Wednesday, August 31


At Luton Airport. Madeleine: "Dad, do you realise you just left Eitan?"
Me: "It will teach that little chocolate muncher a lesson."
Madeleine: "No offense, Dad, but you are not very responsible to your kids."

Me: "What do you think Madeleine will be like as a teenager?"
Eitan: "Party animal."
Me: "Why do you think that?"
Eitan: "I dunno."


Nat and Noa @ 2,500 meters.

After Mont Fort, we bike a winding trail down from the snow capped mountain-peak through alpine terrain to lush grass valley fed by glacial streams; cows wander with large clanging bells. Just like Disney only here it is.

The Alps different, BTW, then the mesa or Sneffels Wilderness : the gradients steeper and the vistas cover multiple spiky ranges. From Verbier, the trails (or gondolas) take the hiker or biker to the top , no hesitation. Of course this is a ski resort : 35 lifts to 33 runs, two snowparks, one "Jardin de Neige" (a relatively flat area that is used for small children learning to ski), four cross-country pistes and two walking areas. But Verbier perhaps best known for its "off piste" trails which open the mountain in an entirely different way. Heli-skiing also an option.

Tuesday, August 30

Mont Fort

We visit Mont Fort at 3,300 meters, accessible by two gondolas, and snow capped despite August. The peak offers a world-class ski drop used for speed and, well, getting one's crazy on. A small hut (white arrows), reached by a third gondola, provides a 20 meter red "chute" where skiers drop in the one-kilometer piste : nearly straight down (NB there are about 30 of these courses world-wide and the distance standard for record-taking; most high altitude, reducing air resistance). Top speeds judged b/t 400-500 meters (the "timing zone") while the last 500m for slowing down. And stopping. One hopes.

The current world record for skiing is 251 km/h, held by Simone Origone. Speed skiers regularly hit 200 km/h , which is faster than the terminal velocity of a free-falling skydiver; about 190 km/h in the belly-to-earth position.

Speed skiers wear dense foam fairings on their lower legs and aerodynamic helmets to increase streamlining. Their ski suits made from air-tight latex or have a polyurethane coating to reduce wind resistance, with only a mandatory back protector to give some protection in the case of a crash. The special skis used must be 2.4 metres long and maximum 10 cm wide with a maximum weight of 15 kg for the pair. Ski boots attached to the skis by bindings. The ski poles bent to shape around the body, and must be a minimum of 1 m long.


Justin and I hang a print (behind the kids) - real man's work, which requires a new drill, leveler and various other power tools. I apply my metro-sexual as we contemplate this, and other hangings, in the apartment sans fee, as I indicate to Natalie.

Me: "This is good cake."
Sonnet: "It's chocolate cake and chocolate icing."
Madeleine: "And coconut."
Me: "Well , it's good. Well done."
Madeleine: "It's called a chocolate mountain cake."
Me: "Oh, yeah?"
Madeleine: "Because it looks like a chocolate mountain."

Sonnet: "If anybody comes into our room tonight I will kill them."
Madeleine: "Really?"
Me: "I wouldn't mess with mom right now."

Eitan: "Can we watch 'Pirates Of The Caribbean' on the computer?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, dad can we, please?"
Me: "Sure, watch the movie."
Sonnet: "What happened to no-movies on the computer because you'll go blind?"
Me: "You can't watch the movie."
Eitan, Madeleine: "What!?"
Eitan: "Mom you are such a tell tale."
Madeleine: "And you never want us to have any fun!"
Sonnet to me: "what's up with that?"
Me: "I can't keep track of this stuff."

Verbier !

We spend the long week-end with Justin and Natalie at their fabulous chalet in Verbier. The village on a south orientated terrace at 1,500 meters facing the Grand Combin massif. We are on the slope, and one feels the altitude esp. when moving. To get here we drive straight up a winding road on the east side of the Val de Bagnes, a valley south of Martigny. Justin guides us in. Sonnet cannot look, Dear Reader. And, since it is dark, I drive slow-lee, mon dieu.

Surrounding Verbier, further up the mountain and above the village, are 400 km of hiking trails, covering the chamois and ibex through the mountains, some of them covered with snow all year round. I see a number of healthy middle-age and elderly people powering along with sticks or ski poles eating fromage or salami and skipping to their joie de vivre. They will live forever. Another 200 km of mountain bike piste , carved into the mountainside, offers sweeping views of everything below. Our luck with us, too, as the weather mostly pristine accept a few puffy clouds on Saturday that break the endless blue.

Photo, from Nat and Justin's deck, of wester Pennine's Grand Combin - at
4,314 meters, one of the largest mountains in the Alps - eternally covered by snow and glaciers (hidden by the cloud bank).

This evening, Madeleine: "I did something bad today."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "I tried to dig up Monty. To see what his bones look like."
Me: "And?"
Madeleine: "And there wasn't anything left. Only one bone."
Me: "Thank goodness."
Madeleine: "Are you going to put that on your blog?"
Me: "Yeah, so?"
Madeleine: "Don't!"
Me: "It's my blog. Why not?"
Madeleine: "Dad, I don't want everybody to know that I dig up dead hamsters."

Thursday, August 25

15 Short Years

Sonnet and I celebrate our 15th Wedding Anniversary yesterday with a glass of Champagne at Claridges then dinner at Beirut Express, a Lebanese on the Edgware Road. Our tenth was at the "Pub and Grub" in La Veta. Photo next to blacktop exiting Utah.

Eitan spends five hours baking a surprise anniversary berry pie only to find the pie on the kitchen floor with Rusty's head, shaking back and forth furiously, covered in it. The boy cries (he tells us) but also has a sense of humor about the whole thing which, really, is quite funny. The dog looks at us, balefully, as Eitan describes the drama.

