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A Flying Start to 2018: Chicago, Briefly

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Winter, seriously: Not the arctic, but Lake Michigan east of Chicago

As I did on the first day of 2017, on New Year’s Day I was up early, out the door, onto the Metro, and aloft on the Silver Bird to Chicago; same destination: the northwest suburb of Arlington Heights for the annual party of my cousins.  Five of the six children of my Uncle Bapper (that’s how my older brother Jim first pronounced “Joseph”) live in Metro Chicago, and four are within two miles of each other.  As I noted last year, Bapper’s early disablement and death created remarkable tightness among the kids, and they are always fun to visit.  Landed in below-zero weather and headed to the rental car lot, then drove eight miles across well-familiar terrain.

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The Budget rental car was a mess, and no one was around, so I resorted to self-help measures (and later got a refund on the rental)

Before the party, I spent almost four hours yakking with Cousin Jim, oldest of the six, and his swell wife Michaela.  They are nearly as close as siblings, and it’s always great fun to catch up.  They’re in the throes of college admission for their oldest, Jack, and have two right behind, Charlie and Katie.  We motored a few blocks to Cousin Mike’s, who with his wife Gail were the 2018 hosts.  In no time I was hugging cousins, spouses, and kids.  It was a lot of fun.  They are a very tight bunch, and it’s a joy to see them together.

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Rock-and-roller Charlie Fredian and his new Fender bass

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Cousins Jim, Bob, and Mike Fredian

Was up early the next morning, and like the year before motored east to suburban Glenview for breakfast with Cousin Larry and his wife Judith.  Larry is actually a first cousin once removed; his mom Alice was youngest of my maternal grandfather Jim’s six sibs.  We had a caloric breakfast and a good catch-up about his three kids and several grandchildren.  They are fine people.  We drove back to their house, where I had made a firm friend with their new dog Blackie, and yakked some more.  When I left, Lorenzo kissed me, and I was reminded that Italian men (and even just 25-percenters like me) kiss each other.  Nice!

Drove briskly back to the airport.  On the way, passed the first McDonald’s (well the first one built by Ray Kroc) in Des Plaines, noted that it was now a museum, and further noted to visit soon.  Flew home, trip one done and fun.

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Home to Minnesota to Mark the Passing of a Long Friend

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Our dear Mr. Jensen is up there, in the Heavens

There was one more trip before 2017 closed: to Minneapolis to deliver a eulogy at the memorial service for my 12th Grade English teacher, Mr. Bud Jensen, an early mentor and a friend for 50 years.  Linda came along to visit her mother, now 95, and on the decline.  I was a little stressed about landing two hours before the service started, but thanks to the great American Airlines we were right on time.

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The view from above: the southeast shore of Lake Michigan; Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood; and farmland in northeast Iowa

 

I dropped Linda, visiting briefly with her mom and next-youngest brother Gordy, then motored to the service at the Colonial Church, a longtime Congregationalist institution in my hometown of Edina.  Visitation was an hour before, and scores were already there, another indicator of Bud’s impact.  I spoke briefly with his wife Jinny and the other two eulogists.  It was one of those times you wished there were little bubbles hovering above people’s heads, with their name and connection to Bud.  I was pretty sure that the longtime boys’ varsity basketball coach was there.  And just before the service I had a few words with my 11th Grade English teacher, Mr. Stotts.  Whew!

Bud was a longtime member of the chorale, so of course the choir and soloists sang throughout.  Here is my eulogy:

Good afternoon.  Even for a seasoned writer, drafting these words was a challenge, because my former English teacher will be looking down to ensure that I follow proper composition principles, but mostly because mere words, even well chosen, cannot capture the essence of this kind, generous, and righteous person.

Almost 50 years ago, in September 1968, 25 of us at Edina High School headed for fourth period honors English class.  As we entered the classroom, we could tell that the new teacher, Mr. Jensen, was cut from different cloth. 

Wait, we wouldn’t have used a metaphor like that yet – that was the kind of stuff he would teach us.

The other 12th grade English teachers like Mr. Anderson and Mrs. Wyatt were known quantities; they had taught older brothers and sisters.  We had rap sheets on them.  But not this new guy. 

What was different?  We spotted two things right away.  First, he was really young.  The other English teachers were, in our adolescent view, ancient.  Second, the room had curious decorations, like a big Fred Flintstone plush doll. 

And from day one, we knew that Mr. Jensen’s teaching style would be different.  Although the brand-new textbook focused on British literature, with really old people like Shakespeare and Jane Austen, Mr. Jensen wove in current stuff, from popular culture.  The story of St. George, patron saint of England, became a riff on a new toothpaste brand that carried the slogan “a nurdle a day keeps the dragon away.” 

Senior English was also about improving our writing, and our new teacher was flexible about topics we could choose.  Elevated classmates opted to analyze deep meaning in Gulliver’s Travels for the big mid-year project, but this Aviation Geek got away with writing about modern British airliners.  I got an A.

So, point one: Bud Jensen was for more than 30 years a superb teacher. 

Point two: he was a caring teacher.  Many in our society expect, indeed demand, that teachers take on duties that, in a better world, ought to be done by parents and others.  Although this expectation has increased in recent decades, even in the late Sixties many teachers, like Bud, understood their larger role, and stepped forward. 

Since then, hundreds of Mr. Jensen’s students, including many here today, came to know that for him these added responsibilities were not a burden, but part of his job.  Like a calling.  I learned this from my own experience.  In high school, I was slightly adrift.  Not a troublemaker or a doper, but in need of direction and stability.  Home life was unhappy: my father was broke and sick, and my mother was an alcoholic.  Mr. Jensen didn’t know all the facts, but sensed the need to help, and he did, in subtle ways – I felt under a gentle wing.  That care helped so much.  For me it was like a bridge, because within a week of leaving Mr. Jensen’s classroom I had found clear direction in the form of a part-time job that provided both identity and money to afford tuition and books at the University of Minnesota. 

Point three: Bud Jensen was an exemplary human being.  Through the years, he would tell me, modestly of course, of his many volunteer contributions, to institutions like his beloved Hamline University, and especially to individual young men and women.  It was that specific help that was so remarkable: cash to students in need, practically adopting people who began to stray, and so much more. 

The last time I saw Bud was 15 months ago on my annual visit to the Minnesota State Fair.  Bud and Jinny and two friends gathered at Surly.  As we waited for a table, of course with beer, Bud brought me up to speed on his latest service to others.  Later that night, I made an entry in my my travel blog.  I wrote, “There’s a reason I’ve stayed Bud-connected for nearly half a century: he and Jinny are among the finest folks I’ve ever met.  If you looked up humane, committed people in the dictionary, you’d see their faces.”

Though self-reliance is a valued trait, people delude themselves when they think their success comes solely from their own efforts.  Every one of us have grown and prospered with the help of others – in public institutions, not least our schools.  And especially with the help of people who have supported, encouraged, and nurtured us.  Bud Jensen was one of those people.  Thank you, Bud, for everything.  We will miss you.

After the eulogies, uplifting words from the two pastors.  They clearly knew him well.  And when they repeatedly said Bud was in heaven, I nodded my head.  Those of us who believe in a hereafter cannot, if they are honest with themselves, know nor predict whether God will dispatch them upward (my own prospects seem far from assured!), but I had no doubt that Bud had, as his obituary confidently stated, “joined the bass section of the heavenly choir.”  Amen.

After the service there was a reception in a church hall, with the baked goodies for which Minnesotans are famous.  I visited briefly with several who complimented my words, including John Benson, a fellow teacher and former state representative, and was again reminded of the essential decency that is my native state.

I returned to the condo of Linda’s mom, and visited with her other three siblings, as well as three nephews that I see infrequently, sons of the youngest sibling, Mike.  We said goodbye and drove to a nearby hotel.

Both of us needed some cheer and fun, and found it in one of our favorite restaurants, the Black Forest Inn in south Minneapolis.  I have been a patron since 1971, back to the days when founder and owner Eric Christ, a German immigrant, did not worry much about the legal drinking age!  Linda and I had, through four decades, spent lots of happy times at the Black Forest, and that night was no exception.  An accordionist roamed, beer and wine flowed, and we tucked into a fine dinner.  It was a nice end to a long and difficult day for both of us.

We were up at 5:15, back to the airport, and home by noon.

I still have the 1969 project that Mr. Jensen graded well.

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Europe Again, Part 2: Denmark, Germany, Bulgaria

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Sofia, Bulgaria, a fascinating place

Arrived in Denmark on time at 9:45 on Sunday the 3rd, collected my bag, and met longtime pal Michael Beckmann and his son Niklas, now 8.  For years, an Advent tradition was to meet them in Berlin, but earlier in 2017 they relocated to Copenhagen when Herr B. took a job heading fleet management at DSB, the Danish State Railways.  Regular readers know we’re both Transport Geeks in extremis, so his new job fit.

And we had a T-Geek day planned: into the main station, then west to the island of Fyn and the city of Odense, best known as the home of Hans Christian Andersen.  We were not headed to the land of the Ugly Duckling, but to the Danish Railway Museum.  We ate an early lunch, zipped through a tunnel, and by 12:15 were in the museum, a very cool place full of awesome hardware, much of which you could climb on.  We agreed that there was room for more interpretation – the explanation of the collection and its impact on society – but it was still cool enough to hold our interest, and that of a little boy, for three hours.

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Splendid wooden roof in Copenhagen’s main station; and on a train, not a ship, to Odense

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Above and below, scenes from the Danish Railway Museum

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The last exhibits we visited were about the deluxe trains of the Wagons-Lits Company, and the extensive youth travel in the 1970s and ’80s enabled by InterRail, a pass for unlimited rides

We hopped on the train back to the capital, then out to the suburb of Tarnby and their new home.  Wife Susan and daughter Annika, almost six, greeted us, the latter jumping into “Onkel Rob’s” arms at the station.  We zipped home, and tucked into a wonderful dinner.  Home cooking was so welcome: baked salmon, mashed potatoes, salad, beer.  Wonderful.  Yakked a bit, but was asleep before nine after a very long day.

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Like the Swedes, the Danes love their flag, and the Beckmanns have joined the practice!

Up early, breakfast, out the door with the kids, onto the bus, dropping them at the German School in central Copenhagen, an institution founded in the 16th Century.  Hopped on a suburban train west to Høhe Taastrup and a suburban office park where the DSB has its headquarters.  I volunteered to give a short seminar on crisis management best practices, and we were pleased that the session was well attended.   Ate a big, early lunch, walked back to the station, and hopped the train to the airport.

