Friday, June 26

El Lay

From Los Angeles I take a late evening flight to San Francisco, catching bart to the East Bay. A family joins with six rowdy 5-6 years olds who squeel and scream, climbing over the seats and trampling on each other. Dad has a gold grill on his front teeth and mom every now and then yells at the youngsters to 'shut the hell up." Eventually I move to another seat.

A nice thing, in Berkeley, are the train horns which waft up from the flats into the Berkeley hills. Fog horns boom at the entrance of the Golden Gate Bridge, doing so since 1937, guiding 100s of thousands of ships through the Golden Gate straight and forewarning San Franciscans when fog rolling in to envelope the city. They operate, on average, 2 hours a day (in the summer fog months, it is over 5 hours a day).  In 1994 the fog horns were to be silenced for better technology but the howling protests ensure the fog horns longevity.

Thursday, June 25


Following morning meetings, Christian and I connect at Sunset Junction just beyond the Downtown LA, in an area now called "Silver Lake". The mildly predatory skyline visible in the distance (I don't know if it is the concentration,  mismatching styles or height, but I find the center oppressive).  It reminds me of The Mission in San Francisco or Shoreditch - scruffy and tattered yet dotted with coffee shops, music venues and restaurants. We sit outside at a cafe and watch the cool people go by - models, artists, journey men and actors (I recognise at least one). It is sunny and nobody seems to be in a particular hurry.

Christian and I catch up on the usual life stuff. Can we be approaching late 40s ? He prepares for the September wedding which will be in Palm Springs. Otherwises its music and the various gossips that keep us occupied. We have lunch with Lisa then sit outside the art deco Los Angeles library.

Catherine And Anneke

I arrive from Paris to LA in time for dinner with Catherine, Peter and Anneke, who is going on 7 and cute as a button. Peter continues to pull money and projects together for Chinese-American films (he is in Beijing often) while he and Catherine or organising the first China Week in Los Angeles which will actually last three and include cultural events across the city. They are doing exciting things.

Southern California is brown following four years of drought. Yet it is blue skies, Pacific Ocean and balmy temperatures. One could get used to this fast.

Sunday, June 21

Serge Gainsbourg

Rue due Vaneuil
Paris, May 23, 2007: Carefully avoiding eye contact with the tourists in the street, Charlotte Gainsbourg quickly lets me into the small, graffiti-covered house at 5 bis Rue de Verneuil. Two blocks from Boulevard Saint-Germain in the Seventh Arrondissement, the house is where her father, Serge Gainsbourg, lived and, on March 2, 1991, died at the age of 62. In the days following his death, France went into mourning, fans crowded the tiny street singing his songs, and the women closest to him sat in his bedroom with his body for four days because Charlotte didn't want to let him go. For 16 years this house has been shuttered and locked, with only the housekeeper or occasional family member allowed inside. Charlotte, an actress and a huge star in France, is now the owner of the house and wants, with the help of architect Jean Nouvel, to turn it into a museum. For the first time since Serge Gainsbourg's death, she has agreed to reveal the private world of France's most beloved and important songwriter.
--Vanity Fair, 2007

Update: the house has not been converted to a museum and remains locked. It is a curiosity for tourists.

Selfie - Eric And Simona !

Sonnet takes me to Au Bourguignon du Maria where we visited 15 years ago when the restaurant first opened and reviewed for its fois gras. Joining us - a complete surprise - are Eric and Simona, who are on their way to Romania and yet there they are for dinner.  We have a truly wonderful evening.

Today we join for a cafe followed by a Sunday at the Clignancourt Les Puces flea market, the biggest in Europe, on the outer edge of Paris. Once may find everything from antiques to taxidermy. It's not quite Kashgar on the Taklamakan Desert but it does have a similar broad variety of wares though not Kalashnikovs nor animal guts. Still, one may find about whatever one needs.

We wrap up a perfect day in the historic Jewish quarter with fafel.


√Čtienne Martin was a non-figurative sculptor.
Eitienne-Martin (1913-1995) began making sculpture in the mid 1930s. During the Second World War he was a prisoner of Germany, being liberated in 1941.  Soon after,  in Dieuleft, in the South of France, he met the critic and collector Henri-Pierre Roche who would support him on his return to Paris. A modernist fringe-figure, E-M explored his 'individual mythologies', to quote Harold Szeeman, who invited him to show at the Document 5 in Kassel, in 1972.

Why not?

Saturday, June 20

48 And Feeling Fine

Self Portrait XXXXV
Sonnet and I visit three museums: Palais Galliera, where Sonnet sees an exhibition on Jean Labin, a Paris coutuerier active from c. 1900 to 1946; The Musee d'Art Moderne; and Ives Saint Laurent museum for an exhibition on YSL's 1971 collection. That year, Laurent shocked the critics who chastised his revisiting a period of wartime deprivation as a source for inspiration. The collection includes bold prints, boxy jackets and garish colours. Of note, the models had normal shapes and not overly sexualised. 

The Flight Path Is Blue

The schematic presents the areas of London to be effected should Heathrow build a 3rd runway (the area in blue). Basically it is everyone.

No doubt Heathrow needs a 3rd runway given the current operation is running at 98% capacity with planes swooping down every two minutes during the morning and afternoon run. Anyone can see the projections: an extra 25-30 million passengers a year by 2050.  Unfortunately Heathrow is horribly located. Not only that, the flight paths cross wealthy neighbourhoods including Richmond, Chelsea, Barnes and, yes, East Sheen. These communities have the political clout to fight. What London needs is some forward planning and a new airport. Good luck with that.

Study for the Dance Mural

Oo la la Matisse
Sonnet and I visit the Musee d'Art Moderne in the 16e where we check out a dry run of Matisse's "Dance", which he eventually painted for the Barnes Foundation (outside of Philadelphia) in 1931. The painting in the background was lost only to be rediscovered in Paris in 1992 and now on display at the Moderne. It is one of two Dance murals on display in the gallery. Sonnet says, "How they have installed the painting is amazing - as you approach it, down a set of stairs, the mural fills your line of vision."

We leave Eitan and Madeleine with our au pair for a long weekend in Paris. Eitan invited to a teenage party for popular twins at Eitan's sister all-girls school. Richard, our stand-in chauffeur, reports that there were no shenanigans at the 11PM pick-up.

Tyler, my childhood friend visiting from Berkeley, and I reminisce on Eitan's age: for us, it included naked hot tubs, alcohol and marijuana cigarettes (as Moe once called weed). Yours, truly, missed out on the fun for swimming laps (Eitan, Madelein: take note).  Tyler and I agree that the parents of that era or, at least, many parents in Berkeley, swung too far left on the freedom pendulum.

Night Of The Banana

Sonnet orders 13 lbs of bananas instead of 13 bananas in her weekly online shopping which means we have bananas everywhere. I've been giving them away by the dozens. Even Eitan, who is rarely seen outside of the refrigerator these days, balks. Sonnet plans to make a bunch of banana bread. I expect we will be serving it at Christmas.

Tuesday, June 9


Moe in the '60s. My guess Yosemite or Tahoe.

Madeleine has the London Schools Athletic Championships coming up.
Madeleine: "Dad will you fill out and sign this form?"
Me: "You fill it out. I will do the signing."
Madeleine: "I can't! There is all this stuff on there that I don't know!" [Dad's note: I look at the form]
Me: "You can do it. You certainly know your address young lady."
Madeleine fills out the forms. Madeleine: "It says 'visual.' What does 'visual' mean?"
Me: "It's a check-box. You check it if you have visual problems."
Madeleine: "So do I check it?"
Me: "Is there a box for less-than-average intelligence."
Madeleine: "Ha ha ha very funny, Dad."
Me: "Where do you need me to sign it?"
Madeleine: "At the bottom."
Me: "Now that wasn't so hard, was it?"
Madeleine: "For you, maybe."

Sunday, June 7


Lazy Sunday
Madeleine has Sunday rehearsal for the school play, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."  She is playing an eagle. Is it a big role? No, but she doesn't care: "I'm fine with it" she tells me now. She is disappointed, however, that the eagle does not get to enter a battle. Her line: "... and joining in the battle as well I hope, sir."  Apparently it is more of a physical character.

Madeleine huddles over her phone in the car passenger seat. Me: "Texting your peeps?"
Madeleine: "Never say that again."

Summer Sunday

Another day flying solo. Madeleine and Eitan up at 10 and 11AM, respectively, about right for a Sunday.  We enjoy the summer sunshine.

Me: "Say something for my blog."
Eitan: "Ummm"
Me: "Have we had an interesting conversation about something lately?"
Eitan: "As you get older, you realise it's more important to turn up."
Me: "Nice one. Did you just make that up?"
Eitan: "No, you said that at the BBQ yesterday."
Me: "Glad it's sinking in."

Saturday, June 6


Martin handles some tooling
Martin, our next door neighbour, helps me install a water butt which I could not have done without his help. We have a good time doing it, too. 

Martin knows a bit about everything on our block which makes sense as he grew up in the house is lives in today (Martin's mother, Kitty Godfrey, won Wimbledon a bunch of times in the 1920s).  I learn, for instance, that our property once owned by a bank manager.  And number 37 down the block owned by the industrialist owner of the stag brewery

Martin tells me about the local homes bombed during the Second World War. There were several direct hits (he was evacuated to Surrey). When Madeleine in Year 3 or 4, he told her about the experience for a class project.

Martin an electrical engineer who remains busy. He is currently installing the lighting system on London's Crossrail, a 73 mile railway line under construction for 2018 with a new east-west route across Greater London. His garage stuffed with every tool imaginable.

Talking Italian Glamour

Sonnet presents to the members of the Frist Museum, or about 400 people.  She is an old hand at these things now.  Photo from Adrianne.

Friday, June 5


New Dad
Sonnet and Marcus at the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, on the grounds formerly occupied by Nashville's Cheek family, in their 30,000-square-foot Georgian-style mansion. The Cheek's founded a wholesale grocery store in the 1880s.

Madeleine and I have a Friday night sushi date (Eitan at a sleep-over). Our conversation covers sports, school and friends. She is a well adjusted kid who has managed to miss the nastiness that often occupies girls at this age. Madeleine made it simple: all her friends are boys. She may not be a Tom Boy any longer but some things don't change.

According to, terraced properties in London sell for an average price of £594,166, while semi-detached properties fetch £560,744.  London, with an overall average price of £533,018 was more expensive than nearby South East (£332,312), East of England (£268,083) and East Midlands (£175,726).


Katie Glams
Sonnet in Nashville for the opening of Glamour at the Frist Museum. Stan and his lady friend Cate join Sonnet on Tuesday while my parents arrive on Wednesday. Katie yesterday along with Marcus and Adrianne and my niece Willa.

Adding to the fun, Tony and Susan are in town with some friends, just in time for the show (Tony sends me this photo).

Eitan finishes exam week and reports, 'all good'. He was prepared and relaxed, putting himself to bed at a reasonable hour, handing over his mobile phone over the weekend (which lasted less than a day). No drama.

Me: "So do you know what a mortgage is?"
Madeleine: "Yeah. It's when you can't afford a house so you borrow money from a bank. You pay it back a little at a time."
Me: "And how does a bank decide to give you the mortgage?"
Madeleine: "Um, they look at your job to see how much money you make. And where the house is located and how much it is worth."
Me: "And what do you do if you can't repay your mortgage?"
Madeleine: "Run?"