So, to Sonnet : It has been the best.

Tolstoy's "War And Peace" arrives in the poste.
Me, at the kitchen table: "Now THAT is a book."
Madeleine, distractedly, playing a video game on the iPad: "We have it already. In my room."
Me: "Really?"
Madeleine: "It's on the shelf. In my room."
Eitan: "Are you going to read it?"
Me: "It's my project for the fall."
Madeleine, matter of factly: "I've already read it."
Eitan: "You have not!"
Camilla: "What's it about?"
Madeleine: "It's about war."
Me: "And peace?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, whatever."
Eitan: "What's the last letter then?"
Madeleine: "A."
Eitan: "No it's not!"
Madeleine: "YOU wouldn't know, Eitan, since YOU'VE never read it."
Eitan reads the first sentence and marvels at the book's size.

Wednesday, August 24

William Bradford

Robert Weir's painting, "Embarkation of the Pilgrims" (1844), located in the Capital Building rotunda n Washington DC , which we see during our recent visit. Of particular keen interest , Katie and I direct descendants of William Bradford (white arrows in photo).

The painting depicts the Pilgrims on the deck of the ship Speedwell on July 22, 1620, before they departed from Delfs Haven, Holland, for North America, where they sought religious freedom. They first sailed to Southampton, England, to join the Mayflower, which was also making the voyage. After leaks forced the Speedwell to make additional stops in Dartmouth and then Plymouth, its passengers boarded the Mayflower. Five months later the Pilgrims settled the Plymouth Colony in present-day Massachusetts. (source: US Gov)

William Bradford , an English leader of the settlers of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts , elected thirty times to be the Governor upon the death of John Carver, who was Governor of the Mayflower and first-Governor of Plymouth. Bradford signed the Mayflower Compact and designated the first Thanksgiving. (Source: Wiki)

Tuesday, August 23

Grace, 1962

My mom , pictured, entering the Peace Corps shortly after JFK announced the program at Univ. of Michigan, where my father was a law student.

From the Peace Corps' first facebook:
"Grace, 22, was a member of the class of 1958 at XYZ High School, Columbus, Ohio. Except for a semester spent at ABC College, Switzerland, her college work has been taken at DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana. She graduated in 1962 with a B.A. in English. During the summers while in College, she worked as a lifeguard instructor at a camp and also in Columbus. In addition to enjoying canoeing, swimming and camping, she finds pleasure in piano, modern dance, and painting."

From the John F. Kenney Library:
"On October 14, 1960, at 2 a.m., Senator John F. Kennedy spoke to a crowd of 10,000 cheering students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor during a presidential campaign speech. In his improvised speech, Kennedy asked, "How many of you, who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana? Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?" His young audience responded to this speech with a petition signed by 1,000 students willing to serve abroad. Senator Kennedy's challenge to these students—to live and work in developing countries around the world; to dedicate themselves to the cause of peace and development—inspired the beginning of the Peace Corps."

John F Kennedy
"Life in the Peace Corps will not be easy. There will be no salary and allowances will be at a level sufficient only to maintain health and meet basic needs. Men and women will be expected to work and live alongside the nationals of the country in which they are stationed—doing the same work, eating the same food, talking the same language.

"But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace."

Thank You's

Sonnet in black pearls @ Stephan's wedding in June.

Eitan: "I'll do three."
Me: "You will do all of them."
Eitan: "Three, Dad, that's what I agreed with mom. Three a day."
Me: "I remember having to write thank you letters. But you know what? One day you'll actually want to send them."
E: "No way."
Me: "You'll enjoy writing them because you have been brought up to be civilised."
Eitab: "No I haven't!"
Madeleine: "Yeah, Dad, he was raised by a pack of wolves."
Eitan: "A pack of wolves."
Me: "Just finish them please."
Eitan: "I have to do this one again because I drew a picture of Rusty [Eitan shows me his letter] and it looks like he's having a pee. "
Me: "It looks like his willy."
Eitan: "It's his tail!"
Me: "Oh, great : Dear grandma and grandpa, thank you for all the presents this summer. Here is rusty peeing."
Eitan: "Ha ha ha!"
Me: "Well I'm glad you think it's funny."
Madeleine: "You're not going to send that, are you Eitan?"
Eitan: "I don't know."
Me: "Ever want to watch TV again?"
Eitan: "Yes."
Me: "Start over and draw the dog . Without his willy."
Eitan: "I hate writing letters."
Madeleine: "Are you going to punish Eitan?"
Me: "Look, you two, just finish your letters."
Eitan: "OK."
Me: "Thank you."
Eitan: "But only three."

Monday, August 22

Mercury Blast Off!

Mercury Redstone blasting off, November 29, 1961. The Redstone used Alcohol as its fuel and liquid oxygen as its oxidizer. At launch the vehicle weighed 60,000-pounds, stood 83.38 feet tall and produced 78,000-pounds of thrust. The Mercury Redstone engine burned for 142 seconds.

My model, the Mercury Redstone V, a direct descendant of the German V-2, designed by the German rocket engineering team led by Wernher von Braun and , from the Army's point of view, was to act as a long range artillery piece. The first Redstone flew successfully on August 20, 1953, from Cap Canaveral. In the years that followed the Redstone was developed into the tactical weapon that the army wanted, but it was never used as such. Instead, the Redstone found a better way to serve its country -- the duty of sending the first two Americans into space.

Boosting the first of the Project Mercury spacecraft into space on a sub-orbital trajectory would be the new role that the Redstone would play. Originally it was planned that all seven original astronauts would each fly atop the Redstone before each would fly an orbital mission. The first Mercury Redstone flight glitched at liftoff, only rising 2 inches - enough to pull two plugs out of the tail that were supposed to come out simultaneously. Instead they came out a micro-second apart and the abort system sensed the difference and shut the engine down - it also sensed its own shutdown and jettisoned the escape tower on the pad.

The next Mercury Redstone flight, MR-1A, was another test and was successful. Following that, MR-2 lofted "Ham" the chimp, but suffered an over-boost problem. MR-3 was scheduled to fly Alan Shepard on March 24, 1961, but when the von Braun team saw that there were ten data points of failure on the previous flight , they demanded another test. This delay in the schedule really ticked many in manned spaceflight operations who refused to give them a real Mercury capsule or let them use the MR-3 designation.

Still the von Braun team went ahead using a boilerplate capsule from the Little Joe 5B flight, an inert escape tower, and the designation MRBD for Mercury Redstone Booster Development. The flight proved out the ten corrections the team had made and effectively set the dominoes in motion that landed Americans on the moon. You see the delay it caused on Shepard's flight allowed the Russionas to place Yuri Gagain into space first. This turned a tepid US space program into a red hot space race and forced JFK to challenge the nation to go to the moon.

Politically, if Shepard had been first the attitude of the public and the politicians would have been "We won so the race is over" and landing on the moon may have remained just a dream to this day. In retrospect MRBD was, historically, the most important of the Mercurty Redstone flights for its delay.

On May 5, 1961, Shepard got his ride into space on MR-3. Only July 21, 1961, Gus Grissom flew aboard MR-4, but then the space race was so heated that the Mercury Redstone flights for the other five astronauts were cancelled as Project Mercury sped toward orbit and the use of the Atlas Booster.
Source: Flier included with Rocket Kit

My Mercury Redstone V Kit Specifications:
Skill Level 5: Extremely Challenging
Length: 13.75” (34.93 cm)
Diameter: .95" (24 mm)
Motor Mount Size: 18mm diameter
Fin Span: 2.00" (5.08 cm)
Weight (without motor): 1.25 oz (35.5 g)
Recovery Method: Plastic Parachute

Sunday, August 21

Mercury V, Baby

Prior to America, I spend a good month building the Mercury V, a model rocket that broke me in my yuf. My 11-year old fingers, and patience, unable to construct the red escape tower, pictured : then, tears. This time I demonstrate , ahem, maturity, and allow, you know, glue to set or paint to dry before moving forward - basic stuff that drives me nuts.

And speaking of immediate rewards : I plan to jam a "D" engine into the thing's ass and watch it rip 1,500 ft into the air at 1,000+ feet per second. God damn I am excited by this.

Leaving Home

Russ Ellis's "Leaving Home - Scenes of Emigration, 2007-2011," on display at Smith Anderson North in San Anselmo, California (unfortunately Sonnet and I cannot attend the opening). Russ's abstract paintings and sculptures beautiful and haunting. I am struck by the inside front cover of the catalogue, pictured , taken of Russ by William Russell Ellis, Sr, in Fontana, California in 1945.

"Russ tells the story about how his daughter, Zoe, at the time about eight years old - reflected to her brother David (during a traumatic few hours of jointly sensed abandonment) that "when daddy gets home, we're going to have to talk in straight lines." Now here we are, some three decades on, and Russell the Artist has demonstrably abandoned the "straight-line" of linear communication in favor of something so different that the medium bursts to generate The Artist, Formerly Known as Russ. In this new incarnation - some would say re-incarnation - linearity is low on the totem pole of aesthetics, priorities, sensates. And the results, with no apologia, to straight-line narration, are sesate-tional. You seem to know what you make of it, and then you don't."
--Introduction to "Leaving Home - Scenes of Emigration, 2007-2011"

Rusty Comes Home

Madeleine and I drive into Surrey and the kennel where Rusty has been these past five weeks. Madeleine can barely contain herself as the handler retrieves the pooch. We hear Rusty first - yap! yap! yap! - and then mother and child reunion is only a moment away.

"now is a ship

that Captain Am
sails out of sleep

steering for dream"
--E. E. Cummings

"No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away, oh, little darling of mine"
--Paul Simon

Friday, August 19


Radio 4 reports on "safe places to keep valuables" and notes, when traveling, the hotel front-desk may be the least safe place for a simple reason : the traveler might forget one's items. Funny, then, that I check the family passports (American+British) at our hotel and, impatient to hit the road for Utah, engine revving, Sonnet remembers - passports ! No doubt my error otherwise discovered at DIA on the other side of the Rockies. An inconvenient, expensive, family-taxing instance narrowly averted; a marriage saved. Thank you, Sonnet.

Note from Ms. D, Madeleine's Yr 4 teacher re Madeleine's spelling : "Madeleine has made such great progress, she is showing a lot of maturity, taking responsibility for her spellings. Well done Madeleine!"

Eitan: "It would be so easy to rob the neighbors."
Eitan: "All I would have to do is climb over the garage and jump into their backyard. They never lock the doors."
Me: "That's a nice idea."
Madeleine: "Would you do it, Eitan?"
Eitan: "Well, I wouldn't get caught."
Madeleine: "They have gadgets and all kinds of stuff ."
Sonnet: "May we change this conversation, please?"

Thursday, August 18

Denver Airport

Awaiting the over-night long-haul flight. These are words , Dear Reader, I do not like to put together referencing me.

