My last week ends on a good note as Astorg closes on the €800MM hard-cap and with a new relationship from Finland that I introduced to the partnership. It sets up a weekend of goofing and Adam and I take full advantage. Steve lends us his long-board and we head to Malibu and several classic breaks. While the waves are not what they could be - who cares? I'm on the Pacific and everything sparkles. It is no dreamland, California - people do live here. Adam makes films and this is the mecca. Unlike most parts of the world where cinema screens are in decline, L.A.'s movie theatres are part of the landscape. Also part of the urbananity: highways. Big ones which Joan Didion wrote about. The Santa Monica 405 is ten lanes and still doesn't break traffic's grip: Saturday and Sunday see stop-and-go - I can only imagine rush-hour. This place needs London's congestion charging or toll-roads and a gas tax would not be bad either. Unlikely, of course, given carbon's importance in, well, everything here. The fantasy would not exist without cheap energy. Easy to forget when surrounded by ocean and mountains on a sunny day. NYC, Dear Brother, is not the only self-absorbed city in America - and for good reason.
Monday, March 31
I fly to LAX Friday where Adam picks me up and straight to Century City, West LA, and a warehouse party. It is a pretty crowd and the creatures pictured are blown-up on a wall in various sexual situations, mostly in nature. Party goers mingle and dance. Adam's friend is a photographer and shoots photos - pictured. We then head to Canter's, a 24-hour stop for dinner and the late-night scene which is on. A mixture of locals, quasi-celebs, Hispanics, blacks, families and us finish beer, omelletes and toast - by the time we are home it is 3AM allowing us two episodes of "Californication" - a new favorite on Showtime about a degenerate living in Venice and desperate for his X and their daughter. There is a lot of drinking and meaningless sex and a fascinating new character explores hell-on-earth. A fabulous start to the weekend.
"I love women. I have all their albums."
Thursday, March 27
Guy and I spend yesterday afternoon hiking a redwood grove seven minutes from his house. During our five mile effort, we see maybe five people and Guy kindly asks if they have their $5 day-pass which, of course, we are happy to issue on the spot. We receive confused or worried looks before the prey is let off their hook. Guy is abuzz with the Democratic nominee and has been an early supporter of Barack Obama, who he has met one-one-one during several sessions (amongst many things, Guy has formed a national security think-tank). Afterwards and at home, Moe prepares a wonderful chicken soup with garbanzo beans and vegetables plus loaded with spices: turmeric, ginger, paprika and hot pepper. This morning we are up for the gym and his pals give me grief about whatever (this would be called "giving the micky" or "taking the piss" in good old England). Just another happy day in Northern California.
In Berkeley I catch up with friends I have known over 30 years - pictured. They all do interesting and different things. Otherwise my day is spent running between the East Bay and San Francisco with the afternoon anchored by BlueRun Ventures's AGM which reports good news. BRV invests in start-up companies and several present including a 24-year old fellow who has solved the Internet's high definition video compression problem (too much data for the pipes). He yawns while giving a demo which is convincing. Also on hand is a founder of slide, which BlueRun backed two years ago and is now the 9th most popular property on the Internet thanks to their "widgets" and partnerships with social networking sights like MySpace and Bebo. They did an "up round" last month with a pre-money valuation of $500 million thanks to Fidelty and T.R. Price and despite no revenues. While the mark-up is nice, we await cash. I stay at the Ritz Carlton, which does not compare with the Mandarin Oriental's views nor service, thank you very much.
Tuesday, March 25
Moe pumps it up this morning at the Cal Rec Center, where he meets his crew who also work iron. The routine is to the minute: 5:25AM wake-up, 5:45AM out-the-door, 5:55AM arrival for a 6AM opening. I'm on GMT following yesterday's flight where I got bounced to a center seat for a family-with-child. The Bay Area smells of spring and the weather accommodates. Driving across the Bay Bridge the fog settles in pockets over San Francisco while otherwise it is blue skies and a brilliant sunset. There is a lot of construction work I notice, not least the bridge, which undergoes structural works following 50 years of neglect. Plus the sky-way going up parallel to Oakland-Treasure Island which has been under construction like, forever. Costs went over budget and the Gubernator put the stops on any new funding (Arnie, it is widely agreed, hates Northern California and especially the East Bay where the bridge connects).
