A Shooting at the Airport

I was back in Clearwater Beach in early January, a last break before the spring semester commenced and my travel schedule got way out of hand. We flew directly to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater airport, PIE as it is known. As noted before, PIE is very convenient for us. The A320 flown by Allegiant is comfortable enough, more legroom, and I like the no frills (unless you pay) approach to baggage and such. While there was no official flight delay, nor a cancellation, there was some excitement before wheels up. Just before the doors were closed, an Omaha police officer came on the aircraft to have “a conversation” with a fellow passenger. The passenger was only two rows in front of my seat, opposite side of the plane, but the conversation was too muffled to understand what transpired. I did hear, “well, I paid for this ticket,” but apparently that explanation did not completely work. He was quietly escorted off the aircraft. While we waited a few minutes before the doors were closed and armed (with what?), the passenger did not return. Hmm.

allegiant-a320

The flight was uneventful. It was a nice day weather-wise, so our time over the gulf revealed the usual sparkling water, fishing and sail boats, and a coast line of places that we could identify. An on-time arrival at this time of the year is something to celebrate, and we did. It’s a short walk from the gate to the baggage claim and rental cars at the PIE, and we moved quickly to get ahead of a possible long line at the Alamo desk. There was only one person in line in front of me, so it was not long before an agent was gathering all the particulars. It was nearly 80 degrees outside and my mind began to wander, thinking about the beach, the breeze, shrimp, and an adult beverage at Palm Pavilion when an alarm went off that startled all of us. We could not tell what or whom had set it off, although it appeared to be coming from the spot where deplaned passengers cross into the baggage area (you cannot go back that way). I thought that perhaps a confused tourist had decided to try to go back, thus triggering the alarm. And, next, there was the announcement. We were evacuating PIE. I didn’t have the paperwork complete for the car, and we were told to get out, pronto. We grabbed all of our stuff and joined the increasing number of dumbfounded folks who, like me, had never been through an airport evacuation before.

pie_baggage_claim

As our overdressed selves stood in the sun beginning to perspire, the story about the shooting in the Ft. Lauderdale airport began to spread. Perhaps someone was going to blast away in PIE, but we had not heard any shots. In fact, we were never told why we were asked to get out, nor was there any local news story that I could find. The Ft. Lauderdale shooting had occurred about an hour earlier, and there was a rumor of a second shooter about the time we were evacuated. The two airports are on opposite sides of Florida, 201 miles apart.

The all-clear came in about 20 minutes, and now the stampede was on to get back into the PIE (think cattle again). Luggage and rental cars awaited. The beach was calling. It was time to party. We moved with a purpose and found ourselves in front of the same Alamo agent we had worked with prior to our exit. We checked out quickly (she had no idea regarding why we had evacuated the PIE). We headed north then west to the beach. As you might expect, our conversation had turned to the tragedy in Ft. Lauderdale and if our early exit was somehow related to twitchy airport officials who were concerned for our safety. Thanks, I mean it, for being twitchy.

pie-airport

Short trips are always fun, especially when traveling to a place with much warmer weather (during the winter). And, there is always something interesting happening at the beach. First, we ran into Jimmy Hart at Hulk Hogan’s store in Clearwater Beach. You might remember Jimmy from his days on WWE and WWF, as a manger of Hulk Hogan, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and a host of others. Jimmy, aka “The Mouth of the South,” lived in Memphis for many years (he was born there). He first became known locally for his vocals with The Gentry’s. In 1965, The Gentry’s had a million selling record, “Keep on Dancing.” They were under contract with Stax at the time the band folded. Janet was once on George Klein’s Dance Party (yes, that George Klein, friend of Elvis) with Jimmy Hart in the early 1970s, Jimmy with The Gentry’s and Janet with the Bartlett High School choir.

jimmy-hart-the-pols

Janet was quite excited to see Jimmy and a conversation ensued. He’s a graduate of Treadwell High School in Memphis. Janet attended three high schools in Memphis, Bartlett, Central, and Kingsbury, all rivals of Treadwell. Janet gave Jimmy a gentle reminder that while The Gentry’s lip synced their number, Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl,” the Bartlett High School choir actually sang “Carol of the Bells”—it was December. He took it well, noting that often shows like Dance Party did not have the right equipment for live performances. We posed for pictures, and Jimmy treated us like long lost friends, very nice. I like that guy.

