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A Day Trip to See Mr. Jefferson

Well, not Thomas himself, but his home, Monticello, and his legacy.  On my 68th birthday, Linda and granddaughters Dylan and Carson hopped into Robin’s (bigger) car and we zoomed 110 miles southwest, past Charlottesville, and up the hill to his historic estate.   Ate some lunch, watched a short film on Jefferson’s life, and hopped a shuttle to the top of the hill.  Wandered along the”street” that held many of the small industries that Jefferson fostered — he was a big believer in self-sufficiency.  At 1:15 enjoyed a superb tour of the mansion, led by a very able guide.   After the tour, we ambled through the basement of the mansion, past storerooms, privies, and more.

Non-American readers likely know that Jefferson was the third President of the United States.  On his headstone, which we saw after the house tour, were the three accomplishments he wanted inscribed (and not a word more, he ordered): “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, & father of the University of Virginia.”  Nothing about his other important roles and accomplishments, not least U.S. president.

Mr. Jefferson was a complex man. He wrote “all men are created equal,” yet owned enslaved people his whole life. We could dismiss him for that, but to do so would be to simplify complexity. He inspired countless people worldwide, and his ideas still shine a light on the humane ideal of freedom, and resonate in places like Hong Kong, Iran, and many others.   And in a time of intolerance of those of other faiths, the second part on his gravestone resonates — I suspect Jefferson’s desire to lift that up really was proxy for the other freedoms in which he believed so ardently.  And throughout the visit we were reminded of his commitment to education and insatiable curiosity. 

He strongly believed that an educated populace was the foundation of a vigorous democracy.  How far is that from today’s fake news, disregard for science, and lack of basic literacy (like reading a credible newspaper every day) among so many U.S. adults?

We Americans, at least those of us of good will, continue to work to – as it says in the preamble to our Constitution – “form a more perfect union.” Mr. Jefferson motivated the four of us.  I am proud of my nation, and (not “but”) acutely aware of our failings. 

We drove home just before and after sunset, a lovely day.  And a reminder that we need to do more exploring in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a place rich in history and varied natural landscapes.

Above, the weaving and textile building; below left, Monticello’s large kitchen, and the (all-important!) beer cellar; at bottom, slave quarters.

 

Above, part of an interpretive panel; honesty about slavery was a touchstone of the entire site — in written and spoken word, video, everywhere. Below, a list of goods to be imported from Europe, in Jefferson’s own hand.

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Postscript: the day after our visit, Robin, Dylan, and Carson ran in a Thanksgiving-morning run, the latter shown here with the version of Mr. Jefferson found at the Washington Nationals ballpark:

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Germany, Switzerland, Italy, England, France: Two Weeks of Teaching

Monte Rosa, a series of peaks at the top of the Aosta Valley; the ridgeline divides Italy and Switzerland, and its top summit is the second-highest in Europe after Mont Blanc; the famous Matterhorn, Cervino in Italian, is not far away

I was home for four nights, long enough to get 175 tulip and daffodil bulbs planted and a bit of end-of-summer work.  On Tuesday, November 5, I hopped the Metro and bus to Dulles Airport and flew Lufthansa’s big 747-8 nonstop to Frankfurt.  It’s a convenient and fast way to Germany, and like my last ride on that jumbo, the plane was packed with tour groups.  Seated around me were 30 Catholic parishioners from upstate New York, headed to Italy for two weeks, ending with a papal audience (or so they were promised).  I chatted with a number of them, including seatmates Pat and Mary Lou, who had never been to Europe.  It was another nice reminder of the power of the jet plane to broaden and improve our lives.

Landed FRA at 7:45.  Spent an hour with T-Mobile Support, trying to fix a recurring (and frustrating) problem with international roaming on my iPhone, but got it working.  Grabbed some breakfast at a now-favorite supermarket in the airport train station, then checked the train departure board.  Mine was 40 minutes late (as noted in previous posts, the Deutsche Bahn is really struggling with punctuality), so I opted for an alternate route, to the downtown Frankfurt station, the Hauptbahnhof, then a train to Stuttgart. We were on a new (for me) line, through Darmstadt and south to Heidelberg, skirting low hills with vineyards on the lower slopes, autumn leaves in splendid gold and yellow.  Lovely.

The train to Stuttgart was running only a few minutes late, but stopped abruptly a few kilomaters from the destination.  We sat long enough to I missed my connection, a local train south to Tübingen, where I would teach my crisis-management short course two days hence.  I was a bit cranky, and hungry.  Took an alternate route, almost missing my connection in a place called Herrenberg, finally arriving Tübingen at 2:15.  Grabbed some lunch (again at the REWE supermarket), and walked up the hill to my hotel, a lovely old place called the Hotel am Schloss (“the hotel at the castle”) atop a hill.  I was glad to be “home,” to be a five-night stay.  Unpacked, did a bit of course prep, grabbed a quick nap, and at dusk took a nice walk around the old town, the Altstadt.  Then enjoyed an early dinner at the Gasthaus Bären, a place visited a year earlier.  Lively, friendly, and great food.  I attempted to engage my young tablemate, but he was preoccupied with his little screen.  Asleep by nine, a hard snooze, 9.5 hours, catching up from the night before on the 747.

Above, a classic view of Tübingen and the Neckar River; below, the view from my hotel room at dusk and dawn.

Up Thursday morning, a day off.  After breakfast, walked the town, including a nice stroll along the Neckar River. Smiled when I passed the youth hostel on the north bank, because I was active in the youth hosteling organization for many years (as a member and for more than a decade a member of the board of directors of the U.S. entity), and because the building had once been the local headquarters of the Hitler Youth.

Above, splendid detail on buildings in the old town; below the old town hall (1435)

Above and below, along the Neckar River; the swans and ducks swam toward me when I sat down on steps, expecting a handout

Above, in a college town, you see lots of variants on two-wheelers, including this extended machine; below, window shopping along Wilhelmstrasse: a poster for Hohner harmonicas as the best way to capture Chicago blues, and sensible advice for prospective patrons to The Last Resort bar.

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At 11, met Monika, the assistant in the uni’s Marketing Department, for some last-minute course logistics (showtime was in 22 hours).  I was getting an early sense that teaching an undergraduate course was going to be way different than my MBA electives at Georgetown.  After a nice buffet breakfast in the hotel, I was not too hungry, so reverted to the supermarket for a prepared salad and two seeded rolls, munching happily in the hotel room, still captivated by the view from the window above my desk.  At two, returned to Monika’s office to pick up some truly final stuff, and wandered the university a bit more, checking out the two classrooms we would use (one spartan and one well-equipped, the latter in the Neue Aula, built in the academic-classical style in 1846).  Founded 1477, the school is a storied institution in Germany, with a load of prominent alumni, including the astronomer Kepler, philosopher Hegel, Chancellor Kiesinger (third chancellor of the postwar Federal Republic of Germany), Nazi resister, Lutheran pastor and long personal hero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many more.

Above left, famous authors and philosophers from Germany and elsewhere grace the window frames of the old library; at right, a memorial to university alumnus Dietrich Bonhoeffer and 10 other graduates who died resisting the Nazis. Below left, the old botanic garden in the town center, and my hotel from the cobbled street.

Out the door in light rain Friday morning, down the hill and across to begin the compressed crisis management course.  The 30 undergraduates – 20 Germans and 10 exchange students – were a bright lot, and surprisingly talkative.  The chair of the Marketing Department, Dominik, and two assistants took me out for a quick Thai curry and a cup of cappuccino, then back to class until 5:30.  I was plumb wore out.  Walked home in the rain, and opted for dinner in the hotel (I had eaten there on prior visits to Tübingen).  It was a wonderful meal, cream of pumpkin soup, followed by the Swabian version of ravioli – in that case pasta filled with salmon in a rich cream sauce.  So good.

Students working on a team exercise in my course

Up Saturday, back to class, time zipped by.  The rain stopped and the sun came out, boding well for my Sunday off.  Walked home, changed clothes, relaxed.  Seven hours in the classroom is a lot.  Walked across town for dinner at the Gastätte Loretto, a place I visited five months earlier.  A foundation for people with a broad range of disabilities runs it, and it’s all about being inklusiv – the German word is almost identical to ours.  On their website, they write, “Through your visit, you contribute to inclusion and recognize people with all their skills and strengths.”  The place was busy but not full, and I was able to speak to the server entirely in German, always a good thing.  When you see the staff bustling about, you wonder about their stories, their struggles.  In every case, you’re glad they’ve found a work-home, a supportive environment.  It was worth the walk on a cold night.

Slept in on Sunday, 7:15.  Tucked into a big breakfast, then walked down the hill to Sunday worship at St. Georg.  Three youngsters were being baptized (they wait until kids are older in Germany, and they were about two, seven, and nine), which made for a nice service.  Walked back to the hotel, read a bit, then hopped on a bus north a few miles to Bebenhausen, a Cistercian monastery founded 1180.  It waned after the Reformation, and was dissolved in 1648.  In 1807, it became a palace for the royalty of Württemberg (who hung on well into the 20th Century).  I hopped onto the noon palace tour in German, the leader helpfully offering a guide to the rooms in English.  Much of the place had been renovated in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  It was, as you’d expect, fancy.  The monastery tour was self-guided, the rooms much older, reflecting Gothic and Romanesque styles.  Way cool.  It was damp and cold, and I was glad to get back to the hotel and warm up.

Above left, from 1868, the palace and monastery were used as a royal hunting venue (nearby forests were full of game), and “trophies,” like this wild boar, were everywhere. Below, much of the palace renovation was done in styles popular just before or after 1900, like the Art Nouveau woodcarving at right.

Above, the palace exterior (note date, 1532); below, views of the “green tower,” and surrounding village. It would be pretty cool to live in Bebenhausen!

Above, exterior view of the monastery; below, wonderful Gothic and Romanesque vaulting was everywhere — truly remarkable craft when you think about the tools available centuries ago.

At left, until about 1520, the monks slept on pallets of hay; then they got bedrooms and beds (just in time for the Reformers to turf them out!); right, wonderful decorated ceiling in a library anteroom.