Sunday, March 23
The women-Wildcats win the NCAA Division I Swimming Championships outscoring Texas in the final day (they were runner-ups to TX last year). Way Back When, our family rose at 5:45AM for swim practice. Dazed and miserable, Katie and I ate breakfast and piled into the Volvo for two hours of further misery (Dear Reader, we anticipated every red light en route with joy). The worst days were early in the week (so many to go before a day off!) and when it rained. Moe would do some laps then head off to San Francisco and work - lucky him, I always thought. We covered 7,000-yards or about 5 miles per session - in a 25 yard pool, that's 560 laps. We did this twice a day. Plus weights or bands and stretching. Some times stair-running at Memorial. I am not sure I would wish this on anyone - accepting my own kids (great photo from Pat's blog re-montage).
The kids eat chocolate and go bezerk (Eitan now runs around the house acting drunk). Both kids gnaw various parts of the choco rabbit and show me the effects: No ears! No eyes! His bum! (Eitan now on the table and I shout at him). Madeleine breaks her remainder into tiny bits and suckles each ("Eitan! Get off that chair!"). It is snowing which adds the morning excitement. Sonnet and I have been watch Le Carre's "Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy" which aired on BBC in 1979 and Sonnet tells me is a favorite of her parents. Alec Guinness is George Smiley, brought in from the cold to entrap a mole inside The Circus. ("Eitan- back in the house!") Of equal interest is London from the 70s - it all looks so damp, claustrophobic and, well, a bit shoddy- the hallways crooked, elevators ancient and everything post-WWII grey. And the smoking - fags, pipes, roll-your-owns - it doesn't matter, they inhale (the Tube allowed smoking until 1984 - can you imagine rush-hour?). The background is, of course, the Soviet Uninion which is really the main character of the series. Gripping stuff. (Sonnet takes Eitan and Madeleine for a walk)
Saturday, March 22
Saturday - Morning - Wet - Cold - Typical - Easter. The kids suffer cabin fever but neither Sonnet nor I budge for a walk. Fortunately Aggie is stopping by shortly for a surprise afternoon allowing us a few free hours of bliss - without doubt we shall be napping.
Eitan practices his farting noises. Madeleine does her Kumon. Eitan puts together his "perfect team" and arranges his trading cards accordingly.
Taking this photo, I tell Madeleine she is a little character. Says she: "but I'm not even on T.V."
Eitan on top of Madeleine who is on the floor under the couch pillow screaming. I holler "what is going on!"
Madeleine: "We're having some fun dad!"
Madeleine: "Eitan threw a grapefruit at me!
Me: "Eitan, put the grapefruit in the kitchen!"
In other breaking news, Eitan's front-lower incisor comes out following weeks of struggle, tears and some blood. The thing had become admittedly gross turning an easy right angle from the gum. The good news for him is two-pounds (I tell the boy I will "cross his palm with silver"). The good news for everybody is that the incoming tooth won't be impacted.
Madeleine and Eitan put all their "buddies" on Eitan's bedroom floor and the kids camp out with their stuffed animals. They are allowed this Friday and Saturday plus they listen to a story on the CD-player. I sneak upstairs to listen (ease-drop) which nets a comparison of pokamon cards, football players and Peter Rabit. Also: the best candy.
Friday, March 21
Here is one of Sonnet and Marcus and their Grandmother Richards at Whispering Pines in the summer of '72. Some things are timeless. Eitan is jazzed this morning because Manchester United is three points clear in the Premiership following their victory over Bolton. Second placed is Arsenal followed by Chelsea. The boy races into our bedroom and spreads the news papers everywhere: "See dad! See! Manchester United is the greatest football team in the word." He describes the feats of his celebrated Rinaldo, who scored the first of two goals against the Wanderers (nobody uses a club's name). Otherwise it is a quiet beginning to the holiday weekend - freezing too, of course. There could be snow Saturday and Sunday which reminds me: every God damn Easter we have spent in the UK the weather has been miserable. To combat the elements we plan to go to a museum where the kids can burn off some energy and, just perhaps, learn a thing or two.
