Category Archives: Uncategorized

San Francisco as a Tourist

Part of why 40 million people live in California!

After teaching a short-course at Georgetown, and grading projects and tests, on Thursday, August 8, I tagged along with Linda to the annual meeting of her employer, the American Bar Association, in San Francisco.  She would be working for four days, and I could be a tourist.  What a plan!  We landed in perfect California weather, blue skies and 70° F.  Hopped in a taxi, and were soon downtown, checking into the fancy Nikko Hotel.  It was a lot nicer than the hostel in Buenos Aires!  Unpacked and headed to the hotel gym and the fitness bike, then a shower and out for a short walk.  I had not been to San Francisco for nine years, and change was evident, mostly for the worse: dirtier streets, and more homeless and/or mentally ill people begging, or just ranting.

At 7:15, I walked across the street and met longtime Argentine friends Martín and Valeria for dinner (they were co-founders of SABF in 2005).  They’ve been living in the city for about three years, working their second start-up business, a podcast app that now has about 500,000 daily users.  We hadn’t seen each other for several years, and it was good to catch up, and to get their perspectives on California, the U.S., and living away from home.

When I got back to our room, up popped a text from longtime friend Mike Hindery with good news: the next morning he was not heading to Yosemite for a week of camping as originally planned, and could meet me for breakfast.  After a gym run at dawn Friday, I ambled south and east across downtown S.F. to Red’s Java House, a tiny greasy spoon built over the water, in the shadow of the Oakland Bay Bridge.  Along the way, I got a good intro to the downtown makeover, largely at the hands of the big tech companies – the tallest skyscraper is now the Salesforce Tower, and you see signs for Google, Yahoo, et al. everywhere in the center.  The Transamerica Pyramid, once the tallest, was barely visible.

Above, a lot of steel and glass has come downtown, but some splendid old buildings persist, especially ones in the ornate Beaux-Arts style; below, the venerable cable cars are not the only really old streetcars in town — the transit agency bought some splendid old rolling stock from Milano; at bottom, the Salesforce tower (in center) and other new construction, and a high-tech lobby scene

It had been nine years since I saw Mike, and we had lots of catch-up to do.  I’ve owed him for a long time, because he was one of three members of the committee that admitted me to the 1983 retooling program at the University of Pennsylvania, a summer of studies that changed my life for the better.  He’s a super-interesting guy, with huge experience in the outdoors.  A great morning.

Hugged Mike and walked along the bayfront, the Embarcadero, for several blocks, admiring the old pierside warehouses and the Ferry Terminal, then hopped on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) under the water to Oakland, then north to Berkeley.  More than 25 years earlier, I had been on campus, but just for a few minutes, so a good amble around one of America’s best public universities was in order.  I forgot a ball cap, oops in full sun, but my walking shoes were suited for the large and sloping campus, up and up to the Haas School of Business for a look-around (Walter Haas was President of Levi Strauss & Co., the blue-jeans maker and one of the city’s oldest firms, from 1928 until 1970).  Small creeks bisect the campus, and towering above are redwoods, plus lots of flowers and plants, altogether a pleasant place.  Hopped back on BART, and home.

Above, under the Bay Bridge on the Embarcadero; below, in the center of UC Berkeley, and six reserved space parking spaces for Nobel prizewinners (five were economists from the Haas School); at bottom, scenes from a verdant campus

Linda was back from her first day of work.  She invited me to come along to a reception, met some of her colleagues, and tucked into some heavy hors d’oeuvres.  We were plumb wore out by 7:30, so headed back to the room and got into pajamas.  Slept long and hard.

Up at dawn again, back to the gym, then out the door, onto a tram west to Ocean Beach on the Pacific.  Paused for a light breakfast at a sorta-hippie eatery, then back on the tram.  National media and political attention has focused on the city’s surging rents and house prices, the result of housing undersupply and huge demand from the growth of high-tech companies, but a child could easily understand the root cause: San Francisco urban density is just way too low – blocks and blocks of small houses.  Or as I thought to myself, if the X and Y dimensions were constrained by water, what about Z?  Seems pretty easy to begin to fix, though I suspect a combination of existing homeowners, preservationists, and the privileged will ensure that little changes – and that the people who cook their food, drive their Ubers, and keep their gardens will need to make long commutes.

Above, examples of flowers we just don’t see in the rest of the U.S.; below, proof of the city’s remarkable low density; at bottom, the tiled steps and St. Anne’s

On Google Maps, I spotted a label for the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, a few blocks away, so hopped off, then started climbing another of the city’s legendary hills, up about 200 feet or more.  The steps were cool, 163 panels of mosaic, a community project that began in 2003.  Check and done, then onto St. Anne’s of the Sunset, a 1931 Catholic church I passed on the way to the beach.  Just lovely.  Walked a few blocks, then onto the bus east to the infamous Haight-Ashbury district, seemingly unchanged since my first visit in 1968: head shops (now selling legal pot), used-clothing stores, dive bars, and all manner of eccentrics, dopers, and freaks.  And teeming with tourists; a half-century after the “summer of love,” the place is still a magnet for all kinds.

Walked another block north to Page Street, and at noon met another young Argentine entrepreneur and former SABF organizer, Lucas Diaz.  Rick and I visited his company, Mudafy, in Buenos Aires in July (described in previous post).  Like Martín and Valeria in 2017, Lucas and his partner Franco had been accepted into Y Combinator, a 90-day high-tech “start-up accelerator” that’s become a fixture in Silicon Valley.  YC receives 40,000 applications for their two annual classes, and accepts 400. That’s 1 percent, way more selective than Stanford’s B-school!  Lucas and I walked a mile or so to a Greek fast-casual restaurant and tucked into salads (with kale, of course!).  Franco arrived a bit later, and we had a good yak about their business, already with a big number valuation.  We also talked about the 2019 SABF and some other stuff, a fun time.  Walked back to their pad, said goodbye, and hopped buses back downtown.

Lucas in his home office

Took a short nap then walked a few blocks to the Museum of Modern Art.  The day before, Mike told me about a free exhibit called “The Chronicles of San Francisco,” a play on the name of the city’s newspaper.  An astonishing work by the young French artist JR, it’s hard to describe: a slow-moving, slightly animated mural comprised of hundreds of photos of San Franciscans, showcasing the diversity and humanity of the city.  Truly remarkable.

Adjacent to the mural were a bank of interactive tablets, enabling visitors to click on a person in the mural and listen to a short interview; I liked Iheem’s words a lot

______________________________________

 

Back to the room, suited up, and headed to the nearby St. Francis, one of the city’s venerable old hotels, for the Thurgood Marshall Reception and Dinner, an annual award function that would that night honor U.S. Representative John Lewis, one of the heroes of the Civil Rights movement.  Sadly, Rep. Lewis could not attend, but he sent a nice video.  After that, a truly wonderful performance from Rhiannon Giddens, a North Carolina musician and musicologist.  Her gig was part homage to the ongoing struggle for justice and equality, part music history, and part moving performance.  She bridges black and white musical styles; picking up her banjo (which she explained had roots in Africa, though widely regarded as a “white” instrument), she said “Here’s a song from the other side of the tracks, but there is no tracks.”  Amen to that!

Met yet another friend for Sunday breakfast.  John Massopust, pal since 1963 and now living in New Mexico and in Minnesota, was in town for the birth of their second grandson.  Pure serendipity!  We had seen each other as recently as the high-school reunion three weeks earlier, but hadn’t really yakked for years, so was great to catch up.

At eleven, I hopped on an old streetcar, northeast on Market Street, then west along the bay to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Hadn’t been there for four decades or more, and it had only become more tourist-tawdry.  Just when I despaired about another block of souvenir and T-shirt shops, I spotted the logo of the National Park Service and a sign for the San Francisco Maritime Historical Park.  Woo hoo!  My tax dollars spent on a good cause!

Vintage cars run on two of the tram lines; this is a “PCC Car,” which was a popular style worldwide from the 1930s

I ambled into a very well done visitor center, relatively new, that told the story.  It would be hard to understand the city without understanding that it was first a port.  In the center were lots of cool artifacts and some very fine interpretation.  But there was more: across the street was Hyde Street Pier, also part of the park, and at anchor were half-a-dozen old vessels.  Paid $15 and zipped in.  First stop was the huge bay ferry Eureka, offering “open house” in the engine room.  The Transport Geek climbed down a steep ladder (I marveled that OSHA hadn’t busted their cousins in the Park Service!) and was in marine heaven, admiring the boilers, the steam lines, the giant piston, and more.  Had a long chat with volunteer docent Doug Ford, retired from Lucasfilms, about the elaborate mechanical controls that drove the paddlewheels.  Way cool.

Above, a sample of artifacts in the maritime park visitor center: part of a fresnel lighthouse lens, a bronze finial from the same lighthouse, and a lovely painting; below, vessels on Hyde Street Pier

Next stop was the C.A. Thayer, a schooner that hauled lumber up and down the Pacific coast, then saw service in the Alaska salmon and cod fisheries.  Below deck was a colorful NPS employee who told me her (ships are always women) story, then explained that they’ve rigged the sails again (synthetic, but the same color as canvas!), and are getting read to hoist them.  I asked about passengers, and he despaired – all sorts of goofy Coast Guard safety rules likely will keep we enthusiasts from getting a ride.  I’m just not sure why we couldn’t just accept the risk, rather than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist.  Deep sigh, and the ranger agreed.  I was due to again meet Martín and Vale in less than an hour, so was only able to spend a few minutes on the steel-hulled Balclutha, built in Glasgow in 1886 and one of the last of the sailing ships to visit S.F.  Gotta get back to that pier to see more stuff.  Such a cool place.

A bonus at the end of Hyde Street Pier: barking seals copping some sunrays

At 2:30, I met my long amigos on Fort Mason.  Soon another Argentine and former SABFer, Matías Sulzberger, joined us.  Hadn’t seen him in a decade, so was good to catch up.  He’s a project manager for Apple, figuring out how to improve Siri.  Hugged everyone at 4:15 and hopped the bus back to the hotel.  Washed my face, had a quick beer, and walked to the top of Nob Hill for drinks and dinner with yet more friends, James and Lael Beer (Linda was supposed to join me, but had to prepare for the next day).  After leaving American Airlines in the mid-2000s, he’s mostly worked in high-tech, and we had a long discussion about the sector, good and bad, as well as catch-up on kids, life in San Francisco, their recent trip to Iceland, and more.  And a fine pasta meal at a neighborhood Italian place a block from their condo.  A super evening.  Only “downside” was having to descend 260 vertical feet on gimpy knees.

Above, a couple of scenes on the bus ride back downtown; below, the view south from the Beers’ condominium atop Nob Hill

On the last day, Monday, I walked a mile south to the station of Caltrain (the commuter line that connects San Jose and Silicon Valley with San Francisco), and hopped on the 9:43 train south to Redwood City.  Original plan was to ride several stops further south to Palo Alto, but the train was late and I needed to be in a quiet place for a noon client call.  Ambled around Redwood City for a bit, then sat in the shade beneath a big palm tree and read.  The client rescheduled the call.  At 12:30 I reconnected with Mike Schonenberg, more an acquaintance than a friend: in the mid-1970s, when I was in graduate school, I spent a week every summer working on the Wisconsin dairy farm that belonged to his aunt and uncle, my dear and long friends David and Katherine Kelly.  Mike and I worked Monday to Friday in 1974 and ‘75, cleaning manure from barns, baling and stacking hay, and doing a bunch of other chores.  I had tracked him down some years ago, and it was great to catch up over a plate of enchiladas.  He raised a family in Palo Alto, and has worked in commercial real estate for most of his life.

Above, start-ups are everywhere on the peninsula; at Redwood City, the seat of Invoice2Go, and above Five Guys hamburgers was a banner for “FinTech Co-working Incubator” space for rent; below, the former San Mateo County Courthouse and my Monday-morning “umbrella”

There was one more reconnection, friend number 11 of the trip.  After lunch another childhood friend, Mark Hennessy, and his son Eric, picked me up and we repaired to Harry’s Hofbrau, also in Redwood City.  The boys had a late lunch and I had a beer.  Mark missed the high-school reunion, so wanted the scoop on classmates.  He raised his kids in Gilroy, south of San Jose, worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad, then Amtrak briefly, then Caltrain, and like me retired early.  He lives in Mexico now, in a couple of different places, on the Pacific and inland.  He’s a character.

Hopped back on Caltrain, then the tram.  Washed my face, headed across the street to dinner, then asleep early, then a flight to DFW and on to Washington.  It was great to be in California.

On the bicycle car on the Caltrain express north to San Francisco

 

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Looking Back and Looking Forward: Minnesota, Texas, Argentina

The pep band at the 50th Reunion of the Edina High School Class of 1969

 

A week later, I flew home to Minnesota.  It will always be home, all the more so in the coming weekend: I was bound for the 50th reunion of the Edina High School Class of 1969.  Woo hoo!  Go Hornets!  Landed at noon and picked up a rental car, driving east, then across the Minnesota River to eat lunch with a special person from a half-century ago: Chuck Wiser, one of the founders of Vanguard Travel.  Chuck’s partner Rick Fesler actually hired me (I called him a month earlier to thank him).  As I have written several times and in several places (including a LinkedIn post last month), that job gave me direction, identity, and a way for pay for a university education.