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Enormous Lego blocks in the DSB offices, depicting the four Myers-Briggs personality traits

Scandinavia is well known for design, but Copenhagen Airport is a total mess: stairs to toilets, poorly signposted, just a wreck of a place.  But my SAS flight to Frankfurt was a delight: punctual, friendly cabin crew, and a Benedictine monk, Brother Augustus, as my seatmate.  His monastery is close to Koblenz, where I visit every winter, so I may zip up to see it; Augustus explained, “Benedictines are very friendly; you are welcome, and we have a guesthouse for visitors.”  We talked a bit about Luther and the Reformation anniversary.  Nice T-t-S moments.

Arrived FRA early, zipped through, waited a bit, and hopped on the Deutsche Bahn for my 6:00 PM gig at the University of Cologne.  Though we left only 6 minutes late, we arrived Cologne 30 minutes late.  I was cranky though not especially stressed.  Hopped on two trams and was in front of a student business group, MTP, by 6:13, delivering my talk on leadership and effective management.  A nice group, engaged, good questions.  Afterwards, we walked back to the tram and into the Altstadt for a glass of glühwein, the hot spiced wine popular at Christmastime.  The place was packed, so I only stayed for one, but managed to yak a bit with a number of students, including a lad who was an exchange student in suburban Minneapolis five years earlier, and who now visits his U.S. “family” every summer.  So cool.

Hopped tram #9 one stop, west across the Rhine, checked in at the second youth hostel of the trip, but much nicer than the one in Lausanne, and busier.  Changed clothes and walked less than 100 meters to Lommerzheim, a little bar and restaurant right across Siegestrasse from the hostel.  I had stayed at the hostel several times, but had never visited the gastätte.  The place was awesome: tiny, packed, convivial.  I stood at the bar for some of the little (0.2 liter, about 6 ounces) Kolsch beers, tapped from a wooden keg.  As is traditional in these parts, the server keeps count of your bill by stroke count with a soft pencil on a paper beer mat, in this case from the local Päffgen Brewery. The bartender was managing multiple bills, so asked each tippler his or her name when first served.  I replied, “Heinz. Mein name ist Heinz”!   It was nearly ten, and I didn’t want a huge meal, but the sauerkrauteintopf (sauerkraut stew cooked with ham hock) caught my eye.  The bartender warned it was “a very big portion,” but I ate every bit.  So good.  I was smiling the entire time – this was pure travel serendipity.

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I slept in Tuesday morning until seven, into the hostel breakfast room, packed with youngsters.  The energy and noise were welcome.  We are young, again.  Packed up, walked across the Rhine, marveled at the Cologne Cathedral (Dom) next to the main station, and got on the 9:46 train to my fifth school of the trip, a fave, WWU (Westfälischen-Wilhelms Universität), the University of Münster – my 17th visit since 2003.

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Cologne, 1945, from a photo exhibit on the north wall of the enormous cathedral (Dom)

Arrived just before noon and hopped on a bus for a short ride to my hotel.  Alas, no check in until 3:00.  I like Germany a lot, but sometimes German rigidity gets in the way of customer experience.  There was no sense fighting the system, so I left my suitcase in the luggage room and headed to lunch.  After many visits, I know the town well, so headed two blocks to Töddenhoek.  Took a seat in the corner of the front bar and tucked into a bowl of linseneintopf, thick lentil soup with chunks of ham and sausage.  Yum!  Fortified, I walked across town to the university’s marketing department, to see my longtime host Manfred Krafft.  Chatted briefly, then worked for a couple of hours.

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Art and Culture Museum, Münster

Checked into the hotel, took a short nap, worked a bit more, and at 5:45 walked to a classroom and delivered a lecture to a course on direct marketing.  My host for that class, Jonas Schmidt, invited me to dinner, and at 8:15 we met at Drübbelken, a rustic restaurant that I had never visited.  The dinner was enormous: two slices of ham (called Kasseler) with roasted potatoes and a huge mound of grünkohl, cooked kale – one of my favorites dishes, German soul food.  Whew, I was full.  The conversation was equally fine.  I had met Jonas briefly a year earlier, but didn’t know him.  By the end of the evening I did.  A fine young fellow, of solid character.

It was another short night: up before five, out the door to the bus, then the 6:01 ICE train south to Mannheim.  I was bound for the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, one of Germany’s best schools.  At Frankfurt Airport station, Jan Müllerschön met the train.  I met Jan at the 2012 South American Business Forum in Buenos Aires.  Back then, when I told him about my guest lecturing in Germany, he asked if I had ever visited his alma mater, KIT; I said no, and he said he would set to work securing an invitation, which materialized in record time.  Jan somehow found out I was returning, and emailed me about coming along to hear me speak.  I was honored, all the more because he was taking a vacation day.  Germans get six weeks, but still!  We had a nice yak on the train (he now works for the freight side of the Deutsche Bahn, DB Cargo).

At Karlsruhe, we hopped the tram to school and to the Marketing and Sales Research Group.  Greeted some old friends, met my host Prof. Martin Klarmann, and from 11:30 to 1:00 delivered a lecture.  We had an hour until the next one, at 2:00, and I doubted we could walk to a familiar Italian restaurant, order lunch, eat it, and get to the class on time.  Lunch was speedy and a little rushed, but it was fun to yak with doctoral students.  The 2:00 talk on airline revenue management was among the liveliest in my 28 years of guest lectures.  An animated and forceful young woman who described herself as a “Post-Marxist” asked some good and provocative questions early in the talk; a bit later we sparred a bit about corporate honesty.  Some of the other students seemed embarrassed, but I loved it!

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New classroom building, KIT

I peeled off at 3:45, hopping on tram #1 east to the town of Durlach.  Now a Karlsruhe suburb, it was once a freestanding town.  A very old place, quaint, quintessentially Europe to this visitor.  Checked into the Gasthaus Zum Ochsen, a half-timbered inn from the 16th Century (I had stayed there twice before).  Worked a bit, and at six met Martin for a dinner in the inn’s very fancy (and pricey) French restaurant.  A long and fun dinner: he is a superb conversationalist, knows tons about German business and politics, and almost as much about the situation in the U.S. – he’s better informed than me!  Dinner was four courses: scallops, cod, venison, and a flaming apple pie for dessert.  Whew.

When I got to my room, bad news hit.  My 12th Grade English teacher, Mr. Jensen, had died.  His wife Jinny called.  He was a great teacher and adviser nearly 50 years ago, and we had stayed close through the years, emailing book recommendations and visiting when I was home in Minnesota. I remember getting the news of another death, that of Jack Sheppard, in another European hotel room on the same evening, December 6, 23 years earlier.  Like then, I cried alone.  Jinny wasn’t sure when the memorial service would be, but she was sure I’d be a eulogist, and that made me proud.

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Durlach, a very pleasant old town, above and below

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Was up early the next morning, out the door of the inn, to the Durlach station, and onto the first of three trains back north to Münster.  It was déjà vu, just like two days earlier: lunchtime, room not ready.  Dropped suitcase and headed to the Mensa for a salad, then to the Marketing Center for a quick chat with long host Manfred Krafft and a couple of others.  Then by tradition I walked across town to a gift and toy store to buy two Christmas ornaments, small wooden angels handmade in the Erzgebirge, a mountainous region in Germany’s east.  Back to the hotel, get a room key, work a bit.  Met student hosts Julian, Charlotte, and Nora at six at Kruse Baimken, a small traditional restaurant.  Had a second dinner with grünkohl (this time with a bratwurst) and good conversation, then from 8 to 11:30 did my now-traditional kaminabend (literally “chimney evening”) with 15 students, part of an elite group of undergrads.  It’s always a pleasant experience.

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Prinzipalmarkt, the main shopping street in Münster

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National pride is a sensitive subject in Germany; I am thus trying to figure out if this janitor’s duster, with the design of the flag, is disrespectful!

 

 

 

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Cologne-Bonn Airport is working hard to be friendly and humane, with a big kids’ play area, fussball tables, and more

Another short night, up about six and out the door, onto the train south to Hamm, then Cologne, then Cologne Airport.  Was headed to my 30th and final school of the year, the American University in Bulgaria (AUB) in Sofia.  I was really ready to go home, a bit tired, but promises must be kept.  I started getting enthused when we descended into the Sofia Valley, with tall snowy peaks, the Rila Mountains, to the south (tallest in the Balkans, rising to almost 10,000 feet), and a lower range to the north.  I would have otherwise hopped on the Metro from airport to town, but AUB had arranged a car.  The driver was a young woman, recently retired at age 20 from the Bulgarian national gymnastics team.  Friendly, but not talkative.

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The Rila Mountains, on approach to Sofia

A former student, Kaloyan, met me at my hotel (a fancy Hilton) at five; when I landed I saw an email proposing a two-hour walking tour.  We set off, and my attitude changed almost immediately. Kal, who had studied in the U.S. and was in a MBA class of mine at Cambridge, was both a wonderful fellow and a perfect tour guide, providing detail on architecture, city planning, the economy, and history of the capital of a relatively small (7.2 million) country.  We walked briskly north along the main shopping street, then through the government quarter, and on to churches and cultural institutions.  Now I was fired up about a new place!

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A former bath house (top), now an art gallery, and National Theatre

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L to R: St. George Church, the residence of the Turkish ambassador, and St. Alexandar Nevski Cathedral

He dropped me at a Metro station and peeled off for his company Christmas party.  I retraced my steps to a little café called Rainbow Factory on a side street in a pleasant neighborhood sprinkled with embassies.  The place was full but not crowded, almost all youngsters in their 20s, but welcoming to an older guy with a smile.  I had a local craft beer, worked my email a bit, and read the Wikipedia article about Bulgaria.  A long a tortured history, one of those places where one neighboring power or another tromps its boots over the locals (not unlike, say Finland or Hungary); most notable were the almost 500 years of Ottoman rule, which finally ended in the late 1870s.  Retraced my steps toward the center in search of dinner (I failed to do the customary advance research, nor to ask Kal for recos), but spotted a pleasant, simple restaurant on a side street.  Looked in the window, diners having a good time, so in I went.  I kind young woman found me a table, and I tucked into a Bulgarian salad and grilled squid with garlic.  Yum!  Walked back to the hotel.