This morning from downstairs:
Eitan: Give me back my [Pokomon] card!
Madeleine: It's mine!
Eitan: Is not!
Madeleine: Well YOU are a Bigger Liar!
Eitan: Well YOU are a stinky pants!
Madeliene: Am not!
Madeleine: Moooommmmm! Eitan called me a Stinky Pants!
Thursday, March 20
The kids play tennis, their "third sport " after football and swimming. Today is otherwise the last school before Easter, a Big Time Holiday in this country and a long weekend (strangely, however, half-term break is not for two weeks . One would think them combined). I will be in the US from Monday to see parents and some work. Plus friends and shopping - the US currency has never been weaker and I vaguely recall the exchange rate to be 1.4 dollars to the pound in when we arrived in '97. Today it stands at over two bucks to the pound making London outrageously expensive for tourists and everybody but a purchasing power dream when off the island. Be assured that Sonnet has prepared a shopping list for the kids and I will stick to a few favorite shops like Banana Republic and Union Square.
Wednesday, March 19
Heather Mills, who won £24 million from her four-year divorce to Sir Paul but lost the subsequent gagging of the case, appears - ahem - most unsavory this week. The deciding judge accused Mills of being "her own worst enemy," saying her behaviour during the proceedings was "distasteful" and her evidence "not just inconsistent and inaccurate but less than candid." Oh dear. Of course we, the shocked public, lap up the circus and take our sides. Game on! Mills at one point was well-regarded for her lost-leg, pluck and charity work but this quickly eroded when her 1980s XXX was exposed (Heather first denied the photos then said it was a sex-help guide) followed by testy interviews and finally the BBC where she went bezerko - pictured. Yes, Heather has the crazy-gene and one must wonder why McCartney skipped the pre-nup - though those old photos may suggest a reason. In any case, it has been a nice diversion from the real news - Iraq - financial melt down - Tibet - who needs religion, really? Karl Marx we love you.
This poor kid - happily a-snoozing - wakes to find me perched with my camera. Says she: "Go! Away! Dad!" Fair enough. Still, my heart aches to see this little girl in the early sun tucked away with Doggie, who has been with her five years. I am awake thanks to Sonnet who will run three hours. The London Marathon is less than a month away and I watch her put on her kit: high-tech trainers- check. Sweat-whisking black tights and top - check. Breathable, insulating, water retarding top - check. Sports shades - check check. Yes, looking like The Terminator, Sonnet bolts for Thames toe path and Richmond Park loop. Eitan, meanwhile, enters the bedroom dressed for school and two hours to spare. I read him a book on a dog and Alaska (thank you, Stan and Silver) followed by the usual morning routine - me yoga and stretching, Madeleine Kumon (maths) and Eitan reading (recall that he is working towards a subscription of his choice including daily coverage Manchester United). We get silly with some disco then head for school where I volunteer for an hour or so. A full and satisfying day and it is only 10AM.
Tuesday, March 18
Now I love France. I speak French. I have two Paris funds (Rothschild and Astorg) and visit maybe ten times a year. I, like many French, am impressed by the hard-driving, reform-pushing President Sarkozy not least because he's the son of a Hungarian immigrant father, was raised alone in France by his mother and is Jewish. Further, Sarkozy seems impatient and direct and above-boards - qualities that the pompous ass Jacques Chirac had and lost or never had.
So it is with regret that Sarkozy's popularity has plummeted and he is known in France as "President Bling-Bling."
And why the change, Dear Reader? It is one thing to divorce your wife for a younger model but entirely another to rub your neighbor's face in it - which is, of course, what he did marrying Carla Bruni. Sarkozy is often seen in flash clothes at the trendiest restaurants in the 8th arrondisement wearing an enormous Rolex and aviator Ray Bans. He grants interviews in his jogging shorts and sends text messages during top level meetings. Plus his famous temper - he has been known to storm out of a press conference.