Since most everywhere interesting, even an airport, here is Denver :

By land size, at 53 square miles, DIA is the largest international airport in the United States, and the third largest international airport in the world after King Fahd International Airport and Montréal-Mirabel International Airport. Runway 16R/34L is the longest public use runway in the US. Denver clocks in as the ninth-busiest airport in the world with 12,873,681 passengers. It is the fifth-busiest airport in the world by aircraft movements with 606,006 movements in 2009 (source: Wiki).

Summer Groove

It has been one great , long, month as we pack the SUV for one last trip : DIA. Been here before, I feel. Our flight departs 8PM so we go to Whitney's pool club to burn off energy (kids) and sunbathe (Sonnet) before the long-haul home. Me, I swim some laps and contemplate my office and the future : summer almost over and another year nearly gone by somehow.

Me: "Looking forward to going home?"
Eitan: "I am looking forward to seeing my friends and Elm Grove [new football team]. I can't wait for Elm Grove. Also the Premiere League and seeing Manchester United on the TV.. and baking a cake. And swimming, and school I guess.
Me: "Cool, it's nice to have those things before you. And you, Madeleine?"
Madeleine: "I've got one word to say , Dad."
Madeleine: "Gecko."

Forest Rd

We head to Denver - Beecher and Whitney, pictured - where we enjoy a Sonnet family reunion : Robin, Bill, Bill, Martine, Frank, Maire and Turk and their tots. This has not been a year without cancer and loss but we are together and happy to be so. Bill's cancer has caused cracks in his upper vertebrae which require cement fillings : The good news : His mind sharp as ever and his doctor allows him to ride. Bill a photographer and we compare notes on practices and places to shoot; his backyard not so bad. Beecher makes a huge spread followed by strawberry shortcake and ice cream; the kids chase each other around the backyard despite the heat.

Tuesday, August 16

On Stage

Madeleine and I at a local park inside Moab.

Madeleine gets a hair-cut (feathered, like Sean Cassidy, I tell her) and (continues to be) mistaken for a boy. Waiters, cashiers, strangers overheard calling her "pal," "bud," and "dude" . , which gets a raised eyebrow from Eitan : to laugh or be respectful to an adult? Conundrum. As for Madeleine , she enjoys the recognition: Tom boy. I have been calling her "Milo" this trip, a name, we both agree, boyish. Unclear whether this will stick in London. She ditches her one-piece swimsuit for trunks and a black "Quick Silver" top; she buys black Nike trainers. Yep, that's my girl, and I could not be more proud of her. I drive her nuts with practice times-tables and various commands, teasings, and orders but she still wants my attention which, I note to Sonnet, may not be the case in a few years.

Me: "Do you think I look fat?"
Madeleine: "No, Dad, you don't look fat."
Me: "Thanks, Madeleine, that's very nice of you."
Madeleine: "If you shave off all your hair than you would look even more fit."

@ the pool.
Eitan: "Can I go on your shoulders Dad?"
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "Can you give me an underwater ride?"
Me: "No, not now. Just let me swim."
Eitan: "Let's play chicken. Or shoulder ride!"
Me: "If you don't get off me, I am going to take off my swimming suit."
Madeleine: "Quick, Eitan, let go of Dad."
I drop my swimming trunks.
Eitan, Madeleine: "Aaaaaahh!"

Balanced Rock

4AM, hello!, and I am up for Arches National Park. Eitan, who beforehand agrees-interest in joining me , immobile and snoring , so I leave him be. It is pitch black upon exiting Moab, Sunday morning, and not a car on the 191. Since 70 degrees I am in shorts and a tee-shirt and have the air conditioning "on" as I pass the deserted park-entrance (Arches open to the public 24/7, 365 days a year ) and curve up a windy rd on to the mesa. Adding some drama , my SUV informs me with a loud "beep" : no gas. I figure the fumes can get me to where I wish to be, and back , but my calculation based on nothing other than a hope , and a prayer, with a slight anxiety expressed in my mid-section.

And so here I behold Balanced Rock . The height of this magnificent ancient geo formation about 128 feet, with the balancing rock rising 55 feet above the base. The big rock on top is the size of three school buses and weighs 3,577 tons. Until recently, Balanced Rock had a companion - a similar, but smaller balanced rock named "Chip Off The Old Block", which fell during the winter of 1975/1976. It is a spiritual place and I remain in darkness , awaiting sunrise. To pass the time I do some deep breathing and yoga exercises. Magic, man. Plus I make it to a gas station.

Dead Horse Lookout, Utah

View of the Colorado River and Canyonlands National Park from Dead Horse Point.

The plateau, where I stand now, surrounded by 2,000 ft cliffs with a narrow neck of land maybe 30 yards wide connecting the mesa to the main plateau. It was easy for cowboys to fence off the neck and round up wild horses. Legend has it that one group of horses left fenced and eventually died of thirst in view of the Colorado River - hence the name. This where final scene of Thelma & Louise filmed.

There is a fabulously designed Ranger Station which offers the American flag, a look out deck, and, of course, all the stuff Madeleine has come to expect from a well stocked gift shop. We spend about an hour here awaiting the sunset , which disappoints thanks to a horizonal cloud layer that lessons the hues anticipated from this hour. I meet a retired couple, from Georgia, who return to this spot after 40 years; now they spend their life in a Winnebago visiting National Parks and filming, with a 16mm, what they see "for posterity".

The strata measure geo-spatial time covering 75 M years at the top to 250 M years at the band rising ten feet from the river bed (visible on the left side of the photo)

Grand County

Our first night in Moab, >100 degrees, Sonnet, Madeleine and I explore a local park behind the fancy part of town (Eitan remains in the room, smartly, to watch TV). Our reward : a brilliant sunset followed by the moonrise, pictured, which otherwise appears much bigger than my camera records

The Biblical name "Moab" refers to an area of land located on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Some believe the name used because of William Pierce, the first postmaster, believing that the biblical Moab and this part of Utah were both "the far country". However, others think the name has Paiute origins, referring to the word "moapa" meaning mosquito. Some of the area's early residents attempted to change the city's name because in the Christian Bible, Moabites are demeaned as incestuous and idolatrous. One petition in 1890 had 59 signatures and requested a name change to Vina. Another effort attempted to change the name to Uvadalia. (Source: City of Moab website)

Monday, August 15

La Sal Jnct

La Sal Junction, pictured, connects routes 191 and 46 in San Juan County, Utah, 5,886 feet altitude.

I order Eitan, who idles, to write one full page about something he has seen in the past 24-hours (mind you, Dear Reader, that we are in Arches National Park and the Canyon Valley) :

"I saw a really cool breakfast bar. It had really nice food. I had fruit salad, a blueberry muffin and hot chocolate and a really delicious cream cheese pastry and chicken sausages which I unfortunately couldn't find any ketchup for. All in all , it was a delicious breakfast that I would recommend to all my friends for the Hampton Inn breakfast bar. Plus they give out free peppermints in the lobby."

"Serves you right."


Behind the mesh, pictured, is a 1,500 foot vertical drop to the Colorado River, whose wide swathe chisels the red sandstone.

"In need of water to work the Dolores Canyon gold claims, the Montrose Placer Mining Company built a thirteen-mile canal and flume to deliver water to from the San Miguel River. The last five miles of the flume clung to the canyon itself, running along the cliff face below. Constructed between 1888 and 1891, the four-foot-deep, five-foot-four-inch wide "hanging flume" carried 23,640,000 gallons of water in a 24-hour period. Its construction dazzled mining pros with its sheer ingenuity. The placer claim, unfortunately, dazzled no one; after three years of indifferent yields the company folded, abandoning the flume to the ravages of weather and time. Now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this engineering marvel symbolizes the twists of fate so often encountered in the pursuit of Rocky Mountain gold."
--US National Parks plaque

"This work will show how easy it is, when backed up by engineering capital, to bring water from and to points which were always thought to be inaccessible."
--Engineering and Mining Journal, January 1890

"We're looking pretty good for mid-40s."


Gateway Canyon Resort, and its surrounding area, owned by John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel (Hendricks got his start, in '85, with a $5 M investment from Allen & Co, whose partner - Botts & Co. - my first opportunity in London. Allen's investment worth $ billions ). Hendricks' father, a home builder, knew of the area and , since public land, told his son that, should he ever have some money, he must own it. The rest of the story, as they say, history.

Rte 90/141 takes us by Ridgeway (where John Wayne's "True Grit" filmed), the 17,000-acre Ralph Lauren ranch, Telluride, Naturita, Uravan and other postage stamps which make me wonder : how do people live in small towns with a gas station , liquor store and US post office ? There is charm to the beauty but services narrow to non-existent : schools, grocery stores, Pete's Coffee and public amenities a long drive - 20s of miles, maybe. Cowboy country , I would last a week. Naturita has one of the best libraries in the state, Stan tells me, and Silver checks it out.

"Ma'am, I don't know much about thoroughbreds - horses or women. Them that I did know, I never liked. They're too nervous and spooky; they scare me. But you're one high-bred filly that don't. 'Course, I don't know what you're talking about half the time."
--Rooster Cogburn

“I've had three wives, six
children and six grandchildren and I still don't understand women”
--John Wayne

44 Road

Photo from 44 Road, of Route 141, in Gateway Canyon, mid-day.

The Orenstein-Stanfill roaming family circus picks up sticks and heads for Utah via Route 141/90, taking a scenic detour to Gateway Canyon Resort, on Stan's recommendation. We caravan with Stan and Silver and Marcus.

As the Shakespeares' changes shall be upon us, their transition discussed (or ignored) by the family. Thackery gives us guidance, Dear Reader, below, which I read to the kids, who cover their ears:

"James Crawley, when his aunt had last beheld him, was a gawky lad, at that uncomfortable age when the voice varies between an unearthly treble and a preternatural bass; when the face not uncommonly blooms out with appearances for which Rowland Kalydor [anti-zit cream] is said to act as a cure; when boys are seen to shave furtively with their sisters scissors, and the sight of other young women produces intolerable sensations of terror in them; when the great hands and ankles protrude a long way from garments which have grown too tight for them; when the presences after dinner is at once frightful to the ladies, who are whispering in the twilight in the drawing-room, and inexpressibly odious to the gentlemen over the mahogany, who are restrained from freedom of intercourse and delightful interchanged of wit by the prescience of that gawky innocence; when, at the conclusion of the second glass, papa says, 'Jack, my boy, go out and see if the evening holds up', and the youth, willing to be free, yet hurt at not being yet a man, quits incomplete banquet. . . ."
--William Thackery, "Vanity Fair", 1848

Friday, August 12

Storage Drums, Cascade St, Montrose

Silver recounts Quaker boarding school - The Grove, in Maine, before Vassar : 9:30PM lights-out! No matches (cigarettes!). No boys (heaven, forbid!). Students achieving certain minimum exceptional performance allowed to pursue extra-curicular studies and Silver chose . . vocabulary. She learned one-hundred words a week and has not forgotten one.

Gassing up at Conoco, the following sign: "Pork N Hop Tickets R Here".

We say good-bye to the Red Arrow , Presidential Suit , visit the Coffee Trader one last time, and head for Utah.

Russell Stover

We visit Russell Stover Candies factory in Montrose ("America's Favorite Chocolate Store"(R)) and, as Silver says, "kids in a candy store".

For those few unaware, Stover sells 60% of all boxed chocolate in the US of A or 100 M lbs of chocolate annually. Who hasn't, at some youthful moment, bought their most successful product : a heart-shaped box of Valentine's chocolates ?

Me: "How long does a gecko live?"
Madeleine: "It says 20 to 30 years."
Me: "That's nice. So who is going to take care of your gecko when you go to college?"
Madeleine: "I don't know. You, I guess."
Me: "You can always take it with you."
Madeleine: "The only way they are going to let me have a gecko in college, Dad, is if they are going to dissect it."

At Russell Stover
Madeleine: "I don't like chocolate, Dad."
Me: "Oh, really?"
Madeleine: "I only like four kinds: eclairs , Mars, Snickers and twirlers."
Me: "What's a twirler?"
Madeleine: "It's a kind of chocolate that has caramel in it. It is sooo nice."
Eitan: "I got a jaw breaker . [Eitan thrusts a radioactive blue ball in my face] "The women said her son had one and it took him two months to finish."
Me: "Oh, great. What do you do when you're not sucking on it?"
Eitan: "You can't break it with your teeth, either."
Madeleine: "Is it like chewing ice, Eitan ?"
Eitan: "Yeah. It's stronger than ice."
Madeleine: "Woa."
Me: "That's disgusting. Just don't let me see that thing anywhere in the house when we get back."
Eitan: "I bet I can finish mine in less than a month."
Madeleine: "Woa, Eitan, that is so wicked."

Self Portrait XIX

Trailhead, entering Mount Sneffels wilderness, Uncompahgre National Forrest, Colorado.

Thursday, August 11

Blue Lake

We hike into Sneffel Wilderness while our trail takes us to the first of three Blue Lakes : this one 10,980 feet. The lake unnatural blue , filled by a stream from the towering Mt Sneffels, which has some scant snow. The water freezing cold - I last a few moments before too painful - while Eitan does a full-on cannonball then scrambles out, Dear Reader, in something near shock.

"Mount Sneffels is a fourteen thousand foot mountain peak located in the Mount Sneffels Wilderness of the northern San Juan Mountains, about 5 miles west of Ouray. The mountain named after the volcano Snæfell, which is located on the tip of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland. That mountain and its glacier, Snæfellsjökull, which caps the crater like a convex lens, were featured in the Jules Verne novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth. An area on the western flank of Mount Sneffels gives the appearance of volcanic crater. Seen from the Dallas Divide on State Highway 62, Mount Sneffels is one of the most photographed mountains in Colorado."


Madeleine: "Can we get a Gecko, Dad? Can we? Can we? When can we get a gecko? Will it go on the plane? I know, I will buy the cage and you can buy me the gecko."
Me: "What does a gecko eat?"
Madeleine: "Crickets."
Me: "Where will we keep crickets?"
Madeleine: "The garage. We can keep them there."
Me: "No, way. Your mom won't go for that."
Madeleine: "And if we feed him crickets we would have to take off every one of his last legs."
Madeleine: "So the ghecko can catch him."
Me: "Crickets: Out."
Madeleine: "Ok. We can feed him meal worms and wax worms as a treat. You keep those in the refrigerator."
Me: "Sonnet: Are you on board with this?"
Sonnet: "Is there a choice?"

Drive By Looting

The riots : like everybody, I am upset by the ransacking of London and other UK cities. This is violence fueled by boredom and opportunity : looters can do it, so they do. There is no Great Cause, like suffrage or the Arab uprising, motivating these people. Where is the imagination? Thatcher's coal miners thuggish yet fighting for their livelihood . Blacks in America , equality. We see criminals stealing electronics. We hear inarticulate, bored , yuf who believe they are owed yet fail to get educated or working. They contribute nothing yet receive health care, opportunity, and roads to leave. Cameron has it right, quoted in the NYT : "The sight of those young people running down streets, smashing windows, taking property, looting, laughing as they go, the problem of that is a complete lack of responsibility, a lack of proper parenting, a lack of proper upbringing, a lack of proper ethics, a lack of proper morals."

“This is the uprising of the working class. We’re redistributing the wealth.”
--Bryn Phillips, a 28-year-old self-described anarchist

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."
--Martin Luther King

Wednesday, August 10

Lovin' It

Me: "We can go to Sonic for good hamburgers or Mexican or pizza . . ."
Eitan, Madeleine: "McDonald's!"
Me: "Are you sure? You can do that all the time in London."
Eitan: Yes, Dad, but they don't have the playroom."
Madeleine: "Plus we go, like, only once a year."
Me: "McDonald's it is."
Both: "Yes!"

Later, entering McDonald's, both: "Mmmm, ohhh .. that smells so nice.. ."
Me: "Good to be home?"
Eitan: "I'll have the 20-piece Chicken McNuggets and chips.
Me: "French fries. Madeleine, you're up."
Madeleine: "I will have a cheese burger, six Chicken McNuggets and chips."
Me: "Knock yourselves out."

Later, Eitan: "Are you writing that down?"
Me: "Yeah, so?"
Eitan: "Dad! You are making me look piggy on the blog!"