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At four, I met one of the most interesting youngsters in a long time, Italo, an exchange student from Brazil.  He had emailed me a week earlier, sad that my class was full (80 students applied for 30 places, and 10 were reserved for exchange students), and asked if we could somehow meet.  Why not, I replied.  Italo was a person you liked from the moment you met him.  He understood that life, for most of us, doesn’t hand you opportunity, you have to find it and earn it.  He grew up in a small city in the state of Sao Paulo, in a family of modest means, had been working since age 15.  Before that, he and his brother – now a physician – earned merit scholarships to a Franciscan school.  We covered a lot of ground in 90 minutes.  I was totally impressed with his drive: he had been working two or three jobs since arriving: bartender, cook in a Chinese- owned Tex-Mex restaurant, mover.  He was working two now, 36 hours a week: a white-collar gig with a genetic testing company, and still bartending.  And studying full-time.  He came to Tübingen with four students from his university, and on arrival decided that he needed to build a bigger community of Brazilian expats, so he created a website and now has 60+ Brasilieros from around the town.  You got the clear sense that he could do anything and go anywhere.  I meet a lot of students every year, and Italo was for sure someone I want to keep as a connection.

At seven I sat down to dinner in the Weinstube Forelle, a fish restaurant I visited six months earlier.  Tucked into a wonderful dinner of pumpkin soup, followed by baked trout, yum.  Headed back to the hotel, prepped a bit for the last day of class, and clocked out.

 

Back to work Monday morning, day 3 of the 3-day class, another 7 hours.  As I checked out of the hotel, the friendly fellow asked me to wait a moment.  And from out of the kitchen came Johanne, an always-smiling woman who I had spoken with many times during my stay, wanting to say goodbye.  When I checked in, she walked me up to my room, and we chatted several times in between.  In a small hotel, the staff do everything, so she cleaned my room one day, served me coffee, made change at the front desk.  She was so sweet.  I hugged her, pecked both cheeks, and promised to return.  People like that make traveling a joy.

I rolled my suitcase and backpack across town to the Neue Aula, and room 236.  The morning sped past.  I wanted to eat lunch in the university mensa (student cafeteria), but they didn’t accept cash or credit cards, only a university prepaid card, so I peeled off.  Spotted Tasty, a small place run by immigrants from, I guessed, Syria.  Ordered a shwarma.  It took a long time, and I was running low on time, so I ate half of the sandwich, and wrapped the other half for dinner on the train to Zürich, my next stop.  Finished the lecture at 4:30, and sat for the final exam.  Way formal, and written on paper, which meant I had to lug another two pounds in my backpack.  Said goodbye to students, hopped on the bus to the train station, bought a little cabbage-and-carrot salad to supplement my leftovers, and some beer.  Hopped on the local train to Horb, with a tight connection to Zürich.  Arrived on time at 9:23, walked a couple of blocks to the #6 tram, up the hill to my next home, the Hotel Plattenhof, familiar from two visits in the past year.  I was totally worn out.

Outside and inside the gracious Neue Aula

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At left, dear readers who imagine my life on the road is posh might consider my Monday dinner on the train, on my lap (not shown, a can of beer); right, a perfect welcome-to-squeaky-clean Switzerland scene in the main railway station!

Managed eight hours of Zzzz, barely, up early and out the door a few blocks to the historic main building of the University of Zürich.  Met my host Nicolas (my long friend Jochen, chair of the organizational behavior department, was home sick), and presented a talk on leadership to grad students, short break, then the same talk to undergrads.  It was a busy morning.  But lots more to do.  Jochen’s assistant Lissette, a fave, found me an office for an afternoon of grading the team projects and 30 exams from the crisis management course (I always get a bit crazed about getting that task done soon after the course ends).  Walked back to the hotel, literally next door, changed out of coat and tie, and dug into work, head down.  Finished the project grading and sent the results, grabbed a quick lunch at a nearby mensa, then spent three more hours reading and marking the final exams – something of a challenge, because unlike the U.S., where students now write tests on a laptop or tablet, these were handwritten (I had to lug five pounds of paper from Tübingen), and some of the writing was hard to decipher.  But I got it done, grades calculated and sent.  Woo hoo!

Like the day before, Tuesday I taught in another splendid old-school academic house: though it was a UZH class, we were in the main building at ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

Ambled back to the hotel, worked a bit, chilled, then headed to dinner at Rosengarten, a traditional Swiss place, tiny, a few blocks from the hotel.  It was a neighborhood spot, and lots of diners knew each other.  Always fun to be in a place like that.  Tucked into zürigschnätzlets, super tender veal and veal kidneys, plus the fab Swiss version of hash browns, called rösti.  Yum.  Back in my room, I read for an hour, asleep way before ten.

Up before six Wednesday morning, did a bit of work in my room, ate breakfast, and walked down the hill with suitcase, headed to the railway station, with a pleasant stop for coffee with a young German friend, Tim Tecklenburg, who I’ve known since 2004 (he was a Ph.D. student in Münster, Germany, back then).  Tim is now CFO of a Swiss space company, Ruag, in the job about a year.  We had a great chat about that new post, family relocation from Germany to Switzerland, and lots more.  He’s a great fellow.  He sprinted to make his suburban train to work nearby, and I walked more leisurely to Track 6, and onto a train south to Arth, then on another train under the Alps (the super-long Gotthard Base Tunnel, ) to Lugano, for my 11th visit to USI, Università della Svizzera Italiana,  the university for the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.

Above left, the new addition to the UZH business school (with a typical Z-town car in the foreground); at right, in the old town, Altstadt. Below, scenes along the railway line north of the Gotthard Base Tunnel.

Class wasn’t until the next day, so I put the afternoon to good use, as a Transport Geek, and seizing a warm and sunny autumn day – rain was forecast for the next several days.  Checked into the hotel, then zipped out, stopping at the Migros supermarket for “picnic” lunch, then up a funicular to the train station (which is above the city).  North and west into the next valley, to Locarno, then back on the unfortunately-named FART (Ferrovie Autolinee Regionali Ticinesi) narrow-gauge railway up the Maggia Valley.  I rode the train a year earlier, but on a gloomy and rainy day.  The weather was stunning.  I was able to ride a bit further, to the last stop before entering Italy.  The normal round-trip fare would have been the equivalent of $38, but like the year before, on arrival the hotel gives you a pass for unlimited rides on public transport in Ticino for the duration of your stay.  Woo hoo!  It was a lovely afternoon.

One little caption from the train ride: the orange and yellow sign above left was the old “flag” signal used to tell the train driver to stop for passengers; this was at Borgnone, the last station before the line enters Italy.

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Got back to the hotel about 6:15, worked a bit, relaxed, and headed out to dinner at 8. I spotted a pizza place online (the way-cool pizzeria I visited a year earlier was way across town, and I was tired), and headed there, but it was takeout only.  New plan: back to the Hotel Pestalozzi, a simple place with fair prices: tucked into a salad, bratwurst, potatoes, green beans (like an autumn dinner on a Minnesota farm!), and a glass of local red wine, all for the equivalent of $26.  And the waitress was sweet: after I had some trouble with Italiano, we switched to English.  On the way out, a nice T-t-S exchange with her about my Italian great-grandparents, where we lived, and some tourist advice for her, after she said “I want to visit America.”  I hope she gets there.

Slept hard, really hard.  Down to breakfast, and a wonderful exchange with Katia, the server.  I stayed in a different hotel the year before, and it was nice to be back at City, a new place.  Katia said she remembered me, gave me a big hug.  We chatted only a little, because she was busy.  Like Johanna at the hotel in Tübingen, she’s a total day-brightener.  Zipped out the door, another 90 minutes as Transport Geek, up to the station and onto another little narrow-gauge railway, the Ferrovie Lugano Pontetresa, the FLP, running west to Ponte Tresa, a nice town on another arm of Lake Lugano.  Didn’t get off in Ponte Trese, zipped back, changed into “teaching clothes” at the hotel, and headed to the university.  Worked in the library for the rest of the morning.

Above and below left, on (and alongside) the FLP to Ponte Tresa; below right, the beautiful Sacre Cuore church, just across from the university.

Above, lots of snow already in the Alps; below, window shopping in downtown Lugano: at left, huge salamis from Milano, and right, wonderful Christmas treats from the famous Swiss chocolate maker Läderach.

At 12:45 met my longtime academic host in Lugano and London, Omar Merlo, for a quick (but big) lunch in the mensa, then it was time to stand and deliver for two hours, to an engaged group of 14 grad students, mostly from Italy.  Walked back to the hotel, grabbed a quick nap (something rare on this, and most, trips to Europe).  At 7:15, I walked a few blocks to a bus stop and hopped on a yellow Swiss Post bus; yet another admirable aspect of the Swiss transport network, these buses reach thousands of places beyond the railway network.  From a mobility perspective, it is one integrated nation.

Left, wonderful local orange soda, part of the mensa lunch; right, I’m not much on slogans or mission statements, but I kinda like this one for USI.

The bus climbed a big hill south of Lugano, and I got off at the second-to-last stop, Bellavista.  It was up there to celebrate, for the second year in a row, Omar’s birthday.  The other guests arrived soon after me: Omar’s dad Luigi and girlfriend Alida; his sister Adriana, husband Sandro, and kids Nicola (15) and Victoria (13).  Like the previous year, Alida made an enormous and wonderful lasagna.  We all had seconds, then salad, then birthday cake, all with wine and celebratory champagne.  I felt truly like part of the family, the distant relative from America.  Warm, lovely people.  Luigi drove me down the hill to the hotel.  It was late by my standards, nearly midnight.  And I was really full.

Above and below left, scenes from Omar’s party. Below right, Your scribe and Katia at the Hotel City.

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Slept in, until seven, then down to breakfast, a little conversation with Katia, and out the door, up the hill on the bus, then onto trains to Milan.  The plan was to meet long friends Massimo and Lucia Vesentini at the end of the day, then head up to their chalet in the Aosta Valley of the Italian Alps (Val d’Aosta, on the Italian side of Mont Blanc in France), so I had time. The derelict industrial landscape along the railway line, together with clouds and gloom, needed a counterpoint, so I put on my earbuds and cued sunny Italian composers Puccini and Vivaldi.  Much better!

It was rainy and not swell for touring, but I had lined up a short meeting with a prof at Bocconi, one of Italy’s best B-school; so I headed to the campus, arriving about noon.  Ate an Italian sandwich in a shop before I found the mensa (where I should have eaten), but it was a good place to work a bit, with a fast wi-fi connection.

Above left, an old-school travel promotion for a valley north of Milan (bad photo, couldn’t open the window); right, an abandoned factory. Below, scenes from a tram stop, headed to my meeting at Bocconi.

Seeing students sitting down with trays of mensa food – always basic, filling stuff – made me hungry, so I lined up for a bowl of lentil soup.  While I was waiting to pay, a student asked me “Did you use to work for American Airlines?”  Whoa!  I replied yes, and he said he was in my lecture a year earlier at London School of Economics.  This was the second time in less than two months that this happened, but the previous encounter in St. Gallen was just before lecture began.  This time I asked Pierre-Louis (American father, French mother) if he wanted to join me for lunch, and we had a sensational chat.  He was spending an entire year as an exchange student at Bocconi, and will return to the LSE next academic year to finish.  Sort of like T-t-S, but more like TSW, totally small world!

