Monthly Archives: November 2016

Italy, Italian Switzerland, England

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Interior arcade, Torino

Some 12 hours after Election Day ended, I hopped in a taxi for the short ride to the Metro station.  After greeting the driver, I said with a smile, “We’re not going to talk about what happened last night!”  But he wanted to talk about it, so we did.  He was from Ethiopia, had been in the U.S. seven years, and voted for the first time the day before.  I congratulated him on citizenship and on voting.  We agreed that Mr. Trump would need to get along better with, well, with just about everyone.  When he handed me my suitcase and backpack, I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and said again “I want you to know how welcome you are in this country.”  No doubt this would be the first of many conversations in the coming week, for I was headed to Europe, to teach in Switzerland and England.  Flew to JFK, and at 5:45 hopped on the Silver Bird for one of my ancestral homelands, Italy.  Landed at Malpensa Airport near Milan at before eight, zipped through formalities and got on the 8:35 bus to Torino, 85 miles southwest.  I was teaching the next day in Lugano, Switzerland, and wanted an interesting place to visit for a day.

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The Italian Alps at dawn

Much of northern Italy is flat, great farmland with fine soil, good rains, and sun.  The spring wheat had been harvested, stubble golden in the morning sun.  We crossed a tributary of the mighty River Po, and I spotted a grey heron and swan.  To the west, the Western range of the Alps came into view, gradually through the smog that frequently covers northern Italy.  We arrived right on time, and rolled my suitcase from the bus stop to the main train station, about a mile east.

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Musicians at the “play me” piano in the main train station (Porta Nuova); a fine welcome to Italy, a land of culture!

The basic urban landscape was as I remember it, five- and six-story apartment buildings on tree-lined streets, commercial buildings with arcades covering the sidewalks, and visible prosperity – not riches, but comfort.  I took an immediate liking to the place.   Here and there were elliptical markers telling the story of a building in three languages.  I dropped my suitcase at the station; the clerk was typical of the friendliness of Italy, and we had a nice short chat.  I zigged and zagged around the station in search of a public-transit day ticket, and finally found one at a newsstand.  Hopped on the #1 Metro line south to Lingotto and the enormous former Fiat plant, now converted to mixed use – retail, hotels, cinema, and a nice museum funded by the Agnelli family, Fiat’s historic owners.

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Skyscrapers poke out in several districts in Torino, but much of the cityscape looks like the foreground: solid four- and five-story buildings.  Below, splendid detail that speaks to the city’s long affluence.

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The historic (1923) Fiat factory in Lingotto

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In the Fiat parking lot: Jeeps are now part of the lineup!

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The spiral driveway to the rooftop test track

By sheer serendipity, across from the north end of the factory was the original Eataly, a fine-food market and eateries in the former Carpano vermouth factory (Antonio Carpano invented vermouth in Torino in 1786).  I always assumed that the Eataly Mario Batalli opened in New York in 2009 was the first, but no.  Wandered the halls, admiring the non-industrial food about which Italians have long cared, and now celebrate in the Slow Food movement.  At one, I hugged a long friend, Matteo Pericoli, who I first met in 2007, when I convinced American Airlines to hire him to produce a huge mural, “Skyline of the World,” above the check-in counters of AA’s new terminal at JFK.  Trained as an architect, Matteo does a bunch of things, and I’ve stayed connected for nearly a decade.  We had pizza and pasta at Eataly, then walked back across to the old Fiat plant to admire the interior spiral driveway that led to a test track on the roof.  All way cool.  Walking back to the Metro, past the historic Fiat head office, Matteo mentioned that when he telephoned to arrange to deliver a drawing that the company commissioned several years earlier, the person asked “What kind of car do you drive?” After some back and forth, the Fiat rep matter-of-factly said that only Fiat products were permitted on the property.

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Matteo Pericoli

Hopped on the Metro back to the center, and began a walk.  Matteo grew up in Milano of parents from the Marches, a region on Italy’s Adriatic coast, and he said he never thought of Milan as home, but really liked Torino.  I knew it was long a center of manufacturing, not just Fiat but other companies, and Matteo provided good detail on a place that has been a center of Italian innovation for a long time, all the way back to kings and queens of Savoy (Savoia), who encouraged creativity.  Lots of stuff was invented there, and not just vermouth.  Not all the innovators endured.  Olivetti, for example, was a leader in office machines, but lost its way at the start of the digital revolution.  We talked about the city as we walked.  Matteo met a couple of people he knew along the way, which made me think the place was a small town, not a city of a million.  Had a fun chat with Pablo (not Paolo, he explained, long story), who grew up in Dallas of parents from Lucca, the same place from which my maternal grandparents emigrated.  “We’re cousins,” I said, and gave him a hug!  We stopped for a mid-afternoon espresso at a little place across from where they used to live, and I chatted with the young owner about the election.  Matteo lived in New York for many years, and was well versed in the results.

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A new best friend from the neighborhood coffee shop

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My Lucchese cousin Pablo

Matteo had a subscription for the local bikeshare service, and at 4:10 we grabbed one of the yellow bikes for me (he had his own), crossed the River Po, and rode two miles to his daughter Nadia’s school to say hello to her and spouse Holly, both of whom I met in 2007 in Jackson Heights, Queens.  Had a quick chat before Holly drove Nadia to ballet class, then got back on the bikes, riding upstream to the Parco Valentino, one of many large parks in the city.  Circled the recreated medieval village built for a World’s Fair in 1884, past one of the Savoy castles, and headed back into the center just as it was getting dark.

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The River Po downstream from central Torino

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Castello de Valentino

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Medieval village replica, Parco Valentino

Docked the yellow bike and ambled a few blocks to a comfy old coffee shop for a hot chocolate, another Turin invention, but far different from what Americans call the drink.  Dark, less sweet, chocolatey, and almost like thin pudding.  Yum!  Matteo and I parted with a long hug, and I walked back to the railway station.  A fine day.  Got the 7:10 Frecciarossa (red arrow) fast train to Milan, zipping east at 184 mph, then onto the train north to Lugano.  Arrived 9:40, walked down the hill to the hotel, called home, worked email, and collapsed.  Even by my standards it would have been hard to cram more into one day, especially the day of arrival in Europe.

Slept until 7:30, whew, big breakfast, worked a bit more, walked Lugano, a place now well familiar, stopping to say hello to a friend at the Università de Svizzera Italiana, the host institution.  Just after 11, I paused to remember and to give thanks for all who served their nations to preserve freedom.  I watched a couple of videos, and thought about the how recent U.S. policy differs from Switzerland, where military service remains compulsory, where every Swiss man has to serve, where defense has not been offloaded to the poor and working class.  I have long admired the Swiss approach.

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On the campus of the Universita de Svizzera Italiana

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At noon, I met my paesano Prof. Omar Merlo, frequently mentioned in these pages, for lunch at a Neapolitan restaurant, pasta in tomato sauce with tuna chunks, a nice slice of cake, and a cappuccino.  From 1:45 to 3:30, it was time to stand and deliver to his Masters of Marketing class, a small group.  After class, met his dad, a smiling 73-year-old; Omar translated a little of my story, starting with the happy fact that 25% of my DNA is Italian, and some about my maternal great-grandparents, who emigrated to Chicago in 1885.  We promised to get together for dinner on my next visit to Lugano.  Went back to the hotel, worked a bit, took a nap, and headed out to dinner.  In a city where an ordinary meal can cost the equivalent of $50, I stumbled onto the pleasant and simple dining room in the Hotel Pestalozzi (a nice aside: Pestalozzi was a Swiss education reformer, said to be responsible for the elimination of illiteracy in the 19th Century).  I was able to conduct the table transaction in Italian, which made me smile, and I enjoyed a nice bowl of vegetable soup, grilled salmon and vegetables, and a beer for under 25 bucks.  I love value!

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The view from my USI classroom

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Made in Switzerland: as I frequently note in this journal, it simply would not occur to the Swiss to buy manhole covers or hotel hair dryers from China. This is a compelling cultural value at which free-trade economists scoff, but which has built and today maintains much of their remarkable prosperity.

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Lugano just before sunrise

Up early Saturday morning, nice hotel breakfast, then walked up the hill to the train station and the 8:33 local to Milano.  Arrived 9:50, and soon after was giving my longtime friend Massimo Vesentini a big hug.  Massimo was American’s sales manager for northern Italy in the 1990s; I met him the day before the inaugural flight from Milan to Chicago in May 1991.  We hopped in wife Lucia’s fancy company car and started chattering like magpies.  After about 30 minutes of driving south, I asked “where are we going?”  The answer was the Oltrepó, the land beyond the Po (river), a hilly wine-producing district in the province of Pavia.  Massimo wanted to stock up for the winter for Lucia and him, and for his parents and in-laws in Pisa.  We stopped for a coffee, then headed to the first winery, a coop that Massimo explained sold decent but not fancy wine.  We tasted a bit, my favorite being Bonarda, a frizzante (slightly bubbly) and fruity red wine, and he bought three cases.  Next stop was La Fracce, a fancier winery six miles west.  We sampled a bit, bought two cases, and set off for lunch.

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At the coop winery: bring your own container, and red table wine is as low at $1.25 a liter!

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Signor Vesentini stocking up for the winter

Massimo know the district well.  His great-grandmother lived in a village ten miles away, across the Po, and he had spent a lot of time there as a kid.  So he knew that Signor Colombi had a nice restaurant in Montù Beccaria, and that was our next stop.  A huge lunch: antipasti of various smoked meats homemade by the owner, easily in his mid-80s; main course of linguine topped with truffles (pricey and, for my palate, overrated, but still a savory dish); a nice sort of pudding cake, and coffee.  After paying the bill, Mr. Colombi insisted we have a small tot of grappa.   Fortified, we set off for the last vineyard and bought two more cases.  We crossed the wide Po, made a U-turn, and parked close to the water, and walked to the bank.  It’s a big river.  We then headed back to Milano, Massimo pointing out his great-grandma’s old house in the village of Costa de Nobili.

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Antipasti at Colombi; Massimo was certain that Mr. C. was still curing these meats himself

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Vineyards near Montù Beccaria

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Downstream and upstream, River Po

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Harvest time in the Po Valley (Alps in the background)

Arrived back in his neighborhood just after five, and met my Airbnb hosts Sandra and Beppe, less than a block from Massimo.  Found my room upstairs at Via Plinio 43, and had an hour yak with them, two architecture students writing a joint master’s thesis that was due in 18 days.  I was honored they made time, given the deadline.  Beppe was Italian but grew up in Capetown.  Sandra was from Novi Sad in Serbia.  The recent elections of course came up, as did other topics.  I repaired to my room to work email, grabbed a short nap, and at eight met Massimo, Lucia, and their cute little dog Lupetta (rescued two years earlier from a dumpster, where some unspeakable human-turds dumped her and three siblings).

We walked to Piccola Ischia, a great pizza place.  Their daughter Martina joined us – I had not seen her since 2001, and she’s now a Ph.D. psychologist and very interesting young woman.  We had a great dinner.  Martina peeled off with friends, we walked back to the apartment that had been in the family since it was built in the early 1930s.  We had a final yak and shot of limoncello, said goodbye to Lucia, and walked downstairs to the garage to fetch Massimo’s bike for a ride the next morning.

Up just before first light, out the door, whee!  Rode across the city to Castello Szforzesco, around the perimeter of Sempione Park five times, then back by way of La Scala (opera house), the original Galleria, and the massive cathedral.  Met Massimo to return the bike, grabbed a cup of coffee at the little bakery across from their apartment, and walked back to the Airbnb.  Took a shower and, as she promised, Sandra was making Serbian pancakes, what we think of as crepes, in the kitchen.

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The Vesentinis’ apartment building

She offered me a coffee and we started just a wonderful conversation, across so many topics.  Two stand out.  She told me that as a teenager she was the #2 ranked junior tennis player in Serbia, had already landed a company sponsorship, headed for greatness, then seriously injured her knee, ending her playing career.  We agreed that many injured athletes lose themselves.  “I didn’t want to become a social case at 25,” she said, “so I went back to school.”

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Aleksandra (Sandra), the best Airbnb host to date!

And Sandra talked about what it means to be a Serbian in the world, in the wake of the troubles between that state and neighbors following the breakup of Yugoslavia 25 years ago.  I told her I could relate: when I traveled at her age, young Americans carried the stigma of the Vietnam war, assassinations, and more, and I often bore the brunt of things I did not like and did not make.  We agreed that being open and broad-minded was the best way.  I could have chatted for hours, but Sandra needed to get back to thesis-writing (Beppe stayed up until four and was still sound asleep), and I needed to get to Bergamo Airport for my flight to London Stansted and the annual teaching gig at Cambridge, so I hugged her, grabbed my stuff, and departed.  I have stayed in more than 20 Airbnbs since the first visit more than 4½ years earlier, and have never had a better experience.

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Winged horses above the railway station entrance

I walked a mile to Stazione Centrale, and hopped on the bus to Bergamo, Milan’s hub for low-cost carriers (I was flying Ryanair).  Went through security, found a quiet place to sit (it’s a remarkably comfortable and well-designed terminal), and brought this journal up to date, aided by an instrumental version of Puccini’s “O mio Babbino caro,” one of Italy’s greatest tunes, and some short works by Vivaldi.  Flew to London Stansted, hopped on the train for the short ride to Cambridge, and was in “my” guest room at Sidney Sussex College in time to shave, put on a tie, and head to Evensong in the chapel.  As always, the choir, led my long friend David Skinner, was celestial, followed by a fine homily from a young guest preacher, Rev. Bob Evans of Peterhouse College.

