Monday, April 30

Jacmal


Me (left), Katie and Reed Brody, in Jacmel, Haiti. The photo taken ( as Katie now reports) following the end of the military regime, and the US invasion. Katie, who had been at the UN covering Haiti, and Reed were working together to help the victims of coup crimes build cases against the alleged perpetrators, in 1996. Katie was the trench-digger on the team, mostly doing interviews and taking notes and depositions, setting up meetings, bugging the judges. Reed was one of the international human rights lawyers who flew in to help guide the work (he was already well known for doing this kind of thing in other countries in Latin America). Reed is currently at Human Rights Watch.

Jacmal one of the most beautiful cities I know : pastel walls, surrounded by water and banana plantations; exotic and friendly people. The buildings are historic and date from the early nineteenth century; the town has been tentatively accepted as a World Heritage site and UNESCO reports that the town sustained damage in the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Madeleine Reports On Snakes


Madeleine has snakes on her mind.
Me: "Did you write your snake report?"
Madeleine: "It's five pages long! Want to see it Dad? Can I read it to you?"
Me: "Of course, honey - what did you write about?"
Madeleine: "Poisonous snakes, wild snakes, venomous snakes, constrictor snakes. I also wrote about shedding and a snake catching its prey."
Me: "How do they do that?"
Madeleine: "They wait in one place for a long time. About two or three days. And when their prey comes, for instance a humming bird, the snake lunges out and catches it. But, faster snakes, chase their prey. They have two long fangs for poison and holding the prey in place."
Me: "Wow. Will the cage have a lock?"
Madeleine: "Hopefully."
Me: "And how often do you feed a snake?"
Madeleine: "Well, because we're getting a smaller snake, one pinkie-mouse, which is a mouse with no fur, once a week."
Me:
Madeleine:  "You can get the frozen mice from the pet store."
Me: "Good to know."
Madeleine: "They are much cheaper than maggots."
Sonnet:
Me: "Well, at least we won't have maggots in the house."
Sonnet: "I should hope not."


"Some snakes also eat prey that is already dead. For example, animals that have been run over on roads."
--Madeleine, "Snakes"

Dad's note: the snake around Madeleine's neck a gift from Auntie Katie and comes from Nairobi, Africa, where Katie was in December.  It is made of bottle caps.

Sunday, April 29

Torch


Sunday, rain. The Shakespeares and I  up at 0630h where they swim while I read 'War And Peace" (five months, 400 pages to go).  Despite the foul weather, the hose-pipe ban remains in place: April only the fourth month in two years with 'above average' rainfall, according to the Met. London no longer wet and dreary, as Americans like to think, but every now and then we still get warnings of 'Gale force winds" and "Amber Warning Rainfall!" and even "chance of flooding!!" which keeps the weather gals busy. A country that takes its climate seriously.

At school, Eitan and Madeleine hold the Olympic Torch that turns out to be one of 8,000 replicas which, Eitan tells me, "are carried by celebrities or famous people that run in a relay across England beginning at Land's End and ending in London."  He adds: "It starts in Greece, where it goes around for seven days, before being handed off to the hosting country." (the Olympics website notes that the official torch will "come within ten miles of 95% of the UK population" which is impressive until one considers that standing on any London street-corner puts you within 15% of the British population ). The kids homework : make a torch, which both do with gusto, Madeleine's pictured.

Me: "What does the Olympics Torch symbolise?"
Madeleine: "What do you mean?"
Me: "What does it stand for?"
Madeleine: "Sports, running. Getting on."
Eitan: "A flame?"
Me: "That's not what I'm after. What do you think of when you see the torch?"
Madeleine: "It represents .. 
Me: "Excellent."
Madeleine: "It represents courage and hard work. And winning."
Me: "Bravo."

Madeleine: "Guess what Alex is feeding his snake?"
Me: "What?"
Madeleine: "A rat!"
Me: "A live rat?"
Madeleine: "Of course not Dad, that would be illegal."
Me: "What if we get a snake and feed it a live animal?"
Madeleine: "It's against the rules."
Me: "Nobody will know. And what's the difference? The call of the wild ...  ."
Madeleine: "The difference is I would never let it happen."
Me: "We can go to the pet store and get a couple hamsters.. . "
Madeleine: "You are so cruel."
Me: "Hamsters are pretty clever, though. The snake might not catch them."
Madeleine: "Okay, Dad. Why do snakes smell with their tongue?"
Me: "Well, that is where their sensors are, and they are super sensitive. For us, it is the nose and tongue. Like, when you pinch your nose, it becomes difficult to taste your food."
Madeleine: "So if you put a big slab of meat under a snake's tongue, what would he smell?"
Me: "Probably a big slab of meat."
Madeleine: "Thought so."

Dad's note: In the UK, it is considered inhumane to feed live animals to pets, and therefore against the law.

Saturday, April 28

Caught Inside


Summer '93. Dan, pictured, went on to write about the California surfing culture in his second book : "Caught Inside: A Surfer's Year on the California Coast", which I love.

We became friends from High School, sharing the same circle, and swimming : he played water polo to my distance freestyle. Since Dan went to Cornell, we left adolescence behind at the Oakland airport, flying together to JFK, where we spent a week in Bronxville, soon after joined by Ivor and John.  Yes, we danced at the Palladium and other big '80s discotheques until 5AM , drinking Long Island Iced Teas ( though we were minors) during that exciting pre-Freshman year moment, now held in time only by us and my memories.

From Ithaca, Dan returned to the West Coast and climbed El Capitan in Yosemite (and wrote is first book, the acclaimed "Lighting Out") then UC Santa Cruz for his PhD (when my photo taken).  While a graduate student, he structured his days around pre-dawn surfing and writing; some of my happiest moments were joining him (this during my two-year sabbatical which came to an abrupt end when I chose business school over a different life).  Danny continues to write and surf from his home in Bernal Heights, SF, marrying a Manhattanite who writes about, amongst other things, him and his family - they were recently interviewed by Matt Lauer live on the Today Program. 

Last I saw Dan was in London several years ago when he profiled chef Fergus Henderson  for Outdoor Magazine.

Me: "You know, Madeleine, one day you will love coffee."
Madeleine: "Not everyone does."
Me: "True, but most people enjoy it. Especially in the morning."
Madeleine: "And coming from parents who need coffee to survive I probably will."


Dad's note: Here is the jimmy on "Caught Inside" :
"A wondrous, uproarious, and surprisingly informative account of a year spend surfing, Caught Inside marks the arrival of an exuberant new voice of the outdoors. This remarkable narrative of Daniel Duane’s life on the water is enhanced by good-humored explanations of the physics of wave dynamics, the intricate art of surfboard design, and lyrical, sharp-eyed descriptions of the flora and fauna of the Pacific wilderness. From Captain Cook and Mark Twain to Robinson Jeffers and Jack London, from portraits of famous (and infamous) surfers to an analysis of Gidget’s perverse significance, Duane expertly uncovers the myths and symbols bound up in one of our most vibrant and recognizably American subjects. "
-- Farrar, Straus and Giroux 


Friday, April 27

Helmut Newton

I am with Astorg and so, rather than lunch, St├ęphane and I sneak across the 8e to the Grand Palais to see the Helmut Newton exhibition on my idea. Pictured, my favourite photo and, funnily enough, the lady fully clothed. Otherwise his photographs are pervy. Beautiful, too, of course. Perhaps his most famous portraits are 23 full scale nudes shot in the 1970s and 1980s - the women defiant, toned (bushes trimmed) and stare directly at the viewer daring us .. to do what ? Look at their vaginas in front of all these people? Newton would have been delighted.

Having never seen an image of Newton , I considered him to be, well, like his subjects, so it was a surprise to see his belly hanging over his Bermuda shorts, thick glasses, unusual hat.  He looks like a dirty old man and he certainly had fun with his models, which included Cindy Crawford, Natassia Kinski and Kristine DeBell, who he shot for PLayboy. Many of his photographs have a sado-masochistic theme and they are all sexually charged. Even his Polaroids, which he took in abundance.  Less well known are his portraits of Margaret Thatcher, Jean Marie Le Pen and Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Hopkins . ..Mick Jaeger.  All on display.

Newton gets a nod in The Eyes of Laura Mars, which sees a photographer taking erotic photographs of women (who have their eyeballs gouged out).

Wednesday, April 25

Fermentation Vessel


The Stag Brewery, Mortlake, (pictured, steel fermentation vessels - I am smaller than the red brick wall) , now owned by Anhauser Busch, which produces 2 million hectolitres of Bud a year , exported to 37 countries excluding the USA, where a different entity owns the brand and distribution rights. One hectolitre = 100 litres or 3,350,084 kegs , of course.

In 2009 AB decided to close the brewery, making available to developers ten-acres of prime London riverside property . The local council agreed to condos before consulting the community but then the people mobilised : Emergency town-hall meetings. Pep rallies.  Bake sales. Next came the expensive consultant planners. Finally, in 2011, after stirring the pot, AB announced that they would remain in Mortlake until 2014 “given the very strong performance of Budweiser in the UK." When a recession hits, the Brits drink beer.

While investigating the capacity of a steel fermentation vessel, I stumble upon Zhongde Equipment Co., ltd, whose website helpfully informs me : "Our large and medium sized brewery equipments are turnkey projects , which solve your troubles . They are made from the material stainless steel or carbon steel , with the output capacity from 10,000 tons per year to 200,000 tons per year . They can satisfy the drinking demand of a big city or a small province or state ."

Tuesday, April 24

Music And The Dork



Eitan drags his piano into my bedroom. At his own initiative , he started lessons in January and why not ? My parents forced piano lessons on me from maybe age-8 and, sadly, I lost interest by 11 or so. Of course now I would give about anything to play an instrument but that is next year's project.

Madeleine, for her part, passes Grade 1 following a pins-and-nails exam at the Richmond Music Trust.  The results arrive yesterday and we are delighted.

Madeleine: "Don't be such a dork, Dad."
Me: "Nice one kid."
Madeleine: "Well, it is true."
Me: "And how, may I ask, would you describe a 'dork'?"
Madeleine: "Someone who wears big glasses.  And pulls up his trousers like this (Madeleine yanks her waistline above her belly button).  And a dork likes science."
Me: "Any dorks in your class?"
Madeleine: "Alex P. He's a dork."
Me: "Good to know."

Monday, April 23

Four Sisters

This remarkable photo of Silver (far left in blue) and her sisters (by age order) Missy , Martine and Robin taken (Sonnet thinks) while Silver at Vassar in the 1950s.

Mini Marathon update : Eitan is 21st of 245 runners in the Under-13-Boys category in yesterday's race. He is first (of eight) in his age-group for Richmond-Upon-Thames, and is also the youngest runner.  The boy's official time (from a chip) for the three-mile course is 18:24 (the winner, Paul Burgess from Croydon, crosses the tape 16:38).

Eitan rewards himself with the couch, American candy bars (thank you , Eric and Simona) and two football matches : ManU v Everton (4-4) and Manchester City v Wolves (2-0).  The Red Devils Premiere League pole position precarious - three  points over Man City. The arch-rivals face each other 30 April, which will likely determine the winner of the Barclays Premiere League.

Sarkozy's second term under threat from socialist Francoises Hollande who nips him in the first of two general elections in France. Hollande would wish to levy a 75% tax on the high-earners, and break the conservative reign of 17 years. France's yuf and the global markets watching.. .

Sunday, April 22

Mini Marathon


Eitan competes the "Virgin Mini London Marathon" , which covers the last three miles of the London Marathon including the finish gate on the Pall Mall , 200 meters from Buckingham Palace.  It is wonderfully organised with Marshalls , volunteers and bobbies everywhere : this is a warm up for the summer games.

The "Mini" split by sex and age-group 11-12, 13-14 and 15 to 16.  Each London borough puts up a team of eight per category; Eitan qualified this winter and the youngest from Richmond-Upon-Thames.  He is pretty nervous, too, as some of the boys are, well, p-r-ett-y serious.  Mo Farah a previous winner.  The boys elbow and bruise each other (Eitan tells me) for pole position. My photo taken around mile-2 and the lad suffers. His unofficial time is18:40.

(Dad's note: Mary Keitany wins today's marathon in 2:18:45 and Wilson Kipsang in 2:04.44 or 4:45 miling. Both Kenyans)

Simona


Eric and Simona stop over for the night on their way back to Cambridge (Boston) following a visit to Romania (we, including Simona who is from Romania, struggle to name the five bordering countries which, NB, are Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and Moldova. Extra credit for knowing the Black Sea).  Bucharest sounds fascinating : bursting with the new yet filled with Communist era architecture and apartment blocks. Eric shows us photos of crumbling ancient buildings which keep their charm despite graffiti and garbage.

The last we are together the wedding.  Simona appears the perfect stepmom, conveying affection and interest in Ben, Jonah and Isabel while maintaining considered distance : she inherited a couple teenagers, after all.  It is impossible for me to imagine Eric and them without her.

Eric , for his part, is working with Bill, who heads Arizona's maths department, to establish mathematics standards , by grades, across the country, using the Internets. The Bill Gates Foundation is funding the project.  He also dug up his concrete driveway with a long bar.

Me: "What did you think of Eric and Simona."
Madeleine: "They are a good couple."
Me: "Why so?"
Madeleine: "No shouting when you get directions wrong. Agreeing on stuff. They like each other."
Eitan: "Eric did not seem like a maths professor at Harvard."
Me: "Oh?"
Eitan: "Because of the goofing around he did."

Friday, April 20

America And Guns


In July, 2010, Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana , signed into law a measure allowing people to bring guns into places of worship. 

There are over 300 million firearms in the United States, harming or killing 100,000 Americans a year, according the the US Bureau of Statistics. The NRA, which was not political from inception in 1871, became so in 1975 when they created a lobbying arm headed by Harlon Carter, a convicted murderer who denied it then came clean with a shrug : "I have nothing to hide" he told the NYT who broke the story. That was June 1981 or shortly after John Hinckley Jr shot President Reagan.

Between 1968 and 2012, the idea that owning and carrying a gun is both a fundamental American freedom and act an act of citizenship (the New Yorker reports) gained wide acceptance and, along with it, the principal that this right is absolute and cannot be compromised; gun-control legislation was diluted, defeated, overturned or allowed to expire; the right to carry a concealed handgun became nearly ubiquitous; Stand Your Ground legislation passed in half the states; and , in 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that the District's 1975 Firearms Control Regulations Act was unconstitutional.

