Sunday, June 17

Sweet 16

Concert chicks
Lola arrives from LA and the girls turn it around for the Beyonce concert at London Stadium in the Olympic Park (I am informed that Jay Z is not pronounced JayZED but JayZEE). Lola's dad is Beyonce's agent so the girls are front and center at the show. They return buzzing and I blast a popular Beyonce song which elicits a few discreet dance steps from Madeleine. A father's joy to see it.

Madeleine will spend a week of the summer with Lola and Bella in LA whilst taking a film writing class founded by Katie's friend.

Manhattan From Below

Times Square at 44th St
Times Square has been pedestrianised with several city blocks set aside for strolling and taking a coffee. I find a used book stall and buy Joan Didion's "A Year Of Magical Thinking" and Machiavelli's "The Prince". 

I recall Times Square's seediness when I first arrived in New York, post college and shoes shined.  The neon glitz failed to brighten the grungy affair with its rough trades and hard-core cinema. Still it was pretty damn interesting. Less so today with Disney, Morgan Stanley and communal yoga having replaced the peep shows.

Manhattan from Above

I have been making my travels meeting with investors and enjoying the trips. Here is an arial shot of Manhattan from a small jet to up-state Albany and a meeting with New York State Teachers Retirement System (TRS).

On the morning of TRS I am picked up in a taxi with two other passengers which is mildly annoying given the importance of the meeting and how far I have travelled to get to it. I strike up a conversation with the dude next to me who is returning home from his job as a school bus driver. We connect on the importance of his work - he is the first person the kids see in the morning, and the last before going home. This gets a nice smile from him. I use the story to open the Teachers meeting and the rest goes like a charm.

Monday, May 28

Over 50 Years And Counting

Gracie is going strong
Eitan: "Is Tesco's open tomorrow?" [Dad's note: Tesco's is a grocery store. Tomorrow is a Bank holiday Monday].
Me: "You afraid we are going to run out of food?"
Eitan:
Me: "Admit it, you were."
Eitan, laughing: "Yeah, I guess so."
Me: "The kid's a furnace."
Sonnet: "Stop teasing him."
Me: "At this rate of food consumption I am going to have to work another five years."
Eitan: "Really?"
Me: "We might have to borrow money from your Grandfather. And buy a farm to ensure your meat supply."
Eitan:
Me: "Want to move to Iowa ?"
Eitan: "Ok Dad you can stop now."

Almost 50 Years And Counting

72nd and Broadway
Madeleine intently watches a movie at the kitchen table on her iPad with ear plugs. Unable to get her attention, I space-walk back and forth in front of her.
Madeleine: "Oh my God."

Sunday, May 27

In Pink

Eitan at 17
Eitan has his own look, which is expressed through limited options given the school uniform.

The boy looks good in a suit and here he demonstrates that pink is a solid option in the shirt rotation. I give him pointers on where the shoulder cut should fall, and the value of belt vs. buckle (English prefer latter) or the number of pleats (seven or none) and whether a serious man would ever wear roll-ups (cuffs) in Europe (Never). He takes it in like the wise man he is then ignores it all immediately.

Eitan selected Prefect, a position of leadership within the school. He wears a special tie.

Money Trail

Tokyo (from hotel room)
More than at any time before, I have travelled the world meeting friends and investors, anticipating our next fundraising for Astorg VII. The cities start to look the same, I must admit, and I have little time for museums or cultural activities still I get the buzz of a new place in my body and the privilege an insider's look through the people I am fortunate to know.

Taipei (from airplane takeoff)

Recitals

Sheehan and Eitan at Hampton recital, complete with full orchestra ensemble
So.. some time since my last blog. I am getting a few snippets of encouragement to continue ("Dad are you ever going to do that blog of yours again or what?" from the Shakespeares). So, since it is a bank holiday weekend (and thunderstorms too boot), I will try to catch up on some of the last half-year.