By long tradition, after service we repaired to the Old Library for a quick drink, your scribe yakking with Emily, a second-year choir member, mathematics major, sunny personality.   Then it was time to process to high table in the dining hall.  There were only six of us, with Professor Christopher Page presiding.  I’ve known Chris for some years, a good fellow, an expert in medieval music and literature.  Brett Gray, new Sidney chaplain and fellow Yank, Bob Evans, his French wife, David Skinner, and I had a fine meal and a good yak, with rather a lot of discussion of the U.S. election, but also forays into the hygiene of the Vikings, raisin production, Calvinism (one-third of the table were ordained Anglican priests!), and sundry other topics.  After dinner we headed to the paneled Knox Shaw Room to roam across more topics: the end of liberal democracy, college finances, and competitive rowing.  Every time I’ve joined these august groups I’ve worried a bit about my ability to hold my own, and every time I say goodnight I conclude that indeed I can.  Before retiring for the night, I again signed my name in the red guest book in the suite, and noted that since July there were visitors from Greece, Australia, Argentina, Spain, France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Myanmar, Germany, Wales, and of course England.  What a place!

Was up and out the door at eight for a big English breakfast in the dining hall.  Was ready to leave when an Israeli biochemist, Dr. Tony Futerman, and his wife and son joined the table.  We had a nice chat.  He was an expert in Gaucher’s disease, an inherited malady in Ashkenazi Jews.  He and his wife had just become grandparents.  And his son, who just graduated from high school, was to begin his compulsory military service (2.8 years) in a week’s time, working in combat intelligence.  Always interesting people in the Sidney dining hall.

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The view from my room at Sidney Sussex

I ambled across town, pausing for daily prayers in St. Botolph’s, a small 13th Century parish church, then into Judge Business School to work.  I got a lot done, and by mid-afternoon it was time to clock out.  Walked across the River Cam and into Sidgwick Site, a newer part of the campus, then back to college for a nap.  Crossed the river again, had a pint at The Pickerel and a spicy dinner at a small Indian restaurant.  Done for the day.

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12th Century Round Church in moonlight

Had another fine conversation at breakfast Tuesday morning, with Nicholas Smith, a professional singer and teacher, and mountaineer.  He remembered me from a previous visit, me not so much. We mostly yakked about his singing and climbing – a lot of experience in both, including ascent of lots of the tallest peaks in the Alps.  He teaches voice at Sidney Sussex.

Walked across town to the school, worked the morning.  At 11, on the way back from the washroom, I spotted a slide on the screen in one of the big lecture halls, which led to an “ambush-introduction” to a prof who teaches organizational behavior classes, a guy I’ve wanted to meet for awhile, and the subsequent discussion might lead to another invitation to my favorite teaching venue.

At 12:45 I met my host, Andreas Richter, for lunch, then walked across the street to present my fifth or sixth talk to his “HR for Engineers” class in Cambridge’s revered Department of Engineering, a place humming with brainpower.  We walked back over to the business school, parted, and at 4:15 I met another colleague, Paul Tracey, for a brief yak.

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Given his ingrate behavior of late, the markdowns on this book at the Cambridge University Press shop seemed appropriate . . .

My Cambridge visits always include a stop in the venerable pub The Eagle, so before heading to the railway station I detoured for a glass of IPA.  Then through light rain a mile or so to the train, stopping to pick up a sandwich and salad for lunch on board.  As I have done many times, rather than flying from London and paying the confiscatory ($240) departure tax, I opted to fly west from Amsterdam (where the tax to leave is $26), so headed across Suffolk to the port of Harwich for the Stena Line ferry to Hoek van Holland near Rotterdam.

At Cambridge station, I re-downloaded to my iPhone one of my favorite novels, La’s Orchestra Saves the World, by the prolific Alexander McCall Smith.  Set in Suffolk mostly during World War II, it tells the story of a young widow, La, who forms a village orchestra to build morale.  But it is so much more, and I re-read most of it on the train ride and on the flight home the next day.  Smith is a gifted observer of the human condition, and parts of the book brought tears to my eyes.

At Harwich I boarded the Stena Britannica, a nearly new ferry almost as fancy as a cruise ship.  I last rode her almost two years earlier.  Splurged on an outside cabin with a large porthole.  There was free wi-fi in public areas, so worked my email to zero, walked out on the sundeck in lashing rain, and went to bed.  The ride was smooth, almost motionless.

Up Wednesday morning the 16th, big breakfast, then off the ship into more rain, and onto the efficient Dutch railways east to Schiedam, then north to Schiphol Airport.  My ex-KLM friend Jan Meurer was waiting for me at the meeting point (the clever Dutch designed a huge red-and-white checkered cube as a visible and easy-to-remember rendezvous point).  We had a cup of coffee and a good chat.  He peeled off at 11, I checked in for the flight to Philadelphia, and zipped back to the U.S.

But there was one more stop, so I waved as we flew over Washington, enroute to Charlotte for a lunchtime speech the next day.  Landed early, and for the second time in a week told the immigrant taxi driver, a Pakistani, that he was welcome in our country.  Early in the ride, he said, “We are hard workers, sir.  We only want the chance to work.”

Checked into a hotel on the south end of downtown.  I needed a ride on a fitness bike in the gym, but forgot shorts, so rolled up pajama bottoms to my thighs and pedaled 16 miles.  Lights out at nine, up before six, down to breakfast, then out the door to pick up a bike from Charlotte’s bikeshare system.  Found one at a station opposite the jail, paid $8 on my debit card, and in no time was coasting south on 4th Street.  By pure chance, travel serendipity, I spotted the Little Sugar Creek Greenway, and coasted south.  Most bikeshares are set up for short rides, 30 minutes max, so earlier I set the handy iPhone app, called Spotcycle, to Charlotte, to get real-time location and availability (so cool).  I always heard Charlotte was a nice place to live, and zigzagging on the greenway confirmed it.  Really lovely.  Rode around a bit more, then into downtown, and a nice side-by-side T-t-S with Shannon Binn, head of Sustain Charlotte, an advocacy organization.  Always good to meet committed young people.

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The new Mecklenburg County Courthouse featured a series of panels with our ideals.  We’ve still got work to do.

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Charlotte skyline and the Little Sugar Creek Greenway

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New-to-look-old streetcar, Gold Line

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Captain James Jack of the Charlotte militia, who in May 1775 rode 600 miles north to Philadelphia to deliver documents expressing Charlotteans’ desire for liberty.

Returned the bike at ten, and walked back to the hotel, pausing for a brief engagement with a young black man, who opened with “What did you do with that bike you just had?” and closed by offering his hand and wishing me a blessed day.  If each of us could each day have just one interaction like that, we would have a better world.

Showered and walked several blocks to the Dilworth Neighborhood Grill, site of my talk to the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation.  Longtime readers of this journal know that last decade I did a ton of these talks, mostly in Texas and neighboring states (and had spoken to the Charlotte group once before, in 2009).  Met my hosts Alex and Jonathan, visited with some friendly locals, and delivered a short talk on crisis management.  Garrett, a billboard salesman, kindly offered to drive me to the airport, and we had a good yak along the way.  Flew home, a fine trip.

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Your scribe by the River Po (thanks, Massimo, for the great day and the pic)

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Minnesota, Illinois, Ontario, Quebec, Connecticut

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Yale University

Well before sunrise on Thursday, October 20, I hopped bus and Metro to National Airport and flew home to Minneapolis/St. Paul.  Bought a $6 ticket good for 24 hours of rides on the public transit system and jumped onto the Blue Line light-rail for my alma mater, the University of Minnesota.  Met hosts George and Debbie John for lunch at the Campus Club, a faculty retreat on the top floor of the student union, then delivered a talk to Debbie’s undergraduate advertising and branding class, a seriously bright group of youngsters.  Afterwards a walked a couple hundred feet to Wilson Library, the main repository at “the U,” to do a little research: I was looking for annual reports of Republic Airlines, the company that launched me into the airline business (I’m intending to write a business case study about their remarkable turnaround).  Found the reports deep in the library basement (had to move other materials to get at the folder with the stuff).  After that, I went one floor down, to the sub-basement and the John Borchert Map Library, named for one of my Ph.D. advisers.  I drafted most of my dissertation on a big table in a far corner, and it’s always fun to find that spot.

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Mall, University of Minnesota

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Maybe only in Minnesota: a quilt depicting the geological regions of the state, Wilson Library

Because the visit was less than 24 hours, I opted not to stay with friends, and found an Airbnb perfectly located a few blocks from the Blue Line.  Katie the host met me at 5:30.  The place was wonderful, a classic South Minneapolis bungalow, spotlessly clean, with a nice big bedroom – and good heat on a blustery and chilly day.  Worked a bit of email, took a short nap, and at 6:30 headed back to the Blue Line and into downtown Minneapolis, passing the massive new Vikings’ stadium, and on to dinner with pal-since-1963 Tim McGlynn at Freehouse, a cool brewpub.  Got caught up on Tim’s comings and goings, had a couple beers, and a nice pulled-pork sandwich.  Was back at Katie’s and asleep well before ten.

Up early Friday morning, out the door, expecting a busy day.  Waiting for the eastbound #21 bus, a nice T-t-S exchange with a bicyclist well bundled against the cold:

Me: Going far?

Cyclist: Stillwater [which was 30 miles away]

Me: Wow, a long ride.  Are you commuting to work?

Cyclist: No, just a day ride to clear my head and see the fall color.  I’m getting married tomorrow.

