Saturday, July 2

Yo G

Wimbledon has started and that can only mean one thing: Rain. In fact this has been one of the worst summers I can remember, wet dreary weather day in, day out. As I tell my friends: "We choose to live here."

Sonnet and I find ourselves without kids. Madeleine with boyfriend Ben (nice kid, firm handshake) and Eitan to a party. We go to yoga, followed by dinner in front of the TV, dog at our feet. Red wine rolls me into bed. Pretty much perfect Friday evening.

Eitan is now 6 foot even and Madeleine 5-6.  The boy never really stops eating, or relaxing, when he is in the house. Growing is hard work.

Madeleine returns from a track meet running a 2:25 for the 800, same time last three outings at this distance. She craves improvement.

We text:
Madeleine: Yo g can you send me the 24 you owe me from the weekend g?
Me: Done g
Madeleine: Thanks g
Me: You bet g

Anchorage Reunion

Laura and Heather doing a tour of Europe as Curtis (Heather's husband) concludes a sanskrit conference in Oslo. Curtis, who received a free-ride Harvard PhD on the subject, is a professor at Univ of Virginia and at the very top of his niche field of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism study. He tells me the conference was a real geek fest. I bet. Curtis made his name discovering a 12h Century Hindu poet who had been lost across the ages and languages.

Curtis and I discuss the Buddhist caves of Beziklik, which Sonnet and I visited in '97, in Central Asia on the northern edge of the Taklakan Desert.

Laura and Heather, meanwhile, grew up with Sonnet in Alaska as teenagers. Their father an IBM salesmen who was stationed in Anchorage for six years before returning to the Lower 48. They attended the alternative secondary school, Steller High, which attracted the eccentrically smart or oddly misplaced (school tagline: "based on the philosophy of responsible freedom, personal initiative, and individualized education").

Today Laura is a primary grade teacher at Manhattan County School on 85th and Columbus, across the street from my 2nd NYC apartment. The school founded in 1966 during the Civil Rights era as an independent progressive school with equality, social justice, and diverse community and from the inspiration of Martin Luther King, Jr. It all fits together.

Saturday, June 25

On Record

West Hamstead
We meet Lisa who may help Eitan and Madeleine with US college applications. The stats are daunting : for the non-financial aid white-applicant the % of the accepted pool is 40% which means less than 2% overall for Harvard and Stanford. Further, the application process way more complex than my day. And we are doing it from the UK with different deadlines and academic datas. In short, we are driving blind.

Lisa rachets the sales pitch informing that "you are now on record" since Eitan has made his GCSE choices. On record ? Like permanent record ? Sonnet turns white.

Lisa rattles off GCSEs, As, SATs, ACTs, extra curicular activities and essays; selection (2,472 universities) , donations etc etc.  The process a full time job requiring a network with the schools, coaches, alumni and local mums also sending their little dears to the USA for information share, gossips and support.

So Lisa , should we go with her, will take "the conversation off the dinner table" as our friend Tony, who recommends her, informs me (Both his girls went to Univ of Pennsylvania). In return we give her a bunch of money.

Afterwards we have dinner at Pizza East at the Golborne and Portobello Road (Trellick tower in background) for a summer city feel good vibe. It's buzzy.


Well that was cool.

Little Britain will soon be out of the European Union. The odds-makers and punters, until Thursday night's vote, expected the UK to remain but 52% of the voters said otherwise. The shock outcome has resulted in a decline in Stirling by 7-8% (far less btw when the country borrowed from the IMF in '78 and the pound fell a third or the exit from the FX mechanism in 1992 when it went down 25%), decline of 3-4% of the Footsie and a Moody's down-grade. Painful but no crisis.

Longer term, who knows ? But it is clear the new uncertainty will make foreign investment less likely not more. Europe will wish to punish Britain with tariffs and Obama has confirmed we will be "at the end of the queue" for trade agreements.  Cameron resigns. Junker has demanded we negotiate the separation without delay.

UK banks may leave to access Europe. If Brexit kills The City, it will have choked the goose that lays the golden egg. Do not forget, dear reader, that London exports £25b to the rest of the country  (London 60% in favour of Remain).

As for the leaver's objective - border control - immigrants will continue to enter the British economy because we need them, especially for skills the country does not manufacture or labour the Brits won't do. Unless, of course, the economy shrinks which is now possible following 2% growths for the last 3 years creating 1m+ jobs.

So Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have won the day. Could it happen in the USA ? The odds-makers gave Brexit much less chance than Trump becoming President (17-1 against vs. 4-1 against).

Sunday, June 19

Summer Yard Work

The kids give me their Saturday to help with yard-work. The front tree sheds every God damn leaf it owns.

If my unscientific survey of cab drivers is any indication, Britain is heading for an exit from the European union. The cabbies report that 8 or 9 out of ten of their passengers are for the Brexit. One would think London would have a greater number of Remain candidates given the jobs in financial services and the property markets.

Should Britain cede from the EU, Scotland will surely present a referendum next year to leave the UK and stay in Europe. It will be the end of Great Britain.