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A universal scene: youngsters with screens, Sofia Metro

Up early Saturday morning, finally time for some exercise in the hotel gym, a tonic 10 miles on a bike, then ironed my suit, breakfast, and out the door (my class was not until 12:30).  Bought a day ticket for public transport, equivalent of $2.50.  Headed back into the center, walking around on a sunny morning.  Except for the former East Germany (which is a special case, for sure), last time in Eastern Europe was a decade earlier, in Poland.  It was clear that Bulgaria had in the 27 years since the collapse of Communism developed substantially.  Per capita GDP was nowhere near the richer parts of Europe, but a market economy was clearly thriving, and a consumer society emerging.  Bulgaria has been in the European Union since 2007, and signs of EU regional support were everywhere, especially on public transport and roads.

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Learning to write in Cyrillic: “No new towels, thank you.”

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View from my hotel roon, Saturday morning

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Main shopping street and (below) downtown scenes

 

Hopped the #94 bus up the hill to AUB.  The main campus is in Blagoevgrad,  a town south of the city, but they had a building in the southern suburbs, the Elieff Center, with three floors of classrooms and a small auditorium.  My talk on crisis management to a weekend EMBA program went well; students were almost all Bulgarian.  During question time, a long-haired fellow, cranky-looking, asked me how we manage the global crisis that is Donald Trump.  Whew, good question, for which there was no answer!  That was a first.

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In contrast to Germany, national pride, in the form of the flag and national colors, is celebrated!

I hopped on the bus down the hill, changed clothes, and resumed my role as a tourist.  Wandered past a mosque and around the Serdika archaeological ruins that were discovered when tunneling for a new Metro line.  Then east on a tram, into ordinary neighborhoods, and a nice walk through a big park, Zaimov, on a warm and sunny Saturday.  The place was full of people – Sofia had a lot of parks, and they were popular day and night.  Parks are always a good thing.  Walked west again to the big churches of St. Alexandar Nevski (looking old but finished in 1905), and St. Sophia (old, 6th Century).  Orthodox churches tend to be dark inside and thus a little gloomy, but the icons and paintings are always fascinating.   I had some pizza at the school, but needed a little snack, so hopped the Metro back toward my hotel and bought a big yeast pastry stuffed with chopped pickles and ham, the equivalent of a dollar.  Took a quick nap, and set out for the evening, bound for a Kanaal, a craft-beer bar Kal recommended, easy to reach via a direct bus to within a block.  Halfway there, a young woman with a West Highland terrier boarded.  Our Henry’s Bulgarian cousin.  We both got off at the same stop, and I showed her a pic of Henry on my iPhone, prompting a nice T-t-S and a little nuzzle with the dog.

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Archaeological ruins, Serdika Metro Station

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Artifacts from the 2nd Century AD, when the place was Roman and called Serdika

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Metro station

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Mosque, downtown Sofia, an artifact of 500 years of Ottoman domination

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Soviet-era Lada automobile, still on the road

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At the thermal spring, central Sofia

Kanaal was awesome.  Dizzying array of beer (including stock from the South Carolina microbrewery I favor when we’re on summer vacation at the beach).  I insisted on drinking local, and enjoyed a couple of Bulgarian IPAs, as well as chats with the very-friendly staff, and the owner, Lyubomir (what a name: it means “love and peace”).  He said it was a bit tough getting Bulgarians to care about their beer, and to pay more for it.  I hopped on the tram back to the center, then the Metro north to a restaurant I found online.  Alas, they were full, and because it was already after nine, I headed back to the hotel and tucked into a nice bowl of spaghetti in the bar.

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St. Alexandar Nevski, and St. Sophia

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The distinctive Orthodox iconography

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Elegant early 20th Century apartment

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Anti-Russian souvenirs (left), and church door handle

Sunday morning, back to the gym, huge breakfast, out the door.  It was sunny and warm the day before, but snowed about three inches overnight, and footing was slick in places.  But my Minnesota winter balance returned, and off I went.  The Transport Geek needed to see the railway station (Kal later explained that the company was still state-owned and very inefficient), but it was underwhelming, so I turned around.  Rode to the end of the M2 Metro line to a shopping mall, for a firsthand look at Bulgarian consumerism.  The Metro day ticket, paper with a simple stripe code, had to be revalidated by the ticket seller at every station, but there was no ticket seller where I was to board.  So I asked the first English speaker I found if I could “tailgate” him through the sliding-door barrier.  Sure, he said, and that launched a wonderful T-t-S with a young Italian, finishing his sixth and last year of medicine locally.  We chatted about medical education (more flexibility and more clinical opportunity in Bulgaria than Italy), his likely continued study of psychiatry, my work, and more.  Just a delightful moment.

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View from the hotel Sunday morning

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Paradise Center mall

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Suited up, retraced my steps and bus back to AUB.  Delivered a second lecture on airline revenue management, shook some hands, and said goodbye.  Done teaching for the year.  Thirty schools visited, including eight new ones.  By the numbers, about 2,300 students and more than 150 classroom hours – a new hours record.

Back to the hotel, into blue jeans and warmer clothes.  The sun had come out, but it was still in the 20s F.  Back to the center for another amble, this time visiting a round church in the middle of the courtyard of a government building.  St. George, the oldest in Sofia, was originally built by the Romans in the 4th Century.  During the weekend, the Cyrillic alphabet occasionally challenged, but street, Metro, and lots of commercial signs were also in English.

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Former Soviet-style headquarters of the Communist Party of Bulgaria, now parliament offices

At 3:45 I returned to Kanaal and had a nice chat with owner Lyubomir and a friendly woman bartender.  Kal arrived at four for my promised “free beer” and a wonderful chat about his career, and especially his early life.  In high school, he earned a scholarship from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation to study in the U.S., and he spent a year at Fountain Valley boarding school near Colorado Springs.  Among his achievements: rodeo competition!  He returned to the small university city east of Sofia (his parents were a university I.T. professor and a high-school teacher) finished high school, and almost by accident got a full ride at Colorado College, also in Colorado Springs.  After graduation he took a job with Ernst & Young in New York, and worked some other jobs.  He returned to work at home, which after being away for many years “was like color TV after watching black and white.”  In 2010, he enrolled at Cambridge, where I met him the first time.  We agreed that his story of transformation was testament to the positive power of Soros’ philanthropy in his native Eastern Europe – AUBG is also a beneficiary, in the form of many student scholarships.  We hugged goodbye at six.  Although he recommended a good local restaurant, I was tired, and for the second night in a row broke my rule of not dining in a hotel, tucked into a nice chicken sandwich, and clocked out at 8:45.

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“наздраве,” Cheers, to Kaloyan Kapralov, a great fellow and true Bulgarian

Early to bed, early to rise: up at four for the second time in a week, into a taxi to the airport, and a Ryanair flight to Rome’s other airport, Ciampino.  The zip across to the larger Leonardo da Vinci would be tight, and I was a little stressed when we arrived 10 minutes late.  But I had carry-on, the airport was small and empty, and I was able to hop on a local bus to the train station, then a commuter train into Rome’s main station.

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I made it!  A welcome sight, the 8:20 regional train to central Rome

On the short ride (standing on a packed train), I spotted aqueducts near Cappannelle; curious, I Googled: they were ruins of the Aqueduct of Quintili built in 151 AD to feed the pool and spa of two rich brothers.  Hopped the 8:50 airport express to da Vinci.  Hurry up and wait: my Silver Bird to Philadelphia was 40 minutes late, but I was glad to be heading home.  On the way, I watched a grim movie, “Dunkirk,” about that awful moment early in World War II when 300,000 British troops were stranded in a beach town across the channel from home, and were essentially sitting ducks.  It was a reminder that despite its challenges, European integration is a really good thing.

In case you were wondering: in 17 days I rode 108 different public transport vehicles: 5 jets, 29 trains, 32 subways, 13 trams, and 25 buses.  Mobility is such a blessing.

 

 

 

 

 

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Europe Again, Part 1: England, Switzerland, Italy

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In the old town, Lausanne, Switzerland

On Saturday, November 25, I felt like a yo-yo: out the door at 12:30, to National Airport, then JFK, then back to Europe for the eighth time in 2017, last teaching trip of the year.  I was home for 10 days, most of that time with a lingering cold (I had zero colds in 2016-17 and already two this fall/winter).  I was a still a bit wobbly, but, as they say in the circus, the show must go on.  We celebrated my 66th birthday the night before, two days early, and apart from a lot of fun and a great Mexican dinner I got a new rollaboard suitcase, replacing a cheapie I bought about 18 months earlier (I simply gotta think of luggage as tools, and I never bought cheap tools!).  The new one was already way easier, better balance, more stability.  Ready!

Landed Heathrow a bit late, onto the express train to Paddington, then the Tube to Queen’s Park.  It was a cold but sunny morning, and the walk to the Sages’ new house was refreshing.   Figured out thermostats and Wi-Fi, changed clothes, and walked several blocks east, across Queen’s Park, to St. Anne’s (Anglican) church.  I was immediately glad I made the effort, for the congregation, though small (about 25 in the sanctuary, which I later learned was typical Sunday attendance), was so welcoming.  Before worship I met Alice, Kay, and the Vicar, Christine Cargill from Australia.  The order of service is almost identical to the Lutheran liturgy, so I was right at home – and knew the tunes for half of the hymns.

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Queen’s Park

The Vicar, also known as Mother Christine (I rather like that equivalence with Father), had a wonderful, down-to-earth manner, and her sermon was superb: just remind us of the basics.  In the announcements after benediction, Vicar Christine welcomed me as “a special guest.”  I stayed for 45 minutes for coffee and some wonderful conversation, mainly with Prof. Mark Haggard, a psychologist at Cambridge (lives in London weekends), and his son, Prof. Patrick Haggard, a neuroscientist at University College London.  Seriously interesting people.  And believers.