The majority of Americans A) do not own a firearm; and B) would support most laws regulating their use and  overwhelmingly support common-sense measures like preventing criminals from having them.  The NRA, run by David Keene, whose son is serving 10-years for, yes, shooting someone in a road-rage, is the most divisive, corrupting force in America.

Exhibit #1:  Oikos University, a Christian college in Oakland, where One Goh killed seven students with a .45-calibre semiautomatic pistol on 3 April, 2012. It did not make the front-page of The Times nor does it appear any where near the top of a Google search. Try it. 

"One of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word 'fraud', on the American public by the special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."
--Former US Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger on the post-1970s interpretation of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

330,000,000 Tonnes Of Water


London's changing skyline is forever a fascination. My photo, from a mobile, faces east through the Thames Gateway (the area centred around the tidal part of the river), the Thames Estuary and , eventually, the North Sea.

Thursday, April 19

Rusty Kills A Squirrel


Rusty survives the dog kennel. His behaviour, which was never particularly good, is now worse.  He is not a stupid dog, either - he just refuses to pay attention.  Whenever a squirrel or deer hits his radar - bam! - he is gone. The neighbourhood cats no safer and I wonder : what would happen if he caught one of these things ?

And, just like that, I have an answer. Sonnet calls my mobile, whispering, "Rusty got a squirrel and it's a blood bath". Kamila, whose birthday is today, "is freaking out."   I am unable to drop everything and go home to fix the mess.  And anyway : good doggie.

On Jumping


Print by Alexandra Venti, pictured, who I otherwise do not know. I thought  cool.

It has been some time since I have jumped off the ledge, into something new, fearful and thrilled. Trailhead Capital is ten years old somehow.  Kids are nearly adolescent. My best friends become more so. Travel often sees the same routes.  . Sonnet and I celebrated our crystal anniversary. . .  Not that I am complaining but sometimes a shake-up good for the soul.  Sonnet and I agree : as I approach my next birthday, re-creating one's self becomes more difficult with age.

Eitan's joy for his new mobile phone turns to tears when he drops the SIM card behind the car seat. I see him, butt out the door, searching the car , 7AM.

Wednesday, April 18

PE Awards

I am in my penguin suit (Eitan assembles my bow-tie with complete confidence) to attend the annual RealDeals Private Equity Awards 2012 in Mayfair. About a thousand of us fill the Grand Ballroom at the Hilton Park Lane.  Astorg is up for "Fundraising of the Year" which goes, instead, to BC Partners who raises €6.5 billion to our €1 billion.

Joining my table, along with a number of Astorg investors, is Justin who notes that Natalie's first deal with GMT Communications, a London buyout firm, was BigPoint, which is up for the "Dach Deal of the Year" award. When sold in 2011, BigPoint produced GMT's highest return of any investment the firm made during its 17-year history. Mind you, Natalie had been a partner for less than one year when she convinced her colleagues to do it. Midas touch.

Otherwise at home the kids use their after-school time to bake Martin and Helen a thank-you cake for the trampoline, which the Shakespeares not only use but now invite their cohorts to join along with them. Soon Madeleine may get the idea to sell tickets. It's coming.

Tuesday, April 17

Summer Term Is 'On'

Back to school dude.

The Brit school year runs from about early September until July the next year. Most schools , including ours, has three-terms , split by a week-long ‘half-term’ break used to fly to Spain or some other colonised coastline. The terms are separated by Christmas and Easter, giving us a couple more weeks of holiday. Another six to eight weeks breaks one school year from the next. ..   Generally the public (ie, private) schools have more holiday than state (ie, public) schools : this allows us parents to max out on skiing or where ever.

This works out to 13 weeks of school holiday in the UK vs 10 or 11 in the US, depending on the school district. The difference, of course, the concentration : in the states, summers may go from mid-May to September. Endless. I sure recall some lazy yuf , waking up with a couple dollars for comic books, walking across UC campus to Telegraph Avenue for vinyl records and video games. Lunch a slice of Blondie's pizza+a Coke.

Sonnet and I now debate the Shakespeares freedom. By 4th grade, I was solo on public transportation (No. 7 bus from Milvia to Euclid). By 6th, it was the paper route (unaccompanied, of course).  9th I was biking from swimming practise to West Campus.  Eitan and Madeleine have yet to experience similar liberties , though I am pretty relaxed by it all.  Parenting now more protective than ever - plus the media freaks us out.  In a city : who lurks and where ? 

Sunday, April 15

Black Death

Me: "You won't believe what I learned."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "First, who can tell me what the plague was?"
Eitan: "It was when disease was passed from people by the fleas on rats."
Madeleine: "There were two plagues. One of them was a blood plague, which is when you cough blood until you die. The other plague, right before the London Fire, so that would be 1666, made your nose, ears, toes and fingers fall off. And your eyeballs would bleed."
Me: "Good stuff. Anyway, you know how they built a new cafe at Palewell Park?  Well, during the excavations they found skulls and skeletons. They believe it was a plague dump."
Eitan: "What's a plague dump?"
Me: "When people died during the plague they chucked them on a barge and brought them up-river to Mortlake then took them to a pit in Palewell Park where they would dissolve the bodies with lye.
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "Still want to play football there?"
Madeleine: "Yeah. What's the big deal?"
Me: "Fair enough I guess."

Dad's note: The Great Plague from 1664 to 1666 was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague in England. It happened during the centuries-long period of the Second Pandemic, an extended period of intermittent bubonic plague epidemics which began in Europe in 1347, the first year of the "Black Death" and lasted until 1750. The Great Plague killed an estimated 100,000 people, about 20% of London's population. Bubonic plague is transmitted through the bite of an infected flea. The 1654–1666 epidemic was on a far smaller scale than the earlier "Black Death" pandemic; it was remembered afterwards as the "great" plague only because it was the last widespread outbreak of bubonic plague in England during the four-hundred-year timespan of the Second Pandemic.
Source: London City Museum
Photo: Wellcome Trust Library

Saturday, April 14

Xavier

Xavier has built one of the most successful buy-out firms in the world : according to the Wall Street Journal, Astorg #3, by performance, for the vintage years 1997 to 2010.

Over breakfast. Madeleine: "What would be your last wish if you were going to die?"
Me: "Not to die?"
Madeleine: "I mean seriously."
Me: "OK - To be surrounded by you, your brother and Sonnet."
Madeleine: "But what if you have a disease and we could catch it? Then we would die, too."
Me: "Good point. Any suggestions then?"
Madeleine: "Me wearing a dress ?"
Me: "Wow. You would do that?"
Madeleine: "Yeah. But only if you were really going to die."
Me:
Madeleine: "And no faking either, Dad."
Me: "I will do my very best."

Cap Ferrat



I am in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, Cote D'Azure, France for a few days with Astorg.  CF located on a peninsula next to Beaulieu-su-Mer and Villefrance-sur-Mer and extends out to Cap Ferrat, pictured. The charm and weather attract European aristocracy and international millionaires : Larry Ellison and Bill Gates, have a place here.  In fact, the most expensive house in the world just behind my hotel, purchased by a Russian Oligarch, for €390 million. 


Madeleine and I walk home from my office. Madeleine: "Can we stop at a store? I want to buy something."
Me: "Sure. What do you want to get?"
Madeleine: "Candy. Crisps. Or beef jerky."
Me: "Beef Jerky?"
Madeleine: "I haven't had it in a really long time."
Me: "I bet."
Madeleine:"Did you know that Mr. B  [Madeleine's teacher] lives there?"
Me: "Oh? And how do we know that?"
Madeleine: "He told us. Plus he has a room mate."
Me: "A man or a woman?"
Madeleine: "A man I guess."
Me: "What would you think if he was living with a woman?"
Madeleine: "It would be OK. But only if she were married."
Me: "You mean married to another guy?"
Madeleine: "Yes."
Me: "That's interesting. What do you think would happen?"
Madeleine: "They would probably get divorced."

Wednesday, April 11

John Elway

Whenever I see John Elway, pictured at DIA, I think of the '82 Big Game and smile. 

Elway, coached by his father Jack, the best college QB in the nation and Stanford a top ranked football team. Cal, despite outnumbering Stanford by 33,000 students, suffering another mediocre season. Then The Play : a five lateral kickoff return touchdown, no-time left , giving Cal an improbable 25-20 victory. Followed, five days later, by Thanksgiving with my cousin Carl, the trombone player for the Stanford band which made The Play possible by being on the field. And, finally, Elway on the Today Program, in tears, interviewed by Jane Pauley. All this makes a Bears fan proud. 

Elway, for his part, drafted #1 in the NFL, played five Super Bowls (winning two), voted to nine Pro Bowls, selected NFL MVP in '87 and inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2004.

Elway equally adept at business, too: co-owner of the Arena Football team Colorado Crush; owner of two steakhouse restaurants named "Elway's" (One in the upscale Cherry Creek shopping district, and the other is in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Denver); owner of five auto dealerships, called John Elway Autos (sold to AutoNation in 1997 for $82.5 million); owner two Toyota Scion dealerships, one in Manhattan Beach, California and another in Ontario, California; owner of a Chevrolet dealership in Englewood, Colorado, and a Chrysler Jeep dealership in Greeley, Colorado.  In September 2008, Elway became the spokesperson for OpenSports.com. In 2008, Elway had LASIK eye surgery and endorsed Icon LASIK in the Denver area in November 2008.

He still does not have the Axe.

Tuesday, April 10

Moe Sonnet Katie

One more from the wedding.

We arrive in London in one piece.  I assign chores : Eitan gets the backyard, Madeleine the front. Plus each must write a report on a New Yorker article I hand them in Denver, which Eitan turns into paper airplanes. Fair enough.

Over dinner. Me: "What do you kids want to ask your grandparents, seeing how they are sixty years older than you."
Sonnet: "Not to put any pressure on you or anything."
Madeleine: "Like what do you mean?"
Me: "It's like looking into the future. You can ask them anything and they will answer it."
Moe, Gracie:
Me: "Anything at all."
Madeleine: "Do you like sushi?"

Marcus's Groomsmen

Usher #1 






















The Best Man






















Usher #3






















And the Ring Bearer . .. .


Monday, April 9

Untucked

 
Madeleine, for her part, keeps her shirt tucked in throughout the service then begs me to release her from this onerous responsibility. Her whole being craves this freedom.  I relent.  Note the handkerchief in the left pocket. That's my girl.

Marcus And Adrianne Get Married

The wedding party

Me: "What do you think of Marcus and Adrianne's wedding?"
Madeleine: "I am really happy that they got married."
Me: "Why do you think they are such a good match?"
Madeleine: "Well, I can feel it when I am near them and they act really happily around each other."
Me: "Who do you think is the boss?"
Eitan: "Well, um, Marcus is kind of like you because he is funny all the time but is not quite as strict. And Adrianne is like mum because she tries hard to make everything as nice as possible for people. And tries to be as organised as possible."
Me: "Nice brown-nosing."
Eitan: "What's that mean?"
Sonnet: "What your father means is that you are trying to pay us a complement."
Eitan: "No it's not. I'm going to look it up on my Kindle."
Me: "Try a Google."
Madeleine: "I am going to ask Mr B  [Madeleine's teacher]"
Me: "I imagine he would enjoy explaining it to you."
Sonnet: "Can we put a stop to this please?"
Eitan: "I am definitely looking it up now."
Sonnet: "Let us all just be happy for Marcus and Adrianne."
Gracie: "Yes!"


Marcus And Sonnet

Brother and sister

Marcus and Adrianne's wedding day goes to plan. We awake to glorious sunshine and ready ourselves for the festivities which means an hour of preparation for Sonnet and a two-minute shower for me (Grace stays at the hotel since Maggie bites the bride's niece on the face).

The kids have to be roused from their slumber-party in Auntie Katie's room, where they have been sleeping all week; both eager to don their skinny ties and full-Windsor knots, something new for me but happily I have instructions from Macy's where I buy my lavender shirt.  Madeleine insists on a pocket kerchief and a silver tie-pin which she wears with her khaki trousers, similar to Eitan.  Both kids look fab in a 10 and 11 year old sort of way.

The bride and groom show up and in good form.

Sunday, April 8

Pre Wedding


We visit the Chief Hosa lodge where tomorrow's Big Day shall take place.  Bill, who will conduct the services, assigns us our marching orders. Eitan given the responsibility of ring-bearer which he takes particularly seriously when told, by Bill, that if he loses the rings we can all go home.  Madeleine, for her part, practises her tie knot - she will wear a tie - and I look at her dress-up shoes which are black trainers (she: "but I wear them to school, Dad").  Since the groomsmen in various pastels, Sonnet irons my lavender as the pink and blue shirts taken.

As with anything involving family and family-planning there is plenty of stress but Marcus and Adrianne take it in stride. Or at least out of site. On my wedding day I chose to have a Chinese with Eric and the Best Man instead of a haircut and barber shave AND I failed to produce the wedding license. But, hey, Sonnet and I have a great marriage and laugh all the time. I wish this for Marcus and Adrianne.

Saturday, April 7

Trading Post Trail

Red Rocks


We visit Red Rocks Amphitheatre, known the world over for John Denver (RIP), but also : a mecca for athletes of all ages and abilities .  The amphitheatre, which holds 9,500 spectators, built into the mountain from 1936-41 , rises 60 or so rows making for the perfect criss-cross jog or, for the more serious , straight up-and-downs, stopping occasionally for a few push ups or to catch one's breath. This is 6,340 feet.  I can see downtown Denver about 14 miles away.

When we arrive there is an outdoor yoga class with a couple hundred people getting their morning high on; others stretch in the sun on the wood seats or do balancing poses either shirtless or in colourful form-fitting Lycra (My grandmother would have been aghast).  A man proposes to his girlfriend and she whoops for joy and throws her arms around him while others clap.  Technicians prepare the stage for the annual Easter mass at sunrise tomorrow, Easter Sunday, checking the sound system with Bob Marley tunes. They erect three giant crosses. So trippy.

The earliest rock-and-roll performance at Red Rocks was the Beatles in '64. It was the only concert not sold out on their US-tour.

Rocks

The rocks in the Rocky Mountains, stretching from 3,000 miles from the northernmost British Columbia, Canada, to New Mexico formed before the mountains raised by tectonic forces. The oldest rock is Precambrian metamorphic rock that forms the core of the North American continent. There is also Precambrian sedimentary argillite, dating back to 1.7 billion years ago. During the Paleozoic, western North America lay underneath a shallow sea, which deposited many kilometers of limestone and dolomite.

The Rockies formed from 80 million to 55 million years before, like, Christ during the Laramide orogeny, a time of mountain building in western North America over the Late Cretaceous period. Since then, erosion by water and glaciers have sculpted the mountain range into dramatic valleys and peaks. At the end of the last ice age, humans started to inhabit the mountain range.

The first modern-day explorers,  Sir Alexander MacKenzie (a Brit) then Lewis and Clark, searched for minerals and furs , which drove the initial economic exploitation of the mountains.  Today it is hydraulic fracking. CO Governor John Hickenlooper, a geologist, of the persuasion : "Drill, baby, drill." (source: Rocky Mountain National Park)

"A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. "
--Margaret Mead, on a trailhead plaque entering preserved Elks Meadows

Friday, April 6

An Unfinished Story

I ask (demand) Madeleine write a story.

" Once there was a young boy called Tom.  His parents were very rich, though they never spent time with him.  They both had very good jobs that paid well.  His father's job was to design buildings.  He, for example, designed the Empire State Building.  Tom's mother made movies and won an Oscar award.

One dull, grey, day Tom was walking down a long winding road when, suddenly, the whole world seemed to flip upside down.

When the world stopped spinning, Tom opened his eyes and gasped.  He was no longer in Little Hangleton (his boring village) but he was in the swampy marshes of Africa!

Suddenly a figure came swooping from the sky on a vine.  He landed in front of Tom and Tom realised that this thing was half monkey, half human.  He had broad shoulders and long arms that reached past his knees.  He had a rough New York accent.  Tom shrank away revolted.  "Please, don't be revolted by my appearance. It was an accident in the lab." Sighed the monkey man.
"

(Presumably) to be continued . .. .

Denver Art Museum





The Avalanche

The wedding party assembles from Denver, Portland, Buffalo, Montana, Montrose, Vermont, Manchester (UK), London and, of course, Alaska.  Dinner, drinks and hockey.

Eitan catches me and Sonnet kissing: "Ew, gross! Can't you stop doing that?"
Me: "You know, Eitan, it is our love that made you."
Eitan: "But do you have to do it in front of me? "

Sonnet: "I am going to get gas - do you want to keep me company ?"
Eitan: "Ha ha ha ha ! You said gas!"

Following morning wiginess and a stand-off over exercise activities, Eitan agrees to execute a non-sugar contract, which I own during our trip:

"I will not ask for, nor receive, junk food* on the holiday to Colorado 2012.

*Junk food=candy bars, sugary snacks and ice cream."

Thursday, April 5

El Rancho

Katie and Eitan occupy themselves at dinner.

El Rancho has been serving the Eastern Slope since '48, or "longer than you have been alive" Stan points out to Sonnet, having been to El Rancho long before Sonnet has been alive. The restaurant a classic steak and burger joint (note to Justin: hand-to-mouth) but it is the martinis that stand out - and why not, since we are near the Interstate with its 6% gradients from the mountains ? I can think of no better way to cruise into Denver.  Marcelle (who arrived Tuesday) and I agree: they go down nice.

We celebrate Moe's 76 birthday : the kids spend the day preparing presents . From Eitan, a hand-written story and origami flower poster; and Madeleine: a landscape painting of the mountains. Here are some things that happened in April 1936, the year Moe is born:

April 3 - Bruno Richard Hauptmann, convicted of kidnapping and killing Charles Lindbergh III, executed New Jersey

April 5 - A tornado hits Tupelo,Mississippi, killing 216 and injuring over 700 (fourth deadliest in US history)

April 11- The first Butlins holiday camp, in Skewness, NY, is officially opened by Amy Johnson from Hull, the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.

April 19 - The 1936-39 Arab revolt in Palestine against the British Government and opposition to Jewish immigration begins.

Wednesday, April 4

Super Size

We go to the largest store I have ever been to, in this case, Walmart, to buy a $2.59 roll of masking tape.

Walmart has over 8,500 stores in 15 countries under 55 trading names including ASDA in the UK (which is ghastly : ASDA, to manage inventory, makes shoppers select item codes from an in-shop catalogue which are then used to draw an item forward from an underground warehouse. Believe you me I have done this once, and only once, in 15 years).  Our Walmarts today is around 200,000 square feet which is remarkable when one considers the closest town, Evergreen, has a population of 9,038 which works out to the average apartment size for a New Yorker.

While at the mall, I try on some Polo by Ralph Lauren (you know, that little green bottle with a polo player about to strike a wooden ball or a servant's head).  I have not smelled the perfume since 1982 or '83 when every 15 and 16 year old in America doused himself in it before going to school or a first date.  I sure did, and the memories come flooding back.  I consider buying a bottle for old times sake but some things should not be re-lived. Even from the glory years.

I overhear a 14 or 15 year old girl with boyfriend: "I am going to Victoria Secret, Mom. Don't worry about us."

Tuesday, April 3

Bride's Maid Dress

We cruise the SUV Tahoe, about the size of Maine, into Evergreen, Colorado (elev. 7,014) and a foot of snow.  Stan greets us at the hotel with a cheerful 'hello' and we are off to the airport to pick up Gracie and Moe, Katie and Maggie the dog.  This is the first time our families have been together in maybe ten years when we were re-unioned in Montrose over the winter holidays.  The Shakespeares hum with anticipation.

Monday, April 2

Emerald Lake


We hike to Emerald Lake, 10,080 feet.
 
"Ice measuring 500 feet thick moved across Bear Lake basin between 15,000 and 30,000 years ago.  Originating in the uppermost valley heads, glacial ice eroded high basins, called cirques, and quarried the sheer granite cliffs of Hallet Peak (pictured).  Rock debris from these glaciers formed the ground moraines, or ridges, that surround Emerald Lake."
--Trailhead plaque

Duckie

This is what the kids fought over all morning.

Madeleine: "Dad, Eitan keeps punching and kicking me and pushing my head under water. Make him stop."
Me: "Give it back to him double."
Madeleine: "Really nice, Dad."
Sonnet:
Me: "What? Poolside rules."

Madeleine: "Eitan is always being mean to me."
Me: "It's tough being the younger sister."
Madeleine: "You will never know."

Bones, Bolt and Bob

Me: "So who do you look up to and want to be? Who are your heroes ?"
Madeleine: "Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt."
Me: "Good choices. Why do you admire them?"
Madeleine: "Because they are in the sports that I like and they work hard. And they are winners."
Me: "Excellent. Anybody else?
Madeleine: "Bob."
Me: "Bob?"
Madeleine: "Yes, Bob. He jumped, like, seven meters in the Olympics."
Me: "Bob."
Madeleine: "I think it was 1974 or something."
Eitan: "Mine is Chris Holmes.  He is almost blind and he had three goals, to swim for his country, win a medal at the Olympics and go to Cambridge."
Me: "And did he?"
Eitan: "Yes."
Madeleine: "Plus he had a dog."
Me:
Madeleine: "A guide dog named Lotty."
Me: "It all makes sense."

Dad's note: Madeleine means the great Robert "Bob" Beamon (born August 29, 1946), an American former track and field athlete, best known for his world record in the long jump at the Mexico Olympics in 1968, which remained the world record for almost 23 years until it was broken in 1991 by Mike Powell. This is the second longest holding of this record, as Jesse Owens held the record for 25 years, 1935-1960. Powell's record has stood for over 20 years.

Brisk

The mountains temps drop from 80 degrees to snow and the kids race out of the hotel in shorts.  We get a few strange looks at Kind Coffee and the locals further baffled by the accents but, hey, that's the way this family rolls.
 
Me: "We are going to do some homework today."
Eitan, Madeleine: "No! No!"
Me: "Yep. Just because we are away does not mean we don't practise our skills."
Madeleine: "That is so unfair!"
Me: "You kids are going to be in for a shock come September, and we might as well start preparing ourselves.  I want a book report, both of you. On what you are reading."
Eitan: "Can I write a story? I will re-write the story of Heracles."
Me: "Affirmative. How about you Madeleine?"
Madeleine: "I am going to draw a painting."
Me: "Great."
Madeleine: "What should I do?"
Me: "How about something for Gracie and Moe?"
Madeleine: "OK."
Eitan: "I once had a dream that some parents forced their kids to do work on their holiday. And it was a nightmare."
Me: "Welcome to your world, little dude.
Eitan: "You don't have to seem so happy about it."

Family Peak

I don't have many of posts us together and this one taken on top of Mount Sanitas. We are with Chip and Jenn and their three fabulous kids who are about Eitan and Madeleine's age and so it is a par-tay. We meet them because of David and Tab, who Chip brought together in NYC.  Before that, Chip and David at Chemical Bank  back in the day in first-job territory.  Those bonds are tight. Now Chip travels around the world setting up financial exchanges for Morgan Stanley. Last week it was in Istanbul and before that, Kazakhstan.

The first thing one notices about Boulder is that everybody  is a freak.  We pass groups of cyclists on HW 36 (more riders than cars by a multiple) and runners who are, like, 10 miles from the nearest anything.  It gets no better in town: middle-aged women, ripped, with leathery skin having spent half their living lives outdoors.  The men no different - equally at easy in lycra spandex.  At 9:45AM, this is Sunday mind you, crowds spill onto the sidewalk drinking coffee and eating vegetables and tofu or whatever the hell one eats after three hours of working out before dawn.  Running World magazine ranks Boulder the #1 running city in America. It is also the thinnest.  This the place one goes to live to a 100. We should all be so lucky.

Sunday, April 1

Trailhead, Cub Lake

From urban to outback in one day. Go figure.

Rocky Mountains

Up at 5AM - jet lag ! - and we hit the hotel pool open 24/7 just for us.  Eitan three-peats the breakfast bar.

Today we are in Estes Park and go for a medium ramble to Cub Lake, pictured, in the Rocky Mountain National Park which has 60 named peaks over 12,000 feet with Longs Peak reaching 14,259. Me: "Shall we climb it?" Eitan, Madeleine: "No! No!

"National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."
--Wallace Stagner