Moe on 102nd Street.
We head for Central Park on a gorgeous Saturday and seat ourselves next to The Pool: W101 which otherwise has no name. This a remarkably pristine part of an unusually natural environment given what surrounds it: concrete, for miles and miles. Our seclusion includes drooping willows, algae green waters formed in a grotto from stacked boulders. It is also a favorite haunt of the Great Egret and bird watchers nestle here to spot the many migratory species. Kind of like the Barnes Wetland Centre which also attracts its share of eccentric nutzos.
Sunday, May 31
Saturday, May 30
Seamus I visit yesterday in Midtwon as he considers buying a pharma company following a career at Elan and GE at strategic consulting firm the Mac Group who I interviewed with while at First Boston for their London office. Seamus an old college friend who I have not been with since his wedding which seems like yesterday but somehow five years ago. The bachelor party fun too BTW - golfing on a resort in Galway with his friends and brothers, one of whom works for distribution of Guinness. A handy ingredient. Also on hand is Suresh, who had sold his security software company to Microsoft and abuzz about Bill Gates several months before. Suresh advised by his new VP "not to engage Bill." Apparently Gates does not to look new relationships in the eye on account that he scares the crap out of them. In true fashion, relays Suresh, Gates had his company power-point presentation before him and threw it across his office at Steve Ballmer and Suresh's new business unit executives: "This is the biggest piece of shit I've ever seen" and "why the fuck did we buy this company?" If not for an accelerated earn-out, it would have been an even more terrifying event. Gates calmed down and eventually focused on the task, which I suppose how to integrate Suresh's software into the Death Star. They got along fine. Since, Seamus tells me, Suresh left MS and founded another start-up which sold to Symantic. Budda-bing.
Seamus transferred to Brown from Dublin and a stand-out runner though not on par with Greg Whiteley, who he sees at Brown's 20th reunion last week end while I am in CT with Mary and her gang. Seamus formed a contingent of elite athletes who together ranked in the NCAA Top-10 for cross country when I joined my Junior year after ditching my life-long passion and the unpleasant dudes on the Bruins swim team. Seamus leads a successful life and I was fortunate enough to see him on a Friday afternoon, which he informs me with a chuckle is when he plays golf. He joins me to Lincoln Center where we pick up my parents, Sonnet and the kids so he can meet Eitan and Madeleine and reunion with Moe and Grace - the last time being, I believe, on College Hill for graduation. Life moves on. Life is good.
"There once was a cheerful old bear,
who suddenly lost all his hair.
And though he was sad,
he knew it was bad ...
to cry and completely despair."
Here is one from the pet store, which earns a thumb's up for weirdness from Madeleine and Eitan.
We catch the North White Plains line from the 125 Street Harlem station, which is yet again an entirely different world. NYC has cleaned up considerably since my first arrival in '89 when the city seemed dangerous above 95th ... this imaginary boundery gone, enforced by Columbia Business School expanding up to 140 Street. Sure, there are dilapidated pockets but these mostly isolated to Harlem and the Bronx though I admit my window from a taxi. I read that certain New Yorkers nostalgic for '70s urban grittiness - like having black-outs and a heroin problem a good thing - you know, Pop-Eye Doyle or Travis Bickle and all that. There probably was a creative and artistic environment, sex and drugs and rock and roll - but the city was bankrupt and pity those poor middle class honkies cowering in their flats. Or fleeing to the suburbs. And what about Times Square which is now owned by Disney and nary a porno theatre nor prostitute to be seen? Can the under-belly of Gotham really be one giant, police controlled pedestrian walk? But to Harlem: there is no longer racial tension that once made this place simmer and a no-go zone for the post-college, professional types I hung with .. nor is there a hint of drugs or violence which was on offer 20 years ago - 1990 being the year New York set its record for annual murders at over 2,000. We, the people, were bombarded by this news every day and though Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side, where I lived, perfectly safe it did not feel so. Humans have a great ability to misjudge a risk based on repetition or scale of threat - death by murder being an extreme worry, I might suggest. How simple a time, then, when the only thing to fear a mugger or graffitti covered subway after-hours. At least the bogeyman was tangible, unlike what we have been sold since 9-11.
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
-- H.P. Lovecraft.
Bryant Park a magnificent oasis which really should not exist. Surrounded by sky-scrapers - in this case, the MetLife and BankAmerica Towers facing east - it offers a blip of calm in an otherwise frantic part of New York rubbing up against Time's Square. Eitan asks if the BankAmerica tower bigger than the Empire State Building but actually it is about half the size or 54 floors. Holy mackerel. On the other side is the library and we are encased by 5th and 6th Avenues and 40th and 42nd Streets for about 9.6 acres. The place has a rich history not surprisingly, and here is what an Internet rake brings forward:
"In 1686 when the area was still a wilderness, New York's colonial governor Thomas Dongan designated this spot a public space. George Washington crossed it while retreating from the Battle of Long Island in 1776. Bryant Park was a potter's feild (a graveyard for the poor) from 1823 to 1840, when thousands of bodies were moved to Ward's Island.
