I have decided to repurpose myself, thus ending my time as dean. After a professional leave, I will return to the faculty with a half-time workload. My duties have yet to be determined, but I hope to continue to assist the college in fundraising. Of course, I will be available to support my dean successor to the extent that she or he wants my help. I also intend to become a student again, and pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in writing. I will continue to add to my blog, but as The Traveling Dean, Emeritus.

 

Louis Pol Stepping Away from Deanship

Louis Pol

After nearly 17 years leading the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) College of Business Administration, Louis Pol, the college’s John Becker Dean, has announced he will be stepping away from the position in 2019.

Pol will continue as dean until a successor is identified following a national search.

Pol first came to UNO in 1984 as an associate professor in the Department of Marketing. After three decades of campus growth and change, he said he is excited to see what the coming years hold for his college.

“Bonnie Raitt has a fine song with an important message, ‘Never Make Your Move Too Soon.’ On the opposite end, no one should stay too long,” Pol said. “It’s the right time to end my time as dean. I am incredibly proud of everything our students, faculty, staff, alumni and many community partners have accomplished over the last three decades and I know the best is yet to come.”

Plans for a national search are under development and will be shared as they are finalized. UNO will retain a search firm and stand up a search committee with broad campus and community representation to review applicants, conduct interviews and make a recommendation to the senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs.

Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., expressed gratitude for Pol’s service to the university, crediting his focus on students and collaborative spirit as key drivers of his college’s success.

“Whether it is growth in academic programs, Mammel Hall and its forthcoming addition, or the thousands of graduates who are now contributing to Omaha and Nebraska’s economies, Lou’s impact will be felt for decades to come,” Dr. Gold said. “It takes the right person to guide the education of our next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs. We will take every step we can to ensure this is a deliberative and inclusive search.”

Pol has led the College of Business Administration since he was named interim dean in August 2003. He officially became dean of the college in February 2004. During his time at UNO, he also served as a professor in the Department of Marketing, chair of the department, Peter Kiewit Distinguished Professor and as associate dean. Pol has also held a courtesy appointment in the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health since 1997.

Pol plans to spend more time writing and painting and is considering returning to teaching as a part-time faculty member in the Department of Marketing. He is also looking forward to spending more time with his extended family.

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Hong Kong, Guangzhou and the Opium Wars

I was on my way back to China in the second week of November. The main purpose of the trip was to visit again with our partners at the Guangzhou College of Commerce (GCC) regarding our joint undergraduate business program. I’ve written about this one before. Students will spend their first two years at GCC and second two years at our business school. Students who complete the program receive diplomas from both universities. The first cohort arrives in Omaha in time for the fall 2019 semester.

gcc

I chose a different travel route this time. Instead of making my way to Guangzhou through Beijing, I decided to fly directly from LAX to Hong Kong, and take the train the rest of the way. The train is fast (well, kinda fast), covering the distance from Hong Kong to Guangzhou in one hour. The Omaha to LAX flight is an easy one, and the flight out of LAX originates from a new part of the airport, one that has an excellent selection of restaurants and shops. I had dinner at LAX with one of our former MBA students. He was flying from Omaha to LAX to Las Vegas. He’s interesting and smart, and continues to stay connected to our college.

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The downside of the LAX to Hong Kong leg is that the time from wheels up to touchdown is 14 hours and 40 minutes (scheduled). Whew. That’s a good deal of restless sleep, way too many movies, and far too much time figuring out my fellow passengers’ snore cycles. We arrived in Hong Kong nearly 40 minutes early, but still had flown for more than 14 hours, plenty of time to also get a bad case of fat feet. I struggled a bit getting my shoes back on.

Cathay Pacific (LAX to Hong Kong) has excellent service, and the food is pretty good as well. We were at the gate in Hong Kong by 6:15 am, a great arrival time with respect to clearing customs and immigration, especially on a Sunday morning. Both processes are efficient in Hong Kong, even if the airport is busy. And, I had avoided the Omaha-Chicago-Beijing-Guangzhou  marathon, where there’s almost always at least one connection problem.

