Saturday, August 31, 2013


     We just came back from the movie club meeting. Ahem... We were going to see The Spy Game. Fortunately or unfortunately, Doris was a whole hour late, and we first watched the Russian program with my relatives in it and then started the children't movie Up. Like by magic, Mary's 8 year old son and the Little Red Headed Monster and her brother (their mother brought them) appeared on the floor in front of the TV. I am ashamed to admit it, but I think, I enjoyed Up more than The Spy Game. When Doris came, the kids went to another room to continue watching Up
     The Spy Game has Robert Redford and Brad Pitt in it. In my opinion, that is the best thing I can say about that movie. It's too long and has too many flashbacks to things depressing and gruesome. It is a story about two CIA operatives, one - older (Redford) and one - younger (Pitt). The younger one gets tired of using people and losing people. He drops out of the game and attempts to rescue his girlfriend from a Chinese prison. They get caught. The CIA wants to disavow any involvement in that venture. They ask Robert Redford's character to help them, but he, instead, does everything he can to help his young colleague. 
     I fell asleep in the middle of the movie. I was awake for the ending of it, which took about forty five minutes. 
     Victoria didn't come. When I called her yesterday and before I even said anything, my scatterbrained friend started to apologize for missing the movie club meeting... yes, the meeting... last week! Upon my telling her that it is going to happen this Saturday, she began to apologize because she and her family are going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium this Labor Day weekend. It's OK, that meant more food for us!
     Like he promised, Mary's husband made California Roll sushi, I brought the Shepard's Pie and Sveta, Katya's mother, - a small cheesecake and strawberries. 
     The Little Red Headed Monster, otherwise known as Katya, managed to eat a couple of pounds of strawberries. It will make for an interesting ride home! 
     As Roberta and I arrived at our house, Dr. Park met us on the driveway. In a petulant tone, he told Roberta that she should not go anywhere next time, because she was too weak to stay out for so long (we were away for a few hours). "I worry about you, you know!" - he whined. Even now, for at least an hour, I hear that same rude, petulant tone from behind their closed door. The poor boy missed Roberta's undivided attention!


     Today is the movie club (ahem) meeting. We will go to Mary's house to watch The Spy Game. I never saw it before. Apparently, Robert Redford is in it. It took us a few weeks longer to meet again, although we originally thought to do it every two weeks. 
     Mary's husband, a sushi chef, will make California Rolls. In case if you don't know what it is, instead of the seaweed on the outside of the sushi roll, there is rice with sesame seeds, immediately followed by a layer of seaweed, and on the inside there are crab meat, avocado and cucumber. I made Shepard's Pie (I told you how to make it in one of my past posts). Sonny wanted me to make it, even though its 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside. So he had a good motivation to help me with the peeling of the potatoes and the mashing and the frying of the meat  and so on. 
     Sylvie is sulking around the house because today, when Goldie came, I pushed my cat away from the door in order to go out there and fill Goldie's bowl. Sylvie, after a few attempts to also get out, went berserk and attacked my foot. I now bear scratches and streaks of blood on my heel, and she, obviously knowing that she did wrong, hangs back and peeks at me from around the corners. I think, she is in menopause. That would explain the mood swings and the vicious temper. Except, she is in this menopause for the last nine years!

Friday, August 30, 2013


     Since the early morning we hear Chickie's solicitous "Me-e-ous" and Sylvie's techno-like answers: "M-r-o-o-ow!" Chickie sounds tinny and cute, but of course, we don't know, what he is really saying. Sometimes, we imagine that he swears at us or Sylvie in that same child's innocent voice. Maybe, he says to our female cat: "I've got you now, you cow!" or" Whatcha gonna do, huh?" or even something worse. She doesn't have a sense of humor. When Chickie is in a mood to tease her, as he is a few times a day, - she always takes it hard. I think, living on the street, she was hurt by the tom-cats and now doesn't want anything to do with the males. 
     The only male person she tolerates is my husband, Taka. Perhaps, she recognizes the authority figure in our house. She usually lets him scratch or pick her up. As soon as Sonny tries to pick her up, she warns him off in her basso: "Try that and you are dead! I'll-a take-a your face-a off!" Usually, like Chickie, he ignores the threats and picks her up anyway. Then we get to see the amazing gyrating cat, attempting at once, to get away from Sonny and also get him with one of her four paws. No matter, how many times he gets scratched, he still can't resist holding the soft, plushy kitty. She, on the other hand, can't resist the shins. Yes, the shins. Even after all the effort she puts into escaping from Sonny, if he crouches down near her, she will always come back to him and start rubbing herself on his shins. The heart wants what the heart wants!

Thursday, August 29, 2013


     My sister, who lives in Denmark, called me in the morning. She was doing something in the house and her TV was on. Suddenly, she heard a familiar voice. It sounded like our aunt, who lives in Moscow. But it couldn't be, right? 
     Wrong! It was her, our auntie, Ella, and her granddaughter, Anya, on the Russian program, The Fashion Verdict! Apparently, Ella doesn't like how her granddaughter dresses. That program is a fashion intervention. Anya brought with her some girlfriends, mother and a three years old baby. Her husband was there too but he was on the auntie's side, wanting Anya to dress better and more sexy. 
     Here is the link to the program. If you don't speak Russian, you are out of luck, but at least you can see my antie (she is the elderly lady who is called to the podium to speak first) and Anya (a young blond lady who seems to be the center of all the trouble).
     I coudn't believe it! I didn't see Ella since 1982, when we left Russia. She kept in touch with my parents and sister, but I never thought to see her again. 
     I don't recall if I ever told you how the last conversation with Ella went. I just started to work with the Amway, and Amway just started to work in Russia. Here in the States, we were looking for some contacts there, to invite them to the opening event of the Amway's activities. I called everyone in my parents' address book and woke up a few strangers as well. I, myself, stayed up most of the nights because of the time difference between Russia and Moscow. 
     One evening, my sponsors in the Amway and I gathered in my house to do some calling. Mostly, they were watching and cheering me  and another Russian speaking friend on. I found a phone number for auntie and dialed. She answered. Sometimes, there is that feeling that I get before a bad news, when I excitedly greet someone on the phone and they keep silent. Its like talking in a vacuum. One time before, I answered the call from my sister-in-law in Japan. As I babbled on, I was aware that she is about to drop a very bad news. It turned out that her four years old son with the Down Syndrome died recently. 
     It was the same kind of silence that greeted me now. Ella was not interested to talk about going to an opening event. Her son, my close cousin, was dying in the hospital from aneurysm. She ended up bitterly blaming me for only trying to contact them when I needed something. I could not argue with her: it was true, I never called before. As everyone around the table looked on, I couldn't cry or faint or anything. That's how we left things with my auntie.
     I would've never recognized her in a little heavy but bright and courageous woman in the TV program, if I didn't see her name written on the bottom of the screen. She came to the podium, told the audience about her  granddaughter (my cousin's 23 year old daughter) with clarity and aplomb. The family looked like they love each other and have a sense to laugh at themselves. Besides being out of my mind with excitement of  unexpectedly seeing my relatives, I was so moved to hear them talk about their lives and what they went through! This was a great opportunity: how else would I find out, what was happening with them and what they were like? 
     Auntie looks a lot like my mother. She talks and reasons like my mother. It was a little like seeing my mom !

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


     Goldie is back! We were watching out for the signs that she is pregnant, so she did look a little plump to us. She came once in the afternoon and - again - about midnight. She found nothing in her bowl, so she looked at me with mild rebuke and started to fanatically wash herself. I didn't know that the bowl was empty, so I was watching her for awhile. When it finally dawned on me to check, I began to coo to her, to make up for my thoughtlessness. Sylvie didn't like it one bit. She raised a few objections in a techno-like yowl. Despite that, I went out to the porch to put food in Goldie's bowl. She also, for the first time since I met her, mewed,. ran a few steps and crouched nearby. We looked at her, as she was happily gulping down the food, her thin shoulder blades moving under the pretty fur. Soon she was done and gone. 
     We briefly saw a white cat slink to the dish and sample some nutritious pellets. I feel very sorry for her. Often, she'd look into our living room with such longing. You can tell that she used to be a house cat. Now she is very skinny and her fur is dirty, like she doesn't take care of herself. With the economic downturn of 2008, even animals felt the sting of sudden poverty. A lot of pets were left homeless because some Madoffs decided to play in high finance.
     Sonny and I talked for a bit. while we made lunch for the next day. I went back to the couch after that and Sonny - to his room. As I glanced at the door to the backyard, I froze. In the light of our motion activated lamp, right by the thin screen was a fat raccoon! His bandit face was arrogantly checking out Sylvie, who was the closest to the door. I expected Sylvie to at least screech and run away,  but she just coolly returned the raccoon's stare. The animal decided that it'd better choose the food that was there for the taking. His little fist grabbed some food out of Goldie's bowl and put it into the mouth. He began to  munch in a business-like manner, his muzzle and whiskers moving fast. He was keeping an eye out for the competition, though, constantly scanning the dark yard and a room in front of him. After he has finished, he picked off a few tidbits off his bushy fur and ambled away. 


O.K., let's continue. 
     So, imagine, a stranger comes to your house, even if in the uniform of a sheriff, and asks you such intimate things! I was a bit put out, but decided not to focus on that. She made a report. Nothing, except a small digital camera, seemed to be stolen. I think, my untimely arrival interrupted the burglars. They grabbed the first thing that they saw - a camera - and ran. The sheriff and I went out to take fingerprints from windows and screens that now lay on the concrete by the side of the house. She took out ink, brush and a roll of tape for fingerprinting. In the CSI episodes, the team uses special film that is already pre-cut for that purpose. My sheriff had to tear pieces of such film off the roll with her teeth! The sticky clear paper got all warped and she muttered angrily as more and more of it littered the ground. When she managed to successfully take a fingerprint she passed a piece of the film to me to hold. "Won't my prints be also there?" -  I asked innocently. That made her mutter some more, and she proceeded to take my and Taka's prints for comparison. That was the last we saw of the sheriff or heard about our burglary. 
     A couple of months later, I discovered that a few of my dad's checks  for the amount of about $ 180 were used by someone unknown. I called the sheriff's department again. Another young lady came and took the report. She found that one of the checks was used in a grocery store and even succeeded in obtaining the video of the register transaction. She let me understand that she knew, who the perpetrator was. The next thing I know, she is transferred to another district! Despite my further inquiries, the sheriff's department shelved the case and refused to discuss it again. What could be the reason? Perhaps, the perp was a department's chef's relative? I don't know. The bank from where the checks were, added a heavy penalty on my dad. They told us that if he could not keep checks in a secure place, he didn't deserve to manage his account independently. In the end, the bank took more money from my father than the burglars! Who is a bigger thief, I ask? By the way, it was a Chase bank. Don't use it if you have a choice.
     And so ended my association with the law enforcement. I must say, I was less than impressed!


     Hey, have I ever told you about the day when we were robbed and I was a CSI? Well, listen closely!
     We moved into a new house. There were so many things to be done! One day a telephone company technician came to set up the communication and internet system. I stayed with him as long as I could, then went to pick up kids from school. They went to two different schools, in two different parts of the town. The technician assured me that he will finish the job and lock the windows and the doors. When we came back, he was gone. The doors were open, so were the windows and the crawl space under the house. Both cats were gone. Chicky was found very soon, but Sylvie... I had an idea to look for her in the crawl space (its an empty place under the house, where pipes and wires crisscross  and a sane person would never go. Sylvie was there, feeling like a queen of a realm. That was just one of the weird occurrences in the new place. 
     So, four days after moving in, I returned home around two o'clock in the afternoon. As I walked toward the door, I saw two young men running across our yard. They were going fast and didn't respond in any way, when I yelled to them: "Never come here anymore!" You see, I'm stupid that way. I didn't even think that they could turn around and attack me. You can calm down, they didn't. I put this incident out of my mind; after all, it was so innocent: two guys hanging out in a wrong place. The evening went as usual, until my husband came home and went into a bedroom. He came back with a news: the windows were open and the screens were pushed out. Someone has been in our room. 
     I called the sheriff's office. A young girl sheriff came. She began to ask questions. Some of them were very strange, like: "Do you and your husband sleep in the same bed?"  

To Be Continued....

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


     Hanah, Hanah, Hanah, what are you thinking? You are on the brink of dropping out of college, but you can't even bother to get me a phone number of your counselor at college. I e-mailed her teachers from the High School and left a message for a person from the organization called Beyond 12. They are, kind of, like big brothers and sisters who help kids through the college tribulations. I hope, we can all together find solutions for her  problems.


     What motivates people so much? I see those who take life by the gills (another Russian saying) and don't let anything or anyone stop them. Then, there are those who fizzle out all on their own, even without the external pressure to quit what they are doing. Laziness? It's interesting, the teachers and psycho-therapists don't like that word anymore. They say that behind every behavior there is a reason for it. Good reason or not - doesn't matter, the human soul learns the habit to oppose the negative influence without us being aware of it. A habit is so easy to adopt and, oh, so hard to change! Could it be just a behavior learned from the parents ? It kills me to think that I gave my children the tendency to procrastinate and lie to themselves!


     A few minor things happened today. Goldie, the little cat that we take care of, returned. She stayed away for at least a week. Roberta and I decided that she was either with her male companion of this season or having kittens. What we'll do if she has kittens, I have no idea! Anyway, she didn't look pregnant. A little plumper than usual, maybe... Uh-uh!
     I took Roberta to the Physical Therapy session. We came home right after that and found Dr. Park washing the bed linens. The floor from the laundry room to the door to the backyard had wet streaks, because the impossible man decided to bring the blanket that he washed to dry on the line outside! I don't think it can dry before the night in this cool weather, do you? To my admonishments to put it in the dryer, he only waved his hands dismissively and said: "Don't worry!" to me. I don't worry, but he will, when the night will come and Roberta has no blanket!
     My ankle got better. It took three weeks in pain and being stuck on a chair. Now it's a little stiff, - that's all. The other ankle decided that I was getting too bored with my life and began to hurt too. Not willing to endure more suffering and immobility, I did what the doctors told me not to do: I took the anti-inflamatory medicine. The ankle got better in a couple of days, and now my stomach began to send some uncomfortable twinges to my brain, like the doctors said it would, if I take that drug. Sometimes, I think that the pieces of my body want to break apart and declare independence, because I take such poor care of them. Well, that's the nature of things, isn't it?



     Do you know, what the difference is between a pessimist and an optimist? A pessimist says: "Well, it couldn't get any worse..." And an optimist replies: "It could, of course it could!!!" 
    I couldn't sleep. I mean, I slept, but my husband got up at around 5 am, and I woke up then too. After that - just turning and tossing. Bits of the Russian songs, thoughts about Hanah and her financial problems and - all kinds of nonsense - were swimming round and round in my head. I finally got up, went into the kitchen, made my husband a sandwich for lunch and tried to assess what was troubling me to keep me from sleeping. By some fluke, I found a Jenkins Family blog and read about the ordeal that they had to go through. Their little daughter was born without an anus, and they had to not just keep her alive, but also make sure that she would, eventually, have a normal life. All the pain they had to endure watching her pain, all the humiliation of dealing with the medical professionals! The mother says though, that she wishes that she had a magic mirror all those years ago to see ahead to now, when her little girl is able to enjoy life and play with the other children. To think that I am always about my kids! God help us be wise and patient! It could be so much worse! 

Monday, August 26, 2013


     What a long, boring day! My foot is practically healed, but I'm still taking it easy and not exerting it too much. I finished watching the Russian series Women's Doctor. They are very touching, and, thank God, all of the episodes have happy endings. 
     Oh, yes, I got a reply from Hanah. She wrote that her phone is out of minutes, and she needs to talk to me. After taking care of buying the minutes for her, as well as a gift card to the grocery store, I called her. Almost as an afterthought, she informed me that she couldn't get the financial aid for this semester and now has no money for rent or food. Apparently, she didn't get enough educational credits to be considered a full time student. What is in her brain - I don't know! 

Sunday, August 25, 2013


     Sitting in front of a blank page. TV does rot the brain! What can I tell you today? Should I talk about the things that I have seen or the things that I feel? 
     My mom's birthday was on the 22nd. I was not a good daughter. To tell the truth, I was self-absorbed and cruel to my parents. Maybe, it's the usual way the teens behave? My own daughter certainly does. I can't even blame her since I was the same. All I can do is try and establish some foundation for her to do better in the future. 
     My mother has been through a lot in her life. I wrote about it in the stories that I put in this blog in May. I think, there was only a small chance that she would've turned out to be a different person. Under the abuse and misfortunes we go up or down. What does it mean? We take the high road or the low road. When a child makes wrong decisions or behaves badly, does a parent blame the child or themselves? Of course, eventually, it's every person'r responsibility, what they do in their lives, but parents will always think that it's their fault, if something goes wrong in a kid's character or fortune. 
     Perhaps, I shouldn't bemoan my own fate. I have faith in my children's integrity and strength of character. Do I? It is a scary thing to be a parent!
     My mom's birthday was on the 22nd. I hope that wherever she is now, she can feel my love and appreciation for all the heart and health that she put into bringing us up. I love her.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


     It'a been a few days since I wrote anything. The primary reason for it is that I have been very busy. I'm ashamed to confess, I've been busy watching the episodes of a Russian TV show The Woman's Doctor! My sister sent them to me, and I don't know if I should thank her or yell at her. The show is not even that good. ER or Grey's Anatomy have so much more drama and substance. But The Women's Doctor still sucked me in. Although, after fifty or so episodes (I am stuck on the couch because of my tendinitis) I really began to appreciate the American medicine!
     First of all, the hospitals seem to be gravely underfunded in Russia. "You have to go to the pharmacy and buy the disposable gloves for the doctor" - says the nurse. "Here is the list of the medications and the food that your wife will need. Please buy and bring them". "The toilet bawl was broken in the patients' room. I asked them for money to replace it." Wow! Things got really bad there!
     According to that show, almost everyone takes bribes: from a receptionist to the Chief of Medicine. Everything exists on the system of who knows who. The known gangster comes to the hospital with his wife and is able to threaten and influence all of the staff. Am I naive  to assume that things are different in the United States?
     Another thing is the attitude toward alcohol. The doctors drink and offer drinks to each other during their shifts. They get totally plastered during their shifts too! But that's not the most shocking. The doctors offer cognac or even the medical alcohol to the patients! I am from Russia, but I would never imagine this kind of behavior!
     What makes me want to watch it then, you ask? The tales about women.The amazing strength that they show in their struggle to have and bring forth healthy children. The touching and tragic stories of their lives. I seems that there are also a lot of what my children and I, in the attempt to avoid cursing, call "the dogs of the female persuasion". More than in the U.S.? I don't know. Perhaps. The good, the bad and the ugly, remember? 
     Anyway, here I am, watching. Last night, woken up by my husband for the third time, while he was on a quest for entertainment, turning on the light, banging the door, turning the volume on the bedroom TV up (probably to hear it despite my snoring), I got up and went out to the living room to see some more of the Women's Doctor. Today I feel like different parts of my body are trying to declare independence and break off to go their separate ways. And I absolutely deserve it!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


     The news from Korea: at a ceremony in commemoration of Rev. Moon's passing away, two women and a man were burnt. One Japanese woman poured paint thinner on herself and a pastor of the Unification church, splashing another woman in the process, and set fire to all of them. My immediate reaction was that, I understood, why she or they (we don't know the extent of the involvement of the two more passive people in that act) did it. While I worked in the Unification church for thirty years and gave a lot of myself and in the financial sense, it's nothing comparing to our Japanese members. They carried most of the financial burden of supporting the movement, it's activities and the Moon family, besides having the incredibly humble and self-sacrificial attitude toward their missions. To come to realize after all that that they might've been taken advantage of can break anyone's spirit and bring them to the brink of insanity.
     I don't know for sure, if the group in Korea did attempt the self-immolation. The official Church version of the event is that one of the Japanese women, a mentally unstable individual, tried to burn the man, but got herself and another woman also splashed by the paint thinner. Will we ever find out the truth? I don't think so. Of course, setting oneself on fire is a pretty crazy way to punish the Moon family. Who, actually, got panished? But at least, maybe now the church members will stop pretending that nothing untoward happened and everything is just as before. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


     Have I ever told you about a guy who was also over the top angry ?
     It was in a town some place in the north of California. The day of running around, selling flowers to support my church was coming to an end. At least, the workday in the downtown was ending. Most of the businesses were closed. I ran through the empty, eerie streets. A bowling alley was open. I went inside and tried to sell flowers, but no one was interested. I still had a hope, but a huge security guard showed up and told me to leave. On the way to the door, I approached another person. The guard was right there to stop me. Did I tell you, he was huge? Well, it's an understatement! I became alarmed, because he maneuvered me between the two vending machines and blocked my way to escape. 
-"I told you that there was no soliciting in the bowling alley!" - he growled.
 He sounded just too menacing for me to mess around with him.
- "OK, OK, I'll go" - I was quick to assure him. 
I got out of there and began to walk toward the place where my van would pick me up. There were no people on the streets. The wind whirled the junk around. I can never figure out, why the American downtowns are so depressingly dirty. I heard the footsteps behind me and turned around. The security guard from the bowling alley was following me. 
-"Now I'm in real trouble" - the panic stiffened my joints and a sick feeling of dread settled in the pit of my stomach. The guard quickened his gait and caught up with me: 
-"I told you, there was no soliciting over there," - he said - "but here I can buy a rose from you!"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


     What can I say? Dr. Park and I apologized to each other, but the longer I think about it, the less I like it. He looked like he was really out of control. He banged on the table and yelled at me. Then he was sweet as molasses and went back to serving and cleaning. I don't believe that his apology was genuine, because I think that he tried to intimidate me on purpose. Nobody behaves that way toward someone while they are living in their house. He is like a hysterical teenage girl who always wants to know that she is the queen of the ball. Now I trust him less than before. 
     My husband told me once in the period when we were fighting all the time, that I should start worrying not when he behaves as a nasty beast but when he starts smiling. Dr. Park is smiling, after behaving like a nasty beast. The trouble is coming!


     Hmm, for now, the life normalized. Dr. Park talked to Roberta behind the closed doors. I could only hear his raised voice. He hopped back into the living room and stared at me for awhile. I bit my tongue, because making things worse is not in my interest. "OK, I talked to Dr. Burson (Roberta). I am sorry that I got upset, but I have all these thinking!" I also apologized for shouting at him. He proceeded to tell me all his grievances, without, actually, saying what is bothering him. I know what is bothering him. He wants to get payed for taking care of Roberta. I get that paycheck, and we need the money. I didn't invite him to come and take over for me. I didn't ask him to clean or cook! I did it all by myself before he came. Besides, he is living here without paying for the room or the electricity or even food. Sometimes, he would fill the car's tank or buy some groceries, without me asking him to do so. I think, he should be honest about the reason why he is so mad. Not that I will let him have that money.
     Anyway, even though I and Roberta thought that he will leave, he managed to swallow his pride and went back to his usual routine. 


     Well, it came to blows! At least, - the blows on the table and the shouting. Last night I decided to give Dr. Park a break. The weather is very hot, and he looked mighty worn out making dinner the night before. So, I said: "Let's buy food this evening!" He readily agreed. Roberta and I went to an appointment and then, tired not only from the heat but also from Dr. Park's surliness, had some dinner and talked. We did bring a lot of stuff home, but I don't think that that was what set Dr. Park off. He stormed around all evening, but this morning was much worse. He blamed me for spending too much money (my money), but the real thing that upset him was that Roberta ate dinner with me - without him. "It's not a Korean custom!" - he yelled. Since I was already upset, I replied: "If you wanted a Korean woman, you should've married a Korean woman." That inflamed him ever further. "You have bad habits! Your family has bad habits! I don't like it!" He screamed and banged on the table. Unfortunately, I am also not a Korean woman. I yelled back: "Do not bang on the table and scream at me in my own house!" Of course, that didn't stop him. 
     The problem with such confrontations is that they need to be resolved. How the heck am I going to do that? He will now want to take Roberta with him and move out. She doesn't want to go, but will she hold out under his pressure? 
     Now he is shouting and demanding some answers from Roberta. Should I have kept my mouth shut? If I was twenty five years old, I might've done it. Now, I don't think I should let someone who is not even related to me treat me that way!

Monday, August 19, 2013


     On Sunday morning, we went to my parents' cemetery in the city of Colma. Taka, who for about a month now postponed that outing, wanted to go early, so that we could also come back early enough for him  to spend some time with his favorite wife. You've got it: the computer! I wanted to act the conscientious wife and include him in that trip, so I meekly agreed to leave our house at 8:30 Sunday morning. Dr. Park, who dressed in his best suit and Roberta, who didn't, also joined us. Taka drove. Colma is about 40 minutes away from us. We've been there many times, so we quickly found our way. We stopped at the store to get flowers. The Jewish tradition is to leave a stone on a grave, but I didn't have any stones this time. Hanah once found and stored a dozen beautiful rocks in the van's glove compartment just for the purpose of bringing them to the Grandparents' graves, but Dr. Park, in his enthusiastic quest for cleanliness, threw them away. It's OK, my mother loved flowers. I remember the first Christmas that we spent together. I brought a Poinsettia plant to my parents' house. When  my mom opened the door and saw it, she only had eyes for the bright red leaves of that strikingly beautiful plant. She didn't even try to greet me or Taka, she just preferred her hands forward for the flowers!
     The Eternal Home Cemetery looked very calm and clean that morning. The fresh green of the grass and the flowers on some graves contrasted sharply with the gray or black obelisks. My parents have modest grave markers that lie flat on the grass. The marble on my mom's marker and the lettering have faded somewhat, but her face smiles just the way it did on the day that we took that picture. 
     We were visiting Taka's family in Japan. I wrote about it in the story called The Cities, published in this blog. After the festivities that included the whole Toyoda clan ended, his parents took us to a hot springs resort in the mountains. It was lovely there. I truly loved staying in a Japanese style place, instead of in one of those boxy rooms that look exactly alike in every hotel in the world. At dinner time, all of us filed into a large suite, that was also Taka's parents' bedroom. Because it was a bedroom, the smaller kids (the Japanese children are adorable!) were rolling and wrestling in the folded futons. 
     Sonny's five year old cousin, Serena, for the nth time during that trip, found him and took him to where the action was. Like puppies, they jumped onto the soft mattresses and blankets and commenced a terrific wrestling match. Serena won. All of us applauded her efforts. My mother chose that moment to make her grand entrance. She wore a simple kimono. It suited her really well. She was warmly greeted by everyone. Mom always struggled with the inferiority complex, but this was one of the rare times when she felt at ease. Her picture shows it. 
     Dad gazed at us from his photo on the marker with his characteristic humor and humility. I liked his purple silk shirt that he was wearing on that photo.
      I miss him so much!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


     Dr. Park was in awe: "I watched a movie last night for three and a half hours! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly! No commercial breaks. Wow!" His Korean accent became more pronounced. "The Good. The Bad. And - the Ugly!" Mmm. The name seemed to make the deepest impression on him. 
     I think that movie is too long, but I also like the title the most. It seems to describe the population of this world. The Americans, who try to find "happy endings" in everything, or, perhaps, are the happy innocents who try to see good in everyone, often asked me: "But the people Russia are good, right? It's the government that's bad!" I learned to answer: "Like everywhere in the world, there are the good, the bad and the ugly people in Russia. And it's the abetting, the enabling of the government that makes it so bad in there." The cronies, the butt kissers, the ready-for-action executioners and enforcers - they make it look like the people are in on the decisions and laws that create the atmosphere of unreal terror and oppression. That is also the reason why I could never like the butt-kissing and the leaping to action in my church. "Oh, someone made a mistake, let's get him! Let's pronounce him the Devil! Who can outdo me?" And there are always those who try to outdo each other in their unholy fervor.

Friday, August 16, 2013


     Oh, My God!  As I crawled out of the van, I wished, I could kiss the ground under my feet! It took Sonny and me 3 hours to go down one street, do an errand there and drive to a couple more stores in Hayward, our city. Sonny, the proud owner of a Learner's Driving Permit, drove. I sat in the passenger's seat and thought of a better way to go, as well as, time to time, trying to engage the imaginary break on my side of the car. 
     Sonny is a great kid. Any mother, especially, some of the mothers that I know, would give their eye teeth to have a boy like that. He is polite, most of the time and - always - to me, helpful, studies hard, in other words, a good boy scout. But he is very stubborn. "Slower!!!" - I yell, standing on the, above mentioned, imaginary break. He takes his sweet time deciding, if I am right in asking him to go slower. "Turn here" - I tell him. He argues that I didn't give him enough time before the turn. At one point, in heavy traffic, he revved the car and jumped forward, in spite of a million vehicles standing in front of us. I pinched his bare arm! 
- "Ouch, that really hurts! 
- "Good, now every time in your life when you want to do something risky and foolish, you'll remember and feel this pinch!"

Thursday, August 15, 2013


What? When? Why? How? Who? 
     The basics of any tale. 
     'What' is the beginning. No. 'Why' is. Why are we like that?  Why do we do the things we do? St. Paul said it in the Bible. He said something like: "The things I don't want to do I do, and the things that I want to do - I don't do." What the heck does it mean? 
     I feel so frustrated with myself: it's like I have a little worm in me, that eats up at my will power. I have high ideals and, most of the time, know, what the right thing to do is. But... it's a long way - from knowing to doing it. Why? The sin? Is it my own shortcoming or the result of the wrong kinds of behavior by many of my ancestors? 
     Yes, what? It's easy to decide, what I should do. It's very easy to make a mistake and decide that you know, what the right things for the others are, and the more we are sure, the more it is possible to lead someone or even a whole nation astray. 
The human history is tens of thousands years old, although, some think that it all began less than 6,000 years ago. 6,000 years, and we still are barbarians, when it comes to the way we treat the fellow human beings and our blue planet. We are pack animals. We need the leaders, who will show us the way out of this mess. Who are they? My experience is that we are able to sort things out in spite of our leaders, no matter how devoted we are to out beliefs. Who will, finally, make that 100% commitment and be prepared not only to give their lives for the betterment of the world but will also sacrifice their egos, if necessary, to achieve the peace, the justice, the well being for the people of this Earth? Many have tried, not many have managed to do it.
     Maybe, there isn't just one way. It seems that, like I said, the more sure we are that ours is the only true way, the more assured is our failure. Perhaps, we should combine our efforts and trust each other enough to work together. We can be loving as Christians, devoted as Muslims and Jews, reverent as the Buddhists, and open-minded as the New Agers! 
     'When'? Now. There is no time to waste. Now! Now! 


     Today is the Day of Independence of Korea from Japan. My Korean lodger told me. He showed me the pictures of the Japanese soldiers abusing the Korean men and women. When a country or one culture declares everyone else to be barbarians or inferior to themselves, you can be sure, they'll end up committing barbarian acts. 
     I come from the Jewish background, from Russia. What German Nazis did to my people is forever stamped on my and others' mind. Although, my parents told me how a little Russian Grandma in their communal flat continually bemoaned the fact that Hitler couldn't finish what he started with the Jews! But that's not my point. My point is that, every culture does those things to others. Its very hard for me to say it, but Jews are not blameless in the struggle with the Palestinians. My young relative visited us from Israel. I opened my big mouth and began asking him questions, trying to ascertain, what the position of the Palestinians is in the Israeli society. He was at a loss. "We don't have any Palestinian acquaintances," - he said - "those people are, kind of, a lower class in Israel." All I know is, if a people are kept down, not given equal opportunities or a hope for the better future for their children, they will rebel. 
     I stopped watching movies about the Holocaust. What's the point? I will never forget the things that I already know, seeing them again will only make me vulnerable to bitterness and depression. The most beautiful people I ever met were German. I have no resentment toward that nation anymore. The Soviet Union and it's satellites did worse things to their own people and the world - and for much longer. Do we just keep rehashing the past hurts and gnaw our teeth at each other? My Korean lodger refuses to even listen to anybody who is Japanese. That doesn't make him a better person! It doesn't make the world a better place! SOME OF THE OTHER MOST BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE THAT I KNOW ARE THE JAPANESE!
     Dr. Park is 73 years old. It's hard for him to change the way he thought his whole life, I understand. It's up to those who are still flexible in their thinking and care about the world. It's up to us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


     My cat, Chicken Bone, was trying all night to look cute. The reason for it is: a bucket of KFC chicken in the fridge. Usually, the cats bide their time, sleeping in various places around the house. I think they are working for some organization, that requires them to try out everything in the house for it's potential for eating, sleeping on, playing with or defending as one's personal property.  I had the first inkling of that when I bought a new baseball glove for Sonny. The glove lay on the rug. Two minutes later, Sylvie was lying next to the glove. When Chickie appeared, walking confidently into his domain (everything is his domain), and decided to investigate the glove, Sylvie quickly informed him that she was the glove's owner, by hissing, spitting and swiping at him with her impressive claws. That kind of thing happens every time there is something new in the house. Many a time we almost packed one of the cats in a suitcase, because they can't stay away from anything new that's dug out of the closet. 
     We now have a new TV. Whoa, you might say, the cats don't care about the TV! Yeah, they don't. They care about the low table on which the TV stands. You see, the table has two long open shelves. They are perfect for the cat-recreation! Both of them tried to fit into the shelves. Sylvie is very clumsy, for a cat. She fell out (with a thump) from the higher one. That didn't stop her from making a comfortable place to rest on the lower shelf. Sometimes, I get a nasty turn, when I suddenly notice two glowing eyes looking at me from the dark recess of the table. Chickie is a philosopher. He reconciled himself with Sylvie owenig the shelf. His new mission  last night was to eat as much chicken as possible, before someone would notice and yell and stomp and make him leave the irresistible fare. A few times I caught him on the table, with his head buried in the KFC bucket. Finally, since I can't run over there quickly enough because of my tendinitis, Sonny grabbed Chickie and stuck him in his room. We heard him trying to break out of it for a long time. A few hours later, Sonny suddenly slapped himself on the forehead: "Oops, I forgot Chickie in my room!" 
     The cat showed up, looking at us bitterly. By then, the KFC was in the refrigerator. Chickie lay down on the couch next to me and waited. Sure enough, Sonny got hungry again soon (he eats a lot, but about every third day of the week. In between - he hibernates). Chickie is very handsome, with his mascara lines on the face, bold strokes of black across his legs and chest (as if someone painted those lines with a brush), big soulful (rascally) eyes and little tufts on his ears. He can also look very, very cute, when he wants to. He pretended to sleep, sometimes turning onto his back, to show us his soft, fuzzy belly, sometimes covering his eyes and nose with one of his paws. At the first sign of chicken in Sonny's hand, though, the cat was right there, in Sonny's face, meowing and making a nuisance of himself. He did get some morsels to eat from Sonny and also chomped down on the bones. For a long time we were afraid to give him chicken bones (and not only for the fear of him becoming a cannibal: see his own name). He convinced us that he is capable of demolishing the bones without any ill effect to himself. 
     Today is a new day and - a new mission. Chickie was convinced that he just must get into our bedroom. He and Sylvie are banned from it, because they explore every possible inch of the room and mess up Taka's perfect arrangement of the computers (his favorite wives), as well as many stacks of letters that he has piled up on every surface of the room, except bed. 
     As soon as I opened a door, Chickie, who sat right at the crack of it, tried to sneak in. I, in my turn, tried to prevent him from doing it with my new best friend - the cane. Chickie won. As soon as I felt myself swaying precariously on my poor feet, I gave up and closed the door on him in the room. Bonne chance, mon petit!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


     Life is so interesting. I just finished writing Moriko. It wasn't very popular with the people who read my blog. Why, I don't know. Maybe, the movie will have more success? Just kidding!
     Anyway, I just finished Moriko and was feeling that emptiness again. What now? Will I ever find something to get interested in, to feel in my bones and fingers when I write it? Then the UCMagazine wrote and asked about preparing my stories for publishing. That gave me something to do for a day or two. Now I'm in that space again, doubting my abilities and staring at the blank page. 
     Perhaps, I make too much of my abilities. Who needs to hear my little tales and ravings? I only know that writing and finding the words in which to put my feelings and memories is already a reason enough for me to live. I feel the life to the fullest when I can't sleep, eat or watch TV because the words keep whirling and arranging themselves in my brain.

     Pushkin, the Russian poet, wrote this: 
I loved you: and, it may be, from my soul
The former love has never gone away,
But let it not recall to you my dole;
I wish not sadden you in any way. 

I loved you silently, without hope, fully,
In diffidence, in jealousy, in pain;
I loved you so tenderly and truly, 
As let you else be loved by any man. 

© Copyright, 1996
Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, August 1995,
Edited by Dmitry Karshtedt, July 1996.

 I love Pushkin's works because he, somehow, wrapped great sincerity and passion into the form that would best convey his thoughts and feelings.
     I wonder if each of us has an ability to put our passion into the form that is the closest to our heart. For some it may be a poem, for some - a meal, and for others - a golf stroke. What is it for you then?

Monday, August 12, 2013


     How can life suck so much and still be so good? Having the foot pain, I don't even get out in the open air, but I am thrilled that the sun is shining and the sweet smell from the pepper berry tree is wafting through the house. On Sunday, Taka brought some blackberries and wild strawberries from the garden. 
     Two things happened today. First, I received an email from the UCMagazine. They want to publish my stories. It's amazing, people want things from you, but they then treat you like you are the one owing them money. I sent them my stories for free, they said, they will publish them in August, but when I tried to find out if they are really going to do it, I got a letter from my contact there, telling me not to crowd his mail box! Now he wrote again. He combined the pieces of my writing to make a comprehensive story. It stunk! All my stories are on this blog, you might've read them. In his interpretation they lost all character and 'mine-ness!' I spent most of the day trying to create something like what he wanted. I have no college degree or work in a magazine, but my work is much better than his. 
     Another unpleasant surprise came in the afternoon. I wrote my Nurse-Practitioner at Keiser, saying that, perhaps, she can suggest something for me to relieve pain. A different doctor wrote back. Here is what he said:
The advice given at your appointment was the same as that you got for a similar problem when seed by the specialist in Podiatry, Dr McDaniels In 2008. Would follow that for several weeks. If not improved the next step would be to see podiatry.

     Never mind the mistakes in English, what that "Doctor" actually said, was: "We told you in 2008 that we can't or won't do anything about your suffering. We don'r care, if there were any new treatments found for your malady. We won't look for any. Just take what we told you and shut up. Here is what I answered to that:

    If you think that the response: "we told you the same thing in 2008" is adequate to treat your patient in pain, then you really deserve all the bad publicity. You didn't get any better since 2008? Are you a real doctor, "Dr."? I think, even in 2008 I was offered some physical therapy! Wow! What a way to welcome new patients! Maybe, next time I'll go to the county hospital!

    And still, Life is beautiful!


A song by Bulat Okudzhawa

Mozart is playing on an old violin
Mozart is playing, and the violin is singing.
Mozart doesn't choose  a Fatherland,
He just plays his whole life through.

Ah, its OK that always, as we know,
Our fate is, sometimes - a feast
And, sometimes - a shoot out.
Don't forget the hope, maestro,
Don't take that hand off your brow!

Short are our young years:
One moment, and they will dissipate, 
Like in the fire:
The red coat, the golden shoes,
The white wig and the lace cuffs.

Ah, its OK that always, as we know,
Our fate is, sometimes - a feast
And, sometimes - a shoot out.
Don't forget the hope, maestro,
Don't take that hand off your brow!

Somewhere, at the last stop,
We'll say: "thanks!" even to this fate, 
But let's not make idols out of 
Our nations' transgressions.

Ah, its OK that always, as we know,
Our fate is, sometimes - a feast
And, sometimes - a shoot out.
Don't pay any attention, maestro,
Don't take your hand off your brow!


     The light muzak is drifting from the telephone receiver next to me on the couch. Time to time, a voice interrupts it to inform me: "Currently, there are twenty seven callers ahead of you!" When I started all this, there were thirty four callers ahead of me. Perhaps, in an hour, it will be my turn. 
     Well, at least, they let me know, what my progress is. I often call to different places that put me on hold for indefinite periods of time. A few years back, I had to call the computer company that sent us an inadequate computer. They made me hold for forty five minutes and then cut off the connection. It happened a couple of times. I was at my wits' end and never really got what I wanted. Some people who answered, were openly mocking my rage: "What are you going to do? You can't reach me! My supervisor doesn't care, what's happening at the phone center!" 
     Now, there are eighteen people ahead of me. Or, maybe, they are just messing with my head and any time I'll hear the 'click' of disconnecting or,even worse, the count will restart again, from the thirty four callers ahead of me!