Saturday, October 29

My Mother

My Mom in her fancy wig. She is soldiering on with a lot to live for. The chemo will be done on December 27.  The mother-son relationship is a special thing.

My parents keep to their normal routine : Moe is up at 4AM and at the Berkeley Y by 5AM, where he sees his fellow gym rats who exchange jokes and insults. I bump into the famous Jack Ball, who is part of the crew. Jack was my PE teacher in 7th grade, and has memories of Katie and me, age 11, running around the King Jr High track or doing pull ups or other some such thing. I do believe we set records for the Jr High mile (me, 5:50)

We join Rob and Sloan, plus their fab kids Sophie and Jaimes for dinner in Mill Valley. Sophie, a Sophomore, is thriving. Her brain is going 100 miles a minute as she jumps from a home work project, to the school play to social media and then her friends. She occupies the space with her stories. Jaimes, not to be over shadowed by her older sister, is excelling in gymnastics and competing at the state level. She won a big tournament and was rewarded with a family dog, Bear (Rob and Sloan set the challenge assuming she would not win the thing). Bravo !

HW 1 Revisited

Madeleine and I drive along HW1. The world may be a'changing but the California coastline is just
as I remember it.

We start in Santa Cruz looking for surf but the ocean is unaccommodating. Instead, we walk along the shoreline checking out the scene which, mid-week, is mostly middle-aged types walking their dogs. Where are the surfer dudes , I wonder ? No doubt at 3 or 4 mile point, classic breaks shown to me by Danny when he was a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz and writing about the surfing life. His book, 'Caught Inside', made a literary ripple.

We end our day at Mike and Andrea's for dinner, including fab kids Eli and Ruby. Missing is Oscar, who is now in Manhattan making a go at the fashion world. We recall fondly his visit.

Madeleine btw will either go to college in California or end up here with a back pack.

Tuesday, October 25

Rapid Transit

Ashby station
Madeleine and I in Berkeley visiting Moe and Gracie (who receives her 7th chemo session as I write).  Yesterday we catch BART to San Francisco to kick around Market St and do some shopping. Sushi included, of course. 

Madeleine rediscovers the joys swimming, which is somehow perfect for jet lag and (for me) life. We do our laps at the Golden Bear Rec Club off Durant in the North Berkeley Hills. The vistas of the Bay Area are superb and seeing the blue sky sure beats the indoor pools I must accept in London. An added bonus : This is where I trained my last year of High School.

Sunday, October 23

Eitan Is A Shark

The after play
Eitan has a full run of West Side Story, four nights at Hampton School, sold out each time. Sonnet and I attend two performances, and it is a pleasure to see these kids (Hampton and Lady Eleanor Holles School) put on a professional production, including a full student orchestra.

Eitan is Pepe in the Sharks and is present in the prologue and the rumble scenes, which are beautifully choreographed movement sequences. Eitan has several lines and dances and sings his heart out. He is brilliant, in this observer's unbiased opinion.

After the play, Sonnet and I wait eagerly for the young actors to appear. Eitan arrives sweaty and joyous and gives us hugs, including Madeleine (momentarily stunned by such largess). He is all chitter chatter on the drive home. How proud we are of him.

Me (In Paris, walking by a lingerie shop): "Want to help me pick out something for Mom?"
Madeleine: "You are disgusting, Dad." 

Sunday, October 16

Paris Morning

Left bank (river flows westward)
It is the kind of morning one would wish to wake up with when one is in Paris.

The French, being a gallic nation, generally start late (by American standards) with the best part of the day spilling into the night. Sundays are a lock-down until about 1 or 2PM; until then, it is utterly calm with few Parisiennes on the street. 

At the Picasso museum, I ask the girls to select a favourite art and be prepared to discuss it over dinner. Both go for a series of eight paintings of Picasso's muse and lover from 1925-37, Marie-Therese Walter. The relationship began when she was 17 and he 45, and still living with his first wife Olga Khokholva. The whole thing blew up when Picasso moved on to his next mistress Dora Maar (who Picasso painted in a dark deformed frame,s unlike M-T whose portraits are more sympathetic).

