I will be heading out to Africa this Saturday for a two week trip. I'll be
going to Sierra Leone for 10 days and spending two days in Abidjan, Cote
d'Ivoire. (Then I'll spend two days in Brussels with Louise Ferguson.)
Why am I going to a tropical disease infested area like Sierra Leone during
the rainy season? The U.S. Agency for International Development is sending
me on an "agricultural assessment". Luckily, they're also sending along
someone who actually knows something about agriculture. I'll give a report
when I get back!
I just got a letter from Yamilee Bastien who asked me to pass on
some info. Yamilee is serving in the Peace Corps in Benin. She's working
on small business development and SAIS people can write to her at:
c/o Corps de la Paix des Etats-Unis
By the way, Jim Cerenzia no longer works at CFED so I would take his name
off the e-mail list. [Anybody know his new email adress?]
I got a new e-mail address:
It's supposedly faster, but most importantly I can now retrieve my messages from everywhere and don't have to wait to return to my London desk. The twentieth century is approaching... yippie...!
As the chilled winds of the north and the upcoming elections have begun to turn
our nation's fair capital from green to gold, this past weekend saw temperatures in the
thirties. How lucky Washington was then to receive warm visits from Atlanta's own
Swede- cum- Texas- idependence- hero- namesake Osten "Austin" Johansson and everyone's
favorite crypto- Welsh- revolutionary- activist John Uppington. While both were here for
only a brief period, they did find time to go out on saturday night for a small carouse,
and--judging from Osten's somber expression at brunch the next day--it would appear
that neither of them have yet accepted the great Puritan dictum of "moderation in all
things." Hang-overs aside though, they both seem well.
Sunday night, I also had the pleasure of dining at the Stephens-Montanari
residence on Capitol Hill. Andrew and la sua nuova moglie seem very happy and it
appears that the good Mr. Stephens may soon find his way out of tomato protectionism
Both Chris Donat and I (and about 17,998 lucky others) are now heading into our
final week of preparation for next Sunday's Marine Corps Marathon I have never run 26 miles before, and
probably never will again, but I will hopefully find the wherewithal to do it once --
Cheering SAISers on the sidelines are most welcome.
hope all is well in NY. Vote Republican [Wherever you may be--Oops, sorry Ben].
It seems to me that the newsroom has grown rather too calm as of late. Is
it that nasty noun--apathy? Or all we all still recovering from the
shock of autumn at the workplace (I work in academia where the summer is
beautifully lazy)?. I don't have much exciting news, but qill contribute
anything to keep the spirit of SIGHS alive.
I travelled down to DC a few weeks ago on business and hung out with
Chris D. and Ben. they are both training for the Marine Corps Marathon
(it is at the end of Oct, send them some luck). Which means they spent
half a day on Sat running and the other half eating. Both are looking
frigtheningly fit. I went to their building's annual bbq and met a few of
their neighbors--including an oversize, I mean giant, poodle which Ben
seemed to have a peculiar affection for (it had a large tuft of hair on
its head which Ben though was really cool).
We went to see Purple Noon: a
1960s re-issue about two American guys involved with a French gal named
Marge and a murder (actually several). The acting is real 60s fab. If you
see it, pay close attention to the first scene where there is a great
skit done by an american posing as an american in Rome--his accent is
classic.Let me know who you think the true culprit is (not necessarily
the murderer) Marge, Philip or Tom. I couldn't believe it when C & B
blamed Marge! Chris and I also enjoyed a real tourist treat--
paddleboating on the tidal pool. It wasn't too stinky that day.
On this trip I also had the pleasure of seeing Gioia, Sebastian, Jeff
(and his fiancee Laura), Diana, Becky and Martin. Sebastian was attending
a rather impressive conference at the Brookings Institute. He and Gioia
seem happy as always. Diana has a cool job overseeing elections in
Bosnia. Unfortunately on this trip I found that DC had deteriorated a
lot. This may come as no suprise, but I found it really depressing as it
could be a beautiful city except no one really seems to care about the
city or its inhabitants.Rather sad.
Aideen Mannion has a job at the Financial Volunteer Corps. She is living
in Brooklyn, where, she already had her first apartment disaster!
Apparently, on her third day in the apt., a cupboard came crashing down
on her head resulting in Aideen being brought to a NYC hosptial. I
can't imagine either of these was a pleasant experience. Guido S. was
just practising his Italian in Milan as he went there to give a
presentation.I like many other, missed a visit with our fair Dutch boy
Arend who was in DC and NYC attending the IMF annual meeting. Beth did
visit with him, so she is responsible for any news on that front.
The biggest bit news (which I am sure you all know) is of course that our
fair innocent [Matthew] Rose has moved in with an American woman--from Oregon.
Best of luck to the happy homemakers.
As for myself, my home is still happy. John and I enjoyed our first
anniversary with a meal at an expensive, but mediocre Italian restaurant
(nothing like Loro di Napoli in NYC--see Beth for details). Seeing each
other was the real treat as John works as corporate lawyer in a big firm.
I am moving to Hong Kong straight after New Year's Day. Institutional
Investor has offices in London and HK as well as New York, and for several
months I have expressed my interest in a post in Asia. No knock on London,
but after New York what Western city would be as exciting? And I am not
anxious to leave the Big Apple--but I expect it will still be here in its
full-fledged insanity. Hong Kong, on the other hand...I'll be there for the
Chinese takeover at midnight on June 30, although I hope too drunk to claim
"witness to history" status.
I will continue to report for our scrappy newsletter division, but will end
my beat on Operations Management at the end of this month. (OM deals with
matters too obscure and arcane to go into.) I will report for Foreign
Exchange Letter, a solid SAIS sort of thing, covering Asian exotics,
chatting up barbaric currency speculators and shifty Asian central bankers.
I'll do that in New York for the final two months of this year, briefly
inheriting a position that for a few months was helmed by our own Monique
Wise before her move to Bloomberg.
In the meantime I remain in the same Village apartment from Hell, which
surprises no one more than me. In a wonderfully ironic epilogue, Carolyn
moved out and Per, the self-styled Queen of Sweden, has returned. Faithful
readers recall he lived there initially. Our mad hatter Nancy has been
released after three weeks from Bellevue's mental ward and is on rather
heavy medication. Don't some of us have all the luck. At any rate, because
her space is very separate from mine, I don't have to deal with her. I
ignore her and because I'll be going soon, the situation is tolerable. She
has full control of her senses, an improvement but not a great one as she is
a bore to begin with. I had tried to move, I spent a few weeks looking
frantically. But New York can be difficult and I did not have good luck and
in the end it all works out.
Besides, I love the area.
Finally I have a job that I can tell my SAIS
friends about. I work at the European Parliament for a
parliamentarian, who's been elected through the Lista Pannella
Reformatori, or something like that. It is a pity my Italian was pretty
useless when I was in Bologna, and only needed in restaurants; now I am
all of a sudden working with Italians. It is also a pity I never paid
attention to European politics, it's actually a lot more interesting than
This past weekend Stefan and I journeyed to Atlanta to visit Julia and
Osten. Along the way I made a few observations. The first is that Atlanta
public transportation is extremely annoying. It talks to you. Antiseptic
voices drone on about what stop you're at, advise you where to go, chide you
for smoking and treat you like a complete moron. Sure, the metro is swift,
clean, spacious and quiet. It would be bearable without character, but the
system sinks to the lows of intellectual mediocrity with its patronizing
babble. Despite all the mothering, we got lost in the airport.
The picture now brightens, because upon our arrival Julia and Osten threw a
splendid party and we got collectively and thoroughly hammered. They've
discovered Absolut Kurant goes very well indeed with cranberry juice and
Julia can make laudably toxic margaritas. The crowd was typical modern,
white Atlanta: about 40% Southerners, 40% Northern transplants and 20%
actual Georgians. Some very cute women but mostly married. Too many blondes.
The locals have trouble with Osten's name so he has resigned himself to
going by "Austin." Hearing people call him Austin was amusing, but hearing
Osten call himself Austin was tops. My request to have him dressed in a seer
sucker suit with a straw hat was denied.
Downtown Atlanta is spread out like many American cities but manages to
retain a cohesive form. I've been in some places that sprawl like a gutted
pig's innards, but Atlanta's downtown is well-defined (was that a simile or
what!?). The skyline includes some respectably tall buildings but is overall
too languid to elicit real excitement (this from a new New Yorker, mind).
Atlanta is still in the Olympic spirit, although most of those grounds have
been returned to barrenness. The city benefits from artwork, public
infrastructure and a slew of advertisements still up from this summer. We
skipped the Coca Cola tour. Every time Osten entertains guests from out of
town he takes them there and he's sick of the place, and Stefan objected to
paying for an advertisement.
Atlanta has a past as well, and the four of us visited Martin Luther King,
Jr.'s birthplace and the relatively new Park Service facilities highlighting
his role in the Civil Rights movement. There is very little left of his
neighborhood: a few houses, the church, a fire station. Atlanta has paved
over the rest in its quest for modernity. The MLK story is a familiar
one--at least it should be--but worth the review.
I suppose you would like more gossip. Julia and Osten have amicably parted.
Of course this is entirely the least tasteful forum for discussing this. But
nothing was off the record (sleazy journalist here) and they both agree it's
for the best. Osten has decided to stay in Atlanta at least for a while--a
tribute to the city. They remain on good terms. Julia has run off with
Stefan, who refused to return to NYC with me. OK, now I'm lying. She ran off
with ME, and I'm writing this from Atlanta. Stefan ran off with Austin.