While driving, I was stopped by the police in Redington Beach for not having my lights on during a rain event. He, the officer, found it odd that a dude from Nebraska was driving a car from North Carolina (I told him it was a rental). He went back to his car, ran my license, and discovered no outstanding warrants. He gave me a verbal warning (very polite) and when I started driving again the ladies in the car observed that he was cute. So nice.

Over the next months, I will be writing more about the new restaurants and hotels in Clearwater Beach, but I should note that a new Mexican food restaurant has opened, “The Spotted Donkey”, and they serve the beer “Reef Monkey.” Where do they get these names?

Our weekend in Clearwater Beach happened to coincide with the playing of the college national championship football game, Alabama versus Clemson (the game was at Raymond James Stadium). There seemed to be many more Clemson fans at the beach. In fact, there were hardly any Alabama fans that we saw (until their marching band showed up), on the streets, restaurants, or hotels. I’m not sure why. We did see both marching bands perform (not at the same time) on the beach right next to Pier 60. The cheer squads, a sad looking dude or dudette dressed up as a small elephant, a somewhat better looking human inhabited stuffed Tiger, and a bunch of fans got all excited. It turns out that the Clemson fans had good reason to be jazzed up. That was quite a game.

cwb-clemson-marching-band

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Who is That Guy in the Red Hoodie?

It was back in Dallas in mid-December. Air travel from and to Omaha is tricky at this time of the year, especially when your scheduled ride did not dead-head in Omaha the night before. We arrived at Eppley Air Field just before noon, and learned quickly that our flight was delayed 45 minutes. In a very short time, we went from delayed to cancelled. The weather outside was frightful, but in surrounding states even worse. Our scheduled ride to Love Field was not getting to Omaha.

Well, no one cracked up. Folks just got in line to make their route and time changes, with the usual muffled conversations about the weather in Chicago, St. Louis, or elsewhere having some effect on travel plans. The lines that formed up reminded me of the instances when cattle line up and head toward “the barn” when it’s time to be fed. I did not like the vibe in the line, so I wandered off for a short walk. Janet hopped on the Southwest website and snagged up a flight for early in the evening. A kind agent in another line gave us boarding passes. Of course, “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” were playing in the background, but it’s hard to get into the spirit when your flight has been cancelled. I’ve sometimes wondered why there isn’t a shift away from holiday music when there are a bunch of flight delays and cancellations. Wouldn’t Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” work much better? I like that song, even though it has been much overplayed in the last three years.

pharrell-williams

While we had time to leave the airport and return, a below zero wind chill convinced us not to go. There was food and drink to be found along with a growing crowd (more delays and cancellations) of people who apparently had taken their medications before heading to the airport. The complaint level was low, and quiet, and the gate agents were real champs that day. One dog got a bit surly, a bark here and there, but the outbreak was short-lived. Perhaps a tasty bit of pizza or even some beer had a role in distracting the agitated hound.

Extended time in the airport means, for me, extra time for reading and too much time for directionless thinking. After catching up with local, national, and international news, including the latest tweets from the President-Elect, I began to wonder about how many songs there were with cold in the title or being cold as a theme (yes, it was very cold outside). So, in short order, I was back to my iPad to find a list of such songs. And, I found:

  • Cold Sweat (James Brown) – my favorite
  • Funky Cold Medina (Tone Loc)
  • Cold as Ice (Foreigner)
  • Cold, Cold, Cold (Little Feat)
  • Stone Cold (Rainbow)
  • Cold Blooded (Rick James)
  • Cold Beer with Your Name on It (Josh Thompson)
  • Hot Beer and Cold Women (Randy Houser)
  • She Shook Me Cold (David Bowie)
  • Out in the Cold (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)

james-brown

After another delay, or two, we were airborne, arriving at Love Field just after 10:45 pm. As we headed toward the rental car van, I was not too tired to observe that the Love Field Whataburger was closed (make a note of that). The rides to the rental car desk and my sister’s house were uneventful, although I did learn of a fight that broke out in the Ft. Lauderdale airport (among family members! fist were flying) that was somehow linked to a flight delay. Anyway. We arrived at my sister’s, 11:30 pm, twelve hours after first arriving at Eppley Airfield, well more than the time needed to drive from Omaha to Dallas.