And mine, you may ask ? Giacometti's 'Standing Man', on display as part of a temporary expo comparing Picasso and Giaco.

Madeleine on M-T "I like the expressions which change in each painting. It's like you know what she is thinking."

On The Mohito

Following dinner we find a cocktail bar and sit for a glass of wine (me) and I allow one glass of champagne for the girls.

Madeleine: "Can I have a gin and tonic?" 
Me: "No."
Laurie: "What's in a gin and tonic?"
Me: "I'll give you one hint."
Me: "It's not vodka."
Laurie: "Oh, I get it."
Madeleine: "How about a Mohito. Can I get one of those?"
Me: "Definitely not a Mohito. Besides, it is the most dangerous drink imaginable."
Madeleine: "Huh?"
Me: "If you have three Mohitos you go blind. Fact."
Madeleine: "Blind? Blind. blind !"
Me: "You are skating on the edge of insanity when you imbibe that devil drink."
Madeleine: "I cannot believe that."
Me: "True. Scientific. Just don't get any ideas."
Madeleine: "I never know if you're joking, Dad."

Greetings From The Marais

Are we there yet ?
Sonnet in the Midwest to visit a museum in Kansas City then St Louis, MO, for Kevin's wedding. Kevin an ancient friend from San Francisco. Then it is Montrose to see Marcus and Stan, who has accepted an offer on his house.  

The home leaves good memories, like parking Eitan's baby crib in the guest room closet so he would sleep. Or the time I was up at 5AM, jet legged, to go running and bumped into Silver wearing a full-body gas mask. We waved at each other (Silver allergic to dust, and was dusting the plans). The dinner table conversations and the full moon rising above the Rockies.

Whilst Sonnet travels,  I take Madeleine and Laurie to Paris 4e in the heart of the Marais.  The girls are a joy, giggling and serious - interested in shopping and anything vintage - we split our time between the back streets, felafels, stores and museums. Yesterday it was Picasso and streak frites. Today it is glorious sunshine.

Eitan (who is with Aggie) shrugs it all off, going to a party Friday and home to revise Saturday night. Back in the day, it would have meant a Love Boat and Fantasy Island double-header.

Tuesday, October 11


Madeleine stops by our room every evening for Sonnet to blow dry her hair.

Sonnet: "No way are you having a party at our house."
Madeleine: "What ?!"
Sonnet: "After we re-do the interior this Autumn, I am not letting a bunch of teenage monsters trash the place."
Madeleine: "That is so unfair."
Me to Madeleine: "Talk to me on this one."
Sonnet: "Hmmm."
Me: "At Eitan's party, I was going to play some tunes." (Dad's note: I can control the living room speakers from my iPhone)
Me: "Justin Bieber."
Madeleine: "Oh. My. God."
Me: "Your Mom stopped me from doing it."
Madeleine: "When I have a party, you are not allowed. Downstairs. Ever."

Sunday, October 9

Post Party

Eitan and Fred
Does one laugh or cry ?  The Tories float the idea of British companies being forced to register their foreign workers while Teresa May pushes for Article 50 in March 2017 triggering a hard countdown to the Brexit. The markets freak and Sterling drops to a 31 year low at 1.18 against the dollar before rebounding to 1.23. When we arrived, it was over 2. My Euro friends are disgruntled.

As if Europe is going to enter friendly agreements : we block European labour flows, Europe blocks our easy access to the largest trading block in the world. We lose the the best talented people and free trade. 

Talk about an own goal. 

I just did a Google search for 'Trump' and 'pussy'. 

Here is what he said and certainly would have denied if not on tape:
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.”
“I did try and fuck her. She was married.”
“Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

Idiots and racists will still vote for Trump. 

Saturday Night Lights

Eitan throws a party at 45 inviting 60 or so friends.  We empty the house and sweep the backyard; Eitan fine-tunes his play list and Sonnet prepares food and snacks. And beer - what party would last without the booze ? True then and true now. So we set aside our concerns and buy six cases of Amstel and Budweiser, which is gone within one hour of the start.

The boys arrive mostly first, trickling in, respectful while avoiding eye contact with me, the adult supervision. I check each name from a list. The girls arrive in groups, on display like Christmas ornaments. Their water bottles contain vodka and gin, which I mostly let ride. 

It is a real pleasure to see how excited the kids are to see each other, hugging and shouting over the drum.

The living room speakers (inherited with the house) are professional and make the house shake. I am rather proud of it.

Madeleine and her friends slink around the dark edges of the action.

Sonnet and I banished to the upstairs. We eavesdrop and I drop downstairs to make sure everything remains under control and nothing broken nor kids puking. We order late night pizza for the stragglers and clean up the mess.

Saturday, October 8

Oxford or Bust

For posterity, here is the gang reunited. Zubulin, third from left, got all A* on his GCSE exams this year and will likely study maths at Cambridge.  Ava (2nd from right) now plays for Arsenal FB and represents England.  Zoe (missing) accepted to Oxford and began in September. Rusty, meanwhile, got his bone.

Trump is a clown and not worth discussing. Theresa May, who is not a clown, sent Sterling into a free fall as the financial markets reacted to her words on a strong brexit. This stupid country may deliver what 51% of the British population seem to want - immigration control - while killing foreign investment and access to the European markets. Brussels will do all it can to stick it to this country and prevent other countries from splitting the union; until now, The City has been impregnable. Paris and Zurich are sharpening their knives. Without thriving London, say goodbye to the golden eggs.

Those Eigenstrains

Math genius in repose
We go for our autumnal walk in Oxford with the Three Zees plus Nita and Alain who is occupied with a paper titled: "Universal Eigenstrains and Deformations in Compressible Isotropic Solids." All I can say is: what the fuck is that all about ? 

To prepare the research, Alain teamed up with a genius Iranian named Arash Yavari who received his applied maths PhD at CalTech and states, on his website, that his interest is "developing systematic theories of discrete mechanics for crystalline solids with defects." I always went with distance running or travelling. 

Sadly dudes like Arash will surely be discouraged from coming to Britain following Brexit.

Eric is the only friend I can think of who might know about an Eigenstrain. Or Ben. Anyways, for all those interested, here is a brief on Alain's thesis : 

"Finite eigenstrains in a nonlinear solid can be modelled by a Riemannian material manifold with a metric that explicity depends on the eigenstrains. We show that covariantly homogeneous deformations - deformations with covariantley constant deformations gradients - are the only universal deformations." 

And so on an so forth

Sweet 16

Eitan turns 16. This precious young soul has grown before our very eyes into the fine young man he has become. Sonnet and I could not be more proud of him.

Eitan's academic year brings forward the GCSEs, those dreaded exams that will determine the boy's future. Not to be taken lightly. 

In the British school system, a student's extracurriculars, school grades, teacher recommendations and personal essays don't count for college credit - only the exams, test-taker be damned if s/he has a cold or a bad day. US colleges extrapolate a GPA from the GCSEs so the results count in America, too. 

We have known about the GCSEs since, well, Eitan's birth since it is something anxiously discussed amongst parents and ex-pats from Day 1. The general consensus is that it is a pretty crummy thing to put a poor kid through. 

Until now, the exam has been a safe distance in the future, over some far away hill, that protected us from Eitan's inevitable departure from home. For surely once the test is done he is gone.

Me: "Sweet 16 and never been kissed."
Eitan: "What do you mean?"
Me: "It's an expression. Sweet 16 and never been kissed. So have you?"
Eitan: "What?"
Me: "Been kissed."
Eitan: "Why do you always have to do that?"

The Merchant

Eitan at Tooting Bec
Friday night in London finds us gathered at The Globe for The Merchant of Venice, which Eitan studied last year and now reminds me of the story beforehand and whispers character names in my ear. Shylock is treated horribly and should have had his pound of flesh. Sonnet and Madeleine visit The Tate Modern before the play to see the Georgia O'Keefe exhibition. 

Southbank is abuzz - every concrete nook filled with skateboarders, walkers, drinkers, revellers; only the black river separates the lights.

It has been a busy month , or two even, so let's see : the kids concluded their summer athletics season with Eitan clocking a 4:16 in the 1500 (pb of 9 seconds) and Madeleine a 2:26 in the 800 - times good enough for the UK top 150. Adding an exclamation mark : Madeleine finishes second in yesterday's Wandsworth champs and will represent the borough in the London Youth Games Later this year.

Grace continues her chemotherapy and is in good spirits always; we check in with each other every day.

Monday, August 29

The G

The g waters the front yard
Last couple weeks have been admittedly chill.  I've had a few business trips taking me to Oslo, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Zurich, travelling through the Swiss Alps to get to Zug.  The kids have taken the loong summer break to be, well, kids: Eitan sleeps until noon. Both go out in the evening with friends or parties. Neither particularly interested in my instructions to study. 

Madeleine runs a 2:29 800m today at Euell in Surrey. She's disappointed as it's not a personal best and the end of the season. Next is cross country and Autumn nearly hear.

Madeleine: "Yo g, what's up?"
Me: "From now on you are 'The g.' "
Me: "The g is in the room."
Me: "The g is now going down the stairs."
Me: "The g is in the kitchen looking for some food."
Madeleine: "I get it Dad OK ?"
Me: "The g tells Dad, 'she gets it, OK?'"
Madeleine: "You are so weird."
Me: "No more so than anyone else."
Madeleine: "Whatever you say g."

Saturday, August 20

Man's Best Friend

Post run, Richmond Park. Saturday afternoon
Me: "How are we doing as parents?"
Madeleine: "You were doing pretty good but now you're all about discipline and stuff."
Me: "Are you kidding? You guys have so much freedom."
Madeleine: "Like a 9:30 curfew?"
Me: "That's for public transportation. And BTW 9:30 is summer hours and will be earlier in winter."
Madeleine: "See? "
Me: "When was the last time you put forward your case for a different curfew anyway?"
Madeleine: "In the US. In Colorado."
Me: "OK, but I wasn't convinced."
Madeleine: "You *were doing pretty well as I said."

Madeleine texts me from her bedroom: "Can I get sushi delivered?"
Me (texting back): "No. Make yourself some pasta."
Two hours later. Me: "You're making pasta?"
Madeleine: "Yeah."
Me: "You must be pretty hungry."
Madeleine: "Do I just put it in boiling water?"

Nordic Affair

Oslo Philharmonic
A beautiful late summer evening in Oslo. The symphony outside the statehouse a pleasant surprise.

A black BBC broadcaster reports on Trump's announcement to an all white audience that he will have 95% of the black vote in the 2020 elections. Like a 10 year old in the Principal's office, she tries not to laugh.

Ali, Pelé and now Bolt.

Madeleine: "I need new shoes."
Me: "Shall we go shopping then ?"
Madeleine: "I've been wearing my Vans for a year now."
Me: "You've been seeing live bands for a year now?"
Madeleine: "Huh?"
Me: "I didn't hear what you said."
Madeleine: "Vans, Dad."
Me: "So what are we doing this afternoon?"
Madeleine: "Uh, I'm seeing my friends."
Me: "Cool. Why don't I send a flash bomb and we can all hang in Wimbledon."
Madeleine: "Those words hurt me."
Me: "What, can't I join you?"
Madeleine: "Obviously No."
Me: "So you're saying your prejudice. Against old people."
Madeleine: "Yes. I mean no. Only you."
Me: "Your own Dad. You cut me to my bone."
Madeleine: "Were you like this when you were my age?"

Madeleine: "Why don't you move back to the US?"
Me: "Maybe we will one day."
Madeleine: "You could live with Gracie and Moe."
Me: "But then Moe would tell me to do my homework."
Madeleine gives me a knowing smirk.

Tuesday, August 16

Summer Vines

Self Portrait XXXXIX
Mid August yet no tomatoes. Still, I am happy to have my friendly vines and await their red fruit in September.

Gracie began chemotherapy last week Thursday and is in positive good spirits. The chemo is good news as the nodes in her lungs proved non-cancerous. The treatments, which will continue through November, to ensure this remains the case.

Monday, August 15

Rusty Olympics

Rusty cheers for Mo Farah
The dog is fired up by the Olympics.

In truth, I've never seen an animal so happy to have a bone.

Little Britain is in 2nd place for medals after the US and before China. Go figure. The UK is rocking the gymnastics, velodrome and swimming and diving. Then there is Mo Fara, Britain's very own Michael Phelps. Just about almost.

My mornings have been up early to drive to Hampton to run in Bushy Park followed by a swim in the outdoor 33m pool where I can wear flippers.  The other lap swimmers hate it, as I hate them for being in the wrong lane, but we manage to co-exist.

North Devon

Shaka dude
We spend the weekend in North Devon for some surfing and both kids enjoy the beach (picture tattoos, sunburn, babies crying and parents smoking).

The North Devon Coast Area is known for its outstanding natural beauty and Woolacombe Beach chosen as"Britain's Best Beach in 2015  and 13th best in the world by TripAdvisor which says a lot about them. Yes, it's sandy and the water salty but it is not a place I would return to, dear reader. There is no California sunset. I will come back for Madeleine, not doubt. She is committed to the waves.

The beachside chippy, however, totally legit - a line forms along the block from 11AM. Inside, the Brits order fish and chips or sausage and chips or just chips. The order, doused in salt and vinegar, arrives in a card-board box, complete with small wood fork.

Server: "Order please?"
Lady: "I'll be hav'n those chips. And the cod please."
Server: "Order please?"
Lady 2: "Two chips. Make it three chips and the fish."
Server: "Order please."
Man 1: "Chips and a sausage."
Server: ""Order please."
Man 2: "Oy matey, I'll get a double portion of them chips."
Server: "Order please."
Man 3: "Chips and the beef burger."
Server: "Oder please."
Lady 3: "Hmmm. Yes, I'll have the chips and the vinegar, if you don't mind."
Server: "Order please."
Me: "Anyone ever not order chips?"
Me: "I'll have the chips."

Wednesday, August 10

Meanwhile At The Track

Wimbledon Hercules
Eitan and Madeleine have a tough workout including 2x 3 minutes hard followed by some 400s and 200s. Funny it doesn't seem like a big deal, 3 minutes, until you're in agony at 1 minute and not even at the half way mark. These kids are tough, though, and power through.

I arrive at the track at 7PM - kids taxi service - treated to a perfect temperature and slow sunset over Wimbledon fields.

Trump suggests that gun owners assassinate Hillary Clinton and her selection of Supreme Court judges. Paul Ryan and those turds in what was the Republican party continue to back Trump.

Eitan: "Madeleine tried to sell me a shirt."
Me: "She's desperate for money. I've got her and Lucas cleaning the windows."
Eitan: "Where is she now?"
Sonnet: "They're circling the neighbourhood trying to sell baked goods."
Me: "Highly motivated. I like it."

Dog Days Of Summer

Like mother, like daughter
The kids remain on school-break and both nesting or, at least, sleeping until afternoon if I let them. It is hard for me to let go of my father and I urge them to get out of bed, do homework, work on the yard, walk the dog etc etc. No sound for a teenage kid worse than Dad walking up the stairs, rapping on the door before entering without an authorisation.

It's better for them when I am at the office (Since I work with France, France is on holiday).

Eitan and I have been going to for a morning jog in Bushy Park then the pool for some laps followed by coffee and croissants at an 'artisan' cafe near our house. It's a good combo for a workout; I am also looking into meditation.

Madeleine calls my mobile: "Do you want to buy an Izod shirt for 10 pounds?"
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "That was fast."
Me: "Okay, what's the deal ?"
Madeleine: "It's almost new. Only one owner and light blue."
Me: "Who's the seller ? "
Madeleine (pause): "Lucas. [Dad's note: Lucas is one of Madeleine's friends]. "He needs money for train fare." [Dad's note: the crew wants to take the train to Brighton for the day]
Me: "Tell Lucas if he wants to make some money he can come to our house and do yard work on the weekend."
Madeleine: "I am not going to tell him that !"
Me: "Gotta work, kid. I am not taking the shirt off your friend's back."
Madeleine: "Gee, thanks Dad. You make it sound like it's so unfair."

Monday, August 8

British Gold

Adam Peaty brings home the gold medal in the 100m breast stroke, as expected given his world record in the event. He does these Olympics in style, clocking a WR in the heats then again during the finals - 57.55. Gemini crickets, that's fast.  The last time a Brit won a swimming gold was the great Adrian Moorhouse, also in the 100m breast, in Seoul '88.  

The BBC interviews Peaty's parents in Staffordshire: "There was times I felt like taxi driver but I said to Adam, 'to be a champion you got to work hard - so get out of bed!' " Seems about right.

My cynicism for these Olympics, given the doping and general flimsiness of the Brazilian platform, fades away amongst the entertainment : the BBC delivers 16 channels of live broadcasts, which arrive around 5PM GMT (trials) then again at 12:30AM (finals). Who can't be inspired by it all ?

Sunday, August 7

Louie In The House

Louie and Guilia (with a 'G') visit from NorCal while criss-crossing Europe.  Louie an ancient high school friend and swimmer though more inclined towards water polo player where he co-captained the Yellow Jackets water polo squad in 1982.

Louie was a positive influence: body-focused, curious and always good energy. I recall summers sneaking into weight rooms mid-day at the UC dorms to get an extra workout. He introduced me to climbing the bleachers at the Cal football stadium (we circled the grounds searching for weaknesses in the security fence). Minor aversions compared to what else going on in Berkeley.

Since, Louie has taken on 'causes', running for Marine County Superintendent in 2000 to oust a jerry mandered, special interest incumbent (he got 40% of the vote but still 2nd) and again in 2002; formed a non-profit to provide after-school academic support in the sciences across Marine county (300 pupils). Had a beautiful and precocious daughter.

Meanwhile Madeleine runs a 200m for the first time in a sunset time trial on the Wimbledon track. Without a starting block normal for the event, our gal blasts forward, hits the curve in full stride and brings home the race in powerful fashion, clocking a 27 seconds, half a second from qualifying for English Nationals. Not bad for the first-timer. She says: "Uh, it was fun. Quite fast race. I was surprised."

Saturday, August 6

Orange Is The New Black

At our local The Plough
Along with having teenagers, we now have a set of rules that aims, well, to establish some rules.  For instance, Eitan's curfew is 12 midnight. He is allowed to use public transportation to get home (mainly bus). Madeleine (I remind she is 16 months younger) can stay out until midnight but she must have a ride, secured beforehand. Otherwise she must be home by 9:30 if by public transportation (this, dear reader, is the summer-rule given late evening sunsets).  

Of course Madeleine feels it is deeply unfair.

I signed Madeleine up for car-service Uber "for emergencies" which has been used 3 of the first five days in service.

Me: "Why don't you guys have a party here?"
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "Why not? Don't you want to have your friends over?"
Eitan, Madeleine
Me: "We could move the furniture from the living room. It could be big."
Madeleine: "No way, Dad."
Me: "What is it then, alcohol?"
Madeleine: "You would never have alcohol."
Me: "I'd not thought of it. What do the other parents do?"
Madeleine: "They're upstairs."
Me: "Well that's good to know."
Eitan: "Yeah, see?"
Me: "So no booze, no party ?"
Madeleine, Eitan
Me: "Sorry I asked."

Our First Lady

Melania was naked and illegal in 1995. Maybe married, too.
OK maybe Trump won't get elected.

Who could possibly have imagined that the Republicans would be able to hoist someone on a blinkered nation worse than Sarah Palin ?  Trump is finally going down in flames after he has insulted, well, everyone but most of all parents of fallen sons. Military families represent a large part of Trump's support base. His recent attacks have cut muscle.

Me: "What do you think of Trump?"
Madeleine: "Dunno. Pretty bad, I guess."
Me: "What would you think if I ran for president?"
Madeleine: "You would be a terrible ruler. You would tell everyone in the city that they're not allowed to drink and then you'd sit back and drink as much alcohol as you want."
Me: "Fair point."
Madeleine: "Are you still going to do it?"
Me: "Run for president?"
Madeleine: "Drink alcohol."

Monday, August 1

On Trump

A soothing photo of mountains
Why Trump will win.

Start with the two Americas : whites who go to the same universities, marry each other and work together and live in the same safe neighbourhoods. They're well off and mostly liberal. Workaholics. Striving with opportunity. Mainstream media is their mirror. Think Manhattan, San Francisco or Salt Lake City.
On the other side, there is a new lower class of white Americans with a high school or no degree who find themselves unmarried or divorced and unable to work due to illness or disability or simply unemployed.  Their zip codes are filled with chronic crime, decaying housing and infrastructure and services from clean water to policing (or aggressive policing). Think Flint, Cleveland, St Louis ... As a consequences of these trends, the traditional bonds of civil society have atrophied in lower class white America - less trust and less 'social capital'.
Trump speaks for this audience : The RNC captured the mood with Trump's speeches of an America in decline and unsafe. Contrast this to the Obama/ Clinton's masterpiece of self-congratulations during the DNC: everything in America is awesome ! America is great, diverse, dynamic and prosperous!
But it is not so for Main Street. The reality for lower class whites is, that since 2005, according to McKinsey, 81% of this population had flat or falling incomes. This group is in the grip of an epidemic of ill health and premature death and  chronic unemployment. It is why Trump comps to Hillary in the polls.
If Trump mobilises white voters - something much easier than minorities and the young - he will win. To see it, there were 129 million voters in the 2012 election, of which 93m (72%) were white. Romney won 59% of those votes to Obama's 39%, but still lost. If Romney had won 62% of the white vote he would have won. Can Trump do it? Right now he leads among white registered voters without a degree by a margin of 58% to 30% compared to Romney's 55% to 37%. Throw in Sanders' 13m supporters and the many young voters who won't show on election day. The white lower class, especially the older cohorts, will turn out for Trump in droves, just as their English counterparts turned out for Brexit.
We are on the path for a demagogue.

Sunday, July 31

One More From Painted Wall

The canyon wall is twice the height of the Empire State Building.

Me: "Do your nuts go into your stomach?" [Dad's note: We stand over a guarded ledge]
Eitan: "No."
Me: "How about you Madeleine?"
Madeleine: "Dad!"
Me: "Doesn't the drop scare you?"
Madeleine: "I don't have nuts."
Me: "Fair enough. So what do you feel anyway?"
Madeleine: "I don't know. Scary I guess."
Eitan: "What would happen if you fell?"
Me: "Long way down. Wouldn't be pretty."
Madeleine: "Pretty dead."
Me: "Yep."

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.