Monthly Archives: November 2015

Rome, Italy, enroute to class in Lugano, Switzerland

Italy, new and old, in the Piazza di Spagna, Rome

Italy, new and old, in the Piazza di Spagna, Rome

On November 10, I left home in the rain for a quick zip to Europe. I thought the trip was off to a bad start when I sat down on a wet bench at the McLean Metro station, 10 minutes after leaving home. That was just the beginning. As one of my grad-school advisers Professor Borchert used to say, one thing leads to another:

The short flight to Philadelphia was delayed five hours, two by a late-arriving airplane and three because of Philly weather and airport closure. I could have biked there faster. So I missed my connecting flight to Rome. During the second wait in D.C., they had to remove the luggage of people who did not want to wait to get to PHL. So the red tag that identifies bags you leave on the ramp before boarding and retrieve on arrival came off, which meant the bag had to be delivered to the bag claim, which was two blocks away in the next terminal. It was now 8:20 and my best alternative, a nonstop to London, departed at 9:20. It took 30 minutes for the bag to arrive (but at least it did). So I had to walk briskly, in the rain, across from Terminal E to Terminal A, a long way, with a couple of zigzags. The faster TSA screening (Precheck) was of course closed, so that took awhile. The plane was at the end of the long Terminal A concourse. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow was seat 1A, the last chair in Business Class. I let out a small whoop and strolled on board.

During the long wait back home, I scoped out the options to get to Rome, best one being standby on a 2:25 BA flight. Happily, airline employees can fix up e-tickets on line, so got that done. Arrived Heathrow before nine, went to the posh American Airlines arrivals lounge, took a shower, worked my email, ate a leisurely breakfast, and at 11 AM paused, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, for two minutes of silence commemorating Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day. I was pleased that the staff made an announcement in the lounge, asking everyone “to join the nation” and observe the silence. To my delight they did, including the Americans. (November 11 remains a much more important day in Great Britain than in the U.S.).

Later in the day, to further my remembrance, I watched a great Canadian commemorative video, “A Pittance of Time,” and a re-read a chapter of Life After Life, Kate Atkinson’s mostly grim but excellent account of an English family from 1914 to 1945; the portion I read centered on a night of bombing during the London Blitz.

I then headed over to Terminal 5 to check in for the flight to Rome. From the big, west-facing windows, I could practically see Runnymede, a mere five miles away, the place where 800 years ago this past June, the Magna Carta was signed. I have got to make a little detour on some future trip (there’s actually a bus every hour right from T5). Had a couple of great Talking to Strangers encounters, a short one with a young English mom heading with her cute and outgoing toddler, (she came right up to me) to see a friend in Houston. I dispensed some Texas travel advice (“Yes, do make a side trip to Austin”) and wished her a pleasant trip.

I snagged one of the last seats, 17E, to Rome, and 30 minutes after takeoff Mark in 17F began a long conversation that started with car talk (he offered me a car magazine) and his favored vehicle, a camper van that he uses every weekend with his kids, 11 and 8. We then talked about career change, and it came to pass that his wife, with whom he spent half of his 40 years, died five months earlier. Then we talked about life changes, about children, and about dogs. The family had acquired a pug and a border collie, both puppies, to help the kids with their loss. “They help,” said Mark, and I agreed that dogs excel at giving comfort.

We landed Rome at 6:00 PM (not 9:10 AM as planned), and the race was on – although I was headed to teach two days’ hence in Lugano, Switzerland (just north of Milan), the whole focus of the Rome visit – the finish line – was dinner with my long friends Massimo and Roberto, who started with American Airlines in Italy about the same time I did. I hopped on the Leonardo Express train nonstop to downtown. On arrival in Stazione Termini it was pedal to the metal: got Euros, bought a bus ticket, zipped out the door and onto the #38 bus. I told my Airbnb host David that I would arrive at via Calabria 20 by 7:30. My watch said 7:28 as I greeted him at the front door. Happily, Massimo had booked a hotel a block away, and soon he, another airline guy, Maurizio (they worked at Austrian Airlines in the mid-1980s), and I were strolling to Piazza Barberini, the meeting point for Roberto. Hugs all around, and we walked on a couple of blocks to Gioia Mia Pisciapiano, a lively, classic Roman trattoria (the name would delight kids and old men, roughly “the joy of a good pee”).

An inside sign for the Gioia Mia Pisciapiano; note happy angel at right!

