Sunday, June 12

Morning Coach

Eitan and Shaheen walk to the coach, on their way to school and exams. Shaheen's brother in awe of the older two.  Eitan has two exams or so a day, Monday to Friday, covering mathematics and the sciences, English and languages and drama. The corrected booklets will be returned, face down, in class this week. Same as it ever was. I am glad those days long over.

50 dead in Orlando, Florida, in a terrorist attack no matter who the perpetrator. Guns.

Sunday, June 5

On Brexit

There is a real possibility that I will wake up in November with Trump as President and the UK out of the European Union.

Let us focus briefly on Brexit as I have returned my vote, by post, today (23 June deadline).

The Brexit movement is really about anti-immigration which the mostly blue collar and middle classes feel is outside our control and hence Britain does not have a democracy (point of fact: Britain controls its borders from outside of Europe, about 154k entrants last year, while there is free flow of migrants inside the union). The skills and qualities immigrants bring are necessary for Britain, a modern economy that depends on services and technologies not produced inside the country. Plus these people want to work - the idea they are sponging on the social system is absurd. They come for jobs, to work and contribute - which they do on a net economic basis.

Anyone who thinks picking up and moving elsewhere, into the unknown, a joy ride, should have their head examined.

Britain's economy btw expanding albeit not at a terrific clip at .4% in Q1 16.  Unemployment is 5.1%.

Monday, May 30

American Diner

Pickle & Rye, an American style restaurant by the rail tracks in a spot where every other shop/ restaurant seems to fail accept this one. It's a good food joint and while no comparison to the vibe of the 24/7 Three Brothers Diner or The Waverley in NYC, it holds its own. A nice touch are the baseball caps pegged to the wall.

And what New Yorker does not have a love affair with the greasy ham and cheese omelet, devoured with potatoes, ketchup and coffee at 6AM post dancing, served on a film covered counter, shortly after sunrise and just before bed ?

Eitan: "Does he have to come over?" [Dad's note: a local kid helping me with yard work]
Me: "What's the big deal?"
Eitan: "He's in my class."
Me: "So?"
Eitan: "It's a bit awkward."
Me: "He's earning money. How's it awkward?"
Eitan: "It just is."
Me: "That's he's doing work you won't do and getting paid for it? I'd feel a bit awkward."
Eitan: "That's not what I mean."
Me: "No shame in earning money. I hope you know it."
Me: "Beats doing it for free."
Me: "Which you may be doing if this keeps up."

Sunday, May 29

Astorg Bids

Deal guys
Michael and Francois prepare a final bid on a deal we have been working for six months. The company a world-leader in voice prothesis units which are used by post-operative patients who have had their voice box removed in a laryngectomy due to cancer of the larynx usually caused by smoking or drinking. Picture a little button that goes in the post-op hole at the base of the throat which allows the patient to speak. Life changing product and company not cheap.

We move into our new offices in St James's next week. Our current set up, on Berkeley Square, is like a club - five guys jammed into a space for 2 or three. I rather like it, especially the couch, and often step on to the patio to make undisturbed calls watching the Mayfair gems stroll along the sidewalk underneath.

Madeleine prepares herself for the upstairs 3rd floor room, which is being re-done to her spec. The kid has suffered (?) the small bedroom now it is her turn to have some space.

Saturday, May 28

800 meters

800 Runners
Sonnet has been in Montreal this week, opening the Italians at the McCord Museum. Her week filled with press interviews, dinners with the sponsors and museum patrons, presentations and speeches. 

Meanwhile back at home . .. I take the kids to a track meet in Surrey that neither want to compete. Saturday morning and it has been a long week, everyone tired. We rally, including the dog, and make the long drive to the track, located the Woodcote High School in Purley.

Madeleine goes first, clocking a 2:25 for a 4 second PB. She is ecstatic with her performance, and rightly so. Eitan delivers a 2:07, a PB by two seconds.  We have a jolly ride home rewarded by burgers for dinner.

Eitan and I now watch the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Madeleine: "Do you have your wallet Dad?"
Me: "No, please grab it. Unless you want to do dishes at the restaurant."
Madeleine: "Can you you tell me that one again? I've not heard it before."
Me: "Are you sassing your Dad?"
Me: "Here's how you play the trumpet" [I make a donut with my pointing finger and thumb and blow]
Madeleine: "Dad we're at the restaurant. Can you stop now?"
Me: "To think I used to spend hours entertaining you guys. Putting it all on the table. Now I get this."
Madeleine: "It sounds like farting."
Madeleine: "And its not even the trumpet."
Me: "What is it then?"
Madeleine: "A trombone."
Me: "It's all brass to me."

Me: "Yoga is something. Surrounded by all those naked people, sweating like crazy."
Madeleine: "Dad! They're not naked."
Me: "They're in yoga pants."
Madeleine: "Don't want to know."
Me: "So is it the nakedness that bothers you or me talking about being naked?"
Madeleine: "Both."
Me: "Fair enough."

Sunday, May 22


The length of a minute on a Friday afternoon
I arrive in London in time for a tea-time brass ensemble at Madeleine's school Emanuel. Sonnet and I treated to horn renditions of 'The Pink Panther,' 'Rocky', and 'Softly Awakens My Heart' which would make any dog howl.  Madeleine, for her part, performs a flawless "Trumpet Tune" by Henry Purcell. Otherwise she sits behind the trombones, distracted and (to Sonnet's horror) sometimes tapping on her mobile phone.

Madeleine not expecting me at the school performance and it makes my life when I see her eyes light up big as she sees me. The father-daughter relationship a special one.

DD & Joy

Family (or 'fam' as Madeleine would say)
I visit Aunt Joy (Moe's sister) and cousin DD, who is battling the North Carolina Voter ID Law, which suppresses voter turn-out of African Americans and minorities in return for registration (note: Justin Levitt, a professor at the Loyola Law School, reports that a 2014 comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast).

It is the most important voter case in the nation.

A conservative Bush appointed federal judge recently upheld the lower court decision requiring photo-ID, ensuring the case will make it to the Supreme Court. DD represents the plaintiffs. She has gone to the Supremes eight times and counting.

North Carolina is blowing it. Recently the Governor named Pat suggested that toilets are for the gender on your birth certificate, ignoring trans gender minorities. Consequently PayPal, Bruce Springstein and tourists are staying away from the tar heel state.

Sonnet and I watch one of the endless nature programs on the BBC. Me: "Bugs are fucking cool. It's like outer-space on planet earth."

Red White & Blue

Self Portrait XXXXVIII
I visit Springfield, Illinois, to make a presentation to the Board of the Illinois Teachers Retirement System, which manages $44 billion. I wear a tie.

I arrive on time and chat with the 70 year old security officer through a plate glass window (sign: 'no guns allowed on premises') and am shown into a holding pen with a bunch of other anxious white guys about my age, tapping on their iPhones or walking around with hands in pockets. At stake is $50m and it is a zero sum game.

I'm shown into the Board room and seated at the head of a long oak table. There are maybe 15 investment committee members at the table. Since it is a public pension, the general public welcome and there are a further 30 or so surrounding the table including members of the press. I'm told from time-to-time the Governor participates but not today.  I have 30 minutes+10 of Q&A to convince, 'why Astorg?"

I begin by noting my father from St Louis (90 minutes by car) and I spent my summers in St Louis and Columbus, Ohio when a kid. I figure Paris, France, as exotic a place these folks can imagine so a local connection constructs the bridge.

I return to London to receive the email: 50m confirmed.

Me: "You from Springfield?"
Taxi: "Yo man, I was born here."
Me: "You and Lincoln."
Taxi: "Lincoln born in Kentucky. He lived here, sure, and met his wife Mary Todd here but he was born in Ken-tu-key."
Me: "I didn't know."
Taxi: "Got to be teaching these things, man. Don't know your history, don't know noth'n."
Taxi: "Look at those kids. Know where the mall is but don't know they history."
Me: "You bet."
Taxi: "Damn straight."

Sweetie Pie The Cat

9 lives
Moe and Grace have their joyful blind dog Maggie and wonderful ageless cat Sweetie Pie to keep them company.  The love is all there.

My parents do a tremendous job taking care of each other and their Parkinson's. Sure, life is a bit slower and the TV on in the morning but there are also dog walks, lots of reading and the New York Times, theatre and performances and friends. Lots of them. Moe and Grace are more social than Sonnet and me. Their minds as sharp as can be. It is something I look forward to.

Katie Is Groovy

Katie and I hang out at the OP - also known as the Original Peet's (not to be confused with OG - Original Gangster) on Walnut Sq.  She flies in from a Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and before that, an international human rights clinic in Burma. I can hardly keep up.

The jet lag never gets easier but I do look forward to going to bed at 8PM and sleeping until 3AM or sometimes 4AM or about when Moe wakes up and the train horns mourn the end of night. Unlike Moe, who goes to the gym to work out with his crew, I walk to Peet's which opens at 6AM. It's easier in spring/ summer with morning light; Otherwise it can be bleak. And all those calls and emails which need attention.

And what's the vibe in SV these days ? The sense I collect is that the party is over. Some will make money but it won't be easy money. At least for the next decade.

Looking Good

Photo from January
In Northern California, Moe celebrates 80. Katie joins from NYC for a family reunion. Grace decorates the house with balloons and photographs covering the decades. The party hosts many of my father's friends including those who have known him for as long as I have been around.  It is a moving afternoon and a life affirming event.

Los Angeles Up Front

Somewhere in Los Angeles
I have a meeting with the LAFPP who are investors in Astorg. The pension offices are located in a neighbourhood known for its art.  

I find Los Angeles mildly scary.  It offers a narrow skyline bolstered by the hill on which the tall buildings stand. Sprawling beneath it: 15 million people interconnected by 10 lane highways always jammed no matter the time of day. Swaths of the city are unknown to most who live here - no subways, society's great equaliser, to bring people together. Stretches of wasteland.

After 30 or 40 years, LA enjoys a resurgence as people return to the city center. San Francisco is no longer affordable (and kinda nasty with new tech money and private buses) driving people South for a Big City experience.  Clubs, culture and beaches await those making the transition. Unlike the Bay Area, which is comfortably removed from the Pacific, LA owns it. One is never far from the endless white sand beaches and the vast unframed ocean.

Saturday, May 21


Power couple
I join Catherine and Peter who, 12 months ago, founded a non-profit organisation, ChinaWeek, to celebrate Los Angeles' Chinese cultural heritage. From scratch to now : one week of activities including a delegate from Beijing and a forum opened by Governor Jerry Brown to an exhibition of frescos from the Buddhist caves along the Silk Road. In between there are tours of Chinatown, lectures and gastronomic celebrations. What a nice honour to be here.

I am particularly interested in the Getty show as Sonnet, Katie and I visited the Caves of Bezeklik (pictured behind us) in August '97.  The Buddhist caves date from the 5th to 14th century between the cities of  Turpan and Shanshan at the north-east of the Taklamakan Desert near the ancient ruins of Gaochang in the Mutou Valley,  a gorge in the Flaming Mountains, China. They are high on the cliffs of the west Mutou Valley under the Flaming Mountains, and most of the surviving caves date from the West Uyghur kingdom around the 10th to 13th centuries.

Me: "Going out?" 
Eitan: "Huh."
Me: "Is that Linx Effect? You could light a match in here and the house would blow up."
Me: "Why don't you use some of that nice cologne I got you? Or I could get you some Polo, which is what all the Preps wore in my day."
Eitan: "Kids don't wear cologne, Dad."
Me: "Usually when it comes to smells, cheap does not equal better."
Me: "Do you really think you are going to attract a sophisticated lady with Linx Effect?"
Sonnet to me: "I would hazard that you are applying not a winning strategy."
Me: "Now your mom is chiming now. It's gone from bad to off a cliff."
Eitan: "Yeah."

CW & Little Man

Christian and Little Man
I arrive in el lay to be greeted at the airport by Christian, who gave up the penthouse for a sweet central neighbourhood crib not far from Wilshire Bld. Everything in Los Angeles is close to something cool or Pacific: how can it not influence one's espirt knowing that the ocean and the endless white sand beaches are there, a fixture, available for anyone anytime ?

Last we saw CW was his wedding to Lisa in Palm Springs. They enjoy their honeymoon year, life moves along at a clip.

Me: "What are you up to this evening?" [Dad's note: Friday night in London]
Eitan: "Going to a party."
Me: "Where is it?"
Eitan: "Teddington."
Me: "Whose?"
Eitan: "I dunno. Friend of Harry's."
Me: "Will there be any adults there?"
Eitan: "Yeah, probably."
Me: "Like upstairs sleeping or something?"
Eitan: "I guess. Whatever they do."
Me: "Not hang'n with you drinking a brewskie?"
Eitan: "Definitely not."
Me: "What if the parents were Rob? Would you let them hang with you?"
Eitan: "No."
Me: "What if it was Bruce Springstein? How about him?"
Eitan: "Well if it was Bruce Springstein then he could hang."
Me: "So if I were Bruce Springstein I could hang out with you guys?"
Eitan: "But you're not."
Me: "But if I were?"
Eitan: "No then."
Me: "So Rob no. Bruce Springstein yes. Unless I am Springstein."
Me: "So it's a Dad thing. "
Eitan: "If you were there I just couldn't relax. I'd be on edge all the time."
Me: "I'd be like, "Yo Eitan nice Lampard tee your wearing there.' "
Eitan: "Exactly."
Me: "Have a blast kid. Home by Midnight."

Sunday, May 8

Train Time

To town
We must mark the joy of Leicester City who, against the highest odds against, win the Premiere League. Some say it is the greatest team accomplishment in sport. Having been on the 40 yard line of Memorial Stadium witnessing The Play, I disagree. But let's give Leicester City its due.

The Brexit debate moves from inconvenience and economics - The Treasury warns families £4,300 worse off outside the EU - to security with the former heads of MI5 and MI6 warning that we cannot protect our borders. According to them, 5,000 Jihadist returning to Europe to bring destruction here.

It is preposterous to consider the UK's departure. Leave the largest free trade market in the world ? What an own goal it would be.

Sarah Palin interviewed on CNN. She is a nut job. The Republicans, I innocently thought in 2008, could not cough up a larger hair ball than Palin. How can they outdo themselves on Trump? They will find a way.

A lovely day in London as temps reach 80 degrees. I work on the garden.

Saturday, May 7

Ramble On

20kg back-back on 40kg Madeleine
Madeleine prepares for a Duke of Edinburgh weekend where she will hike the Surrey Hills with six friends, required as part of the DofE program. Think Boy Scouts (though my Troop 23 was a bunch of stoners. No merit badge for that or it would have been all Eagle Scouts). Our gal must reach check-points before the campsite randez vous with a couple of adult parents and joining another troop of boys. It looks like hell'a fun.

Eitan out the door for the same excursion but on a different trail. He wants to pack in the morning but I order it done before he goes out with friends. He mumbles that it is unfair. Well, so is life, kid.

Eitan runs a 4:50 mile and pukes in the car ride home.

Me: "Where are you guys hiking?"
Madeleine: "I don't know, somewhere in Surrey."
Sonnet: "It's at xxx."
Me: "Your mom and I are planning a hike - maybe we join you?"
Madeleine: "You are not joining me Dad."
Me to Sonnet: "It's a great idea. I think we should plan on it."
Sonnet: "Madeleine we could just walk behind you.. ."
Me: "It's not like we would embarrass you or anything, right?"
Madeleine: "Oh my God."

Saturday, April 30

M at 14

How could I not know that I was waiting 40 years for this face?

We BBQ for the first time in 2016. It's a Bank Holiday weekend and these Brits put on their winter jackets and go in to their backyard or for a brisk walk. The smarter ones head for Costa del Sol, which they have colonised with their endless beachfront condominiums, swimming pools and beer pubs. I've never met an English person who speaks Spanish.

For us, Eitan and Madeleine sleep until 1PM and Sonnet and I take the dog for a 2 hour walk along the Thames from Ham House, a marvelous morning with big puffy clouds floating overhead. Last night we have dinner with two French couples; the elegant gal next to me wakes up to share her experiences working for McDonalds in college in Geneva: The number of chicken nuggets required precisions unimagined heretofore.

Don't Shoot

London had 110 homicides in 2015, up from 83 in 2014. A big jump, no doubt, but hardly something to worry about in a city of 8.5 million.  I can honestly not recall a single time when I felt threatened or anxious since arriving in 97, a blessing. Our borough, Richmond, had 13 homicides from 2000 to 2013. That's it.

Switching gears: the concept of modern policing began in pre-Victorian England when the British home minister, Sir Robert Peel (1778-1850), oversaw the creation of London’s first organised police force headquartered on a short street called Scotland Yard. Peel sought to create a professionalised law enforcement corps accountable to the people,  replacing the military's distinctive red coats.

Peel’s patrolmen wore black jackets and tall wool hats with shiny badges - they were still around our first couple years here. The police armed only with a short club and a whistle for backup, walking regular beats and gaining the trust of the locals. Robert Peel’s system a success, and by the mid-19th century large American cities had created similar police forces. 

In London, the policemen were so identified with the politician who created them that they were referred to as “Peelers” or—more memorably—“Bobbies,” after the popular nickname for Robert.

Sonnet: "How was theatre today?" [Dad's note: Eitan has a dancing and singing part in the school production of 'West Side Story."
Eitan: "I dropped a girl today. In practice."
Eitan: "She landed with a thump."
Me: "Ouch. Was she OK?"
Eitan: "I guess so."
Eitan: "Everyone kind of noticed though."

Sunday, April 24


Marshall, David and I get a tour of the balconies of the cast courts, not open to the public for 150 years, yet holding most of the cast collection, a treasure of 5,000 objects, the largest in the world. Many museums, including the NY Met, sold off their casts 15 years ago to create space or produce income; now they are more valuable than ever. The courts, which hold replicas of Trajan's Column and the Statue of David, are the most popular in the museum.

Last night we have dinner in Pimlico (not far from where Obama addresses the UK) including Jon, who was an Associate when I was an Analyst at First Boston. Do not doubt, dear reader, that he checked every number I produced with a fine red pen. Today Jon is head of the Equity Corporate Finance and Co-Chairman of the European Investment Banking Committee.  No doubt he still has his pen.

Madeleine: "I'm going to meet some friends in Richmond."
Me: "OK, great."
Madeleine: "Can I come home at 8:30PM?" [Dad's note: Madeleine has an 8PM curfew when using public transportation]
Me: "8PM."
Madeleine: "What?! It's so unfair. It's still light out!"
Me: "Those are the rules. Nothing I can do about it."
Madeleine: "You made the rule. So you can change it."
Me: "A precision: Your mother, you and I made the rule. And we agreed to it."
Madeleine marches out the door. Slam. At 7:50PM she texts that the bus is slow and she arrives home at 8:10PM.


Team captain
We celebrate Passover with Diana (who is on the Board of the Holocaust Museum in Wash DC) and Simon (now Sr Advisor to Al Gore's investment firm), and Sophie who was accepted to Middlebury earlier this year (one school, no coaching, no parental assistance). Michael is in his 3rd year at the Naval Academy and gunning for flight school to fly Ospreys; his eye operation gives him perfect vision so he can now do so.  Joining us, Tony Gardner and his two remarkable children at Harrow School and St Mary's Girls; she wants to be an opera singer. Tony is the US Ambassador to the European Union, another Presidential selection. 

Dinner allows us to discuss Obama's visit to London where, amongst other things, he skewers tory London Mayor Boris who references Obama's Kenyon roots to suggest Obama holds a bias against the British, in an op-ed in The Sun - not even a spoken Bushism. And until recently I liked Boris the Brexit buffoon. 

Eitan runs a 1500 yesterday, indicating he wants to break 4:30, which I suggest may be a bit fast for so early in the season. I think it kinda pisses him off as he runs 4:29.

Sonnet: I could smell marijuana everywhere [Dad's note: Sonnet returns from a conference in Amsterdam]
Me: "Really?"
Eitan: "It's obvious Dad. It's National Marijuana Day.
Madeleine: "Yeah, Dad."
Me: "It is?"
Eitan: "It's so obvious."
Me: "So do you guys know where Barack Obama is today?"
Me: "Madeleine?"
Madeleine: "No."
Me. "He's in London. So you can tell me it's National Weed Day but you're not able to tell me that the Leader of the Free World is in your hometown."
Madeleine: "What's your point?"

Saturday, April 23

Prince Is Dead

Performing in 1985. Photo by Michael Ochs
Prince's death hits hard. Unlike Bowie, who reached me late with the 1983 album "Let's Dance" and more a product of the 70s, Prince arrived when I was in the 8th grade, introduced to my class by the black girls titillated by Dirty Mind and Controversy and Prince's funk pop vive. His was the background of my youth, played at parties, in the car, with friends or alone. When I returned from Switzerland in '84 greeted at the airport by a bunch of friends in a limo, we blasted "When Doves Cry" crossing the Bay Bridge.

Prince followed me through college and my first years of work then faded with his later experimental and softer music. Our relationship resumed in London when I rediscovered live music. When Eitan and Madeleine took an interest in sound, I directed them to the Master. Prince always the gold standard.

And now he is gone and life the less interesting for it.

Sonnet is in Amsterdam for a conference.
Madeleine: "Is the water boiling?"
Madeleine: "Is the water boiling?"
Me: "For Pete's sake, I don't do a lot of cooking but I know how to boil water!"
Madeleine: "Can't you just tell me without making a big deal out of everything?"

Thursday, April 21

Pick Up

Clapham, London
I pick up Madeleine from school to take her to the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital for an asthma check up. 
She gets in the car, heavy sigh, looks out the window.
Me: "How was your day?"
Madeleine: "Dunno."
Me: "Anything interesting happen?"
Madeleine: "Dunno."
Me: "I remember when you were little and I carried you around in the Baby Bjorn close to my chest. I couldn't wait until you could walk so I could hold your hand, your big green eyes looking up at me."
Me: "And then, when you were a toddler, I couldn't wait until I could tell you stories about Spider Man."
Me: "And school so we could talk about stuff you'd learned during the day. . "
Me: "And now your a teenager and we couldn't be more proud of you. And next it will be university then your first job and flat and heartbreak and love. Maybe children. And you know what?"
Madeleine: "What?"
Me: "I will always be cheering for you. It's just the way it is."
Madeleine: "Yeah" (with a smile close to a smirk but I know it's genuine) 

Sunday, April 17


Alphie and Madeline
To my delight, Madeleine discovers photography and, unauthorised, uses my camera. No matter, pictured.

