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Back to the USA October 22, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Russia.

Thursday, October 19, 2006
American Airlines Flight 71
Frankfurt Main Airport

The past three days have been taken up with industry meetings; wonderful things in themselves, but they don’t make much of a story.  Still, I suppose, after 27 years in this part of the chemical industry, this is my tribe, and it’s nice to see all those tribe-mates from all over the world.

I visited the Russian State Museum on Sunday.  It’s mostly artists you never heard of, but incredibly, the art you see follows the same timeline of development of techniques followed by artists you have heard of.  Very interesting, but time ran out on me and I didn’t get to see the exhibit of Soviet Cold War poster art, which would have been dynamite.

We had one other Fodor’s moment, when walking back to the hotel we were impeded by aggressive sellers of postcards.  The situation developed quickly, but in retrospect, when the price for 24 cards dropped to a dollar, it was clear the goal was simply to get you to show them your wallet so terrible things could happen.  Thank heavens I didn’t have my money stored close to my kidney.  They did look like nice postcards, though.

stpetersburg.jpgThe Hotel Grand Europa was pretty nice, which explains the $37 breakfast.  Geez Louise—my suits don’t cost that much.  Needless to say, I hiked down to the MAKДОНАЛДС for an ЭГГ МАКМУФФИН.  In Russia the standard McMuffin comes with sausage, which was pretty good.  The eggs are different here too, and it takes a while to get used to them.  The yolks are much more orange than yellow—but they taste the same–which I think reflects what the chickens are being fed.  By the look of it, they’ve been eating either carrots or traffic cones.

And I dare you to find a 20-ounce cup of coffee to go.  There are no Starbucks in Russia,  and they desperately need a 7-11.

Statue of Aleksandr PushkinIt rained most of the week, but wasn’t terribly cold, so I walked around the city quite a bit.   It really is a pretty place, and I remain struck by the pastel colors of the buildings, the incredible mosaics, especially in St. Isaac’s, and my favorite—the statue of Alexander Pushkin.  If you come at just the right time, you can see eighteen pigeons lined up on his arm.  Overflow seating is on his head.

We had a wonderful banquet last night,  but to be honest, I’m not going to miss four-hour dinners where the vodka comes in tumblers and the water in shot glasses, especially when they end at midnight and you have a 3AM wakeup call.  I never did get sleep-acclimated this trip, so once the fog in my head cleared it was pretty easy getting up.

Jeff Sloan and I dutifully showed up at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg two hours before our 6:15 flight, and were in the waiting room with about an hour and 50 minutes to spare, trying to swallow a Power Bar with nothing to wash it down.  I love a small airport when everything is closed.

The Lufthansa flight was pretty uneventful, but they did serve us a hot breakfast.  It was kind of like eggs, only different.  And they had the smallest cans of Diet Coke I’ve ever seen—150 ml.  The can nearly weighed more than the soda.  It would take about 7 of them to make a Big Gulp.

So now here I sit on AA 71 back to Dallas, finally able to exhale.  This is always the best part: the last leg of an overseas trip when you’re finally on the plane and you can reflect on the good stuff and no more adventures are possible, or at least likely.  Yeah, I’d come back here.

When we get back to Dallas the preparations for the tour start in earnest.  I can’t wait.  Two meals a day at the Dashboard Diner; windows down, music blaring so as to annoy old people in the other lane.  Ain’t nothin’ better than a road trip, and we’ll document it all the way.

Now three requests.  First, I hope you’ll stay with us as we cover the Midwest next week, especially by using the RSS to automatically have the blog fed to you as new posts appear.  You can subscribe to RSS feeds by clicking on either “full” or “comments” and then copying the URL into your favorite RSS aggregator.

The links are the following:

Second, I hope you’ll take the time to comment on what we say and do.  I expect the ACS crew that’s keeping me out of the ditches may file a minority report, and you can too.  Finally, if you write a blog and you like what you see, link to us so we can turn more people on to National Chemistry Week.



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