Monthly Archives: February 2013

Canadian Postscript, Eh

Portion of pastel by Inuit artist Itee Pootoogook

Portion of pastel by Inuit artist Itee Pootoogook

Two days after returning from the frozen north, I was in downtown Washington for a meeting, and remembered that the Canadian Embassy at 5th and Pennsylvania was exhibiting contemporary art from even further north, a show entitled “Inuit Illuimi : Inuit Today.  I’m fond of Inuit art (we have a wonderful sculpture of a polar bear on the fireplace mantle in our library), and this small show showcased some well know artists.  The interplay of modern and traditional was fascinating, as in the depiction of the snowmobile above.

The chancery is also noteworthy.  Designed by the great Canadian Arthur Erickson (whose works in British Columbia have been on these pages), and chosen (over the objections of a design committee) by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, it opened in 1989.  I’ve long appreciated its mix of modern and traditional:

CanadianEmbassy

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Montreal: Hiver véritable (genuine winter)

Old and new on Rue Sherbrooke, Montreal

Old and new on Rue Sherbrooke, Montreal

Dear Readers: I’m still not happy with how fuzzy my photos look when I upload them to WordPress.  I’ve trolled around the support pages of WordPress and cannot see anything that I am obviously doing wrong.  While I continue to research the issue, I did learn that if you, dear reader, click on the photo it looks crisper.  And, in fairness, some of the snaps start crude, like the one of the skier riding the escalator below; I accept lesser quality in order to capture a scene I could not get if I took the time to yank my “good camera” from my backpack.  RB.

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Two days after returning from Dallas,  I headed back to National Airport.  At the West Falls Church Metro station, eye contact and a “Good morning” greeting led to a nice T-t-S exchange with Dave.  He saw my suitcase and asked me where I was heading.  Montreal led to Tremblant led to skiing led to his work for Lockheed Martin led to our moving to Virginia led to the fact he was a car guy (orange 2007 Corvette, Ferrari racing instructor).  Such pleasant moments to pass the time and engage.  I flew north to New York Kennedy, then to Montreal for part one of my twice-annual visits to McGill University.  Hopped on the Route 747 bus to downtown, onto the Metro for four stops, and to my hotel.  Dropped my bag in room 1109 and zipped back out, south to Rue St. Catherine and the brewpub called Les 3 Brasseurs – the three brewers.  They had the Super Bowl on all the TVs, so I got a brown beer, a bowl of mussels, and plate of fries, and watched the second half.  Walked back to the hotel to watch the second half.

Only in Montreal: skier riding an escalator from the McGill Metro station

Only in Montreal: skier riding an escalator from the McGill Metro station

RueSherbooke-1

 

Up before six Monday morning, down to the gym, then west in serious winter for breakfast at Tim Horton’s, then to the business school.  I was to meet my swell host, Mary Dellar, at her office at 8:15 for an 8:35 class.  She had gotten stuck in traffic, so with a little help I found the classroom, introduced myself, and started in.  Three lectures that day, with a cup of coffee and a lunch in between, a good day.  Back to the hotel, did a bit of work, 20-minute nap, then south to meet longtime friend Gary Doernhoefer for dinner.  He’s finishing a three-year stint as general counsel for IATA, the International Air Transport Association, and we had a good yak and a lovely dinner.  He lived less than a block from the restaurant, and insisted on driving me the mile or so to the Holiday Inn, in part to charge the car battery.

Present at the end: on my first full day in Montreal, the penny ceased to be

Present at the end: on my first full day in Montreal, the Royal Canadian Mint ceased distribution of pennies; the move will save taxpayers $11 million per year, and retailers and banks much more.  Another example of Canadians thinking things through!

I know that I've posted this image before, but I always appreciate the urban texture visible from the window of my hotel

I know that I’ve posted this image before, but I always appreciate the urban texture visible from the window of my hotel

Tuesday morning, rinse, repeat, but at a more leisurely pace.  After oatmeal and bran muffins at Tim’s, ambled around the McGill campus, and at 11:15 met Mary for the first of two back to back lectures.  Her brother Mike taught the second one, an interesting “all in the family” setup.

Bob Micalski, one of my McGill colleagues and a friend of Mary Dellar, was soliciting students help before my Tuesday morning lecture, so he brought pizza as incentive

Bob Mackalski, one of my McGill colleagues and a friend of Mary Dellar, was soliciting students help before my Tuesday morning lecture, so he brought pizza as incentive

After the talk, we yakked briefly and I peeled off for a quick meeting with Sue, who works in the exec ed team at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University, also downtown.

I wish I were as vested at Concordia as I am at McGill, because I really like the feel of the school.  It is a more accessible university, and the student body is more diverse, and far more likely than McGill to welcome the first people in a family to attend college.  When I mentioned this to Sue, she confirmed my impressions, proudly saying it was one of the first schools in Canada to offer degree programs at night.

