Monthly Archives: March 2014

To Montreal and McGill University

Bronze of James McGill, founder of the university; it was the first day of spring, but winter was still in full force!

Snowbound bronze of James McGill, founder of the university; it was the first day of spring, but winter was still in full force!

I was home for about a month, so was really looking forward to the twice-yearly visit to Montreal and teaching at McGill University.  Hopped on a handy US Airways nonstop from Washington National to Montreal.  It was my 90th visit to Canada (yep, I keep track).  Bought an $18 three-day pass on the STM, the public-transit network, and in no time was downtown, familiar after visiting lots of times over 47 years.  Familiarity brought a smile as the Metro rolled into the Peel station and I spotted the colorful glazed-tile circles that I recall from our first visit as 15-year-olds.

PeelCircles

Checked into the hotel, dropped bags, and walked down the hill for a short meeting with a couple of colleagues from IATA, the International Air Transport Association.  It was past lunchtime and I was hungry, but also due for the meeting, so instead of the usual stop at Tim Horton’s I zipped into a McDonald’s on Saint-Catherine.  This was Quebec, so by law the menu posted above the counter was entirely in French.  Big shake, small burger, done.

Classic downtown Montreal sign; in the U.S. falling ice would produce a lawsuit, but here if you're hit, or fall on a slippery sidewalk, well, that's your fault . . .

Classic downtown Montreal sign; in the U.S. falling ice would produce a lawsuit, but here if you’re hit, or fall on a slippery sidewalk, well, that’s your fault . . .

Downtown redevelopment continues; it was evident that the city planners required the developer to retain the old facade!

Downtown redevelopment continues; it was evident that the city planners required the developer to retain the old facade!

Ambled back to the hotel, did a bit of work, rode an exercise bike, then headed out for a beer and dinner.  As I’ve done on most recent visits, I scouted out another brewpub, this time Saint-Bock on Saint-Denis in the Quartier Latin.  Once again I was the oldest tippler in the place by a factor of at least 2.5, maybe 3!  But no matter.  The waitress was friendly, tapped in the pub’s wi-fi password and I read The New York Times over a glass of homemade ale.  And as I always do at least once on every visit to Canada, I raised my glass to a country where everyone enjoys the basic human right of health care.  À votre santé!

The Saint-Bock menu was mainly pub snacks and I needed a substantial meal, so ambled a block south to Les 3 Brasseurs (the three brewers), a respectable chain that also serves beer brewed on premises and adequate, filling food.  I had a bowl of cassoulet and a green salad, perfect.  On the way out, a brief T-t-S exchange with the francophone on the adjacent bar stool.  It began after I commented to the waitress that we didn’t have handheld credit-card charging devices in the U.S.; at that moment I usually note that we’re a bit backward in my homeland.  The fellow segued, in English, “The French are superior.”  I reckoned he was kidding, but perhaps partly serious. “In Quebec,” I replied, “mais oui, that’s for sure.”  “No,” he said, “in all the world.”  “Okay.  Have a nice day,” shook his hand, and hopped the 24 bus back to the hotel.  An easy day felt good after two weeks’ of teaching at Georgetown.

I've commented in previous Montreal posts about it as a very stylish place, and store windows are just one manifestation; here a map and globe store in the Latin Quarter

I’ve commented in previous Montreal posts about it as a very stylish place, and store windows are just one manifestation; here a map and globe store in the Latin Quarter

Up early Thursday morning, back to the gym, then out the door for a full day at McGill’s Desautels B-school.  First stop was a MBA breakfast organized by the student marketing association, yakking informally with about 10 diverse students then a one-hour preso on airline marketing.  After class, I sat with one of the students, Urbain Kengni, a very bright Cameroonian, and got his life story.  He grew up in a small town, son of a nurse practitioner and a teacher,  won a scholarship to university in Morocco, graduated in engineering, worked at LG in Africa and Korea, and a Moroccan consulting firm, had an internship with Bombardier, a lot of experience.  The 30 minutes I spent with Urbain reminded me of how fortunate I am to be able to see the future of global management.  Business will be in good hands when people like Urbain are leading organizations.

Urbain Kengni, McGill MBA candidate 2015

Urbain Kengni, McGill MBA candidate 2014

At 11:45 I met my longtime host, Mary Dellar, and two other McGill pals, Bob Mackalski and Alex King.  It was a way-fun lunch, with a debrief from Mary on her rather troublesome morning guest speaker (I promised to do better!), lots of storytelling, and a fair bit of conversation focused on marriage (Bob would tie the knot in 50 days) and family – Alex and his wife were expecting their 8th child.  Yeah, we joked about fertility, too!  We would have been happy to spend the afternoon in that noisy booth, but Mary and I zipped back to school and three back-to-back classes.  I was tired when I finished at 5:30.

Back at the Holiday Inn, I put my head down for 15 minutes, then ambled out the door and back east a kilometer for another brewpub visit, to Le Cheval Blanc, then to a fried haddock dinner at yet another micro, L’Amère a Boire, where the vibe was friendlier than the White Horse.  At dinner, I added up the teaching: in the past 19 days I had taught for 50 hours.  A lot.

Montreal streets were filled with campaign signs, in this case one on wheels, for the provincial elections on April 7

Montreal streets were filled with campaign signs, in this case one on wheels, for the provincial elections on April 7

Back to the gym Friday morning, then a few blocks to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association clubhouse on Peel for a caloric breakfast with Bob Mackalski.  We had a great yak.  He’s a seriously bright and very experienced fellow, just finished his Ph.D. at McGill, does a lot of consulting.  Before Bob arrived, I admired artifacts and art in the lobby – the place clearly has a lot of history.

MAAA Triptych: a curling trophy; detail from a photo of the 1890 golden jubilee of the the Montreal Snow Shoe Club; stained glass of a member with an old club symbol, "the old blue toque"

MAAA Triptych: a curling trophy; detail from a photo of the 1890 golden jubilee of the the Montreal Snow Shoe Club; stained glass of a member with an old club symbol, “the old blue toque”

At 11:45 I met my longtime host, Mary Dellar, and two other McGill pals, Bob Mackalski and Alex King.  It was a way-fun lunch, with a debrief from Mary on her rather troublesome morning guest speaker (I promised to do better!), lots of storytelling, and a fair bit of conversation focused on marriage (Bob would tie the knot in 50 days) and family – Alex and his wife were expecting their 8th child.  Yeah, we joked about fertility, too!  We would have been happy to spend the afternoon in that noisy booth, but Mary and I zipped back to school and three back-to-back classes.  I was tired when I finished at 5:30

Back at the Holiday Inn, I worked a bit, put my head down for 15 minutes, then ambled out the door and back east a kilometer for another brewpub visit, to Le Cheval Blanc, then to a fried haddock dinner at yet another micro, L’Amère a Boire, where the vibe was friendlier than the White Horse.  At dinner, I added up the teaching: in the past 19 days I had taught for 50 hours.  A lot.

Back to the gym Friday morning, then a few blocks to the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association clubhouse on Peel for a caloric breakfast with Bob Mackalski.  We had a great yak.  He’s a seriously bright and very experienced fellow, just finished his Ph.D. at McGill, does a lot of consulting.  Before Bob arrived, I admired artifacts and art in the lobby – the place clearly has a lot of history.

MAAA Triptych: a curling trophy; detail from a photo of the 1890 golden jubilee of the the Montreal Snow Shoe Club; stained glass of a member with an old club symbol, "the old blue toque"

MAAA Triptych: a curling trophy; detail from a photo of the 1890 golden jubilee of the the Montreal Snow Shoe Club; stained glass of a member with an old club symbol, “the old blue toque”

Walked back to the hotel, worked a bit, caught the STM 747 bus back to the airport, and flew, again nonstop, home to Washington.  I never tire of Canada.  That was the end of travel for the quarter, smaller in volume than in the past (in the first quarter of 2007 I flew 46,000 miles, this one 10,000) but still rich in experiences and opportunities.

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