Tuesday, November 29


I have one of those wonderfully awkward moments that only happens in an office when, in Paris, an assistant suggests that "there are some who don't like your long hair" ; "some" meaning the founder of the buyout firm I am with, of course. Being no dummy when money involved, I make an appointment with Sonnet's hair stylist 'Tim Williams Hair Design' in Barnes. Subsequently I find myself the sole male customer in an otherwise bustling salon. Tim, for his part, a wonderful character who conditions my hair then gives me tea and a few style magazines to read while he collaborates on a middle-age woman's hair colour: "Oh, honey, just go with what feels right" he coaxes.  Metro-sexual heaven, dude. Tim and I chat about this and that and the celebrities in the neighbourhood and house designs and so on and so forth. My glasses off and Tim notes (alarmingly ) "don't be alarmed, Dear, it is only a work of art."  

It is nearly December and autumnal as the wind blows the sidewalk's leaves , back lit by a low sky with hues mostly of grey and brown . I bicycle by the Thames with her tide 'out' and the riverbanks exposed and muddy. The Barnes Bridge delivers the underground which adds a splash of red and blue as the metro whizzes overhead.  It takes me back to my first winters in New York with the same urban bleakness : a friend I admire once told me that "a city becomes beautiful after 200 years" and, mostly, I agree with him.

Monday, November 28


Me, moments before strangling Eitan.

Madeleine and I walk Sonnet to the bus stop. At Cafe Nero: "It is so unfair that I can't have a treat."
Me: "Life is unfair. Let's do this. You ask me a question, anything at all, and I will see if I can answer it."
Madeleine: "Do we have to Dad?"
Me: "Give it a try."
Madeleine: "How did they know the world wasn't flat?"
Me: "That's excellent.  Let's see. People used to think the world flat and the sun and the moon circled around us. Kind of arrogant, don't you think?"
Me: "When we are just one of a billion stars in the universe."
Madeleine: "That's pretty small, isn't it?"
Me: "We are smaller than a speck of dirt."
Madeleine: "Whoa."
Me: "Aristotle, anyways, over 2000 years ago, one of the first dudes to think the world is round.  To measure the curve, he knew that the sun directly overhead at the summer solstice, and so he was able to measure the angle of the shadow , which he did at Alexandria, which was about 1/50th of a circle, he estimated. Then he measured the distance Alexandria to Syene, another ancient city, and was able to use the two points, plus the angle, to determine the earth's circumference."
Madeleine: "Do you want to know three other ways?"
Me: "Of course."
Madeleine: "One. You can see the earth's shadow on the moon."
Me: "Excellent."
Madeleine: "Two. Ships disappear on the horizon and, if the world was flat, you would see them until they were a little dot."
Me: "Brilliant."
Madeleine: "And Christopher Columbus said so, too, when he sailed to America."
Me: "Good stuff, kiddo. Gold star."

Sunday, November 27

Golden Balls

Elm Grove defeat Barnes Eagles for the second time in a month : this time, 2-1 , which sees a spirited opponent up for the match and playing good football. Eitan and Jack dominate the back-field and continue to be an effective defensive pair: Jack brings the powerful sweep while Eitan disrupts the forward attack with multiple cutting touches. Barnes a posh neighborhood ("cute", says Eitan) and , while their boys play hard, tackling, football, the sideline notably reserved. Compared to Elm Grove, that is. Ours, whose parents include a stewardess, cabbie, couple of brick layers and the like, vocal: "Get the ball in there, Lad! No, not like that! Talk to each other!!"

Me, I keep mostly quiet and let Eitan do his stuff. Everybody thinks I am a weirdo, anyway, since I go jogging then do yoga-stretches like the "half-moon" pose or the "triangle" which is particularly embarrassing to Eitan for some reason. Poor kid just wants to fit in.

"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."

"'Cause it's a bitter sweet sympthony, this life."
--The Verve

Saturday, November 26


We meet friends in south London for an Indian experience. Tooting an urban area, dense, without trees nor greenery and snarling traffic inching down the High Street.  The shops mostly down-scale with "All For A Pound", Halal butchers, Vetec Electronics and etc and so on. Our friends delayed by a motorcycle accident which the ambulance cannot reach because of the two-lane two-way.

This might be a cool place to live with the right attitude : ethnic and vibrant : I see joggers pass elderly women in hajib. There are plenty of restaurants while the Undergound zips young professionals straight to the City.

I chat with Ms. Munawar of "Punjab Sweets & Restaurant" who tells me she and her husband bake everything behind the counter.  She is proud of her family business and I can only imagine how she got here.  There are a number of other staff with the women dressed in Sari and heads wrapped, faces partially covered, while the men in trainers, sloppy and casually uncaring while they really do. None of them speak passing English. At the back of the restaurant a mobile phone shop being installed. Not an inch to waste.

Madeleine: "Have you ever held a chinchilla?"
Madeleine: "You aren't taking me seriously, are you Dad?"
Me: "It's just that nobody has ever asked me that before."
Madeleine: "They are the size of a football. And cuddly."
Me: "Good to know."
Madeleine: "So can we get one?"
Me: "Talk to your mother."
Sonnet: "Oh, no, don't you dare."
Madeleine: "If Dad says it's Ok, can we get one?"
Sonnet: "We are not getting a chinchilla."
Me: "Let's get a goat!""
Madeleine: "Yes! Really?"
Sonnet: "Your Dad is winding you up, Madeleine."
Madeleine: "So a chinchilla is Ok then?"
Sonnet: "We are not getting a chinchilla. We are not getting a goat."
Me: "I was on your side, too, kid. "
Madeleine: "It is so unfair."

Madeleine Breakfasts

Madeleine and I take Rusty to the dog-pond in Richmond Park where the pooch frolics with other dogs and generally wares himself out. I meet a heavy-set dude in a hunting jacket with a fancy camera and we talk about photography for a while then private equity as he is a lawyer at a known firm in the City. These walks with Madeleine allow our unpressured together. Sometimes, like this morning, the subject of sex comes up and she wants none of it from Dad. I tell her that I would rather the uncomfortable conversation now than her unprepared later.

Madeleine: "How many comics do you have?"
Me: "I don't know, maybe 500 or something. Why?"
Madeleine: "Do you like them?"
Me: "Yeah. When I was a kid I would  walk across campus to Comics And Comix on Telegraph and spend an hour leafing through the boxes, looking for that one missing copy of Spider Man or the Hulk from my collection. Then I would go to Blondie's for a slice and a coke."
Madeleine: "Are they worth any money?"
Me: "I suppose they're worth something. All for you one day, Kid."
Madeleine: "How much?"
Me: "I don't know. Maybe $1000. Could be more."
Madeleine: "Wo-o-oa. You are rich."
Me: "I don't think 1000 bucks makes you rich these days."
Madeleine: "It does if you are me. I have, like, £100."
Me: "That's not so bad."
Madeleine: "I'm totally broke."
Me: "You're a kid."
Madeleine: "You owe me my allowance."
Me: "Oh?"
Madeleine: "For three weeks."
Me: "Noted."

Friday, November 25

Going Stag

I had two bachelor parties : one in New York, when a bunch of MBAs took me to Peter Lugers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, followed by a strip joint. From there things went downhill fast ending at Times Square at dawn with no money to get home.

My second stag (pictured, with Joe Montana) in San Francisco with a different group and notable for many reasons including the bowling ball Roger chained to my leg and I threatened to roll down Nob Hill, making Roger more than anxious. Just like college. Just like now. Sam also with us and the only one to, you know, actually talk to some pretty girls. Just like high school. Just like now.

As ever, the evening ended with "entertainment" and ours at the Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre in the Tenderloin district. Wiki states "O'Farrell the oldest and most notorious adult-entertainment establishment in the country" and Hunter S. Thompson adds: it is "the Carnegie Hall of public sex in America". Famous alum include John Holmes (porn star), Marlyn Chambers (porn star), Megan Leigh (porn star), Fallon (porn star), Annette Haven (porn star), Nina Hartley (porn star) and Erica Boyer (porn star). And so on and so forth.

Yes, I have been to worse. Like my friend S who had candle-wax melted on his scrotum by a prostitute.  Or the "performer" who was lactating. Why do otherwise sensible young men do this sort of thing, which,  inevitably,  leads to self-loathing or worse given the Internets? Sure, alcohol fuels the frenzy. Male bonding another. But mostly it is one last chance, perhaps missed or never in college, to play the ass. And really go for it.

The Brits do it better than most, too, given their propensity to drink like fish. They are also a bit smarter about it - for instance, they leave the UK . Why take the chance of being spotted comatose at some brothel in Shepherd Market? Prague has become the #1 stag location in Europe followed by Riga then Budapest, according to stagforyou.com, which is happy to set up everything for the lads.  Hen parties have , more recently, become equally popular.  

Me, I haven't been to a bachelor party since '96 and it is not something that I miss. Entirely.


I walk out of Uniqlo on Regent Street to find an assemblage of officers chaperoning a peaceful protest demanding free elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, pictured. There are probably a thousand people and the vibe cheerful which is entirely the opposite of everything I know about the Central African country whose Second Congo War, beginning in 1998, devastated the country, involved seven foreign armies and is sometimes referred to as the "African World War". Despite the 2003 peace accords, fighting continues in the east of the country. In eastern Congo, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence is described as the worst in the world by the Washington Post. The war is the world's deadliest conflict since World War II, killing 5.4 million people since 1998. The vast majority died from malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition.

Thursday, November 24

Comics & Comix

To the kids great pleasure (and my secret enjoyment), Stan sends the Sunday funnies from the Montrose Daily Press.  They are all there, too : Doonesbury (my all-time favorite), Garfield (what is that rascal up to this week?), Blondie (I always think of Roger), The Peanuts (my first comic), For Better Or For Worse (I've followed the family story-line since 9th grade) and so on and so forth.  There is sometimes need to police the grabbing but, for the most part, the Shakespeares well behaved when it comes to the breakfast table sharing.

Eitan uses his mobile phone to inform me he will be late coming home as he watches a school football match. Yep, we enter the Next Stage. Slowly, but surely, she comes.

Ball Gowns

Sonnet's Ball Gowns green-lighted for May 19, 2012, at the V and A and will be the first exhibition in the refurbished fashion gallery (image from the museum).

The expo to host 60 ball gowns from 1950 by designers like Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen (his S/S 2011, pictured). A special shout goes to Gareth Pugh's metallic leather dress designed for the exhibition. Will he wear it, I wonder?

And, since this is England, Sonnet includes some Royalty like the Norman Hartnell designed for Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Diana’s ‘Elvis Dress’ by Catherine Walker. Our informal Brit royalty on display, too: Daphne Guinness, Elizabeth Hurley and Bianca Jagger, Hardy Amies, Ossie Clark, Bill Gibb, Belleville Sassoon, Murray Arbeid, Bruce Oldfield and Julien MacDonald. The show's aim, as everything at the museum leading up to the London Olympics, to showcase British talent.

"Clothes and jewellery should be startling, individual. When you see a woman in my clothes, you want to know more about them. To me, that is what distinguishes good designers from bad designers."

--Alexander McQueen

McD's Distribution

On Thanksgiving, when America pigs out, it somehow seems meaningful to see how often where : pictured, the US visualised by distance to the nearest McDonald's. The clown is in your house.

Created by Stephen Von Worley

Sunday, November 20

Smooth Criminal

Madeleine bakes ginger bread cookies which, she notes, "Is the hardest cookie I have ever made. And I have made loads of cookies."

Me: "What are you doing?"
Eitan: "Don't have a cow Dad. I'm only playing."
Me: "With red play dough? In the living room?"
Eitan: "It's not like any of it has fallen on the carpet."
Me: "Let me paint you a scenario. Me:  'How did this play dough get into the carpet? It's ruined. Eitan! No football for the rest of the season!' You: 'waa waa waaa . . ..'  I just saved you a lot of hardship, mister. "
Eitan: "I don't cry like that. That is how Madeleine cries."
Madeleine: "Huh?"
Me: "Eitan, were I you, I would quit while I was ahead."

Mad Hatter


Madeleine and I have a movie-date and she chooses "Alice And Wonderland" from our local Blockbuster which is going out of business fast.  Johnny Depp is fun for about 30-minutes then I lose interest in the film and surf the net and blog. Pizza arrives and we have a perfect evening together.

Sonnet Home

Sonnet back to us and we pick her up @ T5 following 7AM swim practice (groan, Madeleine to tears)

Madeleine: "Dad will you stop singing please."
Eitan: "I've never been so cold in my life."
Me: "Don't worry, the car is warming up. Don't you like my singing?"
Madeleine: "Not really."
Me: "I remember driving to swim practice and Moe was always the happiest one in the car. Go figure."
Madeleine: "He probably wasn't jumping into the freezing cold water."
Me: "Our pools outdoors. Plus we had to walk from the car to the pool in the freezing cold rain in the dark."
Madeleine: "What would you do if the pool froze over?"
Me: "I don't think it ever happened."
Madeleine: "Well, what would you do?"
Me: "Go ice skating. In my pants."
Eitan: "Dad!"
Madeleine: "At least you wouldn't have to get in the water, then."

Me, listening to the radio: "Do you guys like Elton John?" ['Call it the Blues' plays]
Eitan: "Yeah, I guess so. I used to get him mixed up with Nelson Mandela."
Me: "Oh?"
Eitan: "Their names are kinda the same, like, with the 'l.'"
Me: "Makes sense."
Eitan: "Plus I thought Nelson Mandela was a singer."

Saturday, November 19


Madeleine performs "stuff", she tells me now, which includes a few group songs, a bit of acting and some dance.  We parents enjoy the spectacle, even if I cannot follow the most of it.  The conclusion : a rousing "Mama Mia" followed by a singalong of "Just A Small Town Girl" by Glee and before that Journey.

Me: "This dog is driving me crazy. What are we going to do with him?"
Madeleine: "Do you want to give him back?"
Me: "Of course not. Would I ever give you back?"
Madeleine: "You can't 'cuz I'm your kid."
Me: "Oh, really? I was thinking maybe we would give you to Auntie Katie or Dana. Or maybe Gracie and Moe?"
Madeline: "You're not really being serious, are you Dad?"
Me: "Hmmm it's tempting. I'll have to check with your mother first."
Madeleine: "Dad!"
Me: "I could never give you up never you worry."

Friday, November 18


I am in Paris for the night and stay at my usual.  Yes, the Super Investor conference going on with the Good and the Great in the 75008 but I am here to see Astorg and have a few meetings on the side.  What is clear : pessimism in the air : private equity investors look at Europe and think : WTF? The bad times will be good for some and brutal others . Astorg, for her part, viewed as the #1 buyout firm in France and last week ranked 6th globally of all pe firms by HEC-Dow Jones for the vintages covering 1998 to 2007 by performance.

Astorg are dudes who know how to make money and not everybody, most in fact, does. As the founding partner once told me, in broken English: "Astorg a system that allows ze best ideas to reach the top for a decision by ze Investment Committee."

Eitan at the Attack Rugby Festival representing his local primary. He reports that "we won three, lost three, and drew one. We were one point away from reaching the semi-finals. We could have done better."

Madeleine: "Dad, what do you think would happen if we strapped one of your rockets to Rusty with duck tape?"
Me: "Um, I've not thought of that before."
Madeleine: "I bet it would take a lot of his fur off."
Me: "Yes, it probably would."
Me:  "Don't get any ideas kid."

Me: "Hey, Madeleine, stop doing the dishes and come over here and listen to one of my favorite songs : "Just Like Heaven", by The Cure."
Madeleine: "Okay. . ."
Me: "I used to listen to this in college, you know, on a Friday night by myself thinking about some girl . .."
Madeleine: "Hold Rusty. I want to do 'the worm.'"
Madeleine does 'the worm' on the kitchen floor.

Soft and only
Lost and lonely
Strange as angels
Dancing in the deepest oceans
Twisting in the water
You're just like a dream "

-"Just Like Heaven" by The Cure

Thursday, November 17

Burlington Arcade

I occasionally walk the Burlington Arcade behind Bond Street connecting Piccadilly to Burlington Gardens. There are Rolex watches and cashmere sweaters and similar such stuff mostly for the Chinese and other tourists who can afford it.

The arcade built in 1819 by Lord George Cavendish, younger brother of then 5th Duke of Devonshire, who inherited the adjacent Burlington House, on what had been the side garden; the arcade built, reputedly, to prevent passers-by throwing oyster shells and other rubbish over the wall of his home.

In '64 a Jaguar Mark X charged down the arcade, scattering pedestrians, and six masked men leapt out, smashed the windows of the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Association shop, and stole jewellery valued at £35,000. They were never caught.

Wednesday, November 16

Big Brother Is Now

The Lancaster City, PA, Council voted unanimously to begin near-constant aerial surveillance of its city from May 1. (Did you know that Lancaster is the oldest inland city in the United States?)

The surveillance will be done by a piloted Cessna 172 fixed-wing aircraft for 10 hours a day and will cost the city $300 an hour, or about $90,000 a month. The technology, developed by the Lancaster-based Spiral Technology, Inc., includes the use of infrared imaging. "The camera could spot a home invasion robbery or track unsuspecting criminals. It could note car accidents so patrol cars could get there more quickly," city officials told the Los Angeles Times. Lancaster will be the first city in the nation to use the technology, which has previously only been used by the military, NASA and a few other federal agencies.

Me: "How was your visit to [Head Master] Mr H's offices (for poor behavior)?
Madeleine: "I didn't have to go."
Me: "Oh? Why not?"
Madeleine: "Mr B forgot."
Me: "Maybe I should have a talk with Mr B."
Madeleine: "No! That is so unfair!"
Me: "How is your behavior, then?"
Madeleine: "Fine. You are so cruel."
Me: "It was not me mis-behaving young lady."
Madeleine: "It wasn't a Big Deal, anyhow, Dad."
Me: "You don't get to decide that."
Madeleine: "You just want to see me in trouble."
Me: "No, just the opposite, actually."
Madeleine: "Are you going to talk to Mr B?"
Me: "We shall see how it goes and that is the best you are going to get from me."

Photo from the movie "1984".

Tuesday, November 15

Fulham FC

The All Stars play a friendly against the Fulham Academy under-10s, pictured, on the Fulham FC grounds. Just another Tuesday night.  Me, I go running, then sit in reception to keep warm and blog and watch England vs. Sweden on the tele (England has not defeated Sweden since '68).

I listen to the ancient grounds keepers bitch about this or that but, man, do they know every blade of grass about their football: "Come on Theo, lad, put one in there!" and so on and so forth.  One offers : "I was was at John Terry's house last week" (John Terry being the England captain before he shagged his best mate's wife); the immediate reply: "On the job, were ya?" and so it goes. What really gets them going, though, is who is getting paid what for doing nothing.  I chip in my enthusiasm whenever England makes a strike or the goalkeeper Carson blocks something, anything (Eitan and I both agree: Carson a butter-fingers who kept us out of the '08 Euro Cup by allowing a clunker against Croatia. But who remembers these things?).

Then again, who would have ever thought that I would care about soccer, let alone spend half my waking life driving the boy to and from practice or watching games in my free time, as we do tonight, well past Eitan's bed time?  Not having grown up with a home team , I miss the passion of, say, a Liverpool or ManU fan, but I can appreciate the misery and joy having followed Cal from age three. Okay, Cal has been mostly misery but I still get it.  England wins, 1-nil. 

Madeleine's visit to Mr H gets a shrugged shoulder. More on this later.

Monday, November 14

Our Little Darling

Madeleine, March 2005, Kew Gardens

Me: "How was your day, Kiddo?"
Eitan: "Madeleine was in school assembly. And she got into trouble."
Me: "Oh? What did she do?"
Eitan: "She tied some girls shoe laces together and now she has to go to Mr H's office [school Head Master] tomorrow morning. 
Me: "Remember when I exploded that stink bomb on the school bus in 6th grade?"
Eitan: Yeah, so?"
Me: "I had to go to the principal's office, too, and I was crying like crazy. I bet she's terrified."
Eitan: "Are you mad at her?"
Me: "No. Not for this."

Me: "Hi Madeleine, how was your day?"
Madeleine: "I was in class. And I knocked a book over and it made a 'thump' and I lost two-minutes of 'Golden Time'".
Me: "Did that happen in assembly?"
Madeleine: "Um, no Dad, that was something different."
Me: "Yes?"
Madeleine: "I was sitting next to Billy and Zac and next to Billy there was Sarah. And I was absent-mindedly tying Sarah's shoe laces together. .. ."  
Me: "Absent mindedly. Then what?"
Madeleine: "Mr B looked over, and saw me, and he was furious. I lost another two-minutes of 'Golden Time.'  And tomorrow I am going to Mr H's office. It is so unfair."
Me: "What would have happened if Sarah had fallen and hurt herself?"
Madeleine: "She wouldn't have, Dad. Mr B should not have been so mad."
Me: "He has to keep a class of 29 kids under control. I bet he was mad."
Madeleine: "If you are trying to make me feel better it is not working."

Madeleine: "I have an idea. About going to Mr H's office.
Me: "Let's hear it."
Madeleine: "I will get hit by a car. Then they will put me in one of those things, a body cast, and I will have two broken legs and broken arms."
Me: "And a poked out eyeball? Or your left nostril torn open!"
Madeleine: "Yeah! And they will wheel me into his office and Mr H will be, like, 'Woa!"
Me: "No doubt."
Madeleine: "Then he will ask me what happened and I will tell him that I was hit by a car, thrown into a sharp shrubbery and then mugged and everything."
Me: "Diverting his attention?"
Madeleine: "Yes."
Me: "And he will let you off?"
Madeleine: "Of course. He will be crying so hard he won't remember the shoe laces."
Me: "Good plan but let's not do it."
Madeleine: "Why not?"
Me: "Just promise, Ok please"
Madeleine: "Ok, Dad. Whatever you say."

Sunday, November 13

Self Portrait XXII

Madeleine: "Usually, if a couple of people are walking down the street, it is about the looks first."
Me: "True. But there are other things too of course."
Madeleine: "Then there is the personality."
Me: "I thought your mother the prettiest thing I'd ever seen when we first met. Still do."
Madeleine: "If you were walking down the streets of London do you think you would attract good looks now?"
Me: "You tell me."
Madeleine: "Um, no offense to you, Dad, but probably not. You would only have the chance if you had a purple shirt, white trousers, and that hair you had when you were younger that made your head look square."
Me: "That all?"
Madeleine: "And your other glasses."
Me: "That's very nice of you."
Madeleine: "Don't forget that it's the thought that counts."

Madeleine: "Guess what Alex is getting?"
Me: "How should I know?"
Madeleine: "He is going to get a tarantula and a scorpion."
Me: "Doesn't he already have a snake?"
Madeleine: "Yes."
Me: "You won't be going over there for a play date anytime soon."
Madeleine: "They're safe, Dad. They had their penises taken off."
Me: "They had their penises taken off? How does that make them safe?"
Madeleine: "Pincers, not penises."
Madeleine: "You know I can see the veins on your head when you laugh like that."

Epson Eagles

Our routine marches forward and today the All Stars in stride with a comprehensive win over the Epson Eagles whom, I am told, Elm Grove hold a grudge following last season's trouncing and a coach who tells his Eagles to run through our boys with hard tackles.  Final score : 6-2.

Sonnet and Marcus in Denver with Stan and their family.

Me: "What did you do in school today?"
Madeleine: "B and A and I played this game. Only I don't think I should tell you what it was."
Me: "Why?"
Madeleine: "Because it's gay."
Me: "Come again?"
Madeleine: "Well, it was. Gay, that is."
Me: "Do you know what 'gay' means?"
Madeleine: "Yes, Dad. It is when a man loves a man."
Me: "Or a woman loves a woman."
Madeleine: "No, that is when they are lesbians."
Me: "Either way, they're both laughing and smiling and having a gay time and stuff."
Madeleine: "Z is always like that, hugging the boys."
Me: "Yeah?"
Madeleine: "Do you think he's gay?"
Me: "Z gay?"
Madeleine: "What's so funny?"
Me: "I wasn't expecting this conversation that's all."

Madeleine points at a black, convertible Mercedes: "I know who owns that car."
Me: "Who, then?"
Madeleine: "He lives there [Madeleine points to our neighbor's house]. He's 72."
Me: "That's pretty cool."
Madeleine: "And he's a spy."
Madeleine: "I have this theory. See the side things that look like fish gills or something?"
Me: "Yes?"
Madeleine: "That is wear the machine guns come out."
Madeleine: "And the top, too. The machine guns come out of there as well."
Me: "Your imagination is really  going tonight."
Madeleine: "What do you mean?"
Me: "Oh, nothing, really."

Friday, November 11

Silver, 1935-2011

Silver Stanfill passed away following complications from heart surgery. My photograph of Silver from the summer in Montrose, Colorado.

I met Silver in July 1993 at Jeremiah Tower's restaurant Stars in San Francisco, an appropriate venue for a larger-then-life personality. I did most of the talking, I recall, having decided to defer business school for a couple of years to be in love with Silver's daughter. Silver listened patiently with a knowing smile as if to suggest : this is the one for my Sonnet. She gave me the same look when, two years later, Sonnet and I announced to our families that we were to be married and again at Eitan then Madeleine's birth.

Silver from a serious family : her father a medical surgeon who served in the Second World War which rendered him unempathetic, and three sisters , each of different generations, owning their respective movements of the '50s, '60s and '70s. It is not surprising, then, that Silver went to Vasser to study Latin and drama. Her friends and compatriots were Nancy Graves (first women to solo at the Whitney), Patricia Rakic (neuroscientist) and Jane Fonda. Silver's life changed again when she met, and married, Stan inside two weeks - Christmas Eve would have been their 50th anniversary.

Stan and Silver moved to Alaska in '61 for the work and the adventure - Alaska had become a state in '59 - just in time for the Good Friday Earthquake , measuring 9.2 on the Richter scale, which ripped Anchorage along the fault line. Silver described the city "melting" and 40 foot tree-tops whipping back and forth touching the concrete.

Soon following their arrival, Silver became a literature professor at the University of Anchorage, including a Fulbright to Split, Yugoslavia, and a teaching year in Sheffield, England; she took a sabbatical for her Masters in Boulder, Co, and a leave of absence to teach at the Lycee in San Francisco. With two children, and -40 degree winters, she graded papers, smoked cigarettes and hosted cocktail parties to know the other frontiersmen and women : like the Manhattan debutante who lives in a remote log cabin and can skin a moose.  Silver's course , "Women's Autobiography," contributed to the Feminist Movement; I have met alumnae in London and Paris who tell me this class changed their life's direction.

Silver had no time for fiction. She loved the New Yorker ("A cool bath on a warm day"), local crafts catalogues and any writing on women and artists , often supporting their work esp. if Southwestern or Native American. In Alaska, she made sure her children appreciated theatre, ballet, Europe and culture with frequent trips abroad when the jets went to London over the North Pole. Later on, Santa Fe became her favorite place and she and Stan went for the summer opera, a shared passion. She adored fashion and was remarkably proud of Sonnet's job at the V and A: Silver personally greeted 600 guests at the launch celebration of Sonnet's first museum exhibition, Ossie Clark, in '03.

Silver's last 12 years spent in Montrose in a home she and Stan designed , with views of the snow-capped mountains, and surrounded by art. Silver's influence on Eitan and Madeleine, limited by geography, profound : a hard-earned belly chuckle for a clever comment from either child left each glowing; a stern look sent them slinking away.

Me, I love Silver's eccentricity , which remains with me, her vitality and intellect. For the first five years of our relationship the latter made me, well, terrified. We looked across a great divide of age and interests. Once , however, we found our middle-ground, which included England, museums and family, I became able to appreciate her unique and particular qualities : Dusting the plants whilst wearing a gas mask. Eating salad and ice cream for dinner, nothing else. Reciting complete poems learned at Vassar 55 years ago. I posted her Royal bric a brac and she quoted me passages from Shakespeare. We enjoyed each other's company. I respected her. She was a special person. Erit ipsum.

now is a ship

which captain aim
sails out of sleep

steering for dream
--ee cummings

Tuesday, November 8

The Slug

Let's revisit Phil Gramm.

Many economist believe that the 1999 legislation spearheaded by Gramm and signed into law by President Clinton — the Gramm-Leach-Biley Act -was significantly to blame for the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis and 2008 global economic crisis. The Act is most widely known for repealing portions of the Glass-Steagall Act, which had regulated the financial services industry. The Act passed the House and Senate by an overwhelming majority.

Gramm responded in 2008 to criticism of the act by stating that he saw "no evidence whatsoever" that the sub-prime mortgage crisis was caused in any way "by allowing banks and securities companies and insurance companies to compete against each other." Case study #1: The S&L crisis, following industry deregulation, costing Americans $500 billion by 1992.  Case study #2: the collapse of the financial system, following industry deregulation.

Gramm's support was later critical in the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernisation Act of 2000, which kept derivatives transactions, including those involving credit default swaps, free of government regulation.

In its 2008 coverage of the financial crisis, The Washington Post named Gramm one of seven "Key Players In the Battle Over Regulating Derivatives", for having "[p]ushed through several major bills to deregulate the banking and investment industries, including the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley act that brought down the walls separating the commercial banking, investment and insurance industries".

In October 2008, CNN ranked Gramm number seven in its list of the 10 individuals most responsible for the current economic crisis. In January 2009 Guardian City editor Julia Finch identified Gramm as one of twenty-five people at the heart of the financial meltdown. Time included Gramm in its list of the top 25 people to blame for the economic crisis. (Wiki)


Photo by Celso Ferrer, a fashion photographer in Brazil.

Eitan's class assembly honours Remembrance Day , singing "Dona Nobis Pacem" and "Going Home."

The kids pick their room colour.
Me: "I thought you were going for Manchester United red."
Eitan: "Na."
Madeleine: "Plus you will go crazy if it's red."
Me: "Oh really?"
Madeleine: "Yes. They used it to torture people in World Ward Two with red rooms."
Sonnet: "The correct expression is 'the Second World War.'"
Madeleine: "Whatever, mom. It's true."
Sonnet: "I always had a red room and look at me."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Sonnet: "Blabidiblablabibla!"
Me: "That was funny. Look, guys, Sonnet made a funny. Let's encourage her: Ha ha ha!"
Eitan, Madeleine: "Ha ha ha!"
Sonnet cracks up.

Sunday, November 6


Kenyon Geoffrey Mutai ( pictured, from web), is 30-years-old and sets today's NYC Marathon alight in 2:05:06 , breaking the course record by over two minutes. Seven-months ago he runs Boston, known for its Heartbreak Hill and uneven course, in an unsanctioned world best of 2:03:02, which is 4:43 miling. Mutai the odds-on favorite for the 2012 Olympics and we will be there.

In 1999, the last time I am to Nairobi, I go to the African Cross Country Championships , sponsored by the military, which, I think, about equivalent of the Super Bowl. If you are an African. The games begin at 8AM which makes sense with the 30-degree summer heat but, upon arrival, the horse track , which hosts the event, empty. I sit around for a couple of hours contemplating how to get back to my hotel when I bump into a German exchange student who tells me not to worry it should get under way by noon, give or take a couple of hours. 

Kenyon President Daniel Arap Moi arrives at 1:30PM and the race starts shortly after. I see David Chelule, who runs a 27:55 in the 10K that year and Paul Kosgei, who does Chelule one better at 27.45. Also at the line:  The great Daniel Komen, whose 1998 indoor and '96 outdoor records for 3,000m still stand while he remains the only man to run back-to-back sub-four-minute miles;.Komen also the second man, after Said Aouita, to break both the 13-minute mark for the 5,000m and the 3½-minute mark for the 1,500m. Then there is Paul Tergat , who held the world record in the marathon from from 2003 to 2007. This isn't the All Stars, it is one of the fastest cross country races ever assembled. And there I am, front ringside seat.

So the exchange student I mention is an assistant cross-country coach for a nearby village and she introduces me to five or six marathoners who have gone sub-2:15. If you meet , in your lifetime, a runner under 3-hours for the marathon it is a Big Deal - this would put him in the top 2% in today's NYC race. I learn that, to join the military team, a paid position, a Kenyon marathoner must be sub-2:10 for consideration and these guys, all under 120 lbs, embarrassed that they have not made the grade.

At 3PM the race ends (I do not recall who wins) and I observe the masses, who arrive now ensemble - maybe 200,000 people - walking and dancing towards the stadium, beating drums and celebrating their athletes. It is a joyous occasion , too - so what if they do not see the race. It is the participating, not the winning, that matters.


Elm Grove defeats the Barnes Eagles 5-2 in an exciting match with the lads down 2-1 before storming back in the second half and the game tied  at the middle mark.  Eitan assigned middle-back, a new position, and Jack (pictured) the sweeper. Together, they are the All Stars' defense and, with the job, comes the pressure:  The Dads yell and shout if a ball gets by and Alphie, the goal-keeper, quick to blame. Still, Coach heaps praise on the boys , and appreciates that the back-field cedes glory to the strikers and wingers, Eitan's natural position. I ask him if he wants to return to the left wing but he is happy to go with what Coach says best for the team. And , besides, his way not to question authority.

Me: "What time did Kamila come in last night?"
Sonnet: "5AM."
Me: "You heard her?"
Sonnet: "Yes."
Me: "Just like a mother..."
Sonnet: "I am a mother."
Madeleine: "Can I practice my trumpet?"
Sonnet: "Let's let Kamila sleep a while, shall we?"
Madeleine: "But I will play softly."
Me: "You'll play softly."
Madeleine: "I can, Dad. It's only the trumpet."
Me: "Like yesterday when you were blasting away at 8:30AM."
Madeleine: "It was not blasting. I was practicing Jingle Bells."
Sonnet: "We know, honey, but let's wait for a little bit."

Saturday, November 5

Marcus, Madeleine, Billy and Doug

The gang over for a play-date, which finds them at Helen and Martin's trampoline. Billy's hat BTW on his head all year round including summer.

Last night, at a dinner party, Sonnet and I meet Doug, a tall, thin, bald dude with statement glasses. He is from eastern Ohio "near Pittsburgh" and none of this marks my attention other than another neighborhood American from a place I do not wish to know about. Over the course of the evening I learn that Doug graduated West Point, was an infantry officer and strategic planner for the US Army, then eight-years at McKinsey Consulting.  In 2009 he founded non-profit "The Challenge" which brings together 16-year-olds from diverse backgrounds , who design and deliver community projects of their making.  From the first program of 150 kids, The Challenge picked up the by the Tory agenda and now backed by government. Next year, Doug expects 30,000 kids to graduate from The Challenge.  Oh, and he is also a Rhodes Scholar.

"A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week."
--General George S. Patton, West Point '09

Brown Football

Rather then suffer Cal, I decide to follow a winning team: Yes, the Brown Bears are second in Ivy League football with a 6-1 record losing only to Harvard. Tonight they play Yale.

I spent some time at the Brown stadium, pictured, watching games or using the quarter-mile track for cross country with Greg Whiteley and Seamus. To be honest, I never cared for the football since, well, it doesn't compare to the Pac 10+the social anxiety accompanying the games tiresome. Somehow it brought out my deepest anxieties : You were either all in or all out. I couldn't compete with the Euro trash nor the frat guys.

Brown's stadium, dedicated in 1925, built completely by subscription. The stands expanded with new aluminum seats (opposite side of pictured) in 1978 marking the 100th anniversary of Brown football - this where the visiting fans located. The stadium's capacity 20,000, although a record crowd of 33,000 watched Brown face Colgate on Thanksgiving morning, 1932, with portable bleachers brought in for the game.

Friday, November 4

Seattle Coffee Co.

Richmond Park. Photo from Kamila.

We see Mary for dinner : she is now Senior Vice President, Global Strategy, at Starbucks reporting to CEO Howard Shultz. She made the transition from Boston Consulting and the East Coast, relocating her family to Seattle. Her intelligence demands a Big Platform and she has it : 17,009 stores in 55 countries, including over 11,000 in the United States, and over 130,000 employees.

When we first arrived to London, 1997, many of us newbies looked around and asked: what can be done better? Or, at least, what can we copy from the United States ?  Scott Svenson , who arrived two-years before Sonnet and me, founded the Seattle Coffee Company which was bought, shortly later, by Starbucks for a cool £55 million , setting the expat scene a twitter, believe you me.

Scott arrived in London with his wife, an i banker, and had to find a job so, being from Seattle, he asked Starbucks if he could open their first non-US franchise. Starbucks declined so he set up Seattle Coffee instead, borrowing heavily from Starbucks, and quickly reaching 19 stores in  London. The logos looked suspiciously similar. When Starbucks ready for Europe , Scott played hard-to-get and got all-he-wanted. By strange coincidence , the Head of Starbucks Intl a friend and, long after the deal, we clucked about how over-priced the purchase was.

And The Seattle Coffee Company today? Well, she still exists on a few chipped coffee mugs and perhaps in a memory or two like mine.

"China traditionally has been a tea-drinking country but we turned them into coffee drinkers. "
--Howard Schulz

Thursday, November 3


Gary Cooper, the guy every guy wants to be. At least I do.

Cooper renowned for his quiet, understated acting style and his stoic, individualistic, emotionally restrained, but at times intense screen persona, which was particularly well suited to the many Westerns he made. He received five Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, winning twice for Sergent and High Noon , which inspired me to perform Kit Kat Cowboy in Madeleine and Eitan's class, the poor dears. I can freely admit that dressing up as a gay cowboy is not very Cooper-esque, but still, Cooper's influence strong (for the cowboy, not the gay).  His frequent theme, of standing up to the enemy against all odds, resonates. It must have, too, when Cooper first becoming an actor during the Great Depression (Nb, he failed as a salesman of electric signs and electronic curtains).  There was no back-stop of home equity nor family wealth. Most women did not work. Men got on with it. Will they do so today in our Great Depression? Can they?

Wednesday, November 2


The New Zealand War Memorial , located at Hyde Park corner, pictured, honours the fallen soldier in WWI and WW2. The official dedication took place on Nov. 11, 2006 (Armistice Day) by Queen Elizabeth II, in her capacity as Queen of New Zealand.

From Nov. 1, inside the Commonwealth, red poppies are found on many lapels anticipating Remembrance Day , 11 November, to recall the official end of World War I on that date in 1918; hostilities formally stopped "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.

The red poppy is from the poem In Flanders Fields. These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant colour a symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

Tuesday, November 1

Breakfast of Champions

Bacon bap anyone?

How fitting, then, that Sonnet purchases tickets for the Olympic swimming trails which will take place in March 2012 at the new pool. Despite being pre-registered and online 10AM, sharp, when the box office officially opens, many of the sessions sold out : secretly I am delighted to see the acquatics supported. Lord knows I appreciate how hard these kids train. Britain has some contenders too: Team GBR collected 13 medals at the FINA World Cup one-day competition in Berlin last week and includes Liam Tancock, the world champion and record holder in the 50 meters backstroke , and the great Rebecca Adlington, winner of two gold medals in 2008 in the 400 and 800 m freestyle, breaking Janet Evan's 19 year-old world record in the 800 m final (NB Adlington is Britain's first Olympic swimming champion since 1988, the first British swimmer to win two Olympic gold medals since 1908 and Great Britain's most successful Olympic swimmer in 100 years).  Family tx are a steal and the atmosphere as intense as the games (for us swimming geeks).

"To be
the eyes
and ears
and conscience
of the Creator of the Universe,
you fool. "
--Kilgore Trout's reply to the question "What is the purpose of life?", Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut