Was home from Minnesota for three nights, long enough to paint the garage floor and do some yard work. On Monday the 14th, Linda drove me a few miles to a Hertz location, where I picked up a Nissan roller skate for a one-way drive north to my second visit to the Pennsylvania State University, Penn State. It was a glorious morning, clear and crisp, perfect for a drive. Started on the freeway, but hopped off at Hagerstown, Maryland, and zigzagged north on U.S. and state highways, over the Appalachian ridges and valleys – six ups and six downs by my count. Through pleasant small towns and hamlets. A lovely ride. Just before arriving in State College, stopped at an overlook above town, and read an interesting interpretive sign: at the time of European arrival, 90 percent of Pennsylvania was forested, but the state is still 60% woodland. And I was reminded of evidence, from earlier that morning, of a hardwood industry: lots of signs for saw sharpeners, chainsaw retailers, flooring manufacturers, and the like. Some views along the road:
Arrived on campus at 12:15, checked into the Nittany Lion Inn (run by the school, in part for students in their hospitality program), ambled across the street for lunch, dropped the car (I was flying to my next venue), walked the campus, went to the gym, and took a short nap. At six it was time to perform, to a packed room at an event of the student Ad and PR Club. After the talk, club officers Haley, Morgan, and Jillian took me out to dinner.
Up with the roosters Tuesday morning, back to the gym. At 7:30, met hosts Steve Manuel and Ron Smith (both familiar from my visit 19 months earlier) for a caloric breakfast in the inn dining room, then off to four back-to-back talks. There was barely time after the first one to zip over the Berkey Creamery for a chocolate shake – Penn State has a big ag program, and like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they run a small dairy operation, from cow to ice cream. It’s a wildly popular place (I tried the night before, prior to my club gig, but the line was out the door). Finished the last talk at five, back to my room to change.
Met Steve at 5:40, and we motored to dinner. He is a super-interesting and colorful fellow, former Marine officer, with lot of great stories, including plenty from his nearly three decades at Penn State, and a long stint as school sports photographer. The guy has a lot of talents. His colleague Denise Bortree joined us for the meal, and more great conversation.
Was asleep by 8:45, because I was up at 4:20 Wednesday morning, out to the small airport, onto a 6:00 jet to Philadelphia, then a connecting flight to Montreal and my 24th time at McGill University, a long favorite. Landed in Canada before ten, onto the superb #747 express bus into the city, and up the hill to Desautels, the McGill business school. Met host and pal Bob Mackalski, and sat in on a class on innovation, not to present, but make a few comments from the back row. Ate a big lunch at a fave restaurant – great in part because everyone in the place knows and likes Bob, so we get rock-star service. At 2:30, we co-taught an undergrad brand management class. I peeled off, walking to my digs, at the top of a McGill dorm. Great place, huge apartment. Did some work, and at six headed out to a new brewpub, via Metro and bus. Waited 45 minutes for a bus that never came, so reversed course and headed to my fave pub, Saint-Houblon on Rue Saint-Denis.
Wednesday night, and the place was packed. While we waited for a table, a kindly server brought us small glasses of free beer, way cool. In 10 minutes, I was sitting at a counter on the balcony, with a great view of the bustling place. Studying the beer menu, “Pêche Blonde” caught my eye, and I asked for a pint. Wow! Made with lots of peaches. The server was super-friendly, offering samples of anything else that caught my eye. Tucked into a nice plate of spicy tofu and vegetables, and headed home.
Was up at 6:30 Thursday after a much-needed long snooze. Worked my email. At 8:20, I headed out, into cold rain and strong wind, east a couple of blocks to a cozy café, to meet a long friend of Fabio Scappaticci, my young pal in Geneva who I visited three weeks earlier. Ridha and Fabio met each other as teenagers, and are as close as brothers. Six months earlier, I had attempted to help Ridha with an aviation job, and it was nice to meet him in person. A way interesting guy with a great family story. Mom and Dad from Palestine, first years in Saudi Arabia, moved to Canada at 11. After a long yak and a nice breakfast, we walked to his condo, met his French wife and young daughter Leah. We walked Leah to day care across the street, which was a lesson in itself: the sparkling clean, amply staffed, well designed facility was actually run by the province. Such a different model from the U.S., and better. Yes, taxes are much higher, but services like that facility might even make conservatives – certainly the ones who claim to be “pro family” – reconsider how we do it south of the border.
At 12:30, I met McGill law lecturer and longtime host Kuan-Wei Chen, known as David, for lunch. Sadly, my favorite little Korean place, Kantapia, next door to my digs, had closed, but we found a new Korean place on Peel, and tucked into a fine lunch and good conversation. Walked back, took a tonic nap, and worked a bit.
At 4:30, I suited up and walked briskly south on Rue Sherbrooke. It was still raining, and the north wind had picked up. Up the Peel St. hill to the McGill Law School. I was way early. In one of the foyers was a permanent exhibit of Inuit printmaking, seven prints from the 1980s. As I admired the expressiveness, I was also saddened by the knowledge that Europeans – in Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere – tried to force native peoples to be like us. Why? I had no answer, but I surely enjoyed the art, especially the two interpretations of caribou (the wild version of semi-domesticated reindeer).
At 6:00, it was time to stand and deliver my airline-alliances lecture to a small group of graduate law (LLM) students. Finished at 8:15, and walked back to the room. It was (by my standards) late. I was tired, but also hungry and thirsty, and was reminded of a similar evening in Cologne several years earlier: I could just put on my pajamas, or put myself “out there.” So I pulled on jeans and zipped out, a block north to the #80 bus, rode 15 minutes and a short walk to a microbrewery and pub, Dieu du Ciel! (literally God in the Sky, or Good Lord! by Google Translate, either way a nice name). It was nine but the place was still hopping. Found a stool at the bar, got a nice welcome, and tucked into a couple of beers and a wonderful pizza. The place exuded such a friendly vibe, and none of the youngsters minded that I was, like the night before, the oldest person in the place by a factor of two or three. “Out there” was the right place to be.
Slept in on Friday, until seven. It had stopped raining, streets were dry, so it was time for a ride on Bixi, Montreal’s bikeshare. Hopped on a silver cycle and headed east, into what had historically been a series of working-class neighborhoods, almost solely francophone. Zigged and zagged, and ended up in Maisonneuve Park, a huge urban green space. Rode around the park twice, then rode back downtown, 13 miles. Breakfast at my fave Tim Horton’s, oatmeal and a bran muffin. Packed up, stopped at the McGill bookstore to buy a souvenir quarter-zip fleece with school logo, hopped the #747 bus to the airport, and flew home. Canada is always such a joy.