was zipping north on the same I-81 that I drove in November enroute to our new home.  The difference was amazing: the road ends at the Canadian border, and there was almost no traffic, compared to a choke of trucks further south.  Set the Nissan Sentra on cruise, tuned up the local classical station (Tchaikovsky’s splendid Serenade for Strings was the starter), and enjoyed the woods and gentle hills.

The landscape became spectacular at the Canadian border.  The St. Lawrence River drains Lake Ontario, in an the aptly-named 1000 Islands region.  The freeway ended and I crossed two high toll bridges over the river, both affording splendid views of small islands generally edged by cliffs.  Unhappily, I couldn’t stop on either bridge to snap photos.  Entered Canada after getting the total third-degree from the border man, who seemed to have trouble understanding the concept of voluntary service: “No, sir, I am not being paid . . . No, sir, the schools generally don’t pay me.”  He waved me in, and I zoomed down Highway 401 to Kingston, checked into the Motel 6, dropped my bags, and motored downtown to a Holiday Inn, site of the Queen’s [University] Marketing Association Conference, entirely student-run. An energetic recent Queen’s graduate, Nick Pateras, invited me to QMAC two months earlier at the Business Today conference in New York.  I had never been to Kingston, nor to Queen’s, so I accepted.

It was a good meeting, 130 students, a couple of really good speakers (and some weak ones).  There was lots of time for one-on-ones (and -twos, -threes, and -fours) that day, at meals and between.  A number of big companies (Kraft, Unilever) had clearly participated in the conference for years (it began in the mid-1980s), and they were there in force, principally for recruitment.  There were mountains of free samples, and the students scooped them up.  After the dinner speaker, the students headed out to party, and I drove back to the Motel 6 and clocked out.

PB

Up at first light, out the door for a good look around Kingston, a city of about 100,000 founded principally because of its strategic location at the foot of the Great Lakes – old fortifications were still visible along the lakeshore.  Lots of solid stone and brick buildings from the 19th and early-20th centuries.  From 1841 to ’43, it was the capital of the colonial Province of Canada.  Queen’s is a medium-sized university, one of Canada’s oldest (founded by the Church of Scotland, 1841). Snapped pictures from the car and on foot.

Ontario Hall, Queen's University

Ontario Hall, Queen’s University

Solid old house near Queen's University

Solid old house near Queen’s University

 

City Hall

City Hall

Dormer, old railway station

Dormer, old railway station

Skyline, with Canada's Royal Military College in foreground

Skyline, with Canada’s Royal Military College in foreground

Fortification, Kingston Harbor

Fortification, Kingston Harbor

At nine, I was back at the Holiday Inn, joining the students for a full Canadian breakfast, eggs and sausages and potatoes, and a lively discussion of the airline business with Sam, Jessica, and other bright young Canadians.  At ten I presented the Crisis Management talk, yakked a bit more, and peeled off at 11:30.

I had plenty of time to get back to Syracuse, so I headed out of Kingston on County Road 2, fairly close to the water, toward the lovely old small town of Gananoque.  Some Victorian B&Bs, a couple of marinas, some nice-looking restaurants all signaled a visitor economy.  A gastropub looked tempting, but after 26 hours in Canada I still hadn’t visited The Institution, namely Tim Horton’s, so I zipped into the one at the east end of Gananoque for a bowl of soup and a donut.  As always, the place was crowded and, as always, everyone inside had health insurance (and elsewehere in Canada, of course).  I continued on route 2, which had become the 1000 Islands Parkway; I checked the route earlier on the map and on Google Earth, and it ran close to the river for the eight miles to the bridge to the U.S.  The scenery was spectacular – I didn’t see 1000 islands, but I bet I saw 50, including some tiny ones with barely enough room for a house (one, below, had two).  It was way cool.  Here are some views:

One of the 1000 Islands, with two dwellings

One of the 1000 Islands, with two dwellings

 

Ice fishing on the St. Lawrence

Ice fishing on the St. Lawrence

PondI crossed into the U.S., welcomed by a friendly and civil inspector, way nicer than his Canadian counterpart, and zipped south on an unseasonably warm (50º), clear winter afternoon.  I was back at Syracuse Airport about three, and while bringing this journal up to date paused to admire a local public-art effort called the “Poster Project,” a student-created art and poetry project.  This one reads “Flotilla of ducks swimming toward Armory Square / Don’t know summer is gone.”  Nice!

Poster

Flew to Chicago, spent a couple of hours in the Admirals Club, then back to Washington.  Trip two of 2013, check and done.