So, now to the guy in the red hoodie. After a Sunday morning breakfast at Cindy’s, our favorite breakfast place stop in north Dallas, we decided to drive over to Grapevine Lake to take a look at a housing development on the lake. Old downtown Grapevine is a very cool place, with restored buildings, good restaurants, plenty of holiday decorations and an appreciation of its history. Seeing old Grapevine remind me of the days before the construction and operation of DFW. The town and the lake are on the north end of the air field.

I was driving toward the lake and there was a lot of conversation going on, when out of the corner of my eye, my right eye not my left, I saw something you do not see on the streets of Nebraska. My passengers did not see “it”, so when I told them that the guy in the red hoodie we just passed by was packing, they responded that I had to be wrong. I told them that they were busy talking and I was just doing what I do, noticing the stuff around me. They chuckled, and I responded that I would turn the vehicle around so that they could see what I had observed. Sure enough, a mid-20s guy in dark pants (black) and a red hoodie had an automatic weapon strapped over his shoulder and a pistol on his hip (I did not notice the pistol on the first pass).

My sister soon stated that especially since the killings at Sandy Hook she had promised herself that if she saw something like this that bothered her she would call the police, and she did. While open carry is legal in Texas and in other states, seeing it when you live in a place where it does not occur certainly gets your attention. On our third pass, the last one, we noticed that the guy was jogging a bit, then he hid behind a tree, and then moved on down a different street. We hung back after that thinking that we did not want to be his first targets of the day.

The police, four cars, arrived too late, the red hoodie guy was gone and could not be found. We talked to them, described what we had observed, and it appeared to us that they were concerned. Think about this:

  • Open carry is legal, and red hoodie man was not breaking a law
  • Red hoodie man was engaged in some suspicious behavior (in our opinion, hiding behind a tree and jogging, remember he’s packing)
  • Perhaps the “weapons” were an air rifle designed to look like an automatic weapon, along with an air pistol (we don’t know, who else would know?)
  • If you are a police officer, how do you approach this individual? This is legal behavior, but…

Later that day we were in AT&T stadium to watch the Cowboys play the Bucs. The Cowboys prevailed 26-20. Jerry Jones’ house is big, too big for me. We sat in section 451, aka the nosebleed section. Aren’t aliens kept in Area 451? The seats are not inexpensive either, yet when looking down, the field appears to be occupied by big ants in uniforms. If you sit up that high, you end up spending most of the time looking at the giant screen, not much different from your home TV. The screen is so dominant that the crowd is laid back until cheerleaders or Michael Irvin comes on the screen urging the crowd to cheer. Cowboy fans are loyal and vocal, but that stadium (at least for the folks sitting up high) has no soul, no crowd spontaneity. After spending consecutive weeks watching the Bucs play New Orleans (home) and Dallas (away), give me Raymond James stadium with its crazy fans and exciting environment.

att-staduiumraymond_james_stadium-1337

Clearwater Beach – Just Before the Holidays, the Bolts and the Bucs Go One and One

We were back in the air headed toward warmer weather in early December. I was in a festive mood, determined not to let those awful versions of Christmas music that wash over U.S. airports at this time of year invade my happy space. The 12 Days of Christmas done by what sounded like Box Car Willy does not put anyone in a good frame of mind—well, maybe small children do not recognize the violence being done to these songs. Anyway, my fellow travelers seemed upbeat too. It was too early in the month to witness the mob of families headed to Orlando and a date with the mouse.  There were a few flight delays, but no harsh words about missed connections or lives ruined. I even met a Cleveland Browns fan. He was not suicidal over the fact that his Brownies were still winless.

Our connection was in St. Louis (Lambert Field), again my favorite fly-through airport because the Southwest gates are so close together. By the time we were over the gulf (it was a clear day), the anticipation of a much warmer few days rendered me giddy. The views off the left side of the aircraft, aqua blue water, white sand beaches, the sponge docks at Tarpon Springs, McDill Air Force Base, and finally the air field brought back memories of previous trips to Clearwater Beach, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and other places in the region.

clearwater_beach_8

While airborne, I lamented, again, the loss of Sky Mall buying opportunities. Also note that Southwest The Magazine no longer carries Sudoku puzzles, a terrible exclusion in my opinion. Anyway, without Sky Mall, the only option for buying stuff at 37,000 or so feet is Southwest The Magazine, a glossy publication filled with stories so short that I wonder why they were written at all. However, there are many high altitude buying opportunities, including:

  • Mdrive (re-find your prime by boosting testosterone and burning fat)
  • Hair Replacement/Rejuvenation
    • Ultimate Hair Growth Lazer, 82 Lazer diocles, 90 seconds, 3 times a week (just strap it on your head), only $795, give as a gift and $125 off
    • Lazer Band 82, strap it on your head and smile like the folks in the pictures below
    • Capillus, 82 lazer diodes, 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week (put on the Capillus Ball Cap), $799, FDA cleared, whatever that is
  • Standing Desks (two ads)
  • Earn a Doctorate in business administration (DBA on-line)
  • Jesus Always talking books
  • Pinto Ranch cowboy boots for women (why not cowgirl boots?)
  • Lasik and Cataract Surgery (eight options)
  • It’s Just Lunch (date smarter)

There’s more, but I will stop here.

Amalie Arena is home to the Tampa Bay Lightning, an NHL hockey team that last won the Stanley Cup in 2004. The Bolts, as they are known, are having a tough season, and on December 10 had lost two in a row, and six of their last seven games. We had excellent seats in the lower bowl. The Bolts shot out to a 3-1 lead. Bad penalties, the inability to clear the puck, and unforced errors led to the Pittsburg Penguins eventually winning 4-3. Andres Sustr, a former UNO player and once a student in our college, is a defenseman for the Bolts. He took one of the bad penalties and it led to a goal for the Penguins. We saw three fights, and one ejection. Tampa Bay was outshot 37-13, and had 32 penalty minutes (Pittsburgh had 18). The best part of the arena is the generation of lightning in the ceiling that zaps away now and then not unlike that found in scenes from Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein (the movies).

frankensteinamalie-arena

I experienced three days of fog, sometimes the heavy version, while on this visit. In all of my travels to Clearwater beach, I have never witnessed this much fog. Moreover, it lasted until well into the afternoon on two days. Seeing that zero visibility view (what view?) one morning brought to mind Stephen King’s 1980 novella, The Mist. As in typical King style, there’s bad stuff in that fog, real bad stuff. The story has and interesting twist (sad) at the end and if you don’t know the story, check it out.

the-mist

We (Janet, my mother Jean, her husband Sid, and our friends Gary and Becky) went to Raymond James Stadium to watch the Bucs beat the Saints 16-11. We saw a very rare occurrence. Neither Drew Brees nor Jameis Winston (for his first time) threw a touchdown pass. And, the Saints did not score a touchdown at all. They, the Saints, made up for this lack of offense by scoring six touchdowns the following week. Our seats, in the lower bowl, were close to the end zone that is home to the craziest of fans (in a fun way). That end zone is the one that has the pirate ship that shoots off its cannons when the Bucs score (you’ve seen it on TV). The fans were all decked out in pirate garb and Santa gear. They also a happy bunch, spontaneous, and definitely oiled up for the occasion, very much unlike the plastic bunch we observed the following week when we saw the Bucs play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

bucs-pirate-ship

A final bit of news. For those of you who keep up on the latest bits of news from the world of Scientology, a recent rumor around Clearwater has it that Tom Cruise is having a new luxury condominium built, complete with an automobile elevator (who doesn’t need one of these?), built right smack dab in downtown Clearwater. The entire complex in which Mr. Reacher’s condo will be located is projected to generate much needed economic activity in downtown Clearwater. Stay tuned for an update given that I will be back at the beach soon.

jack-reacher-poster-international

The Oregon Trail – In Reverse

One of the great stories of our nation is that of the Oregon Trail. While the trail was first used by trappers and traders as early as 1811, it became the primary way for migrants to travel west to Oregon beginning in 1836. More than 400,000 pioneers crossed the trail between 1840 and 1860, often considered the boom years. Recall that by 1869 (May 10th to be exact) the transcontinental railroad had been completed, offering an alternative faster, safer and cheaper way of moving west.

oregon-trail

The trail did not cover a single path. The beginning and end points on the trail changed over time. On the front end, travelers might start in Independence, Missouri or Omaha, Nebraska/Council Bluffs, Iowa. At the endpoint, pioneers settled in Oregon, California, Idaho, or Utah. Only an estimated 80,000 out of the 400,000 noted above made it to Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Approximately 70,000 Mormon pilgrims travelled it to Utah before stopping (aka, the Mormon trail). The California Trail, which began in the same places as the Oregon Trail, was traversed by 250,000 persons. Even today the ruts left by the wagons pulled on this long trek can be found in many western states.

