Wednesday, December 28

Tuesday, December 27

Rogue One

Gracie and Maggie
Gracie has her last chemo session today, something we have been waiting for since September and are so very grateful it is almost over. 

We spend Boxing Day at the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One, then - at home - we watch the original, which is far superior to the prequels and sequels. I point this out to Simon and his son Michael, who are off to catch the 1927 five hour silent film 'Napoléon' showing at the London Film Institute. Can't really compete with that.

Monday, December 26

Don't Fear The Reaper

Prince, David Bowie, Maurice White (Earth, Wind and Fire), Lenard Cohen, Paul Katner (Jefferson Airplane), Glenn Fry (The Eagles), Phife Dawg (Tribe Called Quest), Merle Haggard (country music legend) and now George Michael.  Our icans leave us, and most in the prime of their lives or, at least, before 60.

1987 was the year of Michael's 'Faith' and it was unmissable especially if a sophomore in college. Funk Nights at Brown grooved to his pop, as did the discotheques in Manhattan and San Francisco where I sometimes went. His raw style - those ripped jeans and urban boots ! The sunglasses and hair ! - had a most profound impact, even if not fully credited to GM. From Each Finchley, London, he reached full scale in America.

Mike, the federal judge and lifelong friend who married me and Sonnet, once informed: "your 50s are the killing fields", as life's poor living choices come home to roost. In this decade, which I will soon enter, death is unexpected and mortality still in reach. Smoking, booze, drugs and fast food diets and just living mow the unfortunate down early.

Brexit Encore

Shell shocked
Of the Big Decisions impacting my life this year I am 0 for 3: Heathrow Third Runway, Brexit and Trump.  A Gbp 1000 bet on all three occurring would have won over a mil. I believe it: only H3 seemed possible given the craven nature of the Tory government and a need for more jumbos, no matter how pollutive and disruptive to the millions of us underneath. But Trump ? (I immediately cancelled my twitter account).

The worst of the three however, Brexit, will take one generation to succeed, similar to the post Second World War period, with over 30,000 civil servants to be focused on renegotiating some 240 post war treaties which each took, on average, 7 years to sign. It will effect an aeon.

To look at the currency collapse or minor econ bumps/ slowdowns is foolhardy; long-term, we will see a decline of London's influence as global banks shift to the continent for access to the trading block while other services, like currency clearing houses, move to Frankfurt. The young, hungry and educated will find their opportunities elsewhere.  I would have.

London, dear reader, exports over £25b of wealth py to the rest of the country (compare this to Paris, which absorbs France's income) and the Southeast accounts for Britain's growth. Messing with the engine is dangerous and, at a minimum, the jewel of the crown will become less .. interesting.

Boxing Day Peace

Madeleine reads 'Hotel New Hampshire' by John Irving
We are re-doing the interior of our house - new floors installed, pictured, and now it is on to the other stuff like bathrooms, painting and the upstairs. Rusty has already raised a leg to Madeleine's newly laid carpet. If we did not love the pooch so, he would be in a potato sack at the bottom of the Thames.

Christmas 2016 has come. And gone. The Big Gifts this year were a virtual reality head-set (Eitan) and a record player and some vinyls (Madeleine). A new record btw costs £22, far different from the affordable disks I once bought on Telegraph Ave at Rather Ripped Records and Rasputin's for five bucks each. Ah, what a joy to lose oneself for hours flipping through the stacks, years before CDs killed the album cover and the feelings they inspired in us kids.  Then hitting Comics And Comics and Blondie's Pizza for a Coke and a slice for the walk across the Berkeley Campus and home. Allowance well spent.

But I digress.

The gift to the whole family is Katie. Pretty cool to have a younger sister. Who lives in Manhattan. Who has founded a business transforming how ideas circulate in media and is influencing media.

Sunday, December 25

(Spider) Web

A tree by our house
It has been a busy year that is now drawing to a close. Katie arrived two days ago to spend Christmas with us. She is a wonder with her nephew and niece, making them laugh, talk and think in a way Sonnet and I can't touch in our routine conversations. 

Eitan revises for his mock exams in January then the real thing, the long-anticipated GCSEs, in April-May. Madeleine studies for January exams as well.  

Yes, there is a lot to be thankful for, even 2016, a year of populism, racism, sexism, exit-ism, anti-semitism, Trumpism,  plagiarism, voter fraud and general treachery. The jackels are back in power and we, the people, without Hunter S Thompson or Alex Cockburn to shine a light on what will certainly be the most corrupt administration to ever hold High Office in America. Those who voted for the man will surely be punished for it (Health Insurance ? Blue collar jobs ? Transparency and freedom ? Good bye to all that). None of us will be the better for it.

Day Trippers

Madeleine, Alphie, Eitan, Fred and Shaheen
It's a motley crew, no doubt, but they do return within 15 minutes of the instructed 7:15PM meeting time. Madeleine reports that she and Alphie explored Paris by foot but mostly in the marais getting there along the Seine. Eitan - well, who knows ? - but the boys seemed to have had a great time.  

It is a pleasure to be around this group. Friendly and polite to other people and adults almost to a fault yet wrapped up in their own world of interests and insults and things that young people do.

Me: "What's the name of the train station?"
Eitan: "Umm .."
Me: "Alphie, what's the name of the train station?"
Me: "Ok, its Gare du Nord. This is where we are meeting this evening. Each of you say it."
Eitan: "We get it Dad."
Me to Shaheen: "Train station?"
Shaheen: "Gare du Nord."
Me to Fred: "Train station?"
Shaheen: "Gare du Nord."
Me to Alphie: "Where are we meeting tonight?"
Alphie: "Gare du Nord."
Me: "You have my mobile. Call me from the police station."
Madeleine: "Ha-ha-ha, Dad."

The Curators

Gare du Nord
Sonnet and Oriel were in the same program at the Courtauld Art Institute, studying the history of European costume and dress, taught by the formidable Dr Eileen Ribeiro, some 18 years ago. Both are curators at the V&A.

Sonnet, with the help of the Op-Ed project, has an opinion - with photo - published in the New York Times addressing the failure of the world's biggest museums to hire women at the top. Same for the V&A where 75% of the curators are women. Her piece timely as the V&A searching for a new Director while the Chairman tells me, "we cannot get women to apply for the job."

"LONDON — The directors of two of the world’s most popular art museums recently announced their resignations. Martin Roth, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, will step down this year, and Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate museums, both in Britain, will depart next year. These job vacancies, which search committees are now working to fill, offer an opportunity to correct the gender imbalance in art museum leadership in Britain, America and beyond.

In 2015, the world’s top 12 art museums as based on attendance — what I call the “directors’ dozen” — were all led by men. When Frances Morris became the director of the Tate Modern in April, she became the first woman to join the club. This gender gap extends from Europe to North America, where only five of the 33 directors of the most prominent museums (those with operating budgets of more than $20 million) are women, including Kaywin Feldman of the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Nathalie Bondil of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. It’s the leaders of those big-budget institutions who set the tone for all. "
--Sonnet Stanfill, NYT, extract, October 19, 2016

Paris Train

Fred sleeps on the Eurostar
Sonnet visits a donor in Paris so the gang heads for St Pancras, 5:30AM, for a Day Trip. Joining Madeleine is Alphie, who is into photography and film, which is influencing our little darling in a most wonderful way: Madeleine now shooing film with my ancient Pentax SuperME camera.  Eitan joined by Shaheen and Fred, who is a music scholar at Hampton. Three peas in a pod.

In Paris, I hand each kid 6 metro tickets, a bunch of Euros for emergency, and tell them to be at Gare du Nord at 7:15Pm. I watch them scramble into the crowd, then turn around and head for the office.

Me to Alphie: "I like your hair cut kid."
Madeleine: "Dad why do you always have to be so embarrassing."
Me: "What? It's cool. Clipped on the side, long on top. Believe it or not, it is how we used to wear our hair back in the days before the mobile phone and the automobile."
Alphie: "Thank you Mr Orenstein."
Madeleine: "They so had cars when you were my age."
Me: "We went to this hair salon called Peter Thomas on Shattuck. A bunch of my friends got free haircuts in return for modelling."
Madeleine, Alphie:
Me: "Funny what you remember like it was yesterday."

Astorg Gold And Silver

A few colleagues
I catch up on my blog. 

Earlier this month Astog is selected the No. 1 middle-market buyout firm in Europe while the Eur 2.1 billion Astorg VI, which closed June 30, takes 2nd place in the fundraising category (yours, truly, gave up a few lives on that one) by PE Exchange, representing some 1200 institutional investors. It is peer recognition for a team that works hard, shows up every day, and delivers results.

I tell Charles-Hubert (far left) not to put the trophy in his bedroom, like he did last year.  Sometimes I wonder if the French get, or even appreciate, my sense of humour. Other times I wonder if I push it too far .

An Astorg Christmas

The London office
The London office celebrates at a Peruvian lunch in Mayfair. My commitment to an alcohol light afternoon discarded by 3PM with the evening ending at 10PM. As I tell Michael, a new German colleague and the guy in front in red sweater, in the taxi home: "What happens in Frankfurt stays in Frankfurt." On point, I am not sure what it means or if it is clever.

Madeleine: "I want to go to Hawaii. For vacation."
Me: "Yep. Only trouble is you might never come back."
Madeleine: "It would be so nice."
Me: "You might toss out your UK passport right there."
Madeleine: "And then I would go to California."
Me: "The beauty of it is - you can, no problem."
Madeleine: "All my friends are talking about going to America and I can just do it."
Me: "And you don't have to work or get married."
Madeleine: "Married?"
Me: "So you can live in the states without a visa."
Me: "If any of your friends were to come to me and ask for your hand. .."
Me: "I would be like, no problem. She's a live one."
Madeleine: "You would not."
Me: "Only don't come to me for money."
Madeleine: "Gee, thanks Dad."
Me: "I expect you'll be living with us. Isn't it enough?"
Madeleine: "Can we talk to mom now ?"

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."