Sunday, June 25

Hiking Days

Me and the little g. We are on the clock for the JMT.

We join Ben and his family for Ben's bar mitzvah in St John's Wood, which the boy delivers without breaking a sweat, Torah and all. Ben's grandfather, who is seated a few seats from me, is a Founder of Israel. It is an important day.

In the evening there is a party with speeches and dancing with many close friends (A few jokes come in suggesting that I shouln't overdue it given that I am now 50. Jokes not lovingly received).  I am seated at a young table, across from Sonnet, and similar to Bath last weekend, I get to observe my beautiful wife.

Madeleine and I go to a Shepperton to do some outdoor swimming. It is Madeleine's first time.
Me to the agent: "Two adults to swim please."
Agent: "How old is she?"
Me: "15."
Agent: "She can't swim. It is for 16 and older."
Me: "She turns 16 tomorrow ."
Agent: "So come back tomorrow."
Madeleine: "Nice one Dad."
Me: "Well, I tried kid."
Madeleine: "You should just say 16 all the time."
Me: "True dat."
Madeleine: "Oh my God."

Saturday, June 24

Viva La Suisse

Luzern
I am in Zurich and ask the hotel concierge for swimming pool recommendation to swim some laps. He suggrests I swim in the nearby lake and so I think: why not? I don't have my trainers so I exit the hotel in the white hotel slippers and a towel slung over my shoulder, goggles on my head, and cross the busy road alongside lake Zurich and, for lack of an obvious gateway into the water, I dump my stuff on a bench and go for it. At 50, I am allowed a little eccentricity.

Madeleine, at my request, waters the front yard plants.
Me: "Why such a dour look ? Is it really that bad?"
Madeleine: "Then why don't you do it then?"
Me: "You're going to be working all your life kid. Better start getting used to it."
Madeleine: "Gee, Dad, is that supposed to make me feel better?"
Me: "If you love your work then it isn't work is it?"
Madeleine:
Me: "You'll be like living in some appartment with your friends or a guy and maybe, if you're lucky, you will have a job that you enjoy."
Madeleine: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "And you will be like, "Dad, you can stop paying my allowance now."
Madeleine:
Me:
Madeleine: "It's not that funny Dad."

Tuesday, June 20

Rhubarb

Sonnet and I drive to the South Downs so I can swim in the sea (about 18 degrees - nothing like the Bay at 13). Before the swim, we hike the downs. It's a good practise run for the JMT with steep hills; my backpacks contains c.30 lbs of canned beans and peanut butter to mimic the load.

The South Downs are a range of chalk hills that extends for about 260 square miles across the south-eastern England, characterised by rolling chalk downland with close-cropped turf and dry valleys. They are recognised as one of the most important chalk landscapes in England, and is one of the four main areas of chalk downland in Southern England.

The dog eats half of Eitan's chocolate birthday cake.

A Brave New World

Self portrait XXXXXIII
And in a wink I am 50.

So, I am asked, how does it feel?

It has not been an easy ride to get here - a bunch of crummy years working at an investment bank, a hard adjustment to London, a start-up tech company that did not make a billion nor a million bucks and no sub-three hour marathon. Cal has not been to a Rose Bowl in my lifetime.

But here I am now, with a couple of healthy teenagers, a loving wife who I love and work that sustains me.  An extended family and friends that I cherish, and an ability to see them every now and then. A few good stories that are re-told on a good evening. My demons, for the time being, at bay.

Life is interesting. I am happy.

@Madeleine: I am not getting a tattoo.







Sunday, June 18

The Hope Ball

A beautiful smile
Sonnet and I are in Bath for The Hope Ball, a fundraising event to build a state-of-the-art Cancer Center in Bath, arranged by our friend Tabitha.

The Champagne black-tie affair is held under an open tent on the lawn of the Royal Crescent, overlooking the city, on a beautiful warm summer's evening. It reminds me of Campus Dance at Brown, held each year in late May around the college graduation.

Friends And More Friends

Madeleine Saturday morning
Me: "How are you doing these days kid?"
Madeleine: "Three more weeks of school."
Me: "But you love school, right ?"
Madeleine: "It's school Dad."
Me: "What would you do if not school?"
Madeleine:
Me: "Get up in the morning. Come downstairs. Have breakfast. Watch an episode of Friends. And another episode of Friends. And another episode of Friends and. . "
Madeline: "Alright I get it Dad."
Me: "And another episode of Friends. And another episode of Friends. .."
Madeleine:
Me: "And another episode of Friends. And another episode of Friends . .."
Madeleine: "Having fun, are we Dad ?"
Me: "Always."