oregon_trail_wagon_ruts_-_panoramio

The trails noted above have a rich yore. Some of the stories are true, some not. As noted above, there was not just one trail, although all shared long elements such as the trek along the Platte River in Nebraska to Fort Laramie. Most agree that the first crossing was made by Protestant missionaries in 1836. They led a small party from St. Louis to the Walla Walla Valley in Oregon in 1843. Travelers most often did not rely on the large and unwieldy Conestoga Wagon seen in so many western movies and reenactments, but on smaller covered wagons which have been referred to Prairie Schooners. They travelled between 15 and 20 miles per day, leaving an impressive collection of trash (e.g. discarded food barrels and wagon parts) behind as they consumed their supplies. Unlike Hollywood movies, attacks by Indians were rare. Only about 400 of these travelers are estimated to have been killed by Native Americans between 1840 and 1860. Pioneers were much more likely to die from diseases such as Cholera as well as wagon accidents and exposure.

prairie-schooner

I travelled along a part of the Oregon Trail, in reverse order, in late November-early December. I drove with three of my colleagues to visit the satellite offices of our small business development center and to meet with partners in several parts of the state. Overall, we traversed over 1,000 miles in four days covering the sand hills and valleys in central and western Nebraska and the flat lands that lie along the Platte River. We first drove north and west, not along the Oregon Trail but on highways 275 and 20, taking us through the cities/towns of Fremont, West Point, O’Neill, and Valentine to our first overnight stop in Chadron, Nebraska, a total of 432 miles often on two land black top roads. On day two, we traveled south through Hemingford and Alliance to Scottsbluff. On day three we drove to North Platte. On the fourth day after our meetings had concluded we headed back to Omaha on I-80 along the Platte River, the most popular starting point of the Oregon Trail after 1855.

sandhills-whitman-rd

The drive to Chadron provides a strong reminder of the beauty and greatness of our country. As the topography and annual rainfall amounts shift so does the nature of the crops and grazing land. The eastern part of Nebraska contains what appear to be endless acres of mostly corn and soybeans, although by late November most of the crops had been harvested. One main exception is the sugar beet crop in western Nebraska which in late November was still being carried to the processing plants in Chadron and other places. The small towns along the way have undergone tough times, but as we discovered in Cody, Nebraska, “a town too tough to die”, the people in those places are innovative and resourceful. While many places try, and fail, to hold their populations, they retain their unique, cowboy tough, nature which drives them to press on.

cody-ne

Chadron, a city of nearly 6,000 is home to Chadron State College, our partner institution in providing assistance to small businesses in northwest Nebraska. Chadron has a real west look and feel, and is closer to Cheyenne and Denver than Omaha. It became a town like so many places when a railroad line was constructed through that part of Nebraska in 1884. Its elevation, 3,400 feet, provides evidence of the gradual rise that can be found as one travels west from Omaha toward the Rocky Mountains (the official elevation of Omaha is 1,089 feet). In addition to the college, Chadron is also home to the Museum of Fur Trade and the Pine Ridge Recreation Area. During the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Chadron was the starting point of the 1,000 mile Chadron to Chicago Cowboy Horse Race, won by John Berry in 13 days and 16 hours.

chadron-ne

Scottsbluff, south of Chadron, is on the Oregon Trail, and the area around it provides some of the iconic scenery observed by those who went travelling west. Even today, Scotts Bluff National Monument and Chimney Rock are impressive reminders that “city life” has been left far behind. The city itself has roughly 12,000 persons, by far the largest locale in western Nebraska or eastern Wyoming. The city was not established until 1899, long after the Oregon Trail had been replaced by the railroad as being the best way to reach Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and points west. Unlike most of western Nebraska, it is socially/ethnically diverse. Nearly 30 percent of the population is Hispanic or Latino.

chimney_rock_nebraska

North Platte, our last stop, is a city of nearly 25,000 and home to the Union Pacific Railroad’s Bailey yards, a massive collection of track, locomotives, and railcars, that are mixed and matched so that they can be sent on to their final destinations (or next point of remixing the railcars). Bailey is the largest rail yard in the world, and in operation resembles a ballet as a most coordinated effort is made to assemble the right collection of railcars to be moved on. North Platt was the western terminus of the Union Pacific Railway from the summer of 1867 until the next section was completed (Laramie, Wyoming) in the summer of 1868. It should be noted that Wild Bill Cody had a ranch just north of North Platte. It can be visited today. North Platte is located what some might call “big country” (my apologies to those of you further west). On the day that we drove back to Omaha, 28,645 acres of ranch and farm land was auctions in 50 parcels for $37.5 million.

PRAIRIE LAKES 2

And then we were on our way home.

Grand Island, Kearney and Lexington (Nebraska)

In late October, I was out with my colleagues from the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC), a department in our college, to meet with our business partners and elected officials in central Nebraska. We were also introducing our new NBDC director, who is only the second director we have ever had. Our founding director stayed for 37 years—he is just a few months younger than me which qualifies him as a geezer. It was an easy drive from Omaha to Grand Island, about 150 miles. Just get on Interstate 80, set the cruise control to 79 (speed limit 75), go slower getting out of Omaha, and slow down when passing through Lincoln.

Central Nebraska is made up of friendly people, a lot of cropland, a bit of grazing land (along Interstate 80), a few larger towns, more smaller places, and a great deal of clear sky. The rolling hills throughout the drive become even more noticeable by the contoured plowing of the land which prevents erosion and maximizes yield. Tourists are drawn to this part of our state in March and April to watch over 500,000 Sandhill Cranes as they stop at the Platte River valley to “fuel up”” for their continued migration north. The migration of that many birds flying in formation and roosting together along and in the Platte River is quite a sight. I suggest that you visit sometime. Get a tour guide and be prepared to be up and about long before dawn.

sandhill-crane-migration

The cranes are gone in October. The corn and beans are drying in the fields, and harvest season is well underway. Large combines along with 18 wheel and other trucks dot the fields, with farmers working long into the night to bring in the crops that feed our nation. Even though I have observed harvest season many times, I never fail to stop, look, and wonder in amazement about how this all gets done. I have seen quite a bit of agricultural land in Eastern Europe. The harvest process, whether it be for grain or fruit, is much more labor intensive there.

combine-in-operation

Grand Island, Kearney, and Lexington are located along Interstate 80 in a belt of Nebraska counties that have a mixed record of population growth over the last 80 years. Nebraska is made up of 93 counties, way too many by 21st century standards (opinion). Only 12 of those counties achieved their largest population in 2010 or later. That is, 81 Nebraska counties have lost population since 2010! The demographic story is even more complicated. Out of the 81 counties that have lost population since 2010, 73 or 90 percent recorded their largest population in 1940 or earlier. Three of the twelve growth counties are in Central Nebraska, and Grand Island and Kearney are located in population growth counties. Lexington is part of Dawson County, one of two counties in Nebraska that had the largest recorded population in 2010.

All three cities are interesting, with strong business communities and populations that are changing. Grand Island, population 49,000, is undergoing a downtown revitalization that is making it an exciting place to work, play, and live. Buildings constructed in the earlier part of the 20th century are being modernized and gussied up, and the streetscape has been completely redone with outdoor seating for restaurants and new landscaping. I recommend a visit to The Chocolate Bar for lunch or dinner, and conversation with those who are leading the change.

the-chocolate-bar

Kearney, population 32,000, is home to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, a 7,500 student institution offering a range of bachelor and master degrees. New construction on the campus is having significant effects on both the university and the city. Kearney is also home of the Gateway Arch, a structure that is suspended over Interstate 80 and was designed to be a tourist attraction. It is an excellent example of the operationalization of the “build it and they will come” phrase that should be followed by “but maybe they won’t.” Short-sighted planning with respect to highway access and program planning have led to actual revenue realized that falls far short of that projected.

hsec_building-unkgateway-arch

Lexington is one of the most interesting (demographically) cities in Nebraska. It began as a trading post in 1860 (Nebraska achieved statehood in 1867), and was originally named Plum Creek. After years of functioning as an economic center in the middle of an agricultural area, beef processing came to town. The jobs brought to Lexington appealed most to a population that did not yet live there, Latinos. Today over 60 percent of Lexington is Latino, a much larger proportion there found in any other Nebraska community, many work at the Tyson plant. A second round of migrants was drawn to meat packing, this time made up of Somalis. Official data show that the population is 6.6 percent African American, but vast majority of that group is African (Somalian).

lexingtonnebraskarrn_tysonlex_front

Travel, Just Outside Our Building

Thus far, all of my posts have been about travel. I am making an exception here so that I can share a good story and a fine piece of art with you. On November 3, we unveiled a statue of our founding dean, John Lucas. Dean Lucas has had a lasting impact on our college. He led our efforts to achieve our first national accreditation and started our MBA program. He assembled a very talented faculty, holding them to high expectations.

fullsizerender-lucas-statue

The statue was made possible by alum and donor, Al Thomsen, and his wife, Beverly. The sculptor is Matt Placzek, a most talented artist.

