Sunday, July 31

Wonderful Willa

This kid has it all
Allow me to introduce the blog to Willa, the child of Marcus and Adrienne, and the reason why we all care about the future. She is a jewel : chubby cheeked, well tempered and curious. Marcus is a wonderful father, singing while changing diapers, holding Willa in the pool and granting her enough space to drown (same as I did with Madeleine), always listening and caring. He is teaching Willa sign language to communicate her basic needs : pinching fingers means 'more', for instance.

We drive over the mountains to spend our last night in Denver, joining Whitney and Frank for dinner. Beecher and Bill no longer with us and their shadow cast long. Tess  is now a teenager and Thea on her coat tails.

Black Canyon Again

Thunderstorms are coming
Madeleine and I hike the Black Canyon and Painted Wall which I have had the joy of photographing on a few occasions most famously in 2011 at dawn. In the pitch dark. Scrambling on rocks next to the 2,000 foot drop to the Colorado River (almost twice the Empire State Building in height). Madeleine shudders and refuses to get within 10 feet of the ledge; and further - I won't let her.

Our lazy days go by in a blink. Highlights include family, the movies - Star Trek, who has the time these days? - the RNC clown show (The Giuliani scream. The Melania Trump plagiarism. The Mike Pence botched VP announcement. The Ted Cruz non-endorsement), Stan's blueberry grumble, seeing Marcus and Willa. Sleeping and napping. Feeling normal, letting my anxiety melt away (but returning full force for the airport home).

OK, we didn't make the Red Barn which is under new management anyway and Ted Nelson, the manager, has moved across the road to 'Nelson's' taking his steak eating, martini draining crowd with him. Reminds me of Sonoma. Good times and doing good.

Monument Park

Monument Canyon
We hike inside Monument Park. The temps are over 90 degrees. Madeleine and I join Chris, an endurance runner preparing for the Leadville 100, a 100 mile race from 10k to 14k feet (Chris: I used to be obsessed with drinking beer and my wife said I should find another obsession). He is 13 miles into a 22 mile run and asks : do you have any water ? (We don't) Chris and his wife moved from St Louis to Grand Junction in 2009 to start a new life and lifestyle. Says he, "Pretty obvious move." Indeed.

We are blessed to know this part of the world.

Madeleine: "Can we go to Walmart to get American candy for my friends?"
Me: "Sure."
In Walmart. Me: "You definitely want some 'Now and Laters', which you eat now and are still eating later. And a Charleston Chew. Oh, and Skittles. But skip the Three Muskateers which is, like, a Milky Way without the caramel or a Snickers without the caramel and peanuts. Bunk"
Madeleine: "I love Skittles."
Me: "I'd also get a bunch of those Hot Tamales. Nobody eats Milk Duds or Raisinettes unless you're at the movies so I'd stay away from them. Butterfingers are awesome and a nice balance for your chocolate and caramels. Score Bars def my favourite."
Madeleine: "Yep."
Me: "Any kid hates Almond Joys since its coconut. Seriously. M&Ms and Reeses are sooo dated. Mr Goodbar, Boston Baked Beans or Mike & Ikes and Crunch Bar are old school and set you apart. Bit 'O Honey is great when you are coming down for a sugar high."
Madeleine: "Gee, Dad, I didn't know we had so much to talk about."

The Mesa

Grand Mesa
The Grand Mesa is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world. It has an area of about 500 square miles and stretches ca. 40 miles east of Grand Junction between the Colorado River and the Gunnison River, its tributary to the south. The mesa rises 6,000 feet above the surrounding river valleys, reaching an elevation of 11k feet with a maximum elevation of 11.3 k at Crater Peak.

Me, at a Shell gas station in South Park, Colorado: "I think you charged me twice." [Dad's note: Dad prepays for gas then charged for the final amount].
Cashier: "You have not been charged twice Sir."
Me: "There are two signed slips. Shouldn't we rip one up or I receive a credit?"
Cashier: "I have told you, you have not been charged twice. You can't have the receipt back."
Me: "It is not clear to me."
Cashier: "I don't know how you do things in England, but this is how we do things here, in America."
Me: "What does that have to do with anything? I just want to make sure I'm not charged twice."
Cashier: "Sir please change your tone with me." [Dad's note: three police officers walk over."
Me: "I just want an explanation."
The store manager arrives, outside: "Sir I must apologies profusely. My father bought this gas station in 1974. I assure you I will take care of this problem."
Later, Sonnet: "Well that was interesting."
Madeleine: "Were you going to jail Dad?"
Me: "Know your rights kid."

BBC News: "A man has jumped 25 thousand feet into a safety net in the state of Southern California. It has been televised on live television in America. Of course."


Daughter, father
We drive a familiar route, HW 50, from Monarch Pass to the Western Slope and Stan.  It is beautiful country. We stay in a suite at the Red Arrow, family style. 

Montrose's giant Walmart is a bloated tick on the edge of Montrose that has robbed the town of its old Main Street and killed many of the local shops whose proprietors will vote for Trump alongside Walmart employees being paid minimum wage. A number of state-legal weed shops are spotted on the edge of town with advertisements for "grow" by the highway. Guns are found next to coffee and grocery stores. Sadly we've just missed the Olathe corn festival which begins after we leave.

Stan is healthy and in fine spirits, keeping busy with the house and various related projects. He has a harem of women looking over him including Diane, who shares the house. Diane is a wonderful liberal who wears jeans and cowboy boots - she is off to the Montrose fair hoe-down for some serious country dancing. We also see Katie who is Stan's special friend; she is a classical pianist who started a concert series with her late husband. She invites us into her home for a pool swim and BBQ.

Sonnet and Marcus spend a day sorting through Silver's papers and personal effects, and discover letters dating from camp and as a school girl, photos from her college days, and teaching materials from Silver's favourite courses like 'Women's Autobiography", which I have discussed with former students including, once, a woman met on the Eurostar.

Salida Sunset

View from Moire and Turk's home
We rejoin Sonnet and Madeleine in Denver following a day with the Claydons, who are doing their own journey across America.

SUV loaded up with luggage and stories, we drive the Monarch pass crossing the Continental Divide with a stop in Salida to see Molly and Tim (otherwise in Paraguay teaching but moving to La Veta next year), Robin and Martine, Marcus and Willa, and Turk and Moire who recently bought a house in Salida to be close to the skiing. Smart move. Salida one of those up-and-coming communities with a bit of local history, surrounded by mountains and good clean living : it is also getting the spill-over from Boulder and similar towns where houses sell for a mil or more.

Turk, we may recall, is a paramedic with an unwavering eye that exudes confidence. He has founded an ambulance company in Denver. At the reception of Turk and Moire's wedding, one of the guests went into cardiac arrest. In a flash, Turk and five guys on him, saving his life. A pretty good story to be retold with family. Pretty good place to have a heart attack.

Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak overlook
Eitan and I top Pikes Peak, the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The ultra-prominent 14,115-foot 'fourteener' is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles west by south of downtown Colorado Springs. The mountain is named after American explorer Zebulon Pike who was unable to reach the summit. The peak is higher than any point in the US east of its longitude.

I love this photo, which is how I see myself in my mind's eye. Were it always so.

Me: "You guys come a long way?" [15 or so bikers on Harley Davidsons, leathers, bald heads and American flag bandannas]
Biker 1: "From Iowa. Outside Des Moines."
Me: "Is it your crew? Do you guys always travel together?"
Biker 2: "Yeah, you could say we've known each other for a while."
Biker 1: "Just need to hit the road every now and again. Get out and see things, y'know ?"
Me: "I heard that."
Biker 1: "They killed another cop. Today, in Baton Rouge."
Me: "What is going on in this country ? Every day there is a shooting somewhere."
Biker 2: "It's no small thing when they're shooting police. Somebody's got to go away for that."
Me: "Why do you think it's happening?"
Biker 3: "Not my business. But if I had my way, no police would get shot."
Biker 2: "You got those problems in England?"
Me: "No. No guns either."
Biker 2: "That's your opinion."
Biker 3: "The guns aren't doing the shoot'n."

Crags Trail Hike

Crags Trail
Eitan and I hike the Crags Trail (#664A) which completes at Pikes Peak (14.1k alt), ascending from the Crags campsite at c. 9k. The dirt path is up and up, shocking us from the git-go. 

Along the first half, granite erodes horizontally into monumental slabs resembling stacks of gigantic red pancakes. The same rock forms vertically into collections of cusps. A few miles south of Divide CO, the formations are called “The Crags.” 

The hike passes a granite dome (another kind of erosive pattern in this neck of the woods), formed by glaciers millions of years ago. We pass through forests of enormous quaking aspen, and trace the track of the beginnings of Four Mile Creek. At the end we surmount a wind swept dome from which we gaze at the Rampart Range, Ute Pass, and the whole of the Catamount Creeks drainage. The friendly mountain flowers dot the trail and large clouds pass overhead.