Students, Concordia University

Students, Concordia University

Concordia is urban; there are no quadrangles nor ivy, but a series of highrises buzzing with activity

Concordia is urban; there are no quadrangles nor ivy, but a series of highrises buzzing with activity

Cinema Architectonica, a 1990 bronze by Richard MacDonald, donated to Concordia by an alum and former professor, Bruce Mallen, who had a successful second career in the Hollywood film industry

Cinema Architectonica, a 1990 bronze by Richard MacDonald, donated to Concordia by an alum and former professor, Bruce Mallen, who had a successful second career in the Hollywood film industry

Soft and hard, stairwell, Concordia University

Soft and hard, stairwell, Concordia University

At 4:15 I met Mike Dellar for a beer and a yak.  It was fun to get to know Mary’s brother, all the more because he had a wildly diverse career – industries, roles, geographies, outcomes.  All that experience is hugely valuable to business students, and his story was fascinating.  He peeled off to teach a night course at a nearby equivalent of a community college.  I walked across to street to buy a tube of Voltaren gel, the joint-relief topical that you can buy over the counter in Canada for $17 (the FDA, the same folks who approved Fen-phen, make you get a prescription for it), and that really saved my knees and feet in the weeks after moving to Virginia last year.

I was on the Metro back to my hotel when, looking at the diverse array of fellow riders, it came to me: this is the place that launched my love of international travel, 46 years ago at age 15. Some of you have heard this story before, so forgive me: we convinced our parents to let us go to the big World’s Fair in Montreal by ourselves.  My pals Chris and Dave said Montreal was just like a U.S. city, except the ketchup bottles were in French.  “No,” I said, “this place is way different.”  It was then, and remains so.

At seven, I headed back into the cold, north and east a mile or so to Reservoir, an agreeable little brewpub on Rue Duluth, like the Minnesota city.  I knew Duluth was a French explorer, and, curious, I connected on the pub’s wi-fi to learn about Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut (1639-1710), a French soldier and explorer who was the first European through the Great Lakes to the head of Superior and the site that today bears his name.  He spent a lot of time in Montreal, and is buried there.  One thing leads to another: Greysolon established fur-trading posts that a century later, James McGill exploited to help build his fortune, some of which went to establish the university.

Reservoir was jumping, and the only space was at the bar, which, as it often does, afforded a good vantage.  None of the customers were speaking English, but the friendly barmen were happy to serve me in my native tongue.  I enjoyed a tasty dark beer and a pale ale made in the house, and for dinner some yummy calamari followed by a very fancy grilled-cheese sandwich and salad.

Inukshuk sculpture; in the treeless and often-flat Arctic, Inuit would pile stones into human figures to give direction

Inuksuk sculpture; in the treeless and often-flat Arctic, Inuit and other native peoples would pile stones into cairns, often human figures like this, to give direction or mark terrain for other purposes.

Was up early Wednesday morning, down to the hotel gym, worked a bit, then walked a few blocks to Chez Cora, a breakfast spot.  Tucked into an enormous breakfast (heartened, literally, by recent research that suggested that one egg per day was just fine – though it didn’t say anything about the bacon, sausage, and ham also on the plate!).  Walked back to the hotel, grabbed my suitcase, and reversed course to the airport, to JFK, and home.

A portion of a stained-glass window entitled "Canada," installed in 1960 when Montreal's Dorval Airport terminal was expanded

A portion of a stained-glass window entitled “Canada,” installed in 1960 when Montreal’s Dorval Airport terminal was expanded

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Talking to Strangers, Squared

Dr. MaryAnne, the most interesting seatmate I've ever met

Dr. Mary Anne, the most interesting seatmate I’ve ever met

On January 30, I zipped back to Texas for one of my twice-yearly lectures in SMU’s Graduate Marketing Certificate Program.  Invited my friend Ken Gilbert, recently retired from American Airlines, to attend the talk on airline service quality, and he was kind enough to again billet me at their home.  We were up early the next morning, across town to Euless, Texas, and a caloric breakfast at the local Waffle House.  It had been more than five years since I had a WH breakfast, and I simply could not resist their claim of being “the world’s leading server of real hash browns, so I ordered a small plate of what’s called “Scattered all the way,” meaning hash browned potatoes covered with fried onions, melted cheese, ham chunks, grilled tomatoes, jalapeños, mushrooms, chili, and sausage gravy.  Over the top, for sure, but so yummy.  Plus it was the $4 value size, smaller than a regular portion.  Plus I rode my bike 10 miles the next morning.  Joining Ken and me was Randy Essell, another AA alumnus.  We had a great yak.

Breakfast. Honestly, Dr. M, I only eat this stuff every five years!

Breakfast. Honestly, Dr. M, I only eat this stuff every five years!

The flight home was (Talking to Strangers)2.  In nearly half a century of flying I don’t think I’ve ever sat next to someone as interesting as Mary Anne, a pediatrician from Oklahoma City, a pillar of the medical community there, and member of the board of the American Medical Association.  But those are just her professional creds.  She was also an engaged citizen and  truly humane doc, striving to improve health and wellness – she was on her way to an NIH meeting on premature births.  Indeed, she suggested I note here that the rate of premature births has been increasing in the U.S., something of great concern.  Even more troubling, much of the rise has been from mothers-to-be who ask for a Caesarean section before full term for reasons of convenience; somehow their physicians, who do know better, comply with the request.

We discussed health policy, and her optimism that we could cover everyone in America and still find a way to pay for it was so wonderful.  Part of that riff included reference to “Big Med,” a wonderful New Yorker article (I read it when I got home) that pondered what medicine could learn from the Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain.  The article is here.

We talked the entire flight, from gate to gate, and not just about medicine and health, something that has long interested me, but about the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the tragic terrorist bombing there in 1995 (a friend of her daughter perished in the explosion), business education, and families.  I could relate many other items from our chat, but here’s a well-selected last tidbit: as a long advocate of pride in place, I was delighted to learn that she and her husband have already taught their two-year-old granddaughter – who lives in Virginia – to sing “Oklahoma”!  It was a wonderful ride.

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