Saturday, October 29

Gracie Moe Madeleine

Madeleine and I have had a great visit (as we prepare for the red eye). Our week includes a lot of time with Gracie and Moe (and Katie !), some business meetings for me, visits with friends and watching college football with Moe (Cal gets killed by USC). Madeleine and I also hang out - at least, she is a trooper, accompanying me to various places when she could be on Snapchat. I love this kid.

Gracie and Moe cherish the time with her.

Roger and Me

On Treasure Island, I connect with Roger and his son Thomas, who is playing in a Lacrosse tournament. Thomas is good : 6'2 '', and filling out since the last I saw him. He is quick and aggressive, putting a number of balls into the net.

Roger recently left Box, where he was on the early team, to join Amazon's web services business, which has grown from zero to $12bn in ten years, including a 55% increase over last year. WTF ? Amazon and Microsoft own 60% of the infrastructure behind cloud storage. What was a small business for Amazon has become critical to the company's growth. Roger will own several product initiatives.

We watch college fb : Ohio State v Northwestern, where Moe went to college. Moe transferred to Northwestern from Colgate, where he had an honorary scholarship (he says, "I was expected to have a lot of promise." Indeed). He transferred from Colgate, located in Hamilton NY, for a less isolating college experience.

San Francisco

I left my heart in San Francisco
Madeleine and I cruise over to Buena Vista Island, also know as "Treasure Island", which is the center point of the Bay Bridge, smack in the middle of the SF bay. I have never been on the island in my 49 years, but I have been through it 1000s of times.

The island once hosted a Naval Base, which closed 20 years ago, and now mostly dilapidated though the developers, it is rumoured, are circling. The views of San Francisco are stunning.

These stupid Hillary Clinton emails have everybody bored out of their minds. FBI head James Comey under pressure to act, otherwise surely the FBI will be accused by the Trump morons of withholding vital info before the elections. Only problem is, the new emails don't appear to have anything to do with Hillary, and Comey has not released all the information, leaving us with innuendo. Please God let it end.

My Mother

My Mom in her fancy wig. She is soldiering on with a lot to live for. The chemo will be done on December 27.  The mother-son relationship is a special thing.

My parents keep to their normal routine : Moe is up at 4AM and at the Berkeley Y by 5AM, where he sees his fellow gym rats who exchange jokes and insults. I bump into the famous Jack Ball, who is part of the crew. Jack was my PE teacher in 7th grade, and has memories of Katie and me, age 11, running around the King Jr High track or doing pull ups or other some such thing. I do believe we set records for the Jr High mile (me, 5:50)

We join Rob and Sloan, plus their fab kids Sophie and Jaimes for dinner in Mill Valley. Sophie, a Sophomore, is thriving. Her brain is going 100 miles a minute as she jumps from a home work project, to the school play to social media and then her friends. She occupies the space with her stories. Jaimes, not to be over shadowed by her older sister, is excelling in gymnastics and competing at the state level. She won a big tournament and was rewarded with a family dog, Bear (Rob and Sloan set the challenge assuming she would not win the thing). Bravo !

HW 1 Revisited

Madeleine and I drive along HW1. The world may be a'changing but the California coastline is just
as I remember it.

We start in Santa Cruz looking for surf but the ocean is unaccommodating. Instead, we walk along the shoreline checking out the scene which, mid-week, is mostly middle-aged types walking their dogs. Where are the surfer dudes , I wonder ? No doubt at 3 or 4 mile point, classic breaks shown to me by Danny when he was a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz and writing about the surfing life. His book, 'Caught Inside', made a literary ripple.

We end our day at Mike and Andrea's for dinner, including fab kids Eli and Ruby. Missing is Oscar, who is now in Manhattan making a go at the fashion world. We recall fondly his visit.

Madeleine btw will either go to college in California or end up here with a back pack.

Tuesday, October 25

Rapid Transit

Ashby station
Madeleine and I in Berkeley visiting Moe and Gracie (who receives her 7th chemo session as I write).  Yesterday we catch BART to San Francisco to kick around Market St and do some shopping. Sushi included, of course. 

Madeleine rediscovers the joys swimming, which is somehow perfect for jet lag and (for me) life. We do our laps at the Golden Bear Rec Club off Durant in the North Berkeley Hills. The vistas of the Bay Area are superb and seeing the blue sky sure beats the indoor pools I must accept in London. An added bonus : This is where I trained my last year of High School.

Sunday, October 23

Eitan Is A Shark

The after play
Eitan has a full run of West Side Story, four nights at Hampton School, sold out each time. Sonnet and I attend two performances, and it is a pleasure to see these kids (Hampton and Lady Eleanor Holles School) put on a professional production, including a full student orchestra.

Eitan is Pepe in the Sharks and is present in the prologue and the rumble scenes, which are beautifully choreographed movement sequences. Eitan has several lines and dances and sings his heart out. He is brilliant, in this observer's unbiased opinion.