The French, you see, are the most stylish and reserved people in the world when we exclude the Italians. Sarkozy's sartorial yoof is out-of-step with his country and the campaign image from only last year.
And how is he viewed across the channel? Well, the Queen - who Sarkozy and his slapper Bruni shall meet this month - is a tad, ahem, expectant. She presumes royalty and may get Steve McQueen. Fleet Street loves the match-up affair and for myself, I no-doubt await my subscription to Tattler and Hello. Viva la France !
Sonnet and I sneak out to lunch at the River Cafe to celebrate today, Tuesday.
Monday, March 17
Madeleine on her way to school. While on Pretty Guns - it is not lost on me that the Supremes will tomorrow decide whether Washington D.C. can restrain ownership. This the first time in 75 years the High Court has (had the balls to) review our most cherished and controversial Amendment II. On the BBC this morning I listen to a black woman from DC who lost her 14 and 19 year old children in a drive-by shooting twelve years ago (her children were bystanders). Her position: guns should not be in circulation. Period. The counter point from Suburban DC where the interviewed (white) woman must keep her bedroom rifle's safety trigger on at all times. She also wants a hand-gun for her family's security.
Flipping past MTV, I ask Eitan what songs are about. He ducks the question. I pursue a bit and he rolls his eyes when I suggest love. Then he becomes quite angry - girls, and God forbid kissing - is a no-go area. My suggestion that one day this is all that he is going to think about gets me a hard pinch.
The kids, Sonnet and I agree to present where we wish to be by age-14 (for me and Sonnet, in five years). Eitan belts out Manchester United! but I ask them to write it on a piece of paper by Easter when we will talk about how to get there.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The Bill Of Rights
Sunday, March 16
Sonnet and I watch Dirty Harry continuing my exploration of psychopaths. The beauty of Harry is that he is crazier than Scorpio, who terrorizes San Francisco with a long-shot rifle and machine gun (actor Andy Robinson was so effective as the crazy that he damaged his career - Dirty Harry was Robinson's second film and he never did much after). It is neat to see the sky-line without skyscrapers - 1971 was pre-Trans America Tower - and there is the old Kezar Stadium, former home to the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers. In the movie, Harry tortures Scorpio on the 40 yard-line as the camera fades back on a foggy night-lit aerial - the recess of a tormented mind, Dear Reader. The .44 magnum is the film's hero and her view is often upwards into the gun - pictured - allowing us to worship the metal, ohh oh ohhh. America and guns - the Brits have their problems but not gun violence. Plenty of studies may show that more guns reduce violence but I just don't buy it.
Madeleine is at a birthday party and since it is a blustery Sunday, Eitan and I watch Italian league football on the BBC - today's match between Polarmo and Inter, who lost to Liverpool Wednesday in a UEFA cup upset. Eitan can hardly sit still and practices his ball handling moves in the living room, in front of the T.V.
"I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky?....Well, do ya punk?"
"I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy - but that could change."
"Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child."
"What a terrible thing to have lost one's mind. Or not to have a mind at all. How true that is."
"People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history."
"The future will be better tomorrow."
"[It's] time for the human race to enter the solar system."
"Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it."
"If we do not succeed, then we run the risk of failure."
"Lookit, I've done it their way this far and now it's my turn. I'm my own handler. Any questions? Ask me ... There's not going to be any more handler stories because I'm the handler ... I'm Doctor Spin."
"Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things."
"We'll let the sunshine in and shine on us, because today we're happy and tomorrow we'll be even happier."
"We're going to have the best-educated American people in the world."
"Don't forget about the importance of the family. It begins with the family. We're not going to redefine the family. Everybody knows the definition of the family. [Meaningful pause] A child. [Meaningful pause] A mother. [Meaningful pause] A father. There are other arrangements of the family, but that is a family and family values."
