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 […]

Medical Experiences of a Peace Corps Volunteer in India

This is me in traditional Indian garb, 1968* A recent conversation with my dentist brought back some interesting memories. The first was of an encounter I had with a dentist when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in India back in the late 1960s. And that took me back to a few other experiences I […]

Mother’s Day Memories

As I write this post in the week preceding Mother’s Day, I’m sifting through memories of my mom, trying – but failing – to come up with something as amusing, or at least as memorable, as some of the stories I’ve told in this blog about my dad, who was a certifiable character. Mom – […]

Cowcatcher Evolution

The ultimate cowcatcher When I was a kid, the railroad that linked my hometown – Asbury Park, New Jersey – with New York City, about 90 minutes up the line to the north, ran on steam. That’s right, for years – until diesels took over – the trains were pulled by steam engines. I’d often […]

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, […]

Courage and Fear

The defeat of evil: burning a Dusshera effigy of Ravana In the late summer of 1970, as I was nearing the end of my Peace Corps service in India, the local Peace Corps office asked if I would be willing to stay on for another three months to help train a new group of volunteers […]

Just Across the River From the Czar’s Palace

  Dormitory No. 6, Leningrad State University (Neva River hydrofoil in foreground) (Photo: Michael Alberts) Here’s a bit of color about a little-heralded aspect of life in the bad old days of the USSR. The story comes from my first visit to the Soviet Union – as a graduate student – in the summer of 1967. […]

What Exactly Is It That Begins at 40?

When I was a teen, I would occasionally hear my parents and their contemporaries say “Life begins at 40,” a reference not only to advancing middle age, but – whether they were aware of it or not – to the title of a book, song and film from the 1930s. The phrase came back to […]

Ever Lingered So Long After Dinner That the Restaurant’s Emptying Out?

Yeah, that’s happened to me. Several times. But the time I’m about to describe takes the prize. Like a few other stories in this blog, this one took place when I was working at the U.S. consulate-general in Leningrad, 1976-78. One fine early summer evening, my wife and I went out to dinner with Ilya, […]

Taking Off: Relief for the Transportation Blues

I wrote this article last October for the 2017 edition of the annual Santa Rosa Metro Chamber directory (aka Community Resource and Business Guide), which was published on Friday, Feb. 17, in connection with the Chamber’s annual luncheon meeting, when the Chamber’s rebranding was unveiled. (Until then, the Chamber was called the Santa Rosa Chamber […]