2018 means college applications, that thing over the long horizon and across the bounding fields and in the never arriving future. It's here. Eitan has taken the SATs and the ACTs and the British school AS exam in early modern history. The results are coming in and they are satisfactory.

Without football this season due to the torn left ACL, Eitan has thrown himself into choir, piano and theatre, where he will perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. Otherwise, he busies himself with homework, college essays and his group of friends which provide him with great pleasure.

Sonnet and I crack wise about Eitan's social life for this blog entry.
Sonnet: "You know he can hear everything your saying through his open window."
Me: "Really?"
Sonnet:
Me: "Eitan !"
Eitan: "Yeah ?!"
Me:
Sonnet: "You are so clueless sometimes."

Me, later in the kitchen: "Say something for updating the blog."
Eitan: "For the blog?"
Me: "Yeah, say something."
Eitan:  "Um, it feels like a good stage in life right now. Quite a lot of ahead of me. Cruising along at a fairly constant pace."
Me: "Say something not for your grandparents."
Eitan: "The knee is a bit of a setback. Uh.. I don't know." [Dad's note: Eitan blew out out his second ACL, this time the right knee.]
Me: "Anything else kid?'
Eitan: "Not really."
Me: "Thumbs up, middle or down?"
Eitan: "Middle I guess."
Me: "A carefree life."
Eitan: "Yeah. A bit."

Sunday, December 3

Cool Cat

Madeleine at 15. She's been here for ten years.

Today it is crunch time for our gal with the mock exams (known as the 'mocks') that prepare the Year 11s for the GCSEs, which arrive like a cold storm in May and lasts for five weeks. On the other side: relief, mainly. Eitan went through it last year and, now, the takes the A levels (the "As").

Mike Flynn turns like the worm he is, negotiating a sweetheart deal from special counsel Mueller that likely saves Flynn and his son from prison. Mueller gives Flynn a pass for evidence on Flynn's superiors and there are only two: Trump and VP Michael Pence.

"Democracy dies in darkness."
--Leader on the Washington Post

Monday, November 6

Skate Rats

One of the cooler things in London is the skateboarding that takes place in the undercoft beneath the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the south riverside. The skate boarders have their own thing and don't bother anyone.
Yet, they were nearly kicked out severals years ago to make way for a £120m refurbishment project.
The skaters balked, refused to vacate, and the ensuing battle with the Southbank Centre lasted 18 months. The skaters eventually won with support from the public and then-mayer Boris Johnson.
In reality, the Southbank Centre wanted to move the skateboarders 120 metres upriver to a space under the Hungerford Bridge but Lambeth council received more than 27,000 objections to the centre's planning application. 
Southbank lost the PR battle.

Monday, October 30

Strumm'n Pink Floyd

Madeleine teaches herself guitar and relays a few chords to me, which I hack on Eitan's guitar.
Our gal was once a determined trumpet player which has not progressed into adulthood; our house sadly misses the loud blasts of sound that once descended upon us from her bedroom.
Deep down I miss the trumpet for it connects me to her childhood and it was demonstrative of her determination and uniqueness. Same as the pink cowboy boots.

Saturday, October 28

Eitan Hits The East Coast

Eitan continues his tour hitting Harvard, Brown, Columbia, Penn, Georgetown, Tufts and Princeton. He is accompanied by Sonnet and together they see Katie, Marcia and Larry, Sharon (team KKH), Diana and Simon (team ex London, saving Virginia from politics and the USA from Democracy), relatives and others.

Me: "Look, I've got the the Instagram app." [Dad's note: Madeleine and I are in a night taxi].
Madeleine: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "Are you going to let me join your Instagram?"
Madeleine: "No."
Me: "Why not?"
Madeleine: "I want to keep my life private."
Me: "Damn that's cold g." [Dad's note: Madeleine was calling me 'g' in her texts; she stopped but I continue to use it with her].
Madeleine:
Me: "Hey, have you ever heard of Snapchat?"
Madeleine: "Yes, Dad, I've heard of Snapchat."
Me: "How 'bout Facebook? That one is pretty cool."
Madeleine:
Me: "The best app though is Vodafone."
Madeleine: "Vodafone?"
Me: "Vodafone. Like, no typing."
Madeleine:
Me: "Why would I want to spend all that time typing? When I want to call my homies I just dial and talk. No typing."
Madeleine: "OK, whatever."
Me: "Typing is so last year. I thought you would now it, a 15 year old like you."
Madeleine: "Are we almost there yet?"

Sunday, October 22

Backyard

It is a blustery fall day and, since Madeleine with friends and Sonnet/ Eitan in Bronxville, it is me and the dog, who I walk in Richmond Park - the largest of London's Royal parks.
Richmond Park was first founded by Charles I who, in 1625, got the hell out of London during a plague. He needed some sport so built a royal lodge (now the Royal School for Ballet) and, in 1637, enclosed 2,500 acres with a brick fence to contain red and fallow deer, which he and his guests hunted for pleasure (fence and deer remain today). It also kept the riff raff out.
Well, old Charles I was executed and the custodianship of the park passed to the Corporation of the City of London. A bunch of back and forths took place with the monarchy until 1872 when public access to Richmond Pk was assured by an Act of Parliament.
As commoners we enjoy it.

Saturday, October 21

Korean Joint

Sonnet and I go to a totally legit Korean restaurant behind Waterloo station on an unloved and gritty street. It's a bolt-hole with a line out front and a family operation that does not offer much english. I stumbled on it a couple months ago and glad to be here with Sonnet.
I photograph this young women before she meets her friends.

Eitan and Eric

Eitan splits for the East Coast to check out some US colleges - in Boston he stays with Eric and Simona, who roll out the red carpet for our hero. I imagine Eitan will have a different view on his father following the visit.
Scott and Cindy take care of Eitan for Brown. Scott was on the Board of Trustees at Brown for many years and I imagine he enjoys picking up Eitan at Wilson Hall following the campus tour.

Soutine's Portraits

Sonnet and I visit her alma mater The Courtauld to hear the opening remarks from the curator of Soutine's Portraits.
Chiam Soutine was a Jewish Russian-French painter who made a major contribution to the expressionist movement while living in Paris. He was dirt poor and nearly destitute until Paul Guillaume, a highly influential art dealer, bought and championed his work. The exhibition shows paintings of hotel bellhops, cooks and servants which was an unusual subject for the time (and now).

Sonnet heads for Pittsburgh PA to open the V&A's "Underwear" exhibition at the prestigious Frick Museum. The evening party allows for sexy models, men and women, to mingle in their skimpy knickers with the guests. 

Friday, October 20

Life From The Top

My first visit to Hong Kong was in 1994 with HTWS when the airport was still a scary drop into the centre of the city. Now the island is a thing of concentrated efficiency with roads and walkways inter-connecting the hotels, office skyscrapers and, farther out, condominium towers that allow 7m people to work and live on a postage stamp or 690 persons per square kilometre.
I strain my head on the late night taxi-ride from the airport to get a sense of this enormity. What is equally striking: the highrises are lit up like Christmas trees. Nobody ready for sleep despite the late hour.
It is clear that Asia is the future.

Justin

I arrive in Hong Kong from Melbourne following a ten-hour northbound flight. Greeting me in HK is Justin, also on a world tour for business, and departing at 2AM. We connect in the hotel bar at Midnight for a drink then he is off to somewhere else. The day-night rhythm doesn't really exist here.

Sunday, October 15

Sydney Opera House


This Dog's Life

The pooch gets a couple good walks a day but otherwise, during the week, he is solo during the daytime other than the dog walker.
What he really wants is to be on a farm running after a tractor or some sheep, rolling in deer shit and pissing in the tall grass. Living in the moment.


Hope

Well, the news these days is diabolical : Napa and Sonoma counties in flames; 3.5 million American Citizens in Puerto Rico left on life support; major US cities destroyed by hurricanes and a President who does not care nor understand any of it.
Then there is the derailing of NAFTA, Las Vegas and still no gun-control; the un-funding of UNESCO obligations, North Korea madness, killing the EPA and destroying Obamacare and the US health insurance market with it. All the while weakening the free press, which is about the only thing that holds the US 'democracy' together.
While the White House's actions damage all American citizens, they harm the Trump supporters the most, these morons. The blade goes in deep between their shoulders.
Still, with young people and Eitan and Madeleine I have hope for a future. May they unplug and rise up as a generation before did in the 1960s.

Sunday, October 8

Little Arc

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is located between the Louvre and tuilleries gardens. It was built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon's military victories from the previous year. The big arc (Arc de Triomphe de L'Etoile) was designed the same year at twice the size, but not completed until 1836.
Looking west, a straight line passes perfectly through the big and little  arches, aligned with the Obelisk in the Place de la Concord and threaded by the Champs Elysees.
The colour of the Little Arc is not red or orange but a kind of white with maybe a golden tint. In the sunrise the arc, and the clay ground surroundings, have a beautiful hue.

Beautiful Paris

As my running days are mostly behind me, I am up early to power walk tuilleries, which opens before sunrise. I now mostly take the 8e for granted - the Louvre, I.M. Pei's striking pyramids, the Seine, place de la Concorde and always the Eiffel Tower reminding us it is no ordinary city.
This morning is no different but for the sunrise.

Saturday, October 7

Back To Hair Basics

I suggest Madeleine bring back the pig-tails
The hair, an ritual before bed, is something we will miss when our gal goes to college or California (or both).

Off Roading

AlpInvest, one of our largest investors, hosts a day-outing for clients, including us. As in the past, the day includes activities. Last year it was chariot racing with purebred horses; this year,  it is driving outback jeeps around a muddy course on the outskirts of Amsterdam. That's me driving.

We team up into groups of four and given our marching orders: keep thumbs up on the steering wheel (so they won't get snapped off), don't gun the gas pedal and keep the wheels in the tracks.

My adrenaline gets the better of me and, for a brief moment, I am that dude in those ancient Camel cigarette adds. The heroics make me famous for the day.

A bunch of burly guys - four of them - rock the vehicle as I (gently) move the jeep forward.

All in, a fine day's work.

Easy Like Sunday Morning - An Outtake


Eitan 17

Eitan turns 17. From the soul who cautiously arrived into the world at St Mary's hospital, taking a full 360 look before allowing for his first breath, Eitan has become a thoughtful, intelligent, young man who has lived up to every potential - school, football and running; now piano and choir. I do not forget when, in year-three, the children asked to write down areas where they wished to improve; for Eitan it was simple: "everything."
It has been our joy to have been along for the ride, which is yet only at the beginning.
Sonnet is on the Board of the Yves Saint Laurent foundation in Paris, which she visits for the annual meeting extravagance timed for Paris Fashion Week.

New Look

Adam, Katie, Madeleine and I go to the tamescal barbershop in Oakland. I am advised on the beard and hair-cut which, after the shock of it, I decide to keep.
The first day back in the London office is rather surreal with images of the Sierras seared into my mind's eye. The train commute jammed with a multiple more people than I saw on the JMT; looking from my desk at stone and glass buildings. Life moves forward.

Sixth Form

Eitan is 6'2"
Eitan's first day of sixth form. The boys required to wear a suit and Hampton tie.
The young man is now in his final two years of preparation for University - in the UK called sixth form - where he will study four subjects for his A-levels (history, politics, geography and Spanish).
He did fine on the GCSE exams (results back Aug 24) and we are proud of him - Eitan is probably more relieved than anything else.
Our re-entry into the UK goes without a hitch. Madeleine and I are greeted at 45 by Sonnet with open arms and Rusty who cannot contain himself. It is nice to be home.

Grandkid - Grandparents

We have dinner at Berkeley Jewish deli Saul's.
My parents have had an active year health wise; Grace is through her cancer treatments and recently underwent back surgery, now in recovery mode. Both have Parkinson's. They take care of each other in a wonderful and loving way.
Katie joins us in Berkeley - extra treat - between various deal-makings for The Op Ed project. She is fired up.
Soon it is time to fast-forward to London and leave California, and summer, behind.

Thursday, October 5

Oakland Is Brooklyn

My childhood memories of Oakland: Sears, the 1970s Raiders and Billy Martin's A's in the 1980s; Oakland Airport and Lake Merit which, for a while, was completely clogged by algae leaving the Berkeley High crew team shit out of luck. There were some legit bbq shacks. The occasional movie at The Grand Lake Theatre.
But how the city has changed ! From Rockridge to Tamascal (profiled by the NYT as the home of the hipster), it is vibrant and young and multi-racial. The Fox Theatre a great venue for live music and the martini bars serve a young crowd. The buildingss are funky and disjointed. There is a Greyhound station. It is affordable, and finally the Big Tech is moving in. Uber is across the street.

Madeleine Gets A Job

Madeleine does an internship at the Op-Ed Project.
She commutes to Oakland, which has become the coolest place in the Bay Area.
It warms my heart to pick her up at the North Berkeley BART station, as I used to do for Sonnet 23 years ago.

Wednesday, October 4

Eriola And Michael

Union Square, San Francisco
Eriola and Michael, who I work with in London, rent a larger camper to tour the Great Western United States. He's a big German personality so their travel mode is appropriate for the circumstances.

Monday, October 2

Drakes Bay

Madeleine photographs a crab
Madeleine and I drive to Drakes Bay at Point Reyes National Seashore in Marine county. It is actually quite sunny until we reach the coast then the fog is typical for August, bringing memories of Sonnet/ my wedding in San Francisco which was the like the coldest day of the year for an outdoor ceremony.

I visited Pt Reyes when a kid; we had some favourite beaches family-named "Sea Lion Beach" for spotting a sea lion and Windy Beach and so on and so forth. Californian orange poppies.

Saturday, September 30

Self Portrait XXXXXIV In White

We stay with Gracie and Moe, which is a treat and allows for real quality time with my parents. Things also move a bit more slowly than London which gives us a breather from work and school and exams and all those things that cause stress.
Adam informs that I look like a homeless person.

Attached At The Hip

So, while we are in California with an unplanned two weeks, Madeleine is attached to my hip, just the way I like it. No money, no car, the poor dear.

Madeleine in Berkeley

Madeleine re-unites with her old friend Sweetie Pie. The cat has been around for 12 years, rescued by Grace from under a refuge bin in an Oakland parking lot. Sweetie was the runt of an already stray litter and Grace grabbed the deliquent animal, stuffed it in a gunny sack, then locked her in Katie's old bedroom for about a week or so. Yes, a cat kidnapping. And we and Madeleine are grateful for it. I'm sure the cat is too.

Retrospective In Red

My review of the JMT: Spectacular. Extraordinary. An adventure of a lifetime that I will retell until I am dead. Madeleine has written a college essay, if she so chooses. Would I have liked to finish it? Hell, yes. Are there things I would have done differently ? Of course.
Firstly, and possibly my biggest mistake, was the food. Backpackers are sensory deprived. Food takes on an extra importance. I stuffed our bear canisters and resupplies with dried fruit, buffalo jerky and cranberries (blech), fig newtons (never again), honey drops with vitamin C (puke) and freeze dried mountaineering food and other such nonsense. Instead : candy. And lots of it. Snickers bars. M&Ms and Oreos. Butterfingers. Calories and more calories. I should have included more super salty snacks like salamis, cheese, smoked oysters and sardines with crackers (very Euro style). I was thinking healthy. I mean, WTF ?
Madeleine and I grew sick of our food by Day 5 or 6 and towards the end we could not stomach what we had. So our efforts required maybe 4000 or 5000 calories a day and I imagine we were consuming less than London and below 2000.

Back To Normal ?

"Ugo Rondinone: The World Just Makes Me Laugh,” at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
The post JMT re-entry is, I admit, a shock. 10 years of dreaming, one year planning, 11 days of hiking and now it is.. over ? As my wise father says, "it will always be there" and, indeed, I think of returning next summer or - at least - sometime to finish the bastard off.
We get Madeleine to the emergency of the Oakland Children's Hospital where she is ex-rayed and given the OK by the doctors. Afterwards we gorge ourselves on Chinese food and grandparents; Gracie and Moe hear the story first hand.
Madeleine and I have grand ambitions to go to Hawaii or Mexico to surf or drive along the California coastline.
But for now I must regain the 15 lbs I've lost on the trail

Sunday, September 24

Helicopter Off

The ride from the trail to the landing terminus is about one hour over the most breathtaking and heartbreaking mountains in North America. It is like swimming over seabed cliffs that rise and fall thousands of feet. It is frightening at first then just a trip.

We are joyously greeted by Adam and Jasper who, on a Tuesday, make the six hour drive from Oakland to meet us and conclude the adventure. It is a remarkable way to end the JMT. Knowing your friends are there with love and support when it is needed the most.


Trail's End

Madeleine re-fractures her collar bone on Mather Pass while scrambling up a washed out switch-back - imagine climbing a ladder with a 45 lb backpack with the rungs slipping downward. It requires a supreme physical effort placing an unusual amount of weight on our arms and upper body. Madeleine's clavicle has a weak point from the last break now exploited by the effort and backpack; she hears a 'pop,' and then pain, which she hides from me for two days, no complaints. This kid is tougher than nails.

We make camp before Muir Pass, one of the challenging passes with 5 miles of dangerous snow trekking, and realise moving forward no longer an option. For my part, I am exhausted and can barely piss let alone set a camp or carry a backpack.

We are fortunate to meet Marty, a firefighter from Georgia and a certified EMT, who assesses Madeleine's break. Remarkably a ranger appears (I squint to make sure I'm not imagining it) who has a walkie-talkie for outward communication (we have emergency beacons but reluctant to use them). We put together a plan of action and a helicopter arrives the following morning, circles a granite rock several times, then lands. We are on our way out.

Saturday, September 23

Palisade Creek

We descend Mather heading to the Golden Stairway, a vertical switchback next to a cascading waterfall. Fortunately we are doing it downhill.
The streams bountiful with trouts wiggling against the flowing water. So many I can reach in and pluck them from the water.

Friday, September 22

Mather Pass II

 

Mather Pass

We hike out of the South Fork basin to Mather Pass, where Madeleine re-fractures her collar bone scrambling up the mountain where the switch-back has been washed out.

Stephen Mather (1867-1930) began his working life, after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, as a reporter for the New York Sun. Later, he worked for the same company in which his father held a senior position: the Pacific Coast Borax Company.

Just before the turn of the century he left the PCBC and, with a partner, began his own borax company. They did well.

By 1914, at age 47, he was a millionaire, had retired from the borax business, and was indulging his passions for the outdoors. That same year he toured Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks and came away unimpressed with the upkeep and administration of the properties. It just so happened that the current Secretary of the Interior was an old classmate, so he fired off a letter of complaint. The Interior Secretary’s response would change history.

“Dear Steve: If you don’t like the way the national parks are run, why don’t you come on down to Washington and run them yourself.”

Within two years Congress had approved the establishment of the National Park Service, and Mather was its first director.

Sunset

Another view of Painted Lady and Rae Lakes at sunset.

Wednesday, September 20

Fin Dome

At 11,693 feet, Fin Dome stands as a sentinel rising from the ridge separating Sixty Lakes Basin from Rae Lakes. Mountaineers, unlike us hikers, bring rope to reach the peak.