A Rose by Any Other Name … Well, Maybe Not ANY Other Name!

Margaux Hemingway While recently browsing the wine aisles, I spotted several moderately priced bottles of Margaux (but not Chateau Margaux, the queen of all wines in that exceptional appellation d’origine, which commands a correspondingly exceptional price). Like many other incidents in life, this find somehow prompted my brain to shift to a new, but only […]

Father’s Day Memories

Dad, in a characteristically playful mood, horsing around with champagne corks at a birthday party (at about age 80) On Father’s Day, as spring gives way to summer in the Northern Hemisphere (and a heat wave here in California), we can all appreciate the pleasure of a nice, cool shower. I have a little twist […]

They’re Not Actually Birdbrains

Blinky with my dad (I was perhaps 10 years old when I took this Polaroid shot; Dad would have been about 42) Most of my friends and family love dogs and cats. My preference, however, has always been birds, the parrot family in particular. I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a beautiful, comic […]

Happy Easter!

Russian Easter Eggs Have you ever locked yourself out of the car? With the motor running? On a narrow street? With traffic stuck behind you? Because you’re just outside the Russian Orthodox Cathedral as the Midnight Easter Service is about to begin? Yup! It happened to me. Which is a self-exculpatory way of saying, “Yes, […]

The Power of Garlic

Leo Tolstoy began his novel Anna Karenina by observing that “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” As a devoted student of Russian literature, human folly, and baloney in its many guises, it seems to me a similar pattern may apply to many of the life events we […]

Woolly Mammoths, Saber-Toothed Bunnies and GMO Puppies

You can hardly look at your newsfeed these days without coming across something about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or bioengineering. It’s a topic that comes in right behind Trump, climate change and gluten. Some people claim that edibles containing genetically modified ingredients amount to “Frankenfood.” The scientists who research and create GMOs, on the other […]

Have You Ever Run Out of Gas?

Troitsky (Kirovsky) Bridge I have. Probably more often than you. I believe it’s in my genes. My dad told me he was notorious, as a young man, for returning home on fumes after an outing in his father’s car. On at least one occasion, according to these stories, when my grandfather went out in the […]

Beethoven Would Not Have Survived This Recital, But …

the pianist did, and so did I – barely! This was the piano recital to top them all! No, it wasn’t exactly Vladimir Horowitz or Arthur Rubenstein at Carnegie Hall. In fact, it took place long enough ago (1974 or thereabouts) that the stalwart pianist’s name has, regrettably, faded from memory.1 But I retain a […]

The Blind Leading the Blind

Ever have a nightmare about the risk of getting lost in a crowded place where no one speaks your language? For an idea of how it might feel, read this story from my first visit to Japan, in 1971. Japan was the last stop on a roughly three-month trip back to the U.S. at the […]

A Memory of Christmas Past

Christmas morning never fails to remind me of the most memorable holiday event I’ve ever experienced. No, this is not the heart-warming story of family gathered round a blazing fireplace, sipping eggnog and inhaling the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Rather, it’s a tale of a somewhat less time-honored Christmas tradition – the grab-bag game. […]