At three I sat down with Sandro Castaldo, chair of Bocconi’s Marketing Department, for a brief chat about guest lecturing possibilities.  It was a quick meeting.  I left his office, walked a few blocks to the flashy new B-school campus, due to open in less than two weeks, then hopped on a seriously crowded tram across town.  Walked the last half-mile to Via Hayez 19, home of Lucia and Massimo Vesentini, and their swell dog Lupetta (“little wolf” in Italian).  I’ve known Massimo since 1991, not long after he became American Airlines’ sales manager for northern Italy.  Lucia was working from home that day, so we chatted briefly.

Above left, the new Bocconi business school, and right, new buildings on the main university campus. Below, the crowded tram, and one of the vintage streetcars that still rumble across Milan.  At bottom, a tummy rub for my new friend

Massimo got home from work about 5:15; we yakked for a bit, walked a few blocks to pick up their car, packed it up, installed a nervous Lupetta in the back of their SUV.  The Vesentinis think that she fears confinement perhaps because she and her three siblings were found in a box inside a dumpster; they travel by car a lot, and Lupetta hates it.  We headed west into rush-hour traffic. It took an hour to get from slightly east of the center to the start of the superhighway, the Autostrada, an hour to get to the foot of the Aosta Valley north of Torino, and 35 minutes to climb up the Lys valley, across bridges and through tunnels and switchbacks, to their village of Gressoney-St. Jean.  It was already serious winter at about 5000 feet of elevation; at least a meter of snow had fallen in the previous days.  We left the narrow main road and climbed another 200 feet, on switchbacks, to their condominium, one of eight in a stone building that once belonged to the local baron.  The inside was rustic and cozy – and still a little cool (the heat had been turned on the day before, but it takes awhile).

Unpacked the car and headed back down to the village for a late dinner.  The place had the vibe of mountain resort towns everywhere: friendly, informal, with lots of young people in seriously good shape from climbing, skiing, biking.  I had venison stew and polenta, a big meal.  Lupetta sat beneath Massimo and Lucia, happily collecting tidbits offered.  Massimo was concerned about snow overnight; the new Audi had four-wheel drive but no winter tires, so we parked it and walked up the little road. It was midnight when I climbed into the bunk bed in the little bedroom that once was their daughter Martina’s.  Slept hard.

The Vesentinis and seven other families own this lovely stone building, a former stable

Up Saturday morning at eight, to mostly cloudy skies but a few patches of sun.  Massimo and I walked Lupetta, up the slope to a little set of houses, a place called Rong.  After a late breakfast, we set out on a long walk, into Gressoney to buy the daily paper, get another coffee (three for the equivalent of $4, way better than Starbucks!), and pick up some more supplies for dinner.  Always fun to see commerce in small places.  That valley and others adjacent are a linguistic intersection: for centuries, people have spoken French and German as well as Italian, as signs and place names showed.  The German came from the Walser people, a linguistic minority whose origins were across today’s border in the Swiss canton of Valais; they spread south, west, and east between the 12th and 13th centuries.

Above, fun in the snow with Lupetta. Below, the sacred and secular: roadside shrines honoring Jesus, and, yes, Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs!

We kept walking, across the village to the modest castle that belonged to Margherita, one of the last queens of Italy (and who loaned her name to the pizza, after enjoying it in Naples).  Lupetta chased snowballs big and small, pinecones, and anything else we could throw.  It was about 3:30 when we got back to the car.  Lucia and Lupetta hiked up to the condo, and Massimo and I took a short drive to the head of the valley, about four miles north and west, climbing yet more.  Turned around at Staffal, back down, then on foot to the condo, total distance on foot 8.7 miles.  Nap time!

Above, Margherita’s castle and the village church; below, one means of getting around Gressoney, and bags of polenta, a staple in much of Italy. Bottom, Lucia, Massimo, and Lupetta.

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Massimo started a fire in the ceramic stove, and soon the condo was toasty, almost too warm.  Lucia made dinner, osso bucco with sausage and rice.  So good.  And lots of good conversation.  I’ve gotten to know them pretty well through the years, so there are seldom lulls.  Asleep early.

Nap time, and a wonderful dinner dish

It was snowing Sunday morning.  Even for someone who spent 35 winters in Minnesota, a cold place, it was still hard to reckon with serious winter in the middle of November.  After breakfast we made two trips down with stuff.  Target departure time was 10:00, and we beat that by a minute.  The snow was coming down hard, and we rolled down the valley at a safe speed.  Massimo was a superb winter driver, and we didn’t slip once.  Less than 15 miles later, we were in rain and it looked like autumn again.  We got on the Autostrada, pedal to the metal back to Milano, then east to Bergamo airport for my flight to London and my last teaching gig the next day.  We made it way quicker than we thought, arriving about 12:30 for my Ryanair flight at 2:25.  Hugged the Vesentinis and Lupetta, had two pieces of pizza for lunch, and flew to Stansted Airport.  As always, a great time in Italy.  So nice to stay connected with long friends across the water.

Above and below, Sunday morning scenes, gray and vibrant; the fruit is a persimmon, called a kaki in Italy

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I don’t usually upload photos that are not pretty or interesting, but this one needed to be posted: a selfish jerk in a packed eating area at Bergamo Airport, hogging an extra stool. I ate my pizza standing up, right next to him, and called him out when I left, likening him to Donald Trump (“It’s all about me”). I felt immediately better!

Arrived London just before (early) sunset, onto the train, then the Underground, across the city to Omar and Carolyn Merlo’s house in Kew.  Carolyn and their kids Sophie (almost 11) and Freddie (8) were away, but Omar and their now-huge golden retriever Mr. Waffles were home.  Had a good yak, watched tennis on TV, had a quick dinner of fish and chips, and headed to bed.

Monday morning, time to get back to work, an afternoon gig at the London School of Economics.  First business was to accompany Carolyn, Sophie, Freddie, and Mr. Waffles to the kids’ school.  I’d done the walk many times, and a few parents and dogs were familiar.  After saying goodbye to the kids, Carolyn and I took Waffles for a walk around a nearby park. I packed up, hugged goodbyes, and walked back to the Tube, then east into London.  Met Dom, a young guy working in a start-up, for coffee and a good chat, ate lunch in the LSE equivalent of a mensa, and from 2:05 to 3:50 delivered a talk to undergraduates.

Above left, a fine portrait of Mr. Waffles; right, a lost bunny in central London. Below, the LSE campus is growing and modernizing, and the slogan at right says it all.

Several of them wanted to ask more questions after the lecture, and when I looked at my watch I thought “Yow, I need to go,” because my Eurostar train to Paris left in less than an hour.  The station was only two stops by Tube, but the departing on that train is like an airport: security screening, two passport controls (UK and France).  I made it with time to spare, but was a little stressed.  The Eurostar is seriously fast, and we were at Gare du Nord in central Paris in under 140 minutes.  Whoosh.

My next destination was dinner at Bouillon Julien, a restaurant I read about some months earlier in The New York Times.  It was walking distance from the station, 15 minutes or so.  When I arrived at 8:45, the place was hopping, but there was room for one, and in no time I was admiring the ornate interior, mostly unchanged since 1906 – “un véritable perle de l’art nouveau” as it said on the placemat.  It was, as I said to the French woman in the next table, “like being in a museum, like being in Paris before two world wars, the Cold War, the internet”!  She agreed.

I was not in a hurry, because my flight left the next morning, and I planned to spend six hours at the airport, not a hotel (many readers roll their eyes here, Rob’s idiosyncratic thrift).  I opted to return via Paris to avoid, as I often do, the huge UK departure tax, now up to $280.  So I had a leisurely dinner, first course of duck terrine, then salmon with grilled endive, and a splendid coconut pudding.  Yum, yum, yum.  The new owners’ have revived the original motto: Ici tout est beau, bon, pas cher – “here everything is beautiful, good, and inexpensive.”  The three course meal with wine was less than $35.

Left the restaurant at 10:30, ambled back to the station.  Then the France of some dysfunction kicked in: no suburban (RER) trains seemed to be headed to the airport – they normally run every 15 minutes.  So I hopped on a train that went within four stops of the terminal, to get closer.  At Aulnay sous Bois, waited on the platform for an hour.  Still no trains to the airport, but one arrived that went closer – to the stop just before the airport.  Hopped on that.  An English-speaking worker on the platform said there was a bus in front of the station that would take us (by then about 20 people) to the airport.  Well, sort of.  We got to an airport bus station that was not close to the terminal, but, happily, there was one more bus.  It was a 2.5 hour journey of less than 20 miles.  Found an agreeable bench for a nap in Terminal 2A, and fell asleep, mostly.

The American Airlines Admirals Club opened at 6:30 Tuesday morning, and I was the first member in, straight to the shower.  Cleaned up, ate some breakfast, and at 9:40 flew to New York JFK.  Arrived early, zipped through, and hopped onto train, subway, and bus to LaGuardia Airport for a 3:00 flight.  Was home by 5:00.

 

 

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27 Hours in Connecticut, 5 Days in Omaha

Winter came early to Omaha: two inches of snow on October 28

 

Was barely home (from Pennsylvania and Quebec), just two nights, and on Sunday, October 20 I flew to White Plains, New York, north of the Big Apple.  Son Jack and girlfriend Reed picked me up, and we motored around Westchester County, through lovely small towns like Katonah and Croton Falls, then into Connecticut, through seriously-posh Ridgefield to Bethel, a pleasant place where they now live, after relocating from New Haven earlier in 2019.  It was raining the whole time, but still a lovely drive, especially around the many reservoirs that store water for New York City.  Those areas felt almost like northern Minnesota, pristine and quiet, yet just over an hour from one of the biggest cities in the world.  We chilled a bit at their new pad, then headed out for dinner.  Was asleep early.

Above, Katonah, New York. Small-town feel, but less than an hour from Manhattan. Below, one of the many reservoirs that hold New York City’s water supply. At bottom, we stopped at Reed’s office; she’s the recreation director for the Town of Lewisboro, so it fit that she posed in front of one of the little buses used for outings.

Reed’s dog Kora is so sweet; she provided protection from marauders all Sunday night, from a perch on the guest bed.