After the play, Sonnet and I wait eagerly for the young actors to appear. Eitan arrives sweaty and joyous and gives us hugs, including Madeleine (momentarily stunned by such largess). He is all chitter chatter on the drive home. How proud we are of him.

Me (In Paris, walking by a lingerie shop): "Want to help me pick out something for Mom?"
Madeleine: "You are disgusting, Dad." 

Sunday, October 16

Paris Morning

Left bank (river flows westward)
It is the kind of morning one would wish to wake up with when one is in Paris.

The French, being a gallic nation, generally start late (by American standards) with the best part of the day spilling into the night. Sundays are a lock-down until about 1 or 2PM; until then, it is utterly calm with few Parisiennes on the street. 

At the Picasso museum, I ask the girls to select a favourite art and be prepared to discuss it over dinner. Both go for a series of eight paintings of Picasso's muse and lover from 1925-37, Marie-Therese Walter. The relationship began when she was 17 and he 45, and still living with his first wife Olga Khokholva. The whole thing blew up when Picasso moved on to his next mistress Dora Maar (who Picasso painted in a dark deformed frame,s unlike M-T whose portraits are more sympathetic).

And mine, you may ask ? Giacometti's 'Standing Man', on display as part of a temporary expo comparing Picasso and Giaco.

Madeleine on M-T "I like the expressions which change in each painting. It's like you know what she is thinking."

On The Mohito

Following dinner we find a cocktail bar and sit for a glass of wine (me) and I allow one glass of champagne for the girls.

Madeleine: "Can I have a gin and tonic?" 
Me: "No."
Laurie: "What's in a gin and tonic?"
Me: "I'll give you one hint."
Me: "It's not vodka."
Laurie: "Oh, I get it."
Madeleine: "How about a Mohito. Can I get one of those?"
Me: "Definitely not a Mohito. Besides, it is the most dangerous drink imaginable."
Madeleine: "Huh?"
Me: "If you have three Mohitos you go blind. Fact."
Madeleine: "Blind? Blind. blind !"
Me: "You are skating on the edge of insanity when you imbibe that devil drink."
Madeleine: "I cannot believe that."
Me: "True. Scientific. Just don't get any ideas."
Madeleine: "I never know if you're joking, Dad."

Greetings From The Marais

Are we there yet ?
Sonnet in the Midwest to visit a museum in Kansas City then St Louis, MO, for Kevin's wedding. Kevin an ancient friend from San Francisco. Then it is Montrose to see Marcus and Stan, who has accepted an offer on his house.  

The home leaves good memories, like parking Eitan's baby crib in the guest room closet so he would sleep. Or the time I was up at 5AM, jet legged, to go running and bumped into Silver wearing a full-body gas mask. We waved at each other (Silver allergic to dust, and was dusting the plans). The dinner table conversations and the full moon rising above the Rockies.

Whilst Sonnet travels,  I take Madeleine and Laurie to Paris 4e in the heart of the Marais.  The girls are a joy, giggling and serious - interested in shopping and anything vintage - we split our time between the back streets, felafels, stores and museums. Yesterday it was Picasso and streak frites. Today it is glorious sunshine.

Eitan (who is with Aggie) shrugs it all off, going to a party Friday and home to revise Saturday night. Back in the day, it would have meant a Love Boat and Fantasy Island double-header.

Tuesday, October 11


Madeleine stops by our room every evening for Sonnet to blow dry her hair.

Sonnet: "No way are you having a party at our house."
Madeleine: "What ?!"
Sonnet: "After we re-do the interior this Autumn, I am not letting a bunch of teenage monsters trash the place."
Madeleine: "That is so unfair."
Me to Madeleine: "Talk to me on this one."
Sonnet: "Hmmm."
Me: "At Eitan's party, I was going to play some tunes." (Dad's note: I can control the living room speakers from my iPhone)
Me: "Justin Bieber."
Madeleine: "Oh. My. God."
Me: "Your Mom stopped me from doing it."
Madeleine: "When I have a party, you are not allowed. Downstairs. Ever."

Sunday, October 9

Post Party

Eitan and Fred
Does one laugh or cry ?  The Tories float the idea of British companies being forced to register their foreign workers while Teresa May pushes for Article 50 in March 2017 triggering a hard countdown to the Brexit. The markets freak and Sterling drops to a 31 year low at 1.18 against the dollar before rebounding to 1.23. When we arrived, it was over 2. My Euro friends are disgruntled.

As if Europe is going to enter friendly agreements : we block European labour flows, Europe blocks our easy access to the largest trading block in the world. We lose the the best talented people and free trade. 

Talk about an own goal. 

I just did a Google search for 'Trump' and 'pussy'. 

Here is what he said and certainly would have denied if not on tape:
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.”
“I did try and fuck her. She was married.”
“Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

Idiots and racists will still vote for Trump. 

Saturday Night Lights

Eitan throws a party at 45 inviting 60 or so friends.  We empty the house and sweep the backyard; Eitan fine-tunes his play list and Sonnet prepares food and snacks. And beer - what party would last without the booze ? True then and true now. So we set aside our concerns and buy six cases of Amstel and Budweiser, which is gone within one hour of the start.

The boys arrive mostly first, trickling in, respectful while avoiding eye contact with me, the adult supervision. I check each name from a list. The girls arrive in groups, on display like Christmas ornaments. Their water bottles contain vodka and gin, which I mostly let ride. 

It is a real pleasure to see how excited the kids are to see each other, hugging and shouting over the drum.

The living room speakers (inherited with the house) are professional and make the house shake. I am rather proud of it.

Madeleine and her friends slink around the dark edges of the action.

Sonnet and I banished to the upstairs. We eavesdrop and I drop downstairs to make sure everything remains under control and nothing broken nor kids puking. We order late night pizza for the stragglers and clean up the mess.

Saturday, October 8

Oxford or Bust

For posterity, here is the gang reunited. Zubulin, third from left, got all A* on his GCSE exams this year and will likely study maths at Cambridge.  Ava (2nd from right) now plays for Arsenal FB and represents England.  Zoe (missing) accepted to Oxford and began in September. Rusty, meanwhile, got his bone.

Trump is a clown and not worth discussing. Theresa May, who is not a clown, sent Sterling into a free fall as the financial markets reacted to her words on a strong brexit. This stupid country may deliver what 51% of the British population seem to want - immigration control - while killing foreign investment and access to the European markets. Brussels will do all it can to stick it to this country and prevent other countries from splitting the union; until now, The City has been impregnable. Paris and Zurich are sharpening their knives. Without thriving London, say goodbye to the golden eggs.

Those Eigenstrains

Math genius in repose
We go for our autumnal walk in Oxford with the Three Zees plus Nita and Alain who is occupied with a paper titled: "Universal Eigenstrains and Deformations in Compressible Isotropic Solids." All I can say is: what the fuck is that all about ? 

To prepare the research, Alain teamed up with a genius Iranian named Arash Yavari who received his applied maths PhD at CalTech and states, on his website, that his interest is "developing systematic theories of discrete mechanics for crystalline solids with defects." I always went with distance running or travelling. 

Sadly dudes like Arash will surely be discouraged from coming to Britain following Brexit.

Eric is the only friend I can think of who might know about an Eigenstrain. Or Ben. Anyways, for all those interested, here is a brief on Alain's thesis : 

"Finite eigenstrains in a nonlinear solid can be modelled by a Riemannian material manifold with a metric that explicity depends on the eigenstrains. We show that covariantly homogeneous deformations - deformations with covariantley constant deformations gradients - are the only universal deformations." 

And so on an so forth

Sweet 16

Eitan turns 16. This precious young soul has grown before our very eyes into the fine young man he has become. Sonnet and I could not be more proud of him.

Eitan's academic year brings forward the GCSEs, those dreaded exams that will determine the boy's future. Not to be taken lightly. 

In the British school system, a student's extracurriculars, school grades, teacher recommendations and personal essays don't count for college credit - only the exams, test-taker be damned if s/he has a cold or a bad day. US colleges extrapolate a GPA from the GCSEs so the results count in America, too. 

We have known about the GCSEs since, well, Eitan's birth since it is something anxiously discussed amongst parents and ex-pats from Day 1. The general consensus is that it is a pretty crummy thing to put a poor kid through. 

Until now, the exam has been a safe distance in the future, over some far away hill, that protected us from Eitan's inevitable departure from home. For surely once the test is done he is gone.

Me: "Sweet 16 and never been kissed."
Eitan: "What do you mean?"
Me: "It's an expression. Sweet 16 and never been kissed. So have you?"
Eitan: "What?"
Me: "Been kissed."
Eitan: "Why do you always have to do that?"

The Merchant

Eitan at Tooting Bec
Friday night in London finds us gathered at The Globe for The Merchant of Venice, which Eitan studied last year and now reminds me of the story beforehand and whispers character names in my ear. Shylock is treated horribly and should have had his pound of flesh. Sonnet and Madeleine visit The Tate Modern before the play to see the Georgia O'Keefe exhibition. 

Southbank is abuzz - every concrete nook filled with skateboarders, walkers, drinkers, revellers; only the black river separates the lights.

It has been a busy month , or two even, so let's see : the kids concluded their summer athletics season with Eitan clocking a 4:16 in the 1500 (pb of 9 seconds) and Madeleine a 2:26 in the 800 - times good enough for the UK top 150. Adding an exclamation mark : Madeleine finishes second in yesterday's Wandsworth champs and will represent the borough in the London Youth Games Later this year.

Grace continues her chemotherapy and is in good spirits always; we check in with each other every day.