memoirs

A meal unlike any other

Imagine yourself, if you would, sitting on a terrace overlooking an amazing landscape. We will tentatively pin the place as a hamlet alongside Amalfi Coast, but it might as well be Albaicin in Granada, Amboise in Loire Valley, or any number of other places. The grand view is not a mandatory attribute – if all[…]

memoirs

Of scars

Tania asked during my recent attempt at a Q&A session: [What] interesting scars [do you have] and how you got them? I don’t have much to flaunt in this regard, to be honest. I am only aware of two scars on my entire body, both of which were acquired by the time I was barely[…]

memoirs

Greasing my way on Russian Airlines

That day which started with my infamous detention for video-taping local police headquarters, continued with various amusements on my subsequent trip home1.

I was already well-conditioned to the pervasive expectation of monetary “incentives” exhibited by everybody in the service sector. Truth be told, with the exchange rate of about 25 rubles to a dollar, I could safely dispense bribes left and right and pretend they were simple gratuities, so little it cost me in absolute terms. Plus, of course, I was more than willing to “smooth” my passage out of the country as much as I could.

I had a huge and heavy suitcase to check in, full of gifts and souvenirs. At the airport, the woman behind the check-in desk eyeballed it as I was approaching her and adopted a constipated facial impression of someone stoically prepared to fight against any blatant disregard for airline regulations.

And then she saw my American passport.
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memoirs

Not very nomadic

Nathan, who often said in the past that he hates memes1, has actually created a meme of his own, listing the places that he resided in during his eventful life. I put together my own similar list and realized that I actually did not move around that much in my life. (Nathan’s rules are, basically,[…]

memoirs

Remembering high school

I haven’t done one of them meme things in a while, so I am happy to pick one from Jason. The meme is centered on my high school memories, which I am sure is a subject that will hold a lot of my readers enthralled, given the fact that my high school experience was so much different from that of an American high-schooler of yesteryear.
[…]

memoirs

Three hours under arrest

I only went back to Russia once in the years since I emigrated. Did not like that journey much, for a number of reasons. The pervasive state of dilapidation on Russian periphery at the turn of the century was the primary reason. The commonplace boorishness of service sector employees, from shopping assistants to receptionists, grated on my American-honed sensibilities. The expectation of a bribe clear on the face of anyone with power to make my life simpler or harder made me want to hurl. Yes, seeing many old friends was really nice, but it also made me realize how divergent our values and interests have become.

Natasha ascribes much of my disaffection with that trip to the weather. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to go, and with Natasha more than half-term along with Kimmy, I could not postpone it until warmer months. Mid-March tends to be quite cold in the Russian south, with driving rain or wet snow dominating the skies. And so it was, raining one day, snowing the other, freezing overnight and thawing by the midday just enough to make everything one big puddle of mud.

But the very last day of my visit turned out bright and sunny, with not a cloud in sight and the temperatures finally climbing into early-spring territory. I had a few hours before I needed to go to the airport, and I decided to use them for a bit of video-recording.
[…]

memoirs

The last time I drank vodka

As I mentioned in 25 things meme and probably elsewhere, I defy stereotypes of a Russian being a hard-drinker. I’m very partial to red wine, I order a screwdriver once in a while, I drink beer under right circumstances (such as when watching sporting events or gathering with friends for a barbecue), I enjoy sherry…

But I don’t drink vodka straight up.

Back in my college days, I successfully combined being more or less a non-drinker with an ability to imbibe a lot of alcohol at parties. Most of the time, I did not even suffer from much of a hangover the following mornings, but there were a handful of notable occasions1 where I lost control of the amount – and/or mix – of my alcohol intake and regretted it a lot afterwards.

This is the story of the very last such occasion. It happened almost precisely 13 years ago. The exact day is probably lost in the annals of history, but it is linked with a birthday date of February the 13th – the numerical symmetry makes it fitting to name today as the anniversary.
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memoirs

Jumping off a boat

Even a person who never seeks thrills, always drives under the speed limit and avoids the smallest possibility of appearing adventurous can probably name a few “close calls”, situations that had the potential of ending up with unpleasant consequences where it concerned his life and limb. Off the top of my head, I can think[…]

memoirs

Singing in Vienna

It’s a story that long begged to be immortalized in writing, and I finally decided to give it a try. I might even start a whole new category with it, aiming to relay some of the more remarkable and/or memorable experiences from our travels.

Imagine Vienna.

Among end-of-day things to do in the Austrian capital, a trip to the northern suburb of Grinzing to sample heurigen fare counts as one of the most delightful. “Heuriger” is the name for the local new-vintage wine, which over generations gave rise to heurigen, typical Vienna taverns where wine and other drinks are served at the table, while the food can be bought at the self-service buffets; at the most popular establishments, there is live music and the unending atmosphere of good times, for a comparatively small monetary outlay. Wine, music and a “local” experience – we do not need hard convincing to try that combination.

Our first attempt provided middling impressions, though. The recommended tavern turned out to be a fairly modern establishment, serving pretty good food but entirely lacking the authentic atmosphere that we sought. We needed to try again.

On our last night in Vienna, having had first taken a spin on the famous Ferris Wheel at the Prater amusement park, we made another trek to Grinzing, to a tavern by the name of Altes Presshaus.

Now, that was a typical heurige, complete with wooden tables and benches, and serving ladies dressed to evoke simpler times of yesteryear. Two musicians, playing an accordion and a bass, provided an appropriate background.
[…]