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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.