About a half-hour after takeoff from Washington, my “flight odometer” turned over five million miles. Flight is such a gift.

I had not seen Chuck in eight years, but because I’ve known him well, we picked up where we left off.  At 84, he’s had more than his share of health issues, but was sharp as ever, and still active on the golf course.  He treated me to a walleye (fish) sandwich at his Mendakota Country Club.  As we left, I thanked him to changing my life.

Pedal to the metal, west to Edina (a southwest suburb of Minneapolis) to “check in” with dear friends Rick and Murph Dow – it was so handy to stay just a few minutes’ drive from the reunion venues, and the Dows are superb hosts.  But I could only yak for a few minutes, because I was due to meet nephew Evan Kail at four.  Picked him up at work, and we motored three blocks north to The Lowry for a beer and fun yak.  He was starting an interesting second job.  Woulda been nice to chat longer, but the first reunion evening began at six, so I dropped Evan at his apartment a mile south, then drove familiar local streets across southwest Minneapolis and Edina to Braemar Park and the golf course clubhouse.  As I walked up to the building, I spotted long friend Jim Grotting sitting in the shade on the phone, talking to his high-school girlfriend Cathy, who was in San Diego and not at the reunion (Cathy’s mom Verna helped get me the travel-agency job 50 years earlier, a fact I mentioned to Cathy with thanks and praise).  As I said goodbye, memories flooded in at a rate I could not absorb.

Nephew Evan

It was well above 90° with almost equivalent humidity, and not much cooler in the clubhouse, but it didn’t matter, because I was immediately surrounded by friends and classmates, laughing and backslapping and kissing girls I never would have kissed 50 years ago.  The night sped by.  There were plenty of reunion regulars, last seen a decade earlier, but a large number of people who told me this was their first – folks like Karna Lundquist from elementary school, recently retired after a career in pediatrics.  Two former teachers were on hand, Jinny Winter Jensen, widow of my late dear friend and 12th grade English Teacher, Bud Jensen, and Larry Stotts, who was my theater-arts teacher.  The next morning, I jotted down the names of 52 people I talked with.

I paged through my high-school yearbook a day before winging out to Minnesota

 

Chris MacPhail, and Dana and Jim Arnold; neither of the Arnolds went to Edina, but knew a lot of us, and it was grand to see them

 

As always happens, I woke at about 6:00 Eastern Time, which was 5:00 in Minnesota.  Wide awake, time to get up and get going!  Murph is an early riser, so we had a good yak and coffee in their kitchen, catching up on our kids’ lives.  Clear skies soon changed, and by 8:15 it was pelting rain, with wet forecast until early afternoon.  Hopped in the Toyota and zipped across Edina to the apartment of Marlys Chase, mother of longtime friend Steve Schlachter.  She had cooked us a superb bacon-and-egg breakfast, and I got caught up with their lives.  Mrs. Chase is inspirational, still strong at 85.

We yakked for several hours.  At 11:45, classmate Marty Kupper picked us up, and we drove west to Lake Minnetonka and a hospice, to visit a classmate, John, suffering from pulmonary fibrosis, a dreadful terminal illness.  I saw John a year earlier, and while ill, he wasn’t sliding downward; unhappily, that changed in the spring, and his goal of attending the reunion was dashed.  So the least we could do was bring a little of the reunion to him.  It was sad, but I’m glad we went (John passed away two weeks later.)

Happily, the rain stopped and the sun was peeking through clouds.  Motored back to Edina, then back to the Dows.  Rick kindly loaned me his fat-tire bike, and I zipped off, on a new regional bike trail across Edina, then north around two of Minneapolis’ many urban lakes, then home, 27 miles in total.  A great ride, through familiar, yet changing, neighborhoods.  It was especially fun to ride up and down several streets in Edina’s Country Club neighborhood, a solid place where we lived before my dad got sick and had to sell the house to pay his medical bills.  There was Steve’s house, and Jim’s, and Ann’s, and Lucinda’s . . .

Left, the splendid view from my room at the Dows; right, the “building on stilts,” home in 1969 of Vanguard Travel, where I worked to pay for school

Refueling on the bike ride at the Dairy Queen on 66th Street; at right, a preserved door column from our Wooddale Elementary School, razed in the 1980s.

As I finished the ride, I thought of wonderful words from the popular BBC TV series, “Call the Midwife”; at the beginning and/or end of most episodes, actress Vanessa Redgrave voices memorable and poignant words, and these came to mind:

Home is not simply a mark upon a map, any more than a river is just water.  It is the place at the center of the compass, from which every arrow radiates, and where the heart is fixed.  It is a force that forever draws us back.

___________________________

Rick and I had a nice yak and a beer, I showered and changed clothes, and headed less than a mile to Interlachen Country Club.  I was ten minutes early, but the place was already hopping with classmates (I learned from one of the organizers that it was a record turnout, 260, including a few spouses).

It was a repeat of the night before: connecting with people I had not seen in a half-century and others I see regularly.  Conversations with a couple of Montanans, but mostly people who stayed in Minnesota.   Many of us observed that we could look across the room and instantly recognize someone we hadn’t seen in five decades, while others looked completely unfamiliar; such is the intersection of aging and memory.

Total high point that night was a pep band that lifelong musician Ralph Campbell organized, a mix of players from our class and some from later EHS classes; they played our two high school fight songs.  We cheered along, “H-O-R-N-E-T-S, Edina Hornets fight, fight, fight,” and tears came to my eyes.  The event ended at 11, but I was totally worn out by 10:30.  Said goodbye to a number of long friends and motored home.  Colossal.

 

Above, 11 students from Wooddale Elementary, 1957-63; yes, there were boys, but none were listening when instructions were given to gather! Below, band organizer Ralph Campbell and Guy Drake; at bottom, friend-since-1957 Linda Bearinger.

 

Milestones are so important – don’t miss them in your lives.

_________________________________

 

Same drill Sunday morning: up with the sun at five.  Like 24 hours earlier, first task was to jot down the names of classmates and friends I met the night before, and the count was 17, plus “kids” from Friday night.  Murph was up, so we had another great chat.  Rick peeled off for a bit of work (like me, he’s staying busy in his seventh decade).  I hugged Murph at 7:25 and drove to 50th and France, the shopping area of my childhood.  At 7:45, I met longtime Edina pals Chris MacPhail and Greg Paske, and a few minutes later Jim Marquardt.  We piled into a booth at Edina Grill, tucked into another big egg breakfast (this time with smoked salmon), and a lot of good conversation.  We were close friends for many years, but don’t see each other much anymore: 10 years earlier for Greg and Chris (at the 40th reunion), and by my reckoning more than 25 for Jim.  We talked a lot about Greg’s second career, 17 years as a substitute teacher in the Scottsdale (Arizona) public high schools (he taught across the entire spectrum, from music to physics), and Jim’s life work as a pediatrician (he told some funny stories, including selective use of his hearing aids when listening to overly worried moms).  Some revisiting of memories from childhood and adolescence.  Fun time, but not enough time.

Jim Marquardt

I peeled off about 9:30 and headed out “on assignment.”  In December 2018, I met a young Irishman, Will McConnell, who was making a documentary film about a Belfast firm, York Street Flax Spinning Co., for which my father worked as a sales rep in the Upper Midwest.  Will wanted me to capture a bit of video for the documentary, trying to find scenes that looked more like that era, late 1950s and early ‘60s.  I did my best, in neighborhoods and older parts of downtown Minneapolis.  Last stop was Fort Snelling National Cemetery to pause for thank yous and prayers at my dad’s grave.  A lot of remembering in one weekend.

Above, a still from the video clips shot for Will: the renovated Grain Belt sign on Hennepin Avenue and the Mississippi River; below, the rebuilt Linden Hills station on the streetcar line; service ended in 1954, but part of the line was rebuilt and open for weekend rides.

The memory factory would continue for another day or so: Sunday afternoon I flew to Dallas/Fort Worth for a Monday reunion lunch of people who worked in American Airlines’ advertising department or for our longtime ad agency.  Picked up another Hertz car, and in no time was zooming along I-635, 70 mph.  Unlike folks in the Northeast U.S., Texans build fast roads, and plenty of them, which made me smile – yes, I get that cars are not the optimum mobility solution, but they exist, so you gotta deal with them (in the Northeast urban planners tend to deny their existence, hence massive traffic jams in places like Washington).

Was at Ken and Peggy Gilbert’s house in North Dallas by 5:30, hugging the humans and petting their two dogs, Bella and Papi (who came with daughter Blair from her Peace Corps stint in Tonga).  Had a quick beer and headed with son Allen, a business-jet pilot, to a great Tex-Mex restaurant, Cantina Laredo.  Filled myself with enchiladas – at home, I would have taken half of it home, so I tucked in.  We motored home, and Ken suggested a dip in their pool, which was tonic.  We bobbed in the shallow end and yakked for an hour (Ken and I were colleagues at American Airlines for decades).  Lights out at 9:15, for nine solid hours of much-needed snooze.

Up at 6:15 Monday morning, cup of coffee with Peggy and Ken, then out the door to a Starbucks for another jolt and some work, then at 8:30 met another former AA colleague, Laura Einspanier, for breakfast.  I had not seen her for five years, and it was great to catch up.  Back then, she was already toiling in retirement, helping to organize a Catholic high school, Cristo Rey.  Five years on, the school was open and indeed just graduated its first class of about 110.  She’s doing God’s, and society’s, work for sure.  We yakked about family, and her biggest news was her playwright daughter just had a breakthrough, with the premier of “Lunch Bunch” in New York.

I had more than an hour until the ad-alumni lunch, so Googled “Dallas Public Library” and found the Cedar Springs branch was three minutes from Avila’s, our Tex-Mex venue.  Worked my email, did a bit of research, and enjoyed the spectrum of humanity in the reading room.  The lunch was colossal, reuniting people across more than two decades.  We were jabbering in all directions.  A special time.

At the public library; below, the ad alumni lunch

Never have I connected with more people from the past in less time than on those four days.

________________________

I returned the rental car a bit early, falling into a nice Talking-to-Strangers moment with the Hertz agent.  She was from Kenya, and I asked where. “Near Lake Nakuru,” she replied, and she smiled broadly when I told her I visited the lake and its famous huge flock of pink flamingos “well before you were born.”  Dropped the wheels early because the Transport Geek wanted to ride the new TEXRail commuter line from DFW Airport to downtown Fort Worth.  A great ride on brand-new Stadler rolling stock.  Along the way, a nice T-t-S with another T-Geek, a MIT-trained electrical engineer, who grew up in a West Virginia railroad family, and spent a long career at Texas Instruments.

Two visions of urban mobility: the 1900-era North Texas Traction Company, and the modern TEXRail that connects downtown Fort Worth and DFW Airport

At 7:30, I flew southeast to Buenos Aires for my 12th appearance at the South American Business Forum.  Like every year, I was excited to be heading back to the student-organized conference that every year attracts 100+ motivated youngsters (half from Argentina, a quarter from the rest of Latin America, and a quarter from the rest of the world).  Two volunteers from previous SABFs, Milagros and Guillermina, picked me up at the airport and we zipped into town.  After a couple of wrong turns and some detours we arrived at our digs, the Art Factory Hostel.  The room was not ready, so I trundled down to the basement café and voila, there sat my long amigo Rick Dow (last seen three days earlier in Minneapolis!), who like me has become a SABF stalwart.  He arrived a day earlier.  We yakked a bit, had a cup of coffee, worked, and headed out for a good walk.  It was cool and overcast, and after hot summer days in the Northern Hemisphere, winter felt really good.  We grabbed some lunch at Petit Colon, a traditional café behind the opera house, then ambled back to the hostel.  Room was ready.  It was, like the rest of the place, spartan.

Views from downtown B.A.: the Argentine central bank at left, and a preserved facade in front of a new skyscraper

There was less than zero time to relax, because I was due to give a talk on leadership at a startup online travel agency, where another SABF alumnus now worked.  Rick tagged along, and we zipped in a taxi a few miles west to the offices of Avantrip.   Hopping in the taxi, feeling a bit stressed for lack of time, I had my first “Thanks, Don Miguel” moment in Argentina when I told the taxi driver our destination, in near-perfect Spanish; every so often, the lessons of Howard Hathaway (Don Miguel), the man who taught us Spanish on “educational television” in the early 1960s, come back with total clarity!

