Sunday, August 31


Zakkai handles an acronicta aceris
This little guy will eventually turn into a sycamore moth, found through most of Europe from Central England south to Morocco. Given the extraordinary larva, the moth is awfully boring - grey and dull to blend in with tree bark.  The caterpillar feeds on maples, mulberry and pedunculate oaks. Contrary to acronicta's  bright colours, it is not poisonous though I admit I'm a bit uncomfortable picking it up at first.

Cal opens the football season with a win over Northwestern which reminds me that Cal lost to Northwestern the last time Cal was in the Rose Bowl. That would have been 1959.

Saturday, August 30


Alain is the Professor of Mathematical Modelling at Oxford U. and the Director of the Oxford Centre for Collaborative Applied Mathematics. His remit includes things like discrete and continuum mechanics, elasticity, plasticity; the application of mechanics and mathematics to biology; mathematical modelling in physics and engineering and Interesting and otherwise unclassifiable mathematical problems. Basically he gets to pick and choose the cool math shit he wants to do.

Alain is currently modelling how cardamine seeds are dispersed - the plant seed located on the tail of an organic coil that grows, builds tension, then dries and explodes, shooting the seed up to a foot from the flower. Alain is studying the cellular tissue mechanics. 

Alain is also mainly involved with Oxford's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab which recently entered a $100m partnership with Carnegie Mellon.

Zebulon update : A* in maths GSCE and will take the remainder this year; his game app, which he's programmed in his spare time, goes live this autumn.

Royal Regatta

Temple Island
We hike along the Thames at Henley with Nita, Alain and the three zeds.  Each summer the Henley Royal Regatta is held on Henley Reach, a naturally straight stretch starting at the Temple Island. The race became "Royal" in 1851 when Prince Albert became patron.

In 2002 I was invited to the Henley Regatta by George, an Englishman, and his work colleagues. His advice to me: "Eat a large breakfast." The drinking began at 10AM and did not stop until the last train to Paddington Station, 9:30PM.  The riverbanks lined with corporate booths and Pimms served freely like water. The Brits bathed in it. George, for his part, fell asleep behind a bush and wasn't seen for several days. Since England, nobody thought anything of it. We joke about it now, of course.

Rusty Gets The Boot

Despite his four years, the dog's instinct get the better of him and us. Rusty can heel and sit and roll-over and do other things on command but when he sees a moving object - squirrel, fox, deer - he's gone. Sonnet still has high hopes but that ship has sailed, if we ever had a chance.

Friday, August 29


Brace face
And happily it is Friday, the last Friday of the summer.

Madeleine, Willaby and Lizzy head to the Southbank skate park to spray paint their names and graffiti on the walls. It is also a way to support the park, which is under threat by developers who consider it an eye sore.  This was Madeleine's idea and initiative and, dear reader, I am impressed.

Post Box

Mortlake High St
I chat up two fellows who are stripping and painting a red mailbox, ubiquitous across the UK and one of the things this country known for, by tourists anyway, along with the red double-decker route master buses and red telephone booths, both long gone or ornamental. I learn there are 133,000 letter boxes across Britain and each painted on five-year cycles but usually it is ten; the guys I'm talking to cover the southwest of the Southeast or maybe 10,000 boxes ("job for life" one of them offers through gnarly teeth).  They can do about 40 in a week but "a proper job, stripping off the old paint and all" requires four hours "at the least, mate. This be serious business". Today it is a scrape and brush job.

Wednesday, August 27


The inevitable upon us: braces. Our orthodontist, who does most of the Chelsea football club and Harry Potter, has been waiting eight years and now it's payback time as I pocket the invoice.  Eitan will go in Friday for "a fitting" and then 12 to 18 months of "brace face" (his term).

I had braces at 10 or 11 - the fabulously named Dr Wompler did the work - and I recall the rubber bands and all-night head gear that left your jaw aching in the morning. Ghastly stuff. Now there are a number of options from interior to exterior of mouth, clear or coloured style. . . the metal is glued to the teeth so no hooks or wires which made things very Frankenstein in my day.

Tuesday, August 26

Back To Work

The day of reckoning is here. Sonnet out the door to work at 8AM while I bike to my office shortly later, newspapers in hand, kids sound asleep.  Unlike yester-year, sans email, I am never that far behind so the catch-up not too bad - mostly it is getting used to, well, talking to people again.  That and reading the Financial Times.

Meanwhile the French celebrate summer's end by disbanding government. Prime Minister Manuel Valls says the new cabinet will be "consistent with the direction [the president] has set for the country." Consistency ? The country lurched from cook-the-rich in 2012 to a pro business in 2013 yet growth is flat and public spending now 56% GDP.

In the 1970s President Valery Giscard d'Estaing's tough love in reaction to the oil shocks rejected for Mitterrand's dreams of socialism and expansion. The chickens are coming home to roost.

Monday, August 25

One More From America

At the Met
We fight the jet lag but, happily, Monday (today) is a Bank Holiday which means a) we can sleep late and b) it is raining. I do the usual tidy-up on the backyard and Sonnet has a to-do list that fills up one page. We are still in August and not much will happen until September 1 when, like a dog kicked hard in the stomach, the UK snaps to and goes to work. 

Me: "When somebody calls your mobile, what do you say ?"
Madeleine: "Huh?"
Me: "When someone calls me, even though I see their picture, I always act like I don't know who it is. "
Madeleine: "Use the phone, like, for talking?"
Me: "So I say, 'Hello?' which gives the caller a chance to start the conversation. It's polite."
Madeleine: "I don't know. We just talk, I guess."
Me: "Does that mean you just launch right into it ? Like, 'did you do your homework?' or 'what time is class tomorrow ?' "
Me: "When I was your age, and when your grandparents were your age, all every kid did was talk on the phone, every night, for hours. One phone line. It drove our parents crazy."
Madeleine: "What's a phone line?"
Me: "Life was pretty rough back then, I admit."

Sunday, August 24

We Made It

Following 44 days covering 13 states, 7 national parks, 6 hikes, 25 family members, 27 friends, ca 4,000 car miles, 308 bike miles, 4 museums, one baseball game, a rodeo, 4 DQ visits, the world's once longest and steepest roller coaster , the original Starbucks, an outdoor sunset symphony, fireworks, Eero Saarinen, the best damn BBQ in the world, alpine slides, sushi, a museum "hack" at The Met, The Million Dollar Highway, Kinky Boots, Tavern On The Green, Frank Lloyd Wright,  the original Buffalo Wings, the world's largest waterfall, the Underground Railroad, the world's largest arch, the world's first cantilever bridge (Eads Bridge), Louis Sullivan and a Presidential Library.

A trip of a lifetime.

God Bless America.

Last Day Va-Ca

We spend our last day in Bronxville packing and organising for the overnight flight to London.

Larry prepares special photographs for an upcoming exhibition, Legacies, Landmarks and Achievements: Celebrating 350 Years ­– Eastchester, Tuckahoe, Bronxville, which opens Sept 4. 

His work celebrates Tuckahoe Marble which, from 1818 became a major marble producer for the world. Tuckahoe Marble was used to construct grand early nineteenth-century NYC Greek Revival buildings such as Federal Hall (1830), and Brooklyn Borough Hall (1840), the Italianate Stewart's "Marble Palace" (1846) - New York's first department store - and the Washington Memorial Arch in Washington Square. 

Tuckahoe Marble was the single most important white marble deposit in America until the latter part of the 1800's, at which time reliable access to the extensive high-quality marble deposits of southwestern Vermont - including Dorset -  was established. Quarrying of Tuckahoe Marble ceased in 1930.

Friday, August 22

The Met

Taking in some intelligence.

We see Duccio's 'Madonna and child,' which the Met acquired in 2009 for $46 million, their most costly purchase ever, raised in 48 hours, when the curator discovered it was coming to market. One can imagine the calls along 5th Avenue.

Prior to the 13th C, the Byzantines painted 2D 'cartoons' and religious icons with hardly any emotion. Duccio changed all that - his paintings put figures in architectural settings. He began to explore and investigate depth and space with a refined attention to emotion - in short, "Duccio is where Western art begins, " says Nick.
Madonna w Child

Monet or Manet?

Katie, Eitan and Ethan discuss Monet's 'haystacks'
Katie arranges a wonderful tour of The Met lead by a couple of guys from "Museum Hack" who shows us their favourite things including a 13 century Astrolabe which is an inclinometer historically used by astronomers, navigators and astrologers to tell time to within 15 minutes and determine latitudinal location using trigonometry (The West caught up with spring-driven clocks in the 16th century). According to our guide Ethan, these things were the ipods of the day.

We discuss Edouard Manet (who created "impressionism") and Claude Monet (the world's beloved impressionist). Our group breaks into teams and tasked to find their favourite Monet or Monet and defend it : Manet wins, 6-2 but, for the year, it is about even. 

Monet believed that by mixing fine colour strokes he was fooling the viewer's eye into seeing changing colours or intensities as the looker drew closer to the painting (Sauret took this to the next extreme; premise false btw).  Also: Manet's most famous paintings are of hookers and whores (black neck ribbon; he didn't have to pay them much) and fabulously engaging.

Hello New York

Metro-North to Grand Central Station

We say a sad good-bye to Dorset and Marcia and Larry's red house : VT-30 to US 7 N then the Saw Mill River Parkway to Bronxville, which is unmarked and impossible to find ("Just the way we want to keep it", notes Larry). On many an occasion I have sworn like a sailor lost in upstate NY or alongside a road awaiting Marcia to guide me in.

We unload for the last time - thank goodness - and head for pizza in neighbouring Eastchester and a restaurant straight from the Sopranos. We order pepperoni (Larry: "Best pizza anywhere").

From the road: Southern Vermont Arts Center, Manchester, VT; Bennington Museum, Bennington, Vt, Locust Grove Estate, Poughkeepsie, NY;  Mid Hudson's Children Museum, Poughkeepsie, NY;  Home of FDR and US Presidential Library, Hyde Park, NY, Elenore Roosevelt House, Hyde Park, NY. Henry A Wallace Visitor Center, Hyde Park, NY,

Tuesday, August 19

Scrabble Master

Eitan spells "pleonastic".
We go for a 4 mile hike on the moist Appalachian Trial whose trailhead off Rte 9 and straight up marble stones, into the trees, before levelling off and finally offering a view of the low rolling mountains and Bennington, Vermont. 

The hike notable for the return : Katie and Sonnet disappear.  Like really disappear. Several returning hikers have not seen them and I begin to worry, retracing our steps, until the end-point. No sign.

Turns out that Sonnet and Katie take a different path back, exiting three miles south of the car-park. I was ready to call the police.

Batten Kill

Batten Kill at Sunset
The Batten Kill River is a 59 mile-long river rising in Vermont that flows into New York and is a tributary of the Hudson River.  "Kill" means a creek, the name "Battenkill River" is pleonastic.

The mouth of the Batten Kill is in Easton, New York,  and the source of the river is in East Dorset, Vermont, not far from my photo, which captures the view from Larry and Marcia's property.  The area is protected and a special place in VT.

The house (purchased by the Lees in 1987) came with a taxidermied tiger, which Larry hoisted into a tree across the pond, unbeknownst to certain houseguests at the time. Marcia was awoken to screams of terror.

Op-Ed Off Site

Katie's fabulous team organise an off-site pow wow in Dorset, joining us for an early afternoon cocktail at Marcia and Larry's house.

"We - our leaders and the public - are not getting the information and ideas we need to make the best decisions. Our world conversation is currently an echo chamber that reproduces the same narrow range of (85% male) voices over and over. Even worse among academics: a May 2008 Rutgers University study found that 97% of op-eds by scholars in the Wall Street Journal are written by men. What is the cost to society when so many of our best minds and best ideas are left out? What could we accomplish if together we invested in our missing brain power?"
--From The Op-Ed website


Madeleine's summer reading: Lee Harper's "To Kill a Mockingbird", John Fitzgerald's "The Great Brain", Judy Blume's "Blubber" and "Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret", Huntley Fitzpatrick's "My Life Next Door," John Green's "The Fault In Our Stars" and Jay Asher's "Thirteen Reasons Why."

Madeleine and I have a conversation about growing up.
Me: "One day you will grow wings and fly from the tree."
Madeleine: "You mean I'm going to fall and die or something?"
Madeleine: "What's so funny Dad?"

A Proper Drink

The winner
Moe and Grace face off in a martini making contest, which is a serious business. Grace makes a slightly dirtier martini with large olives to Larry's dry martini with small pitted Spanish olives.  Both prefer gin and, Larry points out, using vodka is a "vodka martini" while gin is simply a "martini." In a blind test, Larry wins by one vote.

My mom's father made pitchers of dry martinis and Manhattans to serve guests while entertaining, or hosting bridge, in Upper Arlington, Ohio, in the 1950s.

Madeleine: "Blech! That is so awful."
Larry: "It is an acquired taste."

Thursday, August 14


Fresh shoes
I take Madeleine to the factory outlets in Manchester, Vt.  She's no dummy and knows I can't resist her. We end up in the usual places - Ralph Lauren, J Crew, Banana Republic.  She scores some shoes at Coach which makes us both feel good . .. At RL I try on some Polo cologne which every teenage male doused himself with in the 1980s. Sonnet crinkles her nose while Eitan accustomed to using my cologne from G F Trumper which, he informs me, "smells more like a man."

Madeleine: “Can I have my Ju Ju Fish?”
Me: “No. You can take a break from sugar.”
Madeleine: “What? ! Eitan is eating Pringles !”
Me: “You can have four.”
Madeleine: “10.”
Me: “Five. And that’s a final offer.”
Madeleine: “You are so unfair.”
Me: “Remember when we talked about the glass half-full and how other people influence your perception? You only care about Eitan getting to eat Pringles.”
Madeleine: “Who cares about some dumb glass?”
Me: “You got me there.”

Wednesday, August 13

Happy Vermont

We arrive in Dorset, greeted by Marcia, Gracie and Moe.

In 1987 Marcia and Larry discovered Dorset, a small semi-rural community outside of Manchester, Vermont, where they found a red house with a pond and a fourteen-foot dam immediately adjacent to the property. They fell in love with it immediately.  Since then, they rebuilt the dam (including relocating at their expense a family of beavers), modernised the home and added a large ceiling kitchen and sun room next to the Battenkill river, beneath the dam.  The living room overlooks the pond, and its ducks, with all-glass windows. It is the perfect gathering place for family and friends.

The property began its life in the early 19th century to polish marble from a nearby quarry - the dam's ancient turbines provided the energy. The marble was then sent to New York City including the New York Public library, which uses marble from the Dorset quarry about .75 miles away.

Robin Williams commits suicide, age 63. Lauren Bacall passes away at 89.

Tuesday, August 12

Dog Days Of Summer

Rest Area, Somewhere, upstate NY
From Medina, NY: NY-36 N to I-490 W to NY-30, NY-60 W to NY-22 S to VT-133, VT-153 and VT-315 to Marcia and Larry's house in Vermont.

Off the Road:
Erie Canal waterfront and historical point, Buffalo; Railroad Museum, Medina, NY. Fall gun raffles, Route 65; Oakfield-Alabama Middle-High School, Oakfield, NY; Women’s Rights National Park, Exit 41, E 90; Montezuma National Wildlife Reserve, mile 316, Route 89

Fresh Fudge, Seneca, NY; Salt Museum, Liverpool, NY; National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Amsterdam, NY; Robert Elmwood Museum of the Mohawk Valley, Amsterdam; Old Fort Johnson, Schenectady, NY; Wildlife Museum and Art Museum, Gloversville, NY; New York State Military Museum, Saratoga, NY; Historic Salem Court House (1869), Salem, NY

Saratoga High School: “Why fit in when you can stand out?”

Madeleine: “Dad can I get Ju Ju Fish because they don’t sell Laffy Taffy ?”
Me: “Are you expecting a reasoned answer ?”

Monday, August 11

Medina, NY

Sister brother reunion
Marcus and Adrienne are in play as the saying goes : they have recently sold their house and moving to a suburban block where Adrienne knows 12 neighboring families. Adrienne continues to kick ass and raise money for Niagara University (home of a Sweet 16 basketball team) and Marcus the Director of a refugee organisation in Buffalo. They are in process of adopting a child. I stand still around them.

Following a tour of Buffalo including two Frank Lloyd Wrights and a Louis Sullivan, we end up at Adrienne's cousin's house for a High School graduation party and backyard BBQ (taped to the beer chest: "Must be 21"). The Shakespeares overcome their fatigue and bashfulness and engage in the teenage action while Sonnet and I enjoy our extended family, including Patrick, who is implementing Obamacare in NYC and owns a tall building in Manhattan's East Village, and Judith, who creates costumes and hires out stock for films, theatre and television.

Sonnet and I bike along the Erie Canal (363 miles from Albany to Buffalo, 36 locks, total elevation differential of 565 feet. Opened October 26, 1825, an engineering marvel).

Madeleine: "You owe me five dollars. Can I have it?"
Me: "Since when ?"
Madeleine: "Two dollars that you borrowed. One dollar for walking ten feet with a plastic cup on my head. And the rest is interest."

Honeymoon Falls

A lot of water
We visit Niagara Falls, a "7th Wonder of the World," which drops 750,000 gallons of water a second over the 22-meter American and Bridal Veil Falls (closest in photo) and the Canadian "Horseshoe" Falls. The city of Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side and pictured, has been built up around hotels, convention centres and gambling, while the NY side has not done so well. For some reason there are a lot of tourists from India, go figure.

The connecting Robert Moses Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station, built in the 1950s, supplies one-quarter of all power used in New York State and Ontario.

Me: "You know, they put chlorine in the water. So you can swim in the river."
Eitan: "Yeah, right."
Me: "You don't believe me ?"
Me: "Watch, I am going to play the same joke on Madeleine. It's the swimming bit at the end which is the give-away. I can't let you guys feel like complete idiots."
Me, later, to Madeleine: "You know, they put chlorine in the water. So you can swim in the river."
Sonnet: "Really ? Who would have thought they could do that."

Summer Philharmonic

We take I 90 East to Buffalo, skirting alongside the Lake Erie, passing through Western Pennsylvania. We stop in Cleveland to visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame which is great fun - something for everybody. The Gay Pride Games (which includes ballroom dancing) start same day, also in Cleveland.

From the road : Great Lakes Science Museum, Cleveland. James A Gardner Historical Site; Spire Institute, Olympic and Paralympic Training Site; Geneva, Ohio.

We arrive just in time for the Buffalo Philharmonic's final concert of the summer season at Old Fort Niagra, performed outdoors on a perfect evening sunset complete with cannon blasts and fireworks. Marcus and Adrienne meet us with chairs and blankets.

Sonnet: "From Rock & Roll to the philharmonic. How appropriate."

Living In America

Soak City
Nobody does amusement like America and Cedar Point is the best. We walk through Frontier Town and Soak City and The Old West and the Turn Of The Century without batting an eye. Since nobody wants to eat fruit or vegetables there aren't any : we devour corn dogs and garlic fries for lunch and fried sandwiches and coke for dinner. So what ? The rules don't apply here.

We enter the park, our second day at CP, at 9AM and close it down at Midnight. I would not have thought possible - 15 hours ! - but the best part after dark when the temps down to 70 and the crowds have dwindled and lines fast. There is a new found camaraderie between us and the park. Eitan's voice hoarse from screaming and Madeleine proud of her thrill rides.

It is kitsch and cheesy and joyous and unawares. Is it ironic ?

The Skyhawk

125 feet, world's tallest swing
In 2004 CP had at least several roller coasters I was too afraid to ride. So this has been like a ten year inevitable march to The Millenium Force (45-degree lift hill, 300 foot drop, 93 mph). I nearly back out but Rob’s coaching moves me along ("get over here you pussy").  Up up we go and, boom!, it is surreal man. Violent. I am actually proud of myself for doing it. I go back a second time with Sonnet.

The hardest part of the ride for me is the lead-up : I fret. I doubt. I stress.  Sonnet ignores it until we are climbing in the car. Her life strategy up close seems better.

Sunday, August 10

America USA

The Kleins
We pull into Sandusky, Ohio, home of Cedar Point, the largest amusement park in America and anywhere, where we meet the Kleins for some action packed fun.

Last time I was here was July 2004 with Grace and Moe en route to Akron and Kelly’s wedding – a visit notable for Madeleine, who had the chicken pox which appeared first day of our 5 week vacation. Poor kid unable to go in the hotel swimming pool where Eitan spent hours.

Cedar Point next to a lake offering wide beaches and the smell of Coppertone, taking me right back my childhood summers visiting my grandparents in Upper Arlington, Ohio. The Big Choice was King’s Island or Cedar Point, both about 2 hours from Columbus. I was unable to sleep the night before and, joy of joy, many of the rides still around, only a bit dated, like The Gemini, a twin-racing roller coaster that, when completed in ’78, was the longest and tallest roller coaster in the world. It’s icon so Logan’s Run. In '78 I waited three hours in a spaghetti maze for the 2 minutes of pure terror nirvana. Now there is hardly a line as the thrill seekers have moved on to taller, higher, faster.

Friday, August 8


The Brent Spence Bridge connecting Ohio and Kentucky over the Ohio River
In Cincinatti we visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Museum which offers a moving history of the nascent United States and its interlocking relationship with the African slave trade. 

Cincinatti hosts the second largest Octoberfest in the world after Munich.

We duly attend a Cincinatti Reds game at The Great American Ballpark and are treated to a home victory over the Cleveland Indians, 8-3, including a couple of home runs.  The kids allowed three ballpark food items. The Reds will host the 2015 All Star Game and the 2015 All Star logo is uncovered first-time to fireworks, woo-hoo. But it is a Big Deal for the city, which is tearing itself up with new roads and highways, buildings and a waterfront path anticipating next year's summer classic.

Madeleine , beginning of the Reds game: “Do you get to keep the baseball if it goes into the stand?”Me: “Yes. It’s all yours.”
Madeleine: “I am going to catch one then.”

Madeleine: (3rd inning): “If I catch a ball will you give me $20 ?”Me: "You mean a foul ball ? If you catch a foul ball I will give you $1000."
Madeleine: “You are going to owe me $1000 then,”
Me: “Good luck kid.”

Madeleine (5th inning): “If I catch two foul balls, will you give me $2000?”
Me: “I will give you $10,000.”
Madeleine: “What?! Shake on it.”
We shake on it.
Madeleine: “Will you really do that? Give me $10,000?”
Me: “If you get two fly balls, I will transfer the money today.”
Madeleine: “Cool.”

Madeleine (7th inning): “Dad if I catch three foul balls will you get me a greyhound?”
Me: “With pleasure.”

Spotted along the highway: The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, OH; Armstrong Air And Space Center, I 75 North; Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, Oh; Lion’s Den Adult Super Store “Books and Videos”, Exit 165 I 75 N. Wood County Historical Museum, Napoleon, OH; Rutherford B Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, OH 

Heading to Cedar Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, Eitan irons his shirt and asks for hair gel.

Thursday, August 7

St Louis Arch

Gateway Arch (Katie photo)
We visit the Gateway Arch on the west bank of the Mississippi River, St Louis. The arch is 630-foot-high, clad in stainless steel, and built as a flattened catenary. it is the tallest man-made monument in the US and the world's tallest arch. When I consider all the man-made monumental crap built to trump up some ancient event or city, I am impressed by the arch's simple simplicity. It's an arch, God Damnit. Genius.

Madeleine freaked out by the ride to the top, fair enough, but fortunately she has Katie to give her re assurances (Eitan: "Oh, boy, Madeleine, it sure is a long way down.")

The Arch was designed by Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen in 1947. Construction began in 1963 and completed on October 28, 1965, at a total cost of $US 13 million ($97,300,000 in 2014). The monument opened to the public on June 10, 1967.

Eitan takes to ironing his shirts in the morning.

Wednesday, August 6

The Family Business

Star Binding And Printing
We visit Star Binding & Printing, the company founded by my Great-Grandfather Salomon and Grandfather Jacob Orenstein.  Star Binding pulled my family into America's middle classes.

During the Second World War the company provided bindings for US military uniforms (military issue hats and trousers) and today continues to mfr bindings for hats and in-seam decals, where it is the largest in the US.

"Star Binding  Manufacturing Co. was acquired in around 1914 by Salomon Orenstein and his son Jacob. A few years later they were joined by George Zatlin who was married to Jake’s sister. Georges’ son Philip joined the firm after serving in World War II. In 1979, Philip’s son Stuart joined the company and the two run the company to this day.  Star Printing Company began as an in house printing company independent in 1926. Star Printing shares a single story building with Star Binding in the old automotive district of St Louis."
--From the website

MO in 24

Cousins Di Di and Devon
We touch the Missouri River and the Mississippi River in the same day, pretty cool, and now it is St Louis.

We visit Moe's side of the family and cousin Di Di organises a re union at Aunt Ida's Jewish retirement home (next to a Chinese restaurant, of course) which includes Liebermans and Orensteins and Seniors. Ida is 103 years old and sharp - she recalls everybody's face and where they are on the family tree. A highlight is Joy's photo album which takes us back to the 1920s.

Moe's cousin and childhood pal Al is with his wife Alice, a freshman at University City High School when Moe was a Senior. This area was predominantly Jewish until the '70s and so where my Orthodox great-grandfather Horen landed in the late 19th century, speaking only yiddish (Joy tells us). Horen left Russia to escape the pograms of the 1890s and entered America via Ellis Island. Alice tells me Moe was school President, and "very important and so handsome. We all looked up to him."

Devon is a great kid (head connected to electronic toy) and son of Shavon and Danny, who was adopted by Joy and Larry in '72, before mixed adoptions were stopped (says Joy). Danny is 6'4" and Joy 4'11".  Shavon is from Oakland and, remarkably, was a Freshman at Berkeley High School when I was a Senior, though we did not know each other.

Me: "What do you think of the Liebermans ?"
Madeleine: "Huh?"
Me: "Did you know that you had all these Jewish relatives in St Louis?"
Madeleine: "No."
Me: Pretty cool."
Madeleine: "Yep."
The Jew Crew

Sunday, August 3

Kansas City Missouri

A boy in transition
We pull in to Kansas City and decamp at the hotel, which means clothes and debris everywhere.

Sonnet meets her ancient dear friend Kevin, who drives to us from St Louis.  Kevin and Sonnet worked together at I. Magnin in San Francisco in those post college days when life was but a goof. These are the best friendships.

I have the Shakespeares solo so we go for a bike ride along the Missouri River, swim at the hotel pool then, treat-of-treats, Arthur Bryant's BBQ for dinner, the best in Kansas City and anywhere (says Calvin Trillin : "the single best restaurant in the world"). Barak Obama lunched here three days ago. Sonnet and I at Bryant's in 1997 when driving across the country and not much has changed - it has cleaned up a bit perhaps but the pulled pork as good as it ever was. The kids share a full rack of ribs and a plate of fries, washed down with lemonade. It's a restaurant without pretencion , where everybody enjoying themselves, and beats any of London's Michelin stars, hands down.

Grain Storage

Route 96
Today, back to Interstate 70 East (known as the Eisenhower Truman Highway, at least in Kansas).  We visit the Eisenhower Museum and Memorial and the Eisenhower National Library in Abeline, KA, in 45 minutes, including lunch. Sonnet runs a tight ship.

Abeline, where Eisenhower raised, a dust bowl town with maybe 5,000 people but, man, every child here believes he can be President.

Eitan patiently eats his melted RussellStover chocolates in the back seat, slowly peeling the crinkly wrap from the liquefied chocolate. Madeleine: “That is disgusting.”

Spotted from the road :
“Free Wine Tasting”, Prairie Fire Winery
“Brown v Board of Education Historic Site (Topeka)

“Wild Wild West, Gentleman’s Club, Exit 250”

“Welcome to Lindborg, Kansas, America’s Little Sweden.”

Kansas State University : International Research Facility and Five Times Men’s Basketball Champions. 

Sonnet: “Well, that was Topeka.” [Dad's note: Topeka is the capital of Kansas and we went through it in 5 minutes, 65 mph]


It's agriculture
We depart Montrose saying our sad good-byes to Stan, who takes it stoicly : “Now I can have some peace and quiet back”. The kids sit quietly in the back as we pull away honking the horn one last time.

Today’s route : Montrose, HW 50 to 96 at Pueblo then to Route 40 to 25 North, where we spend the night in Colby, KA, “the oasis in the plains.” It's hard driving, about 8 hours in all, without much to look at, other than the corn fields and blue skies.

Museums : Salida Museum of Local History (Salida, CO), Fort Wallace Museum (near the Fort Wallace, CO, cemetery); Prairie Museum of Art and history (Rte 40, KA); High Plains Museum, Colby, KA; Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Kansas State University, Hays, KA; Czech Museum and Opera House (Wilson, KA); Eisenhower Presidential Library, Albine, KA); Kansas Motorcycle Museum, Minneapolis, KA; Smokey Hill Museum and the Salina Art Center, Salina, KA

An Interlude

Stan's turkey
Stan is plagued by the neighbour's turkey and two chickens, who wander into the house if a door left open. The kids love them of course.