Tuesday, December 15

Purisma Creek

Roger and I hike the Purisma Creek Redwoods Reserve, on the western slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking Half Moon Bay. The canyon offers towering redwoods, a rushing creek and understory of ferns, berries and wildflowers. Coastal scrub and hardwood forests of tanoak, madrone and Douglas fir border the cool, moist canyon. Since rain, damp and brooding.

BOX

The last we saw Roger, Box had gone public and now we see the fruits of the IPO: a shiny new building in Redwood City straight out of a Stanley Kubrick movie with automatic industrial lighting, painted walkways with coded numbers identifying offices and conference rooms and immaculate white work stations (desks which can be raised for standing).  Lunch and drinks still free. The self-serve snack-bar 24/7. Keg on every floor. Since an Internet company, there is a nap room. I want in.

Roger's team responsible for the partnership'n and revenue generat'n. His team multi-national which means Indian. I am certain they have a good time. Roger's style, aferall.

At the Hertz car rental. Agent: "What's your postal code. For the credit card."
I offer my postal cod.
Agent: "What kind of a postal code is that?"
Me: "It's in London."
Agent: "You live in London?"
Me: "Yes. Since 1997."
Agent: "Why'd you move to London?"
Me: "It's either a job or a girl."
Agent: "Damn straight." He offers his hand and we shake.

A Gathering

Sonnet and her cousins in Denver on the sad news of Bill Stanfill's passing. Missing from the photo is Derek.

Sunday, December 13

Confederates

Confederate Flag, Confederate War Cemetery, Raleigh, NC
Two battles outside of Raleigh at the Civil War's end, Averasboro and Bentonville, flooded the capital with wounded to the point that private residents were taking in soldiers. The battle of Averasboro was meant to slow General Sherman and his fire-happy troops, who had just torched Georgia and made their way north through South Carolina uncontested.

500+ unknown tombstones.

Party Night

Meanwhile, back in London, Eitan invited to an evening affair, suit required. The Boy hits the High Street and finds himself a suit from a charity shop for £7.50.  With my tie, looking pretty good. Rusty agrees.

Now in Berkeley, I do a five mile out-and-back on Wild Cat Canyon Road at sunrise.

Cross Country

Ocean Pacific
My rest of week takes me on a tour of American cities and small airports : Columbus, Ohio (where I visit my mother's childhood house in Upper Arlington and charm the Ohio State gal who let's me swim at the athletic aquatic centre); Springfield, IL (home of Lincoln and a working town; my hotel - a Hilton - 30 stories, cities tallest by 25, with steak restaurant on floor 30), Austin, Texas, Phoenix AZ (I stay at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Biltmore; 6AM sunrise jog followed by some some lap swimming) and San Diego, just in time for sunset - Pictured.

In La Jolla I try to find the cove for an ocean swim to a buoy and back - something I did in swimming camp, 1983 - but, alas, the the waves coming in at 7 or 8 feet.

Donal Trump and his mischief everywhere.

Saturday, December 12

CAM

Sarah Cain: The Imaginary Architecture of Love
Sonnet and I visit the Raleigh Contemporary Art Museum, which has an exhibition on Joseph Mitchell and the Big Ears music festival in North Carolina. It doesn't really work, but I do buy a couple books by Mitchell.

"Joseph Mitchell was a devoted Brooks Brothers suit-and-fedora man. Between 1938 and 1965 he became one of the most influential writers in The New Yorker magazine’s history. Using fabled, lean prose, he chronicled the city’s fading neighborhoods, fish markets, overgrown cemeteries, and abandoned hotels, people and places bypassed by mainstream culture. In 1964, after the publication of his seminal work Joe Gould’s Secret, Mitchell stopped publishing. He reported to The New Yorker’s offices everyday without submitting another piece. Yet he kept wandering. Instead of chronicling voices, he collected abandoned objects—19th-century door knobs, scraps of housing trim, keys, and nails. In his small Manhattan apartment, he squirrelled away remnants from the world he’d written about, before it was gone."

Back home, an under-floor kitchen gas leak discovered by the engineers replacing the street's Victorian metal gas pipes with plastic. Lucky to find it. 

Brad

UNC campus
I spend a wonderful day with old London friend Brad Ives, who is Associate Vice Chairman for Campus Enterprise at the University of North Carolina. He basically oversees everything including the coal powered plant which supplies the UNC's gas power.  His budget: $175 million, with a team of 650 University employees and 450 contracted employees. He is also University’s Chief Sustainability Officer.