Emiliano greeted us when we hopped out of the taxi.  It was then time to stand and deliver.  Rick chimed in from time to time, and the talk went really well.  Said goodbye about 5:15, into a taxi and into rush hour, north to our dinner venue in the Palermo district.  The way-popular steak restaurant, Don Julio, had already booked up (even in a Tuesday night), but you could line up at 6:45 and likely get a table.  We were in the queue at 6:05, numbers two and three, right behind a friendly Argentine women who was a freelance producer of TV commercials.  We had a good yak with her.  The restaurant kindly provided free glasses of sparkling wine at 6:45, and by 7:00 we were seated, joined soon after by Jaime, a wonderful Argentine entrepreneur in his 70s (and the uncle of a 2018 SABF organizer), and Ary, a local director for United Airlines (our usual United host, Christoff Poppe, was in Chicago looking for a house, following reassignment to their corporate headquarters).

The audience at Avantrip

Dinner was long, ample, and as the Spanish say muy amable.  We talked about families, jobs, and lot about the Argentine economic and political situation.  All eyes are on Mauricio Macri, the center-right president up for re-election in a few months.  He has done a remarkable job of beginning a turnaround after 70+ years of goofy rule by the Peronistas, most of whom still believe in Santa Claus, along with a lot of corruption.  (As one practical example of Macri’s get-it-done approach, the city recently opened a truck tunnel on the edge of downtown that greatly reduced traffic congestion, noise, and smog; it was completed in a couple of years, and on budget, which never would have happened under the old regimes.)

The conference began Thursday morning, so Wednesday was a welcome “day off.”  Stop one was a couple of hours at a start-up company, Mudafy, that Rick and I have unofficially and slightly advised for a couple of years (another project of former SABF organizers).  Sort of like an Argentine Zillow, the company seems to hold promise, and it’s always fun to listen to youngsters building something with passion.   At 12:45 we walked a few blocks to La Rural, the biggest livestock show in a country that raises a lot of animals.  I had visited once before, in 2007, and was looking forward to a return.  Rick, one of my compadres at the Minnesota State Fair, was game, and in we went.

Above, brainpower at Mudafy; below, artists and cow-washing at La Rural

It was awesome.  We ambled through buildings filled mainly with beef cattle, but also saw some poultry (missed the sheep).  High point was reconnecting with Antoinette Huffmann, Tony, who I met at La Rural 12 years earlier.  She and her family raise a relatively rare French breed called Blonde d’Aquitaine, so it was easy to find her (the various breeds are all co-located).  She didn’t remember me, but we three immediately fell into a long conversation about the economy, her story (she’s in her mid-70s, and emigrated from Belgium in 1946 at age 3), her early life as the only girl in the family, and animal husbandry – including a long graphic discussion of the reproductive biology of their breed.  Country people are nicely matter of fact on such topics!  We said goodbye, and headed to a late lunch outdoors.  Tony appeared again as we were eating, and we yakked some more.

Antoinette Huffmann; below, a few more glimpses of La Rural

Hopped into a taxi, back into heavy traffic, and after an address snafu on my part arrived at the SABF launch party downtown, plunging into introductions and early discussion.  At one of the several downtown buildings of the host institution, the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology (ITBA), we met students from Canada, South Africa, Argentina, Costa Rica, Lithuania, and more.  Walked back to the hostel, washed my face, and Rick and I headed out to dinner with some other SABF alumni, 12 or 15 of us at a big table in a serviceable Italian restaurant.  Last stop of the day was a bit of cheerleading for the 2019 organizers – as is the custom every year, Rick and I did our best to rev them up for the coming three days of hard work.

Up early Thursday morning, out the door, onto buses to the auditorium of Buenos Aires’ modern city hall, for a plenary day.   To say the first speaker rocked it would be a huge understatement – every few years the SABF manages to land a superstar, and in 2019 it was Nicholas Negroponte, longtime director the future-wow Media Lab at MIT.  As you would expect, he was a stellar and provocative speaker, and in retrospect we could have spent the rest of the day discussing the three main ideas he launched.  But we didn’t, and of the remaining seven speakers, five were complete failures: pompous, off-topic, deceptive, or all of the above.  Whew.  Then again, as Rick and I have long understood, much of the genius of the event takes place in informal conversation between students and young adults who have fire in their bellies about improving the world.  Rick’s job at the end of the day was to summarize and guide the conversation, and he did that masterfully.

Professor Negroponte captivating the SABF audience

We hopped on buses, back downtown to a simple restaurant for a group dinner.  As in previous years, Rick and I ordered wine and beer for those at our big table; that night it was Sofia from Colombia, Pedro from Chile, Lucas from Argentina, and several others.  We had a great time; high point and huge coincidence was that Lucas on my left and Pedro on my right were both volunteers at prisons, working to help people who most of society has forgotten or would like to throw away like garbage.  Remarkable young people.

Pablo, your scribe, and Lucas collecting bottles for recycling!

The Friday sessions were held at one of ITBA’s buildings not far from city hall, and were a mix of student presentations, group activities, and, at the end of the day, mentoring sessions (Jaime, Rick, and I joined several Argentine executives and leaders in hosting six or seven students).  A few hours earlier, during lunch hour, I did something I had wanted to try for awhile: a “pop-up” 20-minute seminar, that day on crisis management.  It was great fun, about 20 students piling into a small classroom.

That evening, Rick and I walked across downtown to one of our favorite restaurants, a simple parrilla (grill) called El Establo.  Great service, fair prices, and food way better than Don Julio.  We tucked into more steak (as I’ve written previously, I eat almost no steak back in the U.S.), and shared a nice bottle of Malbec.  Fortified, we headed out to the SABF party at Honduras Hollywood, a nightclub in Palermo.  The place was hopping, and Latins being Latins, Rick and I were on the dance floor in no time.  My knees creaked, but I could move my other joints pretty well (the next day a youngster told me “you can dance better than I can!”).  We only stayed about 45 minutes, but earned a lot of cred from the students.

Above, big times at El Establo; below, a scene from the SABF party

Day 3, Saturday, back to city hall.  Morning student activities were varied.  Rick and I met a young city planner, Pablo, and after about 20 minutes of conversation about city progress (the new mayor is of the same party as the national president), he offered to show us the building, designed by the prominent Englishman, Sir Norman Foster.  The afternoon sped past, and soon it was time for my annual (since 2011) big task, summarizing and closing the meeting.  Check and done, hugs to people, and into a car to the airport.  Flew to New York Kennedy, landing at dawn.  Hopped train, train, and bus across Queens to LaGuardia.  Took a needed shower in the Admirals Club, worked for several hours, and at noon flew home.  A great trip.

Buenos Aires City Hall; below, Pablo, one of many enthused and committed young municipal officials

Students at the Sunday morning freelance activities; below, at left, some nice ideals, and at right promises that the Buenos Aires government would deliver — these posters are all over town, and when a project finishes, they add a check mark. Nice accountability.

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E pluribus unum on the New York MTA E Train beneath Queens; below, Manhattan from above

 

 

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New York, New Haven, and Hartford

The Farmington Canal Greenway, a wonderful bikeway on a former railway line, and adjacent to a canal dug in the 1820s

 

Travel in the second half of 2019 began with a flight to New York on Wednesday, July 10.  I was bound for New Haven, Connecticut, to spend a couple of days with son Jack and his girlfriend Reed, so decided to detour to New York (sorta weird that we live only 200 miles from The Big Apple, but I only visit once a year; regular readers know it’s not a fave place).  Landed at LGA, hopped on the jammed Q70 express bus to the Jackson Heights subway station in Queens (it was free until September 2; almost nothing in New York is free!), then the E train into Manhattan.  So speedy, so much better than a taxi, not least for the rainbow of humanity on New York public transit.

I was due to meet longtime airline friend Pete Pappas at his apartment on Central Park South at noon, and had time, to zipped into a Starbucks, one of my usual away-from-home offices, for a small cup and some work.  Ambled a few blocks north, goggling at the many new pencil-like apartment high-rises that are springing up (and thinking “I hope they get the foundation engineering right”).  Met Pete, and as a bonus his wife Ivie, in the lobby of their building.  Visited briefly with Ivie, who I had not seen in many years, then Pete and I peeled off for an agreeable lunch at an Italian place nearby.  Pete’s older than me, with way more airline experience, so it’s always enlightening and entertaining to spend time with him.

At left, one of the new pencils; right, a welcome new addition to the NYC streetscape, signboards that display bus arrivals at that stop, along with advertising. Unhappily, the bus info rotates into view less frequently than it should. At bottom, wonderful old station signage on the subway platform.

We parted at 1:45 and I hopped on a southbound train, then bus across 34th Street to the new Hudson Yards residential and commercial development, built atop former railway land (the “yards” part) just by the river.  It was pretty much as the architectural critics described it: for the wealthy.  Been there, done that, hopped back on the subway, and another train to 23rd St.

The copper-clad staircase monument, “Vessel,” at Hudson Yards; below, agreeable open space north of the buildings, and, meh (as New Yorkers say), fancy retail space.

Walked east to Poster House, the nation’s first poster museum (they’re common in Europe, and I visited the Danish iteration in Aarhus in February), opened just a month earlier.  I read about it in a recent issue of The New Yorker, after I had committed to the trip, so decided to visit.  Wowie, I was excited as I walked in, and the staff were still glowing with excitement too.  The magazine article described their first two exhibitions, and I was much more interested in the poster art of Alphonse Mucha, a Czech-born artist who became famous in Paris in the late 1890s.  Here’s a good, excerpted summary from the opening interpretive panel:

The stylized, confident women … changed the landscape of modern advertising and made him the most important graphic designer of the Art Nouveau period … The image of this Nouvelle Femme (New Woman) became a staple in Mucha’s work, replacing the submissive advertising ladies of previous years … his advertisements were reprinted as home décor, blurring the line between fine and commercial art.

Mucha’s fame skyrocketed after a serendipitous opportunity to make posters for the promotion-obsessed actress Sarah Bernhardt; a Paris printer contracted him to create images to sell everything — below, cookies, bicycles, and Monaco, and at bottom, Champagne.

At left, Mucha; right, when he was not drawing commercial art, he created art posters, and the quotation in the photo says it all.

The other exhibit was of two German poster artists who formed a firm called Cyan; they actually got started in the former East Germany, and their stuff was, well, complex.  Mucha rocked it.  Before leaving, I asked the staff about the permanent collection (9,000 works, which will mostly be exhibited online), and the next special exhibit (hand-painted movie posters from Ghana).  Just way cool.

I’ve often described New York as at the extremes of best and worst, and after seeing some of the best, the scene on W. 23rd St. smacked me back to the worst: a man sleeping next to his bagsful of aluminum cans and bottles, perhaps his primary means of support. Walked a few more blocks, past the venerable Flatiron Building, then onto the 6 Train north three stops to Grand Central Terminal.

When you see a low-rise landscape in Manhattan, you stop a take its picture! This is W. 23rd St., between Fifth and Sixth avenues

Hopped on the Metro North New Haven Line, and in two hours was hugging Jack at Union Station.  We motored a mile west to Tandoori, a simple Indian place in a former stainless-steel diner.  Ate well.  Back to his apartment, hugged Reed, met her Huskie Kora, yakked for a bit, and promptly dozed off.

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Up at six with the three of them, put Kora on a leash, and walked east to Wooster Square, a pleasant urban park.  Like our Henry and MacKenzie, Kora loved to chase squirrels.  She weighs about the same as both of the terriers, so the traction was equivalent, but still pretty hard on my knees!  Back home, cup of coffee, bye to the three, and out on Jack’s bike for a long ride up the Farmington Canal Greenway, a rails-to-trails route north from New Haven clear into Massachusetts.  Stopped for another coffee and a sweet roll at Dunkin Donuts, then back on the trail.  It was a warm morning, but the ride was great, 37 miles round trip.

On the trail, part of the East Coast Greenway, a series of trails that one day will link Maine and Florida; at right, the only existing lock from the canal

Took Kora for a walk around the block, then ambled a few blocks west to a great sorta-hippie eatery called Claire’s Corner Copia for lunch.  Back home, showered, took a nap (just like at home, especially tonic after a long ride).  Hopped back on the bike to get up to an even 40 miles, east a ways, then west to the Yale campus.  Needed to do a couple hours of work, and while aiming for the law library I stumbled upon the Beinecke Library, Yale’s repository of rare and old books.  Opened my laptop in a comfy chair right next to a Gutenberg Bible, which was pretty cool.

Zipped back to the apartment.  Jack got home from work, and we yakked and watched the Scottish Open with a true golf fan.  Reed has been a positive force in lots of ways, not least upgrading his home cooking, and he prepared a yummy meal of chicken, gnocchi, and salad.  Nice.  Clocked out early again.

Rinse, repeat.  Kora on leash by 6:05, retracing steps to Wooster Square, back home.  Hugged Reed as she left for work.  Back onto Jack’s orange bike, east to the Quinnipiac River, up the east bank a few miles, stopped at Dunkin for breakfast, back down the west bank.  Shaved, showered, and prettied up for an 11:00 meeting at the Yale School of Management, introducing myself to Professor Shin, doing a bit of selling.  Would be good to be invited, but we shall see.  Grabbed a nice lunch in the school’s café, then rode a mile to Jack’s work for a tour of Turnbridge, a growing treatment center.  Met a half-dozen of his co-workers (I was beaming inside when they told me how much they respected and liked him).  Back to the apartment, short nap, out the door, over to State Street Station.  My original plan was to fly right from New Haven’s tiny airport to Philly, then home, but the Transport Geek learned that CT Rail, the state’s commuter-rail operation, had reopened the line north 45 miles to Hartford, and I could get a nonstop home at 7:40.  Hopped on the 3:29 train, rolling north past marshes, low hills, hollowed-out industrial towns.

Above, wonderful 19th Century houses on the east bank of the Quinnipiac; below, a marina on the west bank. At bottom, the Mill River Swing Bridge, opening to allow passage of the tugboat Connecticut.

 

Yale School of Management

Arrived Hartford 4:20.  I had never really been downtown, and the bonus was a pleasant hourlong ramble from Union Station to the CT Transit express bus to the airport.  It was hot, but no matter.  As I left the station, the vista to the south was the 1878 State Capitol, a blend of architectural styles, but mainly looked French Renaissance.  It stood atop a hill in Bushnell Park, lovely, clean (Hartford was so much tidier and more orderly than New Haven).  Ambled on, pausing at the refurbished 1914 carousel, which was a simply wonderful conveyance; nostalgia welled as I watched happy kids, teenagers, and grown-ups go ’round and ’round.  Up a hill, past headquarters of The Travelers, one of the many big insurance companies in Hartford, and the art museum, then down the hill to the stop for the #30 bus to the airport.  It was conveniently right in front of a big Marriott hotel, so zipped in for the men’s room.  The place was teeming with attendees of ConnectiCon, according to Wikipedia “an annual multi-genre convention dedicated to a celebration of pop culture – everything from anime, to science fiction, comic books and card games.”  Mostly it looked like gamers; forgive a bit of judgment, but those people need to get away from their computers and get outdoors.  At the very least it would fix their pallor.

Above, the Connecticut State Capitol and a fine fountain in Bushnell Park; below, the Monument to Soldiers and Sailors, erected after the Civil War, and the Bushnell Carousel. At bottom, two pillars of Hartford: the Wadsworth Atheneum art museum and the 1919 Travelers Tower, headquarters of the insurance company with the red umbrella.

The express bus rolled up a bit late, but the A/C was blasting, and the ride for a senor was 85 cents.  Sweet.  And fast.  Was at the airport in no time.  Flight was late, but I was not in a hurry.  At an airport bar, brought this journal up to date in the ample time, and had a nice T-t-S with Jackie the bartender, about dogs.  She wanted to buy her young boys a dog, but the landlord required another $1000 damage deposit (on top of the existing one), and another $30 per month in rent.  As a single mom, she couldn’t afford that, so had to defer getting the Australian Shepherd puppy.  It was a poignant reminder of how unfair things are for working people.  Absent the ability to put a cream pie in the landlord’s face, I settled on a large tip, which she said she’d put in the special piggy bank they have for the puppy fund.  Hopped on American Eagle, and was back in D.C.

 

 

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Miami and Miami Beach, Briefly

Downtown Miami, at the mouth of the Miami River

Was home for a few weeks, getting things ready for fall teaching.  On Monday, June 17, I flew south to Miami to attend and give a keynote speech to a customer symposium for SmartKargo, the start-up air cargo software company I have helped on and off since 2014. On the way to the airport, the first T-t-S of the trip, with a young man from Trinidad.  He was a row behind me on the Blue Line, and said, “Excuse me. I’m a little lost.”  I got him “found,” and on his way.

Forty-plus years ago, when I was in graduate school, I got to know Miami well over the course of three summers (1975, ’76, and ’77), when I helped my long and dear friend Herb with some research for a book he was writing on Caribbean tourism, which by happy coincidence was the focus of my Ph.D. research.  But that was nearly a half-century ago, and to say the place has changed would be a colossal understatement.  The drivers of change were the rise of mass tourism (including cruise ships); emigration from all over Latin America and the Caribbean; and a lot of money – sometimes with people attached, sometimes not – from all over those regions.  A great deal of the latter was dirty: wealthy Latins shipping wealth out of unstable places, and lots and lots of drug money.  So while the skyline has grown impressive, it’s a tawdry and tainted impressiveness.

South Florida gets afternoon thunderstorms in summer, and we circled for 40 minutes before we swooped in, just between storm cells.  Hopped in a Lyft car with Oscar from Bogota, Colombia, for a yakking ride east to Miami Beach.  His story was not quite as grim as the Afghan taxi driver in Umeå a month earlier, but it was not a happy one: he was an only child, and could not stay in Colombia because of the violence and, I sensed, real threats.  He doesn’t go back, but his parents come north several times a year.  Whew.

Arrived at the Cadillac Hotel, site of the meeting, in 25 minutes; when built in 1940, it was the largest hotel on Miami Beach, and during the 1950s it was the place for Hollywood types like Jackie Gleason and Ann Margret.  Still and impressive place, with beautiful rooms, lovely grounds, and especially friendly staff.   Checked in, and riding the elevator up and down had two more T-t-S. The first was compressed, with a fellow from suburban Minneapolis, who was lamenting the weather: “Well, we had 45 minutes of sun today.”  The second, slightly longer, with a young German from Munich:

Me: You sound German.  Yes?  Where are you from?
Him: Yes, from Munich.
Me: You’ve got a great country.
Him: Yes, I know.

I added a bit of shading to my assertion, about universal health care as a right enshrined in the German Constitution.  He smiled.  That encounter may well have been the first time — in decades of travel in that country, and in meeting German people elsewhere in the world — when I heard a German acknowledge without hesitation the goodness of his native land.

SmartKargo had arranged a photographer to snap photos to update their website, so I smiled through a bunch of clicks, then met the SmartKargo hosts, and in no time was glad-handing with customers from all over the world: India, Norway, Hawai’i, and more.  Had a couple of beers and a nice dinner.

Up at 5:30, just like at home, but with no dogs to walk I had time for a good ride on one of the gym’s fitness bikes.  After breakfast, it was time to stand and deliver, and the speech was well received (might even get a couple of speaking invitations from it!).  Helped a bit the rest of the day, and reimmersed in the detail of global logistics, learning, for example, that the TSA recently granted Hawaiian Airlines (a SmartKargo customer) permission to use dogs to screen air cargo for explosives; the example was remarkable: personnel had to inspect every loaf of bread flying from Honolulu to, say, Maui, and the process might take 45 minutes.  The hounds can do it in 45 seconds.  Woof!

We finished about 3:30, which gave me time to borrow one of the hotel’s sturdy bikes for a ride north on Miami Beach’s main drag, Collins Avenue, then across a canal and into a quiet residential area, La Gorce, that felt like the 1950s.  It was just so lovely, cool old houses, quiet, no tour buses or honking SUVs.  Back to the Cadillac, shower, and onto a tour bus, west to downtown, then onto the M/V Venetian Lady for a classic “booze cruise.”  On the way, had a nice conversation with Jeff from Hawaiian Airlines, a fellow bicyclist and second-generation airline guy (his dad was with Eastern Airlines for years, and Jeff had worked for Continental and United previously).  It was raining pretty hard when we arrived at the dock, and on the first hour of the boat ride, but then cleared.  A swell outing.

The La Gorce neighborhood from a distance and (below) up close.

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In the Port of Miami: above, a U.S. Navy hospital ship; below, a container ship, and smaller things that float — looked like the guy was ferrying tourists’ jetskis.

Even back four decades, I never thought of Miami nor Dade County as well planned, and this bridge to nowhere (background) was solid evidence!

Up early again Wednesday morning, pounding out 19 miles on the fitness bike, then into day two of the conference.  Finished before three, said a lot of goodbyes, and to the airport with SmartKargo’s new CFO, Mike, then flew home.

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A Week in Sweden, a Night in the Netherlands

In the Stockholm Archipelago, a group of 30,000 mostly small islands

Was home for nine days, still with “itchy feet,” so on Sunday, May 19, I headed back to Europe.  But slowly.  It was routine from Washington to New York Kennedy.  Hopped on the AirTrain at JFK and rode two stops to Terminal 5 and the “new” TWA Hotel, built around the 1962 modern terminal building by the Finnish architect Eero Saarinen (same fellow who did the soaring Washington Dulles main terminal and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis).  It was all way cool, like a museum.

Above, a restored Lockheed Constellation, and the classic 1970s departure and arrival board (from the Italian company Solari, the flipping letters and numbers were a marvel in their time). Below, an interior view, and just a few of the artifacts and memories on display.

While wandering around the hotel, a text popped up with news of a two-hour delay in my 7:25 flight to London Heathrow.  That would still give me time to make a 10:35 flight to Stockholm, and on to Umeå, my 25th visit to the university up in the forest of northern Sweden.  The 9:25 departure time rolled to 10:20, then 10:50, 11:20, 11:53.  We pushed back about midnight, then nearby thunderstorms closed departures.  We were finally aloft after 1:00.

Sprinted through Heathrow Terminal 3, bus to Terminal 2, security, hoops, then the SAS agent informed me that because the university bought me a cheap fare, I’d need to buy a new ticket, “Full Y”, about $600.  I was sure the school would reimburse me, but I had a better idea: I told the agent that I was an airline employee, and asked her if there were seats on the 6:15 flight; she replied, “More than 20.”  So in 10 minutes I not only had a $100 standby ticket (great to be an airline retiree!), but boarding passes for that flight, as well as the 300-mile hop to Umeå the next morning.  Hotels are expensive in Stockholm, but I remembered that there was a retired Singapore Airlines 747-200 converted to a “hotel.”  Better yet, it was now a youth hostel, and I’m a lifetime member of Hostelling International, so booked a tiny single for $100 – would be my second consecutive night on an airplane, which in 53 years of flight was a record.  Trips, like life, can get messed up, but the key is speedy recovery.  I was recovered!

At 5:00, it was time for a pint, so headed to the Heathrow Terminal 2 outpost of Fuller, Smith, and Turner, family brewers since 1829.  Brought this update current, sipped a cold one, then bought a sandwich and chips for the flight to Stockholm, and hopped on a SAS A320 for Stockholm.  Proof that I’m well familiar with parts of Sweden: on approach to Arlanda Airport, we flew right over a friend’s house near Uppsala, and I recognized the neighborhood from a mile above the earth.  Zipped through immigration and customs, out the door to the stop for the shuttle bus to the 747 “hotel.”  Was in my room in no time, compact but so cool – still with the overhead bins (mine had a placard for Row 33).  Slept hard.

Heathrow still life, May 20, 2019

Enroute to Stockholm

Up before six Tuesday morning, shower down the hall (it was a youth hostel!), nice breakfast in the nose of the plane, out the door, and onto a one-hour flight north to Umeå.  When I landed, I was really only about 12 hours behind schedule, not bad!   It took awhile to sort out which taxi had been booked for me, but we found it.  The driver was friendly, and not Swedish – he had emigrated from Afghanistan a decade ago, first to Greece, then up north.  I asked if he came with family.  “My father was murdered, and my mother disappeared . . .”  How does one respond?  I reached over and held his arm, expressing sympathy.  So sad.  “Life goes on,” he said, adding that he’s happy now: “I have a Swedish girlfriend, and a nice dog.”  We showed each other phone-pics of our dogs.  He owned the taxi, and had another small business.  Working hard, doing fine.  But still.

Above, my “room,” fittingly number 727; at right, you can sleep in one of the four engines. Singapore flew the jet for 8 years, then Pan Am flew it until they failed in 1991; it flew for several other carriers, finally in Sweden in 2007.  The hostel opened in 2009.

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“Sprawling Birch,” sculpture in the bag claim at Umeå airport

Checked into the hotel (Kristina at the front desk recognized me instantly, and vice-versa), dropped my luggage, and hopped onto the rental bike that the HHUS, the student business association had rented for me (as they do every year).  I was only two hours late for the first day of meetings of the school’s International Advisory Board.  Soon it was lunchtime, and we ambled across campus to IKSU, the university’s huge sports complex, for a simple salad buffet.  Umeå University is known across Sweden as a place for sports and the outdoors, and the facility was way cool.  Walked back to afternoon meetings, then rode down the hill a couple of miles to the hotel.

Kayaks for sale at IKSU

It was a glorious spring day, sunny and warm, so I changed into shorts and zoomed off on the bike, across to an island in the river, Bölesholmarna, a favorite place (it’s been at the top of my blog home page for a number of years).  Four circuits around the island, then back to the hotel.  Showered, and at 6:15 met Mika from the school, and we rode back up the hill to the home of the current B-school dean, Sofia Lundberg.  It’s always a special treat to be invited into someone’s home overseas, and fellow members of the advisory board and I had a splendid evening of conversation and wonderful food.  But I was plumb wore out, so we coasted back down the hill and I was fast asleep.

