Flew to Miami on Thursday, October 22. From seven miles up, this geographer got a good look at coastal Florida’s vulnerability to hurricanes and rising sea levels. In their zeal to get people close to the ocean, they’ve built billions of dollars worth of property that is way, way too close to the ocean. The day of reckoning will come, initially from insurance companies, who steadily withdraw from these high-risk areas.
Landed at 11:30, met consulting client Jay from SmartKargo, and hopped in a taxi to Miami Beach and the super-posh Fontainebleau Hotel. One of Miami’s original mega-hotels, built 1954, it’s been expanded even more, and was the venue for an air cargo conference, CargoFacts 2014. To make sense of sky-high room rates, we shared a room, which worked well. Unpacked, worked a bit, and walked a few blocks west on 41st St. to an authentic place, Latin Café. We sat at the counter and tucked into a big lunch, arroz con pollo. The place was full of working people, a few businesswomen, most speaking Spanish. A nice slice.
I did not venture outdoors again for 48 hours, occupied to the max with the conference: making contacts, doing a bit of selling (take a look at http://www.SmartKargo.com), learning about the business (30 years on the passenger side, 3 months in cargo, a lot to learn), eating and drinking well. It was a splendid introduction.
After lunch on Friday, I eschewed the $55 taxi, walking a couple blocks south to bus stop for an express back to the airport. While waiting, got in a nice chat with a bus driver waiting to start driving. The young African-American woman sized me up, I’m sure thinking “what is this guy doing waiting for a city bus?” I ventured that spinning taxi meters have made me nervous ever since I was a little boy, watching my mom sometimes stress about the rising fare. “I hear you,” she said. Flew home. A good trip, lots of learning.
On the morning of Halloween, I flew to Dallas-Fort Worth then on to Lubbock. I was sorry not to see Dylan and Carson in their costumes, but pumped to visit Jack for the weekend. Flight out to West Texas was late, landed after five and headed to Jack’s house for an hour or so, then out to dinner with his friend Samantha Kelly, a second-year law student at Texas Tech. We had a great meal and some laughs at the Crafthouse, a gastropub near his house, then a dollop or two of frozen yogurt. A nice evening.
Saturday morning dawned cool and clear. We grabbed big coffees at his favorite J&B, then pointed the Subaru onto U.S. Highway 84 for a little road trip. Jack had waxed enthusiastic about interesting small towns northwest of the city, and we got our fill, pausing in Anton, Littlefield, Sudan, Muleshoe. Some of the places are shrinking, some are stable, but all of them are ghost towns when it comes to retail activity. Commerce began to hollow out with the first shopping malls and cheap gas in the 1960s and 70s, and accelerated with Wal-Mart and big box stores in Lubbock. Lots of these towns now have large Hispanic populations. I felt like a geographer again, out for some field research.
Zoomed back to Lubbock, yakking across a range of topics, and into a big lunch at Pei Wei. Jack peeled off for the gym (he works out daily) and I headed out on his sturdy bike for 22 miles, mainly around the huge Tech campus – second-largest contiguous campus in the U.S. The place was buzzing, folks arriving and partying in anticipation of a football game that evening. Showered, watched a little TV, and at 5:30 hopped on Jack’s motorcycle, the best way to get to the game, because we could park two blocks from the stadium.
It was great fun to attend the second college game in four weeks. The bands, the cheers, the hoopla, really cool. Unhappily the University of Texas Longhorns beat the Red Raiders, but we still had a big time. Stopped at a Whataburger – a Texas chain that we like a lot – for a small burger and malt, headed home, and clocked out. A big day.
Up early Sunday, out the door for another good ride, again mostly around the Tech campus. The cleanup crews were removing all that the tailgaters and fans left behind. Stopped at a Starbucks across from school for a large coffee, and fell into a nice T-t-S with a fellow cleaning up the streets. Classic West Texas friendliness, quick to engage. He asked about biking, told me about his health issues, his new wife, and more. When we parted, he said “Have a good day, sir, and may the Lord look after you.” “God bless you,” I replied, and zipped east on Glenna Goodacre Blvd.
Back home, we cleaned up and headed a few blocks to breakfast. Jack’s recommended spot was packed, and I spotted Aranda’s Taqueria right across the street. The place was hopping, but not full, a largely Latino crowd tucking into migas and huevos rancheros. We had a great meal, lots of chatter. Headed home by way of a memorial to one of the greats of Texas barbeque and music (twin distinctions), Christopher Stubblefield (1934-95), known as Stubbs. Only Texans would build a monument like that, in that instance the Lubbock Arts Alliance. It was awesome. Tuned in the Dallas Cowboys, then out to a late-afternoon movie and dinner. Another big day, and my cold was bothering me, so I hit bed at nine.
Up at six, Jack departed, and I suited up for my first lecture at Texas Tech since 1991. Samantha, bless her heart, drove me to school, and I set up in a student lounge in the College of Media and Communication, bringing this journal up to date and working a bit. At ten, it was time to stand and deliver, with laryngitis, to 35 students in Professor Lee’s PR class in the College of Media and Communication. Cough drops and water helped a lot!
After class, I had a great T-t-S with the dean’s assistant, Kimberly. She was super-helpful when I arrived earlier in the morning, and the chat started when I commented on the photos of horses. Turns out she teaches and does a bit of equine therapy, a fascinating technique for helping people with a range of emotional and behavioral issues. She told me a wonderful story of working with a little girl who had been sexually abused. Conventional counseling and all that other stuff did not work, but Shiloh the horse knew what to do. It was a turning point, and the girl, now a teenager, has recovered well. As I have written in these pages, I continue to be fascinated by our relationship with domestic animals, and this was another wonderful example. God bless the animals.
At 11:30, I met the dean, David Perlmutter, a bright and affable fellow and second-generation professor (his father taught at Wharton for half a century). We motored across campus to the Texas Tech Club, high up in the stadium, for a nice lunch and good yak. Out to the airport and onto a flight to DFW, rented a car, and by 4:30 was on another campus, Southern Methodist University, for my twice-yearly talk on service quality in a graduate marketing program. I’ve been teaching in the program for almost 20 years, so the academic and admin cast is familiar. Ate dinner with students, then team-taught for three hours.
By ten I was at friends Ken and Peggy Gilbert’s house in north Dallas, catching up on their recent trips to South Africa and Big Spring, Texas. Stayed up (for me) late. Ken and I were out the door at seven on Tuesday morning, down Forest Lane to Cindi’s for breakfast. Ken peeled off for a meeting, and I headed back to our old neighborhood for a haircut at Rick’s. Was good to be back. Shorn, I hopped back in the red Fiesta and motored to the airport via downtown, marveling at all the new Dallas construction. Flew home.