Posts

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 […]

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, […]

A Chilling Tale From a Cold Moscow Night

Lenin’s mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow In my blog post last week (about, in part, the words “consul” and “consulate”), I mentioned that while serving in the U.S. consulate-general in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg, Russia), I was involved in the case of an American who died there and whose body had to be shipped home. It […]

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 […]