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I was greeted in Hong Kong by Shuanglin Lin, one of my colleagues, and a good friend, along with one of his former students. Shuanglin is also the director of a public policy center at Peking University in Beijing (that’s a big deal). His student is originally from China but studied at our college. She is now a graduate student at Hong Kong University. Our plans for the day were simple, to be tourists for as long as I could hold up. I had only slept for a few hours on the LAX to Hong Kong leg of the trip and by mid-afternoon my body was going to think that it was the middle of the night. Plus, my feet were still a bit fat. In addition, Shuanglin and I had a busy Monday scheduled at GCC, so the initial thinking was that we should pace ourselves. Not really.

Hong Kong is too cool to think about any kind of pacing (and my feet returned to normal size) and we quickly developed a “see all that we can” strategy for the day. It was my first time in Hong Kong. I wanted to “see the sights”, which included a lot of walking. So, we were decided first to get something to eat and then explore. Keep in mind that breakfast in China does not involve frosted flakes and milk, bacon and eggs, pancakes, waffles, pigs in a blanket, french toast, or any of the stuff we come to expect when we walk into the Village Inn, IHOP (or whatever it’s now called), Denny’s, Jimmy’s Egg, or some other place that offers breakfast. Breakfast in China means vegetables, fish, dumplings, and a whole lot of other items that we associate with lunch or dinner. No need to worry, I didn’t go without.

hongkong

My reference to the Opium Wars in the title of this post was made because those wars shaped nearly 160 years of the history of South China, eventually leaving Hong Kong under British governance. Some Chinese refer to this period as the Century of Humiliation, although as noted above the period lasted for much more than a century. In the 18th and 19th centuries, South China, particularly Canton (Guangzhou) and Hong Kong became strong centers of commerce. The flow of silver to buy silk, porcelain, and tea into the region was substantial, creating what one might call a trade imbalance (seem familiar?) with the British and other traders. So, the British developed a plan to counterbalance the trade flow. Opium grown in India began to be sold in South China at much higher levels than it was in previous years, thus reversing the trade surplus. It also created an opioid crisis. The level of opium addiction in the Chinese population grew, creating a host of social and economic problems for the region.

In 1839, Lin Zexu was appointed viceroy by the Daoguang Emperor with instructions to “fix the problem.” Zexu seized over 1,200 tons of opium along with confining foreign traders to Canton. These acts were more than the British would tolerate, and the Royal Navy intervened. Skirmishes broke out, battles were fought, and the small armada won out in what became to be known as “gunboat diplomacy.” The war ended in 1842 with the Treaty of Nanjing. The treaty ceded Hong Kong Island to the British. But, it was not over. Unresolved trade issues (from the British perspective) led to the second opium war (1856-1860). I am leaving out much detail here, and I suggest that you read more, especially as it relates to the treaty signed that led to the turning back of Hong Kong by the United Kingdom in 1999.

Our subway ride and walk to Hong Kong University was interesting. We came across a graduation ceremony that was held indoors in a place that could not seat all of those who came to observe the affair. We caught up with family members, friends, and others as they waited until the end of the ceremony—see the pictures that follow. The campus is very nice, and is located adjacent to the bustling business district that has become well-known worldwide.

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We spent as much of the day as possible: hanging out in cool train stations, riding the cog railway to the top of Victoria Park, and enjoying the sights and sounds of one of the most vibrant cities in the world. The train ride to Guangzhou was quick, but not as fast as expected.

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The history of southern China is fascinating, and recent economic and social change makes it even more interesting. The old blends in with the new (sometimes). Among the new is the most interesting business school building that I have ever seen, The Peking University HSBC Business School in Shenzhen. It is a seven story structure with an incredibly expansive atrium. It houses a first rate academic program in an area of China that is undergoing significant economic growth. I have also added a few more pictures that represent well the old and the new. I recommend that readers consider a trip to this part of China. You will not be disappointed.