GCSE Done

On to the A Levels
Eitan finishes his last GCSE exam - physics - and just like that the GCSEs are done. Results will be posted in August.

Eitan has some friends over and spends the rest of the weekend sleeping.

Sonnet and I could not be more proud of his comportment throughout the exam period and, of course, his hard work.

Sunday, June 11

Braids In Her Hair

Me and Madeleine at her favourite, Pickle And Rye
My week ends up in Phillie following Boston and Baltimore. Nice weather follows me along.

Me to Nathaniel (Madeleine's guest): "How much would you expect to be paid for the garden work?"
Nathaniel: "Huh?"
Madeleine whispers: "You don't have to do it. Don't say anything."
Me: "Rake leaves. Bag them. Tidy up."
Nathanial: "Just the back ?"
Me: "Front and back."
Nathanial: "By the hour ?"
Madeleine flashes 10 fingers.
Me: "By the job. Madeleine just poisoned the waters."
Madeleine, facing the refrigerator: "How long do I have to stand here? You can stop staring at me."
Nathaniel: "I'd say 30 pounds."
Madeleine: "Yesss."

Knee's Out

Special care
Eitan throws out his ACL playing a scratch game of football following one of his GCSE exams. It scuppers two soccer camps and the John Muir Trail but in the grand scheme of things it is small beer.

Eitan has two remaining GCSEs - physics and chemistry. No letting up until the very end.

Emmanuel Macron pulls off a majority for his party from a stand-still one year ago: 440 of 577 seats in the national assembly. He crushes the other parties - raising the question around the opposition. Marion Le Pen's party, the right-wing populist National Front, despite Le Pen winning 40 pc of popular vote in the recent election, will have 4 seats.

Teresa May brings back Michael Gove. Recall the Brexiteer back-stabbed Boris to get into No. 10 and May fired him.

We live in interesting times (I once viewed this comment with an orientation towards optimism).

Sarah

The past is back to say 'hello'
So this is Sarah, who I did not recognise on the 85th Street subway platform. Katie does.

Sarah my first girlfriend in the 7th grade made so by a faithful one-sentence telephone call: "Will you go with me?" She agreed and I hung up. In fact, I did not have much else to say for the six weeks we were 'together' until the inevitable 'Lets just be friends' letter arrived in my locker.

The thing about being 12, no boy has anything interesting to say to a girl. The only thing on his mind is football or his comic book collection and the after-school candy bar selection.

Sarah was developed in every way, well ahead of the rest of the crowd. She never got a B in junior high or high school nor college (Williams). She was head of the Columbia University literature department until promoted Dean of Humanities. What the hell was I going to add to that ?

Sarah and I agree to have a drink next time I am in Manhattan. There is 38 years to catch up and all of 7th grade.

Taipei - London - New York

Sonnet shows off the VA
Sonnet with Hyunju, who we meet for a coffee before Hyunju visits the Pink Floyd exhibition. Hyunji's family offices control one-third of Taiwan including owning the largest insurance company and the country's mobile network.

In New York, Katie and I go to Barney Greengrass "The Sturgeon King" on the Upper West side for some Jewish comfort food. Roger and I once went here when we lived on 85th and Columbus in an apartment that reflected our stage of life. No money but long on youth.

From matzo ball soup, we go for Korean massages and a pedicure followed by Smith & Wollensky's for a steak dinner.  It's kinda Soprano's style. Katie returns from Providence where she has signed Brown University as a new client.

“I can definitely say the president is not a liar. I think it’s frankly insulting that that question would be asked.”
--The White House

KKR's Offices

It's like flying
I'm on the Eastern Seaboard last week for meetings. It feels like I am following Donald Trump around the globe.

Of course former FBI guy James Comey testifies before Congress and flat out calls the President a God damn liar, which Trump denies and calls Comey a God damn liar and says he will say so under oath. As if, Mr President.

Who could have thought the Republicans could cough up a hair ball worse than George Bush Junior ?

My opinion aside, 40% of Americans think Trump is doing a swell job, sticking it to The Man, feeling their rage. Too bad these same people will lose their health care, get fleeced by Wall Street and special interests (so long, Dodd Frank), see their food stamps and benefits shrivel to the size of their scrotum, the poor bastards. Why should I care, really ?

But let's not forget the UK's hubris : Theresa May gets walloped by Jeremy Corbyn who is looking, well, rather attractive though he is the Leftist wolf breathing on the country's front door. All May had to do was keep her mouth shut, govern and negotiate Brexit which kicks off, like, Now.

My bet is that Boris will take over the conservative party followed by a 2nd general election in 2017. Labour wins it.

