Sunday, March 29

I Am

Madeleine breaks it down
Madeleine performs in "I AM", a play at the BAC. It is devised theatre that the kids created themselves, addressing kids related issues like self expression, school pressure, gender issues and racial stereotyping. Madeleine does a piece with a schoolmate on parental rules (looking directly at me, second row). She is fabulous. Afterwards Madeliene joins us in the audience to watch a different troupe perform; these kids older and address 17-18 angst throwing in plenty of sexual innuendo and words like 'blow job' and 'vagina', raising Sonnet's eyebrow like Spock.

Eitan's last football match of the season, against Kingstonian Youth, nets a 9-1 victory for the Lions. Eitan puts in the first goal.

Saturday, March 28

Sonnet '96

Digging around in our attic I shuffle through a stack of ancient photographic prints .. well, to New York ca. 1996, anyway. Here is Sonnet, standing out from the rest of all those Manhattan memories.  I sure did something right.

Monkey Business

Eitan goes to a costume party dressed as a monkey. Never again, I tell him, will he be able to complain about me taking him to school in a cow suit. Gracie lives on.

Since it's Saturday, Sonnet and I up early to take the dog for a walk and connect with Karen and Niki doing the same thing with theirs. We swap dog stories which is kind of like baby stories: what the dogs have eaten, their exercise routines and shitting patterns. It sort of makes me uncomfortable.

Madeleine off to rehearsal and tonight is her first of two performances. I ask, 'are you nervous'? and she shrugs it away. Business as unusual.

Eitan stumbles into the kitchen (in his monkey suit, which he wore to bed) and makes a bacon and sausage sandwich.
Me: "How was the party?"
Eitan: "It was OK."
Me: "Did you have any interesting conversations?"
Me: "Oh, right. Sorry. Did you talk to any girls?"
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "Are they interesting to you?"
Eitan: "Sort of. I guess."
Me: "Do you go up to them or do they find you ?"
Eitan: "A bit of both."
Me: "I bet."

Friday, March 27

Paris Morning

River Seine
Friday post. I'm up, 6AM, to power walk the 7e. The sun is shining and springtime almost here.

The Paris streets hum with activity as the delivery agents service the bakeries and cafes, jamming the narrow lanes, chatting (or arguing) with each other. The dog walkers out and the pets crap wherever they wish as the gutters run with water every day. I head by the National Assembly and La Defense with police noticeably present even at this hour (The American Embassy, on Place de la Concorde, a fortress). At the Musée Rodin, a side gate open and I poke my head in to see 'La Porte de l'Enfer'.

I spend my usual good time with Astorg who is moving towards a fundraising this year. It is pregnant with possibility and judging the launch an important consideration.

Wednesday, March 25

Kaleidoscope - Shard

The Shard
Sonnet and I join "Kaleidoscope", the Contemporary Art Society's annual fundraising auction at 1 Billings Gate in a marvellous converted space big enough to host the contemporaries and seat 200 people (our friend Veronique is on the Board). Outside : the Thames and the Shard.

How different a place London has become since I worked in The City and jogged along the riverside through 1950s and 60s concrete. Those ancient post-war relics are gone in a heartbeat to make way for the new and modern, steel and glass.

Kaleidoscope's dress code is "colour in motion" which neither I nor Sonnet consider until the day before so I buy a purple and pink paisley tie from Harvey Nics. For the men, I've done more than most. The women arrive in leopard skin or print, lace leggings and yellow shoes. Pink-dyed mink. Sonnet goes with blue and patterns.

I dine next to Louise Wilson, a British artist nominated for the Turner Price in 1999 for her work in video, film and photography.

Eitan prepares himself in the morning.
Me: "What are you up to today?"
Eitan: "I don't know, usual stuff."
Me: "It's a bit difficult being 14, isn't it?"
Eitan: "I guess."
Me: "Having to talk to adults and not really knowing what to say. Feeling something is expected of you."
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "I remember that time. But then you get your own stories."
Me: "And you will have plenty."

