Dean Clough

March 20, 2024

Portico Darwin: London Calling, Chapter 8


5 Minute Read

A quick note:  This morning I depart for Dallas for a long weekend with the Metroplex playboy Kevin Monza, returning on Monday.  Micro Travel Guide?  Perhaps.

But for now, Happy Friday, and this is the eighth installment of London Calling.

Preface and Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Peet Krakow Is Not Happy
We are 7 chapters in, and there's barely been a mention of my business WestConnect Technologies, or my partners in it, Pleather and Peet Krakow.  But that makes sense.

For one, while we were indeed partners and WestConnect was consulting at Genstar and the GESeaco joint venture, Pleather and Peet's involvement was shifting, and they had essentially nothing to do with the London program.

The other reason was what I was doing and my imminent move to London was the start of what would become an ever-widening, and eventually permanent, rift between the 3 of us.  Often with me in the minority, regardless of the topic.   

In this case, both of them felt I could successfully manage the program from San Francisco, while directly participating in further building our consultancy (vs. getting my passport stamped and partying in London). 

I of course could not have disagreed more.

The reasons were manifold but begin with the nuts and bolts of practicality.  GESeaco would be run by Sea Containers Limited, headquartered in London.  Specifically, their information technology would be deployed, operated, and managed from there.  Little (and nothing over time) would be happening regarding the joint venture in SF.  Add in the 8 hour time difference, and I found the idea of attempting to manage this massive effort without every advantage ludicrous.  Were we not engaged to deliver this program by September 1?  I saw that virtually impossible to do anywhere but from London.

And what in the world would build our own consulting firm more than one of its partners successfully executing a ginormous international program from there? 

None of this broke through, and Peet was especially opposed.  This was upsetting, because of the two of them, he and I had always been personal friends. 

Pleather?  Not so much - I barely knew her, and we certainly never socialized, as Peet and I did then, and still occasionally do today.

But Peet was adamant that he and Pleather needed me to remain in SF to - as he always said:  To grow the business

I was apoplectic, something never far on my emotional spectrum, but this was different.  I am indignant by nature, but rarely as much as this day in late March of 1998 in a plush and luckily, soundproofed, Genstar conference room, many floors above San Francisco.  

"You are out of your fucking mind if you don't think I am moving to London.  This is a dream, and it's also the only way it will work."

I was shouting, even a bit red-faced.  This guy - my business partner - was threatening something I wanted, and I was having none of it.  

But Peet was always good at letting me go crazy yet remaining calm himself.  In fact, it's probably why we still are friends, and that is a compliment to him, I assure you.  It was the same this time.

"Portico, we each have our strengths as partners.  Not having yours here for months is going to hurt us now and beyond.  You can direct the GESeaco thing from San Francisco."  Peet was as mellow and flattering and smooth as ever.

Me?  Not so much.

"NO!  That is completely wrong, I must be there to run the program properly, and I don't fucking care anyhow.  

Because don't you understand?  Moving to London like this is a fucking dream of mine.  And they are going to pay me and us HOURLY!  They are going to pay for EVERYTHING!  

Why the hell go through the hassles of owning a business if you can't do something like this?  Are you fucking crazy?  Life is short, Goddamn it, and I am fucking moving to London!"

And there it was, the beginning of the end of our partnership, although it would take 18 more months before I finally quit my own company.  

We won't be getting back to that.

Was I being selfish?  At the time, I did not have the maturity to even consider the possibility.  

1.  A client wanted me in London for 5 months, and was willing to pay for it
2.  I wanted to go

Easy, right?  

In fact, I still feel I was correct, given the circumstances.  I would do it again, like yesterday.

But I can now see their side, whereas back then, in a haze of aspirational fantasy, I would have none of it.

At the time, we had no consultants on staff apart from the 3 of us, and no clients other than Genstar/GESeaco.  Peet was correct that, if I had stayed, perhaps I could have helped improve WestConnect's business.  I may have been able to successfully lead the GESeaco IT infrastructure program from SF, while at the same time selling new business and recruiting new staff.

We'll never know, but I feel Pleather and Peet did me a favor then by revealing just how differently we saw the world.  And life.

Because I was moving to London.  Right now.

Embassies and Me
Of the memories and events I am recounting here, few equal the first 5 nights of my residence in London.  Knowing I'd need a base of operations upon arrival in April until our own short-term rental was available, Seaco invited me to spend my first few nights in Mayfair, here.

Yes, Seaco, among their many holdings, also owned a fine 3 BR (all ensuite) apartment.  Which came with a cook and a maid.  And I was going to be staying there, after still yet another Upper Class nonstop on Virgin Atlantic, SFO-LHR, and another transfer via Range Rover from Heathrow to central London.

Except this time, the swish SUV provided by the airline wasn't pulling up to The Royal Horseguards Hotel.
This was Peak Albany.  Meaning, I simply couldn't believe this was happening to me, someone who grew up in Albany, New York.  There was nothing that foretold this, and the experience had zero in common with my upbringing.  Apart from both occurring in the English language.  

Because I would soon learn that being invited to stay here was a big deal.  It was a privilege typically reserved for visiting C-suite executives or random VIP friends of Seaco owner James Sherwood.  It was also located next door to the Italian Embassy, and a stone's throw from the American one, if that tells you anything about the neighborhood.  Indeed, I would come to learn its location is as fine as any in London.
I was decidedly neither a C-suiter nor very important but there I was. Julie snapped this a few weeks later, upon her own arrival. I of course had to show The Flat to her - I couldn't believe it had happened.
I still can't, yet the lodging gets better still, because the next place was ours for the whole summer. 

And it turns out that I had housing tastes similar to someone fairly famous.  We apparently both liked South Kensington and West London.

Lady Diana and Us
I had looked around for a short-term rental, and it wasn't initially promising.  Ratty places in dodgy neighborhoods, or overly-spendy places in great neighborhoods.  But then someone at Seaco gave me the number of Monique Hay (it may have been Martin Denny), and soon, unit 81A at Coleherne Court on Old Brompton Road, was our summer home.

The 1BR/2BA flat itself was small but very nice, and would prove ideal for us for the summer.  It was quiet, and had a view to a massive private garden that was from a picture book.  And its location, while not Mayfair, was almost as good.  A 2 block walk for me to the Earl's Court tube station and the District Line to my office, and Chelsea, Sloane Square, and rest of London's West End at the doorstep for Julie.

And, it turns out, others liked it, too.

It's true:  from 1 May through 1 September, we lived in the same building where Lady Diana Spencer had previously, during her courtship with the-now King Charles III.  Look for the building in the background the next time you watch one of those documentaries on their lives - it's always shown.

Which is a thrill to this day.

We made ourselves at home there immediately and began exploring the neighborhood and surrounding area.  There was so much to which one could walk, let alone tube.  It was beyond incredible and it's where we learned what real urbanity is.   

A summer in London can do that to a person, but we'll get back to that.

For now, I'd be putting this to use, my temporary building pass to Sea Containers House for the duration.

But that date above, of 4 September 1998, was already looming in my mind.  That was the program's deadline. 

For everything.

Up Next:  Just Say You're On Vacation


My cousin Lally and I will always have a unique bond in our family:  She is the oldest of our generation, while I am the youngest.  I say that out of respect, not comedy, and here's an example of why.  Lally sent this as part of her birthday wishes to our grandmother.

Love from her to you leaps over centuries and oceans and states of being but it is real and touches the heart.  Your heart.

Philip Roth, and now Lally?  Jeez, I've got a lot of work to do.

Thank you for reading this newsletter.  


Many of the songs on this rager from 1994 fit the events above perfectly.  And no doubt this was another album I was talking up big at the time.  With good reason - is there an album with more aggressive, yet melodic and almost poppy, guitars and songs? 

The first four songs ("Gift," "Company Book," "Your Favorite Thing," and "What You Want It To Be") are themselves a mini rock opera for today's taleAnd when one adds "Believe What You're Saying," "Mind Is An Island," and "Frustration" (the latter two are bonus tracks from a deluxe release) which do a nice job describing my interactions with my partners over this program, it sums to a veritable concept album for London Calling.

Here are Sugar, and their Diamond Certified File Under Easy Listening.

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