Posts

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, […]

Bud Korengold, 1929–2019, RIP

Last week I lost a friend, Robert J. “Bud” Korengold.* While we were not close, I greatly admired him. I first made his acquaintance when I was a Russian area studies major at Yale, and he was the Newsweek correspondent in Moscow. Back then, our acquaintanceship was one-way. I knew who he was; he had no […]

Who’s Thirsty?

Tasting the Lithuanian version of Manischewitz sweet, kosher wine — which I wrote about last week — was only one of three non-vodka alcoholic adventures I had in the USSR.1 The other two both took place in Riga, Latvia. The first of these was a taste provided by my Soviet-Latvian hosts of what today we might call […]

Governor’s Speechwriter — Who, Me?

Gov. John Waihee with speechwriter Howard Daniel on the morning of “the Guv’s” last day in office, Dec. 5, 1994 Last week I wrote about why I love the work I do. This week, readers might be interested to learn how it was that, a quarter century ago, I found myself working as speechwriter to […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]