Above, dinner at Sofia’s house; below, my usual hotel breakfast (always with herring and fish-roe paste), and free waffles every afternoon

Up at six on Wednesday, out the door for 12 miles on the bike before breakfast, then suited up and rode back to the university.  Delivered a morning lecture to undergrads, then back down the hill for day two of board meetings.  Managed a short ride before dinner, which was at Köksbaren, one of the city’s fancier restaurants, simple décor but elegant food, that evening my favorite Scandinavian fish, Arctic Char (röding in Swedish).  A fabulous dinner, and fine conversation with fellow longtime board members Marian Geldner from Poland, Guy Pfeffermann from the U.S., and two Swedes.  Funny moment: we were discussing animal welfare, and one of the Swedes noted that a woman in Umeå builds little shelters for homeless porcupines.  The welfare state for prickly friends, why not?!

When we left the restaurant, the temperature was dropping, and we knew spring would not last.  Indeed.  Thursday morning, rainy, cold, windy.  Tried the bike, but it was too unpleasant, even in long pants and a raincoat, so cranked out some miles on the hotel’s fitness bike.  After breakfast, rode back up the hill to the university, worked the morning.  At lunch, I had a short T-t-S with the cafeteria cashier, a young woman from Venezuela: a story not quite as grim as the taxi driver’s, but hard.  Her mom, who she described as “a survivor,” was still there.

Rode “home” in mid-afternoon, took a needed nap, watched a Netflix movie on my iPhone, rode another ten miles on the fitness bike.  At 5:30, I ventured back into the wet, on the bike a few miles to the Gröna Älgen, the Green Moose, a neighborhood bar I spotted on my last visit, September 2018.  I sat down at the bar, and Baland, the owner, said “Hi, Professor.”  I replied with his name.  Nice!  In between him drawing beer and mixing drinks, we covered several topics: his growing business, the shitmess in the Middle East (his Kurdish family emigrated to Sweden in 1990).  Toward the end of my visit, he reminded me that he worked briefly as a journalist in Stockholm after finishing high school.  “Sort of like Mikael Blomkvist,” I said (Blomkvist was a character in Steig Larsson’s trilogy about the “girl” Swedish hacker and activist Lisbeth Salander).  He said, “Yes, exactly, he was fictional, but an inspiration.”  So cool.  Rode back to the hotel, ate a nice dinner (one of the hotel’s many comforts is a free dinner each evening, simple but fresh), and was asleep early.

Above left, the view from my room, and right, a rainy main street; below, Baland at his bar, and a patron with baby on his chest; the tot started to cry, so the fellow drank quickly.

Up at six Friday morning, breakfast, and rode a few blocks to the Folkets Hus, a city-owned meeting space.  From eight to nine delivered a talk to about 100 people from the Umeå Marketing Association.  My long local friend Nils Paulson invited me for a third time (previous visits in 2011 and ’14).  After the talk, had a nice chat with Nils’ wife Carolina, who is studying to become a Lutheran priest, and son Johan, now 15, who is a bright kid and talented violinist.  I wish I had time to visit their home to see their other two kids, Petter and Olle.  The Paulsons are a wonderful window on Sweden.

Like a yo-yo, back up the hill to the university, and my “corner office” in the business school.  Worked the morning, brought this journal up to date, and ate a quick salad lunch.  At 2:45, I met Johan from HHUS, and set up in their student-run pub, the E-Pub, for the seventh annual “Drink and Learn.”  The club likes the event because they fill the place (and sell a lot of beer); by 3:15 about 100 kids were packed in.  All that blonde hair reminded me of being in a tavern in northern Minnesota.  I delivered a talk on crisis management.  Not everyone in the pub was listening by the end (a hazard, I suppose, of selling beer on Friday afternoon!), so we ended abruptly.  Students came forward to ask questions, one bought me a shot of tequila, and I soon rode back down the hill.

Soon-to-graduate USBE students

Changed into a suit and tie, and at seven we walked a block to a dinner marking the 30th anniversary of the business school (as a marker of my long connection, I was also at the 10th and 20th).  The dinner was long but fun, an opportunity to say hello to many Umeå friends, especially “old timers.”  I sat next to the former vice-chancellor of the university, Ulla Blomkvist, who I had not seen in years, and hugged lots of others.  A nice evening.

Six hours of sleep (not enough), up Saturday morning at 5:30.  I could have snoozed a bit longer, but it had stopped raining, and I wanted one more circuit around that special island, Bölesholmarna.  Back to the hotel, shower, breakfast, and onto an 8:00 flight back to Stockholm.  I was excited, because I was bound for two days at the summer cabin of former AA colleague (and fellow Minnesotan) Don Langford and his wife Sooz.  They built the cabin (called a stuga in Swedish), on Aspö, a small island in the Stockholm Archipelago, a decade earlier; for years we talked about a visit, and it was finally going to happen.  Woo hoo!

Above, scenes from a last ride around Bölesholmarna (the beaver’s work happened while I was in town!); below left, the first traditional Swedish house I ever saw, back in 1994, still looks the same.

Hopped on the airport bus into town, then walked across a bridge into the Gamla Stan, the old town.  Took some photos and as I got to the end of Stora Nygatan (“Big New Street”) I was reminded of why it’s good to be an active observer when you travel: I was admiring – as I always do – architectural ornamentation in Stockholm, and spotted a plaque.  It was in Swedish, but I got the gist: the French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes spent the last months of his life in the building.  Cogito ergo suum!

Above and below, government and royal buildings in central Stockholm, and some nice detail at bottom.

Walked across another bridge and into the Slussen district, in the throes of a massive re-do of streets and buildings.  Found the big Slussen bus stop, bought a ticket, and hopped on the 434 bus, motoring east for 45 minutes, through affluent, low-density suburbs, past small lakes and sea bays, to the small burg of Stavsnäs.  I had an hour before the 1:15 ferry to Aspö, so ambled into a little bakery for a sandwich and a pastry.  Had a lovely T-t-S that started when an older woman spoke to me in Swedish (I think she was commenting on the tasty free samples the bakery was offering); her 40-ish daughter jumped in, and we had a nice conversation.  She had been an exchange student in a small town in Wisconsin, her brother was home visiting from Vermont.  Always fun to talk to strangers.  About 12:45, lots of folks began to arrive for the boat, many carting supplies to the dock, including lots of garden stuff: bags of topsoil (in most of Sweden, rock is always near the surface), flowers, even small trees, all to be hefted onto the vessel.

Above, the dock and ferry; below, enroute to see Don and Sooz, who are waiting near the dock at right. At bottom, the main path running along the spine of Aspö.

The ferry stopped a couple of times, but it still only took 31 minutes to reach Aspö.  Don and Sooz were waiting at the dock.  Hugs all around, and introductions to island neighbors who were also on the ferry.  We walked about a half-mile to the cabin (the island has no roads).  My digs were in an adjacent guest house.  Dropped my stuff, relaxed for a bit, then Don and I took a good walk around the northern part of the island (it’s about a mile long and about one-third mile wide).  The sun came out, and we sat on their deck and yakked and yakked.  Had a drink, then tucked into baked salmon, rice, and salad, a lovely dinner.  By nine I was plumb wore out.  Slept hard, almost ten hours.

Above, the cabin, built largely on rock; below, wild flowers, and at bottom cultivated blossoms

I generated this map of the island on my iPhone, from the website of the Swedish Land Registration Authority; ya gotta love handy IT!

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We had a leisurely start Sunday morning, coffee, cereal, flatbread, very Swedish simple breakfast.  Don showed pictures (on his wide-screen TV) of the whole building process from 2008-09.  Some people just write a check for a summer home, but Don, Sooz, and their son Grant (a teenager at the time) were part of the construction.  That was way cool.  They worked hard, really hard.  If you want to see more, go to Don’s blog.

Above, Don showing images from cabin construction, and tending to a small modification. Below, scenes from our island walkabout: snails are everywhere, and the uprooted tree was from a big winter storm in January — trees spread roots, but the thin topsoil sits on solid igneous rock (reddish brown).

Don and I then went on a long walk to explore the rest of the island, up a hill to the top, across the rocky spine, stopped to chat with neighbors I met the day before.  Back to the cabin for a bowl of soup.  Took a nice nap.  The day alternated between rain and sun; it cleared again about five, and the wind calmed, so I talked Don into a ride around the island in his small boat, about 12 minutes.  Back to the cabin for some spirited rounds of the card game Uno, drinks, and a colossal dinner of steak and potatoes.  So good.  This was a good life, one that Don and Sooz earned through decades of slogging in the airline business, mostly for American (but the last three years with Virgin Atlantic in London).

Above, Sunday dinnertime scenes; below, the Langford’s way cool incinerating toilet — it works the way it sounds, with no water

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Slept a long time Sunday night, too, up at seven, slow pace, repeat of the day before.  At 9:30, we walked to the dock for the 9:55 ferry back to Stavsnäs.  A few islanders were there, and we had a nice yak with an older couple, Lennart and Marie.  Hugs and goodbyes and many thanks, and off I sailed. Lennart invited me to sit with them, and we chatted the whole ride.  After I told him I was, like Don, an airline guy, the man, semi-retired, peppered me with questions about safety and accidents: the 737 MAX, of course, and many more.  He jointly owned a machine-tool business in Cologne, Germany, and kept busy with other stuff.  Another nice small window on Sweden.  The Swedes live well, that was one of the main conclusions of the weekend!

At the ferry dock: wheelbarrows for transporting stuff across the island, and the island library inside the shelter at the ferry stop.

A helpful MTR ticket agent (the MTR is Hong Kong’s public transit, and they now operate systems in other cities) sold me a senior stored value card, a good purchase for what I hope are many returns to Stockholm.  It was already lunch time, so I zipped into the Coop supermarket in the main railway station, and was delighted to see a salad bar.  I’m a huge vegetable eater at home, but when traveling I don’t get enough, so I loaded up, plus a hearty wholemeal baguette and, yes, a real Coca-Cola.  Ambled out the door and onto a park bench for a picnic, something I’ve been doing in Europe for almost 50 years.

Prized possessions: senior fare cards to Stockholm and Washington transit

Refueled, I set off for a walk through a familiar part of the city.  First stop was a hotel washroom (see above from three weeks earlier).  My slight guilt about free-riding at the Radisson Blu Hotel was assuaged: for more than 30 years, my salesman father pumped a lot of money into the Radisson Hotel in Minneapolis.  Two or three times a year, he would rent what was called a “sample room” in the hotel, to show his lines of gloves and slippers; store buyers from across the Upper Midwest would come to him, reversing the usual travel.

Paused at Adolf Fredriks Church for daily prayers, up the hill past the Stockholm School of Economics (I’d be back there in September), then south through Vasa Park (Vasaparken) to the airport bus stop at St. Eriksplan.  Small setback: as the bus pulled away, I was still standing in the aisle, getting settled, and we lurched hard, bending (but not breaking) my wire eyeglass frames.  Happily, I travel with a spare pair.

Above, Adolf Fredriks Church; below, a candidate for the European Parliament employs another “make great” expression — “Lagom” is a distinctly Swedish word that roughly means “just right” or “in moderation.”

You can learn a lot about a society’s values by paying attention to their parks; I’ve long enjoyed ambling through Vasaparken

Flew to Amsterdam, arriving at 6:20.  The plan was to sleep in a cool Airbnb on the Amstel River, halfway between the airport and the center.  The host, Marga, emailed me Sunday that there would be a transport strike all day Tuesday, shutting rail, trams, buses, Metro.  Yow!  So Plan B was effected: get back to the airport before the strike began (estimated to be 3:00 AM), which required me to cancel the Airbnb.  Being thrifty, I thought “Who needs a $200 hotel for six hours?”  So I hopped on the train into the city, then Tram 14 to the Brouwerij t’Ij visited seven weeks earlier.  Got there at 7:50, and the friendly barmaids informed me they were closing in 10 minutes.  I smiled and said “Okay, I won’t stop you from clocking out.”  One of them said, “You’re so nice,” and proceeded to draw me a second beer for free.  “That’s why I love the Dutch,” said your scribe.  They let me stay a bit past eight, but I ambled out, suitcase in tow, and onto Tram 7, then the Metro, and a short walk to another microbrewery, Troost.  The place was relatively empty, and had fast wi-fi, so I found a stool in the corner of the place, facing a big courtyard garden, and did some work, with beer and dinner.

Below the windmill, my second visit in two months; right, my “corner office” at Troost

At 10:45, I ambled to the Metro, then the train back to the airport, and went searching for a nice bench.  Alas, Schiphol is not equipped for bench surfing – way different from my last airport-bench overnights at Frankfurt and Chicago O’Hare.  But a coffee shop was closed, and fellow surfers were claiming booths for their beds.  I grabbed a bench, alas too short for legs to be flat, but workable; I slept really hard, most of it sitting up with my head on the table and a sweater as pillow.  The police rousted us at 5:20, because the coffee shop was opening.  That was fine, because the Business Class lounge opened at 6:00.  Zipped in, cleaned up, changed clothes, worked a bit, and at 10:55 flew to Philadelphia, then on to Washington.  It took awhile to go the last 120 miles, because of spring thunderstorms, but I got home safe and sound.  And that was the end of the “spring semester” abroad.

 

More cool public art in Philadelphia Airport: “Plastic Archipelago,” by Amy Orr; the airport is marking 20 years of art in the terminals.

 

 

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Germany for a Workweek, and Always Glad to Be There

One of Germany’s biggest infrastructure projects, a re-do of the Stuttgart main railway station and surrounding district. The work has been underway for years, and on twice-yearly visits I didn’t sense much progress. I finally took time to study the explanatory signboards and, slap my forehead, now I get it: they are rotating the tracks 90 degrees, building new tunnels, and more. We Americans talk about fixing transport infrastructure; Germans get it done.

I was home for the whole of April, after returning from Europe.  By May, I had what my mother called “Itchy Feet,” so on Sunday the 5th I flew to Germany via Charlotte for a week of teaching.  Landed Frankfurt Monday morning, an hour late, stressing a bit about making my connection to the train south to Stuttgart and Tübingen.  Thanks to German efficiency – a new, faster shuttle bus from terminal to airport train station – I actually caught an earlier train.  Enroute to Mannheim, had a brilliant Talking-to-Strangers time with a Dutchman, CEO of a midsize software company, working mostly in Germany but still living in his hometown of Breda, south of Rotterdam.  We covered a lot of topics, notably the astonishing pace of IT change in the last decades.

Left, yellow fields of canola east of Frankfurt; right, the high-rise downtown and Main River. Below, my Dutch seatmate on the ICE to Mannheim.

Had an hour between trains in Stuttgart, and needed to pee, so I followed my dad’s direction – developed over years of driving across the Midwest – and looked for a nice hotel near the station.  And there it was, right across the street: the Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin (yep, named for the blimp). Posh, clean men’s room, and a warm lobby. As Cliff Britton taught me decades ago, you walk in the front door, make it look like you belong, and no one bothers you!   Refreshed and warmed up (it was 42° F, chilly, and the station was unheated), I ambled back across, through the station, and onto the local train to Tübingen.

Apartments in Plochingen, east of Stuttgart, designed by the Austrian artist and (whimsical) architect Hundertwasser.

Walked a few blocks to my Airbnb, met Vera, the owner, and in no time I was living like a local, in a large one-bedroom apartment.  Dropped my stuff and walked a few more blocks south, through a neighborhood where I stayed (in another Airbnb) on my first trip to Tübingen in 2015, to Gastätte Loretto, a restaurant operated entirely by people with varied disabilities; I found it quite by accident while looking on Google Maps for the location of my digs.  As it says on their website, “People with disabilities can find workplaces suited to their abilities in all areas of gastronomy – kitchen, service, and housekeeping. Many gain confidence in meeting guests and discover new abilities.”  Hooray for that!  And lunch was superb – a huge bowl of tortellini Alfredo and salad.  It reminded me of Day by Day Café in St. Paul, where recovering addicts have run a successful eatery for almost 40 years.  You feel good when you support places like that.

Above, pleasant, solid houses in my Tübingen neighborhood; below, the Gasthaus Loretto and a cool BMW with sidecar; at bottom, the old town at dusk.

Ambled back to the apartment, took a needed nap, went out for breakfast fixings, and worked a bit.  At 6:30, I walked across the Neckar River and into Tübingen’s old town, the Altstadt, for dinner at Forelle, a nice restaurant.  Spring is asparagus season, Spargelzeit, in Germany, so I tucked into some fresh white spears, simply prepared with butter, with a German-style savory pancake.   Just after the server brought me a glass of wine, the owner asked if a solo diner could join my table, common practice in Europe.  “Of course,” I replied, and a friendly fellow of about my age sat down, to begin the second great T-t-S of the day. Ulrich Deiters, known as Ulli, was back visiting the university where he studied to become a teacher four decades earlier.  We covered lots of topics, laughed a lot, and I learned a bunch. Just one small-world tidbit: in the middle of the 19th Century, his great-great-grandfather owned a clothing store on in Münster (a city where I also teach, and know quite well), number 48 on the premier shopping street called the Prinzipalmarkt.  It was the only building that survived multiple Allied bombings during World War II.  I would have stayed longer at table, but I had a 9:00 PM client call.

Inside the cozy Forelle restaurant, and my agreeable tablemate Ulli

The view from my Airbnb apartment

Up early Tuesday morning, brewed a pot of coffee (nice to be in a homey place), ate breakfast, and hopped on the train and bus to the European School of Business, ESB, at nearby Reutlingen University.  Worked the morning in the Mensa (student cafeteria), ate lunch, and at 1:00 joined a group of faculty and fellow part-time teachers for a meeting with a review team from the AACSB, the (once American but now global) accreditation body for business schools.  ESB had applied to be certified, and we were trying to help secure approval.  Meeting was easy and positive.  From 3:30 to 5:00 I spoke to three combined classes, a good talk.  My longtime host Oliver Götz and I then drove into downtown Reutlingen for beer and dinner.  It was a sunny spring afternoon, and we sat in the biergarten of Barfüsser, an agreeable brewpub, and had a nice chat.  Oliver dropped me at the station, hopped the train back to Tübingen (11 minutes, quick), and headed home.  Lights out early.

The view of Reutlingen University from my familiar “corner office” in the Mensa

Wednesday morning, time to move on.  Took the local train back to Stuttgart and the fast (ICE) train north through Frankfurt to the second school, University of Kassel.  Met long friend and young host Patrick Rath at the station at 12:20, and we drove downtown for lunch, then a nice walk in a big park, past an Orangerie built by one of the German kaisers.  Back up the hill to pick up daughter Lotte, already seven (she’s the up-and-coming ice hockey player described in a previous update).  It was fun to walk through a German elementary school; it was still the lunch hour and it was as actually a bit wilder than a U.S. school: kids pushing and shoving, playing ball, running through the halls, zipping around the playground.  We drove back to the Raths’ apartment.  I worked a bit, spoke to Patrick’s partner Elli when she returned from work, and at 5:45 walked a couple of blocks to meet a handful of business students from CTK, a student-run consulting firm (I’ve known the group for many years).  Did an informal Q&A for an hour, then we all hopped on the streetcar a mile or so to Lohmann, Kassel’s oldest pub.  It was raining hard, so we couldn’t sit in the biergarten, but had beer and dinner inside.  Patrick joined the group at 8:45.  Jumped in
Patrick’s car, drove home, and slept hard.

In the huge, leafy central park in Kassel; below, scenes of the Orangerie

Spring flowers in the Raths’ kitchen

Elli and I walked Lotte to school, then we hopped on the #1 tram out to the railway station and onto a fast train 30 miles north to Göttingen, an historic university town (Elli works for the school).  You immediately knew from the people on the street that this was an academic, intellectual place.  We walked a few blocks from station into town.  Elli peeled off, and I set out exploring the compact old town within ancient walls.  Very cool old town hall, churches, academic buildings.  Stopped for a coffee and bread roll.  Fortified, I climbed the spire of the St. Jacobi (Lutheran) Church.  I love church towers and have been up many in Germany, but this one (built almost 600 years ago, 1427-33) was both really high and sort-of-challenging, because more than half of the 200 feet of climb was on ladders.  It was not dangerous, but slightly rickety – some of the railings wobbled, and you needed to duck in places, because centuries ago people were shorter!  The views from the top were superb, once I figured out how to open the wooden shutters.

Above left, the “Ganseliesel,” Göttingen’s most famous sculpture, a girl bringing her goose to market; at right, the old town hall, 15th Century. Below, ceiling and wall frescoes in the old town hall.

Above, shop windows in town; below, the 18th Century university Aula (auditorium)

Above and below, the town has lots of wonderful half-timbered buildings, many ornately decorated; below at right, a turret in the corner of the old town hall and a nearby church.

Above, St. Jakobi Church and the entrance to the rectory; below, one of the tower ladders.

Above, views from the tower; below, my man Martin Luther and distinct columns (they create a distorting optical effect) inside St. Jakobi.

Above, Michaelishaus; below, facades on the main shopping street; at bottom, architectural detail in a very old place.

Climbed down, ambled back to the station (passing an academic building, the Michaelishaus, where, according to a plaque, Benjamin Franklin visited for two days in 1766), south to Kassel, onto the tram to the university.  At 1:30, I met doctoral students Sven and Florian for lunch at the Mensa, second such lunch in three days, big plate of gnocchi with side vegetables.  Had a good chat about their research.  At 3:30, I met their boss, Andreas Mann, the Marketing Chair, for a short chat, then walked to class in a huge lecture hall, 175 students.  Technical problems: only the lectern microphone worked, and I hate to stand at a podium, so I mostly hollered for an hour as I moved across the stage, but it all went well.  Chatted briefly with the team, then hopped back on the tram to the station.

Herr Scheidemann lived in the same buildings as the Raths; he was a Social Democratic politician and one of the founders of the Weimar Republic; he fled Germany after the Nazis took power.

I was returning home the next morning, Frankfurt-Charlotte, and the scheduled departure is 9:20, so I couldn’t stay in Kassel.  I hate airport hotels, so I booked a room in Wiesbaden, a pleasant city 40 minutes from the airport.  The ICE (fast train) left Kassel on time, and we were zipping along, then stalled in Fulda, an hour from Frankfurt, for 20 minutes.  We rolled on, slowly, then 10 minutes later stalled in the burg called Schlüchtern.  I could only pick out a few words from the German PA announcement, but people were grabbing their stuff and racing for the doors, so I followed the crowd, across to an adjacent track and onto a regional train to Frankfurt.  That one was late, too.  By that point, dinner in Wiesbaden was out, so I grabbed a pickled herring sandwich and a beer in the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, then onto a suburban train, munching happily.  The hotel was less than five minutes from the Wiesbaden Hauptbahnhof, so was asleep quickly.

Up at six, to the airport by 7:20, zip, zip, zip.  Then another stall: the Charlotte flight was late, but I passed some of the time in a happy T-t-S with a native Californian who had served in the Army for 30 years, all of it in Germany, his German wife, and seriously cute five-year-old daughter (who was wearing a T-shirt that read “Straight Outta Time Out”).  We talked about the Cold War, all the changes since, and more.  When we parted, I thanked him for keeping us (and Western Europe) free during the Cold War.  Really nice people.

I sped through Charlotte airport, from arrival gate through Customs to departure gate in under 20 minutes, and onto a flight to Dulles.  A thunderstorm right over that field closed operations, so we sat in North Carolina for an hour, but was home by 6:45, Henry and MacKenzie on leashes.

American Airlines’ gate agent at Charlotte, one of the millions of airline people who keep us moving every day; at right, the muddy Potomac River near Washington Dulles Airport.

 

 

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London, Amsterdam, and Hamburg

Amsterdam at sunset

On March 24, the day after teaching all day in the first of three sessions of a Georgetown marketing elective, I headed back to Europe for the third time in two months, for three schools in London.  Flew to JFK, then across to Heathrow.  Along the way, I watched the movie “First Man,” about U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong.  Fifty-plus years ago, when NASA was determined to put a man on the moon, they sugar-coated a lot of the danger, which was evident in the film. (Now I know why my mom used to sob during the countdown to blast-off!).   Landed at sunrise, and just like in Canada the week before, my iPhone wasn’t working.  No cell carrier in the UK.  I had time, so I connected to T-Mobile – which has otherwise been a superb carrier – and started down a long path that, after more than hour, resulted in no solution.  So I hopped on the Tube, and by long tradition cued The Beatles, for a proper welcome to England.  Changed trains twice, then a short walk to the home of my long friend Omar Merlo in Kew.  Hugs to Omar and wife Carolyn (the phone snafu caused me to miss the walk to school with daughter Sophie, 10, and Freddie, 7), then some raucous playtime with their golden retriever Mr. Waffles.

The view from above, on approach to New York Kennedy from the west: beaches on the south verges of Brooklyn, Manhattan in the distance, and unimaginative (private) apartments in Queens. Below, Canary Wharf, the highrise office district just east of central London

 

The Merlos, minus Carolyn: Freddie and Sophie, Mr. Waffles, and Omar

It was a gorgeous spring morning, cool but sunny, and Omar kindly loaned one of his bikes.  I know the area pretty well, so headed to the River Thames, and followed a path (sometimes paved, sometimes not) along its winding course, upstream eight miles to Kingston-on-Thames.  Although it was a Monday, the Brits were out in full force, mothers with tots in prams, runners, lots of people walking their dogs.  It was great fun, and a wonderful way to start the trip.

Above and below, scenes along the River Thames, upstream from Kew

Artist Oliver Maughan at work by Richmond; the present work, and those visible on a gallery website, were truly lovely.

I stopped in “downtown” Kew for a large tub of yogurt, breakfast (the dinner on the flight was big), drained it on a bench in front of the Tesco (supermarket), and rode back to the Merlos.  Yakked a bit with Omar, through the stuffed red fox for Waffles to fetch, and at 12:30 headed into central London.  In my quest for more and different Indian food, I tracked down Diwana Bhel Poori House, a tiny hole-in-the-wall a block from Euston (railway) Station.  Pure vegetarian, they had an awesome lunch buffet, and I tucked in.  Even got a second helping of rice and daal (lentils). Not crazy-hot, but spicy.  The place was packed.

Fortified, I walked east to the British Library.  Their lobby desks and chairs are always packed, so I asked about the reading rooms.  Easy access, you just need to register, and in no time I had an ID that has added about 20 points to my IQ.  Spent the rest of the afternoon in their Business and IP Collection, working on the next Georgetown lecture, and keeping this journal current.

The simple design of the British Library and the “old way,” rich detail and decor of the St. Pancras railway station

At the British Library bookshop

British conservatives deride the “nanny state,” and signs like this reinforce the view, even to a moderate like me!

At six, I hopped on the Tube and train to Clapham Junction in South London walked a block to the Falcon, an agreeable old pub (lots of wood), and soon met a mentee, Freddie Brodermann, now working for Virgin Atlantic Airways.   Two airline geeks sorting out the business, great fun for a couple of hours.  But I was plumb wore out, so hopped on a suburban train west, stopped at a supermarket for a ready-made dinner (bangers and mash, a British classic), and walked a mile back to the Merlos.  Was soon asleep.

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Up early Tuesday, walked the kids to school with Carolyn and Mr. Waffles, then hopped on the Tube into town.  Spent an agreeable morning in the Wellcome Collection, a museum and library established my Henry Wellcome, the Wisconsin-born founder of a big UK pharmaceutical firm – and now part of GlaxoSmithKline.  It had been some years since I was there, and their motto, “for the incurably curious” certainly fits your scribe.  The museum part has a permanent collection, and rotating special exhibitions, in this instance a wonderful display of a “Global Clinic,” a low-tech design for a mobile clinic for poor countries – the entire structure could be built inexpensively from pre-cut plywood kits, and assembled with only a mallet (fastened with either friction or wing nuts).  Fascinating stuff.

The Global Clinic: plans, mockup, and detail of joints

The Library of the Human Genome at Wellcome; 3 billion letters in 109 books, “instructions on how to build one person”

 

I hopped on a bike from the Santander bikeshare, and road two miles south to Whitehall.  Spent an agreeable 45 minutes reading in St. James Square, one of London’s nicest.  At 12:45, met my long ex-BA friend David Holmes for lunch at his Oxford and Cambridge Club.  Neckties required, very old school (indeed, David quit years ago over their refusal to admit women, and rejoined only last year).  The main dining room was splendid (an enormous portrait of King William IV towered over me), food great, and conversation lively as ever.  David is a fount of useful information about the island, and a man of strong, logic-based views.  It’s always such a treat.

St. James’s Square; the fences are being returned to their original design; during World War II they were pulled down to be used for cannonballs and other munitions. As the Brits say, “Needs must”!

After a long lunch, it was time to stand and deliver, so hopped on the bike and rode east two miles to my 21st appearance at the London School of Economics.  Students were a diverse and engaged lot; during the mid-lecture break, a student asked me where I was from.  “Minnesota,” I replied, and she said, “I knew it.  I could tell by the accent.  I’m from Minnesota, too.”  A wonderful moment.  I peeled off after the talk down the hill to the Temple Underground station, which was packed, as were the trains – never in all my London visits had three trains departed with no room for a skinny standee.  But I finally made it on, and was back in Kew before dinner.  Omar had cooked a splendid dinner of steak and Swiss hash browns (rösti).  Helped clean up the kitchen, then clocked out.

St. Clement Danes, another design of Christopher Wren, and statues of Prime Minister William Gladstone, and the heroic Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, head of the RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain

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The Subaru dealer in Kew also sells exotic and collectible cars, like this “flower power” Mercedes; below, genuine spring flower power

Like Monday, Wednesday was another free day.  After walking the kids to school, I hopped back on Omar’s bike, this time riding downstream along the Thames.  Back home, did a bit of work, and took the Tube to Notting Hill and another annual lunch, this time with Sir Geoffrey Owen, my original LSE host, and former editor of the Financial Times.  Back-to-back lunches with active octogenarians was inspiring, for sure.  I was a little pressed for time, but we managed to cover a number of current topics in business and society.  Always interesting to get the British view.  Zipped back home for a call with a consulting client.

At four I hopped on the train east to Vauxhall, to have a look at the new U.S. Embassy in Nine Elms, former industrial land being redeveloped mostly for housing.  The embassy building was attractive, and the place was more accessible and less “paranoid” than I expected (though I still counted at least a dozen police with automatic weapons around the perimeter).  But I found the new district creepy: way too dense, little green space, almost inhumane.  The triumph of private development with, in my view, insufficient public input.  Hopped the train back, ate another read-made supermarket dinner, watched TV with Omar and Carolyn, and was asleep by 9:45.

The new U.S. Embassy; below, the unimaginative Nine Elms landscape, and a nicer view, downstream on the Thames

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Up even earlier Thursday morning, back to work: on the Tube to Baker Street and a lecture at London Business School (my second visit of 2019).  Finished there at ten, back on the train to a second visit to Imperial Business School.  I had a couple of hours, so did some work in a cubicle adjacent to the aeronautical engineering department (appropriate!).  Met Omar for lunch at one (the Brit version of a Midwestern tuna-noodle hot dish, true comfort food!), and from 2:15 to 4:00 delivered a talk to 15 MBA students.   Omar headed home, and I zipped up to his office, changed into jeans, and did a bit of work.  Spent a happy 30 minutes reconnecting with Calgary (Alberta, Canada) buddy Jeff Angel, a long friend and work colleague.  At 6:15 I walked back to the Tube, rode through rush hour to Liverpool Street Station, bought sandwiches and two beers for dinner (after the big casserole lunch), and hopped on the train to Harwich.

The “angel halo” above the fan assembly of a Rolls-Royce jet engine seems entirely appropriate: few inventions have improved our world like the jet plane; in the aero engineering department of Imperial College

I was bound for The Netherlands, and the original plan was to fly home from there, avoiding, as I have many times, the UK departure tax, now up to $285.  But a few weeks earlier, I found a way to attend the big airline interiors and catering show in Hamburg, last visited in 2012.  It started in a few days, so I arranged to spend the weekend in and around Amsterdam.  The ferry was uncharacteristically late (a steward later explained that they were having engine trouble, but repairs were imminent), so we waited in the terminal for about an hour.  Once on board, I found my comfy small cabin and was soon fast asleep.

“Heart-attack” English breakfast on the ferry, and the funnel of the Stena Line ship; below, the view from deck, on the North Sea and Rotterdam harbor

The delay enabled another hour of sleep, welcome.  Headed to the buffet for breakfast and plenty of coffee.  On all previous sailings, it was still dark when we arrived in the Dutch port, Hoek van Holland, but it was light and sunny.  After breakfast I headed out on the deck to watch us arrive, then grabbed my stuff, zipped down a long loading bridge, and just made the 9:30 bus to Schiedam.  Onto the train into Rotterdam, then north to Amsterdam.   Lots of quintessential Dutch sights along the way.  Lots of canals and dikes, of course; as I have often noted in these pages, these folks know how to handle water; indeed the need to keep it at bay has deeply influenced their culture, creating a more cooperative, “in this together” mindset.  Also saw lots of bike paths, clearly demarcated with brick-red pavement; lots of swimming birds (geese, ducks, snowy-white swans); an old windmill here and there; dozens of huge greenhouses; and some sheep and horses, but no pigs and few cows.  It was a nice ride.

On the train to Amsterdam; greening fields, and a preserved windmill in the parking lot of a McDonald’s

 

Arrived at the Holiday Inn Express, adjacent to a huge sports arena on the edge of town (therefore way cheaper) at 11:45.  Happily, they had a room ready, so I dropped my stuff, walked back to the station, bought a two-day ticket for the GVB, the local transit, and hopped on the Metro into town.  First stop was the memorial to Walraven van Hall (1909-1945), a banker who became the banker of the Dutch resistance during World War II; he’s the subject of a superb film, “The Resistance Banker,” available on Netflix – it was that movie that prompted the visit.  The memorial was stop one that Friday not only because I wanted to see it since watching the film, but because of a deep interest in remembering.  Indeed, when pausing at the memorial, I thought we ought perhaps to phrase these things in the positive: “Always Remember” is in many ways better than “Never Forget.”  And in light of growing intolerance, nascent Nazis, and the like, again I thought of William Faulkner’s sage advice: “The past isn’t dead.  It isn’t even past.”

The Bijlmer commercial district south of Amsterdam, one of several suburban office clusters looking very much like the U.S., in contrast to the traditional cityscape below, along the Amstel River

At left, three-or four story townhouses typically have a hook atop the gable, for hauling furniture into upper floors; right, detail on a townhouse facade

The tree-like memorial to the resistance banker Walraven van Hall

Next stop was also pretty remarkable.  A month earlier, I read an article in The New York Times about a young Dutch art collector, Jan Six XI (yes, the eleventh), who in 2016 found the first original Rembrandt in 40 years (there’s some debate, but to me it has been authenticated). He opens his family’s art collection, in their wonderful old mansion on the Amstel River to anyone interested, but there’s a months-long wait; the article noted that if you look carefully in a second-floor window you can see Rembrandt’s portrait of the first Jan Six.  So of course I had to try.  Walked a few blocks from the van Hall memorial, admiring the classic Amsterdam gable houses along canals, and found Amstel 218.  It was a sunny day, and the sun angle created a lot of glare, but I spotted a gold frame through a window.  As I was walking away, I caught the eye of a young man inside.  He opened the door, and I asked “is that the Rembrandt portrait of Jan Six I?”  He said no, the portrait was one floor down, and behind closed curtains.  “But I’ll open them” he said.  Another reason to love the Dutch, I thought, and in a minute or two the curtains were open.  It was impossible to see any detail, but it was really more the idea . . .

At left, the gold frame of the Rembrandt work is just visible up a floor at Amstel 218; right a less-than-seaworthy boat on the Herengracht canal

Day and night views of the “Skinny Bridge” over the Amstel

I have long admired Dutch urban planning, and before the trip I did a little research on a couple of new neighborhoods to see, so I walked across the Amstel River, hopped back on the Metro and the #34 bus.  With a little triangulating found De Ceuvel, a tiny residential district built largely of recycled materials, including, yes, old boats, and all designed to minimize environmental impact.  The place had a distinctly New Age feel, very earnest and upbeat.  You walked around the place on a winding (wooden) boardwalk.

Boardwalks and recycled boats in DeCeuvel; below, a different vision for Dutch urban planning, across the water from DeCeuvel

Ambled back to the bus line, rode two stops, and walked a few blocks to Oedipus, a craft brewery.  After the massive breakfast, I only needed a bit, so tucked into a basket of French fries, a dish the Dutch have truly perfected (they were so crispy, served with piquant ketchup and the traditional mayonnaise), as well as a small glass of tropical IPA.  Yum.  Walked back to the Metro, back to the main station and onto a tram to Ijburg, a new and attractive linear neighborhood built on reclaimed land (as is much of Holland, a place at, or in some cases below, sea level.

Above and below, scenes from Oedipus Brewing; the Dutch know their fries!

In the Ijburg neighborhood

Amsterdam’s vehicle of choice: my kind of place! But (below) they also offer superb public transit: suburban trains, Metros, trams

I had been moving quickly that day, so headed back to the hotel to relax for a bit.  Then back into the city (the Metro took only 16 minutes), wandering canals before heading to dinner at Tujuh Maret, an Indonesian restaurant (the Dutch East Indian Company colonized much of that country starting in the 17th Century, and The Netherlands has lots of Indonesian food).  The traditional rijstaffel, a meal of many small dishes, was only available for two persons or more, but I managed a lot of variety with a different choice.  The waiter asked “how spicy?” and I replied “Very.  Dial it up.  I love peppers.”  So they did.  It was a nice dinner.   It was 7:55 PM, time to get back to work: sat down on a bench along the Amstel River and took a call with a potential client for 20 minutes.  Then Metro back to the hotel and a long sleep.

Gables feature prominently in historic Dutch architecture; at left, the main railway station, Centraal; at right, atop a canalside townhouse

Dinner at Tujuh Maret

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The Rijksmuseum, one of my favorite museums in all the world; last visited in 1986, it was good to be back, with much renovation and improvement in between

 

Up at six Saturday morning, to the hotel gym for 10 miles on a bike, then breakfast, and out the door at eight, Metro and tram to the famous Rijksmuseum, Holland’s venerable art gallery, for “All the Rembrandts,” a blockbuster show to mark the 350th anniversary of his death.  I bought a timed-entry ticket online, and was the first visitor into the show.  It was colossal – more than 400 works, mostly etchings and pen-and-ink, but paintings as well.  To describe Rembrandt as a genius understates his talent.  He could capture the inner person, the soul, on the faces of his subjects (including lots of self-portraits).  His subjects were broad: Bible scenes (from the Old Testament to Jesus’ death and resurrection); portraits of the well-to-do; landscapes, and the ordinary, like a pancake seller (the food truck of the 17th Century), a sow at the Amsterdam pig market, and a fat guy peeing in the street.  Adjacent descriptions were well-written and not elitist; one panel noted that Rembrandt “suffered financial difficulties” toward the end of his life.  I asked a nearby guard, and he replied, “drunk, women, spending too much.”  Not unlike some famous artists today.  Here are just a handful of his exhibited works:

Self-portraits as an older, and young, man

He was a master at capturing ordinary life: the pancake vendor (predecessor of today’s food truck; note the dog trying to grab the kid’s morsel), and a man peeing in the gutter

Detail from portrait of newly-married Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit; note the gleam of her pearl necklace, earrings, and pendant. Whew, the man could paint, but more, could see into the soul of his subjects.

Rembrandt’s etching of the original Jan Six (different from the painting referenced above)

Top,”Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild”, and “The Night Watch”

 

I wanted to spend time in the rest of the museum, which included his famous, enormous “Night Watch (immediately above),” and scores of other works by painters of the Dutch Golden Age, like Vermeer and Jan Steen.  There were also rooms that interpreted Dutch history in art and artifacts, including their maritime exploits – as I have written before, the Dutch pioneered globalization in the 1600s, and the wealth (including ill-gotten gains) that flowed into the country was remarkable, and visible today in the Amsterdam cityscape.  Altogether a remarkable morning.

Vermeer, master of light

Jan Steen, master of capturing authentic disorder!

Avercamp’s “Winter Landscape with Skaters,” and close-up of 17th Century hockey player (the sport was called “colf”)

Lots of decorative arts to show up the nation’s wealth 350 years back

Life imitates art, or vice-versa; at the gift shop I could not resist the Playmobil version of the bride and groom (scroll to bottom for update!)

Hopped on Tram #19 to a suburban station, then on the train west 10 minutes to (the original) Haarlem, then north a mile to Bloemendaal.  At the top of the platform stairs was my good friend Jan Meurer to hug and welcome me.  We drove around the village, seriously affluent, then back to his house for lunch with wife Annatine and two of their four grandchildren, Frederike, 4, and Louis, 18 months.  They were recovering from Chicken pox, and the worst was over, but it was hard to explain to the tots why Oom (Uncle) Rob’s words made no sense.  Louis was especially wary, though he warmed up as the afternoon progressed.  We had a delightful lunch in their back yard, quiche and salad, cheese, a couple of Heinekens, and chocolate cake.  Plus plenty of fine conversation.  Jan dropped me back at the station at 3:50 and I headed back to the hotel for a needed short nap.

Louis and Frederike, just after I arrived

The original Harlem, with two As; the station didn’t look much like the one at 125th Street in New York

Refreshed, I hopped back on Metro and tram into town, aiming straight for another craft brewery, Brouwerij ‘t IJ, beneath an old windmill just east of the center.  The place was hopping.  I bought a beer and found a spot at the end of a picnic bench in the corner of the terrace, a perfect perch for people-watching.  Most of my visit was solitary, but then T-t-S kicked in.

“Two doctors, a banker, and an astrophysicist walk into a bar . . .”  It was like the start of one of those jokes, only it was real.  To my right were Caspar (“like the ghost” he said) and Anna, recently-minted Dutch doctors.  To my left was a young woman who worked for the French central bank as an overseer of large and mid-size banks, and her boyfriend, a Ph.D. in astrophysics.  “Okay, pretend I’m seven years old and explain what you do,” I said to him.  He laughed, and provided a clear explanation of his research interests.  He explained some of Einstein’s early ideas, then brought them forward.  Fascinating stuff.

I mentioned that I was headed to Hamburg the next day; when Anna and Caspar left, she said “be careful with those people.”  “What people?” I asked.  “The Germans,” and she then went into passionate but brief (“All our dead people”) criticism of their sins against the Dutch from 1940 to 1945.  Anna was born nearly a half-century after the Allies liberated her country, but she still remembered.  Faulkner’s words, again.  It was a remarkable dialogue, really the first time I had heard such remarks since my first visits to Europe in the early 1970s.  But we cannot deny her view, likely based on family memory.

Last stop, and in hindsight not necessary, was an amble through the city’s red-light district.  Just as in 1971, prostitutes stood in windows, preening.  Unlike back then, some were staring at their smartphone screens.  The place was teeming with gawkers from all over; orange-vested “hosts” directed the hordes to keep moving and keep to the right.  Whew.  Back to the hotel.  After a huge lunch, I didn’t need much dinner, but bought a sandwich at the Metro station and ate in my room.  Lights out on a long day, and a night shortened an hour as Europe moved to summer time.

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Up at six again, gym, breakfast, Metro to the central station, and onto the Deutsche Bahn Intercity train east to Hanover.  The rural landscape in the eastern Netherlands looked familiar – we were only about 40 miles from Münster, Germany, where I often teach.  As the train stopped in Germany, it filled up, and both it and the connecting train north to Hamburg were completely packed.  Arrived Hamburg about 3:15, walked less than a mile to my Airbnb, on a quiet street adjacent to the university.  The city looked immediately familiar, and the prosperity I recalled from earlier trips was evident in solid housing from a century or more ago.

My host left the keys in the front garden.  I let myself in, found my room, dropped my stuff, and headed out on a breezy, sunny day.  Hamburg has a superb bikeshare program, StadtRAD, free for the first 30 minutes, and brand-new bikes.  So I hopped on one from a nearby station and rode around the Aussenalster, the larger of the two lakes in the center of town.  The houses and flats facing the water were seriously posh.  The roads and bikeways were totally packed, so you had to stay alert.  Was back at the Airbnb about 5:30, and had a long chat in the kitchen with hosts Amelie and Harm, really nice people, and welcoming.  Washed my face and walked a couple of blocks to Brodersen, an old-school Hamburg fish restaurant.  Tucked into crab soup and an enormous whole fish (plaice, or ewerscholle in German).  Yum, though the fish was bony.  Ambled back, met the hosts’ dog Lotte, read for awhile, checked scores of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament back home, and slept a long time.

Solid buildings typify older Hamburg; both of these were on “my” block: the botany building of the University of Hamburg, and an apartment just down from the Airbnb

 

Scenes from the wealthy neighborhood around the Aussenalster, the larger of two lakes close to the center

 

Up at 6:30 Monday, another “day off.”   I walked a few blocks to the supermarket for breakfast fixings for the next three days, then headed out, back onto a red bikeshare cycle (they’re almost brand-new and have some nice features that make it super-easy to rent).  Rode back to the urban lakes, then into the center.  First stop was Hafen City, redevelopment of the old port area on the Elbe River – a wonderful mix of renovated old brick warehouses and lots of new construction.  I bought a day ticket for the city’s superb public-transit network, the HVV, and hopped on a ferry for a short circuit along Hafen City.  Next stop was the Elbphilharmonie, the city’s new concert hall at the western end of Hafen City.  Superstar architects Herzog & de Meuron designed it, and it took a long time and a lot of money to finish – they went over budget by 12X.  People in the U.S. would have gone nuts, but according to Amelie and Harm the locals (Hamburgers!) just shrugged a bit, and are now immensely proud of what has become a landmark for the city.

In the old city, Altstadt; the Elbe is tidal, hence the mud on the right bank

Above and below, scenes from Hafen City, including the wave-like concert hall

The old and new of marine shipping; at left, a vessel from 1961, and at right a massive container ship stern at left edge of photo, bow at right)

 

I hopped on another ferry and rode downstream several miles to Finkenwerder, on the north bank of the Elbe.  It was lunch time, and a simple café by the dock fit the bill, cold herring and fried potatoes.   Back onto the boat, this time riding one stop and picking up a red bike for the ride home, several miles.  When I was five minutes from the Airbnb, I spotted a fellow who looked familiar.  Rode past him.  Stopped.  Yelled “Martin,” and he turned around.  It was a former consulting client from a start-up inflight entertainment system; I hadn’t seen him in four or five years.  Total small-world moment.  Took a quick nap, then hopped back on a bike around the lake again.

Downstream on the Elbe, a sturdy old warehouse with new floors added and converted to housing, and another part of the container port

At left, a “water bus”: ferry on route 62 of the public transit system

My Airbnb digs, and detail of the ornate ceiling in the living room; it was such a comfy place, and with fabulous hosts

At 5:30 I suited up to attend the first event of the big airline catering and interiors trade show, a party half-sponsored by my long Italian friend Lorenzo, owner of Castello Monte Vibiano, makers of artisan olive oil and wine, and major suppliers to airlines worldwide.  The event was in the atrium of the Hamburg History Museum, a lovely venue.  Chatted with a few people, had some dinner, and left.  Airline folk tend to party hard, and I needed to be ready for the show opening the next morning.   The day before, I noticed a lot of the stolpersteine (literally “stumbling stones”) described in previous updates – it’s a project to remember Jews who the Nazis forced from their homes, by placing 5” x 5” brass squares in sidewalks in front of the homes of the evicted.  Each square provides brief biographical details of one person.  On the way home from the Metro that night, I counted 12 in just three blocks, including 8 in front of an apartment on Hermann-Behn Weg.  Whew.  (I later read that 70% of Hamburg’s Jewish population lived in “my” neighborhood of Rotherbaum and adjacent districts.)

Up early Tuesday morning, show time.  Walked to the enormous Hamburg Messe (exhibition center) and was one of the first into the expo when the gates opened at nine.  Walking through the massive buildings, I had a sense of déjà vu from my visits to the show as an exhibitor in 2011 and 2012 (with Martin’s start-up).  Even though I hadn’t worked directly in inflight services for 20 years, over the two days I ran into five or six people I knew from ago.  It was super interesting, lots of new stuff, new ideas.  But a lot of same-old same-old too.  At two, I met up with some recent clients and we walked the halls; after closing, we headed into town for an agreeable fish dinner at Deichgraf, another traditional Hamburg restaurant.

Wednesday morning, out the door early again.  I needed a cup of coffee, and as I walked to the Messe I spotted an agreeable-looking café, Aika.  When I walked in, the owner asked in German if I saw the sign on the door.  “Oh,” I replied, “I thought it meant you were closing at noon.”  “No,” he said, this was opening day and they wouldn’t be ready until 12. “But wait,” he said, “you can be our first customer, and the coffee will be on us.”  After mild protest, I agreed, chatted briefly with the owner, Peter Kaller, and his wife, and sat down.  A nice variant on T-t-S.   In the next block of Grindelstrasse was the former Talmud Tora School, now the Jewish community center – gated, with two policemen in front, a sad sign of of these times.  A block further on, four stolpersteine to remember the Flörsheim family, mother and father, and two daughters who were exterminated at ages 14 and 10.  I began to cry.

The day sped past, as we walked the halls, again learning about a lot of new trends and ideas.  Trade shows are so interesting.  High point was about an hour spent with a French company called Cuisine Solutions, who pioneered and perfected sous vide, the process of cooking food in a sealed plastic bag in water.  The results are superb, and chatting with their chefs and sampling some dishes gave me another sense of déjà vu – when I led American Airlines’ catering team in 1998, we had just begun serving Cuisine Solutions dishes in First and Business Class.  So tasty.

Above and below, scenes from the travel catering and aircraft interiors shows; above right is Jennie, a former United Airlines purser who founded a firm to make zero-alcohol bubbly (hugely popular in the Middle East). Below, a 3-D printer churns out a plastic part

At the end of the day I walked across to the other half of the show, Aircraft Interiors Expo, another enormous set of company exhibits.  Briefly chatted with Peter, an English seats and cabin designer, grabbed a Guinness courtesy of a seatmaker, and walked home.  Changed clothes and hopped on a red bike for the last, seemingly obligatory, stop in Hamburg: dinner at Anno 1905, a small bar and restaurant seemingly unchanged in 114 years.  Germany has convulsed and calmed over those decades, but the place, with worn wood floors and a massive wooden back bar, hearkens back to the old days.  I had a couple of beers and another plate of herring, this time baked, and of course fried potatoes.  It was dark when I finished, so hopped the train back to Dammtor station, then a very short bike ride back to the StadtRAD station a few hundred feet from home.  Harm and Amelie were in the kitchen, and invited me to sit down for a beer.  I declined the brew (I needed to rise at 4:45 the next morning to fly home), but had a nice final chat.  Thanked them and hopped into bed.

Scenes from Anno 1905; my new friend at right immediately began licking my hand, and making me homesick for Henry and MacKenzie

Up before the chickens, train to the airport, flight to London, then Philadelphia, then Washington.

Dogs were on the leash by 6:45.

Heading toward London

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Here are the assembled Playmobil figures of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit; the Dutch Golden Age is now on my office desk!

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