Thursday, July 31

Family Cabin

Here is the cabin I blog about now and before. 

It was built on one of the first lots in Bear Valley and modern. I talk to a telephone contractor who surveys the electrical wires, which Dear Brother, are all above ground. I ask why not under? and he tells me this is what they do now for new roads: cablie it beneath. The guy BTW surveying tree-growth as wires must be separated from foliage by four feet. This causes grumbling with property owners and a never-ending job for the telecoms. Despite this, the fellow I meet is pretty relaxed about things, wearing his khaki outfit and well-worn hiking boots. When I tell him he has the best job of anybody I know, he informs me his company hiring: "jobs online, dude!" he says. Tempting. Very tempting.

We leave this morning driving from the mountains to the sierra foothills then San Joaquin valley and finally East Bay. On the way we stop at Chevy's for lunch - honk! Mistake! Food blah and setting worse. Sonnet reminds me that Chevy's and places like Chevy's are meant for the post-work drinking hour and sure enough there is a separate menu just for margarita's. I am certain, once upon a time, there was a Chevy's in Baha California visited by California holiday makers who fell in love with the place. 

It was probably the only time many of them saw Mexicans. All these chains have some similar weird origin: Applebees, Steak & Ale, Hooter's... anything once good is totally lost in the franchise. Stan's favorite is the Olive Garden - as he says, "It is just awful." And there, my friend, you have it.

On Deck

Ah yes, here I am - a man in his prime. Still a few years from totally embarrassing my children. The day spent doing more-or-less the same: swimming - break - swimming - swimming - break - lunch - swimming and more swimming. And so it goes. Eitan and Madeleine never get enough. In the car, both hum the theme tune of Star Wars (Bum-bum-bum-bum-ba-dum-bum-ba-dum) until I turn around and yell: enough! Just like old days. I remember a fight between me and Katie in our teen years so vicious that Grace had to pull off the highway in Richmond near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Grandma was in the driver's seat and quite shocked, I am sure (Remember that one, Katie?) On occasion I have considered taping a divisional line across the back-seat but usually the Shakespeares mind their Ps and Qs when I holler.

The fires around Yosemite are 40% contained, which is good news for the campers and evacuees. Evidently it was started by gun fire practice. I am reading a book on energy conservation and how we Americans can make a huge difference by doing little things: no running water while brushing teeth, turn off electronics after hours and do the compost thing. Moe has been doing this for at least 40 years BTW. Good lessons for us and the kids - most of my generation has no idea of their crapola and the planet. We gas, we shop, we eat - what is the source of this stuff that makes up our lives? and our connection to it? More immediately, what ever was in the red hot dog and ketchup the kids devoured at yesterday's Giant Burger? I am hard pressed to name even one item.

Wednesday, July 30

Giant Burger

The day ends at Giant Burgers in Arnold. GB has been around since at least '84 when we began coming up here. There used to be a Giant Burger chain and I recall one at Northside in Berkeley which is now long gone. In fact, I cannot recall having seen GB anywhere in the past 15 years. Sonnet comments that the cheese-burger with everything is American gastronomy. When we arrived in the UK hamburgers (called "beef burgers") were still a novelty and diners used fork and knife. Sacre bleu! The kids go with hot-dogs and ketchup+fries+shakes. Classic grease and good for them and us occassionally. Truth be told, I have not eaten fast-food in years but am not adverse to it - a Big Mac, afterall, is candy for adults.

New York - San Francisco - London

All of us together, again. This photo on the stump of the largest Sequoia in the world, which took over 90 days to chop BTW in 1885. We walk by the largest living Sequoia - General Sherman - which stands at 276 feet, has a 104 foot girth and a volume of 52,508 square feet. For the record: Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Sequoia, Sierra Redwood, or Wellingtonia) is the sole species in the genus Sequoiadendron, and one of three species of coniferous trees known as redwoods, classified in the family Cupressaceae in the subfamily Suquoioideae, together with Sequoia semperirens (Coast Redwood) and Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood). The common names "sequoia" and "redwood" generally refer to Sequoiadendron and the coast redwood, respectively.

I get noticed at the pool BTW: "are you the guy with the orange cowboy hat?" a group of ladies asks. We discuss fashion - is the hat metro-sexual or homo? - either way, it is a complement. Poor Sonnet must adjust to my new style and, as I like to point out, "middle-age is all about not being boring."

North Grove

We walk the Big Trees Monday - many of these giants have been around before Jesus, for Christ's sake. A photo is difficult to capture their enormity. The sign-post next to the largest Seqouia in the North Grove says:

“In the spring of 1882, Augustus T. Dowd, while hunting, discovered a grove of truly immense trees, now known as Calaveras North Grove. Several stockholders of the Union Water Company (who employed Augustus as a hunter) developed a plan to display in New York and other cities, a piece of the largest of the trees. Many people, however, were outraged at the cutting of the tree, Dowd among them. The tree was felled, sections of the bark and a slab were shipped to New York City, and the entire promotion was a failure."

"The stump and remaining log became a tourist attraction. The stump was used as a dance floor, and later was the foundation for a pavilion. A bowling alley and bar were constructed on the top of the log.

"The stump continues to be an attraction to thousands of park visitors annually. It is a testament to the longevity of theses redwood trees that the stump and log are still here after more than 150 years (since the groves discover)”

Tuesday, July 29

Bell Bottoms

Moe is wearing them. Purchased BTW in '89. Who would have ever thought so stylish? A nice thing about the kids now is swimming - they can do it so we don't have to watch them or watch them at least as closely. This frees up time for Star and People magazines, the occasional Cosmo (me) and other rags left by the pool. Sonnet is now on Harry Potter's third book which she reads patiently (and pleasurably) to the entranced Shakespeares.

The Cost Of A Shower

Pictured- Sloan and Mary at cocktail hour. It is generally understood that while Dad is on vacation, Dad is also working (couple hours maybe) and blogging (too much really). Eitan and I play ping pong and he berates me: "you should have got that one." I give him a mean look and he glares back at me. Yes, he be competitive. And stubborn. Last night we had a kerfuffle over bathing- again. He refuses and I tell him ten bucks - the established going rate from the day before. The boy is so angry he can barely contain himself and refuses me money or bath. It ends with a stare-down and I tell him I want $10 as he has made his decision. We are locked eyes for maybe 30 seconds which is a long time Dear Father. He finally wavers then asks Sonnet to help him undress. I feel this a moment of some importance as Eitan has been testing his boundaries which has been rather difficult going - and out of his character too, I might add. While I may or may not have proved myself an above average father, at least the kid is clean. For now anyway.

Jump! and Stockton

Sophie takes a splash, which I shoot from the lake, treading water and hoping I do not drop the camera Adam-style (but this another, more expensive story, oh boy). Sophie and I have a romance as she gives me her attention and chooses to take our SUV (the boys are generally teaming up against the girls - an age thing really). Indeed, we are a caravan of three enormous rides and I feel momentarily guilty about the carbons but somehow appeased by the number of people and goods transported. Plus it is vacation, for Pete's sake. We ride into town looking like a presidential motorcade and I think about Detroit's dying days: an hour at 60MPH and 30 miles per gallon at today's gas prices means 10 bucks which is more than the minimum wage. No wonder Toyota taking over the roads - and thank goodness too. The real pinch, and one reason for the sub-prime collapse in outer areas like Stockton, is the cost of a commute. Unfortunately affordable housing for many in the Bay Area comes with a two hour+ trade-off - this may no longer be tenable for those already stretched and so the commuters split leaving their under-water house behind. Driving through Stockton (which BTW is presented, along with Florida, as the center of the housing crises fiasco) one sees endless rows of same-style properties. I rather like Stockton's simple, historical skyline but the 'burbs are ghastly. And now they are becoming empty.


Madeleine knows how to pose (I think). Anyway the kids think alcohol tastes "gross, dad" and I get a barrel of grief from the Shakespeares about my beer drinking ways. Recall, Dear Mother, that Eitan and I had a bet some years ago that he would stop sucking his thumb if I stopped drinking beer. Well, I am caught out on this deal but argue lamely that the bet had a statute of limitations which has run out. When that does not work, I tell them dad's prerogative given life seniority. When that fails too of course I use the time tested fall-back: "we adults have different rules."

Sitting by the pool, Eitan tells me: "You will get a punch if you drink my Diet Coke."

Madeleine, who has watched Star Wars Episodes IV, V and VI these past few days, asks me: "Dad, is it true that you have The Force?" When I tell her yes, it is true, she continues: "do you want to go to The Dark Side too?"

There is definitely at summer vibe at the Big Trees rec centre and always a sexual frisson between the life guards, all teen-agers toned and tan. Sonnet and I (mostly I) observe the flirting and looking - I recall too the cocoon. It is reasonably clear who is having a summer romance or at least who is into whom. There ain't much else here for young people's pleasures, for sure - but life is good when it is not boring.

Beer Drink'n Fun

On Rob's most excellent suggestion we drive to the lower mountains to visit New Melones Reservoir on the Stanislaus River in the California Central Valley, or about 60 miles upstream from the river's confluence with the San Joaquin River. This point forms the border between Calaveras County and Tuolumne County, home of Yosemite. It is about 30 miles or so from our cabin. The reservoir is huge - 2,400,000 acre-foot capacity - making it California's third largest. The stoppage was formed by the New Melones Dam, which was completed in '78 and built by the US Bureau of Reclamation for flood control and, of course, water skiing or tubing. I learn that the lake's depth is about 1,080 feet and now, thanks to the drought, is 100 feet below normal. It feeds the San Joaquin valley, the world's most productive agricultural land and without H-2-O a desert. We rent two boats for skiing and beer-drinking while the kiddies swim, jump and ride the day away. By the afternoon everybody beat-red (despite 50 sun-block) and happily exhausted. Sonnet stands up on her first pair of water skies and has the thrill of her life time... after me, of course. We agree: our white trash day a huge success.

Monday, July 28


Mary and Devon, who is a great kid. Devon is the oldest of three and these days his favorite sport is downhill racing which he does about every weekend in the Connecticut mountains nearby Mary and Amado's second home. He is also a swimmer and footballer, which he and Eitan bond over. Devon BTW is Eitan's self-proclaimed BBF and with brother Simon they have a blast rocketing about (there is a bit of a thing against girls right now but this will pass, oh boy).

I'm pretty much out of touch with the news and the world which is heavenly. I did see that Max won his libel case against News Of The World which I guess is interesting. Fleet Street is world class, God bless it, but goes too far on occasion - this why we love it dearly, Brother.


Here is the inside of Mercer Caverns. Without lighting there is complete darkness. Initially Madeleine wants nothing to do with the caves remember Wales but she joins in the end. The children as all sorts of interesting questions: "where do the rocks come from?" (Madeleine); "Why does that look like chocolate?" (Maya); "Is there any gold?" (Devon); "Is there any gold pylate? (Devon) This last question flummoxes our otherwise informed guide. From there we descend 208 steps - despite this depth it is not the bottom, where a breeze enters the caves providing oxygen and cool air. While there is general curiosity where the air source originates, it against California law to dig or damage the pristine below for discovery. Various methods BTW were used including blue smoke which, it was believed, would exit somewhere outside Mercer and provide the source. Fat chance, as the current kept the smoke inside and smoked everybody else out. Eitan BTW reports that there are only 192 steps to the bottom and if there was a bet I would put it with him.


Everybody converges for what has become our annual re-union. This includes Rob and Sloan and their two children, (Sophie pictured, wearing my new glasses) and Mary and Amado and their three. Sonnet is in charge of the first evening's dinner and we all have a manic catch up drinking super-sized vodka tonics and California wine. Ah, this golden land. My parents join the fun and they enjoy being surrounded by the commotion. In one corner: 8 animated adults catching up a year's life and the other seven kids glued to "The Empire Strikes Back." A battle rages for the loudest- it is a draw, Dear Reader, it is a draw. The brief summary: Mary a partner at Boston Consulting, Rob investing $500M, Amado teaching and Sloan involved with a charity and contemplating her next star-up. The children meanwhile are just bigger, more animated, more interesting and engaging. Rob and I in particular take pleasure teasing the little Shakespeares and I think it debatable who is more the child. Repetition is often a theme and boy can we get their goat.

Saturday we spelunk Mercer Caverns in Murphy's - it is my first time despite 25 years of here. The Caverns are named after the gold prospector Walter Mercer who discovered the caves in 1885 and filed a claim. Legend has it that Mercer was napping under a shady oak when he saw some waving grass despite no wind. He was intrigued to discover a small hole, no bigger than a foot, that was cool and omitting a breeze. He dug to find a cavern descending 16 stores - he thought he had discovered an abandoned gold mine. The caverns are covered with stalagmites and stalactites and various rare formations which come from the calcitised limestone bleached from dripping rain water. While disappointed no gold, Mercer made his fortune touring his cave with candles and rope - though uncomfortable and dangerous, tourists lined up by the thousands to pay a pinch of gold-dust (about $45 today) and see the spectacle. We do to but for the reduced price of $12 per adult.


Who is the center of everybody's attention I wonder? Grace has made the kids visit fun, fun! fun! bringing games and the Star Wars trilogy, which we enjoy equally. Last week she took us rose shopping and we returned to 1530 with flowers and plants happily placed in the back-yard. Eitan and Madeleine seemed to enjoy the activity and now they leave something of themselves behind. In the garden. I like gardening myself and England is the place to be for this particular pastime. The British love their backyards and there always seems to be a radio program on the subject covering winter chills, shrubs and various composts. Our garden is small and simple but I like tidying it up, cutting the lawn and clipping back the bushes. The kids just like the dirt. Back to here and dirt: they have not bathed in four days. Eitan flat out refuses my direct order to do so and I tell him what he will give me in return for The Missing. He proposes two-dollars. Then five and ten. I raise an eyebrow at ten which is a substantial portion of his saved $52. I note that ten bucks will get him ten ice cream cones, two DVDs or a CD. Says he: "ice cream cones are $1.50" and the deal is done.


Eitan discovers a new sport at the rec. Yes, he is obsessing (and pretty good too).

California is beset by forest fires including Big Sur where Sonnet and I spent our honeymoon. Closer to home, there is smoke coverage in Bear Valley at 7,000 feet due to an uncontrolled fire at Yosemite which has forced evacuations inside the park.
The dry summer and lack of water hurt.


Madeleine and I are at the Big Trees pool not far from my parent's house in Bear Valley. We are at the pool because Eitan wants to play inner-tube water polo which begins at 5PM. Only we arrive at 5:05 and he refuses to play. So. We. watch the game and... he. very.. upset.

The Orensteins have been visiting this area since '83 when Moe and Grace bought the house with two families including the Sapersteins. It has been a fabulous place for winters and summers which is my preferred time of the year since I do not sky downhill (Bear Valley has several good bowls and recently purchased by Vail Resorts and expected to be expanded). There is excellent cross country skiing and this we used to do often but not since London. Scenic HW4 is snow blocked for four to six months of the year at Ebbotts Pass making us a 60 mile dead-end which gratefully has curtailed development. Today it is the same as it ever was but us who are a bit older. The kids love it and we are soon to be joined by our Marine and New York friends for a grand reunion.

Friday, July 25

Duck Lake

Sonnet and I walk to Duck Lake in Stanislaus National Forest. We split the house at 6AM where, BTW, Moe and Eitan awake preparing for the day: "swim lessons, 10AM!" Eitan shouts. Our hike is reasonably tame - only four miles - but the views of the mid-sierras brilliant and the alpine lake is isolated, surrounded by ridge-line and a deep meadow. We end with a four mile jog and I may report that my wife is a serious runner - she weighs less today than when I met her and the London marathon has her in all kinds of shape. Also her stride has changed - faster and better form. She's thinking about signing up for a few races in the fall.

Moe and I talk about the law - he retired in '97 at age 62 and notes that the business has changed since he practiced. "We used to bill maybe 1,200 hours a year and barely kept track" he says. "Now a top partner is expected to do twice that amount." (Moe watches Eitan and Madeleine in their swim class - what joy, no doubt).

We receive a scratchy NPR on the radio - enough to know that the Labour Party lost their third test in Scottish burough which three years ago was soundly pro-labour. Scotland of course is where Super Gee is from. While many of the UK's problems are not due to Brown, he was the chequer while these problems were in the works - like Britain's borrowing where we are the most leveraged consumers in the world or the housing market which is perhaps worse than the US. Brown has also made a hash of things like the non-dom and ten "p" tax and of course the withdrawn elections. His ass is grass.


We arrive in the sierras Wednesday and straight to the pool, of course. Eitan has highlighted the pool activities which include inner-tube water polo, swim lessons and bingo+the snack bar. Both kids have been saving their bucks for one full year to buy nachos, ice cream sandwiches, skittles and M&Ms. It is borderline obsessive behavior but now it bears fruit: Eitan screams at me when I tell him no junk-food before lunch. I relent. Yesterday we go for a family hike on Emigrant Trail to Alpine lake. Madeleine complains the first half non-stop but I don't pay attention to her who-is-me. Eitan, on the other hand, makes several attempts to block our progress by refusing to continue. I continue onward leaving him to himself. Once out of eye-sight I hear the patter of feet and he is two inches behind me practically walking on my feet. Everybody happy when we arrive at the lake which is beautiful as ever. The kids ease their return with walking sticks and seem to enjoy themselves - we are out for 1.5 hours which is a nice break-in effort. At the end I tell Madeleine we will walk it again and she: "You're mad."

Madeleine announces matter of factly that there are 17 miles in an hour. Sonnet and I are a bit surprised and she clarifies herself: "Penguins walk 17 miles in an hour" she reports, from "March Of The Pengquins."

Wednesday, July 23


Madeleine takes off at Chordineses which, Dear Reader, I have been doing since 1976. The cool thing is to bring wax paper which really revs up the action. The next-door Berkeley Rose Garden has eight public tennis courts where many North Berkeley kids picked up the sport - I did anyway, batting a ball against a cement wall before I followed an endless lane-line down the middle of a 25 yard pool. Similarities I wonder? Sonnet and I have a "date" last night and head for a Japanese where I drink a lot of sake, thank you very much. Regardless we are up at dawn's crack to run the fire-trail near the kiddie farm - Sonnet is in super shape following the marathon and her training reg. She weighs five pounds less today then when we met in '93. Her body looks trained and beaurtiful and she has all the gear of the serious middle-aged runner = runners, shades, sweat-whisking materials... it is all good. Yesterday Eitan gets his wish and we spend two hours swimming at Strawberry Canyon. That box be checked.

Tuesday, July 22


Sonnet reads the kids Harry Potter and everybody entranced.

Berkeley is THE heart of liberal America - how could it not be? - and I have yet to meet one person who has a kind word about our government and the war (Moe is cautious in his criticism but it is there too). For many of Berkeley's '60s generation and my parents age, a life-time's work invested in public institutions like education or the judicial system or the environment has stalled or been set back. Oh boy. My generation takes these things for granted in large part because we did not have to fight for them - no civil rights movements, no assassinations... the '80s were Boom Times and distractions plenty. Today the apathy seems worse - at least no war going on during my college days - but maybe Barack will change this somehow if elected. Perhaps young people will go back to government instead of investment banking like I did in '89 when 75% of Yale's graduating class applied to Wall Street (I don't know about Brown). Berkeley too has gentrified and the hippies of then are the home owners of now and the properties here valuable: a house bought in the the '70s for less than a hundred grand is worth well over a million now. Telegraph has cleaned up - no drugs, comic book shops, pinball arcades or vinyl records like Rasputins. Despite such change the soul of this place is the UC which ties the community together as ever - for me, it is as simple as rooting for Cal football and our annual dogged cheer applies aptly to government today: "just wait 'til next year!"


Moe takes us to the Lawrence Hall of Science where I have not been since 1977. I am pretty sure of the year because my parents signed me up for computer programming at LHS and, on first day, I spotted Erin Oleigh who I had a huge crush on. Anyway, I chickened out and never went back. And so went my chance to found Microsoft. LHS is the public science museum and research center for K-12 education at the University of California, Berkeley. It's sweet and has all sorts of inter-active stuff which I may have enjoyed more than the kids. Now the focus is on nano-technology which makes sense as Berkeley is trying to become the Bio-tech center of the Bay Area ceding technologies to Stanford and the peninsula. Moe tells me that the leading nano-tech centre is not far from LHS and in fact visible from the hill-top which offers a wonderful panoramic view of the bay. LHS was built in '68 and reminds me of the early '70s funkiness and space agee programs like Space 1999. Ernesto Orlando Lawrence BTW was Cal's first Nobel laureate . He is up there with Pappy Waldorf who took the football team to three consecutive Rose Bowls ending in '51. Hey we lost all three - but go Bears!

Monday, July 21


Madeleine and Eitan way excited about the slide at Cordenices Park, where we be this morning. Eitan spies a football camp and is naturally fascinated - when I inquire whether he wishes to play he demures: "don't have my kit, dad." We watch from the sidelines and Eitan comments on "the skills". We then rough-house until he cries and I turn my attention to Madeleine and the long-slide - pictured. New glasses rejected by Sonnet but I get used to them.

Chordineses by the way is walking distance from my parents house and many touch-football games played their in my yuf. It was also a good place to get stoned or have birthday parties. It is adjacent to the Rose Garden and for a while was pretty run down but Berkeley has since re-invested in the park and now it is fab.

Lamp Shade

Eitan in the dining room. He, Madeleine and Sonnet arrive yesterday and I greet them at the airport - everybody happy and wired to be in "San Francisco!" they scream. We drive across the Bay Bridge to Bezerkeley and Sonnet makes several comments "only in Berkeley" as we drive by a VW bus painted flowers or the granola team planting shrubs in a round-about (this nearby Kee Tov where I used to go to camp - Kee Tov moved and it is now a theology school Go figure). Tabitha and her team come over for a BBQ and the kids hit the sack 8PM.

Saturday, July 19

Cal I for NI A


Frederic Larson at Half Moon Bay, 45 minutes south of San Francisco on HW 1 (The Great HW). Photograph courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle.

I arrive SFO Thursday in time for dinner in Berkeley with my parents and Katie, who is speaking at a conference for women bloggers. She stays in the St Francis, Union Square, where her gathering takes place. 

Meanwhile, I am with Industry Ventures yesterday then join Christian for dinner at our usual favorite Delfino's where we have a five course meal and about everything on the menu. From there we watch episodes of The Office (American version) and Steve Carroll hilarious (jet lag, Dear Brother). Usually we make a late-night donut run at the 24 hour bakery then hit Barnes And Noble for CDs or DVDs but tonight it's a pass. 

Christian BTW is free from his high flying career which required him to rise at 3:45AM for the NY equity call shortly before the markets opened. He now has a couple years to catch up his sleep. California is in a major drought - the worst in 30 years - which brings back memories of '73 when Moe rationed water allowing two inches bath water then used for toilet flushes (remember that Moe?). We sure learned how to conserve, oh boy. 

Northern California forest fires have smoked out even the Bay Area but not since I've been here. Meanwhile back in London: Sonnet prepares for her long flight tomorrow spending today packing, having her hair done etc. 

Eitan attends a six-hour football party and so on cloud-nine while Aggie takes Madeleine for a girls afternoon including the Kung Fu Panda at the movies. Everybody excited including my mother who hits Mr Mopps to buy toys, books and DVDs. Mopps has been in Berkeley since '73 and so an institution - all the kids at King Jr High shop-lifted and the poor owner put a sign up "One Teenager At A Time." Mopps is on Martin Luther King Road, which for us is Grove Street renamed.

Thursday, July 17

West Coast

I am off to California in 30 minutes. I prepare myself for the long haul by swimming some laps and packing - yes, last minute I know. Sonnet and the kids join Sunday and everybody excited about le grand adventure. I will have dinner with family, including Katie who is in the Bay Area for Stanford and The Op-Ed Project. Fun!

Wednesday, July 16


Sonnet and Marcus - ah 1984, the year of Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, The Karate Kid and this photo. Also The Terminator, which I recently watched, and is decidedly irresponsible - I mean, Arnie demolishes a police house in is search for Sarah Con-ur. Not a good message for us yuf then.The only band formed that year worth listening to, and who I still own, was Big Audio Dynamite which was Mick Jones from the Clash. Sweet. Otherwise this was the year I returned from Geneva, swam at nationals, became a Senior in HS and got into college somehow and had my first girlfriend, Malika. She moved on pretty quickly I recall and we broke up at prom - but this another story I think. Pretty big stuff for then.


The Thames at Southbank nearby OXO wharf. It is the afternoon and I arrive for a double-date early to mill about and make a few phone calls from my mobile. The weather and vibe good and London is the place to be on days like this. Sure the city suffers a bad rap when it comes to weather but in actuality rainfall is the same as San Francisco - about 40 inches a year. The difference is ours spread across the year nor does the data capture gloomy winter days+early sunsets. But let us not dwell on this now- today it is summer! and skate-boarders skate, violinist play and tourists photograph themselves here and everywhere along the river. Oh, and as the kids would shout: "the tide is out!"

We meet friends Jan and Nes for dinner at OXO tower (pictured, upper right) which offers the best view of the city, in my opinion, stretching from Parliament and London Eye to St Paul's and the city. From there we see King Lear at the Globe. It is hard work, Dear Mother, but David Calder who plays Lear is brilliant. He looks like a king too, with a white beard, bald crown and large middle supported by thin, muscular legs. It is his voice, however, that enthralls. I prepared for last night by listening to Lear on CD - I read the play sophomore year in high school - but the language still at times foreign, though the emotions raw. I had forgotten poor Gloucestor who in one bloody scene has his eyeballs extracted in a particularly wretched treason. Ian McKleen played Lear last year at the Old Vic (tickets impossible, btw) and his king different from Calder. I've heard McK described as an actor playing himself in the role, while Calder an actor playing Lear. Either way - rapture.

The oldest hath borne most: we that are young,
Shall never see so much, nor live so long."

Monday, July 14


Sonnet and Madeleine from last summer. We look forward to repeating the good times.

I'm in Eitan's class this morning to do some pasting in the children's work-books. This gives me a chance to ease-drop, which I do with pleasure. The kids are asked to describe their favorite moment from the school year and Eitan says: "discussing Christiano Rinaldo's goals." Later he provides this example of a highlight: "It is when Christiano Rinaldo scores a goal." The boys has football on the mind for sure.

Side View

Here is a self-portrait and a view of myself I rarely see and different from my mind's eye - I mean, is my chin really that small? Interesting to think how self-perception is shaped. Do our surroundings set the standard or is it a cerebral thing? Kate Moss for instance has the benefits of bone structure and curves (or lack of) but also the fortune to live in a society that values these things. I do not think of myself as particularly attractive, Dear Reader, but I have never doubted that I was attractive. I thank my mom for this - she was always quite positive about appearance. This leads to now: regarding aesthate, Eitan+boys are preoccupied with other things like football. Young girls, on the other hand, receive a direct message re one's looks and happiness thanks to a pervasive advertising, which caters to prepubescent "tweenies" or younger. Girls absorb the comps via television, comics, billboards, shops and everywhere. Take a day to focus on this, oh boy, and you shall see. Madeleine considers herself a tom-boy, as we know, which is healthy but different from her school norm of barbies, dresses &c. She is not immune to the beauty-message so I check in occasionally with her on this. To now it is all fine but this will change, sadly I am sure.

Sunday, July 13

Ben Ten

Kids in front of TV - this forever an easy shot, and here they are watching "Ben Ten." The sprogues go dead to the world and I do my best to annoy them - neither bats an eye when I dance, walk like King Tut and do other various distractings. I suppose their oblivion a Good Thing - heck, let them enjoy it. As for me, the Sunday papers are ever aggravating. A today's sampling: Bush lobbyist Stephen Payne selling access to Bush, Chaney and Rice; Bush giving Israel the "amber" to strike Iran; Obama getting set up on an Iraq visit, knife crime killing teen-agers in London . . . . The Federal Judge who married me and Sonnet and also a Berkeley liberal who has dedicated his life to the quality, and equality of our public institutions, once gave me this advice: "Fuck the news." I would agree accept for Eitan and Madeleine who will live in Bush's future.

Madeleine completes her Reading List filled with books and pages-read. In return, she gets a prize, as yet decided (Eitan did same, and now receives a subscription to the Manchester United fanzine). She ponders this, be sure, she ponders.

Sonnet runs Richmond Park 6AM this morning, waking Eitan at exit. Unfortunately for me (and after all, it is always about me, Dear Sir) Eitan climbs into our bed and begins quizzing me on football. I tell him to shut-up, and he's quiet for about five minutes then: "when are you getting up dad? Dad. Dad? When?" I plead for 30 minutes and he watches the clock - bing! - "are you up yet?"

For those older than adolescence, here is what the web says about Ben Ten:
"The show revolves around Ben Tennyson, his cousin Gwen, and their grandfather Max. During the start of their summer camping trip, Ben goes stomping off into the woods after another fight with Gwen, whom he is not happy to have along on the trip, and finds an alien pod on the ground. When he examines it, he finds a mysterious, watch-like device, called the Omnitrix, stored inside. The device attaches permanently to his wrist and gives him the ability to transform into a variety of alien lifeforms, each with their own unique powers, quite similar to DC's Dial H for Hero comic. Although Ben realizes that he has a responsibility to help others with these new abilities at his disposal, he is not above a little superpowered mischief now and then."

Saturday, July 12


Today's last day of the football season sees a tournament and Madeleine's team is second in her group of five. This thanks to her winning goal in the second game. She is good at hollering for the ball: "Pass! Pass!" but doesn't quite know what to do when the thing arrives. With a little prodding (me: "Shoooot!") she puts one in the net and pumps her arms - sweet victory. Eitan, meanwhile, is playing with boys two or three years older and he is markedly cautious. Normally he sets the tempo of his games but today he holds back allowing the bigger kids to control the action. There is one dramatic moment however when he tip-toes up the side-line and runs circles around three defenders. The coach yells for a strike, and his ball goes wide. He deserved that one. Afterwards there is a kids-parents-coaches game and I refuse, which makes him upset: "you never let me do anything fun," he tells me. We bump into Joe-Y-H's mom on the walk home and to prove that I am not a complete downer, I agree for him to hang out at their house for the afternoon which is where he is now.