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To Chicago, First Teaching of 2013, and Back to Roots on Marshfield Avenue

Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate," Millennium Park, Chicago

Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate,” Millennium Park, Chicago

Journeys in the first quarter of the New Year began just as they did last quarter, with a morning flight to Chicago and a three-hour afternoon lecture to EMBA students at the University of Illinois downtown.  Hopped the Blue Line L (rapid transit) into the city, worked my e-mail a bit, and at noon walked west on Adams Street to the U of I’s classrooms, on the fourth floor of an office building.  Ate lunch with students, then delivered a presentation (the students were familiar, from my visit three months earlier, and a lively group.

After yakking with several students after class, I hopped on the Metra commuter train and a short bus ride up to my mom’s old neighborhood about four miles north-northwest of the Loop.  In my continuing zeal to try to answer the question “where did we come from?” I reached out to Norma Ehrenberg, who had lived on Marshfield Avenue all her life (my mother lived there from her birth in 1921 until about 1940, when they moved a couple miles west).  I connected with Norma a couple of years earlier via my Uncle Alan, who was a few years older.  The link was their Catholic parish, St. Bonaventure, at the end of the street (I wrote about a “roots” visit to the ‘hood with Uncle Alan in summer 2010).  Though Alan stopped attending decades ago, Norma still worshiped there, and was one an organizer of the church centennial in 2011.  Back then, Norma invited me to stop in to say hello, and this was finally the opportunity.

Enroute to her house, I walked past the McWhinney Benevolent Association, a social club my grandfather, great-uncle, and other kin frequented.  Through an open door, I spotted Friday-night tipplers, and was sorely tempted to nip in for a quick beer – I could literally ask to be grandfathered in!  But I was already late.  Knocked on Norma’s door, and immediately received a warm welcome from her, her friend Bill, and neighbor Sharon (whose late mother was a long friend of Norma).  We sat down to dinner in the kitchen, a traditional multi-course Italian feast – her surname was German, but Norma was 100% Italian, and indeed came from a village, Ruota, not far from my Frediani family roots in the hills just east of Lucca, Tuscany.  Her maiden name was Mei, common in that part of the province.  Norma’s father was born in Ruota in 1900 and emigrated to Chicago in 1922, about 40 years after my Enrico and Cesira arrived.

Over dinner, we made connections, explaining families and the Fredians’ dispersion from the neighborhood, in many directions.  The contrast with Norma’s long tenure was just so striking.  What was it like to live in the same place all your life, and to see the world change around you?

Norma remembered my grandfather’s Centrella Grocery, a block south on Marshfield; her dad owned the Toscana (Tuscan) Tavern, at the corner of Wrightwood and Altgeld (it’s still there, but in a newer incarnation).  She pulled out some old photos, one of the tavern during World War II, and a wonderful picture of the Young Italians Club from the 1930s.  “Could you find your grandfather?” Norma asked.  Sure I could: Jim was standing proud in the third row; the photo was not that clear, but his eyes, the Fredian eyes, jumped out, as did his ears.  As I have written before, there’s something magical about seeing an old photo of family.  The years compress, all the joy and sorrow of decades is fused in the black and white.  And that’s where we come from.

My Nonno standing tall, 1930s

My Nonno standing tall, 1930s

Norma's family business

Norma’s family business, the Toscana Tavern

I would have liked to yak more, and to have another glass of the delicious limoncello that Sharon’s mother made years ago, but I was totally worn out, so I hugged and kissed Norma, vowing to stay connected and to come back.  Walked over to Ashland Avenue, jumped on the #9 bus and the Blue Line.  It was a memorable night.

Was up at six Saturday morning, down to the hotel gym, pounding out 16 miles.  Out the door at eight, turning east on Adams Street.  Even on a short trip to that wonderful Second City, I feel a need to reconnect with its remarkable downtown landscape, the birthplace of modern architecture, a place of innovation.  And in 25 minutes I passed the classical Art Institute, admired the wall of skyscrapers framing the north end of Millennium Park, ogled at sculptor Anish Kapoor’s magical “Cloud Gate,” heard the L clatter overhead.  Chicago, what a place!

Skyline

Wreathed lion, Art Institute of Chicago

Wreathed lion, Art Institute of Chicago

Untitled sculpture, a gift to the City of Chicago from Pablo Picasso

Untitled sculpture, a gift to the City of Chicago from Pablo Picasso

Hopped on the train, out to O’Hare, and a short flight back to Washington, a nice start to 2013 travels.

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