Posts

Russian Drinking Tales — Round 3

A year or so ago, I published two posts (here and here) related to wine, beer and another, quite exotic, alcoholic beverage in the former Soviet Union. Previously, I’d created two other posts (here and here) about experiences with vodka in the USSR. Today, I’ll briefly return to the subject in a sort of “hair […]

Trump’s Impeachment Reminds Me of a Soviet Era Joke

Leonid Brezhnev The passions whose flames are being fanned on both sides by the Trump impeachment trial bring to mind a joke that Russians would tell each other (if they felt confident the KGB wouldn’t overhear them) back in the 1970s when I was posted to the U.S. consulate-general in Leningrad (today, St. Petersburg). At […]

Creating a ‘Newspaper’ for an Audience of One

Visualization of Soviet fighters intercepting KAL 902 I’ve begun reading a fascinating book, Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended, by Jack Matlock, who, as the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, 1987–91, had a bird’s-eye view of history in the making. I’m still in the early chapters of the book, but a few days ago […]

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Former U.S. Consulate, Leningrad We had a mini-emergency a few days ago in our senior community/mobile home park in Santa Rosa, California. In the dead of night, the pump that supplies our homes with well water tripped a circuit breaker. In order to be on time to a 7 o’clock meeting the next morning, I […]

A Soviet Citizen’s Reaction to a Western Department Store

Stockmann, Helsinki Here’s a vignette from the time I was posted to the U.S. consulate-general in Leningrad, 1976-78. Sasha, one of our Soviet-citizen drivers,* had just been granted a passport, a privilege that very few Soviet citizens enjoyed. This allowed him to drive the consulate’s truck (a vehicle very much like a UPS delivery van) […]

National Doughnut Day — Did It Roll Right Past You?

Naomi (here in a forest outside Leningrad, 1977 or 78) in the hooded snowsuit which, with its neck slightly unzipped, prompted a passerby to claim she was “naked” I hope you didn’t miss National Doughnut1 Day this past Friday. If Facebook had not brought it to my attention, I certainly would have. As it turned out, […]

Who Said History Is Boring?

Ilya Yefimovich Repin: Zaporozhian Cossacks Write a Letter to the Turkish Sultan Advisory: Despite this blog’s ordinarily being family-friendly, this post is not appropriate for readers under the age of 18 (no nudity, just language). The painting above is one of the strongest possible refutations of the notion that the study of history is dull […]

Everything (Well, Almost) You Ever Wanted to Know About Sweet Kosher Wine … But Were Afraid to Ask

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on an article reporting that “Americans like sweet wines, but nobody talks about it.” The article piqued my interest because my first encounters with wine came as a child, when I’d be offered1 Manischewitz Concord grape wine at traditional Jewish Friday evening meals at my grandparents’ home and, of […]

Нет, Моя! No, It’s Mine!

Under Lenin’s gaze, Naomi, age 4, in blue dress at left foreground, participating in her Leningrad preschool’s celebration of the Bolshevik Revolution’s 60th anniversary, November 1977. One year ago, calling it a “somber centenary,” I wrote about the 100th anniversary of Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution (October Revolution). Now, on the revolution’s 101st anniversary (actually last Wednesday), a […]

One of the World’s Great Museums Is Also the Czar’s Attic

Winter Palace, home of much of the Hermitage’s collection Two recent events — one mundane, the other calamitous — came together in my mind and prompted me to write this short piece about one of the world’s greatest museums, the Hermitage, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The mundane event is my recently begun exploration of the […]