Wednesday, May 31

The Kiss

Tuileries Garden
Rodin was a sensuous bastard.

The Kiss portrays Paolo and Francesca from Dante’s Divine Comedy: slain by Francesca’s husband who surprised them as they exchanged their first kiss, the two lovers are condemned to wander eternally through Hell. Now I make a joke about what's in store for Madeleine's suiters. Ar AR.

I return from a routine visit to Paris following a Bank Holiday Monday that correspondes nicely with Memorial Day Weekend. Paris is a jewel this time of year - there is no place I would rather be in the springtime or early summer.

Sunday, May 28

Jordan

Sacred land
From Mount Scopus I look into Jordan - in the distance is the Dead Sea.

I go for a jog along the path which circles Jerusalem on the eastern border and passes the Arab quarter, which is dense and built into the mountainside. A gold balled minaret, maybe 15 stories high, is in the middle; a loud speaker drones of the injustices of the Jews which echo from the walls of the deserted concrete-block streets (the wailing begins at 6AM until Midnight).

The thing is, the Arabs are invited to live and work in Jerusalem; the Israeli Arabs make a large portion of the city and vote in the national elections. The Palestinians, by contrast, want the Jews out of Jerusalem and are not willing to share it. Therein lies the conflict.

I drive through the West Bank (the highway bifurcates the region) which is walled and prevents the flow of people.

Jerusalem maybe the size of the Bay Area yet looms large in our imagination if not our life.

Labyrinth

Old Jerusalem
Despite the day's temperatures, the medina is cool.  The shopkeepers open by 10AM and I negotiate a few items to bring home.  There is Arab coffee, bread and fresh bagel stalls and fruit drinks or lemonade. All negotiated for a price, of course. 

My driver scores me a ticket to the Israel Premier League football championships between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Be'er Sheva. The dude knows the owner.  Though I am not vested in either team, it is world class football and fun to take in the good vibes. 

Prayer For The Living

God talks
The Wall was originally erected as part of the expansion of the Second Jewish Temple (517 BCE to 70 BC) by Herod the Great as the encasement of the steep hill known to Jews and Christians as the Temple Mount. The temple hosts the Dome of Rock and is one of the most important religious sites in the world - it has been venerated as a holy site for thousands of years by Judaism, Christianity and Islam (during my visit the Temple is accessible only to Muslims for prayer, the entrance-way guarded by Israeli soldiers).

The Wall is open to all those who wish access, though the sexes are split to separate areas. Inside the tunnels of the ancient city are libraries of scripture where one can study the ancient prophecies; sermons in Hebrew attract the faithful, outside of the baking sun.

Wailing Wall

In Jerusalem I visit the Wailing Wall, part of the larger Western Wall in the ancient city, where I record the sounds of the Jewish scholars chanting in prayer. I am reminded all over again of the weirdness of life.

God is a serious business.

Last time I was here was 1984.

Tel Aviv

I arrive in Tel Aviv and am hit by the temperature: maybe 90 degrees.  It is a vibrant place, a mix of California, Western Europe and the third world. Dirty yet modern skyscrapers distributed across the skyline. I am in a grubby neighbourhood with the yuf about a kilometre from the beach, which beats the Four Seasons. Perfect to experience the action and people-watch, which is a mixture of everything, but mostly young. The blood of the world.

For an instant I am wistful for my 20s. I promise Madeleine to bring her here.

People live in Tel Aviv (population 4m) to make money, of course (unlike Jerusalem) but also to have fun. It is not a place to relax (I am told) and to "live and experience life."

I go for a run along the Mediterranean and pass this unusual couple, pictured. They are by themselves; it begs a story.

Ásgeir Trausti

Koko's club
We see Ageir in Cambden at the invitation of Stephane and Caroline, who are from Paris and relocated to London about 18 months ago. They are chic.

I give Stephane shit for being French, well, because he is French and deserves it, but Stephane is not a Frenchie-French. He is French-international. Big difference. Clever bastards.

Ageir, for his part, is a singer-songwriter from Iceland which is an unusual start. His music is haunting, even while the words unrecognisable to me. He seems surprised to be on stage before a sold out audience of fans who know the words to his songs.

The Manchester bombing kills 22, targeting young people at a concert. It is the new normal.

Tuesday, May 23

A Dog's Life

Sometimes I think the dog has one over on us.

I make a two hour hike of Richmond Park weighted down with my 65 liter back-pack loaded with tin cans to simulate the gear for the JMT.  I've sorted the kit but the food drops still have me worried. Two months to get myself sorted (as these Brits would say).