An inside sign for the Gioia Mia Pisciapiano; note happy angel at right!

In no time we were chirping like magpies, smiling, telling airline war stories, Rome stories, exchanging notes on dogs and kids, and, I think celebrating what were good lives and careers. After a nice starter of mushrooms, cabbage, and rustic bread, we tucked into fettucine made with guanciale, cured hog cheek. The friendly young waiter scolded Roberto for leaving a little tidbit of guanciale, which he quickly scooped up. That led, somehow to a long discussion of wives, all in Italian. The waiter was complaining and lauding his Colombian spouse. Though I didn’t track the banter, I enjoyed seeing them all smile and laugh, and I celebrated a place where waiters are not subservient, but are peers – they are, after all, part of a team that is bringing dinner and fun. “Only in Roma,” said Roberto.

Roberto Antonucci, Maurizio DiPosta , and your scribe

Roberto Antonucci, Maurizio DiPosta, and your scribe

Dinner lasted a proper interval, 2.5 hours. Afterward, Roberto asked about a little stroll. Why not? We headed a few blocks, walked around a corner and right in front of us was a scene that literally took my breath away. Stunning, the famous Trevi fountain, recently restored with funds from Fendi. We lingered 15 minutes, said goodbye to Roberto, and walked back home. Hugged Maurizio and Massimo, back to the Airbnb and into deep, welcome sleep.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

After 3.5 hours the previous night, a long sleep might have made more sense, but I was up at dawn, to cram the previous day’s missed exploring into a few hours – my train north departed at 11:20. So I zipped west through pleasant neighborhoods, bought a roll and some yogurt from a little shop, and ate at the top of the Spanish Steps. Fortified, I descended to the Piazza di Spagna, filled with all the high-end Italian shops. A sign caught my eye: under Article 14, it is illegal to shout, squall, or sing (emmetere grida, schiamazzi, e canti) on the Spanish Steps. So there! I had just enough time to hop on the Metro west to the Vatican. Would Francesco see me briefly? Probably not, but I greatly enjoyed a stroll past souvenir shops brimming with Catholic tchotchkes, a parade of cardinals in the curved colonnade in front of the basilica, and the grand building itself. The light was incomparable that morning, and it was a superb scene. Hopped the Metro back, picked up my stuff, said goodbye to David, and hopped back on the bus for the short ride to the stazione.

My attempt to capture a 1950s, Fellini-like photo of the view from my Airbnb front door; once again, I felt like a local

My attempt to capture a 1950s, Fellini-like photo of the view from my Airbnb front door; once again, I felt like a local.

 

Moorish-style office down the street from my Airbnb, via Calabria

Moorish-style office down the street from my Airbnb, via Calabria

Window shopping; as you know, Italian leather goods are the best

Window shopping; as you know, Italian leather goods are the best

Window shopping: Versace, Piazza di Spagna

Window shopping: Versace, Piazza di Spagna

From the top of the Spanish Steps; St. Peter's is in the distance

From the top of the Spanish Steps; St. Peter’s is in the distance

St. Peter's

St. Peter’s

Missing thus far that morning was coffee, so I paused for a couple of jolts of Americano served by a friendly barista right by the train platform. Ah, stimulation, for a bounce in step across to platform 9 and the Frecciarossa (Red Arrow) express north. Breakfast was light, so a leisurely lunch in the dining car was in order, glass of red wine. The train is fast, 150 mph or more, and in no time Brunneleschi’s spectacular Duomo, his masterpiece in Florence, rolled into view. This was a good day, and the graceful lines of the soaring dome were captivating. A blessed day.

No one makes coffee better than the Italians. No one.

No one makes coffee better than the Italians. No one.

This photo nicely captures the essence of the Frecciarosso, speeding north at 180 mph

This photo nicely captures the essence of the Frecciarossa, speeding north at 180 mph

When we emerged from a long tunnel north of Bologna, I was again struck by a simple reality: the Italians, with all their reported statal dysfunction, can build a high-speed rail network, but Americans cannot? Per che, as they say in these parts? We rolled into Stazione Centrale in Milan exactly on time. I walked across the terminal and onto the train an hour north to Lugano. Soon after settling in, a woman about my age asked me a question in English, launching a nice T-t-S. Nicoleta was from Sicily, but had lived in Rome most of her life. Originally an economist, she had worked a variety of jobs, and was especially proud of her current volunteer service with a Catholic association that helps the handicapped. She helps them visit the Vatican, and on pilgrimages to Lourdes, France. And of course we spoke about Pope Francis; she had actually met him. When I got off at Lugano I shook her hand and asked her to tell Francesco that Rob loved him.

Nicoleta searching her iPhone for the picture of Pope Francis and her; she found it, and it made me smile.

Nicoleta searching her iPhone for the picture of Pope Francis and her; she found it, and it made me smile.

Walked down the hill to a new hotel, the City, checked in, and grabbed a much-needed nap. Worked a bit, and at 7:30 my pal Omar Merlo (frequently mentioned in these pages) picked me up for dinner at Gallo D’Oro (“Golden Rooster”), a spectacular restaurant we had not visited for five years. Despite the interval, Matteo the proprietor remembered me, more so when I showed him the golden rooster tiebar he gave me on our first visit in 2008. In a few minutes, Omar’s brother-in-law Sandro arrived, who I had not seen since our last Gallo visit in 2010. He’s a banker, and a lot of fun. Laughed hard, and ate well. High point was gelati, mixed flavors, best of which was Williams pear, a famous type in Switzerland. Superb!

Despite many previous trips to Ticino in late autumn, I had never noticed orange trees without leaves; a curious sight.

Despite many previous trips to Ticino in late autumn, I had never noticed orange trees without leaves; a curious sight.

Up Friday morning, breakfast, and over to the school (USI, Universitá della Svizzera italiana), to the student cafeteria, the mensa, to crank out some consulting work. A nice T-t-S lunch with three IT Ph.D.s, from Germany, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic, then into Omar’s Master’s in Marketing class for a 2.5 hour presentation. A small group, but engaged. Afterward, we ambled across the street and had a beer outdoors, joined by two of Omar’s London friends, in town by coincidence. Jaka was a Slovenian guy, very interesting and varied background, now owning D-Labs, a firm that helps start-up companies start up. Dale was an American lawyer with the same firm, former Mormon, former pro basketball player in the Swiss minor league – wish we had more time to yak with those guys, but they peeled off, and I walked back to the hotel. Lunch was big and the pub offered free pizza, so I opted for a sandwich from a grocery store. Was asleep by 9:30.

The view from "my office" at USI, in the school's mensa; the words at the top of the yellow house read "Verbum laudatur factum sequitur," roughly “Deeds should follow words.” A decent working definition of integrity.

The view from “my office” at USI, in the school’s mensa

 

Closer view of the yellow house; the words read "Verbum laudatur factum sequitur," roughly “Deeds should follow words.” A decent working definition of integrity.

Closer view of the yellow house; the words read “Verbum laudatur factum sequitur,” roughly “Deeds should follow words.” A decent working definition of integrity.

As I have written in these pages, failure is about recovery, and I had to do some Saturday morning. Distracted the night before, I set my iPhone alarm incorrectly and overslept. Missed the 6:35 shuttle bus to Milan Malpensa Airport. Next one was at 7:00. It was 6:41 when I woke, and I only missed it by two minutes. So I hopped on the 7:45, into the airport at 8:55, and into my second race in three days. This time the finish line was gate B51 and the 10:00 Silver Bird to New York. Sure I made it, with 28 minutes to spare! Woo hoo! Woo hoo! Arrived JFK at 1:15, worked a bit, then hopped on a (this time smooth) connection home to D.C.

 

The Italian Alps northwest of Milan

The Italian Alps northwest of Milan

 

The French Alps

The French Alps

 

The North Fork of Long Island; from here, it's hard to believe that 7.5 million people live on the island!

The North Fork of Long Island; from here, it’s hard to believe that 7.5 million people live on the island!

 

There was one more piece of global experience that day. I walked in our front door at 6:10, immediately scooped up Dylan and Carson, and headed to their Kent Gardens Elementary School for International Night. The place was packed, and full of happy kids and grownups, many in national costumes – Korean, Iranian, Chinese, Mexican, Turkish, French. There was food to sample in the cafeteria (the Korean moms happily spooned the last of the kimchi onto my plate!), and student and adult performances in the gym. It was a happy antidote to the news of the horrific attacks in Paris. I’m sure the ISIS assholes would not have joined the fun. E pluribus unum.  And #notafraid.

Carson (at right) and Dylan (in gray) coloring at the Iranian table

Carson (at right) and Dylan (in gray) coloring at the Iranian table

KentG-Intl-2

Korean children singing folk songs

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Chicago Twice More, Boston, and Montreal

A beacon in the Chicago Loop and a fave of three generations of my family

A beacon in the Chicago Loop and a fave of three generations of my family

Really-early-morning starts would be required in the coming weeks, so it was good to get into the routine: on Tuesday the 13th I was up at 5:00, down to DCA, back to O’Hare, and onto the #250 bus to Evanston and Northwestern. Met longtime Kellogg School host Anne Coughlan at 10:30, yakked for a bit, ate lunch, and walked to the Allen Center, Kellogg’s exec ed facility, right on Lake Michigan. It’s an impressive building more so because it’s filled with an astonishing collection of Inuit art donated by former dean Donald Jacobs. At 12:45, I began videorecording some segments for a newfangled business-school case study. For decades, these have been 5 to 20 printed pages, but Kellogg and a number of other schools are experimenting with multimedia cases. Anne, longtime pal Gary Doernhoefer, and I were collaborating on a case about technological changes and airline ticket distribution. The recording went well, and quickly, and Anne and I called it a wrap by 3:30.

Purple is one of Northwestern's colors

Purple is one of Northwestern’s colors

The soon-to-be new home of the Kellogg School of Management

The soon-to-be new home of the Kellogg School of Management

Part of Dean Jacobs' collection of Inuit art

Part of Dean Jacobs’ collection of Inuit art

We headed to her home a few miles north in Wilmette, where husband Chuck and dog Sally were waiting to greet us. I yakked with Chuck and watched Sally, a cocker spaniel-bichon frisé mix, perform a few tricks (learning, in the process, that the French bred bichon frisés as circus dogs, which helped explain Sally’s ability to walk on two hind legs!). But the high point of the house stop was a thorough tour of Anne’s second-floor greenhouse, a bewildering collection of bromeliads and succulents. She started raising all manner of them some years back, and her cultivating skill matches her marketing prowess. Wow! She insisted on packaging up a spoon jade plant (nicknamed “Shrek ears” for obvious reasons), later sending a meticulous set of instructions that caused some stress – I was now responsible for the welfare of this green living thing.

Sally the Dog

Sally the Dog

A trio of plants from Anne's greenhouse

A trio of plants from Anne’s greenhouse

Anne, with Green Thumb

Anne, with Green Thumb

At six we motored to dinner, detouring north on Wilmette’s Michigan Avenue, a seriously affluent few blocks along that great lake. I was excited about the restaurant, Convito, an Italian café that had been on my list for almost 20 years. Its founder, Nancy Brussat Barocci, was a member of American Airlines’ Chefs Conclave when I led the airline’s catering team, and I met her a few times back then. She was a lovely person with an ego much smaller than several of the more famous members (like Wolfgang Puck). Unfortunately, Nancy was not there, but we enjoyed a splendid meal: a starter of wild boar ragu on creamy polenta, and my second entrée of Lake Superior Whitefish in a week. Yum! We had a great yak – Anne is a terrific conversationalist – and a lot of fun.

Was up again about five, and back on the #250 bus to O’Hare, six days after the last westbound ride: the same driver, and, a few rows back, the same large lady passenger with an African accent, Cubs jacket, and miniature baseball bat (and, like a week earlier, happy about her team’s win the night before). These moments are what make riding public transit special. Sure, the $1.75 fare is great, but far better is the opportunity to commingle with people from a broader swath of humanity. And broader means, as it did the day before, people with troubled lives, the mentally ill, and the marginalized. We are all on the larger bus of society, and it’s easy to ignore them, unless they’re sitting next to you.

On Monday, October 19, I flew north to Boston, landing at five. Onto the T, Boston’s public transit, repeating the experience described above, shoulder to shoulder from all kinds of people. Changed trains downtown and zipped out to Cambridge to meet my SmartKargo colleagues. After a quick catch-up, Milind the CEO drove Jay and me to an Airbnb a few blocks north of the office. We dropped our stuff and headed a couple of blocks to a Thai place for a spicy meal. Back at the Airbnb, which was a large one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of an old house, we met Robert, our host. He had texted me earlier to apologize that he couldn’t greet us on arrival, because his 12-year-old daughter needed a ride to hockey practice. Well, to this former player that struck a couple of chords: a great father, a daughter learning to compete and work as a team. So I was not surprised that Robert turned out to be a swell guy. We chatted about 20 minutes about hockey, his Airbnb business, the neighborhood (he had lived on Thorndike Street all his life), and more. I promised Robert we would stay with him again, adding that I hoped to catch one of his girl’s hockey games. Encounters like that are another reason why Airbnb is so awesome.

With the rest of humanity, waiting for the T, Boston

With the rest of humanity, waiting for the T, Boston

Was up early the next morning to have breakfast with Bart Littlefield, one of my first friends in the airline business. We joined Republic Airlines at about the same time in 1984, but had only seen each other a few times, and briefly, since I joined American and moved to Texas in 1987. It was great to catch up, but we didn’t have enough time, so we vowed to continue the chat next time I was in Cambridge. The rest of the day was pretty intense, in a system demo with a potential customer (actually the consulting firm they hired to help them choose).

Redevelopment in Cambridge

Redevelopment in Cambridge

Two days after that, on Friday the 23rd, was back on the 7:50 AM rocket to O’Hare – my third visit to Chicago in three weeks – but instead of the #250 bus to Evanston I jumped on the Blue Line train into the Loop, bound for my 11th talk to the University of Illinois EMBA (weekend) program that evening. Checked in early, rode the fitness bike 18 miles, and headed to lunch. The original plan was to meet a longtime friend, now at United, at the venerable Berghoff, a German restaurant on Adams Street since 1898. It was a place my grandparents and parents frequented decades earlier, and that I’ve been visiting for 40 years. My pal bailed out a day before, but I kept to plan, and tucked into a nice midday meal.

Inside The Berghoff, essentially unchanged for perhaps a century

Inside The Berghoff, essentially unchanged for perhaps a century

Grabbed a quick nap, worked a bit, and at four went out for a stroll, east to State Street, then north. The former Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. department store, designed by Louis Sullivan, was now a Target store, whew. Further on, more familiar and familial connections: the Marshall Field department store (now Macy’s) triggered memories of my maternal grandmother taking brother Jim and me to the toy department (almost 57 years on, I can still recall our last visit there with great clarity). Then a block north, I passed the former School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where my mother studied. Chicago feels like another home. Walked west on the south bank of the Chicago River, back to the hotel, then west to the Illini Center, the Loop home of the U of I business school. Ate dinner before my talk, and from 6:30 to 8 delivered a performance. Walked back to the hotel with host Steve Michael, a swell guy.

The former Carson's department store is now a massive Target

The former Carson’s department store is now a massive Target

Louis Sullivan's ornate ironwork on the Carson's facade

Louis Sullivan’s ornate ironwork on the Carson’s facade

The Reliance Building (left), the first skyscraper in the world to have plate glass comprise the majority of the facade -- and trend that would follow for decades!

The Reliance Building (left), the first skyscraper in the world to have plate glass comprise the majority of the facade — and trend that would follow for decades!

Didn't get the story on the orange fountain in Daley Plaza, but it attracted a lot of attention

Didn’t get the story on the orange fountain in Daley Plaza, but it attracted a lot of attention

Was up at 5:45 Saturday morning, onto the fitness bike, a couple of free cappuccinos in the hotel “living room,” then out the door, west to the suburban train station. The free U of I pizza dinner the night before was good, but a bit small; I was way hungry, so I tucked into an enormous breakfast at a place called Yolk, then hopped on the 8:30 Metra suburban train for Arlington Heights and a visit with Cousin Jim and his family. I was pleasantly surprised with the ride: the cars were older but spotlessly clean, and the roadbed was smooth. The inner-Chicago landscape is always fascinating: first scene were blocks and blocks of brand-new, low-rise apartments on former industrial land; second scene were three churches within three blocks, proof of the city’s former (and in some ways enduring) Catholic bearing; third scene was a fleeting view of the back of my grandparents’ big apartment on Logan Blvd. I loved that place, and the people who lived there.

Hopped off at 9:16 and into Cousin Jim’s car, home to drop my stuff, then out to a high school cross country meet – their oldest child, Jack, now a sophomore, was on the team, and though he was not running because of illness we were there to cheer on his teammates. It poured rain for 20 minutes and even with umbrellas and raincoats we got wet. Watched the girls, then the boys. A nice bonus was a chat with Cousin Lisa and her husband Jack, whose daughter was coaching one of the girls’ teams. It seemed like a small town.