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Altar, St. Anne’s; the glass back wall reminded me of the Dallas synagogue visited in January

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Chevening Road, Kensal

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A splendid old Austin Healey

Walked back, ate a late breakfast, and at 12:30 hopped on the #52 bus a mile or so to the bikeshare station closest the house.  In no time, I was zipping south, and in two miles was back at The Design Museum in Kensington, last visited in June.  The place was packed with visitors to a temporary exhibit on Ferrari, but that was of almost zero interest.  I was there to see the finalists for the 2017 Designs of the Year Awards in six categories: architecture, digital, graphics, product, transport, and fashion.  Some way cool, and way innovative stuff:

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Solar-cell power supply for mobile phones, and the famous Pussyhat

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Aspirational emojis for girls (not princesses!), IKEA’s new dowel fastening system, and a model of a tower that can capture potable water from the atmosphere

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Piaggio’s robotic Gita personal helper, and a redesign for the Welsh “brand”

Got back on the bike and rode to South Kensington for a quick sandwich, then east to the Royal Mews, the stables Robin, Carson, and Dylan visited in June.  Carson had lost a little mirror with a royal corgi on the back, so I bought a replacement.  Check and done.  Back on the bike.  At four, I met longtime friend and ex-AA colleague Don Langford for a quick pint at a pub ‘round the corner from his house in Belgravia, and a good catch-up.  Then onto the Tube west to Earl’s Court and a spicy dinner at Masala Zone.  Polish and Italian waiters in an Indian restaurant in the U.S. would be unlikely, but common in London.  My plan for a quick return home was dashed (the Overground suburban rail service was down for weekend repairs), so it took awhile to get home.

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Man and best friend, The Duke of Wellington

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I always ask for chopped green chillies; before and after

I was asleep at 8:45, and a hard sleep, too.  The cool room was tonic, especially with a thick comforter.  Slept eight hours, up about five on my birthday, breakfast, and out the door into wind and light rain – more typical British winter weather.  Onto the #52 bus and Tube to Paddington, then hopped on the 7:00 train west to Reading.  It was one of Hitachi’s brand-new trainsets, sleek and shiny, but already gawky after just six weeks of service (the UK media are not amused).  Halfway to my destination, the train came to a stop for 10 minutes, “due to a fault with one of the safety systems.”  Hmmmmm.  Changed trains in Reading and headed south to Southampton for my debut at the University of Southampton business school.  At the station I met a longtime German colleague Heiko Frenzen, now teaching there.  We hopped on a bus to campus, had a coffee and a good catch-up, and from 11 to 1 delivered a talk on airline data mining.

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Two Paddington Station icons: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, designer and engineer of the Great Western Railway; and the famous bear

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Hitachi UK’s new high-speed train

Hopped the bus back to the center and a spicy goat curry at a Caribbean restaurant.  Walked to the train station, said goodbye to Heiko, and hopped on a slow train to Gatwick Airport.  Arrived in time to change into jeans, check my bag, buy a sandwich for the flight (was not very hungry after a late, big lunch), and call my brother and home.  Flew to Geneva on EasyJet.  I was once again unimpressed with the behavior of my fellow customers.  At the gate, some woman was swearing at the gate agent, who was doing his best to be calm but firm.  When I got to Moktar, I told him I was an airline veteran and I was on his side. “She swore at me,” he said.  “I know.  Hang in there, brother,” I replied, and shook his hand.  A little bit of airline solidarity.  We arrived Geneva 10 minutes early, which allowed me to get the 10:47 train to my destination, Lausanne.  With a short Metro and bus ride, I was in my digs by 12:15, late by my standards.

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Birthday lunch

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Southampton Guildhall; the city has a very pleasant feel, with lots of green space

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Here’s my idea for increased airport revenues: some of us will pay extra to avoid walking through a shopping mall!

I was billeting at the Jeunotel, a Swiss Youth Hostel.  My hosts at HEC, the business school of the University of Lausanne, proposed to pay for only one hotel night, and somehow we talked them into paying for two nights at a youth hostel.  Private room, not a dorm, bath across the hall.  A bit spartan (the walls and ceiling of my room were entirely concrete), but Swiss-clean, and a comfy bed.  I was overtired, which always means hard to fall asleep, but down I went, seven hours, not quite enough but pretty good.  Earlier in the year, I stayed in the wonderful big youth hostel in Cologne, and the private rooms with private baths had soap dispensers in the showers, but the Swiss version was old-school, so I had to innovate: I filled a plastic bag (from my backpack, always a good idea to carry!) with soap from a dispenser by the communal bath sinks, and, Voila!

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My room (cell) 308

I had the morning free, so I retraced steps on my first Lausanne visit in 2013, on bus and Metro down to Lac Leman (Lake Geneva).  It was partly sunny, with great views of the lake and the Alps in the distance.  Hopped back on the Metro, up the hill to the old town and cathedral, then back to the hostel.  Put on a suit, hopped back on public transport (the hostel provided a two-day card for bus and Metro), and rode a mile or so west to the university.  I had an hour before meeting my several-schools-host Omar Merlo of Imperial College London, so sat in the Mensa and brought this journal up to date.

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Views of Lausanne above, and below

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View from the Mensa, University of Lausanne; the Matterhorn is the pointy peak at left-center

Met Omar at noon for a filling lunch (the Swiss version of meatloaf) in the Mensa; he presented me with a swell birthday gift: salt and pepper shakers in the form of little Swiss cows.  Moo!  Worked a couple more hours, and from 3:20 to 4:50 delivered a lecture to his marketing-innovation class.  He peeled off back to London and I hopped the Metro and bus back to the youth hostel, via a supermarket for a sandwich, potato salad, and beer.  Many of you know my energy derives in large part from good and regular sleep, and I needed to catch up, so was in pajamas and lights out by 7:30.  Like a four-year-old, but almost ten hours of dreamland was precisely what was needed.

Was up briefly ‘round midnight, but then down until 6:40.  Packed up, grabbed plenty of coffee, and hopped on bus and Metro back to the railway station and onto a train for Lucerne.  It was a scenic ride, with snow in the upper elevations.  And was interesting to see the many small and mid-size Swiss manufacturing companies along the tracks.  Take just one: Hunleker AG;  I Googled and found their website and their description:

Anyone who processes paper and print knows our name as a byword for excellence. It stands for “Excellence in Paper Processing”. That is our constant claim. Working for the printing industry since 1922, we are an independent, owner-managed family business which today has some 280 employees around the world.

As I have written many times from Switzerland, one has to admire a country where wages and living standards are among the world’s highest, yet a company in a remote place has global presence.

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Near Fribourg, Switzerland

Changed trains at Lucerne, then at Arth-Goldau, and onto a train bound for my next teaching in Lugano.  The Transport Geek was pumped, because I was soon in the recently-opened Gotthard Base Tunnel, one of the world’s longest.  It took 22 minutes to speed through 35.5 miles of rock.  This was one of Europe’s costliest infrastructure projects, and another demonstration of will to improve mobility, a trait sadly missing in my country.  Traversing the tunnel was a bit like flying at night: dark outside, a whoosh not unlike a jet, and a ride almost as smooth as being aloft.  Impressive.

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I got off in Bellinzona, 20 miles north of my destination, Lugano.  Grabbed a sandwich, stowed my suitcase in a locker (a very un-Swiss process that took 30 minutes, because of two defective lockers; happily, a Swiss Federal Railways fellow got it working, and with a smile).  After lunch, I set off for Castello Montebello, a 13th Century fortress and one of three castles in the town, which is the seat of the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.  Bought admission, and wandered around the top of the outer wall, with great views of town and the valley.  In the main interior structure was a small but nice archaeology museum.  Scenes from the castle and nearby landscape:

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Splendid Art Nouveau detail, Bellinzona

Walked down the hill, hopped back on a train to Lugano and a bus to my hotel near USI, the Università della Svizzera Italiana.  Grabbed a quick nap, worked a bit, headed out for dinner, back to the Hotel Pestlalozzi, a simple place I found the year before, with tasty and inexpensive (by Swiss standards) food.  Tucked into tender roast rabbit with potatoes and vegetables.  Yum.

Thursday morning, up and out the door to the university, my 9th visit.  Worked the morning, and for the second time in three days met Omar Merlo for lunch.  He peeled off to the class, and I joined at 3:15 for a lecture to a small group of MSc students, mostly Italian.  High point that day was dinner with Omar and his brother-in-law Sandro at a wonderful restaurant, Gallo d’Oro.  It was our fifth visit, and the jocular owner, Matteo, remembered us.  What a meal!  Started with pumpkin flan with a fondue sauce, then quail stuffed with spinach and prosciutto, then chocolate cake.  Whew!  Atop the cuisine was a lot of laughing and storytelling.  A splendid evening.

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Happy diners: Omar, Sandro, and your scribe

Friday morning, out the door, on the bus up the hill to the railway station, and onto the 8:18 fast train south to Milano.  At the big central station, hopped on the #92 bus.  I was due to meet Marinella, my Airbnb host (coincidentally in the same building as the Airbnb where I stayed a year earlier) at 10:30, so in my usual way of cramming the max into every day I hopped off close to Piazzale Loreto to see the memorial to Tullio Galimberti, a member of the anti-fascist resistance executed by the Nazis in that location on 10 August 1944 (I learned about Tullio in a superb historical novel based on a real story, Beneath a Scarlet Sky).  Unhappily, the piazza had been greatly reduced in order to widen the roads, and I could not figure out how to get to the “green middle” – there were no pedestrian crosswalks.  It was, as the radical 1970s geographer Bill Bunge memorably wrote, “machine space.”  I was running out of time, so wheeled my suitcase south to meet Marinella on time.

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In the overgrown middle of Piazzale Loreto; but where is the memorial to Tullio?

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My Airbnb in Milano

She was a lovely woman, a secondary-school teacher a bit younger than me.  We yakked in her beautiful apartment for about a half-hour, then she departed for a weekend job in Udine, four hours east.  That she left me to her whole house speaks to the essence of what people call “the trusting economy.”  I changed into nicer clothes and set off for a lunch at Bocconi, a private university and one of Italy’s best.  Hopped on the Metro, then a very crowded and slow tram #9 south to campus.  At one, I met Sandro Castaldo, a marketing professor who was one of my hosts on my only teaching visit, in 2006 (through the years I periodically emailed him and a colleague, but didn’t get any traction).  We walked a block to a small, family-run fish restaurant for a plate of spaghetti with seafood and a good chat.  The Bocconi business school and the larger university are both growing, so there might be teaching prospects in the future.

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Milan scenes; at right, note inflatable snowman on balcony

At 2:30, I said goodbye and hopped on BikeMi, the city’s bikeshare system riding three miles back to the apartment, changed back into jeans, and returned to Bocconi to meet Celia, a new professor of leadership, introduced virtually by my Cambridge and WHU colleague Jochen Menges.  We met at a tiny wine bar on Viale Bligny.  We were immediately on a first-name basis with Gianfranco the owner, and he poured a couple glasses of a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon from Trentino in northeast Italy.  Celia was on a tight schedule (a Canadian, she needed to get home to take her two older boys to hockey practice, classic Friday-night activity!), so we had a quick yak and she peeled off.  I stayed to finish my glass, and had a nice T-t-S chat with Gianfranco.  He spoke good English, so I could explain my Italian roots to him and a patron (who didn’t speak English, so Gianfranco translated) through old family pictures on my iPhone, starting with the photo of my maternal great-grandparents Enrico and Cesira and their kids.  It was a lovely moment; I hope I get invited to Bocconi if only to return to that bar.

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Bar Est Di Lepratto Domenico Fausto

 

At 6:30 I hopped back on the packed tram #9 (it was a lot like the Tokyo Metro!), then onto the Metro and up the Lambrate district and a wonderful brewpub, Birraficio Lambrate.  The place was hopping on a Friday night.  Craft beer, free hors d’oeuvres, the Rolling Stones and Allman Brothers on the speakers, and for me a stool in the front corner, to watch the entire scene unfold.  It was one of those moments when I thought “we are young,” but in fact I was the oldest guy in the room by multiples!  I chatted briefly with a young Italian next to me, and a bit more when several of his friends arrived, including his girlfriend, a beauty who looked like she just stepped out of a painting by Botticelli.

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Friday night in the Birraficio Lambrate

They were all from Ancona, on the Adriatic coast.  Ten minutes later another friend showed up, smiled at me, and introduced himself.  “Federico,” he said, shaking my hand; “Roberto,” I replied, and he began speaking in Italian.  I replied in broken Italian that I was a stranger, just a grandfather from America.  “Oh,” he said, “I thought you were the uncle of one of these guys!”  Nice to fit in, and a perfect vignette of a warm and friendly country.  Italy is such a special place, for its people, and much more.  Thirst slaked, I headed back to the apartment, stopping to buy some tortellini to boil up (the huge lunch was the day’s main meal).  After a light meal, clocked out, sleeping hard in the cool room.

 

Was up at 6:30 Saturday morning to do some work, eat some bread and yogurt bought the night before, shower, and out the door, across the street to a café for a couple of cappuccinos.  The place, a traditional neighborhood place, was owned and staffed by a Chinese family, further proof of the powerful transformative role of the jet airplane.  Stimulated, I walked across the street to wait for my friend-since-1991 (and former American Airlines colleague) Massimo Vesentini.  While waiting, another vignette of Italian civility: a delivery van was partially blocking the sidewalk in front of my building.  An old lady on a bicycle approached, and I could see I would keep her from passing the truck, so I quickly stepped out of the way.  As she passed, she smiled brightly and thanked me.

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Italy = style and refinement; even a cappuccino in a simple cafe on Viale Abruzzi

Massimo appeared at 9:30 with his little dog Lupetta on leash, and when I called her name, she started dashing toward me – did she recall my face from a year earlier?  We walked a couple blocks south to their street, popped across for a third coffee at their local bar-café, where, Massimo explained, he and the owner run a betting pool on the top Italian soccer league.  Cash changed hands.  It made me smile: another nice feature of Italy is a strong egalitarian sense.

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Massimo keeping book at the neighborhood cafe

Further stimulated, we crossed via Francesco Hayez and met Massimo’s wife Lucia, who was coming with us on our second annual “wine run,” to buy stocks for the winter – or at least until the New Year.  We walked a few blocks to where they park their cars, hopped in Massimo’s, and set off for the Piemonte, west of Milan and north of Genoa.  Sped down the autostrada, turned off, and started to climb into low mountains already covered with the season’s first snow.  Stop 1 was Tre Castelli in the village of Montaldo Bormida, where we sampled the classic Piemonte varieties, Dolcetto and Barbera (I prefer the latter), plus a nice spumante (sparkling).  We bought several cases.  Hopped back in the car and headed west to the spa town of Acqui Terme, where thermal baths date back to the Romans.  Old.  We walked the town, put our fingers briefly in scalding water flowing from a font in the town center, then into La Curia, a splendid restaurant in a very old building.  Tucked into a wonderful lunch, some wine, and good conversation.

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Early winter in the Piemonte and (below) at Tre Castelli, where table wine is €1.20 per liter

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Scenes from Montaldo Bormida (top) and Acqui Terme

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Our lunch venue, La Curia

Back in the car, and about ten miles to the second and last stop, Castello di Tagliole in the village of Tagliolo Monferrato, where the same family has been making wine since 1498, in a castle that dates to the Tenth Century.  Old.  The place was empty and the big castle gates closed.  Rang the brass doorbell, spoke on the intercom, and the gates opened.  Into the cellar to sample and buy some more wine.  The clerk-pourer had emigrated from Sri Lanka 20 years earlier (there’s the jet again!).  We had a good chat about winter in northern Italy compared to the tropics.  It was just getting dark as we descended a steep hill on a narrow and windy road, then onto the autostrada back to the city.

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Above and below: Castello di Tagliole; at top-right, weathered stone

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We unloaded the wine, into the elevator, up to their big apartment.  Their daughter Martina was just leaving, but we had a brief chat.  I had one more glass of Dolcetto, hugged them both, and walked back to the apartment, stopping again to get breakfast for the next morning.  I needed to get up at 4:00 AM, so was asleep at 8:45, Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Sunday morning, out the door at 4:30, walking briskly northwest on Via Plinio and Via Vitruvio to Centrale station, onto the train to Malpensa airport.  I was cutting it a little close, but had time to down three cappuccinos from vending machines, surprisingly good, and cheap.  Hopped on EasyJet and flew north to Copenhagen.  The previous week was relaxed compared to the coming seven days, and I needed to start leaning forward!

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Leipzig, London, and Cambridge

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Lutherhaus, Wittenberg, where the founder of the Reformation lived 500 years ago.

On Friday, November 3, I was bound for a week of teaching in Germany.  Walked several blocks to catch the #721 bus that would take me to the Metro, then west to Dulles Airport.  It didn’t show.  Luckily, a taxi was at hand, and was on the Metro, then the bus, then out to the big airport with plenty of time before my British Airways flight departed.  Flew to London on a 747, an airplane that is soon to disappear from the skies after almost 50 years of flight (United Airlines in the USA retired its last, and Delta soon will).  It was a great ride: plane was packed (I was in economy), but the BA cabin crew were spectacular.  After dinner, I stood up to use the washroom, and gazed around the back section of the plane: it was a perfect vignette of the power of flight to improve our lives.  Every person had a story; next to me were German high-school students returning from a two-week exchange in Charlottesville.  “Did you have a good experience?” I asked.  “We loved it.  All of it.”  And I thought (as I often do) “Rob, you spent a career in the right business.”  Watched two movies, barely slept, but it’s a fast flight to Heathrow.

Changing planes, I spotted lots of people wearing Remembrance poppies, in anticipation of November 11.  I asked a Pakistani cleaner if he knew where in the airport I might buy one; he took his off and handed it to me.  Nice!  Short flight to Frankfurt, and was in Germany by 11.  Hopped on the Deutsche Bahn ICE (fast train) for my destination, Leipzig, and Germany’s oldest business school, once the Handelshochschule Leipzig, now the HHL Graduate School of Management.  I was hungry, and it was time for a reminds-me-of-childhood treat, lunch in the dining car, called Bordrestaurant in Germany.  But no, because it was in the other part of a two-part train, and two locomotives were back to back, so you couldn’t get there from here.

At the main station in Frankfurt, a German fellow sat down across from me.  In no time we were yakking.  Ebbi was from Thuringia (in the former East Germany). He learned his English from a former British Army officer who married a woman from his village.  The Brit and his frau now live in New Zealand, and Ebbi waxed enthusiastic about his many visits there.  He has a sister in Winnipeg that he often visits.  A good job with a gas-storage tank company makes possible all the travel (he had been on every continent, including Antarctica).  Toward the end of the chat, I mentioned that his home state of Thuringia was in the former East Germany (GDR).  “Yes,” he replied, “and it was not so bad then.  We had everything we have now.  Except travel.  We could not travel.”  “Well,” I said, “you’ve clearly made up for that!”  It was a great T-t-S.

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Ebbi from Thuringia

I arrived Leipzig at 4:30, walked just a couple of blocks to the Marriott (unaccustomed to such posh digs!), checked in, and made fast for the hotel gym.  Cranked out 15 miles.  That stint had been in the plan for weeks and it was totally the best thing to do, to refresh after a long ride.  Showered, put on jeans, and ambled south on Nikolaistrasse, past the University of Leipzig, to the Bayerische Bahnhof, a former train station turned microbrewery in restaurant.  I visited on my first, very brief visit to Leipzig in 2010, and was glad to be back in a place with the splendid slogan, In vollen zügen geniessen – enjoy it in full.  And I did!  First order of business was a large glass of Gose, a local specialty that’s top-fermented, slightly salty, rich in vitamins, and according to an advertisement from 1900, “nerve strengthening.”  Had a nice dinner of zander, a lake fish I really enjoy.  Hopped a local train back to the hotel and got a tonic 10 hours of sleep.

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Tucked into a big breakfast (morning spreads in nice European hotels are awesome), out the door, and onto a Nextbike (shared system), west to the school where I would be teaching half of a marketing-basics course for five days – it was good to know in advance how to get there.  Next stop, and the main event of the morning, Sunday worship at the (Lutheran) Thomaskirche, the place where J.S. Bach was music director from 1723 until his death in 1750.  It was just five days after the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, when Martin Luther began his protest again Catholic goofiness by nailing his “95 Theses” to the door of the Schlosskirche in nearby Wittenberg .  There’s apparently some debate about whether he actually hammered them up, but no matter: he was ready to protest, and what he did on October 31, 1517, changed the world.  The church was still celebrating, in this case by welcoming the chorale of Valparaiso University, a Lutheran liberal-arts college in northern Indiana.  It was celestial, marvelous.  Singing German hymns) is always a good way to practice my pronunciation.  And the third was in English, written by the former choir director at St. Olaf College, Linda’s alma mater.  It was a full worship, nearly two hours.

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Views (above and below) of the Thomaskirche

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Hopped back on a Nextbike, but mechanical troubles slowed me down; the chain came off, resulting in black hands.  Parked it and set off for a walk around the center.  The built environment was as I remembered from 2010. The architecture clearly showed that Leipzig was a prosperous city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Nice little signs and photos attached to lightpoles documented the city’s important role in ending the oppressive East German regime in 1989.

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January 15, 1989: the first demonstration in Leipzig for basic democratic rights.  Some 500 people gathered and marched.  The Stasi (East German secret police) arrested organizers, but because of protests in East Germany and globally, they were forced to release the detainees after a few days.

 

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Grabbed a sandwich, back to the hotel room, light lunch and nap, then down to the gym.  Showered and headed out the door, but not before a wonderful T-t-S with Professor Hutchinson of the aerospace engineering faculty at the University of Texas at Austin.  It began in the elevator with my comment about his University of Utah sweatshirt.  He knew a lot about satellite remote sensing.  I mentioned by geography background, and we dove deeper.  My head was spinning from stuff he worked on, such as the ability to detect the depth of groundwater from space.  Whoa!  Hopped onto tram 12 to the Gohlis neighborhood and Ohne Bedenken (roughly “No Worries,” a good name for a tavern). The place opened in 1905, though clearly it has seen many changes through 112 years!  This place was old school, a neighborhood bar, just a wonderful vibe.  Like the night before, homemade Gose and a nice “Sunday dinner” of pork, fried potatoes, and red cabbage.  Yum.

Monday morning, out the door by Nextbike to the school.  Nadine, an assistant, welcomed me and set me up in a really nice office.  I had the morning free.  Lunch with doctoral students in the Mensa (student cafeteria), then time to stand and deliver to the Blue Group, first of two sets of new MBA students.  Hugely diverse – a combined 68 students from 30 nations!  The format for the week was a trio of three-hour lectures to each of the two groups.  Day one got off to a good start.   Ate dinner that night in Auerbachs Keller, a venerable place (main dining room opened 1914)  that had the appearance of coasting on its laurels.  Lots of tourists.  They brought me an English menu but when I asked for a large dark beer in credible German, I surprised the dour waiter.  Food was good.  But when the bill arrived, they said “no credit cards.”  I was almost out of cash, so had to walk several blocks to an ATM.  Not happy.  And to add insult to injury, they had cleared my table and took away a half-full glass of beer.  But in the modern era you can get even: I drilled them in a review on the TripAdvisor website.

Days two and three went past in a blur; six hours of teaching per day is a lot of work.  The days were nicely punctuated with a swell dinner (back at the Bayerischer Bahnhof) with my host Manfred Kirchgeorg.  A swell fellow, he earned his Ph.D. in Münster, another one of my lecturing venues, and had been at HHL since the mid-1990s.  The school had an interesting story: founded in 1898, obviously swirled through plenty of change under the Nazis and the Commies, and was re-established in the 1990s after the collapse of the East.  Wednesday night I needed spice, and Binh, a student from Vietnam, recommended a great Vietnamese place two blocks from the hotel.

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The business school is adjacent to the public University of Leipzig, which was one of the centers of the East German sports-doping machine; I think the sculptures were from that era.

I had the day off on Thursday, woo hoo!  There were a bunch of possibilities, made possible by a sort of Eurailpass just for the state of Saxony: unlimited travel the whole day for about 30 bucks.  Ate a big breakfast and hopped on the train north to Wittenberg, where Luther lived and worked.

I wanted to see the famous door, and a bit more.  Walking into the old town, it was clear that they had prettied things up in anticipation of the 500th anniversary – as well as the overall improvements in infrastructure that the federal government has been making since reunification (it didn’t look this shiny when East German creeps like Walter Ulbricht ran things).  Jack and I visited in 1999, and even then it was much less polished.  I paused briefly at Lutherhaus, the former monastery where he lived and worked for many years, then on to the famous church and the door.  The bell tower was open (just above the inscription Ein Feste Burg ist Unser Gott (“A Mighty Fortress is Our Lord,” a hymn Luther wrote about 1527) that wrapped around the circular tower.  So I paid 3€ and climbed several hundred steps for a view of town.  Check and done, stopped to buy a little pin that said “Protestant seit (since) 1517,” and hopped back on the train for Leipzig.

 

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The original door was destroyed in a big fire in 1760; this decorative metal door is from the mid-19th Century, and includes the 95 Theses.

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Detail of the new Schlosskirche door, and ceiling

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Wittenberg was also home to Lucas Cranach the Elder, a painter and muralist who was a contemporary of Luther; detailed wall painting and decorated plaster is still a trade in town (right and below)

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At that point, I could have headed east for a very fast look around Dresden, or to the World Dog Show 2017, staged at the Leipzig Messe, the big fair facility on the edge of town.  I thought that Henry and MacKenzie would lean toward the latter, so hopped off the train at the Messe station, onto a tram,  and in no time was in the vast facility.  It was day one of the show, and it was teeming, mostly with German breeds, including many that are (to me at least) unknown in the U.S.  It was a fun afternoon, but you had to pay attention to the floor: it was clear that the competing dogs get something like stage fright jitters, frequently peeeing and squatting, and owners not always cleaning up.  Ewww.

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Dog diving was an open competition!

Back to the hotel, the gym, then a return to Ohne Bedenken for beer and a dinner of roast duck.  The place was hopping, much busier than four nights earlier, including a lot of Bohemian folk, heavily tattoed, and many sporting stretched circular earlobes (according to Wikipedia: “Tribes in various countries in Africa, Eurasia, America and other lands have practiced the ritual of ear stretching for cultural, religious and traditional purposes.”).  Waiting for the tram back home, I had a nice T-t-S with the owner of an English Setter; like me, both woman and dog had been at the show that afternoon.

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Friday morning, out the door on the bike for the last three hours of teaching.  At lunch, and for four more hours, I met one-on-one with students who wanted to talk about career, nine youngsters all told, from China, Taiwan, Sudan, India, Kenya, Chile.  Some had clear ideas of a future job, other had no idea.  So I offered some tips and ideas, and lots of encouragement.  That was all good, but I was happy to say Auf Wiedersehen at five, hop on the tram home to the hotel, and finish a week of hard work.

After a ride in the gym, a shower, and a sandwich in the hotel room, I walked through heavy rain to the Gewandhaus, Leipzig’s famous concert hall.  Months earlier, I checked the website, and while the orchestra was touring Japan, visiting ensembles performed.  That night was what in America we call a “pops concert,” the visiting Brandenburg State Orchestra of Frankfurt (the smaller Frankfurt, southeast of Berlin) performing scores from famous films. It was really fun, from Alfred Newman’s opening fanfare for 20th Century Fox (you know the one!) to John Williams’ theme from “Star Wars.”  I had a seat in the front row, just fabulous.

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The famous Leipzig Gewandhaus

Below the huge pipe organ was Latin I did not recognize, res severa verum gaudium: true joy is a serious thing. Indeed.  Before the concert began, Manfred found me, and introduced me to his wife and a number of marketing colleagues from across Germany, who were in town for a meeting.  We met at intermission for a glass of sparkling wine.  The penultimate work was Williams’ main theme from “Schindler’s List,” another fine datapoint for Germany’s will not to deny the past.  I kept trying to think of an analogy from back home; would it be the Kansas City Symphony playing a Lakota song of death?  Would they include that in a pops program?  Nope.  At the end of the piece, I looked at the woman sitting two chairs to my right. She had gray hair, and it looked as if she had been born about the time that World War II ended. She was wiping away tears.

Manfred invited me for a post-concert drink at a fancy hotel, but I was plumb wore out, and a soft bed was so welcome.

No work on Saturday, but was still up early, down to the gym, then a nice big breakfast.  Last stop in Leipzig was to see at least one stolperstein (literally “stumbling stone”), the small brass memorials on sidewalks that mark the former homes of Jewish families the Nazis sent to death.  I rode a Nextbike a mile to Alexanderstrasse 46, where the Prinz family lived with their five kids.  The family fled to Brussels in 1939, where two more children were born.  All nine were deported to Auschwitz and murdered.  It was the morning after the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht, and candles had been placed next to the markers.  Never forget.

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Memorial stolpersteinen to remember the Prinz family

 

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More wonderful architectural detail in central Leipzig

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A mural next to my hotel, celebrating peace and democracy; things are much better today.

Packed my bags, answered a few emails, and at 11:29 hopped on the train to Frankfurt.  Happily, the dining car was working smoothly, and I enjoyed a big bowl of lentil soup and a beer while we sped west through gently rolling countryside in Saxony, Thuringia, and Hesse.  Without looking at a map showing state boundaries, it’s always interesting to look out a German train window and try to tell from the landscape if you are in the former East Germany.  On that ride, I happened to glance out near a place called Gerstungen and spotted a couple of Soviet-era searchlights.  The border was a dangerous place from 1945 to 1989.

Got a local train to Wiesbaden, a historic spa town that I enjoyed on my only prior visit, in 2014.  I needed an overnight locale close to Frankfurt airport, but don’t like airport hotels, so it seemed a good choice.  Like my visit three years earlier, it was raining steadily on arrival.  My price-is-right-for-one-night hotel was a mile from the station, and the walk was damp, but the room was great value for $65.

I was a little unhinged on arrival, I think because when you stay in one place for a week, you get settled.  A quick nap helped.  Read a bit, and did some online scouting of restaurants.  Bingo!  The Ratskeller (restaurant in the basement of the town hall) was only three blocks away, so I set off in light rain at 5:30.  I’m glad I did: it was a cool place, already busy, but I found a table and got a dark beer and – for a second consecutive Saturday – a plate of zander, this time with broccoli and potato cakes.  So yummy.  Was asleep by 8:30, because the alarm was set for 4:20!

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Ratskeller, Wiesbaden

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A critter from Steiff, the German maker of the world’s best stuffed animals

Woke 20 minutes early at 4:00, out the door, and onto the 4:41 suburban train to Frankfurt Airport.  Bought a large Starbucks and woke up, then flew to London Heathrow.  Grabbed some yogurt and a sweet bun for breakfast, then hopped on the Heathrow Express to the center, then two Tube rides, and by 10 I was in St. Paul’s Cathedral for Remembrance Sunday services.  It was a touching event, done in the grand ceremonial style for which the Brits are well known.  Lots of officers (and a prince!) in fancy uniforms with plumes and color, and plenty of regular soldiers, sailors, and flyers in ordinary uniforms. We remembered the sacrifice of all who gave their lives.  For the second day, the commandment: never forget.  I looked heavenward, up beyond Sir Christopher Wren’s soaring dome, and thanked my father.

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Soldiers leaving Remembrance Sunday service, St. Paul’s

Hopped the Tube to Victoria Station and met a couple of young friends with a cool start-up idea, then back across the center to King’s Cross Station and a fast train north to Cambridge, my 23rd visit to that storied place.  As the train approached the city – and the low hum of brainpower could almost be heard – I was struck by the growth of a suburban office park, clear evidence of the spreading effect of university knowledge.  I was in my customary digs at Sidney Sussex College by 3:45, and down for a much-needed nap.

I almost always arrange my Cambridge arrivals for Sunday afternoon, to join Evensong in the college chapel at six, then, by tradition, a glass of wine in the Old Library, then processing with senior members into the dining hall and a seat at high table.  I’ve done this lots of times, but every time is so special.  The definition of Old School!  To my left was David Skinner, a California native who leads the choir and who I know fairly well; to my right was Massimo Beber, known here as Max, an Italian economist from Milan.  We three had a lively discussion through dinner, and also got to know a recent graduate, a young Dutch guy who sat across from us, and his girlfriend, from the Russian Far East.  As is customary, after the meal (and two-word grace, in Latin, Benedictus benedicat), we processed to a paneled room for port, fruit, and cheese, and more conversation.  Nick, who had graduated in geography in the mid-1970s and is now the college bursar (CFO), had some wonderful stories about his multinational career with Unilever, including colorful tales from Zimbabwe and Mexico.

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Chapel, Sidney Sussex College

After a “heart attack” English breakfast Monday morning, I walked across town to the business school.  No teaching that day, so I sat in the common room and caught up on stuff (last week was so busy).  At 12:30, I ate lunch with Jaideep Prabhu, a marketing professor; we had not met, and it was good to make contact with more faculty.  Mid-afternoon I ambled back to college, and took a nice nap. Ahhhhh.  Worked a bit more, then headed to the Pickerel, one of the older pubs in town, for a pint, then met friend Jochen Menges and his colleague Raphael Silberzahn for dinner.  A good meal, lots of conversation.

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My “office” at Judge Business School

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King’s College in late-afternoon sun

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Window-shopping, Cambridge University Press Bookshop, and a nearby fence (below)

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Up Tuesday morning, left college, and wheeled my suitcase across Cambridge, back to the business school, pausing, as I do most visits, for prayers at St. Botolph’s, a parish church since the 14th Century.  Worked for a few hours in the common room, and from 11 to 12:20 delivered a lecture on leadership to 30 masters students.  Offered them the opportunity to come yak with me that afternoon back in the common room, and at 1:30 Levi from Antwerp arrived.  We had a great chat about career – he’s finishing a first degree in law and has applied to LLM programs at Harvard, Columbia, and Penn.  Whew!

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Late autumn at Sidney Sussex College

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Scenes from St. Botolph’s: floor grave and baptismal fount

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Rush-hour, Trumpington Street

I changed clothes.  One more stop before heading to the train station.  Time for a pint at the venerable Eagle, perhaps Cambridge’s most storied pub; all manner of famous alumni tippled there, and it was a favored watering hole for RAF, RCAF, USAAC, and other Allied flyers during World War II.  Refreshed, I hopped on the bus for the train station, bought dinner fixings for the train, and hopped on for Ipswich, Manningtree, and Harwich.  As I had done three times previously, I crossed the North Sea to fly home from Amsterdam, avoiding the UK’s confiscatory ($260) departure tax.

Walked onto the Stena Hollandica ferry, more like a cruise ship, found my inside cabin, and promptly fell asleep.  Up at 6:30, big breakfast, then down the modern equivalent of a gangplank, onto the bus and train to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.  Last order of business in Europe was coffee with good friend Jan Meurer, like me retired from the airline business, but still keeping busy.  We had a great yak for an hour, then I jumped on the Silver Bird for Philadelphia.  By total coincidence, daughter Robin was also changing planes there, returning from business in Germany — talk about two mobile people!  She was one row ahead of me on the flight to Washington.  Home by nine, dogs happy to see us both.

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Airport commerce and airport art: Amsterdam has long been almost a shopping mall with departure gates and runways attached; and Philadelphia continues to delight with rotating art exhibits, in this case creative crocheting!

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Fellow traveler Robin

Postscript: in December 2016 at the big Lutheran church in Ulm, Germany, I bought the Playmobil (toy brand) version of Martin Luther; he’s been on our kitchen table ever since, a reminder of the importance of faith:

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Montreal, Still Delightful 50 Years Later

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Splendid new condos line the formerly industrial Lachine Canal

On Sunday, October 22, by sheer luck I snagged a standby seat on an 80-minute Air Canada nonstop (several hours faster than a connection through New York) from Washington to Montreal – the flight was 45 minutes late, and they rebooked passengers that had tight connections, thus freeing up a chair for me.  As we descended toward Montreal, I looked down on a fascinating rural landscape of varied texture and color, and was reminded of a wonderful thought from Captain Mark Vonhoenacker’s 2015 book Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot:

Looking down in godlike remove from 30,000 feet on the ice sheet of Greenland or the jungles of New Guinea has since lost some of its ability to startle and become as routine as that Earthrise photograph. We now doze through the marvelous . . . flying on a commercial airliner — even while painfully folded into a seat in coach — can lift the soul and inspire an awareness of the wonderfully improbable, of the state of “in-betweenness” in which air travelers routinely hover.

The joy of flight will, for me, never lose its ability to startle, nor become routine:

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Look at all the texture: maple trees in full color, harvested and green fields, and the distinctive “long lot” method of land division that the French brought to the New World, originally to give farmers easier access to Quebec’s rivers.

Montreal Airport was empty, and in no time I was through immigration and customs and onto the local transit authority (STM) express bus, route 747, into downtown.  We detoured off the freeway and onto clogged local routes – traffic is often really, really bad in Montreal.  But I was in my customary digs, a suite on the top floor of McGill University student housing, by 2:45, and out the door – almost by formula – for lunch at a nearby Korean-family-run place, Kantapia.  I was seriously hungry and slurped a spicy noodle soup in no time, then walked across Rue Sherbrooke and onto a bike from Bixi, the city’s bikeshare network (the rental transaction is done from a smartphone app).   Many times that afternoon and over the next two days I said aloud “Montreal 50,” shorthand for the fact that my first visit there was a half-century earlier when (as I have written many times in these pages) two 15-year-old pals and I visited the big world’s fair, expo67.  I said “So lucky” almost as often as I said “Montreal 50.”

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Kimchee at Kantapia

I pedaled west on the lane-separated bikeway on busy De Maisonneuve Blvd., a familiar route, through downtown and into the old and affluent neighborhood of Westmount, then beyond to Westminster.  Enroute, a Tesla passed me; a nice way to drive, given that virtually every kilowatt of electricity produced in Quebec is made from falling water.  It was unseasonably warm, and sunny, and the maples and oaks were in full color.  Took a short nap and at six hopped on Bixi and rode a mile to the Latin Quarter for some microbrews and a light “Oktoberfest” dinner of venison sausage on red cabbage, pretzel on the side.

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The “Superhospital”: McGill University Health Centre, west of downtown

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The local economy is clearly strong, judging by new construction as well as sympathetic redevelopment of stately old houses like this one on Sherbrooke.

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Dawn from my hotel room

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McGill University continues to have budget woes, but has significantly improved public spaces on campus, including a lot of great sculpture; note the wolf behind the red swimmer

Monday morning, again by formula, breakfast at the Tim Horton’s across from my destination, McGill University.  Ambled around the campus, then up the hill to give an annual lecture at the law school’s Institute of Air and Space Law.  Some fairly heated discussion during question time, which was a lot of fun!  Walking downhill on Rue Peel I caught a familiar face out of the corner of my eye, Prof. Mary Dellar, my longtime host at McGill’s B-school.  Like a small town!  We yakked a bit (unlike many autumns, I was not teaching in any of her classes), and I peeled off to meet a newer B-school host, Bob Mackalski, for lunch.

Bob is one of the most interesting people I’ve met in recent years.  An entrepreneur turned academic (not a common sequence!), he’s got a very fertile mind.  After catching up on job and family, we turned to politics.  We lamented the lack of vision among politicians, even the better ones north of the border.  “Canada should be the land fairness AND prosperity, a place that fosters social mobility . . . to me that means the population needs access to health care, access to educational opportunities – schooling and libraries – and a place that feels safe.  But the vision needs to be coupled with a matching of capital and talent, which to me means sensible taxation to reward risk-taking and entrepreneurship.”  Whew, works for me.  He riffed a little on access to education as a vehicle for social mobility: “That means more competition among bright people – smart people of all social classes, not just the well-to-do.”  I wish I lived next door to him.

I worked a bit, then walked back uphill to the law school for an informal seminar on careers in airlines and aviation; students were from the U.S. (an Air Force major), India, Finland, France, Taiwan, and Germany.  Global.  The Institute’s new director, Brian Havel, arrived midway, and we had a brief yak afterwards.  Would have chatted more, but was due to meet Edie Austin of the Montreal Gazette at five.  Edie’s an op-ed editor for the paper, and kindly published my essay on 50 years of visits to the city.  We had a nice yak in Dominion Square, and at 5:45 I hopped on the Metro at Peel Station, riding just one stop.  A long day.

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Old and new in the 1929 Dominion Square Building

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“Circles” (1966), by Jean-Paul Mousseau, one of many wonderful pieces of art in Metro stations; I liked the piece in 1967, and a half-century and dozens of visits later it still makes me smile.

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Here’s my mandatory reminder: every single person in this photo has access to health care as a basic human right.

Changed into jeans, hopped on Bixi, back to the Quartier Latin and a favorite bar and restaurant, Saint-Houblon.  I said “Bonsoir” to one of the bartenders, Michel, who I have gotten to know from many visits. “It’s always a pleasure to have you back,” he said.  The place specializes in Quebec microbrews, and I chose well: an IPA from Mille-Îles brewery in Terrebonne, 12 miles north. “To 50 years in Montreal,” I said as I hoisted the pint.  Surrounded by people one-half and perhaps one-third my age made me smile, and remember the short film I saw at expo67 a half-century earlier: “We Are Young.”  It’s sort of a mantra.  And Montreal makes me feel young.  Saint-Houblon serves burgers and other pub fare, but they also offer some refined dishes, and I tucked into a superb Arroz Caldo, a spicy dish of clams, rice, beans, corn, and potatoes, garnished with seaweed.  It was so good.

I wasn’t speaking until noon Tuesday, so was up at first light and out the door on Bixi, down the hill to the St. Lawrence River, then upstream on a riverside bikeway.  Rain was predicted at 10, but it started a mile into the ride, and continued, lightly, until I got back.  Another breakfast at Tim Horton’s, then down Sherbrooke with suitcase to the B-school.  Worked a couple of hours and from noon to one delivered a talk to the MBA Marketing Association, familiar from my 19 visits to the university.  Ate three slices of pizza and headed to the Metro, bound for the airport.

A little giggle on Metcalfe Street caused an older fellow just in front of me to turn around, which launched a wonderful T-t-S.  Chris Green, American, has been a professor of economics at McGill for 49 years, and we had a great yak.  His Ph.D. (and his wife) were from Wisconsin.  I promised to look him up next visit.  At the Lionel-Groulx Station he headed for another train and I jumped on the 747 bus to the airport, a flight to Philadelphia, and a short ride home to Washington.

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St. Louis and Minneapolis/St. Paul

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Gothic Revival architecture on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis

Travels in the fourth quarter – likely to be as busy as the third – started Sunday, October 8, with a flight west to St. Louis.  I had not been there for 14 years.  Walking through the terminal, the Midwest was immediately evident: people smiling, making eye contact with strangers, and generally looking happier than folk in the Northeast.  Hopped on the MetroLink light rail, and rode into the city.  Got off at the Delmar Loop station, on the edge of a poor neighborhood, and although many of the people around the station looked like they had hard lives, they still nodded or smiled or said “how ya doin’.”   I walked west on Delmar into University City, U City for short, then south on Skinker to Washington University, on the north end of the huge Forest Park (second-largest urban park after New York’s Central Park).  Walked across the north end of the leafy campus and checked in at the school’s on-premises hotel.  Grabbed a quick nap, and walked the campus a bit more.

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Minoru Yamasaki’s striking design (1956) for terminal one at St. Louis Lambert International Airport; the four spherical triangles have long been a fave

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Scenes from the 1.5-mile walk from train to hotel: a redeveloped stretch of Delmar Blvd., and a glimpse of pleasant residential streets in U City.

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The General, namesake of WashU, and the soaring atrium of the Olin Business School.

At 6:30, I met Ayshwarya from India, Cathy from China, and Majed from Saudi Arabia, three students in the class I would teach the next morning, and we zipped a mile north to an awesome Barbeque joint, Salt & Smoke.  It was a fun dinner, mostly explaining the airline business, but also getting to know them a bit, all Master’s candidates at WashU, as everyone calls it.

Up early Monday morning, onto a defective fitness bike in the hotel gym, only able to crank out five miles.  Ate a free breakfast in the hotel and ambled next door to the airy atrium of the Olin Business School.  Worked for an hour, then met my host Prof. Chakravathi Narasimhan.  I had met Chak five months earlier at a conference, whence he suggested a visit.  Chak was one of those fellows that you feel like you’ve known for years even though it’s only been 10 minutes.  Just a swell guy.  He had been at WashU 28 years, moving to St. Louis after earning his Ph.D. at Northwestern.  Delivered a talk on airline sales and distribution to a largely Asian audience.  Chak invited me to lunch and more good conversation, then delivered me to a taxi – on to stop 2, overnight with friend-since-1963 Steve Schlachter, out in the western suburb of Maryland Heights.

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Lake Creve Coeur, a backwater of the Missouri River

Steve had just returned from a reunion of 1000 former employees and leaders of PeopleExpress, one of the early successes of U.S. airline deregulation.  Though the company failed, they have been widely heralded for their commitment to employee participation (and ownership, through stock), cross-utilization of people, and enlightened management.  We spent the first 90 minutes yakking about the reunion, and the airline industry.  Having lived through the death of an airline brand (Republic, my first corporate job, 1984-86), I understood the emotion generated.  It sounded like a remarkable event, held at Newark Airport, which was PE’s home base.

At three, we went for a drive, through a big park adjacent to their subdivision, then down the hill to Creve Coeur Lake.  Back home, I borrowed Steve’s bike and zipped around the lake a few times.  Tonic!  At five, we picked up Steve’s wife Cindy, who works at a garden and landscape center, then spent a pleasant 90 minutes on their back deck, with drinks and chatter.  Headed out for dinner, made a wrong turn, but still ended up in a good place: Paul Manno’s, an Italian restaurant in a strip mall.  St. Louis is full of Italians and great Italian eateries, and this one did not disappoint.  The pasta was way good, accompanied by fine conversation.

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Riding around the lake, I was sure I was going to run into Huck Finn and Jim!

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Steve and Cindy were dogsitting Sadie, a neighbor’s pet; on arrival, Steve explained that a previous owner abused her, thus she might not take to me.  By that evening I had made a friend.

Up early the next morning, did a bit of work, and at 8:45 Steve drove me back to the airport.  Flew via Chicago to the next gig, at the Carlson School of Management at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota. We descended through cloud and below was my homeland: lakes, trees, and farmland.  It was a comforting view.   Landed Minneapolis/St. Paul at 1:30.  Picked up a rental car and motored north. Stop 1 was a chocolate malt at the Dairy Queen on 42nd and Minnehaha, which included a nice chat with the owner – I told him I had not been in that DQ since September 1974, when I stopped to revive, on about mile 93 of a 100-mile bike ride.  He said his dad had bought the store the year before my last visit.  A nice bit of continuity.

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At 3:00, I walked into the MPLS. Frame Store a few blocks north and met MJ the owner, then met Pam Harris, the artist who produced the lovely pastel “City Garden” that I bought at the Minnesota State Fair seven weeks earlier.  We three had a nice chat about their work (MJ is an artist and a framer), and we talked a lot about other local artists that I had met through more than three decades of visiting the art show at the fair.  Loaded the art in the car (fretting about whether it would fit in the airplane coat closets two days hence), and drove west on the lovely parkways that are one of the many virtues of the City of Minneapolis, across to the home of friends-since-1970 Deb and Phil Ford.

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We yakked for a bit.  It was a beautiful fall day, and leaves were close to peak color, so I borrowed Phil’s slick new city bike and rolled east to Lake Harriet, joining a bike path that I’ve known for almost 60 years.  Cycled north, then across to Lake Calhoun, and around it, back to Harriet, and home.  I kept thinking back to all the times I rode around those lakes, and specific moments popped into my head, like election night in 1972; it was rainy and gloomy, and Richard Nixon had by early evening been announced as the victor.  I remember feeling unhinged, not just by the voting result, but by the uncertainty that would follow college graduation in eight months.  Of course it all worked out!

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We headed to early dinner at a new place, Mill Valley Café, not far from their house.  When I return to the Twin Cities, I’m always delighted with all the new restaurants, and this one did not disappoint.  Tucked into spicy edamame as a starter and grilled rainbow trout.  Yum.  Headed home and yakked for a long time, as only long friends can do.  Before retiring, I asked Debbie to play a song on the piano; she’s accomplished, and it was lovely to hear her.  We don’t make music ourselves much anymore, which made it even sweeter.

Was up Wednesday morning at “the usual time,” but that was 5:15, not 6:15, in the Central Time Zone.  Out the door, down 50th Street, then into the city on Park Avenue, a route I recall from my childhood (the main freeway in that part of town, I-35W, was torn up, so local routes made sense).  Parked across from the Carlson School of Management at “the U,” walked around the West Bank Campus a bit, then found a big coffee and cinnamon roll at a Starbucks in Hanson Hall.  Before delivering my first lecture, I walked over to the Geography Department (where I earned my Ph.D.) and tracked down Rod Squires, the only faculty member still there from my time in the late 1970s.  He’s north of 70 and going strong.  We lamented the decline of “real geography” in the hands of ideologues and theoreticians, a 40-year slide that was a major factor in my leaving the field.  Sad to see that not much has changed.

At 9:45, delivered my airline pricing lecture to Mark Bergen’s morning MBA class.  At 11:45, Mark and I linked up with longtime Carlson hosts Debbie and George John, a husband-and-wife faculty team (both marketing experts), and we motored across the Mississippi to lunch in the faculty club.  Back to the West Bank for a lecure to Debbie’s undergrads, then an interview with a Ph.D. student, then a third lecture to Mark’s evening pricing class.  Whew.

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Familiar territory: the West Bank Campus of the U of M; I wrote my dissertation in the library at left.

I was worn out, but hopped in the rental car and zoomed east to downtown St. Paul and a delightful dinner with Martha Sheppard, widow of my dear friend and Wharton classmate Jack (1944-1993); her youngest daughter Emily; Em’s fiancée Michael; and Pat, widow of Jack’s sister Beth.  Martha had moved to a cool condo in a part of the center called Lowertown, and it was way cool.  We tucked into a beautiful dinner, spicy Italian Wedding Soup, salad, homemade apple cake, and lively conversation.  Martha poured some fancy Bordeaux (1983 vintage) for Pat and me.  It was a poignant moment, hoisting that glass, for it was the among the last of Jack’s huge wine collection.  We still miss him, and always will.

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The Minnesota State Capitol, St. Paul

Slept hard, up at first light, and out the door for seven miles on Phil’s bike, through neighborhoods where I lived as a child; past the site of Wooddale Elementary School (1926), long gone; past the Cape Cod on Arden where we lived from 1959 to 1964; then back.  I was flying home at 12:30, so there was still time to see one more friend, and at eight I hugged Tom Terry (another pal since junior high school) at Edina Grill.  We tucked into a big breakfast, a good update (I hadn’t seen him since the 40th high school reunion in 2009), and some reliving of our youth – including a hilarious story of he and a buddy sneaking out of the house as teenagers.  “Then we heard sirens” said it all!

Back at the Fords, I hugged them both, put my suitcase in the car, and drove to the airport.  The journey home, via Chicago, would have been routine, except I had the huge painting.  It just fit in the coat closet at the front of the MD-80 to Chicago, whew.  Waiting to board the 737 to DCA, a gate agent said it would not fit on board, so he tagged it for gate check, like a stroller, to retrieve on the jetbridge on arrival.  I was a little stressed, but trusted my American Airlines brothers and sisters on the ramp, and in Washington it came up unscathed.  Hooray!  Hopped the Metro home, a nice swing through the Heartland.

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