For the record, from the McNugget box:
Stack 'Em & Dunk 'Em" : Golden & Juicy Meet Saucy.
Take a crispy coated Chick McNugget(TM) made with white meat and dunk it into one of our delicious tempting sauces. It's the perfect combination.
I'm lovin' it(R)

Nutrition Facts
Calories: 460 % Daily Value
Total Fat: 29g 44%
Sat Fat 5g 25%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 70mg 23%
Sodium 1000mg 42%
Total Carb. 27g 9%
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 24g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 2%
Calcium 2%
Iron 8%

Tuesday, August 9

The Shakespeares Sleep In ~ Riots And Cleaning

Madeleine, tidying room: "So, really, Dad, it's always me scratching your back."
Me: "Hey, do you know there are riots in London?"
Madeleine: "So?"
Me: "Good point."
Madeleine: "You are always making me do things I don't want. Can't you do it yourself for once?"
Me: "What fun would that be?"
Madeleine: "Can you at least pick up your clothes?"
Me: "You do it."
Madeleine: "You're just being lazy. All you're looking for is a slave."
Me: "They are putting 16,000 police on the streets."
Madeleine: "Why?"
Me: "Riots."
adeleine: "Where are they, Dad?"
Me: "Northwest London. Not near us."
Madeleine: "Oh. It is so unfair."
Me: "The riots?"
Madeleine: "The cleaning."

Corn Festival, Y'All

We return to the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival which celebrates its 20th anniversary with all-you-can eat corn and everything else American: corn dogs, country bands, US flags, slushies, military and religious booths, SUVs, corn-eating contests, enormous families, tatoos, cowboy hats and boots, iPhones and apple pie. Teenagers slink about; couples hold hands ; girls wear ripped jean-shorts up to their fannyline despite the family theme of it all. Despite a cloak of self-perceived invisibility, the young people on display, as it always is.

Last time , the headliner was Shania Twain and, since I had never heard of her, we did not stick around. Twain has sold over 40 M country albums. This year it is '70s rock band "Guess Who" , famous for '70 #1 "American Woman" which the band has lived on ever since. Richard Nixon invited Guess Who to the White House as long as they did not play "American Woman."

We find a morning spot underneath a canvas umbrella and watch the Shakespeares run back and forth and back and forth to the various food stalls - popcorn! Water Mellon! Hot dogs! Ice creams! Lemon sluice! Meat legs ! It's all a bit overwhelming in 100F+ heat so I read and observe. This an honest effort, a successful festival, and good vibe place.

"In 1992, a few insightful people in the small western Colorado town of Olathe, decided to celebrate the community's agricultural jewel... "Olathe Sweet" sweet corn, by organizing the first Olathe Sweet Corn Festival. This hometown crop was and continues to be more than just another of the many agriculture products of the region. Sweet corn is the crop that has kept this rural American community alive when other efforts were failing. Indeed, the citizens of the Town of Olathe, Colorado had cause for celebration."
--Olathe Sweet Corn Festival" Official History

Feeling 44

As I am up at 4:30AM for some horrible reason , I rouse myself from bed to sneak from the hotel to the SUV to drive to Black Canyon. The temperature a perfect 70 degrees , despite the hour , while HW 50 deserted. I turn into the National Park and curve along the mesa, passing the empty ranger station, a number of look-outs, the closed visitor center and eventually Painted Wall , pictured, where I set up my camera and await pre-dawn. The gorge, cut by the Gunnison River over millions of years, puts my balls into my stomach : one slip and it is a long ways down. I jump about the rocks with my tripod in a reckless fashion that would make Sonnet scream.

"At a sheer 2,300 feet, the Painted Wall, a prominent segment of the Black Canyon's north rim, is Colorado's highest cliff. The darker rock is Black Canyon Gneiss. The bold white and pink bands are granites and pegmatites injected during Middle Proterozoic (1.4 Ga) through Cambrian (~510 Ga) intrusions. Large books of white mica (muscovite) and crystals of pink potassium feldspar and translucent quartz give the pegmatites their lustrous pink look.

Just as Precambrian joints and faults controlled the placement of these igneous intrusions, the current regional jointing system now controls the locations of the side canyons cut by smaller streams left behind as the mighty Gunnison cut through the Gunnison Uplift.

These views look west from the Chasm View Nature Trail overlook, which is across the canyon from Chasm View on the South Rim. "
--Colorado Geology Photojournals

Painted Wall @ Sunrise

More words from Washington D.C.:

Me: "I'll give you five bucks if you can name five things about the white House."
Madeleine: "Really?"
Me: "They have to be good ones, too. I'm not paying for baloney like the White House is white."
Madeleine: "Barack Obama and his wife and his dog live on the 2nd floor."
Me: "Good."
Madeleine: "That the British burned down the White House in 1812."
Me: "Yep."
Madeleine: "There are 35 toilets. And five kitchens. That counts as two."
Me: "35 toilets?
Madeleine: "Four, dad, one more."
Me: "Go for it."
Madeleine: "There are eagles everywhere."
Me: "Dig deeper."
Madeleine: "The eagle is the symbol of America."
Eitan: "Mom told you that! "
Me: "I'll take it. Here's $5."
E: "What! Can I do that?"
Me: "Nope, you had your chance."
Eitan: "How about 5 questions for a dollar?"
Me: "No."
Eitan: "50p?"
Me: "No."
E: "A quarter? I'll do it for free, even."

Madeleine: "Washington: Museums, museums, museums."
Me: "Your worst nightmare?"
Madeleine: "Yep."

Eitan on the Jefferson Memorial : "Do we reaaallly have to go here?"

Eitan: "You know we burned down the White House? "
Me: "Oh, really?"
Eitan: "1812. It says right here the British burned down the White House."
Me: "Well I'm glad to know what side we're on."
Eitan: "I do like it when the British win."

Eitan: "Bye Dad! Bye Daaaad!
Me: "Get off that escalator right now!"
Madeleine: "What if the train comes?"
Me: "Then we will leave him."
Madeleine: "You would want to see some dumb old statue instead of keeping your own child?"

Sonnet: "I remember our trip to Washington D.C. when I was your age. I recall feeling the same way as you."
Madeleine: "Gee, thanks Mom, for making me feel really bad."

Soccer Camp

And no vacation would be a vacation without football for Eitan. Thanks to Stan, Eitan joins 75 kids, ages 10 to 14, for three hours of evening action, Wednesday to Friday. The well groomed pitches offer sweeping views of the mesa and Rockies. Two-thirds of the players female. Photo by Sonnet.

Me: "I noticed there are a lot of girls playing football."
Eitan: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "What's it like, playing against a girl?"
Eitan: "The same, I guess. .it's not like I care or anything."
Me: "Do you know what a Trojan Horse is?"
Eitan: "No."
Me: "It's from the Illiad. A bunch of Greeks hide in a giant wood horse which is left for the Trojans as a gift. The Trojans take the horse inside their city and, at night, the Greeks sneak out and open the city doors. Boom! They sack the city."
Eitan; "Why are you telling me this?"
Me: "It's kinda like playing with girls on the football squad."
Eitan: "La la la la lalalalalalala . ."

Big J

Big J's Pawn Shop on Main Street across from the Coffee Trader, the best coffee in Montrose. The founder-proprietors Fong and Will, both gay, from Las Vegas where Fong responsible for Harrahs Hotels entertainment and Will same for MGM Grand. In short, better than a sitcom. The duo moved to the Western Slope twelve-years ago, buying a derelict house, and turning it into their vision : a stately Victorian with a lovely coffee garden filled with flowers, tables , a few lounge chairs and a happy vibe. Many new proprietors followed their lead and, today, downtown Montrose celebrates a Main Street festival every Thursday evening of summertime.

Silver Is Purple

Eitan: "You are not going to JC Penney with Mom, Dad."
Me: "Oh? Why's that?"
Eitan: "Real men don't shop at JC Penney."
Eitan: "Real men only buy BBQ grills and sports stuff."
Me: "Thank you for clearing that up for me."

For the FYI: Founded in 1907, JCP's 1,106 stores produced $17.8 B of turnover and $389 M of net income for the 12 months ending December 2010. The company employs 156,000 people. While not particularly my style, JCP offers good basics and many a young man bought his first suit here. Many still do.

Texas Wedgie

Sonnet prepares dinner at her parents house.

Me: "Have you ever had a Melvin?"
Madeleine: "What's that?"
Me: "A wedgie. ."
Madeleine: "We call them a Texas Wedgie."
Me: "Oh? What's that then?"
Madeleine: "It's when you grab both sides of someone's pants and do this" [Madeleine puts both arms above head]
Me: "Have you done this in school?"
Me: "Yes, the last time was Harry. And only when he needs it. Billy had to put his hair back in school and Harry was laughing at him so we chased him across the yard. I caught him, Nathaniel held him. And Alex gave him a Texas Wedgie."
Madeleine: "And he never laughed at Billy again."
Sonnet: "Harry got a Texas Wedgie? That's mean."
Madeleine: "That's life, Mom."

Sunday, August 7

Emma Watson Goes To Brown

Following seven books, 3,408 pages, 1,090,739 words and eight movies : Harry Potter comes to an end at the Fox Cinema Center where we see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2". Sonnet began reading Harry P to the kids when they were 5.5 and 7 years-old, replacing my Spider Man bedtime stories. Unlike the wizard, my adventures included, like, real characters such as the "Giant Green Cricket" and the "Spider Killers", a series of deathly spider rob0ts, controlled by Kingpin, which scaled buildings to slay Our Man. But, hey, I am not jealous : We all have to move on I am sure.

Eitan, at the end of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows": "Oh, God."


We cross the Rockies on familiar tarmac , heading for the Western Slope and Montrose.

Eitan's List of things we have to do in Colorado. By Eitan
1. Montrose swimming pool every day.
2. Dairy Queen at least once.
3. Make a cake or a pie/ tart.
4. Go shopping for a snorkel and camera.
5. Go watch Harry Potter.
6. Take lots of pictures.
7. Go for a late nigh dip in the hotel pool.
8. Go to McDonald's Playland.
9. play lots of football.
Summer Reading
Eitan: "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins
Madeleine: "Wolf Brother," Michelle Paver
Sonnet: "Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West", Dorothy Wickenden
Me: "Vanity Fair", William Thackery


Obama, whose prior experience not much to crow about, fast losing my attention. No doubt he has the hardest job in America (as Leno quipped: "a job only a black man would take") but has failed to stand against the bully Republicans. Even following the debt-ceiling "negotiations" where Obama caved on his single request - revenue increases - he takes the hit from Bahner who blames the White House for a S&P downgrade; Quoth Bahner : "Unfortunately, decades of reckless spending cannot be reversed immediately, especially when the Democrats who run Washington remain unwilling to make the tough choices required to put America on solid ground."

The reality that our national debt spiraled out-of-control thanks to el presidente Bush and his Republican controlled Congress who increased US debt by $5 T. Obama, by 2010 year-end, has added another $1.6 T mostly to save the financial system and address the economy he inherited. To suggest the Democrats responsible for the debt a bunch of baloney.

So when will the President wake up ? The story now told by the loudest to the dumbest. Dullards must be met head-on. FDR , in similar circumstances, relished the battle and welcomed the hatred of his adversaries. Obama's instincts , and decency, have set us back.

Eitan, from the air: "Chicago is neat."
Me: "Neat?"
Eitan: "Neat and tidy."

Madeleine, at a bookshop in Chicago O'Hare airport: "Look, Dad, I've found the comics you used to like. Want to see?"
Me: "Sure."
Madeleine: "See? I like the X Men. They are my favorite."
Madeleine: "Can you buy me some?"