Up at six, out the door an hour later, east to New Haven.  Jack is still working downtown, but soon will take a job much closer to Bethel (Reed works in a small town 14 miles from there, so both will have much easier daily commutes).  We had a good yak in the car.  He dropped me at the Yale School of Management for my debut there.  At 9:30, met my host Soheil, an interesting young professor, originally from Iran.  Delivered the airline revenue talk in the morning to MBAs and other master’s students, a highly diverse and engaged group.  Spent the lunch hour listening to a prospective faculty member sell herself with a lecture on her doctoral research).  Worked another hour, then delivered the same lecture in the afternoon to another engaged and varied class.  Soheil peeled off to meetings, I hopped in a Lyft to the nearby tiny New Haven airport, and flew to Philadelphia, then home.  Zip, zip, zip.

Above, interior of the modern Yale School of Management building. Below, the view from the air: the Connecticut shoreline east of New Haven; the North Fork of Long Island, and the estuary of the Delaware River.

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Six nights home was nice.  The two terriers, Henry and MacKenzie, especially liked the long walks.   Two hours before sunrise on Sunday, October 27, I hopped in a Lyft car to National Airport, bound for my second annual week-in-residence at the Aviation Institute of the University of Nebraska Omaha.  Talking to Strangers started before leaving our driveway.  Vakhtang, the driver, was a chatty and amiable fellow, from “the other Georgia.”  We had a great yak in the 21 minutes to the airport.  He suggested I do some guest lectures in Tbilisi, and I replied that I would like that very much.

Zipped through Charlotte Airport, and onto a flight west to Omaha.  Landed at 11:35, hopped in another Lyft (driver way, way less conversant), and was at the hotel before noon.  The neighborhood, a new mixed-use development called Aksarben Village (Aksarben is Nebraska backwards), was built on the site of a former Ak-sar-ben horse track and fairgrounds, was by now well familiar, and I ambled a block south to lunch at Pickleman, which was staffed by way-friendly young people.  Then again, I thought to myself, I was back in the Midwest, a region of friendliness.  Tucked into some veg chili and a tuna sandwich, walked back to the hotel to change, and headed to a nearby gym that has an agreement with the hotel (I used it every morning in 2018).  Pumped out 20 miles, back to the room, short nap, a little prep for the coming week.

As a native Midwesterner, I like Omaha, not least because of messages like this! “We Don’t Coast” is such a fine slogan.

At 6:30, my host Scott Tarry, director of the Institute, and wife Mary, picked me up for dinner, and we motored a mile or two to an agreeable Italian restaurant for a big Sunday dinner.  Was home to watch game 5 of the World Series, and cheer on the Houston Astros vs. the Washington Nationals – though we live in suburban Washington, I was backing the team from Texas.

Up at six Monday morning, over to the gym for 10 miles on the bike, then to the UNO campus.  Worked a bit, and did the first class at 10:00.  After lunch I taught two more classes.  Scott had organized a small gathering of faculty that night a few blocks from the hotel, and I spent a pleasant couple of hours getting to know some of the other teachers.  It had begun to snow, and fairly heavily, so was happy to get a ride a few blocks to the hotel with Becky Lutte, a professor and accomplished pilot.

A couple of dawn views of the University of Nebraska Omaha campus

Rinse, repeat: stayed busy Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, a pleasant routine, riding the school’s shuttle bus from the stop right across from the hotel to campus, early breakfast in the student union, and into classes.  The four days sped past.  I didn’t get as much time to explore Omaha as on the 2018 visit, but spent an agreeable hour between classes Wednesday afternoon walking the campus and the nearby Fairacres neighborhood, well to do and beautiful.   I spent some time in the UNO Fine Arts Building, offering a varied array of things to learn — a nice reminder of the broadness of American public universities.  And a splendid T-t-S that night with Kathy and Greg Davis at a Thai restaurant in Aksarben Village.  We exchanged hellos when I sat down, but later, as they were finishing, we got into a long chat.  Dr. Greg was a dentist, almost my age, sold his practice and now keeps busy (a bit like me) teaching at the Creighton University dental school.  We talked weather, Omaha (they were both natives), the new African-American history museum in Washington (they were both African-American).  Even got some solid professional advice on new dental-crown technology.  A lovely few moments, relieving a small pang  of loneliness.

Above, a splendid home in Fairacres; below, scenes from a walk through the Fine Arts Building.

Nebraska has since 1978 had a law requiring that 1% of the cost of any new public building be allocated for public art. Now there’s a good idea, above and below.

Scenes from the rapidly growing Ak-sar-ben Village, a mixed-use development south of UNO. Built on a former horse track, the place offers housing, retail, and huge array of restaurants.

Up Friday morning at five, to the gym for one last workout, then out to a recap breakfast with Scott.  He’s a super guy, and we had a good yak about the week, and some ideas for the next visit.  My 9:18 flight to Chicago was three hours late, but happily was rebooked on a connection, and was home by 7:30, dogs on the leash.

 

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Penn State and Montreal

The iconic stadium from the 1976 Summer Olympics, Montreal

Was home from Minnesota for three nights, long enough to paint the garage floor and do some yard work.  On Monday the 14th, Linda drove me a few miles to a Hertz location, where I picked up a Nissan roller skate for a one-way drive north to my second visit to the Pennsylvania State University, Penn State.  It was a glorious morning, clear and crisp, perfect for a drive.  Started on the freeway, but hopped off at Hagerstown, Maryland, and zigzagged north on U.S. and state highways, over the Appalachian ridges and valleys – six ups and six downs by my count.  Through pleasant small towns and hamlets.  A lovely ride.  Just before arriving in State College, stopped at an overlook above town, and read an interesting interpretive sign: at the time of European arrival, 90 percent of Pennsylvania was forested, but the state is still 60% woodland.  And I was reminded of evidence, from earlier that morning, of a hardwood industry: lots of signs for saw sharpeners, chainsaw retailers, flooring companies, and the like.  Some views along the road:

Happy Valley, home of Penn State

Arrived on campus at 12:15, checked into the Nittany Lion Inn (run by the school, in part for students in their hospitality program), ambled across the street for lunch, dropped the car, walked the campus, went to the gym, and took a short nap.  At six it was time to perform, to a packed room at an event of the student Ad and PR Club.  After the talk, club officers Haley, Morgan, and Jillian took me out to dinner.

Above, at left, Nittany Lion Inn; right, a new building on the vast campus. Below, in the presence of greatness: your scribe with Penn State starting quarterback Sean Clifford, who is friends with one of my Ad/PR Club hosts.

Up with the roosters Tuesday morning, back to the gym.  At 7:30, met hosts Steve Manuel and Ron Smith (both familiar from my visit 19 months earlier) for a caloric breakfast in the inn dining room, then off to four back-to-back talks.  There was barely time after the first one to zip over the Berkey Creamery for a chocolate shake – Penn State has a big ag program, and like the University of Wisconsin-Madison, they run a small dairy operation, from cow to ice cream.  It’s a wildly popular place (I tried the night before, prior to my club gig, but the line was out the door).  Finished the last talk at five, back to my room to change.

In the Berkey Creamery (my shake is in prep at left)

Met Steve at 5:40, and we motored to dinner.  He is a super-interesting and colorful fellow, former Marine officer, with lot of great stories, including plenty from his nearly three decades at Penn State, and a long stint as school sports photographer.  The guy has a lot of talents.  His colleague Denise Bortree joined us for the meal, and more great conversation.

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Was asleep by 8:45, because I was up at 4:20 Wednesday morning, out to the small airport, onto a 6:00 jet to Philadelphia, then a connecting flight to Montreal and my 24th time at McGill University, a long favorite.   Landed in Canada before ten, onto the superb #747 express bus into the city, and up the hill to Desautels, the McGill business school Desautels.  Met host and pal Bob Mackalski, and sat in on a class on innovation, not to present, but make a few comments from the back row.  Ate a big lunch at a fave restaurant – great in part because everyone in the place knows and likes Bob, so we get rock-star service.  At 2:30, we co-taught an undergrad brand management class.  I peeled off, walking to my digs, at the top of a McGill dorm.  Great place, huge apartment.  Did some work, and at six headed out to a new brewpub, via Metro and bus.  Waited 45 minutes for a bus that never came, so reversed course and headed to my fave pub, Saint-Houblon on Rue Saint-Denis.

The view from above: wind turbines in New York’s Adirondack Mountains; harvest time in Quebec, and pleasant suburbs west of Montreal.

Wednesday night, and the place was packed.  While we waited for a table, a kindly server brought us small glasses of free beer, way cool.  In 10 minutes, I was sitting at a counter on the balcony, with a great view of the bustling place.  Studying the beer menu, “Pêche Blonde” caught my eye, and I asked for a pint.  Wow!  Made with lots of peaches.  The server was super-friendly, offering samples of anything else that caught my eye.  Tucked into a nice plate of spicy tofu and vegetables, and headed home.

At left, Saint-Houblon; right, the Berri UQAM Metro station — like many in Montreal, it features vibrant stained glass windows and other public art.

Was up at 6:30 Thursday after a long, much-needed long snooze.  Worked my email.  At 8:20, I headed out, into cold rain and strong wind, east a couple of blocks to a cozy café, to meet a long friend of Fabio Scappaticci, my young pal in Geneva who I visited three weeks earlier.  Ridha and Fabio met each other as young teens, and are as close as brothers.  Six months earlier, I had attempted to help Ridha with an aviation job, and it was nice to meet him in person.  A way interesting guy with a great family story.  Mom and Dad from Palestine, first years in Saudi Arabia, moved to Canada at 11.  After a long yak and a nice breakfast, we walked to his condo, met his French wife and young daughter Leah.  We walked Leah to day care across the street, which was a lesson in itself: the sparkling clean, amply staffed, well designed facility was actually run by the province.  Such a different model from the U.S., and better.  Yes, taxes are much higher, but services like that facility might even make conservatives – certainly the ones who claim to be “pro family” – reconsider how we do it south of the border.

Above, a rain-blurred view from Ridha’s apartment; below, Leah and Ridha; at bottom, the corridor at Leah’s day-care center.

At 12:30, I met McGill law lecturer and longtime host Kuan-Wei Chen, known as David, for lunch.  Sadly, my favorite little Korean place, Kantapia, next door to my digs, had closed, but we found a new Korean place on Peel, and tucked into a fine lunch and good conversation.  Walked back, took a tonic nap, and worked a bit.

Above, lunch at Woojirib Korean Restaurant (the stone dish was cooking my eggs); below, evidence of strong winds.

At 4:30, I suited up and walked briskly south on Rue Sherbrooke.  It was still raining, and the north wind had picked up.  Up the Peel St. hill to the McGill Law School.  I was way early.  In one of the foyers was a permanent exhibit of Inuit printmaking, seven prints from the 1980s.  As I admired the expressiveness, I was also saddened by the knowledge that Europeans – in Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere – tried to made native peoples like us. Why?  I had no answer, but I surely enjoyed the art, especially the two interpretations of caribou (the wild version of semi-domesticated reindeer).

