Friday, August 31


Mark (the white guy) a pal from Brown where he set the men's pole vault standard at 16' in '89, a record that held until 2003.

Mark and I shared a Manhattan tenement in Greenwich Village, 373 Sixth Ave, from '89-90 with two other college friends : What a dump but we had some wild parties. During that time  Mark lived in a walk-in closet because he was either i) at work or ii) at his girlfriend's.  Today, he is with hedge fund investor ABS and lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, with wife and four daughters, each named with first-letter beginning 'm.'   Old friends are the best friends.

Madeleine panic-texts Sonnet from Emanuel: "Mom please help me. I have forgotten my PE kit" which sets into action a series of events culminating in our au pair, Aneta, driving to Clapham to deliver the goods.  Who can forget that feeling? It is a bit like Astorg, where I am today : everybody excited to be back from summer but anxious, too, for being away and anticipating the fall. Or homework missed or forgotten.

Wednesday, August 29

New School, Day 1

Madeleine readies herself for Emanuel School, which begins with orientation at 11:30AM and pick-up at 3:15PM.  Tomorrow, it starts for real : 8:15AM registration and six classes before lunch.  It seems like yesterday she was starting reception at Sheen Mount.

Moe notes that Emanuel's colours, blue and gold, the same as Cal.

Me: "I wish I could be a photographer."
Eitan: "Why don't you?"
Me: "Soldi . .."
Eitan: "You could still do it. Don't photographers make money?"
Me: "You have to be very very very good."
Madeleine: "You are Dad."
Me: "Madeleine I love you for that."

Tuesday, August 28

Middle School

Last days of freedom : Madeleine begins Emanuel tomorrow and Eitan at Hampton next week.  Sonnet furiously stitches name-tags in to the Shakespeares' uniforms, socks, pe gear, etcetc. Both kids seem pretty chill about the whole idea that everything about to change. Dun dun dun.

Me, I remember the weirdness of 7th grade, King Jr High, with its school-yellow exterior+white trim surrounded by dry crabgrass and concrete playing fields, bungalows and a quarter-mile track; inside - polished oak hallways, lockers and that smell unique to public education : fear. Navigating the dangerous, unfamiliar, corridors stressful and the grafitti-covered bathrooms a no-go but also: there were some angry kids : mostly black and unlike my black friends from Longfellow primary, who were my best, these were unruly and violent. My first week I got tossed against a wall, jeered, stripped of my back back and left for miserable.

Eventually I found a base of friends, mostly from the North Berkeley hills, whose professional parents believed in public education, and we huddle together with our Top-Siders, Vaurnet sunglasses and Donnay rackets; collectively, we were "the benchies", a name that stuck through high school.  That year I found swimming and that was all she wrote.

Monday, August 27

Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012

Photo from NASA



We spend the afternoon with Costantinos and Mirella, whose house in the countryside always filled with people, laughter and cheer (Says Mirella: "Better a noisy home than a lonely one"). This afternoon it is Costantinos parents, Mirella's work colleague Alesandro from Milan .. .another couple I don't quite place and, of course, the bambinos... a few cats and the five dogs, which Madeleine feeds under the table, and Penelope the pig (who Eitan names).  This also means amazing food - Costanatinos father a retired restaurant chef while Mirella - umma mia! - and, for Eitan and Madeleine, 5 kg of .. . Nutella.

Tuscany draws the attention but Abruzzo the same rolling countryside with similar white beaches (that still have fish).  A 30 minute drive takes one into the mountains. There is no Florence but far fewer tourists, too. Certainly no Chinese which the Italians now complain about.  Costantinos shows me a villa with 360 panoramic views of olive trees and sunflowers; he notes: "half the price".

Below, Abruzzo countryside:

Middle Age

This is what it looks like to turn 50 in Italy.

The Republicans, whose party argues global warming a farce, cut their Tampa convention one-day due to Tropical Storm Isaac (NASA reports that the Arctic ice caps summer surface area reached its lowest size ever in 2012).

Republicans want to entirely repeal Obama's heath insurance making health care available to 30m working poor; a constitutional amendment to ban any legal recognition of gay rights, including civil partnerships; a commitment to more Jewish settlements in the West bank . .. a war against Iran's nuclear facilities .. the return of torture as an instrument of war .. . assualt rifles on our streets, a ramping up of the Afghanistan war . .. immediate confrontation with China over trade and Russia over, well, everything.  The "Arab Spring" envisioned by George Bush seen as a radical threat to American interest .. and Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" defines the party's views towards women reproduction , ie, women.

No, the real amazement that Republicans own half of the United States. Each party so entrenched and filled with hatred for the other, there is no punishment for catering to the extremes. 

"I oppose the attempts of homosexual activists to treat homosexual activity as a civil right to be protected and promoted by the government."

--Todd Akin

Saturday, August 25


I send Madeleine off to take some pictures from the beach seeing how the sun has set and the hazy glow near perfect for photos. She protests vehemently.  A chore : the lifeguard, and eventually I give her a hand as I watch our gal stalk the booth pretending to take shots of the sea etc.  I march up, point at my camera to get permissions, snap-snap, then a thumb's up and "California, dude" which gets a large toothy smile. All I have to do is say that word, "California", and we are all part of the club.

White Shades

Eitan buys himself some new sunglasses this morning at the local market which runs down the block outside our hotel.  They go with his pink Converse high-tops and I note: the kid is putting some style on.  Given he will be wearing the same monotonous wardrobe for seven years, I am down with this (Hampton school's colours BTW are black and gold; coat and tie).  Madeleine, for her part, purchases a magnet with a molded plastic platter containing a wine, prosciutto and melon dinner plate, hooks in the shape of garlic and a bunch of tomatoes, and a T-shit for Auntie-Katie.  Me, I get two pork sandwiches.

From there it is more gelato and the beach.

Madeleine: "Dad are you going to go on the paddle boat with us?"
Me: "No. .."
Eitan: "Come on, Dad. All your troubles will disappear."
Mom: "That's quite a proposition."
Madeleine: "Mine didn't.  Two years ago they multiplied because I cut my big toe on the propeller. And then I got sand in it."

Helter Skelter

Since the hotel stations in Italian we listen to music from on line : the kids fire off songs including Maroon 5, Rihanna and other such junk which I veto (Dad's computer).  We hit a good vain with the Beatles: "Here Comes The Sun", "The Long And Winding Road," "A Day In the Life" and "Lucy In The Sky Of Diamonds" which was banned by British radio in '67 for its reference to drugs (Lennon says: no).  Any case, The Beatles impact on people's lives cannot be under-stated : even now, doing a quick Internets search, I come across heartfelt letters thanking the band for saving their lives . . .

Sgt Peppers in my parents living room stack (of course) and one of the first albums I recall (also: "This Is The Dawning Of The Age of Aquarius" and Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" ).  That would have been around age seven or eight.. a good introduction to pop culture and its positive vibe , which must have influenced me then and so now. How remarkable that two of the greatest lyricists of all time , Lennon and McCartney, should be in the same band.

The Fab Four, pictured, in '68 or 69 , memorable for the My Lai massacre, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations and "Abbey Road" with quintessential songs "Helter Skelter" and "Come Together", when the band produced some of its best music , as if sensing their time together soon to end : A year later, "Let It Be" (my favourite ) would be their last. And what fashion ! Gone the good-natured outfits of Sgt Pepper's , replaced with four distinct fellows each having a unique style to showcase,  presumably, their increasingly disparate personalities.

This is the end
Of you and me
And everything I used to be
Back then it meant something
But you're living a lie, you just can't hide from me

--The Doors

Friday, August 24


Tonino, born in Tortoreto and from Naples, spent his career at Pirelli on a boat laying cable. Tonino's boss, Captain Monti, met Stan in Alaska, in '65, when Stan a member of the Anchorage Junior Council.  Later, following Marcus's operation, Stan asked Monti for a place to stay in Italy "with the people" and Monti suggested Tortoreto, where Sonnet's family spent two summers and here we are now.

Tonino long retired and scoops up the bambinos in his fat arms, pinches Eitan's cheek several times and marvels at Madeleine's beauty.  He yells at his wife Delia on the top floor of the building, who leans over her balcony and yells back "Ciao! Ciao !"  Delia, learning that we share an interest in tomatoes, gives me thirty seeds held in newspaper  : her vines fill the backyard with giant red fruit. A precious gift indeed.

The Shakespeares roll with the attention. They have no choice, really.


The US Anti-Doping Agency will ban Lance Armstrong for life for using drugs to win the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005 - charges that Armstrong denies, noting he has not failed a drugs test. USADA said in June it had evidence, including information supplied by former teammates, that Armstrong had used banned substances.  This is the Madoff of sports frauds and yet another American. WTF? Next (my guess) will come the improprieties with Armstrong's foundation, Live Strong, which has raised ca. $430 million for cancer survivors.  Where have the heroes gone ?

Wally World

"Hell is other people" -- Jean-Paul Sartre

We head for the Aquapark along with every Italian in Tortoreto and maybe Abruzzo. My life has become an episode of The Simpsons.  On the plus side, it is ca. 40-degrees and the kids love splashing about and daring each other down the long slides, which drop six or seven stories. It ain't California.  

Still, the Italians are a sexy people :

Thursday, August 23


The church open 11PM and we sit for a moment and listen. It is a warm night perfect for strolling about this 14c villa. Locals sit outside their homes, which spill onto the cobblestone, smoking and chatting.  I do not have religion in my life and how simple it would be - to believe it is all taken care of somehow.

We finish dinner with some Goccia di Genziana "Liquore Tipico D'Abbruzzo" which, Costatinos tells me, is from the roots of the Ginzino flower only found in the Grand Sasso mountains of Abruzzo. The original 'formula', once produced at home, is now found in restaurants or local stores; otherwise it is moonshine (which Costantine has often made before). A wonderful digestive however prepared.

Centro Storico

We are at L'Antico Portone pizza al metro primi piatti close to the best I have ever had and right up there with Napoli in '92 with Katie (one remembers these things). 

Madeleine: "Are you taking pictures of me?"
Me: "No."
Madeleine: "Dad! You just took one."
Me: "Must have slipped."
Madeleine: "Well stop."
Me: "OK. Hey, what about the 20 pictures you owe me for getting you on 20 questions?"
Madeleine: "You've taken loads already. What about the Christmas photo today? That was way more than 20."
Me: "That was so outside the arrangement. We never agreed the Xmas photos reduced your number."
Madeleine: "That is completely unfair. If you want to take more pictures then give me your pillow."
Me: "Sleep without a pillow? Are you mad?"
Madeleine: "Just negotiating Dad. You can use a towel."
Me: "Nice try kid."
Madeleine: "Fine. No pictures. See how far you get then."
M: "See? And no trying to take them when I'm not looking."
Me: "You got me kid."
Madeleine: "Can I have the pillow?"
Me: "Dream on. "

Wednesday, August 22

And Now

back to the Royal Family. Prince Harry takes a holiday in Las Vegas following some hard work at the London Olympics.

Self Portrait XXVII

hotel capitano tortoreto lido

Madeleine: "I just read that 'the more a French man knows, the less he talks.'"
Me: "That's a good one. Or 'The less a man knows, the less he talks.'"
Madeleine: "Yeah."
Me: "The worst combination is 'the less a man knows, the more he talks.'"
Madeleine: "What about Richard?"
Me: "Richard ?"
Madeleine: "He sure talks an awful lot."

Eitan Reads

Eitan reads 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' on his Kindle, which is ongoing from summer's beginning at my command (Eitan notes : "70% finished" which, for us old-schoolers, is page 205 of 293). Leave it to Dad to steal the joy from one of America's greatest novels.

I read Huck the first time post college (Eitan: "What!? You said you read it when you were seven!") then again a few years ago when I really enjoyed it. Given Huck 13, it seems the perfect vacation book, er, download - whatever - but Eitan prefers 'Holes' by Louis Sachar which is about "a boy called Stanley who is wrongly accused of .. what are you doing ... . nothing. .. ." My blog stops there.

Stanley Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, "You may go to jail, or you may go to Camp Green Lake." Stanley was from a poor family. He had never been to camp before.
--From 'Holes' by Louis Sachar

Eitan: "I've had four showers on this trip."
Sonnet: "Wow, Eitan, that's incredible."
Eitan: "None of them with soap."

Tuesday, August 21


Costantinos, Moretti and Montepulciano Abruzzo

Sagre de lla porche tta Italica

We join Mirella and Costantinos who invite us to the 41st sagre de lla porche tta Italica - pork festival, dude! The celebration in a 14th century village in Abruzzo , central Italy, inside Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga with its mountain peaks and rolling hills. The center piaza surrounded by ancient buildings and, of course, a towering cathedral with Jesus Christ looking down upon us lesser mortals. The celebrations last four nights and we are here for the finali - a band sets up to play local favorties while picnic tables fill the open spaces. Ours next to a group of teens who giggle and flirt while an older couple, maybe 14 or 15, demonstrate seniority by suggesting their intimacy.   Flames are lit along the church and alleyways while stalls set up by regional butchers who carve their roasted pig for sandwiches (pork+crusty white roll, nothing else though Madeleine does put ketchup on hers to the consternation of Costantinos). Each competes for for the honor of migliore. It feels like a college campus the night of graduation.

I amuse our table with my various interpretations of Italian and two handed gesticulations learned from Bru. Mamma, mia. As Sonnet says, "you out-crazy the Italians." One would never find this spirit in England and I like it.

Summer Seaside

We arrive Sunday to Tortoreto, Italy, on the Adriatic side, for a simple late summer holiday.  We stay at the Hotel Capitano, who knows us from last time, and 30 years ago when Sonnet's family spent several summers in this beach-side town, which retains its charms from yester-year.  Roberto picks us up at Pescara for the 45 minute drive from the airport; though late, he offers to make us spaghetti while AC Milan v Juventis on the television.  The hotel staff remember the bambinos from when they were about four inches smaller, and Eitan endures some cheek pinching in that awkward way of every 11-year old.  The men kiss three times which is a custom I like.

Madeleine: "You do not speak Italian."
Me: "I do. It's second nature."
Madeleine: "Mom does dad speak Italian?"
Sonnet: "If he says so .. . "
Madeleine: "Say something in Italian then."
Me: "Like what?"
Madeleine: "Say 'can I have some ice cream.'"
Me: "Scoosi ice-a cream-a por favori."
Madeleine: "That is hardly Italian, Dad."
Me: "How would you know? Unlike me, you don't speak Italian."
Madeleine: "Say something else."
Me: "Roberto tell-a Madeleine I dis-i Italiano. Grazi bello. "
Me: "See? I speak so fast he cannot understand me."
Madeleine: "Mom is that true?"
Sonnet: "Whatever Dad says honey."

Monday, August 20

Madeleine And The Pooch

Almost two years into the dog and Rusty has proven himself to be a success : sure, he craps five or six times a day, scratches himself in front of our guests, jumps on everybody and occassionally pees on the kitchen floor. Sonnet generally hates Rusty but puts up with him too.  On the plus side, he gets me out of bed in the morning for a sunrise run or walk; follows me about the house silently, making himself comfortable wherever I am; is loved by the kids and gives us a lot to laugh about (Eitan: "Look, Dad, Rusty is licking his balls! Ha, ha, ha!").  As Roger likes to say about a dog:  worth its weight in middle-age therapy.

Madeleine gets full credit for pushing the dog through. Without  her persistence, it would not have happened. Now the pooch is part of la familia.

Katie In Spain!

Katie spends the last week in Espanol with her Harvard undergrad thesis advisor Bill, who she has remained friendly with all these years, and Susan, pictured, with sexy camera. Katie tells me they are in parc gruel, " with tilted pillars and building walls that aren't flat and straight but rather organic shapes -- designed by famous kooky beautiful Barcelona architect Gaudi." Sounds about right.  Barcelona a favorite city though I have been only once.

Sunday, August 19

Summer Days

On Sonnet's initiative, we visit a wonderful exhibition at the Tate Britain displaying black-and-white stills of London from the 1930s to 1980.  The only requirement : the photographers non-British, looking at the city anew. I recognise many of the masters - Bill Brandt, Henri Cartier, Robert Frank, Dora Maar, Irving Penn - but my favourites by those I do not know, like Al Vanderberg's '75 shot of an inter-racial couple or Dorothy Bohm's photo of a portly dude dressed like Sgt Pepper at the Petticoat Lane Market, East London, in  the 1960s.

I, of course, have my trusty 7D and try to take e a few useful snaps using the tricks from my other-day class.  Digital cameras include everything when the only thing that matters, other than composition, is aperture and shutter speed (ISO, too, but in the good old days of film that decision also taken care of). My Pentax K1000 genius : fully manual with a light reader.  Load film, adjust two settings. Shoot. Moe's Nikon F2 the first Nikon with the reader attached to the camera : I took it to Africa in '89 when my family visited Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania where we climbed Kilimanjaro.  A photo from Uruho Peak, 19,341 feet above sea level, adorns my parents living room (back then the glacier, on the inside of the volcano, yet full and a remarkable unexpected surprise upon reaching the summit).

Madeleine non-plussed by the exhibition BTW so I ask her to find a favourite and she goes straight for the print of ten stray dogs looking balefully at the camera. Her heart is large.

Saturday, August 18

The King

Eitan Self Portrait

Eitan experiments with grapefruit juice in his hair.

I've had a pretty good lesson in human nature. It's more important to try to surround yourself with people who can give you a little happiness, because you only pass through this life once, Jack. You don't come back for an encore.
--Elvis Presley

Golden Gate Bridge

Normal Distribution

Any MBA knows that in many natural processes random variation conforms to a particular probability distribution known as the normal distribution, pictured.  It is also called a "bell curve".

I think about this on the last (painful) mile of a three-mile race this morning : 15 years ago I won "The Media Challenge", a 3-miler in Manhattan's Central Park.  Today, I am probably one standard deviation ahead of the mean at or ca. 84% of the 300 or so runners. My time of 20 minutes about four minutes slower than '94.

The bell curve catching up : I can no longer jump into a 5K or 10K and expect to be competitive simply, because, well - why not?  It is difficult to re-calibrate times from years ago and I have yet to consider myself a "master" runner. Somewhere in me there are some best times left. Otherwise what's the point?

But today's race for fun and, anyway, I am ten kilos over fighting weight.  I don't push into another gear towards the finish instead happy to finish with some dignity (Rusty drags me along the first mile and I drag him the second half).  All in all, all good.

Friday, August 17

First Phone

Madeleine gets a mobile and somehow, just like that, we have a second adolescent in the house.  Her response: "whoopie!"

Madeleine sends me a text: Hi dad ;)
Me, that evening: "To think, I received your very first text."
Madeleine: "Actually I sent one to mom first."
Me: "Wow, I got your second text. .."
Madeleine: "I sent one to Eitan. And Zebulon too."
Me: "Was I in the top ten?"
Madeleine: "And Zakki. Oh, and Auntie Katie. Plus I sent mom three texts before you. And also Marcus."
Me:  "Well good to know you were thinking of me any way."
Madeleine: "Sure, Dad. I am saving everybody into my phone."
Madeleine: "What's your number again?"

Thursday, August 16

Bake Off

Our fabulous friend Diana, whose husband Simon introduced me to Kayaking, spends the afternoon with Madeleine baking (says our gal: "It was really, really fun. We made the best sponge cake"). The last time it was bagels and before that, home-made pasta. Diana from NY and spent some time in Los Angeles as the food critic for the LA Times. More recently, Diana acepted to the UCL (University College London) Drama School for a degree in puppetry. We love this.

Eitan sells Madeleine his old goalie gloves, a bouncy ball, a poster and his wristband for 90p. Madeleine notes "I needed the goalie gloves."

Wednesday, August 15

Camera 101

Since I take a bunch of photos, many of them crap (see below), I attend a one-day photography course an Wimbledon.  In this shot I practise depth of field - the black dude pretty buff for 12 inches.  Thank you mom and  dad for the perfect birthday present.

Madeleine: "Is Google the Internet?"
Me: "No, Google is a search engine. You can put anything in the little bar and Google will take you there. It's how you enter the web."
Madeleine: "So Google is the web?"
Me: " No. Imagine a spider's web. . ."
Me: "Everything inter-connected. And Google is like a door."
Madeleine: "A door to a spider's web?"
Me: "Well, no, but it's one way to get connected."
Madeleine: "To Google?"
Me: "Yes."
Madeleine: "And the Internet."
Me: "Yes."
Madeleine: "So Google is the Internet?"
Me: "Let's start over."

Madeleine: "Ollie had his mobile phone hacked and they locked up his games and music and stuff for 40 years."
Me: "No, way. Is he going to wait that long?"
Madeleine: "No. But he had to wipe out everything and start all over."
Me: "Disaster."
Madeleine: "I'll say. It's dangerous for a kid."
Me: "You bet it is."

Rush .. .

.. . hour. When I go into town, usually a couple times a week, I avoid the peak times, like now, pictured at Waterloo station. Mortlake station, where I begin my journey, rarely offers a free seat which means 25 minutes standing next to the dude who reads the paper and the mum who taps on her iphone. Sometimes I arm myself with a coffee and do some minor work on my bb.  Or I watch sprawling urban London go by : in Clapham there are rows of undulating terraced houses ; at Queenstown, the Battersea Power Station. And always the Thames.

Waterloo the train terminus and the commuters walk with purpose, usually to the Underground for Green Park or The City or who knows ? Waterloo station enjoyed 91 million passenger entries and exits from April 2010 to March 2011, easily busiest railway point in Britaiin; the station one of the busiest passenger terminals in Europe - it has more platforms and greater floor area than any other in the UK (but Clapham Junction has the largest number of trains). It is the terminus of a network of railway lines from Surrey, Berkshire, Hampshire, South West England and the south-western suburbs of London.

Monday, August 13

Old Friend

This sequoia about 5,000 miles from its natural habitat.  Me and him both baby.

I return to the ENT as my voice gravelly again.  And me, a salesman.  I see the very capable Mr Ahmed who informs me that he will stick a cable down my nasal passage to look at my voice box.  Unlike the last time, he offers no local anaesthetic nor gel : "I do this all the time" Ahmed says.  "If it becomes too unbearable we can stop." I mean, what's his threshold for pain ? The Indians eat chili's that make the rest of us blow up from agony.  The cable feels like something, well, jammed eight inches into my head and, weirdly, there is a sensation in my lower throat only it is behind my throat. This becomes apparent when Ahmed asks me to count to three and I produce a pitiful gargle. At this point I am sweating and have my answer to the  Lethal Weapon question (Every dude wonders, from the comfort of his home or theatre, whether he can endure the electrocution inflicted on Mel Gibson graphically presented in the movie). I would last 30 seconds.

The good news : no pallops. I may have to do some speech therapy but no need for another operation.

Sunday, August 12

One Mo

Mo Farah takes the 10k-5k double transcending sport (photo Getty Images).  Bolt finishes his career by anchoring the Jamaican 4X100 relay in world record time.  The British net 64 medals including 29 gold. The Underground survives. Even the weather pretty good.  This has been one heck of a games. I am sad to see them end and wonder : what to marvel, complain, discuss and commiserate and bitch about now ?  Back to the Royal Family I guess.

“Our vision is to present to the world, in 2012, the best Games ever, for athletes, for the Olympic family, for spectators.”

--Lord Coe who, in my book, is The Dude of all things Olympics. He made it happen

Dog Days Of Summer

Dad Being Dad

I appreciate the embarrassment I cause the kids being, just, well, myself.  Of course (I presume) all parents humiliate their children somehow but I do take great enjoyment in seeing their reaction when I sing or act like a monkey or some similar such nonsense.  At some point one realises : it just does not matter but for the Shakespeares, it matters a whole lot.  I'm doing my best anyway.

We are in Kew Gardens and Sonnet and I reminisce about summers long past when, to escape the heat, we would visit here in the late evening for an outside dinner under a tree by the sunset.  The kids would crawl about, eat some grass, cry or nap.  Sometimes all four inside thirty minutes.  That was, like, another world.

Football Final - Mexico 2, Brazil 1

Last photo of the Olympics.  This one from Wembley stadium and the men's football final.  Some English dudes behind us pull for Mexico so they can yell "gringo" over and over and over.

Eitan: "I am going to do some chores. For money". [Dad's note: Eitan wants to buy an iPod].
Me: "I am good with that. How about you do the backyard?"
Eitan: "I will do the dusting for £15 and clean all the windows inside the house."
Madeleine: "£15 !?"
Me: "How about £5?"
Eitan: "Then I just won't do it."
Me: "Or you will do it for free since it's a chore."
Madeleine: "£15. Really, Eitan."
Sonnet: "Why don't you think about it a little bit and come back to me with a proposal this afternoon."
Eitan: "OK."
Madeleine: "I can't believe you wanted £15 just to do the dusting."

Friday, August 10

Jack And Team USA

Jack is a good little dude.  He is over to our place following 6 hours of football camp.

We attend the women's Olympics football final between Japan and the US (the crowd chants: "USA! USA! USA!"). This a rematch of the 2011 championships which the Americans lost to Japan in a thrilling match; this time, though, it is the other way around, 2-1, and the girls bask in the after-glow, running around the pitch with American flags, clapping at us fans (the Japanese cry then the team, including coaches, assistants and back-ups bow, in unison, to the stands).  American goalkeeper Hope Solo spots me in the crowd and winks: "this one for you sexy boy" she whispers.

Madeleine: "Do you think I will get a ball?"
Me: "You mean like from the match?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, I got two that last time." [Dad's note: we were at the UEFA women's club championships at Fulham where Madeleine sat behind the goal box; there was no netting and Madeleine did, indeed, catch two balls.. .which were duly returned to the ref.]
Me: "If there are 80,000 fans what are the chances of you getting a ball?"
Madeleine: "um 1 in 80,000?"
Me: "Good but can you be more specific?"
Me: "How many balls make it to the stands?"
Madeleine: "I don't know 10?"
Me: "And will they reach the upper decks?"
Madeleine: "No. .."
Me: "Let's assume they only hit the first rows or maybe ten percent. So that's 8,000 fans."
Madeleine: "Can't I just watch Dad?"
Me: "But the balls probably only go behind the goalines."
Me: "which we can assume is 25% of the lower stadium's circumference.. . so that might be about 2,000 people."
Madeleine: "I really don't care Dad."
Me: "If there are ten balls into the stands, a lot I suggest, what is the chance of a fan getting one?"
Madeleine: "20? 40? Who cares?"
Me: "It would be 10/2,000 or 1 in 200. What's that as a percent?"
Me: "Is it more or less than 1%?"
Madeleine: "Please, Dad, I'm begging you."
Me: "Pay attention, kid, you need to know these things."
Madeleine: "Maybe you do."

Wednesday, August 8

Day 11

Evening session, track and field.

Announcer: "Here's the situation in the high jump. There are three men still alive."
Madeleine: "What!?" 
Sonnet: "It's just an expression."

Tuesday, August 7

Football Camp

I pick up Eitan and Madeleine from football camp.

Madeleine: "What happens if I don't finish 'The Hobbit' by Thursday?"
Me: "Then no football final."
Madeleine: "I have, like, 200 pages. I won't be able to finish it by then."
Me: "Too bad. America v Japan, too. It's gonna be huge."
Madeleine: "I haven't had any time to read though."
Me: "Those are the breaks. Welcome to the real world."
Madeleine: "That's your world."
Me: "Disappointment, misery, failure. Prepare yourself, kid."
Madeleine: "That's your world, Dad."

Madeleine: "How long will they keep those flags in the park?" (Dad's note: giant Olympics flag poles placed around Richmond Park for the cycling)
Me: "I don't know."
Eitan: "They are not natural."
Madeleine: "Not everything in the park is natural, Eitan."
Eitan: "Other than the roads and the benches."
Madeleine: "And the two houses.  And the fences."
Eitan: "There are more trees and grass than fences."
Me: "Do you guys like to argue? Because this is the dumbest conversation I've ever heard."
Madeleine: "Yeah, I guess so Dad."
Me: "Katie and I used to argue about the same kinda stuff I suppose."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "Maybe not though."

Rusty Blues

The dog plants his face in the food bowl, looking over at me every now and again as though to suggest he knows the absurdity of his circumstances, but really he is just hungry and this the best 30 seconds of his day.  We've been out running - 6AM! - with Andrew whose dog 'Buddy' a natural companion for Rusty and us.  A black lab, Buddy better trained which is noted as we spot deer and Rusty bolts in hot pursuit (deer try to stomp dogs and can easily crack their spine) and me in pursuit of Rusty (God damn dog).  Neither Rusty nor Buddy can resist squirrels : the little flicking tales .. scampering across their field of vision .. . racing turns then up a tree lightening-quick.  Engaging like a video game. A chase of inches, Rusty has yet to catch one in the park.

The Shakespeares drag their feet on "The Hobbit" (Madeleine) and "Huckleberry Finn" (Eitan). I take drastic measures : no Olympics - specifically, no football finals - unless the books read. Eitan plays it cool and ignores my ultimatum (he knows how to get my goat); Madeleine bemoans "200 pages! I can't possibly do that much by Friday" as the boob tube radiates behind her. I have little sympathy as this task due last week.

Our new au pair Aneta settles in.

Sunday, August 5

All American

Dale and family in town from TX for the Olympics where they will spend the rest of the day. Ben (middle) a budding running star and we do a loop of Richmond Park and I try to keep up.  He is of that wonderful age when sports and puberty collide : his aim to hit 4:10 in the mile before college.  When not running, and since summer, Ben works at a pretzel stand at the Austin mall.  I send him "Fast Times At Ridgement High".

Day eight of the Smörgåsbord : swimming's conclusion and Michael Phelp's last race ever (gold in the 4X100 medley relay), gymnastics, diving (what bodies), wrestling .. water polo, ping pong, judo and beach volleyball. .. the velodrome and , of course, athletics : Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford anad Mo Farah take gold in the Hep, long-jump and 10K respectively (the press calls it the "greatest day in British sports history"). The BBC records it all across 20 dedicated channels. TGP (Team GB or Team Great Britain) takes six golds on "Super Saturday" and, at this stage, 29 medals overall trailing only the US and China. Compare this to Atlanta in '96 : one.
Boy it is going to be some bummer when the games end and we are back to reality.  But let us focus instead on the men's 100m final and Usain Bolt, which is in several hours.

"This is U.S. History, I see the globe right there."

Saturday, August 4

Mexican Horse

Sonnet, Madeleine and I at the Lisboa cafe on the Golborne Rd which has the best pastries in London. We stuff our faces with intermittent bites of fried-pork sandwiches , custard tarts and coffee.

Golborne intersects Portalla Road which cuts across Notting Hill and home to a notable saturdaay market known for second-hand clothes and antiques.  I once came here for light blue and other shades of corduroy trouser - now that seems like a different life.  Sonnet once came home with a large painting that was with us for years : I stopped an often-used joke - "that's a lot of art for £20" - when I learned, post facto, a guest collected Freuds and Twomblys.  Today Madeleine finds a jackass for 50p, pictured.  Bargain.

Eitan at the Olympic Stadium to see the prelims of the 100m track : Bolt, Gay, Powell, Blake and Chambers.  Bolt show-boats and runs 10.08 , good enough for the semi-finals. His ticket a gift from the Richmond council, who the boy represented in the British under-16s running championships earlier this year.

Next Stop Mars

Kubrik's classic from '68 - hard to believe - and perhaps at the peak of our technology optimism with films like Logan's Run and Star Wars to come.

I am following NASA's $2.5B Mars landing "Curiosity" on twitter.  This is real sci-fi stuff : to drop the one-ton probe on Mars (distance 352 millions miles from Earth), Curiosity separates from its spacecraft and enters Mars' atmosphere at 13,200mph; it has 78 miles to decelerate for a soft landing . . .peak temperatures reach 3,800F.  Thrusters ignite to halt spin and engage heat shields while friction slows the vehicle by 90%; further thrusters keep the capsule on track.  A parachute deploys to slow the descent further.  Four minutes into landing procedures the heat shield separates and radar looks for a landing surface (5 miles out, 280mph).  The back-shell, with parachute attached, jettisons and eight rockets fire for the final manoeuvre (1 mile, 180mph).

Within 100 feet a skycrane spools out nylon cords to lower Curiosity onto Mars. Once touchdown, the cords sever and the skycrane flies away to crash nearby.

It kind of makes me wonder why I have such a hard time clearing the garage or, for that matter, doing anything.

Friday, August 3

Eitan Games

Madeleine: "If you are an Olympics swimmer and you are married, do you have to take your ring off during the race?"
Me: "That's a very good question . .."

Dog Wash

Rusty gets a wash. About his least favorite thing.

Eitan and I to Palewell Park to do a workout of his choice (he makes me change from swim suit into jogging shorts). After a couple miles warm up, we do ten-times 40 meters sprint+ten press ups only I don't do the press ups.  I am still able to nip the boy but it is close.  He is a slippery little devil. Rusty dashes through our legs wired with excitement.

Our new au pair Aneta 2, a friend recommended by Kamila, arrives at Victoria station after a 20 hour bus ride from Prague.  She will know English by the end of her year with us or we will know Czech.

Madeleine: "Since I made such a fabulous dinner can I use the computer?"
Eitan: "Hog."
Me: "Why don't you save up your money and buy yourself an ipad?"
Eitan: "You never pay me any money .. ."
Madeleine: "I don't want to spend my savings on a computer."
Me: "What else are you going to spend it on ?"
Madeleine: "Um, emergencies."
Me: "Like what?"
Madeleine: "Like being lost in New York."
Me: "And?"
Madeleine: "I would buy food. And an umbrella."
Eitan: "An umbrella?"
Madeleine: "Yes, Eitan, an umbrella. Ever heard of rain?"

Thursday, August 2

Go Korea!

Luke (in orange) celebrates his 11th birthday at Wembley Arena where South Korea plays Gabon to a draw.  The boys dress up for the Korean side and are overwhelmed but the interest from the Korean fans who, Eitan tells me, circle them for photographs and national cheers (though speaking little English). GB (as Great Britain now goes by) advancing to the QFs (quarter finals).

Wednesday, August 1

East End

Madeleine at Canada Waters tube station.

Eitan at the Olympics with Luke who has planned his birthday party from 2011.  That's when his mom got tx for the football.  Sonnet plans a night with Madeleine so Madeleine feels special and we explore .. London's East End, taking a train to Dalston to visit a late night fashion boutique and cafe that Sonnet sources from the Jeffries Museum.  It is so cool it requires a booking.  So cool we cannot find it.

I am amused by the communal bath-houses and Turkish showers.  E8, which is Hackney, is becoming the place for the hipsters but it is still grungy : there is trash and grime but also coffee shops and bars called 'blink'.  Yoga, of course but then there are is 'Poundland' and the pawnshops . . A dude with a full beard gives us directions (his companion an attractive woman with pierced tongue).  Madeleine and I find a stoop to let Sonnet find her store.

From Dalston we catch a bus along Kingsland High Street to Song Che, a Vietnamese restaurant that serves awesome soft-shell crab and bo la lot (ground beef wrapped in betel leaves) and pho (noodle soup).

Me: "Bored?"
Madeleine: "Whatever, Dad."
Me: "Do you like red or blue?"
Madeleine: "Red. Why?"
Me: "Just go with it. Red or green?"
Madeleine: "Red."
Me: "Some thread or a beetle?"
Madeleine: "Like for sewing?"
Me: "Yeah. Or a beetle."
Madeleine: "That is so random."
Me: "Which one do you like?"
Madeleine: "Is the beetle dead?"
Me: "It depends."
Madeleine: "If it is dead, then thread. If not, the beetle"