From here, it is onwards to Devil's Playground (named for lighting jumping between boulders) followed by the final assent along boulders and skree, which is challenging and exhausting, forcing stops and patience. It compares easily to the final push of a marathon.  Eitan and I are relieved to reach the top. More so given the concessionary stand that accommodates the end of the Pikes Peak highway. The boy has a cheeseburger while I am content t gulp Gatorade.  

From the peak, it is downhill but not easy, taxing a different set of muscles entirely; we jog some of the way to speed up the time.

Total time: 7 hours.

Me, Sunday 8AM, gas station Route 25, El Paso County: "Does the girl come with the add?" [a counter advertisement presents an attractive women encouraging us to try Skoal chewing tobacco]
Cashier,: "Would cost a bit more, I imagine."
Me: "You from around here?" 
Cashier: "Yep. Grew up just outside town." 
Me: "Trump or Hillary?"
Cashier: "Neither."
Me: "You not going to vote?"
Cashier: "I served in the military 22 years. I served two tours in Iraq. Can't stand neither of them. All they do is lie. And haven't done noth'n for me."
Cashier: "But I have a plan."
Cashier: "Put a bullet in both their heads."
Me: "Check."


Green Mountain Falls (c. 9.5k altitude)
Eitan and I split from Sonnet and Madeleine, who head for Buffalo to see Marcus and Adrienne. The boy and I fly to Denver to hike the Eastern Rockies (he's plugged into his phone and music; little talking during the trip). Our first two nights spent in Colorado Springs driving to trailheads for medium walks of 3-5 hours at altitudes from 6k to 9,000 feet. We do what dudes do: eat a lot of food, sleep and chillax. I mean 'hang out.' Eitan is a private person, has always been, and it is good to check in with this fine young man. His height may be 6 foot and his body strong, but he still grows inside and out.

The Orensteins

Our reunions once or twice a year joining California, New York and London. And to think, Gracie from Upper Arlington, Ohio (pop. 34k) and Moe from St Louis, Missouri - as Midwest as one gets. Our story written in the stars when my parents met in the Peace Corps and delivered to Malawi, Africa. No way were Katie and I staying at home and missing out on all that.

To New York

Bronxville commute
Katie enjoys success from the organisation she founded from an idea, her determination and an ever expanding community who fight for equal representation in mainstream editorial opinion. Since the Op-ed, women's editorial voice now exceeds 25%. Katie profiled in this month's Forbes magazine as one of the movers and shakers of her generation. Damn Straight.

We catch the train to Grand Central Station which is always a pleasure when doing so as a tourist.  I have a couple work meetings to attend to, as does Sonnet at The Met.

New York may have cleaned up from the 1970s and the peak of the murder market (1992) but it still is a hot mess which, to me, seems like bits and pieces flying about freestyle, fastened to Manhattan by magic. Unlike Tokyo, which is clean, organised and modern, New York feels like it could crumble tomorrow with those old brick buildings standing tall against the skyscrapers. But who cares about the ancient infrastructure ? It is about the food, sex, theatre, arts and film and the work. Always the work. A grind, for sure, but what else is there ?

Me: "How come I never surprise you reading a book? It's always the iPhone."
Eitan: "I read books."
Me: "Do you really think your college application will be stronger from the hundreds of hours you put into your mobile phone?"
Eitan: "What's your point?"
Me: "Why don't you apply yourself to something Big instead of wasting time?"
Eitan: "I do. Like running. And the play." [Dad's note: Eitan is 'Chino' in Hampton's West Side Story]
Gracie to me: "Give him a break. He's a teenager and he is doing a marvellous job. He will find his way."


Moe chillaxes
Moe and Gracie join the family in Bronxville, something my mom would not miss following a recent operation (double mastectomy). It is a wonderful reunion where we see Katie, Marcia and Larry and Carla who joins from Akron, Ohio, with gossips on the upcoming RNC.  She says everyone in Ohio will vote Trump. Larry also supports Trump while Marcia is all for Hillary, are are the rest of us. We do not discuss politics.

I remark on the wrought iron railings which the crew repainted in 2009. It has held up well. 

Eitan and Madeleine go to the high school track to keep their running conditioned. Both are UK top 150 for their age group : Eitan in the 1500 and 800; Madeleine in the 800m. There are still a number of races to go before the season's August-end including the British champs. Plus it gets them out of the house.

Me: "Are you chillaxing?"
Me: "So are you ?"
Madeleine: "Never use that word again."

New England

Tony and Susan

The dust has settled on our trip and time to catch up the blog. 

Whilst Eitan at soccer camp, we visit Tony and Susan in Boston's back-bay and Scott and Cindy in Tiverton, a charming Rhode Island town by the Narragansett Bay which their charming New England home looks over. Scott recently acquired a school house (also on the water) and is renovating 10,000 square feet into a live-work space where he anticipates poetry readings and topical lectures drawing from the Tiverton community of artists, writers and retired and summer businessmen and women. Today it is a work in progress but one can see the end result and it is gonna be great.

We return to Brown, pick up the boy, who informs his camp was a great success, and drive the I-95 South to Bronxville. I am flooded me memories of yesteryear when I frequented this route and the world yet a blank page. 

Wednesday, July 13


We pull into Cambridge to visit Eric and Simona and Tony and Susan.

Eric says, rubbing his morning red blood shot eyes, "Jeff's blog is a literary masterpiece casting a shadow across the centuries." What he really means, is get off my back, you prick. Same as it always was.

Eric's house, since last time here, has been remodelled opening up the kitchen to light and the backyard, which is filled by an apple and cherry tree that border the garden, water fed by 50 gallon drums placed strategically around the property.  There are chairs and a table for drinking coffee or eating dinner outside, under the stars.

Eric's genius kids are driving cross-country contemplating first job and life (Ben); anticipating freshman year and improv theatre at Emerson College (Jonah); and being a teenager (Isabelle).

Sunday, July 10

Brown Soccer Camp

Sonnet, Eitan, Madeleine and I pull into Providence to drop the boy off at Brown soccer camp.

We park near the new aquatics complex and Eitan and I go for a run along Blackstone Boulevard. Haven't done that in 25 years. Along the route, we pass maybe 10 houses I painted in 1987-88, each bringing back some weird memory of a different era. That's where the 40 ft ladder went through a front window; over there is where a gallon of paint spilled on the manicured lawn.

We tour campus which is beautiful and new.  Our guide, a 'rising' Senior, studies computer science and the classics and digitally mapped ancient Rome for a class project; he is also the reigning campus drag queen.  We pass Sayles and Faunce Halls, The Rockefeller Library, Sci Li, Keeney Quad and Wayland Arch. All as familiar as yesterday.

Eitan nervous about the camp but his blank stair gives little away.  His quarter inch haircut makes him look English. And kinda mean.

Wednesday, July 6

Buzz Cut

Summer look
Eitan cuts his hair. It is unclear Why, but I admit it is different. Nothing is uncool if you are a 15 year old. I did it for swimming around the same age.

We prepare for our evening departure to the USA. Sonnet in full execution mode. I and the kids have our marching orders and we will be out the door at 15h40.00 sharp.


Court 1
Sonnet and I attend Wimbledon, one of the great true pleasures of living in London. The All England Club's 19 tournament grass courts are enclosed on private grounds surrounded by trees, council blocks and mansion houses. Enthusiasts sleep over-night in tents then queue for hours for a chance at tickets. A banked hill, sometimes called Henmen Hill, offers a gathering place to watch the Centre Court action on an enormous jumbotron. It is a festive celebration of tennis and wealth; everybody happy and healthy. The world's problems a million miles away.

The Chilcot Report on the Iraq invasion and war released after long delay. 

Sunday, July 3

Dog's Breakfast

Rusty don't care
As the political farce escalates from "House Of Cards" to "Game Of Thrones", I and Britain are left to ponder: Who is running this show ? We have entered George W territory : action without plan. And the UK has none : the Brexiteers are already back-peddling on the promises and mis-representations they sold the country. NHS windfall of £350m a month ? No. Reduced immigration ? Nope. Better or at leaset equal trade with the EU ? Dream on. 

70 years of post-War integration to be renegotiated piecemeal - consider the wasted time that could be spent on something else. Anything else.

David Cameron will be remembered for his fantastic own goal, possibly ending the UK, certainly negating all the positives he has delivered covering gay marriage to the country's return to economic prosperity and even the Scottish referendum.

And Labour ? How on earth did the shadow government who supported the EU get Jeremy Corbyn, a disgrace to the working classes Labour meant to represent ? This jackass did Zero to promote his party line and his constituents, who instead voted Brexit, will likely suffer the most.  Certainly more than the hedge fund capitalists and Mayfair jet set. Corbyn has to go, but he doesn't so it will happen for him. Good riddance.

If anything, these Brits are pragmatic but these are testing times.

Every nation gets the government it deserves.
--Alexis de Tocqueville

Madeleine Is DDG

The kid is fabulous, what more can I say ? Teachers love her enthusiasm in class and her dedication to her work (top marks on year-end exams); scholar athlete ranked in the UK top 130 in the 800 meters. Excellent friends who are the eccentrics and unusuals, kids I rate.  14 years old.  I could not be more proud of this young woman.

Michael Gove

You dick!
--Jeff Spicoli

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."