Madeleine and I go to the movies - totally irregular for a Monday school night but homework be damned, it's Alien Covenant. We settle in for a couple hours of alien gore. Not nearly so good as the first Alien, Ridley Scott's master work (watched at the Grand Oak theatre with my mom in 1979 btw), but still fun. Madeleine is Big into film and photography, with her photos taped on her bedroom wall.

The reason I love my blog is the randomness: for instance, I would have never recalled that Madeleine wanted to name her turtle 'Alonzo Smith' before choosing Eric and Nelson.

Sunday, May 21

Sonnet Tedx

Birthday Gal

Sonnet's birthday is celebrated by her with an early morning run around Richmond Park with her girlfriends (she does it every Sunday anyway). We go to a matinee in Barnes with Madeleine - how decadent on a sunny afternoon - and tonight we will have an early family dinner at the local gastro pub (Madeleine begs for sushi but me: No way).

Observing Madeleine, who is so cool and up for anything, who will make some guy a great companion, I appreciate how lucky I am to have shared the Adventure with Sonnet. Like mother, like daughter.

Madeleine texts me: "I am rediscovering old bands" and rattles off a bunch of groups from two years ago.

Angleterre

It's a queen size bed
Back in London I am reminded that we own a couple of teenagers.

Of course the weather grey and wet upon arrival home following a week in the mid 80s. But, after so many years, I appreciate Britain's temperate climate.

I recall a dude I worked with at Botts & Co., Michael, who, flying into Heathrow together, clucked his tongue and said "Good old Angleterre." (Michael also reminds me of an advertisement for a Jaguar sports car whose slogan read: "Turn mister average into mister universe". Shortly after Michael drove in with a Jaguar)

I crash early after the long flight and Sonnet retrieves Madeleine from Will's at a negotiated 10:15pm pick-up.  She reports that Will is playing guitar and the crew is singing.

Office Lady

The Japanese are famously polite. I am greeted by a row of similarly styled Japanese women (called "Office Ladies" or OLs); one (always standing) bows and takes my details. I am then greeted on the floor by another woman (bowing) who shows me to a conference room.  Afterwards, the same front desk women (all standing) bow and wish me on my way.

Meetings in Tokyo go well; for a few it is 50-50 whether I am understood. When the English dubious, my counter-party stairs furiously at the presentation and scribbles hard notes in Japanese. I know that if I crack a smile they will too. Or if I laugh for no reason they will join with equal enthusiasm.

Kallan informs that ex-pats get "the fever" when it comes to Asian and Japanese women.

Itamae

A master
I love Tokyo. For a city so big - 26m people - it is clean and orderly, not a gum on the sidewalk nor a wrapper in the street.

And super modern - the high rise towers are destroyed and rebuilt every 30 years to remain earthquake compliant. I stay in the Roppongi district famous (I am told) for the affluent Roppongi Hill development and the popular night club scene. Of course sushi too.

We visit a restaurant where I have perhaps the best sushi of my life. The sushi chef slices raw fish with a longsword of valyrian steel so sharp it would cut through human bone and sinew in a whisper, separating a Lannister's head from his body in an instant. 

Some of the sushis are still living. There is a sea urchan of beautiful white and purple trim that arches upwards looking for air and perhaps some way out. The Japanese businessman contemplates it for a brief moment then down the hatch, followed by sake. Mine are a bit more tame but equally beautiful. 

Self Portrait XXXXXII

Early morning flight from Seoul to Tokyo; airport lounge
During my trip I am accompanied by Park Hill, our placement agent, who we have worked with on funds V and VI.

So (one might ask) what does one do on these road shows besides catch planes and eat Asian food? For starters, I am visiting fund investors who have supported Astorg in past funds (Asian limited partners account for 10% of Astorg VI). I am also setting up the base for the next fundraising, which will take place in 2019 (likely).

In London, Eitan works his way through the GCSE exams. The kid (Sonnet reports) is No Drama. Eitan now about half-way through the exam schedule with the worst part is over : It is no longer the unknown. Or, as I compare, a marathon not a marathon after the first step of the race.

Day 4 : Seoul

Fired up and ready to kick some ass
From HK I am in Seoul to speak at the Alternatives Summit Korea Global Private Equity & Debt conference (My subject is "Co-investment" which is increasingly demanded by limited partners as there are no fees on co-invest deals unlike on the fund).

The guys, pictured, represent over USD 1T of investment.

I am not quite prepared for the conference size - comfortably over 500 Asian delegates staring at me blankly - yet it goes swimmingly well. My words simultaneously translated to Asian languages and sent to ear pieces provided to the attendees.

Afterwards there is a formal dinner and we are treated to a Korean soprano who belts out: "I did it my way" (I did-a it my-ya wuay). With the right people next to me I would have busted a gut.