All quotes from Dan Quayle
St. Louis, MO --(UPI)-- Vice President Dan Quayle today visited St. Louis, MO, which bears a heavy population descended from German immigrants. In order to show support for the newly-unified country of Germany, fatherland of many in the audience, he repeated John F. Kennedy's words of support 30 years earlier, but this time in English, "I am a Jelly Doughnut!" Political commentators agreed that something was lost in the translation. Dan Quayle explained his remark by saying that he had been told that those who lived in central America enjoyed jelly doughnuts.
This morning, driving to swim practice, I introduce Eitan to The Greatest Rock And Roll Song Ever: "Stairway To Heaven." We cruise across an early morning Richmond Park at full blast and the boy takes in his legacy including the trip ("There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold - and she's buying a stairway to heaven"), its mystery ("In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees - and the voices of those who stand looking"), the pondered questions answered ("If there's a bustle in your hedgerow - Don't be alarmed now - It's just a spring clean for the May Queen"), life's choices ("Yes there are two paths you can go by but in the long run - There's still time to change the road you're on") and above all, the optimism ("And when she gets there she knows if the stores are closed - With a word she can get what she came for.") 'Nuff said.
George Bush takes one from Dan Quayle:
“Removing Saddam Hussein was the right decision early in my presidency, it is the right decision now, and it will be the right decision ever."
El Presidente - yesterday
“Happy campers you are, happy campers you have been and, as far as I am concerned, happy campers you will always be.”
Dan Quayle - 1990
Saturday, March 15
Madeleine in the botanical greenhouse. Meanwhile at the Tate Modern, artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster has been commissioned to fill the Turbine Hall after Doris Salcedo's subterranean crack. Gonzalez-Foerster's works have included "performing shadows" and she is known for her "visitor participation, atmospheric" stuff. She will be the ninth artist to occupy the hall when her work is unveiled to us in October. Can't wait.
After pizza dinner, the kids go disco nuts and dance around the house until they are mindless. It is a joy to watch their energy which is endless, especially Madeleine whose today was swim team, football and performance class.
I ask Eitan, breathing over my shoulder, what he would do with a computer: Says he: "Play a few C-BB's (some game), write down notes. Make a blog." Anything else? "No."
Sonnet and I have a raucous dinner with the CIO of the Carnegie Foundation at The Ivy (no celeb spottings this time). Kim is in town for several of her funds and we are honored to have her to ourselves. Not surprisingly we discuss the wacko that is Elliot Spitzer and agree: WTF ? Kim notes that the risk assessment of being caught, however calculated by male, is quite simple for her: 100% busted. 100% I'm gone. We've experienced a number of divorces in our group from a reckless dick and when kids are involved there is no forgiving the mistake, if that indeed is what it was. People are just plain mean to each other and this is about as low a blow as one can strike - life is too hard anyway to fuck it up so terribly.
Madeleine is up-and-at-'em today, in swimming suit and almost out the door when Sonnet and I roll our eyes heavenwards and ask for ten more minutes of sleep. Last night Sonnet was at our school's "field of dreams" auction fund raiser, which brings in $20 grand I learn. Her contribution was a tour of the V&A's fashion gallery, which went for $500. The tops was a full-catered dinner for six by Eitan's teacher who, by-the-by, is quite "fit." Hers went for $700. Sonnet's plan to run the Fleet half-marathon Sunday in jeopardy as she has a nagging side injury - with a month to go before the London marathon, no taking chances.
Eitan, Madeleine and I dance some early-morning disco to Hot Chip, trying out a few new disco-moves. I show them the "wave" to their delight and Sonnet's bemusement. The beauty of your kids is you can be one.
El Presidente explains yesterday the mortgage crisis to the ROW:
“You know, these mortgages can be pretty frightening to people. I mean, there’s a lot of tiny print."
Wednesday, March 12
Here is Steve on the Ocean Pacific. Steve is a child-school friend, fellow swimmer way-back-when and photographer par excellence who now resides in Dallas where he goes to Cowboys games when not with his daughter and family. Or maybe with them. Sonnet this evening attends the New York Ballet performing at London's ENO for the first time in 25-years - a real treat. She is with Dana and Tabitha for a gals night on the town (Dear Reader, ballet is not particularly my thing as my wonderful in-laws, who so graciously took me to the New York Ballet in '96, know from their experience). This morning I take the kiddies to early morning yoga then sit in Madeleine's class to help the "coconuts" table alphabetise their objects. Fun stuff for them and me.
Some more British slang used by the yoof:
Scabby - lucky
Snog - to make out, aggressive kissing
Take the piss (out of) - To mock. "Are you taking the piss?"
Fag end - the last part of a period of time. "Fag end of the show"
Scrote - Jackass
Slapper - slut (a personal favorite)
Nutter - crazy person
Git, twat - incompetent, stupid. "You little git"
Fit - good looking
Tuesday, March 11
England survives a bona fide hurricane that rolls across our island last night - these Brits twitter about their weather, a favorite subject no matter the calamity. On calamity, tomorrow Alistair Darling releases his first budget and we anticipate the so-called non-dom-tax which could cost some of us thirty-grand a year to live here. A real fall-out is the departure of friends and talent plus the message Britain sends to the world's young and motivated: "we don't want you fuck off." While this has always been the quiet attitude, the trade-off has netted jobs and increased living standards - recall England had to borrow from the IMF as recently as 1981. Before us ex-pats in the '90s England was on her knees; with the Americans and others, standards for professional services became world class leaving many of the lunchtime-pint drinking-blue bloods in the dust (so long BZW, Kleinworts, Natwest.. . .). Any case, it is clear London changes from tomorrow.
Here are some favorite often-used words:
balls-up - error, mistake
bog standard - plain vanilla, completely average, no distinguishing feature
butty - a buttered sandwich, often with chips, eaten at breakfast
gobsmacked - utterly astonished, openmouthed
manky - feeling ill, rough, out of sorts; filthy, dirty, rotten
nosy parker - a busybody
paki - Pakistan
Monday, March 10
I check in with Taxi Driver, a remarkable film from '76 and known for its shocking violence. Scorcese says that he, writer Paul Schrader and De Niro were in a bad place when the filming began in New York during the post-Viet Nam era - a time when the city was generally coming apart from crime, violence and racial tension (racism is an ugly theme explored in Taxi Driver). Schrader debates whether film blood begets street violence arguing socio-paths exist regardless of the art, "which explores and reflects culture and not the other way." Taxi Driver works on many levels but the realism catches one off guard - from the strange film work catching Travis Bickle's moods (alka seltzer, rear-view mirror, overhead shots &c.) to the concluding tour de force which almost netted an "X" rating. Scorcese believed he was making a niche film with little outside appeal and was "surprised" by Taxi Driver's acceptance and Oscar nominations. And is Travis somehow cured following his bloody heroics and media fame? Absolutely not - he will kill again...
... and in England this past month alone we have sentenced the Suffolk Strangler Steve Wright who murdered at least five women in Ipswitch; Mark Dixie who knifed repeatedly then raped the corpse of teenager Sally Ann Bowman; and Levi Bellfield who stalked young women bludgeoning them with a hammer.
"All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets. I go all over. I take people to the Bronx, Brooklyn, I take 'em to Harlem. I don't care. Don't make no difference to me. It does to some. Some won't even take spooks. Don't make no difference to me. "
Sunday, March 9
Eitan has a "football party" celebrating Sasha's seventh at the Bank of England club. During, I take Madeleine to her choice - Pizza Express - where I tell her a Spider Man story (her request) and we discuss school, friends and love mano-a-chica. My fund BlueRun Ventures leads Zivity's $7 million series "a" round with Founders Fund, the creators of PayPal and Facebook. Zivity is, ahem, an adult website that provides "a community powered showcase promoting female beauty." In other words, a sure-fire winner. Speaking of the flesh, Eitan - who watches Football Italiano - Milano v. Empou - shouts: "they're watching naked dad! Those people do not have any clothes on!" How Mediterranean.
Katie tells me her beachside photo taken in the Dominican Republic - "on the other side of the island" and presumably without tourists. She is surfing
The kids watch cartoons ("Johny Test") and Sonnet runs - her London Marathon is five weeks.
Our government, dear reader, intends to roll-out a camera that sees through clothing at 80-feet and meant to detect weapons, drugs and explosives. The maker, ThruVision, already offers a smaller device that scans clothing at 30-feet and used at Canary Wharf to target terrorists. Not surprisingly, the police expect ThruVision to be in shopping centres, on high streets and in airports or wherever without consultation with we, the people. No doubt ThruVision will also help police recruiting - line up, lads! - and welcome to our surveillance society.
Katie sends me her feet from the beach.
After swim practice today, the boys discuss Saturday's football results including loses by ManU and Chelsea to lower-division teams in the FA Cup knock-out round. I'm impressed by The Knowledge, from minute detail ("Joe Cole was definitely fouled inside the box"; "Drogba, Lambard, Ashley Cole and Michalaelie injured and out for Chelsea") to the strategy (Barnsely played six guys up front"). I have to hustle Eitan otherwise he would be content for the morning.
Saturday, March 8
I return from Finland yesterday (in unison: "Dad, did you get me a present?") where I have a meeting and some free time. It sprinkled snow and the Finns worry about the winter (Finland is equally effected by changes in the jet stream, which keep the UK warm and moist). This is my third time to Helsinki in '08 which is no bother. The city's architecture is famous for its Art Nouveau from the early 1900s and more recently Alvar Aalto's "functionalism." Helsinki is often used as a Hollywood backdrop for the Soviet Union in many Cold War Hollywood movies like Reds and Gorky Park. The Finnish government, I'm told, secretly briefed its white-collar workers to make producing these, often clearly Soviet-negative, films in Helsinki as hard as possible due to diplomatic pressure from Moscow !
What's the most important thing in the world (asked over cereal)?
Eitan: My match attacks, Pokoman cards, Teddy and family
Madeleine: Family and doggy
Manchester United is eliminated from the FA Cup by Portsmouth. Eitan sheds a tear of frustration, becoming further irritated when I mention it is only a game.
Tuesday, March 4
Katie sends me her orange dress, which we all agree is pretty. Darn. Cool.
I'm enjoying London at the now while spring has arrived early with daffodils. Still nippy, the season is in the air and large white clouds pass overhead during mid-day run in Richmond Park. I pass aside a herd of antlered bucks who barely pay me a glance despite my being feet from their grazing. King Georg I's hunting lodge never looks as lovely as mid-week when the rest of the world is working away and I'm goofing off. Yesterday Sonnet and I visit Eitan and Madeleine's teachers for a brief update on their classroom progress and I am delighted to report that both children are exactly as they should be.
Monday, March 3
Here is a photograph of Sonnet's Great Grandmother Blaine. Stan tells me that both the grandparents were teachers and had four daughters and Grandfather Blaine was the Superintendent Of Schools in Glenwood Springs and was Supt in Longmont, CO when he died in the mid 1930s. The Blaines descended from James G. Blaine the corrupt U.S. Senator from Maine who almost became President. This last bit of treasure is too good to be left hanging so I spend some time today digging online.
Grandpa G. Blaine was born in West Brownsville, Washington County, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. He was the great-grandson of Col. Ephraim Blaine (1741-1804), who during the American War of Independence served in the American army from 1778 to 1782 as commissary-general of the Northern Department.
After graduating Washington and Jefferson College, Blaine settled in Augusta, Maine, in 1854, becoming editor of the Kennebec Journal, and subsequently on the Portland Advertiser.Editorial work was soon abandoned for a more active public career. Blaine served as a member in the Maine House of Representatives from 1859 to 1862, serving the last two years as Speaker of the House. He also became chairman of the Republican state committee in 1859 and for more than 20 years personally directed every campaign of his party. Among his adoring admirers, he was known as the "Plumed Knight." Blaine was the unsuccessful Republican nominee for President in 1884; he was the only nonincumbent Republican nominee to lose a presidential race between 1860 and 1912, and only the second Republican Presidential nominee to lose at all. Republican reformers, called "Mugwumps" supported Cleveland because of Blaine's reputation for corruption. After heated canvassing, during which he made a series of brilliant speeches, he was beaten by a narrow margin in New York. Many, including Blaine himself, attributed his defeat to the effect of a phrase, "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion", used by a Protestant clergyman, the Rev. Samuel Burachrd, on October 29, 1884, in Blaine's presence, to characterize what, in his opinion, the Democrats stood for. "Rum" meant the liquor interest; "Romanism" meant Catholics; "Rebellion" meant Confederates in 1861.
Blained refused to be a presidential candidate again in 1888 instead becoming Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President Benjamin Harrison fromm 1889 to 1892.
His service at State was distinguished by several notable steps. In order to promote the friendly understanding and cooperation of the nations on the American continents he projected a Pan-American Congress, which, after being arranged for and led by Blaine as its first president, was frustrated by his retirement. (Its most important conclusions were the need for reciprocity in trade, a continental railway and compulsory arbitration in international complications.) Shaping the tariff legislation for this policy, Blaine negotiated a large number of reciprocity treaties which augmented the commerce of his country.
He upheld American rights in Samoa, pursued a vigorous diplomacy with Italy over the lynching of 11 Italians accused of being Mafiosi who murdered the police chief in New Orleans in 1891, held a firm attitude during the strained relations between the United States and Chile over a deadly barroom brawl involving sailors from the USS Baltimore; and carried on with Britain a controversy over the seal fisheries of Bering Sea—a difference afterward settled by arbitration. Blaine sought to secure a modification of the Clayton-Bulwer, and in an extended correspondence with the British government strongly asserted the policy of an exclusive American control of any isthmian canal which might be built to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Blaine resigned on June 4, 1892, on the eve of the meeting of the Republican National Convention. His name, when once again submitted for consideration by the delegates, drew little support.
Sunday, March 2
After swimming we go to Kew Gardens to see the daffodils which flower a month early. We then goof by the river, pictured, and Madeleine shows her bouquet which, dear reader, was fallen from the stem before picked by her. The gardens remain a favorite place and with Richmond Park, the perfect fall-back should we not have weekend plans. Today we head to Kew to escape Madeleine's new toy "Noisy Putty" which simulates a "bronx cheer" (what a great name for a fart). The box says: "plunge fingers into the gunge to produce repulsive lavatorial sounds!" and of course Madeleine has been hooked and non-stop. We sing Hot Chip in the car: "Do it do it do it do it do it now! Show me show me show me show me show me how!"
"One swallow does not make a spring, nor does one fine day."
Here is Friday's concert, pictured. We're pretty close to the action and it is a rowdy crowd - at least for us old-timers. Last night we sleep by 8PM and Sonnet kicks me awake to take the boy to swim-team. Ug. Listening to Hot Chip in the car, Eitan refines his career plan to include a rock & roll band, which he names "Bloodhawks." I tell him great name but a bit gorey which nets a conversation about blood and guts. He doesn't come off his idea though - good lad. Madeleine asks if a fella would live without his guts: "will he dad? wil he?"
Saturday, March 1
Sonnet and I meet in Brixton to see Hot Chip, pictured, at the Academy. Beforehand, we have dinner at a family-style Portuguese restaurant complete with an old television showing Italian football and, surprisingly, Portuguese people. There's a real hustle-bustle with children running around the bar, a few tables with young couples smooching and the old timers drinking their whatevers watching the scene contentedly. Perfect. As for Hot Chip, the show goes on at 1130PM and is well worth a lost night's sleep (oh I suffer now). Hot Chip is from south London and plays techno-pop disco with quirky addictive songs using strange instruments and computer monotones. The lead singer is slight and nerdy, which ads to their geekiness. The sold-out crowd loves the vibe, as do we, and the noise from them and us is deafening. Sonnet prefers opera and again proves a trooper for humoring me - our last gig together was the Chemical Brothers when she told me flat that I had better find a music buddy. Christian, who introduced me to the Artic Monkeys and Hot Chip, is that guy but in California. Most dads in our neighborhood would never consider a live act and too bad for them.