Tuesday, March 24

Date Night

My gal
I dash home, bike a loop of Richmond Park, make a few phone calls then dart out the door to meet Sonnet at the Tate Britain - date night. Following the exhibition we go to our favorite, The River Cafe which, amazingly, has a table for two available, just for us (our first time at the RC was 1997 which stimulates a certain amount of .. reflection).

The kids have an evening home without activities other than homework. A rare thing. I suggest Eitan use the time to read a book (eye roll) or to bed early (open protest). Madeleine needs no urging on either - she puts herself to bed 8:30PM sharp, no fuss about it. Smart kid, she knows the importance of sleep.

On a dull day in the news (thank goodness) the BBC reports that a giant dangerous newt possibly roamed the earth in the dinosaur era. The story in the newsloop.

Nick Waplington / Alexander McQueen Working Process

Sonnet and I join the opening party for Nick Waplington's photography exhibition at the Tate Modern.

"Nick Waplington/ Alexander McQueen: Working Process is the result of a unique collaboration between artist Nick Waplington (born 1965) and the fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen (1969-2010). Waplington, best known for his photographic work centred on themes of class, identity and conflict, was invited by McQueen to crate a photo book documenting the making of the designer's 2009 Autumn/ Winter women's ready-to-wear collection from start to finish. McQueen conceived the collection as an iconoclastic retrospective of his career, revisiting patterns and fabrics from his earlier collections.  Titled 'The Horn of Plenty,' the collection was fiercely satirical and deliberately provocative."
--Entrance placard

Saturday, March 21

Ten Hut

Dog torture
Madeleine and I go to the Isabella Plantation, about one month before the rhododendrons bloom. Still, it is a peaceful area for a walk only disturbed by Rusty chasing ducks. Madeleine and I talk about school and sports, homework, goals. She notes that "everybody knows Eitan" even at her school. Well, of course it feels this way as the younger child. And besides, I tell her, she is known for her running and theatre; her teachers adore her and she is DDG (which gets an eye roll). All true.

Sonnet and I have drinks with a few Hampton School parents at The Plough. The chit chat is around the ESFA semi final defeat as well as various school gossips. I can't keep track of which parent owns whom but the mums sure know. Its disconcerting when someone I don't recognise is telling me how Eitan did on his Chemistry exam today. Thank God for Sonnet, who is on top of this like a moma bear.

Marcus reports that he managed the car seat test and he and Adrienne now home with Willa Sofia. As I tell him, one day down and 18 years to go.

DDG=Drop Dead Gorgeous

Friday, March 20

Hello Willa Sofia

New parents
Marcus and Adrienne come home with a baby and Madeleine and Eitan get a cousin (Madeleine: "OMG she's beautiful!!). There is lots of excitement and love in our lives on the addition of Willa Sofia, a beautiful adopted child. Let the sleep deprivation experiment begin.

Madeleine's play, "I Am", recently cancelled due to the building burning down, but the show must go on. The troupe have doubled down on rehearsals having found an alternative location to practice, practice, practice! Madeleine's spirits soar to be back on stage. Today she talks to her form tutor and Head of Year to discuss raising money for the BAC.

ESFA Semi Final

Friday night boogie.

Eitan's Hampton U14 A squad plays Banstead School, Essex, in the Semi Final of the English Schools FA cup. To reach the final four, the boys have won eight in a row and qualified from a pool of 700 teams. Hampton School has never gotten so far in any age bracket.

The boys are nervous but not as much as the parents, as is usually the case. I fly in from Geneva and head for the pitch with Richard and Jack, who has cut school to watch. Sonnet joins and we bite our nails anxiously as Hampton breaks from the huddle, "Go Hampton!"

At half-time its 1-1 on two good goals but in the second half Banstead pulls ahead on a cracker - 25 meter free kick which hits the left goal bar and goes in. Another goal by them seals it and Hampton boys walk off the pitch, hangdogged. Eitan skips the customary post-game hot dog.

Well, what can one say? Hampton had a great season and did themselves and their school proud. Eitan played every game and made important contributions to the team - at center midfield, he is the backbone of the squad. And a pleasure to watch. We could not be more proud.

Wednesday, March 18


Jet d'eau
I'm in Geneva and enjoy a familiar site taken for granted in my yuf - the Jet d'Eau, one of the largest fountains in the world and where Lake Geneva empties into the Rhone.  The jet sends 132 gallons of water per second to an altitude of 140 metres via two hidden pumps. The water leaves the nozzle at 124 mph. At any moment there are about 1,849 gallons of water in the air.

The first Jet d'Eau was installed in 1886 at the Usine de la Coulouvrenière, a little further downstream. It was used as a safety valve for a hydraulic power network and could reach 30 metres. In 1891, its aesthetic value recognised and it was moved to its present location to celebrate the Federal Gymnastics Festival and the 600th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation. 

Since 2003, the fountain has operated during the day all year round, except if frost or, particularly, strong wind

In the late summer, 1983, I swam across the lake, in preparation for the swim season, with Tony, a university student and distance swimmer who proudly drove a Mini Cooper the size of a doghouse. We were oblivious to the speeding motor boats that passed us by.

Sunday, March 15

Thames Path

Sunday walk
Madeleine and I take Rusty for a walk along the Thames Path in Teddington starting at Ham House.

The Sheen Lions defeat the Met Police Blues, 2-0, in a league game. Eitan scores the second goal.

"There are three locks at Teddington and these represent the lowest and the largest on the non-tidal River Thames. Richmond Lock, three miles downstream, is only used at low tides. Mean river flow at Teddington is about 15,000 gallons (70,000 liters) per second but it can increase tenfold during high rainfall."
--Path signage

The Teddington Lock is 146 miles from source while the river's height above sea level is 14 feet.

The Black Feather Dress

The Black Feather Dress from the Horn of Plenty collection in 2009. It is the featured dress for the exhibition and on all the posters.

“What attracted me to Alexander was the way he takes ideas from the past and sabotages them with his cut to make them thoroughly new and in the context of today.” 
--Isabella Blow, patron and muse to Alexander McQueen.

Alexander McQueen

Plato's Atlantis
Sonnet and I attend the private view opening reception for Alexander McQueen at the VA. The exhibition already seen at The Met in 2011, curated by Sonnet's former colleague Andrew Bolton. Sonnet and Madeleine saw that show in New York. It was the tenth most visited show at The Met ever.

As McQueen from London, this opening like a home-coming. The designer, Sonnet says, left school at 15 to train on Saville Row. He grew up in the East End in a working class family, his father a taxi driver, all the more remarkable that he attended Central St Martin's fashion MA without a college degree where he excelled. His graduation collection, 1992, was bought in its entirety by Isabelle Blow, a fashion editor and career maker for designers. From there he started his own label. McQueen said, "to break the rules, one must know them."

And break the rules he did.  McQueen's tailoring impeccable while his story-telling skills extraordinary: everything he did was part of a larger narrative. His clothes not simply designed for provocation. McQueen's work included the armadillo boots, skulls and feathers and animal parts - even taxidermy - in almost every collection. His most famous creation, the bumster trousers, cut five inches below "hipster trousers" to elongate the torso.

Sonnet and I people watch while she greets the Italian Ambassador's family and introduces me to Jeremy Irons and his wife.

Pre Show

Mrs Robinson
Sonnet and I head into the evening, first the Alexander McQueen opening at the VA followed by Caribou at Brixton Academy.  The kids pysched because that means pizza (again).

Madeleine upset over losing her play, poor kid. There will be other shots but this one special, she had put a considerable amount of time into rehearsals and was emotionally committed. Sometimes random events feel terribly personal.

Madeleine surprises Sonnet with a Mother's Day bouquet of flowers.

On minimal communication.
I find Eitan watching a recording of Arsenal vs. ManU, 9AM.
Me: "When was the game?"
Eitan: "Dunno."
Me: "Guess it doesn't really matter, does it?"
Eitan: "Nah."
Sonnet: "I'm going to make a big family breakfast. Are you hungry?" [Dad's note, Eitan has had breakfast."
Eitan: "Yeah, kind of."
Me: "Are you never not hungry?"
Eitan: "Not really."

Friday, March 13

Rehearsals Cancelled

The Battersea Arts Centre, where Madeleine has been rehearsing a play for the last three weeks, goes up in flames.  Madeleine receives an instagram delivering the bad news.

I used to develop black and white photos at the BAC and there were chemicals everywhere. The dark room on the very top floor surrounded by wood structures and with little foot traffic. The rest of the building also in need of modernisation which, in fact, the council trying to accomplish by raising funds. The building dates to 1891, was the former town hall, and became a community center in 1974.

"We will not be running any performances this evening."
--Battersea Art Centre

Thursday, March 12


Chelsea vs. PSG, an awful match
Francois and I prepare YMCA for a €40M investment in Astorg's next fund, inshallah.

Astorg's offices on Berkeley Square in a 300 year old building and the conference room, where our meeting takes place, is hot. I turn the wall heater "off" only it is the building's server. 45 minutes later, a loud knock, and a technician informs us we have taken down the Internet. Classic.

The YMCA founded in London during the Industrial Revolution to provide a healthy Christian alternative to the taverns and the brothels. Today it's the Village People and 57 million beneficiaries from 125 national associations. In the US there are 830 YMCAs (including Berkeley where Moe was a Director and works out daily, 5AM) each providing an employee pension scheme totalling about $6bn in assets of which ca. 8% invested in private equity. Hence our meeting.

Self portrait XXXXII

Roger's wedding gift
Whenever we wish to impress, Sonnet brings out The Spoon. It's big enough to use as a soup bowl. 

The idiocy of the Republican party, or specifically, the 47 Senators who wrote a letter to the Leaders of the Islamic Republic, is remarkable given that Obama is negotiating a no-nukes deal. No matter what the Senate may think of US foreign policy under Obama, the President is the authority to lead the discussion. Imagine if the Democrats did something so stupid. Think Fox would sit still?

Wednesday, March 11

Red Bag

The good news: sunrise 6:15AM which means we are out of .. darkness making a Big Difference to our lives. I am energised. Springtime is payback time. Even the dog happier.

Madeleine has her swimming kit, stuffed in a red bag, for a school gala she dreads. Last night, on the track, she delivered 1X 1500 followed by 400 plus 800 plus 300, all at or near race speed. The kid hauls ass.

Eitan and I have been watching FA cup action: last night it is Madrid vs. Shalke (Germany) who win 4-3 but fail to advance to the semis based on points and some formula that Eitan has explained to me 100 times. The night before ManU lose to Arsenal 2-1. The boy takes it stoically.

Over the weekend I meet Al in Bitburg who invites me and Eitan to a Real Madrid game. Al is a chain smoking, hard drinking Bureau Chief of the Associated Press's Spanish operations which is reason enough to go.

Monday, March 9

Bitburg, GD

Proud father
Our weekend in Bitburg uneventful - in fact, I don't even see Eitan, nor receive a call nor text, after I drop him off Friday morning leaving me with two full days of freedom! Boredom!

Bitburg barely has a shop to speak of and McDonald's is a big deal in this town of several thousand in the middle of nowhere once attached to a US military base now long gone (Reagan was going to visit Bitburg but he cancelled, last minute). There is a brewery in the middle of town which, apparently, is well known in Germany but otherwise that's it for the industry.

Fortunately there are some interesting Dads in the same boat and I meet John, whose family immigrated to the United States when he was six years-old. John recalls begging neighbours for food before he was ten. But he had a swift boot and his high school soccer team, Hartford Public High School, won the state championships back-to-back and John got a scholarship to college.

Today, he is a partner at Wellington Management which oversees about $1 trillion. He moved to London four years ago to oversee Global Fixed Income Trading. As we both agree, only in America.

Saturday, March 7

Diamond Rolex

Rolex DateJust
Surfing I come across this diamond circled Rolex, pictured, on sale for $33,700, used.  I once owned the same watch, given to me by my Grandfather, George Manning, as a gift following a summer visit when I discovered the watch and other treasures in the bedroom suite of his home in Columbus, Ohio (me, age nine). 

George's watch, my Grandmother once told me, acquired in Las Vegas when, in the late hours and in an alleyway off the Strip (the alleyway may be my invention), George was approached to buy the Rolex for $500. Following a negotiation, the watch changed hands at $100.  My Grandmother new it was "hot" or a fake, but my Grandfather couldn't resist.

Well, the watch was a fake, otherwise it would have never been gifted to me. I lost it in the fifth grade on the Longfellow Elementary playground playing kickball. It amuses me to consider somebody found it, there on the cement, and for a moment, thought: "Holy Mackerel! I'm rich!"

Friday, March 6


Eitan and I head for Heathrow and a flight to Germany so the boy can participate in the Olympic Development Program training camp. After telling Eitan we have plenty of time and I do these trips every week, we arrive at T5 without my wallet (Fuck!) which necessitates a return home followed by a missed flight (Eitan: "That was kind of stressful.").

We arrive in Frankfurt too late to drive to Bitburg and stay at a airport hotel.  It's 11PM and the hotel parking lot empty so I take a place marked, in German, for some company. I ignore it. Next morning 7AM (still no cars) a woman knocks on the car window as I am pulling out to inform me that I am not allowed to park there. And so, with the sweetest tone I can muster, I tell her that there are so many spaces the only polite thing to do is share and share alike.

Same thing happens again when I leave the car in front of the hotel to load bags with the permission of the front desk only now its the bus driver though I am not blocking his path. Is it me or the Germans ? I certainly couldn't be the problem. Eitan, of course, mortified.

British Passports

American Embassy in London
Here we are, looking like your typical American ex pat family, on our way to renew the kids' passports (Klara takes the photograph). Sonnet, like a territorial bobcat, has her back up as we spy other (perfectly presented) American mums and their (well behaved) children also getting their renewals.  Sonnet notes that she was unable to get an appointment at the Embassy during the recent half-term break when the children out of school and therefore more convenient: She waited 24 hours after the booking window opened six months ago and they were all taken. Somehow it is a victory that the other families here, today, also failed to secure a half-term slot.

American Embassy

24 Grosvenor Square
The American embassy moved to Grosvenor Square (from Great Cumberland Place, Piccadilly, Portland Place and the Grosvenor Gardens) in 1938. During this time, because of the storm clouds over Europe, Grosvenor Square began to accommodate a number of U.S. government offices including General Eisenhower's HQ and the European headquarters of the US Navy. 

The building, pictured, was constructed in the late 50s, opening in 1960,  designed by Finnish American modernist Eero Saarinen. The building is nine storeys, three of which are below ground. A large gilded aluminum blad eagle by Theodore Roszak, with a wingspan of over 35 feet is on the roof.

In October 2009, the building was granted Grade II listed status, which is gonna make it difficult when the developers try to convert the land to a 5* hotel.

In 2008, the Americans announced they will move the Embassy to 9 Elms in Wandsworth (South of the river !) in a secure compound.

When Sonnet and I first arrived in London, we walked right up the steps into the building. Now there are several layers of security and access for a pre arranged appointment takes 30 minutes (at least).

Wednesday, March 4

War On Drugs

Sonnet and I meet in Brixton to see mind blowing band War On Drugs, introduced to me by Christian. The band formed in Philadelphia in 2005.

Lost In Dreams, their third album and my favourite, written and recorded following extensive touring and a period of loneliness and depression for primary songwriter Granduciel, was released in 2014 to critical acclaim and increased exposure. 

The crowd young with some middle-age long hairs who round out the crowd. It's a Monday night and a good vibes mood all around.

Brixton has moved from a blighted neighbourhood (the Eurostar once cut through the village on brick arches) with riots in the 60s to now, a vibrant gentrifying urban community with a mixture of peoples, restaurants and shops. The The high street offers hair salons for black people and halal butchers for the Muslims. In between the yuppies revel in the grittiness of it all. Moving things along, the Underground station, where I meet Sonnet, went through a modern rebuild ten years ago and people spill forward into the night. 

The ten most expensive cities in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit:
1. Singapore
2. Paris
3. Oslo
4. Zurich
5. Sydney
6. Melbourne
7. Geneva
8. Copenhagen
9. Hong Kong
10. Seoul

Nutford Place

Global HQ
Hard to believe it was 15 years ago that I founded eZoka during Web 1.0. In tech years, a lifetime. Our offices on the Edgeware Road, convenient to W9 where Sonnet and I enjoyed our first apartment. I caught the No. 6 bus (red, double-decker) for the 15 minute commute to work. 

When eZoka moved in, Nutford Place was in need of a renovation and we were one of the fresh new companies they were looking to attract (I netted us a substantial rent reduction by introducing other start-ups). Our floor had a prayer room and my first day I interrupted a guy washing his feet in the bathroom sink. Awkward. Halal Fried Chicken across the street and The Beirut Express restaurant next door.

By the end, we took over the top floor with our venture cash and created a substantial open space for working and goofing though no ping pong table nor been bags. It was a serious outfit with an engineering center in Swindon where our CTO located. We had good people, accepting one, with considerable momentum until it ran out. A grand adventure regardless.

Sunday, March 1

The Sleep Of Reason Produces Monsters

Plate 43 of the 'Caprichos' prints, 1797-98.
Originally intended as an introductory self-portrait to a series of 'suenos' ('dreams'), this iconic print was published as part of the celebrated satirical 'Caprichos.' The central figure, surrounded by the swarming owls and bats, accurately symbolises an overarching theme of the 'Caprichos': the rise of monstrous forces when reason is absent. As such, it is emblematic of much of the content of the "Witches and Old Women" album. 
--British Museum, London

"Weird and creepy but I liked it."


Despite the weekend inertia, I convince (coerce ?) Eitan to join me at the Courtauld Gallery to see Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album . And it is wonderful.

Goya produced some 600 drawings which ended up in eight “albums.” After his death, the albums were disbound and their sheets dispersed. Some have ended up in public collections, others in private collections, and a few have disappeared altogether.

The exhibition assembles all 23 drawings from “Witches and Old Women” (bar one, which is lost) and runs them in their original sequence around the gallery walls. It’s the first time that a full Goya album has been exhibited. Even Eitan entranced.

It's disturbing as hell, to. Goya produced the drawings during a period of convalescence shortly following a near-death illness. Take 'Wicked Woman' depicting an ancient hag about to devour a baby child. In Madness, an old fool appears behind the bars of a prison-like enclosure, pleading at us, seemingly for his freedom. Stuff of nightmares.

Park Run

Madeleine and I compete the weekly Park Run  in Richmond Park so Madeleine can qualify for the London mini-marathon run in April. She is not particularly keen on cross country or longer races preferring, instead, the certainty of the track. She's a 800 runner which, in my opinion, is the most painful distance. Soon the outdoor season starts.

Madeleine bolts leaving me and the dog in her trail (Rusty goes berserk trying to catch her dragging me along. He's like a muscle with claws). I finish in 23:12.

Sonnet at Somerset House to give a talk on Alexander McQueen to a sold out ("packed") audience.

Super Return

Steve Schwarzman made $690m last year
I am in Berlin last week for the Super Return conference, the largest private equity conference in the world which brings together the rich and the very rich. The mood this year is vibrant and upbeat despite Russia and Greece and all the other various crisis that plague our news. How can one be downbeat when interest rates at nought percent and money is free? The deals are flowing. 

Another sign that the industry returning to worrisome levels is fund raising: in 2014, firms raised something like $550bn compared to $640bn in 2007, the peak. Not too far off. Unsurprisingly, acquisitions multiples, relative to EBITDA or free cashflow, now exceed 11X. Once an 8X deal thought high. 

Here is something to ponder: The richest people on Earth got richer in 2014, adding $92 billion to their collective fortune. The net worth of the world’s top 400 billionaires on Monday stood at $4.1 trillion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking.

As for Steve Schwarzman, he founded Blackstone, one of the most powerful investment firms in the world.  His net worth is $11bn (photo from the web).