Me: Congratulations!  That’s exciting.

Cyclist: Yes, for sure.

Me: It will work if you work at it [raising my arm and pointing to my ring finger]; 38 years.

Cyclist: Wow, congratulations on that.

Me: Again, to you. Have a joyous day tomorrow.

I rode five minutes east to a Dunn Bros. coffee shop, where at seven I met my young friend Emily Sheppard, daughter of my late friend and B-school buddy Jack.  I’m a friend and have become a mentor.  We see each other two or three times a year now, and it’s always fun to catch up.  Emily moved from New York back home to the Twin Cities late last year and is settling in.  We had a coffee, and because she works for Dunn Bros. she treated me to breakfast, yogurt and a gooey cinnamon roll.

Emily drove me back to the Blue Line, I hopped on, then flew to Chicago, then a short hop to Champaign and my first visit to the University of Illinois.  I was pumped about being on the third Big Ten campus in two weeks.  Was headed to my 12th lecture to the U of I EMBA program, which normally meets in downtown Chicago, in the Loop, but once a year heads to the main campus.  Rented a car with a free-day coupon (total cost was $1.73 for taxes) and drove north to downtown Champaign.  Dropped my bags at the hotel and zipped across town to the red-brick campus.  The second Emily of the day, a program assistant, welcomed me, and provided a welcome late lunch in a box.

Fortified, I set off for a walk around the core of the campus.  Some wonderful old buildings, two grassy quadrangles, and lots of sculpture.  Really nice.  I am a softy for inspiring words carved on the side of university buildings and other places of learning, and above the front entrance of the main library was the following: “The whole world here unlocks the experience of the past to the builders of the future.” Wow!  At 3:00 I had a short meeting with Carlos Torelli, a friend and host who moved from the U of M earlier in the year.

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Business school classroom building

 

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This lovely foliage was straight from lyrics of a school song:”We’re loyal to you, Illinois / The orange and blue, Illinois.”

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Lorado Taft (1860-1936), “The Pioneers,” original plaster model of a bronze in suburban Chicago

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Another Taft sculpture, according to an adjacent plaque it was part of a “vast unfinished Fountain of Creation to stand at the east end of the midway in Chicago,” prepared for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.  Below, Lincoln Hall, outside and in.

 

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Main Quadrangle, U of I

From 4:55 to 6:30 I delivered a talk to the EMBA students, a lively and engaged group (as I have written many times, I really like teaching older, experienced students).  They invited me to beer and dinner at Murphy’s, a classic college dive in Campustown.  It was way fun to yak with students – the U of I always seems to recruit a really great mix of people and experience.  Kevin, for example, works for Otis Elevators, and he had all sorts of interesting info about the business of vertical travel.  Two tidbits: elevators move the equivalent of the world’s population every three days, and the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower in the Chicago Loop, sways six to eight feet on high-wind days.  Whoa.  Also met an expert in energy conservation, a pharmaceutical researcher, and more.  They showed no signs of leaving early, but I was plumb wore out.

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EMBA students and good guys Marty, George, and Kevin

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Champaign City Hall at dawn

Could have slept in on Saturday morning, but I don’t sleep in, so was up in the dark and down the the hotel gym for 20 miles, then a big breakfast, and back out to the airport.  Such a joy to fly into and out of small airports, where the scale is gentle.  I was headed to Toronto via Chicago, so needed to get into the Canadian way, a way I admire greatly.  So I tracked down Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s address to the UN General Assembly a few weeks earlier.  His concluding words:

Listen, Canada is a modest country. We know we can’t solve these problems alone.  We know we need to do this all together.  We know it will be hard work.  But we’re Canadian. And we’re here to help.

We landed in Canada at 2:45, I hopped on the Airport Rocket (actually line #192 of the Toronto Transit Commission, but sure like the name!), then onto the subway east to downtown.  Checked in at a Holiday Inn on the edge of the University of Toronto, a place I always stayed when teaching at the U of T (a gig that inexplicably went away about 2012).  It was even colder and windier than Minneapolis two days earlier, just howling.  Winter was coming!

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Old and new on the campus of the University of Toronto

I hadn’t been on the U of T campus for awhile, and was drawn, almost magnetically to the university’s war memorial, Soldier Tower, built after World War I.  I have been there many times, because it is a superb place to give thanks to all who made freedom possible, in Canada, in the U.S., and lots of other places.  As always I read aloud the quotation from the Greek statesman, orator, and warrior Pericles:

Their story is not graven only on stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.

Woven into a free and democratic Germany, into a new constitution for Japan, and so many other places.  I prayed a gratitude to all who made that and more possible.  We can never repay them, but we should remember them every day.

Grabbed a quick nap and at six met Javier Ortega, a young friend from Chihuahua now living in Toronto.  We had a great, brief catch-up.  At 7:15 my longtime Canadian friend Lorne Salzman and his wife Nancy picked me up and we motored south and west to Bent, a small new restaurant with seriously good food.  We ate well and more important had a great catch-up chat.  I met Lorne in 1993 when he helped American Airlines with an investment in Canadian Airlines (that didn’t work, but the friendship has endured!).  We covered a lot of conversational territory, but one topic is worth amplifying here: Lorne relayed in some detail that remarkable level of care his 89-year-old mother received in her last weeks of life.  Humane, thorough, professional, and entirely free, thanks to Canada’s system of universal health insurance.  His mom’s experience, the truth, is so distant from the creeps like Trump who diss the Canadian solution, one that covers everyone, delivers excellent care, and does is for half of what the U.S. spends (as a percentage of GDP).

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Highrise apartments continue to soar in Toronto, this at the corner of Yonge and Bloor

Was up early a fourth consecutive morning, out the door, east on Bloor.  My admiration for Canada was tested slightly when the TTC #320 bus broke down and I had to walk more than a mile to the train station, but the exercise was fine!  Hopped on the UP Express, a new train that zips from Union Station to Pearson Airport (the U and the P) in 25 minutes.  The Airport Rocket bus and subway is cheaper, but UP was a nice ride.  Ate a couple of bran muffins from Tim Horton’s en route.  Air Canada texted me the day before with news that my preferred flight at 9:00 was canceled; I was flying standby, so was a little stressed, but got a boarding pass for the 10:00 flight, and was in Montreal just after 11, for my 17th appearance at McGill University.

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The UP Express at Toronto airport

Bought a three-day pass on STM, the public-transit system, and hopped on the #747 bus into the city.  Had a great T-t-S session with Ash, a fourth-year medical student at McGill.  Born in Punjab, India in 1983, he came to Canada at age 16.  When he graduates he want a residency in dermatology or family practice.  I told him how much I admired Canada, and relayed my father’s awful experience when you don’t have health insurance.  We yakked across a bunch of other topics, and were downtown in no time.  Shook Ash’s hand, wished him well, and hopped onto the Metro, riding several stops to my “hotel,” which for the third consecutive year was a large apartment atop a highrise university dorm.

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Lionel Groulx metro station; every one of these people has health insurance.  Every one.

As happened before, the front desk guy had no clue how to check me in (and in fact did it wrong, because the next evening I was no longer “in the system” and had to persuade the clerk that I really did live there!).  Changed clothes, and headed next door to lunch at Kantapia, a family-run Korean place.  I was one of two Europeans in the place, and tucked into a big bowl of noodles.  Fortified, I bought a one-day pass on Bixi, Montreal’s superb bike-share service, and rode west into a howling wind, five miles, through the affluent Westmount neighborhood and into Notre Dame de Grace, NDG to locals.  The eastbound sailing was nicer, save for two close calls with cars – Bixi handbrakes are weak, and a left-turning Toyota almost pasted me.  Wished I knew how to say “asshole” in French!

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Lunch, Kantapia

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Street art, Notre Dame de Grace neighborhood

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Bixi station

Took a nap, and at 5:30 grabbed my laptop and headed on the bike east a mile to Rue Saint-Denis and the Latin Quarter, a place I’ve gotten to know well.  Nipped into L’Amère a Boire, a brewpub I visited many times, for a pint and a chance to bring this journal up to date.  I then ambled down the street to 3 Brasseurs, another brewpub, but with a wider dinner selection.  Had a brief T-t-S with a waitress.  I told her if the worst were to happen and Trump got elected, I would move north; “And we will welcome you with pleasure,” she quickly replied.  Nice!  Tucked into salmon, mashed potatoes, and green beans, Sunday dinner.  Was asleep early.

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Place des Arts, performing arts hall

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Montreal has become known for projecting images on building facades at night; here a rotating series of iconic people and events on a building of UQAM, the University of Quebec at Montreal

Was out the door at seven Monday morning for a full day of lectures.  Step 1 was breakfast at Tim Horton’s on Rue Sherbrooke, where I recognized Celine behind the counter.  “I remember you from last year,” I said, and she told me she had been at that store for 18 years.  Bowl of oatmeal, raisin-bran muffins, and coffee, and I was ready for the day.  Met my McGill B-school host Mary Dellar at 8:15, and plunged into the first talk at 8:35, then another at 11:35.  Mary and I had a quick lunch at one and I headed up the hill to the law school and my annual talk on airline alliances to grad students at McGill’s Institute for Air and Space Law.  Finished that at five, back to the B-school, worked my email, and from 6:30 to 8:00 gave the last talk to members of the undergraduate Marketing Network, a young and engaged group.  Whew, more than six hours of talking.  I was worn out, but after changing clothes I headed back to the Latin Quarter (that night by bus, a very short ride) and beer and dinner at St.-Houblon, a great little pub with seriously creative food.  The Montreal Canadians, the hockey team locally known as the Habs, were playing Philadelphia, and I watched the last half of the game, Habs winning 3-1.  Woo hoo!