Day 3 - Hong Kong

High rising
Hong Kong is impressive. The first impression, on the drive to the island from Chek Lap Kok airport, is the density. Then the height. Racks of 40 story condominium towers fight for air space and not only that : arriving at night, they are all lit from inside. 100 pc occupancy which is so very different from, say, Toronto or, now Central London, where the real estate is a financial investment (and the emptiness a worry and a blight).

7 million people on 5 square acres.

The thing of it is - Hong Kong works. The city is amazingly efficient: Roads wind and weave about, connecting office towers to hotels to walkways and on ramps and residential towers. One pays for it though. Rent on a four bedroom family condo easily goes for USD 30,000 a month. A salaried man might live his life in 200 square-feet for 3k.

I meet the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. They are making investments of up to 500m a pop.

Joe

Joe and I reunited
From Taipei to Hong Kong.

I connect with Joe, who I worked with at First Boston. Joe has been at the clipper for 32 years which has to be a record for investment banking. He now heads m&a Asia and has lived in HK since 1993 - the first tour as a single dude living an expat lifestyle (I visited him in '94) and now as a married dude with three kids in their teens.

Joe and I have some good laughs which I can only share with a handful of people from those early years of banking - the urgency of the dealmaking and the stakes that seemed so high (I was informed, "This is not casual sex!" on some project by one particular jerk, which still gets mirth today).  It was exhausting and miserable and now, in the rearview mirror, an adventure. I hesitate to say 'fun' but it was .. something. And now a joy to re-examine it with those who lived it with me.

Taipei

Night Market
I begin a week of Astorg meetings in Asia, starting with Taipei, Taiwan. 

Taipei is typical as far as Asian cities go: modern western buildings of impressive steel and glass design surrounded by sprawl and lush green ridgeways that make it feel .. unfamiliar.

In the urban jungle people are crammed together forcing a pace of lifestyle that rivals Hong Kong and New York, though the scale smaller in Taipei at c.3m population.

I visit the Night Food Market which is a jammed one mile row of cheap shops selling faux Nikes and food stalls making bubbling fried food: chopped octopus, fried crabs and shrimps, Chinese vegetables, chicken hinges and other unrecognised edible parts. I am told to try the 'Stinky Toffy' - it does stink and I don't try it.

Taiwan has one of the world's remarkable museums - The National Museum - about an hour's drive from Taipei - with 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks, making it one of the largest of its type in the world. I have been but not this time.

Friday, May 12

After

After two and a half years we have white teeth.

Before


Swanage Camp

Emanuel School backdrop
Lest we forget Madeleine during the GCSEs, our gal away to .. Swanage for a school field trip to explore nature (the name 'Swanage' gets an eye-roll. Sounds like "sewage" which is apt). She goes against her will, of course, and must suffer two nights in the cold and damp then up pre-dawn to watch the tides come in. How we suffer.

She is happy when we pick her up. Sushi.

Me: "Say something for the blog."
Eitan: "Um .. "
Me: "What peps you up?"
Eitan: "Looking forward to football camp this summer. Celebrating after GCSEs. Occasionally looking forward to getting good some studying done."
Me: "That it?"
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me
Eitan: "Food."

Saturday, May 6

GCSEs

The General Certificate of Secondary Education, or " GCSEs," are upon us. 21 standarised exams covering 10 subjects administered over a five week period.

The GCSEs, along with A levels at the conclusion of secondary school, determine where - and if - a student goes to university. In the UK, Admissions see the results and a one-page personal statement. That's it (For US colleges, a GPA is extrapolated from the GCSE). To suggest there is pressure is an understatement.

Sonnet and I aware of the GCSEs since, well, Eitan's birth. It has always been a curious and distant event, over the horizon and safely in the future. No more.

Eitan has done his preparation - perhaps not like the girls who grind out the hours - but he is organised and committed. Eitan projects no fear though we know the he is anxious.

And so they begin with a Bang - History, English and Drama yesterday

Monday, May 1

Eitan 24 Hours

Eitan wraps up the football season as Captain for the Sheen Lions, followed by a BBQ and send-off for the manager Jon, with the Lions for five years, who is relocating to Tampa Bay, Florida, in September.  Eitan gives a lovely speech. Shortly before, Eitan is selected "Player's player" by his team mates.

Today, the boy races the 800 in Tooting Bec and blasts a PB of 2:06.

All this between his GCSE studies.

Sonnet and I could not be more proud of him.