At left, “Caribou Acting as Men,” by Oshoociak Pudlot (1909-1992), Cape Dorset, Nunavut, 1983; right “Spirit of Summer Caribou,” by Pitseolak Ashoona, also from Dorset, born 1904 and created this in the year of his death, 1983.

At 6:00, it was time to stand and deliver my airline-alliances lecture to a small group of graduate law (LLM) students.  Finished at 8:15, and walked back to the room.  It was (by my standards) late.  I was tired, but also hungry and thirsty, and was reminded of a similar evening in Cologne several years earlier: I could just put on my pajamas, or put myself “out there.”  So I pulled on jeans and zipped out, a block north to the #80 bus, rode 15 minutes and a short walk to a microbrewery and pub, Dieu du Ciel! (literally God in the Sky, or Good Lord! by Google Translate, either way a nice name).  It was nine but the place was still hopping.  Found a stool at the bar, got a nice welcome, and tucked into a couple of beers and a wonderful pizza.  The place exuded such a friendly vibe, and none of the youngsters minded that I was, like the night before, the oldest person in the place by a factor of two or three.  “Out there” was the right place to be.

Slept in on Friday, until seven.  It had stopped raining, streets were dry, so it was time for a ride on Bixi, Montreal’s bikeshare.  Hopped on a silver cycle and headed east, into what had historically been a series of working-class neighborhoods, almost solely francophone.  Zigged and zagged, and ended up in Maisonneuve Park, a huge urban green space.  Rode around the park twice, then rode back downtown, 13 miles.  Breakfast at my fave Tim Horton’s, oatmeal and a bran muffin.  Packed up, stopped at the McGill bookstore to buy a souvenir quarter-zip fleece with school logo, hopped the #747 bus to the airport, and flew home.  Canada is always such a joy.

At left, part of a huge frieze that spans four walls of Montreal’s Central Station, depicting signal Canadian scenes and featuring the words of its national anthem; right, a portion of a brilliant stained-glass window that also interprets Canada from Pacific to Atlantic, installed at Dorval Airport in 1960 and moved to its new transborder terminal (I like the cargo ship sliding down what seems to be Niagara Falls!).

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Postscript: walking from my gate at Washington National Airport to the Metro, I passed a small exhibit of artifacts from the old days of flying. This poster caught my eye; when we lived briefly in Cleveland, Ohio, 1957-59, my traveling-salesman dad sometimes flew on Capital Airlines (which merged into United in 1961). The turboprop Vickers Viscount was brand new back then, and my late brother Jim and loved going to the airport to pick him up, stand on the observation deck, and listen to the plane’s distinctive whine.

 

 

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Back Home to Minnesota, to Teach at My Alma Mater

A painting of St. Anthony Falls, the main reason for Minneapolis’ location on the Mississippi; the art was in the lobby of the Minneapolis Club,

 

Travel in the last quarter began on Monday, October 7.  Flew home to Minneapolis/St. Paul for talks at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, landing in clear skies and warm for October.  Hopped on the Blue Line light rail into downtown Minneapolis.  I had an hour to kill, so ambled into the central library, a place I often visited when doing research in high school.  The library is on the same site of the building I visited, but its new incarnation dates to 2006, with a design by the architect superstar Cesar Pelli.

Harvest time in the glaciated landscape of western Wisconsin

 

Atrium of the central library; at right, a statue of Minerva that I’ve known since I was a child.

Continued on, across the Mississippi, past a couple of almost-original flour mills and other buildings from the 1880s, when the city really began to grow, thanks in large part to a St. Anthony Falls, at the time the largest hydropower site west of Niagara.  Paused for a nice T-t-S with fellow watering his lawn.  A Minnesotan, he had lived in Australia for a decade, and the house on 5th Avenue SE for 30 years. At six I met longtime friends (and overnight hosts) Deb and Phil Ford for dinner at Alma Café, a great place to eat.  We tucked into a fine meal (and some terrific desserts) and got caught up after a year.  Drove home, yakked for a bit, and clocked out.

Along the Mississippi, just upstream from the falls

Statue of a wheat farmer along historic S.E. Main St.; at right, the Pillsbury “A” Mill (1881), for 40 years the largest flour mill in the world.

Chefs at Alma Cafe; I’ve adopted my friend Jan Meurer’s practice of thanking the cooks when leaving restaurants with an open kitchen, and these three appreciated the gesture.

Up early Tuesday, out the door a few blocks to France Avenue and onto the #6 bus I well remember from childhood (we lived less than a mile from the bus stop where I waited).  I was happy to see the bus fill up, almost all young men and woman commuting to jobs downtown.  Public transit in the Twin Cities works well, and people use it.  All good.

Paused for a large cup of coffee in the atrium of what was in my day called the IDS Center, a skyscraper, then rode an escalator to the second floor, falling into Minneapolis’ vast skyway network, a series of inside walkways and enclosed bridges that run more than a mile north-south and another mile east-west.  When it’s below zero, or 90° F and humid, the skyways are quite an innovation!  Ambled for a couple of blocks on skyways to the Minneapolis Club, for more than a century the elite power center of the city.  At 8:30 met long friend Mike Davis, formally Judge Michael J. Davis, Senior Judge for the (U.S.) District of Minnesota.  We had a nice breakfast and a good chat (I first met Mike in 1973, when he hired Linda to work at a poverty law office).

Above, one of the many skyways downtown; below, new tall buildings attest to a strong economy — Minneapolis/St. Paul has long had a diverse and vibrant business sector.

I peeled off at 9:45, hopped on the light rail a few stops to the University, and from 11:15 to 12:30 delivered a talk to undergraduates in Prof. George John’s marketing principles class.  George and I hopped in his car and drove across the river for lunch in a Chinese restaurant.  He’s an interesting fellow: born in India, grew up in Brunei (his dad worked for Shell Oil), came to the U.S. to study, and stayed.  We talked a lot about university policy and governance, and returned to a theme Mike and I discussed a few hours earlier, the sustainability of higher education.

George kindly drove me back to the Fords, I yakked briefly with Phil, then headed out on his bike for a 23-mile ride around Minneapolis’ famed urban lakes, then east to the Mississippi, north, then back west along the Minnehaha Creek, a little stream I’ve known all my life.  Yakked with Deb and Phil for an hour, then borrowed their car and headed to dinner at one of my fave eateries anywhere, the Black Forest Inn.

Minnehaha Falls. Well familiar as a child, I had not seen this cascade for almost 40 years.

Spent a colossal couple of hours over Oktoberfest beer and dinner with Edina High School classmate Guy Drake, formally Reverend Guy.  We’ve known each other since 1961, but were never that close.  We reconnected at one of the Class of 1969’s informal reunions at a suburban bar in 2016, and when I saw him at the 50th Reunion in July I suggested we get together.  Whew, what a conversation.  Guy was always seriously creative, a performer: theater and music.  He had a modestly successful duo with fellow student Tom Johnson, and they recently reunited – after Samsung had basically stolen one of their tunes from 1970 and used it in a TV commercial.  There were plenty of other stories, including his ordination as an Episcopal minister at age 60.  And lot of dimensions to that man.

Rev. Guy Drake

Out the door at seven Wednesday, three blocks south to Wuollet, one of the world’s great bakeries, for a raspberry and cream cheese Danish, then west past the shopping area of my childhood, 50th and France, to Starbucks for a large coffee.  I knew I was in Minnesota when I saw a 30-ish man cleaning up a small spill he made on the milk and cream counter.  People on the East Coast almost never to that.  It made me smile.

Breakfast time; worked hard not to get the laptop keys sticky!

I worked my email, then hopped on the #6 bus downtown.  Like the day before, it was packed with young people heading to downtown jobs.  Changed to the light-rail a mile or so back to the university, worked a bit, and from 9:55 to 11:35 delivered the airline-pricing talk to full-time MBAs in Mark Bergen’s class.  After class, I was working my email on a bench outside the classroom, and fell into a sort-of-T-t-S with one of the students from the morning lecture.  He grew up on a farm in southeast Iowa, studied chemical engineering at Iowa State, and now was looking for a job with either 3M or an ag firm.  We had a nice conversation, ending with me: “Please tell your mom and dad thank you from me.  If not for them, we wouldn’t eat.”  He said we would relay my gratitude.

At 1:30, I met former airline colleague Ann Hathaway, friend since 1984, at Birchwood Café, a pleasant café a couple miles’ walk from campus.   We had another fine chat, a lot of talk about the recent memorial service for her mother, who lived a good and long life, nearly to 96 (regular readers of this journal may recall my mention of my grade-school Spanish teacher, Don Miguel; he was Ann’s father).  Ann drove me back to campus.  At three I hopped on Nice Ride, the local bike share, for a quick swing around the East Bank Campus of the university.  Brought this update current, and from 5:45 to 7:30 repeated the airline pricing lecture to part-time MBA students – a very vocal group.

A little flora and fauna enroute to lunch at Birchwood

High point of that talk was a special guest, Emily Sheppard Bevan, daughter of my dear (and now long-departed friend) Jack Sheppard.  Emily is considering a MBA, and Mark and I welcomed her to the classroom.  Once done, we hopped in her car and zipped east to downtown St. Paul, for a late dinner with her mom Martha, and Emily’s husband Michael.  We had a fine meal and a great conversation, cut a bit short from my fatigue.  Emily kindly drove me all the way to Deb’s and Phil’s house.  I revived a bit after donning my pajamas, so we talked for awhile.

Up at first light Thursday morning.  It had rained overnight, and the streets were still wet, but I wanted a last ride on Phil’s bike, so headed out.  Rode up and down every one of the eight streets in the Country Club neighborhood of suburban Edina, an old and leafy district where we lived from 1959 until 1966.  Zig-zagged a bit through parts of the adjacent suburb of St. Louis Park, then back to 50th and France for a big cup of coffee and an apple fritter.  A fine ride.

Back at the Fords, I showered, had a last chat with my friends, then hopped on bus and light rail back to the airport – for the second year in a row, I did the whole visit on the Twin Cities’ fine public transit network, at a total cost of $11.50, including the bikeshare!  Flew back to Washington.

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Europe, the 200th Trip, And Still Way Cool

Lake Geneva, Switzerland

I was home (from Hawai’i) exactly 24 hours and 10 minutes.  Headed to Dulles Airport, flew to Charlotte, and hopped on the Silver Bird to Frankfurt.  My 200th trip to Europe.  But every trip is exciting and different.

Zipped over to the airport railway station.  Waited a couple of hours, then onto a train north to Bonn, the capital from just after World War II until 1992.  I hadn’t been there for 45 years, and was excited to be visiting.  But first a pleasant ride along the Rhine Valley, north from Mainz to Koblenz – a familiar route, but I had never traversed it in perfect weather, and it was beautiful.

Arrived Bonn just before noon, stuffed my suitcase and backpack in a locker, and headed south a mile to the German History Museum, which was really history since 1945, the story of the modern federal republic.  Tucked into needed lunch at the museum café, then set out to explore.  Regular readers know I’m a huge admirer of the country, and the museum underscored the reasons why, principally a commitment to what translates as a “social market economy.”  Capitalism, but with the rough edges mostly sanded smooth.  The museum told the parallel story of East Germany from 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Block in 1989-90.  It was a remarkable afternoon, four hours.  And it got me back to thinking of a persistent theme in geography, pride in place.  That idea has had a hard time in postwar Germany, because of the horrors of the Nazi period.  But pride in place is not nationalism.

The museum is arranged chronologically, so it begins with the nation in rubble, 1945. Below, varied images of the first postwar Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, a man I have deeply admired for decades.

 

Above left, a re-creation of missing-persons signboards, common in the late 1940s; at right, a clever, literal interpretation of the Rosinenbomber, the Raisin Bomber, from the 1948 Berlin Airlift. Below, as Germany rebuilt, she began to export: Steiff teddy bears, Olympia typewriters, and more.

Above, barbed wire and the Berlin Wall, erected 1961. As a 10-year-old, the Wall symbolized Cold War tension at its extreme, and I found this part of the museum especially moving and in a way personal. Below, more powerful images of a divided Berlin, at right John F. Kennedy’s famous visit in June 1963.

Above, happier depictions of 1960s Germany: re-created department store display wndows, and a flower-power VW bus. Below, the museum traced the postwar history of East Germany, the GDR, very effectively.

Above, this poster, for the Marshall Plan (ERP, European Reconstruction Plan), made me smile and feel proud. The ERP may have been America’s finest hour as global citizens. Below, scenes of a prosperous Bonn.

Walked back to the train station in perfect weather, and hopped on a standing-room-only train north to my teaching destination, Düsseldorf.  Rode the U-Bahn (subway) one stop to my hotel.  I was seriously hungry but way tired, so instead of heading a mile into the city, to the Altstadt (old town), I tucked into salad, cold herring, and fried potatoes (a German fave) at a nearby restaurant.  Asleep early.  Slept hard.

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Up early Monday, to the gym to crank out some miles on the fitness bike, then down to the hotel’s enormous buffet breakfast (one of the best anywhere).  My gig at WHU (the German business school I’ve visited for almost 20 years) was not until late afternoon, so I zipped onto Nextbike, the multicity bikeshare.  It’s easily the smartest system around: you tap the app on your smartphone, grab a QR image on the bike’s rear fender, the lock snaps open, and off you go.  No fixed stations.  Way cool.

Above, talk about convenient location: I took this picture of the Oberbilker Markt subway station from my hotel room. Below, the graffiti-laden counterculture street called Kiefernstrasse, and at right a facade painted as crossword puzzle (I got two of the words, even with my poor Deutsch!).

I rode into the city, then across the Rhine to the fancy Oberkassel neighborhood.  It started raining lightly, so I rode back to the hotel.  Worked a bit, took a needed noon nap, suited up, and walked a few blocks to a supermarket for lunch stuff, then over to WHU.  The school has two campuses, and in Düsseldorf there’s a small building mainly for MBA and exec ed programs.  From 5:15 to 6:00 I delivered a talk on career and life to 60 incoming full- and part-time students.  There was a reception afterward, and I grabbed a beer while talking to students from Ecuador, India, China, Palestine, and a few Germans.  Way interesting conversation.

Peeled off, headed back to the hotel, changed clothes, and rode the U-Bahn to the Altstadt for dinner at Füchschen, one of the many brewers of the distinctive local beer called Alt (“Old,” not Alternative!).  Tucked into an enormous heavy dinner, late, and paid for it with indigestion for hours.  Note to self: no more big fatty meals after nine.

The Monday-night scene at Füchschen; at right, waiters keep tab on your beer mat

Back to the gym Tuesday morning, a small breakfast (was still full), and out on Nextbike to drop off receipts at WHU.  Checked out of the hotel at 11:30 and took trains to the Hamm neighborhood near the Rhine harbor.  The port has moved, and the whole area was in ambitious redevelopment, commercial and residential.  Picked up a Nextbike at the Hamm train station and rode five miles along the Rhine, back to the old town.  Picked up my suitcase at the hotel, headed to the airport, and flew to Birmingham, England – was headed for a short visit with my long and dear friends John and Diana Crabtree (I met John nearly 40 years earlier, when we were both visiting lecturers at the University of New England in Australia).

Above, burgeoning redevelopment of the old (Rhine) river harbor in Düsseldorf. Below, a contemporary interpretation of the ancient tradition of pictograph store signs (dating to a time when few could read), and a traditional sign, in this case for the Schumacher Brewery. At bottom, the Rhine is still a significant commercial waterway.

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Off one packed train and onto another at New Street station, Birmingham, and arrived Worcester at five.  Diana picked me up at the station, drove to pick up their youngest, Jessica, at school, then east five miles to their little village of Crowle.  Sat in the kitchen and caught up with Diana (last visit was 15 months earlier) as she prepared dinner.  John arrived about seven, and we picked up where we left off!  Such a joy to stay connected.  John had a long and successful career as a lawyer, and a second career as a tireless volunteer for civic betterment in Birmingham and the West Midlands, indeed across the whole of the kingdom.  If you look up “tireless” in the OED, you’ll find his picture!  Among other roles, he’s currently the Queen’s representative, the Lord Lieutenant, in the West Midlands.   Was plumb wore out, so wished everyone a good night and was asleep by 9:30.

Wednesday morning found me sitting in the kitchen with coffee, catching up with Diana (John had left early for another full day of meetings; among other civic duties, he’s become chairman of the organizing committee of the Commonwealth Games, a massive athletic event for members of the British Commonwealth, to be held in Birmingham in 2022).  At 10:15, I walked a couple of blocks and hopped the #356 bus into Worcester.  Ambled around for an hour, visiting the city museum, then at noon met the new dean of the Worcester Business School.  Ann-Marie seemed interested in having me do some teaching; we shall see.  Grabbed a sandwich and chips from a supermarket and ate in the shadow of Worcester Cathedral, burial site of King John I, the Magna Carta guy.  Zipped inside for a quick look, then walked back to the station for the bus home to Crowle.

Above left, in the city museum, an 18th Century West Indian soldier from the Worcestershire Yeomanry (they interpreted the British presence in Colonial America differently than we would, which caused me to growl out loud!). At right, handiwork from the Royal Worcester porcelain works, 1893; called pierced porcelain, it was cut by hand with an oiled knife.  Below, Worcester was a center of glovemaking, and, of course the very origin of Worcestershire Sauce, from local chemists John Lea and William Perrins.

Above, Queen Victoria in front of the city courthouse; at right, a sagging second story above the goldsmith. Below, Worcester Cathedral and the crypt of King John (1166-1216), who gave us the Magna Carta and the concept of rule of law.

Earlier in the day, I determined that Diana’s bike was the only one with tires that would hold air, so pumped them a bit and adjusted the seat.  Changed into bike shorts and a T-shirt and set off on a now-familiar route, south on quiet country roads through small hamlets to beyond the curiously named White Ladies Aston.  It was a perfect day for a bike ride, light breeze, blue skies, 68° F.  I did a few zig-zags, then headed back to WLA, determined to find a local who could explain the origins of the place name.  And I found her: Mrs. King, a local resident and schoolteacher for special-needs children in Worcester.  2We had a fine T-t-S that followed her simple explanation: nearby was a convent, and the nuns of the order wore white habits (though presumably not every day!).  It was a fine ride, 21 miles, though interrupted twice with technical issues with the gears that, happily, I knew how to fix.  The English countryside never ceases to delight, all the more when close up on a two-wheeler.

 

Left, local produce at the Crowle shop, and free produce sweet blackberries) along the road

Thursday morning, down to the kitchen for a bowl of cereal and coffee, just like at home – being with the Crabtrees is like being at home – then out on Diana’s bike on another sunny (but cool) morning, east and north through hamlets and villages, past sheep and cows, across a canal and railway tracks, 15 miles.  One of Diana’s friends, Clare, stopped by mid-morning.  It was her birthday, so we had cake and a nice visit (I had met her previously).  At 11:45, John and I hopped in his big BMW and motored 40 miles northeast to Coventry, last visited in 1977.  The Luftwaffe firebombed the city in November 1940, and the center was rebuilt in the 1950s and ‘60s; more recent redevelopment has attempted to correct some rather awful urban planning, and the place looked much better than four decades earlier.  John had a meeting with city officials, and I peeled off to admire the modern cathedral, built just north of the one that burned and partially collapsed in 1940.

Above and below, scenes from the Thursday morning ride.

 

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Above left, the shell of the bombed church, adjacent to the 1956 cathedral the tapestry above the altar is the largest in the world). Below, the famous altar cross made of melted nails from the firebombing, and a peace bell from the German people on the 50th anniversary of the attack. At bottom, a stained-glass wall and statue of St. Michael.

I first became aware of the cathedral in 1968; images were on the cover of the 12th Grade English Literature textbook in Mr. Jensen’s class.  I thought of dear Mr. Jensen as I walked around; we had remained connected until his death in December 2017, and I really wanted to email him some photos.  It was lunchtime, and Diana recommended the Rising Café in the cathedral basement.  Run by a Christian charity, it offers work and restorative dignity to men and women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and other hardships.  I enjoyed the lunch very much.  Walked around the church a bit more, and at 2:10 met Robbie Crabtree, John and Diana’s younger son, who was just starting his first year at Coventry University.  He was excited.  We had a coffee back at Rising Café (on my way out, I paused at a table of three café workers to commend their new directions), then took a quick look at his dorm room.  John met us at three, we yakked briefly, hugged goodbye, and motored back to Crowle.

Above, Robert and John Crabtree. Below, James Crabtree and Diana.

No time to rest, barely time to wash my face, change into nice clothes, and get back in the car, north in thick rush-hour traffic to Birmingham and their splendid performing-arts venue the Hippodrome (John was chairman for many years).  We met the CEO, Fiona, for a drink and some finger food before the start of a triple-bill performance, two works by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and one by a group called Black Ballet.  Some wonderful dancing, for sure (I had been to the BRB a couple of times before).  Zipped home fast, no traffic on the motorway.  Asleep at 11.

Up before dawn Friday, to say goodbye to John, who left at 6:30 for meetings in Birmingham (he and Diana were flying at mid-day to a wedding in Edinburgh).  Diana and Jessica dropped me at the railway station at 7:30.  Rolled my suitcase down the hill to the ASDA supermarket, bought a big tub of yogurt and two wholegrain rolls, then back to the station and bench for picnic breakfast.  Hopped on the 8:35 train to London, one of the new Hitachi trainsets of the Great Western Railway, comfy, free wi-fi.  Arrived Paddington station at 11, waved to the bear, and onto the Bakerloo tube to Marylebone and my destination, the new (and fancy) Sammy Ofer Centre of London Business School – my third visit of 2019.

Last scenes from the visit to Crowle: flowers in the Crabtree garden

At 12:15, met my long LBS host, Oded Koenigsberg, who gave me a splendid tour of the building, in the former offices of the Westminster City Council.  From 12:45 to 2:00, I delivered a talk to 60 MBAs and exchange students, bowed at applause, and kept moving: onto the tube to Euston Station, then a fast train back to Birmingham Airport – the LBS gig arose late, after I had booked my flights into and out of Birmingham.  Changed clothes in a capacious men’s room stall at the airport, bought dinner sandwiches and a salad, and turned attention to a major problem: my iPhone was not charging.  I’m loath to buy stuff at airports, but needed a fix.  A very kind fellow at Dixon’s, a UK electronics chain, did some quick diagnosis, and, alas, it was the cord.  Bought a new one, hooray, and celebrated with a pint of pale ale in the airport bar, woo hoo (when our personal IT gives us trouble, it really gets us out of sorts, doesn’t it?).

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My EasyJet flight to Geneva was almost an hour late, so I expected to miss the 10:09 bus a few miles into France, to Ferney-Voltaire and my overnight digs with Fabio and Lisa Scappaticci (I met Fabio, a wonderful young guy, when lecturing at Cambridge in 2011). Despite a long line at Swiss immigration, and a couple of detours, I made the bus, walked a few blocks, and was soon hugging Fabio.  Lisa was returning from a business trip that night, and their two sons, Luca, 6, and Leo, 4, were fast asleep.  Yakked for 30 minutes and headed to a hard, but short sleep.

Saturday weather was perfect again.  We rounded up the boys and drove to the Saturday market in the center of Ferney.  Because of oversight, Fabio could no longer legally drive, so I took the wheel of the VW Minivan.  “Can you drive a stick?” Fabio asked earlier.  “Of course,” I replied.  Though I hadn’t driven one for more than 15 years, it’s one of those skills you don’t forget, like riding a bike.  I was more concerned about narrow streets and buildings that abut the rode.  But my first 10 minutes were flawless!  We bought produce, cheese, and bread at the market, which perfectly reflected how much the French care about quality food – everything looked fabulous.  When we returned, Lisa was home, and totally worn out from a week in Nigeria and a long ride home, so after an early lunch we piled the kids back in the car and headed north, into the Jura Mountains – they’re not as tall as the Alps, but they’re still big.

Above left, Luca strumming on a ukelele, and the boys at the Ferney market. Below, samples of lovely goods at market. At bottom, the view from Fabio’s and Lisa’s backyard.

Captain Britton was at the wheel again, with Fabio giving directions.  Easy driving, even when we started to climb the mountain.  Main concern was passing bicyclists.  Arrived at a parking place about two-thirds of the way to the top, and started a leisurely stroll.  Luca’s and Leo’s legs are small, so we only hiked about a mile, but it was still splendid.  Most of the walk was on private land, and we passed a small herd of cattle grazing on the slopes, bells clanging.  The boys wanted to play with the Hot Wheels cars Lisa brought them, so we paused in a meadow.  Four flat-top stumps made perfect racetracks for the boys, and seats for the grown-ups.

Above left, hairpin turn easily negotiated; at right, Mont Blanc is just visible. Below, on the trail in the Jura.

Fabio and I yakked for an hour, across a lot of topics.  He’s had an interesting life, and is only 37.  Grew up in Montreal, son of Italian immigrants, earned a McGill degree in aero engineering (and played varsity soccer for the Redmen for ll four years), worked in aerospace, then spent years in volunteer service, including 18 months with Oxfam in the eastern Congo, one of the most dangerous places on earth.  He now works for the IP arm of the UN.  The kids wanted to stay and play more, but we headed back to the car, back down the hill, home.   Fabio made pizza and salad for dinner, and we split a fabulous bottle of Brouilly that he brought back from a recent trip with his parents to Burgundy (only a couple hours away).   Along the way, I bantered with the boys, especially Luca.  They speak English with their father and French with their mother – Leo kindly corrected my pronunciation of parfait (“perfect”); accent on the first syllable! Fabio and I cleaned up the kitchen and clocked out, nine hours of catch-up sleep, wonderful.

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Out the door Sunday morning, Fabio risking immediate incarceration by driving me three blocks to the bus stop, hugs.  I hopped onto the #66 bus, then the 8:32 train across Switzerland to St. Gallen and my 20th visit to the B-school there.  At Zürich, a splendid but way-too-short T-t-S: as we approached the station, I offered to help with the huge suitcases of an African-American couple about my age; they boarded the train at Lausanne and slept most of the way, clearly worn out.  As I schlepped a huge bag off the train and onto the platform, the wife said they had been at their niece’s wedding the night before, and didn’t get much sleep.  I asked where they were from; “Leesburg, Virginia,” she replied.  “We’re neighbors, we live in McLean,” I said.  They thanked me profusely.  I said “God bless you.” Immediately the husband gave me his business card, a bear hug, and a blessing in return.  Back on the train, I smiled: I just met Rev. Michael Mattar, Senior Pastor of Hope Fellowship Church.  Just wished I had been able to chat with them on the ride.

It’s a scenic ride, too, along Lake Geneva, then great views climbing away from the lake, and into the mountains, through Fribourg, and the language turns from French to German, then into Bern, along the green Aare River, towards Zürich, big city, then east and north toward St. Gallen.  All along the way were lush green pastures, and lots of cows.

Arrived St. Gallen a minute early, got some lunch fixings at the supermarket in the station, hopped on the #3 bus east 10 minutes to my new digs.  For years, I had stayed downtown, mostly at one hotel.  This year, the school asked me to arrange accommodation, so I booked an Airbnb.  It looked goofy at first, but the corner room was large and bright, with big windows on two sides, and spotlessly clean.  Bath down the hall wasn’t a problem.  Ate my lunch, changed into bike shorts and a T-shirt, and set off.  I wasn’t feeling strong, climb-worthy, so opted to ride west along the railway line (trains can’t go up steep hills!), with a couple of pleasant detours into some valleys and across farms.  Was back at five.

Above right, the well-trained eye will recognize the flag of Texas below the Swiss banner at this farmstead near Gossau.

After a rest, I headed to dinner at my customary spot, a Swiss place run by an energetic young family, so returned to a Thai place I spotted on the bike ride.  Big massaman curry (unhappily not spicy, toned down to Swiss palates), yum.  Hard sleep.

Was up at 7:00 on Monday morning.  The plan was to use the day off (teaching would be Tuesday and Wednesday) for a long bike ride, but it was raining and the forecast was more of the same, all day.  So I headed up the hill on the bike (always a good climb), on wet streets, to campus.   Grabbed two cups of coffee and was soon working away in the library, by now a very familiar place.  Just for fun, I tried to find the current issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, which includes an article I co-authored, so I headed into the library stacks in the basement; alas, the fall 2019 edition had not yet arrived from Massachusetts.  Ate an early lunch in the student cafeteria, the mensa, worked a bit more, and rode down the hill.  Took a nap, first one in days.  The rain had ended, but streets were still wet, but I needed some exercise, so set off.

Distinctly Swiss: under national law, many buildings must have fallout shelters, and the university library’s served a dual purpose as periodical stacks; at right, as I have often written, the Swiss are fervent about local manufacture — the Coke could be made more cheaply in nearby Poland, but no!

At 5:45, I cycled a mile into the center to Fondue Beizli, a familiar restaurant, and at 6:00 met Paul and Hananja Brice.  Paul was chaplain of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, my longtime digs at that university, and we’ve stayed connected.  We missed fondue in 2018, but were back together for a third cheese dinner, and great conversation.  High point were words and pictures of their daughter’s wedding a month earlier in the huge Gothic cathedral, the York Minster.  Way cool.  A lovely evening.

Tuesday morning at eight, and I was in Tibits, a vegetarian restaurant, for breakfast with Thomas, a St. Gallen MBA I met two years earlier.  Super-interesting guy, worldly, a lot of good conversation.  Thomas peeled off for a business trip at nine, I rode back to the room, suited up, and rode up the hill to the university.  Worked the morning.  Met my longtime senior host, Winfried Ruigrok, and his two deputies, George and Xiaxou, for our traditional lunch at Wienerberg, a fancy place just across from campus.  Great meal, great discussion.  After a short post-meal bike ride, worked the afternoon back in the library, and brought this journal up to date.

At 4:15, it was finally time to stand and deliver, to about 50 students in St. Gallen’s top-rated master’s program in strategy and international management.  I don’t think I’ve ever taught such an engaged group, constantly asking questions.  It was fun.  At six, I rode down the hill a few blocks to Xiaoxu and her husband Wei’s apartment.  Months earlier, she had invited me to a Chinese dinner, and when I arrived she was at the stove.  We had a good chat; Xiaoxu is a perfect exemplar of the young global citizen, having worked and studied in many places.  She’s just a delightful person.  Thirty minutes later, Georg arrived, and we all sat down to a seriously big meal, with lots of dishes: spicy pork ribs, dumplings, chicken, vegetables.  Yum.  It was dark and rainy when I continued down the hill to my Airbnb, and I rode slowly.

Up Wednesday and out the door to give a lecture to Winfried’s MBA class, done before noon.  My next presentation was eight hours later, so I changed clothes and biked around town, stopping at the university mensa for lunch.  Took a nap, suited up, and rode back up the hill to school.  Parked and locked the bike, and sent Georg and photo of the location; I was leaving the next morning, so would be on foot for the remainder of the time in St. Gallen.  Worked some hours in the library, and at 7:00 met members of the school’s aviation club, then delivered a shorter version of the talks I gave earlier, on airline alliances.  Had a beer in the classroom with some students, and walked back down the hill.  Packed up my suitcase for early departure.

Above, weathered roofs; below, St. Gallen at dusk, and before dawn in the old town.

Rose way early Thursday morning, because I almost forgot to visit the angel.  Which angel?  The enormous wooden one atop a giant arch in St. Gallen’s baroque abbey church.  Hopped on the bus a few stops toward the Altstadt, ambling through the rain to the Klosterkirch.  I waited 15 minutes until it opened at seven, walked in, and there she was, welcoming me, left arm pointed upward toward the skies; I remember seeing her for the second time in November 2001, two months after 9/11 and just two days after a third American Airlines tragedy.  Eighteen years earlier, I beseeched the angel, and did again that morning.

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Walked to the train station, found the Starbucks, and had a giant tub of coffee, equivalent of $6.55, but I needed some zip for a busy day.  Hopped the train to Zürich Airport, and onto SAS north to Stockholm.  The flight was late because of European ATC, so my planned lunch in the mensa of the Uppsala University business school would not happen before it closed at two.  Grabbed a chicken wrap and chips at an airport newsstand, and hopped on the fast train, 19 minutes to Uppsala, then the bus up to campus.  At three I met two students from the Ekonomerna, the student business association, and delivered a talk from 3:30 to 5:00.  Walked back to the station, through a familiar and pleasant landscape (Uppsala is the oldest university in the Nordic countries).  Hopped on the #102 bus south, out of town, to the home of Mia and Hans Kjellberg.  Hans is my host at Stockholm School of Economics, and for the last several years they have hosted an overnight.  When I arrived, Hans was making pizza for dinner, and Mia was visiting their son in hospital (the next day there was good news).  We had a good yak and a glass of red wine.  Mia returned, and we tucked into wonderful pizza.   Then a long sleep with the windows open.

Above, autumn scenes: harvested fields near Berga, Sweden, and lingonberries in the Kjellberg kitchen. Below, more scenes from fall at the Kjellbergs.

Mia drove us Friday morning to Uppsala, and onto the fast train into Stockholm.  A thirty-minute ride to the capital explains much of why Uppsala has grown quickly in the last decade, and the train was packed.  Walked briskly to SSE, and into a meeting with Fei, one of Hans’ Ph.D. students, research U.S. airline deregulation.  We had a good discussion, got her pointed in some new directions.  Time to stand a deliver for the last time that trip, to 65 MBA students.  Another long host, Per, and a new guy, Christopher, invited me for lunch – it was more fun to talk about Swedish pro hockey (the season had already begun) than U.S. politics.  Headed back to the Marketing Department, changed clothes, and walked a mile south to the airport bus, back to Arlanda Airport, and onto SAS south to Frankfurt.

In Vasaparken, Stockholm; at right, the splendid Swedish way: fathers taking care of young kids

I found a cheap, simple hotel in Raunheim, a pleasant suburb, hopped on the S-Bahn (suburban train) two stops, then 10 minutes’ walk to a clean and modern $43 room.  I do love a bargain.  Weeks earlier, I did some Googling for a dinner venue, and, happily, a nice place was less than two blocks away.  The online menu suggested Croatian proprietors, and that was the case.  Everyone in the restaurant was friendly and welcoming.  I sat at a corner of the bar, and yakked a bit with a young woman newly arrived from the Balkans.  Tucked into Pljeskavica, meat loaf stuffed with sheep cheese, plus a trip to the salad bar and a couple of beers.  At the end of the meal, the bartender poured me a Sliwowitz, the plum brandy popular in the region, here served warm.  Life was good!

Slept hard, up early, back to Frankfurt Airport, breakfast in the Admirals Club, a flight to Charlotte, then northeast to Washington.  The 200th trip to Europe; I never tire of the Old World.

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And not least: a pictorial shout-out for an unheralded work group, the folks on the ramp; at left, on departure from Dulles, and at right, on arrival at Washington National. I’ve started to wave to these men and women, and will continue.

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Atlanta for the Day, Then Alohas in Hawai’i

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu

A week after judging in Texas, fall travel began in earnest.  Early on Monday, September 9, I flew to Atlanta for a one-day consulting assignment.  High point was a wonderful T-t-S with Ronesha, a Lyft driver who carried me from the big airport to a meeting a few miles away.  She was the definition of a go-getter, undeterred by some hard life experiences.  Ronesha was driving Lyft as a second job, to help with a down payment on her family’s first house; and she was finishing her bachelor’s degree in psychology, “hoping to go on to get a Ph.D.”  We finished the chat with a yak about her oldest child, who had finished high school and was studying to be an aircraft mechanic.  She sounded a little tentative, almost apologetic that he wasn’t in a regular college.  “Wow,” I replied, “that is a great choice,” I said, adding that I knew something on the topic from a lifetime in the airline business.  It was a fine start to a busy week.

As they say in the South, “When you die, you might go to heaven or you might go to hell, but you’ll have to change planes in Atlanta”!

Two meetings later, it was already 5:00 PM, time to get back to ATL, then onto a big Delta 777 to Los Angeles.  A long ride, but it went quickly, with movies and a short nap.  Our 72-minute wait for a gate at LAX was a reminder that we Americans do not have enough aviation infrastructure.  Airlines get the blame, but U.S. airports are public entities.  Sigh.

Sigh again after we deplaned, a massive traffic jam on the airport access road (= not enough road infrastructure), another 30 minutes to get two miles to the hotel.  The original plan was to zip down to nearby El Segundo for dinner at cool Mexican place (Jack’s friend Matt works for the company), but it was late in L.A. (and three hours later at home) so I ambled 150 feet to a McDonald’s for a Big Mac.  Soon asleep.

But awake way earlier than I wanted, a reaction to the three-hour time difference; one of life’s mysteries is how I can cross six time zones over the Atlantic – as I would six days hence – and be totally fine, but get messed up crossing the U.S.  In any event, I was awake before five, so headed to the hotel gym and pounded out 20 miles.  Tonic.  Grabbed a cinnamon roll and milk at a nearby gas station, back to the hotel room, then out the door and back to the airport for the second stop of the trip, Honolulu, Hawai’i.  I hadn’t been for ten years, and was excited to be heading across the Pacific.  I was traveling west to do a day of leadership training for Hawaiian Airlines, so was on one of their Airbus A330s.  Service was so good; their flight attendants are almost all from Hawai’i, and their aloha hospitality is genuine, warm, and at the top of the charts for any carrier anywhere in the world.

Another wait for a gate on arrival at HNL, 40 minutes, but was in my hotel room before two.  Changed into my 20-year-old aloha shirt, light pants, and sandals, and set off for lunch at the nearby Ala Moana mall.  The food court had a bewildering array, including lots of Asian choices.  Settled on spicy pork ramen, slurping happily away.  The mall, loaded with all the upmarket brands (Fendi, Prada, you gotta) was teeming with tourists from all over Asia, especially single Japanese women in small groups.  Young Japanese women are either not getting married or marrying later, and they use their incomes to travel.  A lot.

Above, hotel room views, pick the one you like better: Los Angeles Airport, or Honolulu? Below, lunch and flora.

Sustained, I headed a mile to Waikiki for a walk along that storied beach.  It was such fun to be there, first time in 20 years.  I smiled, looked upward to heaven, and said a prayer of thanks when I passed Fort Derussy, the Army recreational facility in the middle of the beach; this was where my dad relaxed with his field artillery outfit in 1944, between Pacific battles on Kwajalein and Tinian.  Last stop along the beach was the fabulous Royal Hawaiian Hotel, “the Pink Palace of the Pacific,” opened in 1927.  It is like a museum.  We Brittons stayed there in 1999, and I wished I were billeted there.  Such a cool place.  Here are a few scenes:

Above, the main entrance to the “Pink Palace”; below, a lobby table and ceiling

Above, in 1935, Matson Line, the shipping company that carried people from San Francisco to Hawai’i before the airplane, commissioned a prominent fashion photographer to capture scenes from Waikiki; at right, a secondary lobby closer to the beach. Below, the hotel on opening night, 1927.

When I hopped on the #22 bus to head back to my simpler hotel, I tendered the driver $1 for a senior fare.  “Did you bring the senior with you?” he asked.  “Man, you made my day,” I said, “I’m almost 68.”  The bus was packed with a mix of locals and visitors.  Took a quick shower, drank a splendidly cold beer, and at 6:15 a former American Airlines colleague, Jon Snook, now COO of Hawaiian Airlines, rolled up in his Tesla.  I hadn’t seen Jon in a decade, and we had a great chat for two hours, over dinner at a very posh restaurant right on the beach.  Way fun.  Lights out at 9:30, and finally a good sleep.

Above, you don’t find pounded breadfruit at a convenience store on the mainland; below, the view from our Tuesday dinner table.

 

Up at 5:30, to the gym, then breakfast, then out to Hawaiian Airlines Cargo, my host group.  Met leader Brad Matheny, set up my show, and had a quick tour of their facility.  In the 50th State there are no roads between islands, so the airplane is an important part of logistics (ordinary white bread, for example); they also carry a lot of goods to and from the islands from cities in East Asia and the South Pacific, and the mainland U.S.  At nine, it was time to stand and deliver, three back-to-back sessions.  After Brad introduced me in the first session, two women came forward and, in true Aloha spirit, placed two garlands around my neck.  I wore them all day.  The three audiences were engaged.  Wonderful people, and so diverse.  The local population is probably the most culturally and racially varied of any American city.  Looking at the human rainbow, I was reminded of a great article I had read a few months earlier, “Want to Be Less Racist? Move to Hawaii.”  So interesting.

The day sped past.  At 5:30, we hopped in Brad’s Mini Cooper and zipped back to Waikiki for dinner at Roy’s, a well-known spot.  One of Brad’s directors, Dana, met us, and we had a swell dinner and great conversation.  They are fine people, at a fine airline.

Up early again Thursday, back to the airport.  My flight was not until two, but I had fixed up a short meeting with another former AA colleague, Brent Overbeek, who leads Hawaiian’s revenue management and network planning team.  My Lyft driver was another joy.  Henry was 72, and from Vietnam.  He joined the South Vietnamese Army in 1966, age 19, and because he spoke English he did a lot of translating, all until the South collapsed in 1975.  Henry was jailed for two years.  When released, he knew he needed to escape, “because if I stayed they would have treated me like an animal.”  So he hijacked a fishing boat (“no one got hurt”), put his wife and son aboard, and sailed three days to Thailand.  They arrived in Honolulu in 1977, but Henry lived most of the intervening years in Southern California.  Quite a story.  E pluribus unum.

Henry Le

After yakking for 45 minutes with Brent, I walked across parking lots and ramps to the airport, worked for several hours in the Admirals Club, and hopped on Hawaiian Airlines flight 90 to Boston; it’s the longest domestic flight in the U.S., but it went pretty fast, and even bolt upright I slept about five hours.  Quick connection in Boston to jetBlue, zippy flight to Washington, and was hugging the dogs by 8:55 AM.

Above, my ride east to Boston; below, a wall of Massachusetts innovations and firsts in Boston Logan Airport.

 

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