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The Other Side of the Gulf of Mexico—Xalapa and Veracruz Mexico

I have visited the east side of the gulf many times. You have read a number of my posts where I have written about Clearwater Beach, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Fort Meyers, and Naples, all great places to hang out. My mother lives in a suburb of St. Petersburg (Seminole). I have an aunt and uncle in Brandon (suburb of Tampa) and another aunt and uncle who live in Naples. In late October, I traveled with three colleagues to the west side of the Gulf of Mexico, but a bit further south than Tampa or Naples.

 

I have been to Mexico many times. In my younger days, I drove from Denton, Texas to the Texas/Mexico border, visiting towns such as Matamoros and Ojinaga, sometimes crossing the Rio Grande River in a rowboat, and learning about life in small town Mexico (beer just tastes better there). Later on, I began to visit spots along The Mexican Riviera (Tulum is my favorite). I have also traveled west from Cancun, driving to the western part of the Yucatan Peninsula to spend some time in Merida (another excellent city to explore).

Mexico-Pink

Flying to Veracruz is relatively easy. The Omaha to Houston to Veracruz flight track is nearly seamless. Xalapa is an easy 80 minute scenic drive from the Veracruz airport. Houston’s George H. W. Bush is marked by an easy, but long, path between gates. Immigration and customs stops are reasonable, a big improvement from that mess that is called O’Hare. The Veracruz airport is small, just a few gates, but exiting takes way too long (customs is slow). They have a red light/green light system for randomly (is it really random?) selecting passengers for bag search. One of those in our group, not me, drew the red light and got to show off their underwear and socks. It’s funny, but only if it isn’t your skivvies being seen by one and all.

Xalapa Airport

Most of our time was spent in Xalapa, more specifically at the Universidad Anahuac (UA). My visit was a follow-up to the UA business school dean’s visit to UNO earlier this year. The two of us are exploring avenues of collaboration: joint research, faculty exchanges, and/or student exchanges. We are already working on the language for a memorandum of understanding (an agreement to work together), and the next visitor is likely to be a faculty member from UA who has a keen interest in our behavioral lab. I am optimistic that exchanges will follow, and that one or more of our Spanish-fluent faculty members will be the next to go.

Anahuac

Mexico Welcome

UA has a very scenic campus located in a most impressive part of the world. Xalapa, a sister city to Omaha, has a population of nearly 550,000. Its elevation, over 4,600 feet, is high enough to avoid the summer heat felt at lower elevations. Yet it rarely gets “cold”.  The lush vegetation, rolling hills, waterfalls, extensive parks, and culture makes it a place to visit again and again. Xalapa was part of the Aztec Empire before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. The spanish-influenced architecture, especially on the older municipal buildings and churches stands out, making a walk virtually anywhere in downtown Xalapa a real treat. We were fortunate to be at the central plaza on a Sunday afternoon, watching children being entertained by a clown, listening to live music, and observing as vendors hawked their wares. I could go there every Sunday and never get tired of the streetscape and the smiles on the children’s faces.

Mexico Balloons

Mexico Alley Cars

Mexico Building View

Mexico Cars

Mexico Street Trees

 

U.S. Grant (that one, the dude on the fifty dollar bill) found himself in Xalapa in 1847 as part of the Mexican-American war (his opponent was Santa Anna; yes the Santa Anna from Alamo fame). Grant, then a lieutenant in the U.S. army, wrote that Jalapa (an earlier spelling) was…”decidedly the most beautiful place I ever saw in my whole life.” He described its climate as “the best in the world.”

I am providing a number of pictures from Xalapa, including that of a church damaged by an earthquake (missing bell and clock on the left side). And, yes, that’s a payphone. There are not many of these left in the U.S., but in Mexico they can still be found in large towns and rural areas. We found a red one in Xalapa, much easier to spot than the boring black ones seen in most places.