Later on, the square was used for military drills during the Civil War, and was the site of some of the New York Draft Riots in 1863, when the Colored Orphan Asylum at Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street was burned down.
In 1884, Reservoir Square was renamed Bryant Park, to honor the New York Evening Post editor and abolitionist William Cullen Bryant. In 1899, the Reservoir building was removed and construction of the New York Public Library building began.
The construction of the Sixth Avenued Elevated railway in 1878 had cast a literal and metaphorical shadow over the park, and by the 1930s the park had suffered neglect and was considered disreputable. The park was re-designed in 1933-1934 as a Great Depression public works project under Robert Moses. The new park featured the great lawn.
By the 1970s, Bryant Park had been taken over by drug dealers, prostitutes and the homeless. It was nicknamed "Needle Park" by some, due to its brisk heroin trade, and was considered a "no-go zone" by ordinary citizens and visitors. From 1979 to 1983, a coordinated program of amenities, including a bookmarket, a flower market, cafes, landscape improvements, and entertainment activities, was initiated by a parks advocacy group called the Parks Council and immediately brought new life to the park -- an effort continued over the succeeding years by The Bryant Park Restoration Corporation, which had been founded in 1980 by a group of prominent New Yorkers, including members of the Rockefeller family, to improve conditions in the park. In 1988, a privately funded re-design and restoration was begun by the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation and here we are today.
We sit in Bryant Park on a muggy early afternoon and Madeleine sneaks up on me to put leaves down the back of my shirt: "did you notice me there, dad?" as I take her photograph. HSBC sponsors a little book corner for kids and Sonnet reads happily to them while I mess around taking photographs. Too much to see and take in. There is also a carousel which the Shakespears beg for and win, over my preliminary early miserly objections. Me the Grinch - but it is $2 a go and that seems like real money, oh boy. Initially our aim to take the kids into the NY Public Library (I have never been myself) but too warm a day+the we need to burn off some steam having sat around this morning while I made work calls. A 30 minute promise always comes in around two hours. I think they are used to it - but hey, they get to gorge on TV which is (usually) a rarity - only after homework, though, which seems to be a bit slack for now Sonnet and I agree.
Madeleine beside herself when she finds her penguin buddy's legs broken off. She to Sonnet: "who could have done this mum? Why oh why?" and to me: "I am very sad right now." I tell he she will just have to love the penguin regardless of its legs. Love it more so, in fact. She remains hopeful: "I know crazy glue can fix her."
After dinner, we stroll to Katie's pet store on 102nd and Broadway. Madeleine pleads for a pet and I tell her a cat, as long as we kill and stuff it for the plane ride home. I add helpfully: "I will get a large mallot .." Madeleine glares at me.
Me to Sonnet, Madeleine listening: "Let's get a goat. That should travel well."
In the pet store Madeleine bonds with the mice: "Dad we have to buy them so they are not fed to the snake!"
Eitan unsure when I tell him the squirrels in New York City talk, just like in the movie Madagascar. I prove my point by chirping at one who seems to pay attention before darting up a tree. Eitan: "Mom! Is that true?"
Friday, May 29
Another image I like - this one from the playground on 81st and Central Park West. Eitan has carried a soccer ball all day and now rewarded with some playtime - the other kids look on suspiciously at his ball skills and accent. Eventually we hustle out when the mist becomes a dull wet+time for dinner. Without hesitation this is the best city I know for photography. Every angle weird and wonderful - modern, old or crumbling. I don't have the courage to take frontal shots of people but that is where the best action is. For instance I stroll pass an enormous black man who advances with an awkward shuffle as though one leg longer than the other (it probably is) and dressed in black suit, narrow black tie and black fedora and black thick glasses. Next to him a much shorter Hasidic Jew and they talk rapidly about who knows what? Or the model who passes us, elegantly, wearing a scarf, Izod and sweat pants - his hair perfectly Elvis. The thing I really enjoy is the people welcoming - especially the Joe's on the street who always seem to have a smile and a wisecrack, though maybe these the guys I naturally chose for directions or whatever. Very different from London which somehow less inviting nor bubbling with enthusiasm about their city. New Yorkers love it here and why not? Anything humanly possible and all it takes is an imagination and hard-work. Mostly. At the very least, NYC the only city I know where such a gratuitous comment just might hold true.
Eitan in a yellow taxi (he resists for a dollar). The Natural History Museum greets us with four quotes from Theodore Roosevelt, each uniquely appropriate for the setting. Here is one at the westward front entrance:
"I want to see you game boys. I want to see you brave and manly. and I also want to see you gentle and tender.
Be practical as well as generous. In your ideals, keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.
Courage, hard work, self-mastery and intelligent effort are all essential to a successful life.
Character in the long run is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike."
-- Teddy Roosevelt
Grace buys me Roosevelt's biography which I probably won't read since I only do fiction since post MBA. I ask Eitan and Madeleine their favorite part of the NHM and, expectedly, get: "gift store." And: "shopping." In fairness, Gracie buys Eitan a battery powered flying Space Shuttle and Madeleine and collection of rocks she thinks diamonds. Hard for anything stuffed to top that. Katie, meanwhile, gives a presentation to her Echoing Green foundation, who chose her with four others to demonstrate what social ideas and capital may accomplish. She is then off to see Jeremy plan in his band somewhere in lower Manhattan. We gently decline the invitation as the Shakespeares wiped out.
From the Echoing Green website: "Since 1987, Echoing Green has provided seed funding and support to more than 450 social entrepreneurs with bold ideas for social change in order to launch groundbreaking organizations around the world." Katie tells me the foundation supports less than 1% of applications. Here are several examples:
Adarsh Kumar - building an (rural India) venture capital fund to serve businesses owned by or employing low-income producers, enabling them to scale up their businesses to become commercially successful companies.
Anne Tamar-Mattis - protecting the civil rights of children born with variations of sex anatomy.
Ben Schmoltz - improving the nation's disaster management systems through public accountability, citizen oversight and empowerment, whistle-blower engagement, and policy research.
Elizabeth Scharpf - Amplifying girls' and women's economic potential by launching female-run franchises that manufacture and distribute low priced, high-quality, environmentally-friendly sanitary pads.
It takes us a while to get rolling this morning, though Sonnet up early to meet a rep from Helmut Lang to choose several pieces for her V&A collection. Us, we drive into the city which seems like a great idea until I can't find parking nor parking garage. Duh. We meet Moe and Grace and off to the American Natural History Museum where we see the fantastic Cosmic Collision:
"Viewers will witness the violent face of our Sun, imaged by NASA satellites, that produces enormous ejections of material from our star towards our planet. The resulting subatomic clashes, as streams of charged particles from the Sun strike the Earth's magnetic field, produce the eerie glow of the aurora borealis and the aurora australis that fill the Hayden dome. Cosmic Collisions will also show the creation of our Moon some five billion years ago when a wandering planetoid struck Earth; the violent meeting of two stars at the edge of the galaxy; and the future collision of our Milky Way galaxy with our closest neighbor, the Andromeda spiral galaxy, a cosmic crash that will produce a new giant elliptical galaxy billions of years from now.
Audiences will feel the ground shake beneath them as they experience a thrilling recreation of the meteorite impact that hastened the end of the Age of Dinosaurs 65 million years ago and cleared the way for mammals like us to thrive. Another dramatic sequence highlights a frightening future scenario where humanity desperately attempts to divert the path of an oncoming "doomsday" asteroid headed on a collision course with Earth."All this and narrated by Robert Redford. Wow.
My photograph from the fourth floor of the museum in the eastward facing sitting area of the Koch Dinosaur gallery.
"Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims."
-- H.G. Wells
Another fascinating fungi found during our Pine Nob hike - pictured. It is a mushroom of some sort and seems to be embedded into the tree by tree-sap. Strangely, I find this formation only once over six miles.
From CT we drive to Bronxville and for the first time I can remember - we find the village on the first shot. Bronxville is one square mile and tucked inside Tuckahoe, Yonkers and Scarsdale and the highways don't mark the town, much to my grief. Most famously in 1985, Danny and I got lost returning from the Palladium and ended up God Knows Where in upstate New York. Worse, we flagged a guy for directions who instructed us to follow him, only to led further astray. We pulled into Marcia's at 6AM, relieved beyond belief. Of course, Larry had forecasted this likely scenario and instructed us firmly to take the train.. In my defense, I was 18. It took me quite a long time to earn back his good graces. Maybe twenty years, in fact. So Bronxville.. a totally charming town with pop. 6,500, a top-notch public school+Sarah Laurance (where Kelley Collard, the hottest girl ever to graduate from BHS, attended), lovely library, brick firehouse and imposing Roman Catholic church all inside a green central area. It is 15 miles or so from Midtown and a perfect 30 minute commute. Not surprisingly, then, the median income per household $144,940, and for a family was $200,000 last year. Proudly, my Aunt Marcia was Bronxville's first mayor from 1977.
We catch a train into GCS then to the Upper West Side to have dinner with Katie and Moe and Grace on Katie's deck around sunset. Mom and dad arrived today for the week and Diane's wedding. Before we sit down, I take Eitan to the school-park across the street to burn some energy and what begins as a simple game of tag-your-it becomes half the playground after me. I learn from the black girls that "1-2-3 get outta my father's apple tree" is the equivalent of "Homie" which absolves being "it'ed." These kids very sweet and urban - I think Eitan fascinated by their difference - and me, I just enjoy being on their level goofing around.
Tuesday, May 26
This wild orchid surprises me in the middle of the trail. I usually think of them as a tropical flower and my recollection of their beauty from Kew Gardens where they flower for several weeks protected by the Princes Diana green-house.
My morning begins at the gym and I listen to Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Beforehand, FOX News sites "un-named sources" who question her character, judgement and intelligence. What idiots. I mean, this chick went from the Bronx to Princeton where she won the Pyne Prize for academic distinction then Yale Law School where she was editor of the Yale Law Review. Who cares if she is Hispanic or female or from mars. She's qualified - hallelujah. Remember when Bush put forth that turd Harriet Miers? The conservatives are going to bitch and moan, as they should, but at least we will debate her interpretations of the Constitution rather than her smarts, merits or use of a race card (Clarence Thomas, anybody? Now he's hateful). All that will come in to play but it shouldn't matter. Obama has found a rare, true-life American story that he knows so well - since it is his story too, afterall.
We revisit the Pine Nob trail two years on, and I am happy to report exactly the same. The trailhead about 30 minutes from Mary and Amado's house and across the Housatonic River, which is famous for its fly fishing. The river itself 150 miles from Western MA to CT and flows southeast draining about 2,000 square miles of southwestern New England into the Long Island Sound. The most popular area for fishing between the Falls Village Dam and the town of Cornwall Bridge in Litchfield County, where we are today. Up river are five dams producing hydroelectricity and further still, a GE plant pumped PCBs from 1932-'77 - disturbingly, there are warnings about poisons and pregnant women encouraged not to eat the fish. During our hike, and to pass the time, Eitan begs me to ask him football questions and so I quiz him: he has no problem listing all the players for England, the names of the 20 Premier league stadiums; the top-five goalies and so on and so forth. Madeleine, for her part, finds a millipede which she wants to bring to New York to show Auntie Katie. She won't take 'no' for an answer and finally I grow tired of her incessant pleas. Enough! Sonnet stays out of the discussion and I don't blame her - millipedes are gross looking. And big, too, filling up most of Madeleine's hand (she having no fear).
Madeleine argues her case for keeping a millipede: "It's for Auntie Katie. Auntie Katie loves bugs and things plus she can feed it on her deck."
Me to Eitan or Madeleine: "Do you remember what the Romans used the hot spring water for at Bath?"
Eitan (snickering): "She did not even know she got it right."
Here we are at the end of a long, sunny week end feeling pretty good about life and middle-age (Mary and I discuss when this actually begins; we both agree 41 a great age to be alive). Missing are Rob, Sloan and their children who were unable to join as Rob returning from Brazil and work but we speak to them on the telephone as they drive home from Mendocino. Cool. These friends, who I am proud of, the most important thing I take forward from Columbia. Sure, I took classes and learned some business in business school but what I cherish not the career nor the bucks but rather a few people who make the experience worth its while.
Madeleine and Doggie, who has been with us for as long as I can remember. Madeleine too.
Tonight Sonnet and I prepare dinner, which the kids reject. In fairness, it is mostly for adults: my tabouli (sans bulgar), flava beans, mozerella and tomatoes and avocado+olive oil. Wine. It is nice not to work tomorrow, and especially in New York which was always a hard Monday when I was here. Sometimes in those early days I awoke at 3AM concerned about some client or unpleasant Managing Director .. or worse, anal freaked out Associate .. ah, those horrors of the first job with little training yet deals appearing in the Wall Street Journal. No shit - I modelled the merger of C&S Sovran and NCNB creating NationsBank (now BankAmerica) the largest US banking deal of the time. I had no idea what I was doing. Today I look at the banking sector and wonder how it all went wrong.
From '89-93 when I covered the sector there were over 10,000 banks consolidating to about 7,000; we had to watch deposit-concentration which prevented certain mergers - nobody wished to see a dominant player in a city or region+regulators aware of product lines and overlapping sales, concerned about conflicts, all monitored closely it seemed by the state. The bankers I worked for intense, motivated and professional. They were also honest.
The taste of the S&L meltdown still with us and lessons learned, though perhaps not by Republicans who begged for more deregulation (thank you, Phil Gramm, you fuck) supported by Clinton and voila - a repeat of the Garn-St Germain Depository Act which cost us, the tax-payer, some $200 billion in the late '80s. This now seems like peanuts. By the mid-1990s the temptation for packaged mortgages, off-balance sheet transactions, securitisation and FDIC insurance (all buzzy words, I admit) led to temptations beyond belief. And today beggers belief. These guys from back then laughing on the golf course. Retired, of course, every one of them.
Sonnet reminds me that cousin Kelley originally gave Doggie to Eitan, who did not take to the, er, personality. This was 2000. Madeleine eventually discovered the unloved stuffed animal and the rest, as they say, is history.
Monday, May 25
The kids line up for their last responsibility. Sure, there is some grumbling but mostly they are cooperative. Devon earns a note of interest for his self-made mask and weapon of galactic destruction. Blast shield too. The kid is ready to rock and roll.
Today is Memorial Day observed on the last Monday of May. It was formerly Decoration Day and commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in military service - something Sonnet and I debate since she felt it honors all military personnel. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the civil war), it was expanded after World War I to include American casualties of any war or military action. I have never been to a Memorial Day celebration - parade, service or remembrance. It makes me wonder if anybody, other than those families touched, considers this anything other than a long week end and nice lie-in. In the last ten or twenty years, we the people have failed to prevent unnecessary conflicts and of course Bush disastrous. Our job, whether via Congress, protest or otherwise, is to ensure that our fighting men and women kept from harm's way unless there is no alternative. Obama pledged this at Annapolis several weeks ago but then every President, excluding el Presidente, has spoken the same words. So how can you and I make a difference? Well - vote, for one. And write letters. Support newspapers and blog your opinions. It might not work, nor reduce military spending by one cent, but something has to change and how else if not via communication and scale?
And while we are at it - why are Obama-Binden being such pussies regarding Guantanamo and its closure? The 200 odd prisoners should be brought to the United States and tried. If not convicted, set free (and forget deportation). This is the law, and what sets our country apart. As for America's safety - come on. There are certain things more important than our comfort and security.. like freedom, which is what we are honoring with this three-day week end given that tens of thousands of us have died defending this ideal ("give me liberty, or give me death" said Henry in 1775). Americans remain traumatised by 9-11 nearly eight years on and this fear has inflicted grievous harm on our constitution. Bush and Cheney, unlike Obama, may have been too righteous or arrogant or stupid to understand their actions.. but today's Senate no excuse for their lameness - 92-4 against shutting Gitmo. What the fuck? Rather than protect our lazy, obese, asses with airport security and Star Wars, the Government should be guarding our civil liberties and maintaining our moral compass. This is what I and most of us voted for in November.
Is't death to fall for Freedom's right?
He's dead alone who lacks her light!
-- Thomas Campbell
I love this kid, here looking into the backyard at a thunder-storm afternoon and thinking: "no s'mores." Everybody in the same boat and sometimes the rain just comes when least wanted. Madeleine asks if we can use the oven but somehow not quite the same. We promise tomorrow, sunshine allowing, and ice cream tonight at Nellie's in Goshen, CT which we have been to before and is a perfect hole in the wall with all kinds of Nestle's Ice cream. It has suitably cheesey decor and friendly hospitality. Madeleine asks if they have s'more ice cream and we shall see. We shall see. When not yelling at the kids about something (a memorable moment has me removing my glasses so I am not responsible for everybody jumping on Simon smooshed between two couch pillows) we enjoy BBQ spare ribs, which takes me back to Kansas City in '97 and Arthur Bryant's. Bryant's a rib joint founded in the 1920s not too far from the Chiefs football stadium and a simple, enormous grill worked by several enormous black men in dirty, white T-shirts. I think Clinton went there once during a tour of the Midwest (or wherever Kansas is). Sonnet and I passed by on our cross-country post MBA and I still have fond memories, ah yes. So Simon - terrific kid, similar to Madeleine a unique character and always something interesting going on in his head. He, too, has a successful older brother who monopolizes attention which must be countered somehow. Simon often gets away with murder but always brought back to earth by Amado, who is not adverse to yelling or fixing a chore or two. Builds character and keeps the boys out of trouble - something we could do ourselves with a bit more discipline - I think this as Eitan ignores me generally when I ask him to do something. I threaten to withhold ManU vs. Barcelona Wednesday and this usually gets it done.
Madeleine enters with Capucino Crunch ice cream.
Sunday, May 24
Devon and Eitan square off. The kids pick up without a missed beat. We arrive yesterday and within moments a water fight. Then game of tag followed by football, that is, soccer here on terre firma. Despite Eitan and Madeleine's jet lag they are buzzing along post bed-time which is fine with us as we are asleep by 8PM. This morning Devon makes a vat of oatmeal and we head for the lake to water ski while I sneak in my long-run. Amado plays a mixer tournament. From there, the swimming pool and now more shenanigans at the house as the children tasked with watering the plants. I think 50% makes soil and we know where the rest to be. Unfortunately for Madeleine, fortunately for Eitan, Kuman follows them to here and they now work away. Devon notes that Eitan lucky: "I have, like, six hours of homework to do. And I am going to do it tomorrow." A boy after my own heart.
From the jacket of "Frankenstein": "Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was the daughter of the philosopher and writer William Godwin and of Mary Wollstonecraft, author of "Vindication of the Rights of Woman." In 1814 she eloped with the poet Shelley to the Continent, marrying him on the death of his first wife. Frankenstein (1818) was written during a stay in Switzerland when she, Shelley and Byron each agreed to write a supernatural story."
Madeleine: "Dad, will you itch my big toe there? No, there .. up a bit ... ahhhh."
Madeleine and I at the club. I show off my new freestyle technique to Mary and Sonnet while at the pool. I've changed from high turn-over to a longer, more powerful sculling with an aim to stretch at the top, move into a vertical and less drag position then grab deep water. Somewhere in there my kick has moved from a distinct two-beat cross-over to more efficient six or seven flutter. The punchline: 20 stokes per 25 yards to 11. I ask Sonnet to time a 100 yards and am disappointed by my 1:04. Given how I feel in the pool, I was thinking somewhere around 55 seconds or at least under a minute. Afterwards, I strike up a conversation with Bill who observes my effort - we geek on swimming and triathlons and he is doing a half Iron Man in August. Bill is also a swimming coach and appreciates all the stuff I describe; he says that his kids "always want to churn over 25 strokes a lap" and "very hard to teach them to go for the longer stroke." This old dog takes it as complement. Bill's daughter a competitive swimmer recruited in New England but has decided to join the Air Force. On any day, and especially Memorial Day week-end, it is appropriate to extend my heart-felt congratulations.
Maya this morning - she is wonderfully photogenic and unlike mine, she does not avoid the camera. Nor do I have to pay her per photo. Here is what Maya says about this shot: "I am a berry monster. I eat strawberries." Sonnet and Mary head for yoga - Sonnet in a borrowed pair of leapoard skin tights which are tres cool. Rrrrrr. Mary up at 5:15AM to do some work - she has a client in Amsterdam - while I manage to do the opposite sleeping from 8PM until 8AM. I am not embarrassed, I might add. This the price of travel - at some point I crash out and need to re-boot. It is amazing, really, that we take global travel for granted. I can jump into a metal tube and voila! arrive on the other side of the planet earth. Humans not meant for this kind of thing, surely, but not that I complain. It allows us to live far away and enjoy our family and friends. Somewhere in there too I can work - as now, with Correlation Ventures which is a new West Coast client using hard-data input to rank particular meaningful decision variables and so quantify venture investing. It is different (or "differentiated" as the industry likes to say). None of this I could have ever planned.
Saturday, May 23
Eitan and Simon in a war of water - pictured. Sonnet and the kids arrive at JFK about the same time as me so we randez-vous at the National car rental and then the hotel. Me coming from California, of course. Eitan makes a point of watching seven hours of media on the flight over - three movies then England's Top 50 goals; Madeleine saturated after several hours and everybody exhausted by New York. Yes, we are grateful to be together and no one more so than Sonnet, whose US passport expired several months ago unbeknownst to her. That little discovery occurred at Heathrow Terminal 5. Fortunately, a representative of the US Embassy on site so presumably this happens often enough to merit his presence. After several serious questions - like whether Sonnet renouncing her US citizenship - she receives a special approval and makes her flight in a nick of time. Phew. This morning we are up early (London time!) and drive to Connecticut to visit Mary and Amado.
Friday, May 22
Here is the aptly named Sweetie Pie, who has been a part of my parent's house these past four years when Grace found her ferrill, neglected and underfed being the runt of a litter. Grace popped the cat into a pillow-case then my sister's bedroom for several months until sure the cat not going any where. As with many things receiving love and attention, Sweetie Pie has thrived and one of the most patient and affectionate cats I know. Madeleine, of course, fallen in love with her and on occassion has asked my parents to put the phone by the cat so she can talk to her. Madeleine to the cat, that is.
I am at the Cal Rec Center early this morning to do some leg exercises as part of Martin's marathon program. I am always impressed by the young people, even at this early hour, and it is a joy be surrounded by youth. At the very least, it gives me something to look at - oh boy. I bump into Jack Ball who was my Jr High PE teacher and is just as fit and healthy as I last recall. Jack and my dad are gym buddies along with a crew of six or so early-bird work-out junkies. We catch each other up a bit and compare notes on Berkeley, hiking trails and peiople we have known over 30 years. At one point I owned the school's seventh-grade mile record of 5:30, but broken same year by John Pokorney who completed the track in 5:20. Woosh. I admit to some unfair advantage from swimming twice a day back then. John, on the other hand, a natural athlete and he cranked on his own ability. He went on to play tennis and I saw his sister Carolyne (a swimmer) this week at the Berkeley Y, where Moe a Director. These long standing friendships gold-dust.
Here I am with my very special mother in front of the house I grew up in from age 11. The mother-son relationship unique, and I know how I feel about Madeleine and while not quite the same of course I may assume understanding how my mom feels about me. Cool. At age 22, Grace joined the Peace Corps and fled the 1950s, emerging eventually in Berkeley married to a Jew and just in time for the cultural uprising the brought us People's Park, draft-card burning and the Beat Generation. Wow. My parents were not hippies - too sensible for that - but they were progressives or liberals, and both sought their freedom from the Midwest. Having relocated to a new place myself, I know how hard the transition and similar to London, California was a new start. While Moe began his successful law career, Grace started a Montessori school in Oakland with all sorts of neat people involved including dear friend Katrina who is still with her today. Eventually, she got a Masters and PhD, starting age-50, and I remember like yesterday her graduation which brought tears to my eyes. Inspiring. And now she is the founder and Executive Director of non-profit The Link To Children which is about early childhood mental health development and intervention. TLC has funding from donors and California (It. Is. Always. About. The. Fundraising). Grace and I have breakfast this morning at Fat Apples which used to be Fat Alberts before Bill Cosby got wind and forced a name-change. It is nonetheless a Berkeley institution which I recall from early age since near King Jr High School and Mr Mopps. Soon I will jump a plan to NYC where I will meet Sonnet and the kids who are in transit now. Somehow I got the lucky break on this one which I am sure Sonnet will remind me ..
Salix is six months and Guy and Jeanine's first grand-child, though they expect number-two any day know. There is a lot to be grateful for, too, given Guy's cancer scare and septic shock - he tells me that the doctors gave him a 5% chance of survival and if not for his being a serious hiker and cyclist he would not be with us today. Guy and I talk finance and politics, which are topics that have always engaged us and nobody more connected into the Northern California political scene then he. We wonder why Democrats choose to engage the opposition rather than getting on with their agenda - the Republican party today discredited and irrelevant and should be ignored, really. And yet here are the Democrats feeling on the defensive in self-destructive mode already .. Majority Harry Reid not enforcing discipline and there is inside sniping and potential break-aways weakening us in anticipation of massive objectives yet ahead with the financial system, health care and social obligations like social security to be tackled. We need a Tom Delay or somebody everybody will listen to.. and support with the bucks. Guy for his part, being a major organiser and supporter of the party, has contacted Senator Reid noting that if a promised progressive agenda not pursued he wants his money back. This netted a request for a private meeting, which Guy may or may not accept. For us liberals, New York, Southern California and NorCal are the gold mines. So the world very different from twelve months ago and we are all relieved Guy with us to continue to fight the good fight. Jeanine loads me up with books and presents for Eitan and Madeleine. Salix's sweater and cap BTW knitted by Jeanine.
I arrive in Berkeley Monday and zip around the Bay Area - today, it is the Claremont Hotel - pictured, 1909 - and before that, San Francisco, Mill Valley and Tiburon. I visit Industry Ventures, Christian and HS friends where last night we see the Decemberists, a hot band which plays the Fox Theatre in Oakland, which has recently been refurbished and hosts great talent like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and others. Before that we reunion at Van & Clef which is a cool lounge joint, dark and covered with crap offering superb cocktails. I also catch up with Sloan who is up to her usual magic with a new business consulting (mostly private equity) professionals on their careers and taking care of business with the PTA. All this while Rob in Brazil. In short - she is a super-star. So the Claremont Hotel. We are happy to have it around as it faced destruction in the '91 fire, which stopped feet from the grounds. Unusually for now and in the 1930s, transbay line was run right to the doors of the hotel (eventually designated the "E" line), approaching from between the tennis courts. The tracks were removed in 1958 when the Key System ended rail service, but the tennis courts survive, with a path between them where the tracks used to be. I mention this because I played summer tennis here before swimming took over everything. An old legend I pull from the Internet: after prohibition, the Claremont continued to suffer from a state law banning the sale of alcohol within one mile of the UC Berkely. In '36, a Cal student measured several of the possible routes, finding that the shortest distance from the school to the hotel's front steps was a few feet over a mile. The Claremont immediately opened a bar and awarded the student free drinks for life.
Thursday, May 21
Sunday, May 17
I have walked by Fortnum's many if not hundreds of times and never inside, until yesterday - pictured. Amazing. I'm greeted with coffees, teas and candies; chocolates, exotic fruits, and flowers. This most famous of British stores is located on Piccadilly where it has been since 1707 when founded by William Fortnum and Hugh Mason. It is know for its quintessential English charm and is possibly one of the most famous stores in the world - certainly on par with Harrods and Bloomingdale's - and has held many Royal Warrants for over 150 years while being the shop most closely associated with our humble Royal Family. Its fame rests almost entirely on the magnificent food hall but there is the bonus of a celebrated tea shop and Britain's only hair salon dedicated to long hair. Go figure. The store underwent a controversial £24 million refurbishment in 2007, celebrating 300 years of existence, and while there is plenty of hustle and bustle I am forced to wonder how this icon fairs during recession - it seems uniquely structured to suck wind in down-times given its haberdashery and high-end inventory. As expected, the kids run amok and demand candy. Since they have three-quid allowance money, I tell them to spend it and there is a desperate attempt to find something they can afford. No dice, though we do spot some syrupy bottle that is just over.
Royal Warrants of Appointment have been issued for centuries to those who supply goods or services to a royal court or certain royal personages. The warrant enables the supplier to advertise the fact that they supply to the royal family, so lending prestige to the supplier.
Madeleine: "women wear high-heels to make themselves look taller."
Eitan, matter-of-factly: "well, men wear spats."
This morning in Mayfair we poke our head into the Royal Academy's courtyard to find the assembly of .. a strange silver sculpture that looks like an oil-tanker's propeller. Cranes do their heavy lifting and ten our so engineers beaver away to put the pieces in place. I want to learn more, including the artist, and later we stop by to find the artist himself - Bryan Kneale, pictured. Kneale studied at the Royal Academy in the 1940s and went on to win the Rome Prize and spent much of his life and career in Italy though he is from the Isle of Man. During the '50s he learned welding and in 1960 took to sculpture in preference to painting. Today he is gentleman if somewhat frail, and I note his spectacles need a cleaning. His mind is sharp and we discuss a bit of his life, and he tells me that this particular sculpture flowed from his fascination of how an orientation effects the space it occupies. He named it "Triton III" after the work completed, and notes to Madeleine that "it is a three-part system and reminds me of the Greek god's sword" (Triton the messenger of the deep, and son of Poseidon; both carried three-pointed tridents). An interesting collaboration takes place between Kneale and the builders, which in England is the Cass Sculpture Foundation, a charity dedicated to commissioning twenty-first century British sculpture (I spend some time talking to the head engineer and he takes his job seriously while admitting it is a bit, ahem, esoteric). I thank Bryan and promise him this photo.
Ellen and Alan are in town for a visit, on their way home from Madrid where Alan presenting. Moe and Alan former law-partners at Schactor, Krisotoff, Orenstein and Berkowitz (or "SKOB") from the mid-1980s but our families have known each other well before that. I believe, though perhaps Moe will correct me, that both began their career at the National Labor Relations Board or NLRB (together with the Friends) which was the equivalent of my Financial Analyst program at First Boston - that is, highly selective and an entry point into a field of business. Adam and Eric, the Berkowitz children about my and Katie's age, often found ourselves in some kind of mischief as the adults entertained themselves. Along with the Jewish holidays and firm outings, we reunioned in Yosemite for the California Bar (Moe once Chair) or hikes from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach usually in the fog and cold. Today, they are in good health and spirits. Here we are, pictured, on St. James's Street or the most glamorous in London (my opinion) at Piccadilly facing downhill to St James's Palace and Pall Mall. Madeleine still has Barnebie Bear, which is returned tomorrow to school , with photos from various places, for the next kid.
Eitan: "Ok, ok dad - I know the speech."
Saturday, May 16
Eitan begins Kumon (maths tutorial) following a year-long campaign culminating in a solicitation-for-support from his grandparents. Terms are agreed between Eitan and Moe, Eitan has his financing, and away we go. Madeleine has been in Kumon for two years under strong protest. Despite the resistance, she has enjoyed rapid improvement and she is now on pace with school targets whereas before - oh, dear. Eitan, on the other had, begins ahead of the curve and already one of his class's top-performers. This is why I resist additional work but forced to change my position when Eitan noted bluntly: "Dad, you always say you want me to be the best I can be and now you are not letting me" and what can I say? Kumon. (Thank you Moe and Grace)
After Action Report: Eitan's teacher, Mrs. X, informs us that the first School Sleep-over feet-patter at 4:30AM and many of the kids up by 5AM. The boys enter a scratch game of football which pretty much ends any idea of anything more than five hours of shut eye. After the pick-up, I rush Eitan to a football tournament where the KPR win two, draw one and lose two. Unfortunately Eitan in the goalbox for the final game and allows two goals - I know tears are coming well before the whistle. From the tournament to Joe's house to watch Manchester United seal the Premiership with a tie against Arsenal. I take the gang to Sheen Common for more .. football. It. Never. Ends.
Friday, May 15
Here is Sonnet in front of a bomb shelter, which once was a standard extension to any London house, indeed - a sought after item raising the value of the property, I am told. Most likely the last ones from the 1930s - by the time WW II under way, nobody building construction. Those who had 'em were relieved: The Blitz, or Nazi Germany's sustained bombing of Britain, endured from September 7, 1940 to May 10, 1941. While many towns and cities were hit, it began with London for 57 consecutive nights. By the end, over 43,000 civilians, half of them in London, killed and more than a million houses destroyed or damaged in London alone. Miraculously, St Paul's survived despite being the biggest bulls-eye imaginable from the sky above. And lest you think London lives in its past, consider that in June 2008 an unexploded World World War II bomb weighing 2,200lb was found near the Bromley-by-Bow Tube station by a digger clearing a site being prepared for the 2012 Olympics. Fifteen disposal experts from the Royal Engineers made the bomb safe after it started ticking and carried out a controlled explosion. The bomb was discovered next to a gasworks and police were initially considering evacuating 40,000 people.
"But it is a curve each of them feels, unmistakably. It is the parabola. They must have guessed, once or twice -- guessed and refused to believe -- that everything, always, collectively, had been moving toward that purified shape latent in the sky, that shape of no surprise, no second chance, no return. Yet they do move forever under it, reserved for its own black-and-white bad news certainly as if it were the rainbow, and they its children. . . ."
--Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon