It was nice to be home for almost two weeks. But then the urge to move sets in, and on the last day of April I flew to Minneapolis-St. Paul, first visit to my homeland for eight months. The original plan was to fly there that afternoon, so I had some free time. Best way to use it was to connect with two long friends. First stop was at Rick and Edi Fesler’s house in Edina, the town where I grew up. As I have written before, Rick played a pivotal role in my life, hiring me at his new travel agency a week before I finished high school. So I owe him, big time, for providing direction and, maybe more, a means to pay for my studies at the University of Minnesota. That morning, I thanked him, again, for all that. We had a nice visit. Their old English sheepdog, Farley, took a shine to me, and me to him, which was a nice plus. Toward the end of the visit Edi came down and we yakked a little about her art – she has considerable talent.
Stop two was to pick up my 12th grade (1968-69) English teacher, Mr. Jensen. We’ve stayed connected for 46 years, and it has been a great joy. We motored to lunch and had a good, long yak across a bunch of topics, not least his huge volunteer service to his alma mater, Hamline University in St. Paul. He is a generous and righteous soul.
Motored around Edina a bit, then parked at 50th and France, the shopping area of my childhood, and worked my email for an hour or so, then went to the home of Phil and Deb Ford, friends since college and my hosts for that trip. They live in southwest Minneapolis, very close to where I grew up, so it was familiar terrain. I yakked briefly with Phil (Deb was still at work), then set off for dinner at the Black Forest Inn, an eatery and drinkery of choice since 1971 – it was where Linda and I got engaged, where we went to celebrate completion of my doctorate, all sorts of important moments, and plenty of ordinary good times, too. My pal Rick Dow, who I had briefly seen in Washington seven weeks earlier, joined me for dinner, and a couple of hours with Rick is always a stimulating experience – a way smart and humane fellow. We got well and fully caught up, had a couple of beers and some great German food. I was plumb wore out, but managed to yak pleasantly with Deb and Phil for an hour before clocking out, deep sleep.
I woke up on Eastern Time, before six, and was out the door at seven, down to the University of Minnesota for a day of lecturing at the Carlson School of Management. Parked the car, ambled around the West Bank campus a bit. Lots of memories flow when I return to my alma mater, not only from my four years of undergraduate learning and four of grad school, but of times before that – my dad took me to a lot of sports events at “the U,” and when we were on campus he always talked up the place, not only because it was a fine public university, but because he didn’t have the opportunity to finish college, and wanted things better for me (as noted above, that travel-agency job made that happen).
At 9:30, I met my longtime host, Debbie John, and delivered a talk on crisis management to her MBA class. After the lecture, we met her husband George, also a marketing professor, and motored a mile to lunch at a Thai place in the recently-redeveloped southeast edge of downtown; once a district of rail-oriented warehouses, it’s now mid-rise condos and apartments, and the new home of one of America’s best regional theaters, the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre. We had a spicy lunch and a great yak; I don’t know George well, but would like to know him better, for is hugely articulate and tells good stories.
After lunch I delivered a talk to an undergraduate honors seminar on global brands, worked for a couple of hours (including a meeting with another B-school colleague, Mark Bergen, who heads executive education). At 5:45 I gave the third and last talk, to the evening MBA program. Good productivity that day!
Motored a couple of miles north to meet overnight hosts Deb and Phil for dinner at a simply sensational place, Brasa. Hard to describe, sort of comfort food, but not Midwestern. We had pulled chicken in a light cream sauce and lots of interesting sides – splendid collard greens, creamy grits, pigeon peas and rice, all served family style, and accompanied by wonderful conversation. As I left the restaurant I gave thanks for longtime friends with shared values, Minnesota values of decency, common sense, and modesty. Drove home and yakked a bit more.
Again I woke on Eastern time, turned on the coffeemaker, read a bit, and at 7:45 motored a few blocks to 50th and France, parked and walked around a bit more, then west past one (of many) childhood houses to the site of Wooddale School, my elementary, long razed. At 8:30 I met nephew Evan Kail for breakfast and a good catch-up. He’s doing well, one year out of college, working at things that interest him, mostly scriptwriting and film. He may well be on the verge of a breakthrough. Bright kid. I’m proud of him.
At the airport, I reversed course, again grabbing a nonstop on US Airways Express. We arrived mid-afternoon, and I had the terriers on leash by 4:45. A splendid visit back to my roots.