Chicago – Business Deans, Architecture and That Goat

I was back in Chicago in early October to attend the Mid-American Business Deans Conference (MABDA). As you might remember, in the past MABDA has been held starting the day of the Chicago Marathon, and I have always liked being there on race day. The sights and sounds of over 40,000 runners and cheering crowds of over 1 million make the race a great event. Not this year. We moved the meeting back one week because of the havoc created for those who drive to Chicago for the meeting. The traffic on race day is bad, with street closings that are not easy to understand or predict. Taxi and Uber drives are sometimes at a loss with regard to the best route from airport to the Omni, and those who drive in from wherever seem to just drift from street to street hoping for an opening. Well, the drivers have prevailed and we will no longer meet on race weekend, so sad. Anyway, MABDA was good, and as always I came away with a few ideas that we will try out here. I also learned that the longest standing dean in our group, at 23 years, is retiring. That puts me near the top at 13 years. Recall that the average number of years a business school dean has in her/his current post is approximately 4.5. So, in dog years…

chicago-skyline

The first event for MABDA is on Sunday evening at Loyola University. I flew in to Midway on Saturday, giving me early and midday Sunday to do some work and explore. This year I chose to take an architectural tour on the Chicago River. The tour starts just a bit southwest of the Wrigley Building, right at the front of a Trump International Hotel and Tower (all of the retail space on the first two floors facing the river was vacant, leasing informational available, what?). The river tour is 90 minutes, first moving east to Lake Michigan and then west to the north/south split in the river. The tour takes the north split first, and then the south route.

chicago-river

I recommend the tour to anyone who has an interest in architecture, the history of Chicago, and/or who just likes getting out on a boat. Our tour guide was first rate, providing the small details about a building or a location that makes a story jump to life. For example, the structure currently on the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River, the Art Deco building built in 1928 by Fred M. Torrey, was once the site of Ft. Dearborn. As it turns out, the fort was located there because it was on the lake at that time. The several blocks of land east that we see today have been made possible by infill and adjustments in the location and flow of the river.

fortdearborn1804

Chicago’s history of architecture is most interesting, and much of it can be seen from the river. The world’s first modern steel-framed skyscraper, the Home Insurance Builder, was built in Chicago in 1885. Of particular interest, to me, are the river views of the Wrigley Building (1924), Tribune Tower (1922), Old Main Post Office (1921), and the Merchandise Mart (1931). The post-World War I flurry of construction was most impressive, but most work ended by the early 1930s when the effects of the Great Depression took hold.

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Yes, the Chicago Cubs are in the World Series for the first time since 1945 (they lost in seven games to the Detroit Tigers). In early October, the baseball playoffs had started and the Cubs happened to be home when I was there. No, I did not attend. Never far from any conversation about the Cubs and the World Series is the curse of the goat. The curse was delivered in 1945, but the stories about whether or not the curse was later rescinded (how do you take back a curse?) are not clear. So, William Sianis and his goat, Murphy, arrived at game 4 of the World Series on October 6, 1945. William, Billy, had two box seat tickets for the game, one for himself and one for Murphy. They went to their “seats” and proceeded to “watch” the game. Well, the goat and Billy had peculiar odors about them, goats often smell goaty, and a few complaints were made by fans within the smell-sphere of Murphy.  Billy, was asked to take his goat and leave, and an outraged Sianis is reported to have said, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” His family reported that he later sent a telegram to Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley which read, “You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again because you insulted my goat.” So, the curse was in play. There is one version of the story that Billy and Murphy never got into Wrigley Field that day, having been turned away by officials at the entrance. On October 7, 1945, the Chicago Sun reported that Billy left Murphy tied to a stake in a parking lot, and attended the game alone after Murphy was not allowed into Wrigley Field. Either way, the “curse” lingers 71 years after the story’s origination.

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