Mexico Yellow Building

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Red Phone

Mexico Phone

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Our time in Veracruz was spent at the port. Ports are very cool places. The collection of goods that passes through daily is overwhelming, and the complexity of the movement of containers and automobiles from ship to shore is most interesting to observe and read about. We were lucky on this visit, because we saw the old port in operation (see the crane and containers stacked on the dock) as well as the new port, which is still under construction (see bigger cranes). The new port is being built on “land” reclaimed from the sea. That is, sand has been dredged from the bottom of the harbor and relocated to expand the size of the area that can be used to house port facilities. When opened in June 2019, cargo capacity will have been increased from 28 to 95 million tons a year. Yep, that’s a lot. At the same time, the longest break water in Latin America has been constructed to protect the port – 2.67 miles long, nearly 20 feet wide. It can resist waves of over 26 feet and winds of more than 124 miles per hour. In all, the new port will have 35 births spread out over five terminal buildings.

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Crane 1

Kearney Nebraska

I drove to Kearney in early October to attend a University of Nebraska Board of Regents (BoR) meeting. The BoR convenes 11 out of 12 months and rotates sessions among Kearney (University of Nebraska at Kearney), Lincoln (University of Nebraska at Lincoln), and Omaha (University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska Medical Center). I went to the BoR meeting in Kearney, because the board was considering and voting on the approval for our college to proceed with its plans to construct an addition to Mammel Hall (home of the College of Business Administration). I was there to answer any questions that arose (there were not any). Three regents and the university president had good words to say about our college. In particular, the student regent from Omaha had high praise for the project, noting it was important to the students across our campus.

UN Kearney

The drive from Omaha to Kearney is about 190 miles, mostly along Interstate 80, or as Californians call it the 80. The 80 begins on the East Coast in Teaneck, New Jersey near The George Washington Bridge, not far from my grandparents’ home in Ridefield Park. It ends in San Francisco. The 80 spans 2,909 miles, including 455 in Nebraska (I-80’s longest stretch). Construction on I-80 in Nebraska began in 1957 and was completed in 1974. Additions to I-80 in Nebraska include I-480 and I-680 in Omaha and I-180 in Lincoln. A connector (I-76) near Big Springs that angles south and west from I-80 links Nebraska to Denver.

I-80 Western NE

The drive to Kearney is pretty quick. The 75 miles per hour speed limit signs first show up in the southwestern burbs of Omaha, and other than a slowdown in Lincoln (a 65 mph posted limit), it is 75-85 mph the whole way. I drove alone because the quiet time provides an excellent chance to think without interference and listen to the local radio stations (catch up on agriculture reports-e.g. soybean prices, and hear about local politics). Between listening and watching, I always believe that I have learned a lot, even before I arrive.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) has an attractive campus with new programs, and buildings, in STEM and early childhood education. The city of Kearney has about 32,000 people, a nice mix of restaurants (two microbreweries), and is in very close proximity to the Sandhill Crane migration route. If you haven’t been out here for a view of the migration, I suggest to first find a few Youtube videos to pique your interest, and then book a trip out there (March 14-April 7). These birds, all 650,000 or so of them, have six-foot wingspans and are most graceful. Check it out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvC6xsacncA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COkT0Rx9gEI

Sandhill Crane Migration

The local newspaper, The Kearney Hub, is a good one, and provides a range of stories targeted to central Nebraskans. On the day of my arrival, October 2, the lead stories reported on the latest results in Alzheimer’s research, a local effort to address the rising suicide rate, and President Trump’s exaggeration regarding recent trade deals. There were also stories/updates about the corn and soybean harvest progress (slowed by wet weather), and Governor Ricketts visit to the Kearney Chamber of Commerce the day before.

Downtown Kearney

A Road Trip to Kansas City – Billy Joel

Billy Joel was in Kansas City for a concert in the third week of September, and we were there.  It was the first concert in 39 years for Kaufman Stadium, and the place was sold out (well nearly sold out, we saw some vacant seats). Anyway, the old rocker is still on his game (mostly). He continues to surround himself with excellent musicians who on occasion help him hit notes that he can no longer get to. His list of performance dates is much shorter these days. Keep in mind that he turned 69 in May, and there are those who make the case that he is not a low mileage 69.

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KC Stadium

Billy Joel concerts are enjoyable for two reasons. First, his list of hits, and other songs that I would argue should have been hits, is extensive. Even without new material, there is a lot from which to draw. Few, if any, in the audience seemed to be disappointed that they were hearing tunes that all of us have listened to many, many times before. I had hoped to hear my three favorite Billy Joel songs, “New York State of Mind”, “Leningrad”, and “Good Night Saigon”. I only got to hear the first one I listed, but I was not disappointed. I ended up playing “Goodnight Saigon” on the drive back to the hotel after the concert, although I am not sure that my passengers were pleased that I did.

The second reason his concerts are fun is related to his connection to and engaging conversations with both the audience and his fellow musicians. Wrapped up in the conversation is a self-depreciating humor that I think puts the audience in the right frame of mind for a good time. Very early in the concert he noted that “I know what you are thinking, what the hell happened to him?” That was followed by another line, – he did not know that he would end up looking like Dr. Evil. A little later in the concert he noted that yes he was still playing that same old shit, and thanked us for continuing to come out for his shows. He seems to be comfortable in his own skin. His professional and personal story is complicated. If you are interested, I suggest that you find his 2006 biography and the story, Thirty-Three Hit Wonder.

Road trips to Kansas City are great fun, especially when your best friends are along for the ride. No Kansas City trip is complete without at least one stop for barbeque. We often go to Oklahoma Joe’s, but this time we went to a new place, Q39, just a short drive from the Plaza. I suggest that you check it out. The menu includes the usual brisket, ribs, and pulled pork sandwiches, done quite well. Sausage, chicken, onion straws, and local brews add tasty dimensions. The outdoor seating is excellent. (https://q39kc.com/ )

The concert was on Friday night. Saturday and Sunday marked 87th Annual Plaza Art Fair. The combination of great art (at reasonable prices), multiple music stages, and first-rate food and drink makes this a must event. I visited a number of art booths, trying to get a sense for how particular pieces might look in the new house we are building. Finally, later in the day, Janet and I saw a piece that we added to our collection. It arrived last week. Rick Abrams, the artist, works mostly in acrylics, on glass, floating two images, one on top of the other. The subjects are largely comic book characters and objects. We find his pieces a lot of fun to look at again, and again, of course asking the questions, “how did he do that?” you might want to check out his website https://www.rickabrams.com/, and smile at his work.

Abrams Art 1

Abrams Art 2

Long Island for Labor Day

We flew to Long Island, Islip/MacArthur Airport, and drove to Baiting Hollow to spend a long weekend with our Ardovino cousins and their families out on “The Island”. There were about 55 of us in attendance at a Sunday gathering, a great event featuring a lot of good food, Italian of course, and the re-connection of people who in some instances had not seen each other in decades. For me, having moved away from New York at age 10, and thereafter only returning during the summer and on holidays, I met many of my more distant cousins for the first time.

Baiting Hollow

MacArther

It has been 116 years since my great-grandparents left a small town in southern Italy for a new life in America. Spending time with my cousins made me think about whether or not my great-grandparents would be proud of us. Would they be able to look beyond their nineteenth century conservative family values and at least understand our twenty-first century behavior? How would they respond to the fact that our family now lives all across the country? And, would they forgive us for marrying non-Italians?

I can only speculate about the answers to these questions. I do think that they would be proud of us, and pleased that some of us return to the “old country” now and then (a few have even moved back there permanently). While they would not approve of our language, they would like our cooking (well, at least my cousin Mary’s delights). They probably would not like the fact that we live so far apart, and that we do not see each other very often. They would enjoy our life stories, the tales of family, friends, place, work, joys, and disappointments. All of us owe them our best. They took the risk and ventured to the new world.

Long Island stretches over 120 miles from New York Harbor to its most eastern reach, Montauk Point (think the movies Jaws and Sharknado). Long Island has a population of nearly eight million people, but most reside on the western end of Long Island, near New York City. Keep in mind that Brooklyn and Queens are part of Long Island. “The Island” has a rich history that long predates European settlers. George Washington lost the Battle of Long Island in 1776 and we did not get it back until 1783. Washington’s spies on Long Island and other areas of New York City were crucial to eventual victory. In 1790, the population of “The Island” was 37, 000. More recently, but not that recently, before the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, the only way to reach Long Island from New York City was by ferry or some other watercraft. There was no major commercial air travel to and from Long Island until La Guardia airport opened in 1939.

Brooklyn Bridge

Long Island has great beaches (think Jones Beach and Fire Island) and 43 wineries scattered about, although most of the wineries are on the North Shore. I suggest a tour, one where you are not driving. We had my cousin Vinnie (yeah, I have one of those) and his wife, Blake, to guide and keep us out of trouble. Many city dwellers, some of them my cousins, vacation regularly on “The Island.” Many of my cousins live there.

Strange story. I recently learned that a few of the vending machines on Long Island had new merchandize, crack pipes (yes, crack pipes). Well, that did not last long as small town mayors, city council folks, and the “just say no” crowd expressed their outrage with this development. My sense is that crack pipe vending sales have plummeted since the New York Daily News ran the story. Cracked.com flashed the headline, “Behold, The Crack Pipe Vending Machines of Long Island.” But, don’t you wanna know? How did they get there in the first place?

It turns out that someone(s) decided to repurpose three tampon dispensers. Yes, you may read that sentence again. These were stolen from parts unknown. After a bit of signage adjustment, the machines were placed in front of an apartment complex, a bus stop, and Home Depot (now doesn’t that bring alive a whole new set of images connected to home improvement projects?). The vending machines were advertised as selling pens or “S-Pens”. However, when you payed your $2 you got a crack pipe. Imagine the surprise, cough, cough, when folks got a crack pipe, not a pen. My great grandparents would be mortified.

Not to be missed if given the opportunity is a boat ride anywhere whether it be on the Long Island Sound, the Atlantic Ocean off Montauk or South, or Peconic Bay, east of Baiting Hollow. Vinnie, yeah that cousin again, took us out on his boat to explore the scenery, discuss the rise and fall (and attempted return) of the oyster industry, and visit (boat side) a few of the towns that grew up on the Bay during varies times in the development of the central and eastern part of Long Island. It was a great day for a boat ride, what day isn’t, with plenty of sun, not too much wind, and a lot of cool stuff to see.Long Island Boat Ride One

Long Island Boat Ride Two

The drive between Islip and Baiting Hollow is most interesting. Central and eastern Long Island are very rural, full of all kinds of farms, cool looking small towns, vineyards, coast line, and many historical markers. The families of Long Island suffered greatly on 9-11. Many, many brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, and friends perished when the towers were destroyed. There are now 80 steel beam memorial sites that dot the Long Island landscape from west to east. We saw a few of them on our drive to Baiting Hollow and other excursions while visiting.

Long Island Bar Memorial

Travel with Me and You Might See Something Interesting

Janet and I flew to Tampa in early August to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. My mother, Giovanna, was born August 2, 1928 in New York City. She is the second child of Giorgio and Ersilia Guinta. Ersilia, who later became known as Elsie, is an Ardovino—you know that name by now. Giovanna went through most of her life thinking that her name was Jeanette, aka Jean. However, in the 1980’s she needed to obtain a passport for an upcoming trip out of the country. She wrote for and received a copy of her birth certificate- needed to obtain her passport- and there it was, her real name, Giovanna. My mother still goes by Jeanette or Jean.

New-York-City

The birthday party was a success. The guests consisted of her close friends, both those who do and do not live in her senior living high rise, her son, daughter-in-law, daughter, stepson, cousins, and nephews. Her family traveled from Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio, New Jersey, and New York to attend the festivities. It was a full-out event and included a sit-down dinner, drinking, dancing, a two-person band (my mother’s favorite), flowers, two cakes, kind words, and a lot of fun.

Dining Hall-Lou's Mom's BDay Party

Memorial -Lou's Blog 8.21.18

There was another reason for our travel to Tampa. On August 22nd, 2017, my aunt, June Ardovino, passed away at age 97. She was the last person in our family of that generation, The Greatest Generation, to pass on. Janet and I were with my sister, mother and her husband, and cousins, along with June’s three children to commemorate her passing. June along with her husband, my uncle Charlie, were World War II veterans, and the ceremony of life celebration began at The Bay Pines National Cemetery. Bay Pines is not far from St. Petersburg, Florida. It was dedicated and officially opened in 1933.

First, there was a military ceremony, honoring both my aunt and uncle. It was followed by many stories of the lives of Charlie and June. June was a pilot early in her life, later a Sargent in the U.S. Army, and a strong person who never failed to share her opinions. One of my new favorite stories about her is that as a young adult she and two of her friends did not save up to buy their first car. They bought a plane instead, a Cessna! Charlie was an artist who had studied in Europe and for many years was responsible for creating those amazing window displays found at Saks Fifth Avenue. What a talent! Together, they were a great team. Charlie and June were always very kind to me, especially as a young boy who lived in the city and so much enjoyed visiting their home on Long Island.

Family at Memorial

Tombstone

The title of this post referred to interesting events during travel. This trip included another one of those extra occurrences that seem to happen almost regularly when I travel. This time it involved two guys who caused a ruckus in the St. Louis airport (St. Louis to Tampa), and who were mistakenly allowed to board the flight that I was on. When asked to get off, the guys responded no. Instead of dragging them off and having a video of their extraction on the five o’clock news as well as on Youtube and a bunch of websites, the pilot came on the horn and announced everyone had to get off, no reason given. The guys then knew that they were not going to Tampa, but maybe to jail. After the first row or two deplaned following the pilot’s directions, the two guys came forward and got off. I’ve seen others who have been asked to exit a flight, but never this way.

st louis airport

This happening got me thinking about some of my other airport adventures. You have read about my diversion to other airports (one was a military airport in China), an airport fire, an airport evacuation and such, but there is more. Once on a TWA flight from New York to Chicago, the plane was hit by lightning. No sleeping on that one. Another time on a four engine (propellers) plane, one of those engines quit. I had a touch-and-go on another flight when the plane in front of us did not clear the runway and we had to go back around. There were the heavily armed military guards on the tarmac in Budapest and Bucharest. And then there was the time in Leonardo Da Vinci airport when I was detained for questioning by security. Is there a pattern here? Want to fly with me?

While the birthday part was in Seminole, Florida, a suburb of St. Petersburg, we stayed in our usual haunt, Clearwater Beach. We ate at our two favorite places, Rumba and Frenchy’s, hung out at the beach, and did some exploring. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is again under construction, and the Publix just down the street from the CMA was dropped and completely rebuilt. We did not see Hulk Hogan or Jimmy Hart, but we did see two scientologists out on the street holding hands, a new one for me. The Scientologists/Clearwater City struggles continue, with land swaps, on and off land purchases, and general development projects going back and forth at the city council and reported in the media. I saw some more ‘idiots at the beach.’ Picture this. A big storm is brewing. For the last 30 minutes, the rumble of thunder has gotten louder. The wind is blowing harder. The sky is darkening. Now you can see the lightening, and it’s getting closer. Time to go to the beach? Yes! If on the beach, do not leave or get out of the water swim out farther. Every year I watch this behavior. Every year I read a story of beachgoers being hit by lighting. Every year this behavior continues. Darwin Award anyone?