Marbred Moment

Nothing like a bummed cigarette
Eric is is emerging from his concussed haze, suffered from a traumatic bike accident six weeks ago, to resume work on his computer software project to carry the day for the common core states standards in mathematics initially backed by Bill Gates. He prepares to write a calculus and differential equations final for the Harvard Extension School on his triumphant return to Boston.

Abney Cemetary

Verdant
We do what we love to do, which is walk. On Saturday we exit Waterloo Station and walk to Seven Sisters, crossing Holborn, The City, Shoreditch, Tower Hamlets, Dalston and through ethnic neighbourhoods which change every five or six blocks.

Abney Park cemetery in Stoke Newington (borough of Hackney), in the middle of all the concrete, is one of London's Magnificent Seven cemeteries, a historic parkland originally laid out in the early 18th century by Lady Mary Abney and Dr Isaac Wattas. (Nb. The "Magnificent Seven" is an informal term applied to seven large private cemetries in London that were established in the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds).

Dylan

Pre concert
Eric arrives in time for Bob Dylan, who we see on Friday night.

Bob arrives on stage at precisely 8PM, plays two hours, takes a bow, and is gone without uttering a word to the audience. Unusually he sits at the piano instead of his normal blues guitar. He plays Blow'n In The Wind and Tangled Up In Blues from his youth, while the remainder is from his recent arsenal.

Dylan's voice is no longer the twangy voice we recognise from the 60s or 70s yet it is impossible not to juxtapose those times on the man now.

Me: "Are you going to work on the backyard like I asked?"
Madelien: "No."
Me: "I will pay you."
Madeleine: "I'm not going to."
Me to Eric: "This is what happens when a kid is bloated with money. There is no incentive to work."
Eric, Madeleine:
Me: "How much money do you have in your account ? Couple hundred?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "When you're flush, you don't work."
Madeleine: "Whatever."

Sunday, April 23

It's The London Marathon

Mary Keitany flies (photo from the www)
Madeleine and I watch the London Marathon, which is inspiring. This year's race won by 35 year-old Ethiopian Mary Keitany in 2:17.01 and 24-year old Kenyon Daniel Wanjiru in 2:05.56.  Mary's time a World Record for the 'women's only' marathon and the 2nd fastest women's marathon ever behind the great Paula Radcliff's 2:15:25 in 2003, a time which may remain another 10 years.

Meanwhile my fellow couch potatoes sit around a dinner table drinking wine discussing the benefits of long distance bicycling which most of my peers seem to engage by 50. It is all about the gear.

Me: "You were so happy when I wore the cow suit to school." [Dad's note: I wore my marathon cow suit on the school run c.2009].
Madeleine: "I was so embarrassed."
Me: "No you weren't. In fact, you were introducing your friends to The Cow. Like the Cow was Prince or Madonna."
Madeleine: "Eitan was was mortified."
Me: "True. He didn't walk with us, poor kid."
Madeleine: "Why did you do it anyway?"
Me: "Madeleine, all the things I've done that embarrass and humiliate you .. "
Madeleine: "Yeah?"
Me: "You will do to your kids. "
Madeleine:
Me: "And it might make you a better parent."
Madeleine: "Gracie wore a gorilla mask when she visited you at Brown."
Me: "Fair point." 

Sunday, April 16

Martin's Tool Shed

The neighbour's garage
Martin has a lifetime of cool shit in his garage - today, he is fixing an ancient generator as a favour to a friend. He has chords and sockets, soldering irons, power instruments for God Knows What, spools, vice grips, drills the size of my arm, measurements and all sorts of tools. Tools and more tools. Today I borrow his 32 foot retractable aluminium ladder hung securely from the garage ceiling.

Better, Martin knows how to fix things. No project is too simple to be made complicated; no complicated project is too complex for the right tool. We spend a lot of time discussing this principal.

Me: "Eitan please finish up the dishes when you are done." [Dad's note: Eitan makes a bacon fry-up while I am doing the dishes].
Eitan: "Why do I have to?"
Me: "Because you're the last one making a mess."
Eitan: "I just don't see your reasoning."
Me: "You're right. Actually I hadn't thought of it before but you are doing the hard part. Eating."
Eitan:
Me: "Sonnet, check this out. All the time I think to myself, Eitan should clean up after himself but, really, he is doing the hard bit."
Eitan: "Okay, Dad, I get it."
Me: "I insist. Here, let me wash that pan for you."
Eitan: "I can do it, alright?"
Me: "Oh, no, I wouldn't dream of it."
Sonnet: "I think you've made your point."
Me: "Time will tell."


Saturday, April 15

Loco Motion

Heading to London
Barnes Railway Station is one stop from Mortlake Train Station where I begin my commute.

The station is seven miles from Waterloo and opened in 1846 when the Richmond line was built and Richmond a far away village relying on horse and buggy or the river to London.  Trains brought commerce and connection and, eventually, the London garden suburbs.

My commute takes about 25 minutes to W'loo (rush hour, no seat) then two stops on the underground to Green Park Station and a brisk walk to St James's Square.

Mind you, the first public steam railway in the world was 1825 with the Locomotion for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. In 1830 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway offer exclusive use of steam power for passenger and freight trains.

Eitan: "Dad is that safe?" [Dad's note: Dad is at the top of a fully extended ladder, power washer in hand, washing the second floor windows].
Me: "Yes."

Easter Weekend

Self image XXXXXII
Eitan: "Can we get Sky Sports again?" [Dad's note: I stopped the Sky Sports subscription to save 25 quid a month].
Me: "I'll think about it."
Eitan: "It's so much better than watching sport on my computer."
Me: "Would you be willing to share the costs?"
Eitan: "What do you mean?"
Me: "How bout we reduce your allowance some amount." [Dad's note - Eitan's monthly allowance is £40]
Eitan: "How much?"
Me: "Make me an offer."
Eitan: "How about four pounds?"
Me: "So it doesn't mean that much to you."
Eitan: "Well how much?"
Me: "Your the one who watches the football. So how about 10?"
Eitan: "That's getting kind'a expensive - it's 25 percent of my allowance."
Me: "How much do you want it kid?"
Eitan: "I'll think about it."
Me: "Deal."

London Rise

Facing East
I cross Waterloo Bridge and am always struck by the ever changing skyline. Even NYC has not seen such construction. I've been to Singapore, Tai Pei and Beijing - maybe.

I am reminded of London's forgotten Golden Rule that no tower could exceed the height of St Paul's nor obstruct its view.  Now skyscrapers poke up like sprouts through the moss. Unfortunately the new build is distributed across the city and the towers look .. erectile.

But what a magnificent river. She flows in and out, from pregnant possibility to renewal.

Hoxton

Her Majesty
It is Easter "bank holiday" weekend - a Big Deal in the UK - and, for once on a bank holiday, it is not raining. Overcast though, of course

Sonnet and I meet in Central London following a breakfast ladies catch up with Sonnet and Diana Clark, who has relocated to Washington DC to save America (Diana was Obama's No.1 fundraiser outside the US in 2008; she is friends with, and supports, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and is on the Board of the Holocaust Museum. Son Michael is graduating from Annapolis in May so Trump is more than personal).

Sonnet and I spend the day walking London, heading East beyond The City and into the East End of Hoxton and Tower Hamlets. The architecture, languages and people change along the route. We go from tourists and theatre to hipster, artist and coffee. And Indian, Iraqi and Paki. And Muslim.

Outside the city center, and before the protected greenbelts, London becomes hard urban - first thing to go are the trees. There are only small parks and a few poorly manicured squares. We walk along cobblestone roads and, thrillingly, wonderful graffiti that scream of anger or suppression or death.

We finish our effort at Waterloo very happy to make the end-run on public transportation.

Friday, April 14

Megadyne !

Megadyne belts
I spend a day in Turino with one of our CEOs touring the factory and being updated on the company's progress. Megadyne is the world leader in the production of high precision polyurethane belts used in industrial applications. Think of a transmission belt shifting power across a machine. Or a conveyer moving a billion cigarettes down the packaging line. The belts making it possible are very likely made by Megadyne.

The company was founded in the 1950s by Carrado Tadolini and now run by his two sons, Giorgio (CEO) and Marco (R&D).  Giorgio's three children are in the business and maybe will continue the family story.

Giorgio is charming and cunning - Carrado started Giorgio on the factory line and today he knows everybody on the floor, who stop their work to say 'hello' or nod their respects.  When Giorgio took on the business in 1995, sales were 2m. Last year they were 300m - a 150-fold increase. Astorg became Co-owner in 2014.

Over lunch, at Giorgio's golf club, I tell Giorgio the story of my great grandfather crossing Ellis Island into lower Manhattan to escape the Russian pogroms of the 1890s. He owned nothing and spoke only Yiddish. My grandfather, Jacob Bernard, Moe's father, left school in the 8th grade to found Star Binding and Printing, which pulled the Orensteins into the great American middle classes. We were fortunate to visit Star Binding in 2014, on its 100th anniversary.

Sunday, April 9

Test Run

Self portrait XXXXXI
I'm up bright and early to break in my hiking boots and try-on my new 75 liter back-pack, which is stuffed with tins of black beans and other items to add some weight to mimic the JMT, or about 40 pounds. I walk the Thames path for two hours and no blisters.