Friday, July 11

Report Card

Sonnet reads Madeleine's report card this morning - pictured. 

One would never guess that it is pretty good: Madeleine is a hard working student and has made terrific progress in her reading, writing, maths and sciences. When asked to comment on something, anything, she has learned this past year she recalls "making frogs from seeds" and describes the process from egg to tadpole to "little frog" than "big frog." Eitan adds helpfully: "did you know the tadpoles eat their tails for energy?" 

Madeleine notes that Eitan explains things to her - which is nice feedback for him and indicates a bit of older-sibling worship, which we know is going on in the private cosmos that is theirs. On that subject, Sonnet learns at a school drinks the other night that the school mums find Eitan "dreamy" and there is some discussion about which of the girls may fancy his hand (!) - this would make him shudder in horror, Dear Father. 

Further, the reception kids (two years younger) line up on the fence to watch our Eitan play football. Sometimes he allows them to take shots on goal, he being the goal keeper. Is our little man Big Man On Campus? From what I can tell, he remains humble on it all and the idea of girls makes him run.

On Being Gyped

Madeleine works on a puzzle-book this morning. She and Eitan have been at each other's throats, er, have been sensitive towards each other, regarding attention or more specifically: who gets more of it. I bring two same presents home from a trip: Madeleine wants Eitan's. I serve ice cream in equal bowls: both feel gyped and squeal "unfair!". Madeleine wants Eitan's bedroom; Eitan wants her money. Madeleine wants her money back. And so it goes. I fully appreciate the kids views on fairness and we try to make things pari passu. Sometimes though it is hard not to tease like this week returning from Denmark when I gave Eitan a present and told Madeleine I did not have one for her. Oh boy- won't be doing that again (Sonnet and Natasha thought my little prank beyond the bounds). These things build up over time and sometimes the only thing to do is talk about it at McDonalds or some other favorite place. The main thing is our attention and love, which is unequivocally split down the middle. This they know in abundance - I know because I ask them frequently enough.

No doubt the kids have been working hard in school and at their activities and everybody needs a holiday so next week cannot come soon enough. It doesn't help that Eitan has been setting his alarm clock at ever earlier hours until Sonnet screamed - enough! - at 4:30AM. Don't ask me why he does this.

Madeleine, blowing her nose: "Something in there just moved."

Eitan begs me to quiz him on football. When I ask him if Rinaldo has a girlfriend, he gets pissed. When I ask Wayne Rooney's wife, the game stops.

Thursday, July 10

Motor Sports

Max Mosley certainly keeps it interesting. He is suing a tabloid for reporting on his Nazi-themed orgy described so: “[The defendent] was shackled and stripped naked for a mock medical, then had his bottom shaved before a cane-swishing dominatrix counted out strokes in German and beat him until he bled. It was also reported that the court was told "it [the orgy] certainly wasn’t Hansel and Gretel." Mosley may have lost every shred of human dignity (the point of the trial) but he has kept his Presidency of FIA (a non-profit BTW), which governs Formula One racing, pulling an end-run around the sport's majors including Germany and the US who want him out and begging support from the developing leagues who want more races and share of the pie. Oh boy. Personally, I could care less about Mosley's private life and all the power to him for being able to afford five prostitutes at once (ok, a joke). It is absurd, however, for him to maintain a public post while playing Nazi. This made all the worse by his parents: dad was head of the British Union of Fascists and Hitler attended their secret wedding. Mosley's wife somehow remained clueless during 43 years of sado-masochism until reported by News Of The World in March (it is strange she did not see the scarring in unusual places). Man, she must have choked on her crumpet that morning, the poor lady. Fleet Street and we all love the story and Max is right up there with Naomi in our affections. Brother, we are all sinners.

For the first time, a blog I post is BLOCKED by Blogger/Google (nothing in the end changed. I thought it might be for "Nazi" or "Nazi themed orgy" but apparently not. A few iterations suggest that is is the combination of "spanking"and "sex" that offends. Indeed.