Monday, May 30

American Diner

Pickle & Rye, an American style restaurant by the rail tracks in a spot where every other shop/ restaurant seems to fail accept this one. It's a good food joint and while no comparison to the vibe of the 24/7 Three Brothers Diner or The Waverley in NYC, it holds its own. A nice touch are the baseball caps pegged to the wall.

And what New Yorker does not have a love affair with the greasy ham and cheese omelet, devoured with potatoes, ketchup and coffee at 6AM post dancing, served on a film covered counter, shortly after sunrise and just before bed ?

Eitan: "Does he have to come over?" [Dad's note: a local kid helping me with yard work]
Me: "What's the big deal?"
Eitan: "He's in my class."
Me: "So?"
Eitan: "It's a bit awkward."
Me: "He's earning money. How's it awkward?"
Eitan: "It just is."
Me: "That's he's doing work you won't do and getting paid for it? I'd feel a bit awkward."
Eitan: "That's not what I mean."
Me: "No shame in earning money. I hope you know it."
Me: "Beats doing it for free."
Me: "Which you may be doing if this keeps up."

Sunday, May 29

Astorg Bids

Deal guys
Michael and Francois prepare a final bid on a deal we have been working for six months. The company a world-leader in voice prothesis units which are used by post-operative patients who have had their voice box removed in a laryngectomy due to cancer of the larynx usually caused by smoking or drinking. Picture a little button that goes in the post-op hole at the base of the throat which allows the patient to speak. Life changing product and company not cheap.

We move into our new offices in St James's next week. Our current set up, on Berkeley Square, is like a club - five guys jammed into a space for 2 or three. I rather like it, especially the couch, and often step on to the patio to make undisturbed calls watching the Mayfair gems stroll along the sidewalk underneath.

Madeleine prepares herself for the upstairs 3rd floor room, which is being re-done to her spec. The kid has suffered (?) the small bedroom now it is her turn to have some space.

Saturday, May 28

800 meters

800 Runners
Sonnet has been in Montreal this week, opening the Italians at the McCord Museum. Her week filled with press interviews, dinners with the sponsors and museum patrons, presentations and speeches. 

Meanwhile back at home . .. I take the kids to a track meet in Surrey that neither want to compete. Saturday morning and it has been a long week, everyone tired. We rally, including the dog, and make the long drive to the track, located the Woodcote High School in Purley.

Madeleine goes first, clocking a 2:25 for a 4 second PB. She is ecstatic with her performance, and rightly so. Eitan delivers a 2:07, a PB by two seconds.  We have a jolly ride home rewarded by burgers for dinner.

Eitan and I now watch the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

Madeleine: "Do you have your wallet Dad?"
Me: "No, please grab it. Unless you want to do dishes at the restaurant."
Madeleine: "Can you you tell me that one again? I've not heard it before."
Me: "Are you sassing your Dad?"
Me: "Here's how you play the trumpet" [I make a donut with my pointing finger and thumb and blow]
Madeleine: "Dad we're at the restaurant. Can you stop now?"
Me: "To think I used to spend hours entertaining you guys. Putting it all on the table. Now I get this."
Madeleine: "It sounds like farting."
Madeleine: "And its not even the trumpet."
Me: "What is it then?"
Madeleine: "A trombone."
Me: "It's all brass to me."

Me: "Yoga is something. Surrounded by all those naked people, sweating like crazy."
Madeleine: "Dad! They're not naked."
Me: "They're in yoga pants."
Madeleine: "Don't want to know."
Me: "So is it the nakedness that bothers you or me talking about being naked?"
Madeleine: "Both."
Me: "Fair enough."

Sunday, May 22


The length of a minute on a Friday afternoon
I arrive in London in time for a tea-time brass ensemble at Madeleine's school Emanuel. Sonnet and I treated to horn renditions of 'The Pink Panther,' 'Rocky', and 'Softly Awakens My Heart' which would make any dog howl.  Madeleine, for her part, performs a flawless "Trumpet Tune" by Henry Purcell. Otherwise she sits behind the trombones, distracted and (to Sonnet's horror) sometimes tapping on her mobile phone.

Madeleine not expecting me at the school performance and it makes my life when I see her eyes light up big as she sees me. The father-daughter relationship a special one.

DD & Joy

Family (or 'fam' as Madeleine would say)
I visit Aunt Joy (Moe's sister) and cousin DD, who is battling the North Carolina Voter ID Law, which suppresses voter turn-out of African Americans and minorities in return for registration (note: Justin Levitt, a professor at the Loyola Law School, reports that a 2014 comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast).

It is the most important voter case in the nation.

A conservative Bush appointed federal judge recently upheld the lower court decision requiring photo-ID, ensuring the case will make it to the Supreme Court. DD represents the plaintiffs. She has gone to the Supremes eight times and counting.

North Carolina is blowing it. Recently the Governor named Pat suggested that toilets are for the gender on your birth certificate, ignoring trans gender minorities. Consequently PayPal, Bruce Springstein and tourists are staying away from the tar heel state.

Sonnet and I watch one of the endless nature programs on the BBC. Me: "Bugs are fucking cool. It's like outer-space on planet earth."

Red White & Blue

Self Portrait XXXXVIII
I visit Springfield, Illinois, to make a presentation to the Board of the Illinois Teachers Retirement System, which manages $44 billion. I wear a tie.

I arrive on time and chat with the 70 year old security officer through a plate glass window (sign: 'no guns allowed on premises') and am shown into a holding pen with a bunch of other anxious white guys about my age, tapping on their iPhones or walking around with hands in pockets. At stake is $50m and it is a zero sum game.

I'm shown into the Board room and seated at the head of a long oak table. There are maybe 15 investment committee members at the table. Since it is a public pension, the general public welcome and there are a further 30 or so surrounding the table including members of the press. I'm told from time-to-time the Governor participates but not today.  I have 30 minutes+10 of Q&A to convince, 'why Astorg?"

I begin by noting my father from St Louis (90 minutes by car) and I spent my summers in St Louis and Columbus, Ohio when a kid. I figure Paris, France, as exotic a place these folks can imagine so a local connection constructs the bridge.

I return to London to receive the email: 50m confirmed.

Me: "You from Springfield?"
Taxi: "Yo man, I was born here."
Me: "You and Lincoln."
Taxi: "Lincoln born in Kentucky. He lived here, sure, and met his wife Mary Todd here but he was born in Ken-tu-key."
Me: "I didn't know."
Taxi: "Got to be teaching these things, man. Don't know your history, don't know noth'n."
Taxi: "Look at those kids. Know where the mall is but don't know they history."
Me: "You bet."
Taxi: "Damn straight."

Sweetie Pie The Cat

9 lives
Moe and Grace have their joyful blind dog Maggie and wonderful ageless cat Sweetie Pie to keep them company.  The love is all there.

My parents do a tremendous job taking care of each other and their Parkinson's. Sure, life is a bit slower and the TV on in the morning but there are also dog walks, lots of reading and the New York Times, theatre and performances and friends. Lots of them. Moe and Grace are more social than Sonnet and me. Their minds as sharp as can be. It is something I look forward to.

Katie Is Groovy

Katie and I hang out at the OP - also known as the Original Peet's (not to be confused with OG - Original Gangster) on Walnut Sq.  She flies in from a Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and before that, an international human rights clinic in Burma. I can hardly keep up.

The jet lag never gets easier but I do look forward to going to bed at 8PM and sleeping until 3AM or sometimes 4AM or about when Moe wakes up and the train horns mourn the end of night. Unlike Moe, who goes to the gym to work out with his crew, I walk to Peet's which opens at 6AM. It's easier in spring/ summer with morning light; Otherwise it can be bleak. And all those calls and emails which need attention.

And what's the vibe in SV these days ? The sense I collect is that the party is over. Some will make money but it won't be easy money. At least for the next decade.

Looking Good

Photo from January
In Northern California, Moe celebrates 80. Katie joins from NYC for a family reunion. Grace decorates the house with balloons and photographs covering the decades. The party hosts many of my father's friends including those who have known him for as long as I have been around.  It is a moving afternoon and a life affirming event.

Los Angeles Up Front

Somewhere in Los Angeles
I have a meeting with the LAFPP who are investors in Astorg. The pension offices are located in a neighbourhood known for its art.  

I find Los Angeles mildly scary.  It offers a narrow skyline bolstered by the hill on which the tall buildings stand. Sprawling beneath it: 15 million people interconnected by 10 lane highways always jammed no matter the time of day. Swaths of the city are unknown to most who live here - no subways, society's great equaliser, to bring people together. Stretches of wasteland.

After 30 or 40 years, LA enjoys a resurgence as people return to the city center. San Francisco is no longer affordable (and kinda nasty with new tech money and private buses) driving people South for a Big City experience.  Clubs, culture and beaches await those making the transition. Unlike the Bay Area, which is comfortably removed from the Pacific, LA owns it. One is never far from the endless white sand beaches and the vast unframed ocean.

Saturday, May 21


Power couple
I join Catherine and Peter who, 12 months ago, founded a non-profit organisation, ChinaWeek, to celebrate Los Angeles' Chinese cultural heritage. From scratch to now : one week of activities including a delegate from Beijing and a forum opened by Governor Jerry Brown to an exhibition of frescos from the Buddhist caves along the Silk Road. In between there are tours of Chinatown, lectures and gastronomic celebrations. What a nice honour to be here.

I am particularly interested in the Getty show as Sonnet, Katie and I visited the Caves of Bezeklik (pictured behind us) in August '97.  The Buddhist caves date from the 5th to 14th century between the cities of  Turpan and Shanshan at the north-east of the Taklamakan Desert near the ancient ruins of Gaochang in the Mutou Valley,  a gorge in the Flaming Mountains, China. They are high on the cliffs of the west Mutou Valley under the Flaming Mountains, and most of the surviving caves date from the West Uyghur kingdom around the 10th to 13th centuries.

Me: "Going out?" 
Eitan: "Huh."
Me: "Is that Linx Effect? You could light a match in here and the house would blow up."
Me: "Why don't you use some of that nice cologne I got you? Or I could get you some Polo, which is what all the Preps wore in my day."
Eitan: "Kids don't wear cologne, Dad."
Me: "Usually when it comes to smells, cheap does not equal better."
Me: "Do you really think you are going to attract a sophisticated lady with Linx Effect?"
Sonnet to me: "I would hazard that you are applying not a winning strategy."
Me: "Now your mom is chiming now. It's gone from bad to off a cliff."
Eitan: "Yeah."

CW & Little Man

Christian and Little Man
I arrive in el lay to be greeted at the airport by Christian, who gave up the penthouse for a sweet central neighbourhood crib not far from Wilshire Bld. Everything in Los Angeles is close to something cool or Pacific: how can it not influence one's espirt knowing that the ocean and the endless white sand beaches are there, a fixture, available for anyone anytime ?

Last we saw CW was his wedding to Lisa in Palm Springs. They enjoy their honeymoon year, life moves along at a clip.

Me: "What are you up to this evening?" [Dad's note: Friday night in London]
Eitan: "Going to a party."
Me: "Where is it?"
Eitan: "Teddington."
Me: "Whose?"
Eitan: "I dunno. Friend of Harry's."
Me: "Will there be any adults there?"
Eitan: "Yeah, probably."
Me: "Like upstairs sleeping or something?"
Eitan: "I guess. Whatever they do."
Me: "Not hang'n with you drinking a brewskie?"
Eitan: "Definitely not."
Me: "What if the parents were Rob? Would you let them hang with you?"
Eitan: "No."
Me: "What if it was Bruce Springstein? How about him?"
Eitan: "Well if it was Bruce Springstein then he could hang."
Me: "So if I were Bruce Springstein I could hang out with you guys?"
Eitan: "But you're not."
Me: "But if I were?"
Eitan: "No then."
Me: "So Rob no. Bruce Springstein yes. Unless I am Springstein."
Me: "So it's a Dad thing. "
Eitan: "If you were there I just couldn't relax. I'd be on edge all the time."
Me: "I'd be like, "Yo Eitan nice Lampard tee your wearing there.' "
Eitan: "Exactly."
Me: "Have a blast kid. Home by Midnight."

Sunday, May 8

Train Time

To town
We must mark the joy of Leicester City who, against the highest odds against, win the Premiere League. Some say it is the greatest team accomplishment in sport. Having been on the 40 yard line of Memorial Stadium witnessing The Play, I disagree. But let's give Leicester City its due.

The Brexit debate moves from inconvenience and economics - The Treasury warns families £4,300 worse off outside the EU - to security with the former heads of MI5 and MI6 warning that we cannot protect our borders. According to them, 5,000 Jihadist returning to Europe to bring destruction here.

It is preposterous to consider the UK's departure. Leave the largest free trade market in the world ? What an own goal it would be.

Sarah Palin interviewed on CNN. She is a nut job. The Republicans, I innocently thought in 2008, could not cough up a larger hair ball than Palin. How can they outdo themselves on Trump? They will find a way.

A lovely day in London as temps reach 80 degrees. I work on the garden.

Saturday, May 7

Ramble On

20kg back-back on 40kg Madeleine
Madeleine prepares for a Duke of Edinburgh weekend where she will hike the Surrey Hills with six friends, required as part of the DofE program. Think Boy Scouts (though my Troop 23 was a bunch of stoners. No merit badge for that or it would have been all Eagle Scouts). Our gal must reach check-points before the campsite randez vous with a couple of adult parents and joining another troop of boys. It looks like hell'a fun.

Eitan out the door for the same excursion but on a different trail. He wants to pack in the morning but I order it done before he goes out with friends. He mumbles that it is unfair. Well, so is life, kid.

Eitan runs a 4:50 mile and pukes in the car ride home.

Me: "Where are you guys hiking?"
Madeleine: "I don't know, somewhere in Surrey."
Sonnet: "It's at xxx."
Me: "Your mom and I are planning a hike - maybe we join you?"
Madeleine: "You are not joining me Dad."
Me to Sonnet: "It's a great idea. I think we should plan on it."
Sonnet: "Madeleine we could just walk behind you.. ."
Me: "It's not like we would embarrass you or anything, right?"
Madeleine: "Oh my God."