Monday, May 30, 2005

International airport lounge as catalyst for whirled peas

The world could be a much better place if all political negotiations were conducted in international departure lounges. All of humanities good traits are on display – families and friends congregate together quietly with the genuine goodwill that only occurs when people know they don’t have to keep it up for too long.

The international departure lounge occupies a unique geographical space – it is not “here,” nor is it there – it is simply a transit point. As such, it is the only place in the world where everyone feels at home, precisely because it is nobody’s home. Lavish costumes get no special attention, mixed race couples get no sidelong glances, local taboos are suspended.

Bringing this to an immediate practical point, where in the world can a western politician enter into a serious dialogue with a turbaned and whiskered counterpart without activating a complex web of prejudices? Likewise, where can a middle-eastern politician regard his western counterpart without conjuring a whole lifetime of oppressing demons?

I say let them meet one another in any international airport lounge, surrounded by family members of all ages. Freed of the politics of place and held in the eyes of familial love and respect, how could the results fail to be a marked improvement on the politics of today?

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Drinking the best wine first

It has long been our philosophy to find a wine we like, buy a case and drink it immediately. There is something twice sad about cellaring wine – first, the delayed pleasure of turning grapes into wine; and second, the deferred pleasure of letting the wine gather dust and (usually) lose flavor moldering away in some sad corner of the house.

Despite this, we occasionally acquired bottles of fine wine that seemed too good for the times we were living in. So we tucked it away for the right occasion, which of course never came. Before leaving for Europe, however, we determined to drink every single bottle of wine in our house before we left. Given the number of social functions that filled our final weeks, this was not as difficult to accomplish as you might imagine.

The findings from these experiments in forced consumption were as follows:
  1. Approximately 1 out of 5 bottles that we had cellared for 10 years or more tasted better than we thought it would. The rest tasted worse (usually substantially worse), confirming our basic wine acquisition prejudices (this is in keeping with one of the most basic tenets of science, the “law of least surprise,” that the purpose of an experiment is to confirm existing prejudices – see Occam’s Razor).
  2. Forget admonitions to “die broke.” Our new life objective is to die with an empty cellar.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Packing a life - the day of judgment

Over the last several weeks we stood in judgment over our possessions. Objects which were found lacking virtue and piety were hurled into the (landfill) pit; objects which were unsanctified but had committed no mortal sins were placed into purgatory under the house; and those joyful few objects which before the beginning of time had been predestined to accompany us were packed with loving care into vessels (rolling duffels actually, lifted up to the heavens (by a 747) and brought to a place of resplendent beauty.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Our wants are few, our demands are simple

What we want from our European adventure:

  1. Recapture the still spaces in our lives lost to the twin demons of activity and anxiety
  2. Rebuild the common spaces between our lives which have been made barren by overgrazing and underwatering. Much of the goodwill in our relationship has been overgrazed through the profound inequalities between a work-bound husband and a house-bound wife. The sources of goodwill in our relationship have been underwatered through too few shared joyful experiences.
  3. Restore us from our diminished state, beaten down by countless small indignities, numberless small ethical accommodations, myriad small rages.

In short, we want to remember how to dream, both for our own lives and for our lives together.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Faux FAQ

Answers to Questions that would be Frequently Asked If Anyone Actually Cared (Which, Just For The Sake Of Clarity, They Almost Certainly Do Not)

Q: Is this going to be another rambling, self-aggrandizing exercises in pretending that there is a greater significance in your existence and activities than is strictly warranted under the circumstances?
A: Yes

Q: What is this blog “about”?
A: Nominally, a one year sabbatical following a San Francisco family of four as they wend their way to Paris and what happens there. The cast includes a guitar-playing, recovering entrepreneur, rehabilitating himself by recapitulating his many business sins to impressionable etudients at INSEAD; a hard-skiing, recovering Accenture assoc. partner-cum-mom rehabilitating herself by becoming a French wine expert; plus two mono-lingual male progeny, post diapers, pre-teen terrors.

Q: Why are you writing this?
A: Blogs are a simultaneous exercise in laziness and self-deceit. Laziness, because if I had something truly interesting to say, I would take the time to write it down well enough to get it published. Self-deceit, because despite the fact that I have not taken the time to either think of something truly interesting or to express it well in writing, I still cherish the illusion that someone will care to read it. Also, our parents want pictures of the grandkids.

Q: What warranties, limited and otherwise, are you prepared to make to your readers?
A: I solemnly vow and aver, that I will use reasonable commercial efforts to make this blog entertaining, provided you have a sense of humor in a permanently arrested state of development circa Animal House and This is Spinal Tap.

Q: What is wrong with everyone?
A: Loss of context, of identification with shared goals and common goods. Increasing fragmentation into mutually hostile factions with no interest or even language for finding the shrinking middle ground. “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” One of many symptoms of this loss of context is the widespread desire to create a purely personal context and share it with total strangers as an examplar of the “right” way to think about things – otherwise known as a blog.

Q: What are your influences?
A: Well, let’s see. Bach, definitely (Ich Habe Genug, Goldberg variations), then the bible (psalms, John), Kierkegaard (Fear and Trembling), Yeats (The Magi), Melville, Ian Tyson (Four Strong Winds), Emmylou Harris (Red Dirt Girl). Also, more humblingly, The Partridge Family (first album bought with my own money), that awful Mark Spitz Olympic medal swimming poster (also the Farah Fawcette one if the full truth must be disclosed), pretty much any trashy science fiction novel and Hellspawn comic books.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Our travel schedule

Forthwith, our plans, lofty and misguided though they may be:

  • May 30 - Jun 4: First stop - Paris! Dump our ski gear and excess baggage, attempt to secure an elusive Parisian rental unit
  • Jun 4 - 18: Sicily. Sunglasses in hand, we decamp for the land of sunshine and wine.
  • Jun 19 - 24: Italy by train and car. Travel from Rome to Tuscany.
  • Jun 25 - Jul 9: Tuscany. Taste wine, eat, repeat.
  • Jul 10 - 12: Venice. Another opportunity for open water swimming?
  • Jul 13 - 17: Switzerland + untethered travel!
  • Jul 18 - 28: Zurich, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Prien, Munchen
  • Jul 29-30 July Legoland Gunzburg, Germany
  • Jul 31 - Aug 6: Hamburg, Germany (visit friends)
  • Aug 7 - 13: Hamburg, Germany (visit relatives)
  • Aug 14 - 21: Holland (visit Oma)
  • Aug 22 - Back in Paris, now with even more desparation to get a roof over our heads
  • September '05 - July '06 - Entrepreneur in residence at INSEAD business school, occasional guest lecturer at Oxford Said School of Business, connaisseur of croissants and open air markets

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Remind me again why we're leaving...

Just to make us think twice about abandoning SF, our garden went mad in April

Once upon a time...

A relaxed photo taken before we decided to decamp for Paris