At the cross-country meet

At the cross-country meet

Next stop was to pick up their other two kids, Charlie, 9th grade, and Katie, 8th, both soccer players spending the morning refereeing youth games. All three children are lithe and athletic, swift of foot, an enduring trait on my mother’s side. We picked them up, raced home, and Jim and Katie peeled off for Katie’s 2 PM soccer game 42 miles southwest. Jim and wife Michaela’s weekends, and a lot of weekday afternoons, are given over to kids’ sport.

Katie Fredian refereeing kids' soccer

Katie Fredian refereeing kids’ soccer

Michaela and I yakked in their kitchen for an hour, and at two I jumped on her blue Trek bike and rode two miles south to reconnect with Tom Aichele, who has led American Airlines’ Chicago sales team for almost two decades. It had been some years, and it was great to catch up with him and his wife Pat, and to meet two of their three children, as well as Rugby, their wheaten terrier. We sat on their patio and yakked for 90 minutes. I said goodbye and hopped back on the bike, riding for an hour through pleasant neighborhoods in Arlington and adjacent Mount Prospect, to bring the day’s mileage to 25.

Tom Aichele, longtime friend and good guy

Tom Aichele, longtime friend and good guy

Rugby, the Aichele's swell wheaten terrier

Rugby, the Aichele’s swell wheaten terrier

After a tonic nap at Cousin Jim’s, we three plus Cousin Bob (2nd oldest of my Uncle Bapper’s six kids) motored over to dinner at the Davis Street Fishmarket in Evanston – third time there in October. Raw oysters were $1 apiece, so we slurped two dozen, plus pints of a great IPA called Wobbly, my third dinner of Lake Superior Whitefish in three weeks (threes and threes), and part of a huge key lime pie for dessert. Plus absolutely great banter: all four of us share political views, so we ranted a bit, but also laughed a lot – Cousin Bob is a seriously funny guy in a dry sort of way. A really pleasant evening.

Up at five, into a taxi at 5:20. At the wheel was a young immigrant from Turkmenistan (I think the first Turkmen I ever met). We had a good chat. Wikipedia wrote: “Turkmenistan has been at the crossroads of civilizations for centuries,” and the driver’s face reflected that, a fusion of East and West. E pluribus unum. Grabbed breakfast at the Admirals Club, hopped on the 6:55 nonstop to Montreal and my 16th visit to McGill University. Was in Canada by 10.

Regular readers know my deep regard for our northern neighbor, and it was great to be back, first because it had been a year since last in Quebec, but mostly because Canada just elected a new Liberal (Party) government. Almost 50 years earlier, as a teenager who had visited Canada once, I was captivated by the energy, intellect, and young thinking of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. A week before, Canadians elected his son, Justin, to be Prime Minister.

I hopped on the wi-fi equipped 747 express bus into the city. Not far from the airport, I noticed a campaign poster for Anju Dhillon, who was the Liberal candidate for the district around the airport. I wondered if she won, Googled her name, and, yes, she did. So I sent her an email that ended, “I have been traveling across Canada for almost 50 years, and I know your country well enough to say this: as of last Monday, Canada is young again. Congratulations on your victory, and best wishes in Ottawa.”  I didn’t really expect a reply, but a few weeks later she answered my email.  She rocks!

The campaign poster that caught my eye!

The campaign poster that caught my eye!

 

Pleasant residential street, Westmount, Montreal

Pleasant residential street, Westmount, Montreal

Checked into the hotel, in this case a huge apartment on the top floor of a McGill University residence hall. Changed into jeans and headed out the door for some rides on Bixi, Montreal’s bikeshare system. It was a nice ride, west on a dedicated bike lane on Blvd. de Maisonneuve, out of downtown and into Westmount, an affluent, largely Anglophone neighborhood. Circled back, then headed down toward the St. Lawrence River, where I picked up a great bikeway east to Old Montreal. Headed up the hill, back to the hotel, and a needed nap.

The former Port Commissioner’s Building, now a private club, Old Montreal

 

An old tug at the Lachine Canal, and new housing on former industrial land

An old tug at the Lachine Canal, and new housing on former industrial land

At 3:45, another reconnection, going way back. I met Kenny Saxe on a chairlift on Ajax Mountain, Aspen, Colorado, in December 1969. I saw him a few times in the 1970s, and we mostly were out of touch after Linda and I stayed in his big apartment on Mount Stephen Avenue in Westmount in September 1980. Kenny and his wife Barbara now live in Vermont, and I wrote him a few months earlier to see if they might drive north to visit his mom, 93. We met at Schwartz’s, a deli in the core of Montreal’s historic Jewish community, a joint famous for its smoked meat sandwiches. I had never met Barbara, his wife of 29 years, and we had a great, but way too short, catch-up. He’s the same fine man I remember from the ski lift. We promised not to let another 3.5 decades pass. I showed them how Bixi worked, we snapped some pictures, hugged, and parted. I hopped on a bike, back to the hotel. Worked a bit, then grabbed another Bixi at dusk, riding east to the Latin Quarter and a pint at two brewpubs. The smoked meat sandwich was still rumbling a bit, so it was time to move down the food chain, so I headed to Kantapia, a little, family-owned Korean place two doors from my digs. Tucked into some udon noodles with tofu, vegetables, and kimchee. Yum!

Barbara and Kenneth Saxe

Barbara and Kenneth Saxe

Schwartz's Deli; under Quebec law, all business signs must be in French

Schwartz’s Deli; under Quebec law, all business signs must be in French

Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch

Impressive, commissioned graffiti off Blvd. St.-Laurent

Impressive, commissioned graffiti off Blvd. St.-Laurent

The kitchen of Kantapia Korean restaurant

The kitchen of Kantapia Korean restaurant

Dinner at Kantapia

Dinner at Kantapia

Was up early Monday morning to do some consulting work, suited up, and headed to breakfast at Tim Horton’s, my fave place to see ordinary Canadians, all of whom (as I never tire of writing when north of the border) have health insurance. Walked across the McGill campus to the law school and the Institute of Air and Space Law. Maria D’Amico, secretary and friend, greeted me, and we chatted about the recent election and other happy topics. From 10 to 1, I delivered my talk on airline alliances to 14 masters’ of law students: from Canada (5), Singapore (2), India (2), Italy, France, Indonesia, Colombia, and Taiwan. The professor was away, and he warned me that the group was quiet, but I got a number of them to engage.

McGill University

McGill University

Waning autumn

Waning autumn

Grabbed a quick salad lunch, walked back to the hotel, changed clothes, and grabbed another Bixi bike. It was a sunny day, fairly warm, windy, and I was bound for a place where we spent a lot of time on the first visit to Montreal in 1967: the islands in the St. Lawrence just downstream from downtown that were the site of expo67, a world’s fair. It was a bit of a chore to get there, via the massive Jacques Cartier bridge, which rose about 150 above the water. Almost a half-century on, only two buildings remain from the exposition: the former U.S. pavilion, a spherical geodesic dome designed by futurist Buckminster Fuller, and the former French pavilion, now a casino. The rest of Ile St-Helene and Ile Notre Dame are mostly wooded parkland, pleasant, with great views of the skyline. Dropped the bike at the park’s Metro station and glided back downtown.

Trail, Ile Ste.-Helene

Trail, Ile Ste.-Helene

The former U.S. pavilion at expo 67

The former U.S. pavilion at expo 67

Quick nap, suit back on, south on Rue Sherbrooke to Desautels, the McGill business school and a preso to the undergraduate marketing society. Some bright youngsters, listening attentively and asking great questions about what American Airlines did with its brand after the September 11 attacks. Back to the hotel, back into jeans, and onto the Bixi a mile to the Latin Quarter and a craft-beer bar called Saint Houblon (houblon is French for hops). Most of these places (and I’ve been to seven or eight in Montreal) have simple bar food, but Saint Houblon had that plus some nice-looking real dinners. I tucked into two glasses of IPA from nearby brewers and a splendid dinner of sweetbreads and risotto. Yum again.

Free pizza dinner always draws a crowd; undergrad marketing club meeting, McGill

Free pizza dinner always draws a crowd; undergrad marketing club meeting, McGill

Barman, Saint-Houblon

Barman, Saint-Houblon

Slept in until 7:15, whew, decadent, up and out the door. Another oatmeal breakfast at Tim Horton’s, then a brief meeting with Brant, a nice fellow who manages volunteers at the B-school. Worked the rest of the morning, and at 11:40 met my longtime McGill host Mary Dellar, and a young prof and former entrepreneur Bob Mackalski for a fun lunch. Those two are lively! The banter was nonstop.

Last stop was a lecture to Mary’s services marketing class, then goodbyes. Walked a few blocks east to a bookstore, bought three kids’ books in French for Dylan and Carson (who are learning the language at an early age), hopped on the 747 bus to the airport, and flew to Philadelphia, then home to Washington.

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