As Eitan and I will pack everything in, and out, I have a small spreadsheet with items weighed to the gram. My Cannon 7D DSLR camera, for instance, comes in at a whopping 1,657 grams (excluding the strap) which will feel like a boulder by the 2nd or 3rd day on the trail. As I tell Sonnet, I can either buy a new camera (mirror cameras weigh about 500g inc lens) or have the boy carry the 7D.

Madeleine runs the first 800m of the season at the Carlshalton track and is disappointed by her time which is slower than her PB set at the last race of last year's season. At least she knows where she stands (advice given, 50-50 useful).

Eitan's Sheen Lions play their last match of an inglorious season losing 2-0, concluding at the bottom of the league table. Onward and forward ho!

Saturday, April 8

First Concert

The band goes on
Madeleine and I see Phantogram at the Shephards Bush Empire - her first concert. The reaction reminds me of Eitan's first movie - Shrek 2 in 2004 - when his eyes went wide as he took in the venue and large screen. Same for Madeleine this time. Of course I was lucky enough to catch her first headphone experience which was mind blowing.

I notice a couple incoming approaches from lads who are half my age. Ok, one third my age. One asks Madeleine for a date and is frozen out. Good girl.

Before the show we have dinner and discuss the usual breezy stuff. She has a lot going on and lives a life 90 percent outside my visibility. Her interests cover 1970s vinyls (posters on her wall of Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin) and film. She and her soft-spoken pal Alfie - who btw is on a Rugby scholarship and owns a Flock Of Seagulls hairdo - kick around London snapping photographs which are pinned to the wall.

Squeeze

Madeleine allows for a hug
We are still allowed to shower affection on the kids as long as it is not public. Fair enough.

The Shakespeares on holiday. Madeleine lounges in bed.
Me: "I'm going to give you a choice."
Madeleine: "Oh, no, Dad. I hate your choices. Don't give me a choice."
Me: "You can rake the leaves and water the plants."
Madeleine: "Or?"
Me: "You can rake the leaves and water the plants and I will pay you for it."
Madeleine, grudgingly: "Pay for it."

Tooting Bec

Hercules Wimbledon
Eitan and Madeleine begin the summer track season in tooting. Madeleine competes the 200m  in 27.66 seconds (best is 25) while Eitan races the 1500 in 4:31 (best of 4:16). The first race of the season is always rough.

Afterwards we take advantage of the weather and I bbq and plant my tomato seedlings.

Me: "How was the race?"
Eitan: "It was pretty fast in the beginning and hurt in the end."
Me: "Takes a while for your body to get used to the pace."
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "What's your goal for the season?"
Eitan: "I'd like to go under 4 minutes [for the 1500]. I've dropped 15 seconds each year the last two seasons."
Me: "Sounds ambitious and reasonable."

Trafalgar Squae

Trafalgar Square on an early springtime evening pulses with the energy of the city. I walk by on my way to the tube most evenings, reflecting on Nelson who graces us passengers with his presence of history.

The Square bordered by the National Gallery and St Martin In The Field church to the North and the Pall Mall to the southwest. 17 bus routes pass Trafalgar Sq making it the hub for central London transportation. It was once famous for its feral pigeons until Ken Livingstone got rid of them with 4 hawks.

My first visit to TS was the summer of 1981. Gulp.

Madeleine calls Sonnet's mobile, interrupting a dinner party: "There's no food in the house."
Sonnet: "There are meatballs in the refrigerator."
Madeleine:
Sonnet: "You have to heat them in the oven. No microwave."
Madeleine: "What?"
Sonnet: "Madeleine you will have to sort yourself out." [Dad's note: meatballs untouched]

Sunday, March 19

Madeleine In Flow

200 psi
Madeleine gets down and dirty power washing the front of the house for some dough. On the day, I must remind her she committed herself to the project. She does a bang up job.

A bottle of vodka goes missing from the pantry.
Me to Sonnet: "I'm pretty sure I put it there. I bet one of the kids took it."
Sonnet: "Would they do it?"
Me: "Madeleine would."
Later, me to Madeleine: "Did you take a bottle of vodka from the pantry?"
Madeleine: "I'm not going to lie to you Dad."
Me: "Well I'm glad for that."
Later, me to Sonnet: "Well you have to admit I nailed that one."

I get Madeleine a book, "The Joy Of Socks"
Madeleine: "You know there is another book called like that."
Me: "I hadn't thought of it."

Madeleine looks at my phone: "Why do you have your mobile number on your phone?"
Me:
Madeleine: "It's not your number, is it?"
Me: "I'm not sure who gets the credit here."