Aggie comes over for Sunday afternoon to tell us about her move to Krakow, the second largest city in Poland. It has modernised but there are still too few jobs: more young Poles come to England in search of work than stay homeland. Hence Brexit, despite 5% unemployment. Unfortunately Europe is closed to immigration despite the desperation of Syria.

The only country generous to our neighbours has been Germany and Merkal is hammered for it.
Consider the US: following the Viet Nam war, America welcomed over 1 million refugees (we had two 'boat people' in my Longfellow 6th grade: Phat and Tri, whose parents owned a successful VN restaurant on University and they now own several fishing boats in San Francisco). Reagan knew it was good and right. How about those Republicans today ?

The world uncertain, Europeans scared, luxury glamour everywhere and nobody feeling better off. Nor generous. An unsettled time. What's going on there is coming here.

Saturday, April 16

The Value Of Chores

Big Brother 
Sonnet and I head for East London starting at the Whitechapel Gallery.

On display is an attempt to present art as reflected through the influences of technology, the Internet and media, from 1966 until now. There are a few interesting references to the French Minitel system of the 1970s (anybody remember that one? Groundbreaking), Apple IIe and those great college age Macs, digital images and of course splashes of porn. It doesn't really work so I do the appropriate thing: wait for Sonnet and surf the net on my mobile.

From there we walk about London's East End, which retains some urban cred but now mostly gentrified. We stand in line for 20 minutes to be served a small coffee by a guy with a beard, slicked back hair but shaved sides: I try to take his picture and he gets hostile, the prick. I inform that photographer Paul Strand (now on display at the VA) built a special camera so his subjects from the 1910s and 1920s wouldn't know he was taking their picture; now we line up to see them. Sonnet walks.

Madeleine: "I'm going to do some chores tomorrow. To earn some money."
Me: "Great. What's the deal then?"
Madeleine: "I'll sweep all the floors. and mop them. I'll do it for ... "
Madeleine: "Twenty pounds."
Me to Sonnet: "Yeah, right."
Madeleine: "15 then"
Sonnet: "More like 3 pounds."
Me: "Tell you what. I'll pay you £6 an hour."
Madeleine: "I'm OK."


We take advantage of the early spring by wearing turtle necks and winter coats.

Eitan runs the first 1500m of the season clocking a 4:29. His best is 4:32 so it takes a few races to get one's legs underneath ..  one.

Madeleine has some friends over. Me: "Must be fun to have a play date."
Madeleine: "Never say that again."


LVMH rules
We hold our annual meeting at the Louis Vuitton Foundation, an art museum and cultural center sponsored by the mega lux group LVMH as part of its promotion of art and culture. The $143 million museum in Bois de Boulogne, Paris, opened in October 2014 and designed by Frank Gehry. It is truly a wonderful creation that, despite the 16e, is not French. It aspires to more, and is invigorating.

What is equally amazing about the structure is that it exists at all. Imagine such new build in Hyde Park or Central Park? Thank you Bernie Arnault.

Astorg has the entire building for the day, including dinner inside the enormous foyer; presentations in the modern lecture hall overlooking the fountain cascades with state of the art video and acoustics which the portfolio CEOs take advantage of. We receive a tour of the inside and outside including the great sails that spread before the woods. The exhibition of modern Chinese art perfect for the setting and the day. 
I announce 1.7bn closed for Astorg VI.


Madeleine and I text in teen speak:
Me: How woz the hike?
Madeleine: Pretty good fam. It was so long. How be Paris?
Me: Sittn me down now on trn. Wish could be at home havn din w u
Madeleine: Yh same. Gots pasta and stuff
Me: Yeps. Goin 2 terminus 4 oysters
Madeleine: Sounds lit
Me: Thinkn o u. Myb snails
Madeleine: Yh defo get some hard core snails

Madeleine: Yo fam can u send me 12 to my card for train?
Me: Yo s/h I st 6 u dig another?
Madeleine: I have no idea what you are saying

Thursday, April 14


A hidden market
Sunday morning up at 6:45AM and since I can't go back to sleep, I run through the marais, across Place de la Republique, where the people gather to mourn or rally, then along an ancient canal that takes me through some pretty rough, but super cool, neighbourhoods. It is .. silent at this hour. A city in repose.

Tell me something you liked about Paris?
Madeleine: "The vintage store." [Dad's note: we found a vintage store next to the Centre Pompidou and went twice]
Me: "Why did you like it?"
Madeleine: "Because it was full of cool clothes."
Me: "What else?"
Madeleine: "Felafels" [Dad's note: In the Jewish quarter in the marais]
Me: "And what else?"
Madeleine: "And the hotel. And art galleries." [Dad's note: Hotel du Petit Moulin in the 9e; various]
Me: "Go on."
Madeleine: "You're pretty much asking me to list every single thing we did in Paris."
Me: "Well do you want to go into any more details."
Madeleine: "No."
Me: "Case closed."

Caen Train Station

I need sugar
Madeleine and I are up early on Saturday, saying good-bye to Sonnet, Eitan and Rusty the dog who drive back to London while we catch a train in Caen for Paris for a weekend together.

Me: "Want to hit the candy shop?"
Madeleine: "You mean the magazine store?"
Me: "Sure."
Madeleine: "Can I get something?"
Me: "How about some pringles ? Or a few candy bars and a bag of gums?"
Madeleine: "This is a joke, right?"
Me: "Dad is on patrol."
[Dad's note: Later I offer Madeleine wine or Champagne over dinner but she refuses]

Friday, April 8

Sunset On Normandy

Vivre la France!
The past week I have gone on two or three walks a day and usually a run. This balanced by the volumes of bread, cheese, desert and red wine I consume in the evening. 

The village Fontenay Sur Mer could not possibly have more than 20 houses yet 17 boys died in the First World War, commemorated with a tombstone in the church next to our manor house.

The dog goes into action throwing up seawater everywhere. Inside the house.

Morning Run

Eitan walks downstairs in his pajamas. It is 12:57PM. Without Sonnet's urging it is likely his first appearance would not be until later. But we have museums to visit ! D Day beaches to see. I order the boy out the door to go running. He moans a bit but off he goes. No vacation without a bit of the drag.

I am in Paris yesterday to show my face at Astorg and discuss the landing path of Astorg VI. It is down the the last 300m.

Grace and Moe are in St Louis visiting Joy, who celebrates 85. Katie makes special T Shirts for the occasion.

Me: "Madeleine, can you imagine what it feels like to be a Dad and to love something more than life itself?"
Me: "And Rusty has been with us for five years now."
Madeleine: "I saw that one coming a mile away."

Tuesday, April 5

Fontenay-Sur-Mer Encore

Eitan studies geography
We arrive at a familiar spot in Normandy and ask ourselves - a year gone by ? The 16th Century manor unchanged except for a few improvements made by Mog since our last visit. This time round we bring Rusty who survives the six hour drive without complaint. Once here, he chases a cat up a tree, oh happy as a dog can be. In fact, we are all happy to celebrate spring's arrival in a place we hold dear and together. 

Eitan and Madeleine's joy tempered by school revision. Their books spread along the floor in different rooms across the house. Eitan is on the flightpath to the all-consuming GCSEs adding a constant low level anxiety. We can no longer tell him to study but, boy, we can sure suggest it.

Sonnet brings home three kinds of cheese and a bunch of salamis from the local farmers market.

Me: "What?"
Madeleine: "You're not chewing with your mouth shut."
Me: "There are worse things a fella could do, Madeleine."
Madeleine: "Such as?"
Me: "Lock you up under the stairs and throw away the key."
Madeleine: "Right"
Me: "Don't press your luck kid."

Monday, April 4

Cat In A Tree

One pissed off cat
Rusty chases a cat up a tree.
Madeleine: "Dad! We can't just leave the cat up there. He'll starve."
Me: "Why not just shake some cat food at him? That'll bring him down."
Madeleine: "Can't you get a ladder or something?"
Me: "Let's just throw rocks at it. That's what everybody else does."
Madeleine: "You are so cruel."
Me: "Survival of the fittest."
Madeleine: "Can you at least climb the tree? To get him, I mean?"
Me: "For Pete's sake, Madeleine, it's a cat. If it doesn't land on its feet he has nine lives."
Madeleine: "I am never talking to you again."

Saturday, April 2

Friday Night Lights

Pre show
I catch Madeleine, Friday evening, at the Battersea Arts Centre for the continuing engagement of 'Cloud 9'. Our gal gives an electric performance to an energised audience who hoot and holler.

Me: "Break a leg."

Eitan at the dinner table anxious to go to a party.
Me: "Linx effect?"
Madeleine: "It's Adidas."
Sonnet: "I'll take you when you're ready to go."
Eitan: "Thanks, mom."
Me to Madeleine: "Well, just us. On a Saturday night."
Madeleine: "OMG. It's so lame."
Me: "Yeah, think how I must feel?"
Madeleine: "Oh, Dad."
Me: "Hey we can play a board game."
Sonnet: "I know, Candy Land !"
Madeleine: "I am definitely excused now."

New Digs

Francois is a deal maker for Astorg
Astorg will shortly move from Berkeley Square to new offices on St James's Square, a quiet central London location not far from Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Sq, yet protected from the noise and bustle. 

Our space will face the square from the sixth floor, providing a nice view from above the treeline and plenty of sunshine as we face west. Neighbours are BP and Rio Tinto as well as the East India Club and the Military and Naval Club so often in Master & Commander. Eisenhower led the allied campaign against the Germans from Norfolk House.

The building refurb'd and we get to decide the specs. Francois, Stephane and I will have offices facing the park; the remaining space will accommodate a further ten or so in a bullpen format. Plus conference rooms, a small kitchen and a reception area.


Sonnet offered a comfortable six figure salary at a leading art museum in North Carolina. We inform the kids that we shall remain in London and, so, Eitan dodges a bullet.  Madeleine disappointed to miss out on the American high school experience. I tell her she has her whole life to live in California.

How easily the Shakespeare's little worlds can be spun around, poor dears. I recall lying in my bedroom, Saturday afternoon, about Eitan's age, reading comics when Moe interrupted my thoughts to inform me he was leaving his firm to form a new one : Schacter, Kristoff, Orenstein & Berkowitz. I was interested but really more involved with my comics to pay it much mind. This momentous occurrence for my father a non event for me: I was in safe hands and knew it.

Meanwhile in Paris, we have another closing on Astorg VI, taking us close to our goal of €2 billion. Inshallah.

Sunday, March 27

Stella Lucy

Stella and Lucy
We reunion at the VA with Lucy (right) and Stella and Lucy's mother, who are visiting London. Lucy a DJ who gigs across the US. No doubt she is amazing. Stella, meanwhile, is a 'reader' and explains, in the Raphael Cartoon gallery, the ancient Trojan wars, which she is studying in school. She is 10.

I know the family from my dear bigger than life friend Steve, who was a formidable sprint freestyler. We spent hours in a pool together. Their wedding, in Dallas, Texas, the largest I have been to : ceremony at the depression era state house, reception at the MOMA. 700+ people. Dixie Chicks.

I happen to have a pair of goggles in my bag I give to Stella to give to Steve.

Madeleine: "Emma [Will's mum] asked if you were the Gordon Ramsey type." [Dad's note: Dad makes dinner].
Me: "And?"
Madeleine: "You're not really Gordon Ramsey."
Me: "Come on, I can make a good salad." [Dad's note: Dad makes a salad]
Eitan: "Like the time you used a garbage bag?" [Dad's note: Dad made Roger's Houston taco salad which requires mixing ingredients in a garbage bag]
Me: "You remember that one, don't you."
Madeleine, Eitan: "Yes."
Me: "But it was pretty good."
Madeleine: "Eitan didn't want to eat it."
Madeleine: "Garbage bag Dad."

Sunny Days

Self portrait XXXXVIII

Spring is here and I have my groove back. Without Sonnet it could not have happened.

Sonnet offered a six figure job in the US, which we decide against, notifying the kids once a fait accompli. This was several months ago. Madeleine all for it - she is disappointed, in fact, not to be going to an American high school. Eitan realises he dodged a bullet. As ever, the boy must understand change before actioning it.

We attend the Director's Circle dinner at the VA with the good and the great. Or at the least the very rich who donate their support to the museum. It is an elegant affair with a formal table stretching 30 meters inside the somber statue gallery facing the John Madejski garden in the centre of the museum. John gave the VA £2m in 2005 to create the sanctuary. I sit across from him discussing the VA's FuturePlan, his daughter to my right.

Sonnet in Moscow for the weekend and meets the cultural minister for the City of Moscow and the Director of the Gulag Museum. She gives a presentation to the State Museum.

Leg Of Lamb

Rusty wants in on the action. Poor guy.

Since its pouring rain I stair out at the backyard and drink coffee. Sure I have work to do but somehow I feel like a break has been earned. Astorg will close around €1.7bn next week so what could be more urgent?

Me: "You have so much ahead of you, you don't even realise it."
Me: "You don't know anything about love. Or having your heart broken, do you?"
Madeleine: "Nope."
Me: "Well, it's coming kid."
Madeleine: "Gee, thanks Dad."

Collar Bone Break

Madeleine takes a codeine
So it is a Bank Holiday Weekend which can only mean one thing: Rain and cold. And so it is.

The drama begins Wednesday afternoon (school out, spring break) when Madeleine trips on a football and down she goes, snapping her collar bone on the fall. The ambulance arrives in three minutes (God bless the NHS) and Madeleine to the A&E for the second time in a month (prior, an asthma attack). Sonnet arrives as they wheel our hero into the hospital, accompanied by pal Aiden and six or so worried friends.

The collar bone one of those awkward breaks since impossible to cast. It also hurts like a mother f***er. I broke mine on the Washington Elementary schoolyard playing dodge-ball in the 3rd grade.  I remember it like yesterday.

Madeleine grits it out with determination and codeine. She's been in bed the last three days, watching repeats of Modern Family. I've encouraged our brainiac to read and she is now into David Nicholls' "One Day." We have been listening to podcast "Serial" together.

I tell her it is a date: Me and her. I could not ask for anything more on Easter weekend. Madeleine might think different here.

Saturday, March 12

Break Out

Lemme outta here !
The dog left for 2 hours at the dog groomer. He's not happy about it, either.

At masters swimming this morning I meet a guy about my age who turns out to be from Acalanes, where he went to HS. Acalanes shared a water polo rivalry with Berkeley High School and, while I wasn't a water polo player, we connect many friends including Steve, Adam and others.  Patrick played for the Cal with Matt Biondi in 1986, the year the Bears won the NCAA title.  Now we're swimming laps together at St Paul's in Barnes.

Richmond Morning

I take the loyal pooch for a walk in Richmond Pk and am greeted by morning fog and unexpected beauty. The miracle of it all. The dog don't care: a few squirrel chases, a long piss, and a roll in the deer scented tall grass. Rusty keeps it real.

Eitan up and out - football match v. Kings College Wimbledon - followed by Madeleine (theatre workshop). Sonnet back last night from a conference in Edinburgh and I return from Paris. Well, it is not what I would have imagined but at least we are together most evenings for dinner. Sometimes.

Me: "Madeleine we have to talk about sugar" [Dad's note: I find a half-empty bag of gums in the kitchen].
Madeleine: "I know Dad. Do we have to talk about it again?"
Me: "You are what you eat. Sugar changes your body. Believe it." 
I absent mindedly eat the candy in front of Madeleine. Madeleine:
Me: "Starting tomorrow."

V&A - Directors Circle

Cast Court
We have our quarterly meeting of the V&A's Directors Circle, led by Nicholas Coleridge who became the museum's Chair in November 2015 (when not moonlighting at the V&A, Nic is the President of Conde Nast International). The Directors Circle raises the dough for upcoming exhibitions and events or general funds - the musuem's annual budget is about £70m of which half comes from commercial activities and donations. We are now pursuing a large gift in return for the naming of the new entrance on Exhibition Road. £5 million cheap.

After our meeting, which includes update presentations from the curators on FuturePlan (futuristic everything) and designer Balenciaga (my otherwise quiet neighbour gushes about her Balenciaga which she wears now, of course), we head for the Cast Court for drinks.

And the Cast Courts are seriously amazing, perhaps my favourite thing inside the V&A. First opened in 1873, the Cast Courts were purpose built to house one of the most comprehensive collections of casts of post-classical European sculpture. Pictured. I meet the new head of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass Department who promises me a tour of the court's balconies - otherwise untouched by visitors for a century and a throwback to the Victorian era. It is really Indiana Jones kind of stuff.

How honoured I am to be on the inside of a spectacular remarkable British institution. It is to Sonnet I bow.

Tuesday, March 8

Rusty Leads

Rusty has a walk
Five years along and nothing learned. And then there is the dog.

Sonnet attends an informational evening to introduce the US college application process to (insane) British and ex-pat parents (mothers).  Sonnet notes that the SATs have been completely revamped and the advisers recommend taking the ACTs as well as the SATs to provide full coverage and reduce any uncertainty from the new SAT format. One can never be too careful about one's future.

I took the ACTs (then known as The Achievement Exams or simply "The Achievements") once, on a Saturday morning in 1984, next to Hinks department store in Berkeley. I chose three subjects, didn't prepare, and never looked back. The SATS another story - Stanley Kaplan, lost afternoons to horrible practise tapes - but even then the preparation barely minimal. Back then it was rare to get a perfect score; today it is de riguerir for the tutored classes.

And one pretty much does have to get a perfect SAT when Stanford accepts 5.1% and the Ivies are generally below 10%.

Canada has it about right: no entrance exam, no recommendations and it is cheaper. Canadians happy in college and thereafter.

Monday, March 7

Hockey Action

Maddy O chases the ball.
Emanuel's A team takes on Ibstock School at the Bank of England, going down 2-zero in a hard fought match that sees our gals out-gunned in the second half. Afterwards each side gives the other two 'hips' and a 'hooray!' followed by chocolate chip cookies.

Madeleine: "It felt so good to yell out there today."
Me: "At home you're 'Madeleine Orenstein', the nerd lost behind her books."
Me: "But on the pitch it's "Maddy O", dragon of fire, fierce and determined athlete."
Madeleine: "Yeah."
Me: "You've developed a bit of a reputation, you know."
Me: "Everybody knows your name."

Sunday, March 6

Me And Eitan

Sonnet and I now frequently reflect on the reality that the Shakespeares will soon be gone. As every parent must agree, these little people who we have watched from the beginning become so interesting. And in a heartbeat our chapter will be over and their book will begin.

Barnes SC And DofE

Eitan prepares for the Duke of Edinburgh 
I have joined the Barnes Swim Club. Practises are in the evenings from 8-9:30PM so not practical but the weekends are 10:30AM for two hours. So, after 28 years, I complete my first workout of 4.5km. As I tell Jan, a New Zealander who trained for 18 months in Ft Lauderdale and now in London and cut like Adonis: "I preferred the old model" when it comes to me. I keep up with him using flippers. At this age, I could care less about etiquette.

Eitan comes in late Friday night and so unable to pack for his D of E overnight "survival" in Surrey. The temperatures around zero and sleeting and I have to force him to take my heavy winter jacket. In the car I ask if he's got his credit card? and he shrugs no way. Some things must be learned the hard way I suppose.

Madeleine: "Can I have some money for dinner?" [Dad's note: Madeleine has some friends over for dinner]
Me: "How much?"
Madeleine: "forty pounds."
Me: "What? When I was your age I never asked for $60 dollars for dinner."
Madeleine: "Yeah because that was like 50 years ago."
Me: "It's a fair point."
Madeleine: "It's my turn anyway. To pay for dinner."
Me: "What does Mom say?"
Madeleine: "40."
Me: "I'll transfer it now. Moe would never approve."
Me: "Now is when I say 'money doesn't grow on trees.'"
Madeleine: "Whatever Dad. Can you just do it now?"

Friday, March 4

Lord Of The Flies

Eitan is Ralph
Eitan is "Ralph" in the school class play "Lord Of The Flies". It's a long showing, to, or about 45 minutes which means the small cast must know their lines. Cold. Eitan is admirable in the lead role, which he is somehow suited for.

From Cliff's Notes: Ralph. The elected leader of the boys and the main protagonist. He is neither the smartest nor the strongest but has a kind of quiet charisma and good looks. He tries to keep the boys focused on domestic order and the rules of civilization but loses his authority and almost his life to Jack's seizure of power.

The boy is happy when it is done.

Tuesday, March 1

Shake It Up

Katie celebrates with her friends Lisa Witter and Jacki Zehner, the CEO of Women Moving Millions, at the WMM gala last summer (WMM mission statement: "To catalyse unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls"). Peas in a pod.

Eitan: "I have an overnight. For the Duke of Edinburgh." [Dad's note: The Duke of Edinburgh's Award (known as DofE) is for those of 14 - 24 years and has three award levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold, based on volunteering, physical, skills and expedition. It is not milquetoast]
Madeleine: "You're camping?"
Eitan: "Yeah. We are testing our survival skills."
Me: "By 'survival' do you mean 'time between trips to McDonald's?'"
Sonnet: "Don't listen to your father."
Me: "Just make sure you take a credit card."
Eitan: "Why should I take a credit card."
Me: "Isn't this about survival?"
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "So take a credit card. Tesco is your oyster."
Me: "Well I'm glad that's sorted."

Godzilla Rises

Today is Super Tuesday in the US and we are all interested in Trump, whose fat face is about everywhere. The Republicans have created him, they deserve him, and God hope he does not become the next US president. Interestingly Bernie Sanders polls better against Trump than Clinton - not surprising, I suppose, given the shrinking Middle Class like a bunch of angry hornets. They are pissed off at the status quo, Washington and mainly the Republican party who has delivered them nothing. They don't want an insider like Hillary or Rubio who might actually be able to govern. No, they want blood.

Because of Trump, Senate seats that should not be contested are suddenly in play. The Senate not helping itself by failing to meet any proposed SCJ nomination by Obama to replace that fuck Scalia and his anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-gun, Citizens United court. 

The waters have been poisoned for many years and now Godzilla rises from the radioactive muck.