Day One
Part One

Iowa to the Easter Bloc:

I’ve set off on an unusual trip this time. It started with a quick hop and a skip from Traverse City to Des Moines. Two flights, each under 45 minutes… a brief stop at O’Hare. The Des Moines gig is for the Iowa Department of Public Health and is attended by physicians and administrators from hospitals and clinics around the state. They are a great audience! We have fun and laugh quite a bit. One of the more engaged groups I’ve worked with in some time.

Iowa is….well…. Iowa. I am reminded of my days at Minnesota Public Radio, just up highway 35W from here. Long stretches of freeway, greening crops of every kind in all directions, immense wet fields awaiting the tender care of vanishing farmers. They’ve had their wettest (and snowiest) winter in decades here. Everywhere I go there is talk of surviving the winter. It’s different in a place like this than in say Minneapolis. In the Twin Cities people are prepared for such weather. There are winter sports to match the dark hours and a humor designed to dryly pierce the layers of protection a mind puts before it in such places. Snow is not welcome as much as the season itself. Winter represents, if nothing else, a respite from the green vastness of the fertile plain. It is a time to dig in, to play cards, to drink peppermint schnapps along with the beer, and to heal your body of the wounds of a year’s labor. After this long season, these people are looking forward to the work which lies before them.

I am here but briefly, just one night and part of a day. Wednesday afternoon I hop a flight for Chicago to work with a private company. The gig in Chicago is a hidden resort which seems to hover between the suburbs and the city. All the time I’ve spent in Chicago and I’ve never before known of this place. Eaglewood Resort and Spa is technically in Itasca, Illinois. But it’s only twenty minutes from O’Hare, and that was during rush hour. It’s an oasis wedged between the Eisenhower Expressway, 355 and highway 20. It comes highly recommended by me. The entire facility including the hotel and conference center reflects on the architectural work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Everything is in sepia tones, with tall and bright interior areas. Seating is Stickley inspired Prairie School in design. Lovely place. And it’s the only private resort I’ve been to that includes a bowling alley. My clients rented the place on my last night for a great team building gathering. Beer and bowling! What else could a group of hard working folks ask for after a long day of change management?

I left the resort and found a room at the O’Hare Hilton for a couple nights. Rather than race home for a few hours, I decided to stay here and relax. It was a good choice. I was able to catch up on a lot of business, including paying some bills and doing some writing. It felt like a little private retreat.

Today, I’ve walked across the street to O’Hare and searched out Terminal 5, for international departures. It’s a scoot on the tram….ten minutes away. I decided to go and check in early so that I could commence with more relaxing. This was a reality check for my travels to eastern Europe. The ticketing counter for LOT, (Polish Airlines,) was empty at noon when I showed up. Disconcertingly there is a sign here that reads, “Check-in starts at 6:30 PM.” A nice round number, but my flight leaves at 5:30 PM. I’m starting to get nervous. I decide to ride back to the Hilton and get a beer….I’m allowed! And I know it’s comfortable and I can find free WiFi. While sitting at the bar I noticed an interesting sign that reads, “These premises are for the use of Hilton guests. Trespassing is not allowed, except by hotel employees.” I find it comforting to know that the low paid staff here can at least choose to augment their incomes by trespassing. I must admit to occasionally trespassing here myself on overnight layovers. The lobby can be quite comfortable, and the staff friendly, as long as you don’t smell like Jack Daniels or act like Jack Black. I’ve met some interesting people while ignoring that sign.

So now I’m finally ticketed, (Business Class Baby!) but as I walked up to the counter I noticed an interesting sign hastily taped to the edge of each station. The sign has no words, but is readily understood by all. It has a picture of a chainsaw, (not just any one mind you, a Husqvarna,) and a big circle with a slash through it. Hmmmm. One has to wonder if they need a sign for such a thing if they’ve had multiple attempts to bring them on board. None of the other airlines had the signs, only Polish Airlines. Hmmmm..

I’m behind security. Here there’s another reality check… no restaurants or bars on this side of TSA scrutiny. It’s funny because Terminal 5 is certainly the most modern construction of all O’Hare properties. It’s bright and clean, but somehow they forgot to make room for vendors. All the vendors are lined up using fold-out carts along one of the walls. No stores, no McDonalds, no Sam Adams, no Brookstone. I must admit it’s actually a relief. I’m waiting in the executive lounge here for Greg. (Imagine that, me waiting for Greg!) Anyway….I’m actually excited to be going to eastern Europe for the first time. Lithuania was behind the iron curtain not so long ago. Now, it’s free to travel in and out, no visa needed.


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