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Young entrepreneur Marc-Antoine and your scribe, McGill University

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Dinner, Saint-Houblon; even a pub presents food with style!

Tuesday morning, coffee at Tim’s, then met McGill Prof. Bob Mackalski at his athletic club at 7:15 for breakfast and a great yak.  He’s marketing whiz, very strategic thinker, and we covered a lot of ground.  Walked a block to school, gave a final lecture in Mary’s class, said goodbye, and rolled my suitcase south to the #747 bus to the airport.  While working my email at the departure gate, I heard a distinctive voice I recognized.  Looked up, and ten feet from me was an old boss, former American CEO Don Carty.  After he got off his call, we chatted for a bit – I hadn’t seen him in more than six years, and was good to catch up.  I mused at the prospect of running into someone like that, and even more remote, in his hometown of Montreal!  Said goodbye to Don, hopped a flight to Chicago, then home to Washington.  Had the dogs on a walk by 7:15.

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Montreal is booming again; as I have often observed about social democracies, they don’t seem to have trouble keeping the lights on.

After lunch on Friday, October 28, I hopped bus and Metro to National Airport and onto a jet to LaGuardia, bound for New Haven and a first visit to son Jack’s new town (the original plan was for him to pick me up in Hartford, 50 miles from New Haven, but I had some time and thought I’d save him the drive by hopping a train from New York).  As often happens, LGA was a mess, and the flight was 40 minutes late.  I still thought I’d make the 6:17 train from Harlem station, only 4.2 miles from the airport, but rush-hour traffic put me on the platform at 6:20.  Roll with it, I thought, and got on the 6:42, into New Haven at 8:20.  My first visit to the home of Yale University, and I was pumped.  Jack picked me up at the station and we headed to dinner at Caseus, an agreeable bistro and cheese shop.  Tucked into a big dinner and some fine conversation, and headed to his downtown apartment to watch the World Series.

Up early Saturday, out on a car tour of New Haven, around the downtown and university, then up to East Rock, 300 feet above town, for a good look at the city and Long Island Sound.  It was a crisp morning, perfect viewing.  Parked the car, grabbed a coffee (the Starbucks, across from Yale, was buzzing with the low hum of brain power), and set off for a thorough walking tour of the campus.  We visited the Center for British Art, in a striking building designed by Louis Kahn, then the Yale Art Museum, with a stunning collection, bigger than most big-city museums.  I’ve been on a lot of campuses, and Yale was perhaps the finest I’ve ever seen, wonderful old stone buildings, beautiful grounds.  We stopped for a Thai lunch, then headed back to the apartment.

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New Haven is full of old buildings from many periods of American architecture; I’ve always been fond of the style known as Bracketed Italianate, on commercial buildings like this and homes.  Below, terracotta architectural detail.

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Jack’s favorite sitting room, Center for British Art

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Brand-new construction, in traditional style

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Jack laced up for the gym and I headed out on his new, bright-orange Trek, north 15 miles on the Farmington Canal Greenway, a bike and walking trail along a canal built in the 1820s.  It was a perfect afternoon to cover some distance.

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On the Greenway

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Former lock, Farmington Canal

We then watched a little college football and at 5:15 headed out for dinner then up to Ingalls Rink to see the Yale men’s hockey team open the season.  The arena, designed by Eero Saarinen (Dulles Airport terminal, Gateway Arch in St. Louis), was way cool, small, with a soaring roof – it’s nicknamed “the Whale.”  College hockey is to me the apex of the sport, fast and clean – players check each other, but there’s no fighting.  We had seats right on the glass at the blue line, perfect vantage to appreciate Yale’s speed, great passing, and outstanding defense.  Best of all, the Bulldogs won, 4-1.  Just a wonderful time.

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Sunday morning Jack went to the gym and I walked the campus again.  We then motored around the suburbs before heading to Little Italy for an early lunch at Frank Pepe’s, a pizzeria in business since 1925.  Piles of meat, cheese, and vegetables atop a crispy thin crust baked in a coal-fired oven, maybe the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.  Whew.  We zipped across town and west to Costco in Milford, then a couple of hours of football on TV, then a speedy ride north to Hartford and a flight home.  New Haven is a great town, and I look forward to going back.

 

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Old Campus Quadrangle

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