Posts

Adventures at the DMV – and Elsewhere

My Soviet driver’s license (and, yes, I certainly needed a haircut!) I’ve just passed the written and vision tests needed (perhaps thanks to advancing age) to renew my driver’s license. The experience with the California Department of Motor Vehicles reminded me of a long-ago brush with Virginia’s DMV. It happened in 1978, shortly after I […]

Want to Have Your Palm Read? Me Neither!

Roma (Gypsy) women Every once in a while, as I drive down the street or highway, I’ll spot a sign calling attention to what is usually a pretty low-rent establishment – a place where, according to its sign, you can get your palm read and your fortune told. In the interest of full disclosure, readers […]

Recollections Called Forth by the Closing of America’s St. Petersburg Consulate

U.S. consulate-general, St. Petersburg, Russia The U.S. consulate-general in St. Petersburg became a casualty this week of the current escalation of tensions between the West and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, following the attempted assassination in England of former double agent Alexander Litvinenko and his daughter by Russia’s FSB (successor to the USSR’s notorious KGB). Putin ordered […]

Car Shopping à la Russe

Zhiguli, the Soviet version of the Fiat 124, which, when exported, was called the Lada Shopping for a car in the Soviet Union was a surreal experience that few Americans or Westerners have had the pleasure of undergoing. I am one of those so privileged, though, and it’s provided me with still another offbeat story to […]

Refuge for Birds, or …?

Last week I recounted my 1971 adventure motoring down the lower reaches of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. Today, I’ll go back only to June 2006, when Sandra and I had an altogether different kind of watery adventure – at a bird refuge on the shore of Lake Takern in southern Sweden. Several […]

Guns, not Butter

The “Czar Cannon,” cast in 1586, stands in the Kremlin. Former U.S. and Russian presidents Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev provide perspective on its size. Here, from my personal recollection, is an interesting footnote to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan 38 years ago this month (Dec. 24, 1979). It illustrates the overarching principle governing Soviet […]

Bolshevik Revolution – A Somber Centenary

The defining moment of the October Revolution, as Soviet propaganda wished the world to see it. Like so much else in the Soviet version of history, it is a false picture. As a student of Russia, I find it impossible to ignore the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, which took place this past Tuesday, […]

The Ambassador Wanted My Scalp

Train following the Rhine, like the one on which I came down with chicken pox You’re getting ready for next week’s business trip to Europe and your kid comes down with the chicken pox. You don’t remember ever having had chicken pox when you were a kid. What do you do? Well, that’s what happened […]

Consul – Council – Counsel: What’s the Difference?

Russian consulate in San Francisco The latest round of tit-for-tat “undiplomacy” between the U.S. and Russia was in the news this past week. The State Department ordered the closure of three Russian diplomatic offices, including the Russian consulate-general in San Francisco. This reminded me of the time, back in the 1970s, when I was serving […]

Russian Drinking Tales – Round 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about my initial exposure to vodka, back in 1967 during my first stay in Leningrad/St. Petersburg, when a friend and I sat on a park bench and shared a bottle of “the white stuff” with a partially – and soon to be totally – inebriated Russian guy. On that […]