Prior, Brad was NC Assistant Secretary to Natural Resources responsible for the State Parks, Zoo, Aquariums, Museum of Natural Sciences & Marine Fisheries. He led passage of state law regulating siting of wind farms to address military flights and migratory bird patterns.

In short, Brad has changed his environment, he has had an impact. And pretty cool, too.

He shows the Triangle and we visit NC State, Duke and UNC. He exudes knowledge and pride, having grown up in a small town in North Carolina and attending UNC undergrad on a Moorhead Cain scholarship.

Friday, December 11

Modern Art

What the hell?

I like it!

Raleigh Museum

North Carolina Museum of the Arts
Catching up a bit here, I depart London last week on Thursday for Charlotte, SC, and a bunch of meetings followed by a flight to Raleigh where I meet .. Sonnet for the weekend.  We visit a bunch of museums, go for some walks through Raleigh, enjoy each others company. 

Wednesday, December 2

Climate Talks

I am in Paris this week and the security visible : Gendarmes on every corner with automatic machine guns, batons and body armour - and not only in the 8th, the wealthiest of arrondisments and where the Élysée Palace is located along with the French the government. The rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, le plus à la mode, has barely any pedestrians when I arrive in the morning time, though things more alive in the evening. The mood however is overall glum.

Yet cheered up by Barack Obama who is in Paris for the kick-off of the climate talks and the last chance to save the planet. We are off to an auspicious start as Obama's motorcade of 20 town-cars and SUVs rumble along the street outside Astorg's offices.

Me: "What do you think of global warming?"
Eitan: "Pretty terrible."
Me: "Do you know about the Paris climate conference?"
Eitan: "Uh, no. Why?"
Me: "Because it effects you. Do you think about it?"
Eitan: "Not really."
Me: "Fair enough. But it's coming."

"Don't sit back and wait for them to attack us."
--David Cameron presents his reason to bomb ISIS

Sunday, November 29

A Final Thanksgiving

Madeleine post theatre. DDG
We celebrate Thanksgiving today, Sunday, with Halley, Willem, Ava and Zoe. Their family continues to achieve as Willem in his second year running Oxford's mindfulness centre while Ava now on the Arsenal U15s girls squad (training with the U17s) and Zoe has her interview at Oxford. I give her a mock interview and try to twist her knickers but she handles herself beautifully. Halley keeps it all moving forward with a steady hand.

Eitan stumbles in late to dinner having captained the Lions to victory over Dundonald Juniors FC 6-nil. Saturday it was Hampton defeating the Harrodian School 5-nil.

Saturday, November 28

Urban Kids

Clapham Junction
There is no doubt that Eitan and Madeleine are city kids. It is difficult to appreciate how different this is from the California I grew up in and they know from holiday visits to Berkeley or the mountains. My experiences as a youngster - swimming, walking to Telegraph Ave to buy comics, Cal football, hot tubs - may be completely irrelevant to what they experience now. 

But somehow I doubt it.

Madeleine's Theatre


Thanksgiving II

From Richmond Park and Eitan's race, I dash to the Battersea Arts Centre to see Madeleine's theatre production "Cloud9". Eitan joins me against his will but soon warms to the inevitability of his circumstances.

Cloud9 described in the program as "exploring the themes of escapism and loneliness in our increasingly cyber world. How does the internet work? What does it mean to be forever connected? Has loneliness become taboo? These are some of the questions we want to ask."

Madeleine is surrounded by, truly, the coolest troupe one could imagine. In school, I can seem them as the eccentrics or odd balls but, on stage, they are natural, connected, powerful. Madeleine has been working her tail off, too, practising with the crew all week until 9PM, arriving home and crashing to bed.

Madeleine's  two minute monologue, "The Magnet", steels the show in this writer's opinion. She delivers without a hiccup, cool as a cucumber. I have not seen nor heard a rehearsal at home. I am further amazed to learn she wrote the script.

Throughout, Madeleine does an admirable job avoiding eye contact with me, Eitan and Veronica (our wonderful Czech au pair) and only at the end does she give me a direct smile. She is proud of herself, and I could not be more proud of her.

Sonnet, who arrives from Brighton where she delivers a lecture on "Fashion and Design", joins us for dinner at Valentina, a family favourite in East Sheen.

Thanksgiving

Richmond borough cross country championships
On an ordinary day, Friday, I have one of the bast days of my life.