Madeleine: "I'm done."
Me: "You will finish the yard-work when we are all done."
Madeleine: "You said one hour."
Me: "Finish the job."
Madeleine: "You said one hour."
Me: "Madeleine I could use your help. Come on."
Madeleine: "You said one hour."
Me: "You will finish when I say so."
Madeleine: "I expect to be paid."
Me: "I assumed it."

Eitan: "Have you seen the brownies?" [Dad's note: Sonnet hides the brownies from me and Eitan]
Me: "Nope. Try the usual places."
25 minutes later. Me: "Any luck?"
Eitan: "Nah."
Me: "Keep looking kid."

Sonnet Jigs

Sonnet stops by Friday for lunch in St James's Square.

I continue to adapt to my new neighborhood with new sandwich bars, coffee shops and transportation links. I also must adjust to the commute, which is 45 minutes to an hour depending on the connections. I use the time to answer emails and find it highly efficient.

In 2003 the average UK commute was 45 minutes, in 2011 it was 54 minutes. That compares with 70 minutes in Portugal, 80 minutes in Ivory Coast and a 23 minutes in Italy. The world average is about 40 minutes.

Friday, June 17

Still Teddy After All These Years

Teddy the bear
"Open Heart" (surgery) Teddy remains in Eitan's bedroom. It splits the difference between the boy and the young man, a fade which occurs before our very eyes. 

I, too, had a stuffed bear (white, same name) which was with me to high school, hidden away in the cupboard, until tossed unceremoniously.

Tuesday, June 14

Ruby Tuesday

Rusty: A momentary pause from crazy
The old oak in our front yard sheds, like, its entire folio in two weeks. I hired local teenager Will to assist me and he lasted one weekend. So usually it falls on me to do the rake-up job. I can no longer hoist it on the kids who have their sports, school and social lives to tend to.

Eitan's official time at the Middlesex Championships is 4.21 in the 1500, a 5 second PB. His body is catching up to his ambition. Mark, his coach, thinks he should be gunning for 4 minutes.

Me: "4.21 is flying."
Eitan: "I'm pretty happy with it."
Me: "Must be nice to get a freebie like that."
Eitan: "What do you mean?"
Me: "Your body is growing. Along with the hard work."
Me: "And one day it will only be the hard work. But it won't stop you and may be to your advantage."

Me: "Did you see Ben?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "What did you guys talk about for ten minutes?"
Madeleine: "Can somebody just open up the door Dad?"
Me: "Hey it's awkward for me to kid."

Sunday, June 12

The Queen is 90

Arthur and I on the water metro pass by the Tower Bridge as the Queen goes by in her row boat. I'm not kidding. Canons rumble. Fighter jets fly overhead then other military vehicles and finally the Blue Eagles (I think) who cover the sky in blue, red and white. It's Her Majesty's 90th.

The country celebrates with block parties and BBQs and a million people show up at the Pall Mall. A celebration and a touch of rain ? Carry on.

Sunday Morning Lull

Photo of the river facing eastward, about 10AM on a muggy morning. To the right is Oxo pier and tower; the left is the ancient JP Morgan bank which once held Britain's gold reserves until the country went off the Gold Standard in 1931 (it is still rumoured to hold billions of pounds of gold). The Blackfriars Bridge crosses the river and covered with solar panelling. Behind the bridge is St Paul's and The City.

The tide is out.

Arthur Returns

Arthur and I re-union at Track 18, Waterloo Station, to begin a four hour walk along the Thames Path ending up beyond the Isle of Dogs/ Canary Wharf.  It is always extraordinary to uncover different neighbourhoods and small plaques presenting history long forgotten.

Last we saw Arthur, he was retiring from TRW following 30 years of service. His last project : working on an anti-missile defence program targeting ICBMs in Iran, a project employing over 500 engineers from Fairfax to Irvine, California. In my mind's eye, I picture a bunch of bearded software geniuses arriving at a warehouse with an enormous rocket in the middle, allowing them to tinker. Instead, Arthur informs, it is one of the most sterile environments he has ever worked : silent rows of cubicles and offices bathed in unnatural light. His job to ensure the pieces operate together, also known as 'systems engineering.' This leads to a discussion the Wright Brothers and so on and so forth.

Author in California keeping busy rebuilding his house.


Madeleine and Eva catch the train for Surrey and a weekend of hiking and survival for the Duke of Edinburgh award. They gals hike 7 hours Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday.

Madeleine meant to take a pizza for lunch only Eitan arrives home late from a party and eats it. The pizza meant for Eitan was, in turn, eaten by Rusty who sets off the chain of shouting and recriminations. It was a large, btw, and the dog had to open the oven to get it.

Brexit 50:50 but my bet is the unknown unknown will keep Britain in. I sure hope so.

Study Time

Madeleine studies
The scores roll in and the kid has done great.

Eitan runs the 1500 Middlesex County Champs. He places 7th of 18 in the finals; time to be verified : it is likely 4:25. Meanwhile Madeleine ranked 142 in the country for U15s with a 2:25 800m.

Dog Vines

It is that time of year again. No frog spawn though (to Sonnet's relief). Time rolls on.

Gracie has a successful operation to remove an early cancer. She is now home recovering and Moe is the nurse. Katie there as well.

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.