I head to the office for a number of calls, per usual, and manage to do a run along the Thames at lunchtime (per usual). Eitan is competing the Borough Champs, which I have attended six years running, and I must dash to Richmond Park to catch him at the start-line of the 3k course.

With little ceremony, bang, the boys are off. Eitan passes the half-way mark with pain on his face, eyes blinded, and the look of a wild animal being chased for dear life. He is in the lead pack but just barely, and I think: "one of those days." But then on the second loop to the finish line there he is, relaxed and in control. His stride changed and body powerful, moving in rhythm.

Eitan has a masterful race finishing 2nd and qualifying for the Middlesex Championships. He is so pleased with his performance, and I watch as his friends hug him in congratulations. All smiles. He even lets me in his space and seeks my approval, which I give with a nod and private thumbs up. Eitan let's me take a few pictures without the usual embarrassment and resistance. Then we drive home together discussing the race details, strategy, tactics, etc. That's my kid.
Eitan and Zac, who is the No. 2 triathlete in Britain for his age group and a friend and healthy rival at the Hampton School

Rep Night

Super Mom
Sonnet takes her Hampton School "class rep" role seriously (sort of) and organises a holiday drinks at a local pub that is inconveniently hosting a "quiz night" meaning it is unusually crowded and most tables reserved. Oh, well. And traffic murder given a 150 yr old Edwardian house in Barnes collapses as the owner builds a basement, closing a main road and causing commuter havoc (the house BTW valued at £3.8m and its hard to feel sorry for the poor bastard who has disrupted our neighbourhood for his vanity project).

But I digress.  We catch up on all the local gossips from Hampton School (a rare thing since Eitan shares a few grunts when queried). On campus, the boys rebelling against a school mandate for iPads, now required from January 1, despite the majority of Eitan's year not wishing them. Eitan is pretty fired up by the cause and has talked to the head teacher and, with other boys, organised a petition against the distracting and costly devices. The boys also irked that the decision taken without their consultation. Good for them.

Meanwhile, France declares war on ISIS, supported by the British, and the bombing begins. Only too soon will this battle arrive on our doorstep. It is already here.

The Vaccines

And like that it is Saturday morning, late November, post Thanksgiving (which we will celebrate tomorrow with Halley, Willem, Zoe and Ava - who is in London today playing for Arsenal when not on the England squad. More on that later).

This past week sees yours, truly, in London sans travel reminding me of the importance of routine and just being around for the family.

Sonnet and I take advantage by going to a double header of the Palma Violets and the Vaccines at Brixton Academy on Monday with Oliver and Carol, dressed in flare bottom jeans and leather boots. The concert rocks and, dear reader, I admit to ear-plugs BUT the all embracing sensations are hardly diminished. Thank you Christian for the tickets and our shared joy of (British) music. Of course he has met both bands in LA.

Sunday, November 22

Lizzy's Party

The girls arrive for Lizzy's surprise party and Sonnet and I listen to the staccato as 12 girls anticipate the moment (Eitan rolls his eyes, contemplates the pizza, then disappears to the den - not worth it). I ring the front bell a few times, which offers some amusement.

The surprise goes off like a charm and the sugar-fuelled adrenaline reaches a crescendo with Lizzy's arrival - shock, screeches, joy - and the girls hug and cry and talk at each other and, well, bond with their tribe. Lizzy melts right in.

I have my moment as Madeleine asks me to play some music in the living room over Sonos, which I control from my notebook in the kitchen. After a few requests - she wants Justin Bieber (apparently cool again) and a bunch of pop bands I've never heard of - I crank Devo's 'Crack That Whip",  The Time's "Gigolos Get Lonely Too", and Prince's "Little Red Corvette" before I am yanked from my responsibilities.

Mall Rat

Madeleine and I head to Westfield Mall in Shepherds Bush, London, which is also the largest mall in Europe - 30 football pitches of commercial space for 400 shops and restaurants. Our gal needs a winter jacket and it is nearly Thanksgiving. Only North Face will do.

We go early, to avoid the crowds, arriving at 10AM only to find the stores open at noon on Sunday. Still, there are people walking around like zombies. What do they do otherwise ?

Finally, we find a suitable jacket in Kingston, on the other side of Richmond Park. Not wasted time, dear reader : it is a morning spent with my dear heart following a week in Amsterdam for a conference (where I am on a panel title: "Differentiation". Thrills). She always has interesting things on her mind, and today it is vampires since she reads "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson.