The Trials of Grandpa Zhenya Chapters Nine and Ten.

I am playing with a new title for the Wacky Look @ Russian History.


Chapter Nine:  The Dreams of Grandpa Zhenya, Good or Nightmares?


The family let Grandpa lay where he was; snoring, his face flat on the table.    The vodka made his mind dance like the Sugar Plum Fairies. In between, the 1812 Overture, would wander through his mind.  The dreams were taking over. The vodka intake stopped, only because he was out like a light, and didn’t get up to drink anymore.  The Battle on the Ice from the movie Alexander Nevsky started playing through his mind. He thought he was Alexander, drawing his sword, as the Teutonic Knights and allies charged across the ice, like demented ice hockey players.  He slew many of the enemy and was the hero of Russia.

Then, the sky grew black and the Mongols, came, stealing what he had.  The Poles also attacked him. Then God came to him. Zhenya, Russia needs you again.  The enemy is within. He woke up startled.  “The enemies are at the gates, we must fight!”  His shouting brought Natasha running in. “The only enemy insight the gates is you, you old fool.  That’s right, wake the entire house up on a Saturday.”

At least Grandpa Zhenya succeeded in something.  He woke the house up. Anton shrugged, when Ivan came downstairs, Grandpa screamed, “Boy, bolt the door, the enemy is here!”

Ivan figured he’d better play along.  He couldn’t resist some sarcasm. “Don’t worry, Sergei isn’t coming, he doesn’t need you to dress him.”

Everyone, except Grandpa laughed.  Grandpa muttered, “No one is serious anymore.  We are vulnerable, and no one in this family sees the danger.”

Galina angrily lifted a vodka bottle.  “Dad, I’m holding the enemy by the neck!”    She proceeded to pour the bottle contents into the sink.  She went to the cabinet, grabbed the five full bottles and poured them down the sink.  Grandpa Zhenya could only croak, “My medicine.”

“No, Dad, the enemy and it can now kill roaches and rats in the sewers.  I’ve done a major public service. I will attempt to save you from yourself.  You may die from this, or the booze, but you will die eventually. Consider this your rebirth, as a man and a Russian.”

“Bah, I’m taking a walk.”  Grandpa stumbled getting up, and out the door.”

“Probably going to that stupid veterans club.”

“I thought they barred him,” Anton said quizzically.

“They’re drunks, they may not remember,” Grandma Natasha mumbled.

Grandpa stumbled down the street, to the veterans club.  The general greeted him at the door. Zhenya, you are no longer welcome.  You disobeyed orders, and shamed us. You can’t be here, I’m sorry, goodbye.”  The general slammed the door in Zhenya’s face.

Zhenya walked down the street.  You’d think he would be dejected.  “I’ll show them,” Zhenya muttered. “They will come running back to me!  I will lead them!”

The only place, Grandpa would’ve led anyone was into traffic.  There was a screech of brakes, and the next thing Zhenya knew, two police officers, were holding him.

“Sir, are you all right?” the younger of the two asked gently.

“Of course, I’m alright, young pup.  There are terrible things in this country.  You need to be going after them. Why are you holding me?”

“Sir, you wandered out into the road.  We nearly hit you. We will take you to the hospital to check you out to make sure you’re ok.”

Grandpa never disobeyed the legal authorities.  He felt he needed to go, to prevent more trouble.  He may not have agreed, but at this point, even Grandpa had his limits of how much far, he could go.

The police officers got him to the local hospital.  Grandpa felt as though he was having army physicals again.  He was x rayed, had blood work done., and was poked and prodded.

The police officers asked the first doctor if he was drunk.  The doctor responded, “He is drunk. He is a sick man, thanks to the drink.  I’m going to have our psychiatrist speak with him.”

Grandpa was dressed in a hospital gown, with the two cops sitting with him.  Grandpa regaled the cops with stories of Afghanistan, while the cops listened politely   Then, SHE entered the room.


Chapter Ten.  Grandpa Zhenya and Dark, Exotic, Beauties.

She entered the room.  She nodded to the two police officers, as if she’d seen them before, then smiled and bowed to Zhenya.  She was taller then Zhenya in her heels, her perfume and looks provided a spot of beauty, in the drab Stalinist era room.  The two police officers kept their professional stance, Zhenya, hid his fear. He wasn’t used to being sober for this long.  Looking at Zhenya, she asked softly, “Sir, please wait, I will be right back. Zhenya thought she was teasing him. What is it with these dark women trying to seduce me, Zhenya thought with fear.  

The woman motioned for the two police officers to follow her outside.  They did, while Zhenya sat on the bed, becoming more and more frightened.   

In the hall, she asked in a bored voice,  “Why did you need me?”

The older police officer responded:  “He staggered in front of our police car.  We realized he’d been drinking, we also wondered if he was suicidal.  He’s been bending our ear, about young people threatening the security of Russia, and dark people threatening everyone, and his service in Afghanistan.”

She smiled.  She’d asked questions of many such men.  More interesting than right wing soccer thugs.  She asked the police officers to return to Zhenya, while she called a colleague.

The older police officer got Natasha’s phone number, and called.  He explained the basics, to which Natasha responded with, “Is the old fool under arrest?”

“No, we’re concerned for his welfare.  We are waiting for the shrink to see him”

“Ah, a shrink, very good.  Maybe the old fool will come out of this.  How long are you planning to keep him?”

“No word on that yet.”

“Good, we’ll have peace and quiet in the house.”

The police officer sighed.  “We’ll keep you abreast of further developments.”

“You do that,” Natasha laughed.

The rest of the family heard Grandma’s side of the conversation.  “Maybe Dad is finally getting help,” Galina sighed.

“We’ll find out if he’s beyond help,” Grandma mumbled.

The police officer told Grandma he would keep them informed and hung up.

The dark featured psychiatrist called her friend and colleague Svetlana.  “I have a case you may want to sit in on.”

“I’ll be right there.”

Drs. Svetlana Borodin and Dr. Olga Ulyanova were about to enter the room and shake Grandpa Zhenya’s world.

When both entered the room, the police officers left, and Grandpa sat straight up, as though at attention.  Dr. Ulyanova was the dark beauty, Zhenya met first. Dr. Borodin, was a blonde blue eyed woman. Both were tall, even taller, in their heels, and now the mix of perfumes, really had Zhenya paying attention.  He was more drunk on perfume now then vodka.

Dr. Ulyanov spoke first.  “I am Dr. Olga Ulyanov, my colleague Dr. Svetlana Borodin.”

Zhenya grumbled, “Is this a musical revolution?”

He panicked, when neither lady laughed.  The poker professional face was the same.  Zhenya continued. “Dr. Ulyanova what are you?”

If Dr. Ulyanova was thrown by the question, she didn’t show it.  She answered slowly, “I’m a Chuvash woman.”

“My God, another foreigner.”

Dr. Borodin chimed in.  “We’re all Russians here, but this isn’t about us, but about you, sir.”

“You maybe, but not the Chuvash woman.”

“Let’s get back to you, sir.”

“You mean, you get to know all about me, but I don’t get to know anything about you?”

“We are the doctors, you’re our patient.  We will help you”

“How will you help?” Zhenya cried hoarsely.  Will you two help me help our beloved leader clear our nation of evil?”

“What is this evil?”  Dr. Borodin said softly.  Zhenya thought she was purring, like a cat.  He never trusted cats, and he thought Dr. Borodin was the ultimate cat.  

“I really have to explain this to you ladies?  Our beloved President Putin is in danger.”

“From whom?” Dr. Ulyanov asked.  The professional demeanor never ended.

“From the Jewish peril within!  From the Poles and Angela Merkel!  

The two doctors, nodded, as though on cue.  

“Please excuse me,” Dr. Ulyanov, said softly, leaving Dr. Borodin in the room.

While Dr. Ulyanov was out, Zhenya tried to win Dr. Borodin over.

“Doctor, can you trust a non-Russian friend?”

Dr. Borodin, just smiled.

At that point, Dr. Ulyanov returned with the two police officers.   “The police officers will take you home, sir.”

There was silence, as the two police officers drove Zhenya home.  They knocked on the door and Natasha answered. “So you brought the old fool home?  Is he cured?”

The older police officer just muttered, “Please take care of him,” beating a hasty retreat as to not answer any more questions.  

“Natasha practically shoved Zhenya into the house and sat him down roughly on the sofa.

The rest of the family looked on quizzically.   

“Well, you old fool.  What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Woman, there is much work to do.”

“Yeah, clean up the house.”

“No save a country.”

“Oh dear God,” Galina muttered.  Anton and Ivan maintained their stone faced demeanor, continued from the night of the debate.

Grandpa Zhenya slept fitfully, dreaming of beautiful women, who he thought were bringing the state down.

He woke up the following morning, and decided to go into the center of Moscow.  He walked along the Moscow River, deep in thought, until he heard shouting. He ran into a Nationalist demonstration.  He saw some of his comrades from the Veterans Club there. He grabbed a Russian flag, and as the march began, he went to the front, like Charlie Chaplin in the movie Modern Times.  The march ran into another march; a women’s march. Zhenya read the banners. The banners were in Polish and Russian, stating they were a Polish Russian peace and friendship march.

Zhenya was sober, but now it was hard to tell, if that was a good thing.  He moved as quickly as an older gent could ahead of the Nationalist marchers and toward the women.  He shouted loudly, “Which of you bitches are the Poles?”

“I am,” a stout woman in front said with a smile.

“You are defiling, our sacred Russian soil with your presence.”

“No, you are with your medieval attitudes, am I right, sisters?”

Cries of “Da” and “Tak” came from the other marchers.

The Nationalists were coming up fast.  Zhenya slapped the Polish woman on the jaw.  He shook his hand from the pain. Before he could raise a hand again, a stout hand grabbed it.  Two helmeted, strong riot police shoved Zhenya out of the crowd, and into a police van, with other Nationalists.  Finally, Zhenya was in trouble with people who agreed with him. They all saw it as they were the good guys and when President Putin heard of their plight, he would save them.  The van carried them off to Police Headquarters. There would be many more arrests that day.

The police called the house again.  When told about the arrest, Natasha started laughing.  The police officer was bewildered at her laughter.

“Well, the old fool has upped his game.  Yesterday, he was nearly hit by a police car and taken to see two shrinks.”

The cop just listened.  He dealt with rioters in Moscow, not old men stumbling in front of police cars.  


Chapter Ten:  Grandpa Zhenya Goes Before the Magistrate:

The courtroom was rowdy.  Many Nationalists were being read charges.  When it was Zhenya’s turn, his family were nervous about him going in front of the judge.  

The magistrate asked Zhenya if he punched the Polish woman.  

Zhenya smiled.  “Yes I did! I struck a blow for Mother Russia!”

“No sir, you did not,” the young magistrate said in a dull voice.  “You struck a guest in our country, who was marching peacefully with Russian women…”

“So you’re a traitor too.  The police, the doctors, the teachers, you?”

The magistrate continued.  “Sir, I don’t want to put you in jail.  I will turn you over to your family, but you’re under house arrest.  You can’t take the law into your own hands. You can only leave your house to see,  the psychiatrists I’m sending you too. You will also be weaned off the liquor. We will try and save you.  You can go.”

The family filed out.  When they got home, Galina said softly, “Dad, you’re finally getting help, I’m glad.”



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Happy Birthday, Aunt Susi

Your aunt was a friend of mine.

History & Wine

Today, January 22nd, would have been my Aunt Susi’s 66th birthday. I remember her being very excited about turning 65 last year, as she was finally eligible for Medicare. She had struggled without health insurance for some time, and finally, she had the security of knowing that she could not be denied health coverage.

Unfortunately, her illness had progressed too far by the time that she was able to seek treatment. She passed away last October from complications related to bone, brain, and breast cancer.

In honor of her birthday today, I’m going to share another email from her that she sent me two years ago on her birthday. She decided to tell me about one of her more adventurous birthdays in NYC. This particular birthday of hers was spent with some of her favorite people from the folk band, Schooner Fare.

As it’s my birthday, I’m also thinking…

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Eric Braeden’s Autobiography I’ll Be Damned. Brief Review and Personal Thoughts.

For those who don’t know who Eric Braeden is, he’s an actor, whose longest and best known role is as the long time repellent character Victor Newman in The Young and the Restless.  I like characters who are villains.  I remember his role in the Rat Patrol.    

    I picked the book up on the new bookshelf at my local library; the Murphy-Wilmot Branch of the Pima County Library, Tucson, Arizona.  It’s one of my Saturday routines.  

      The book is easy reading, but that doesn’t make it simple.  In it’s short page length, it covers more than just being about an acting career and celebrities.  

Mr. Braeden also pays attention to history and the world in general.  He was born in Northern Germany, in 1941. Even though, I’m a history buff, you don’t need me to tell you what was going on.  His father was mayor of their town, but that in some ways made life difficult.

After the war, his father had to spend a year in a reeducation camp, and not long after he died.  It certainly made Mr. Braeden resilient, as he tells the story of traveling to school, going through his school day, then getting home, and maybe…or maybe not eating.

With money saved, he was able to save money, get to this country, and to use the old phrase, the rest is history.

I wanted to write something personal, from my humble point of view.  Did I mention history? I thought so.

Mr. Braeden talked about asking his mother about what went on during World War II.  How the actor, Curt Jurgens suggested he return to Germany, so he wouldn’t have to play Nazis all the time.  I won’t give the rest of the book away, but here is my personal take.

I’m an American with 95% Ashkenazic Jewish ancestry.  My ancestors were from what’s now Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine.  You may understand why most Jews in the United States aren’t fond of Germany and or Eastern Europe.  Reminds of an apocryphal story. Jewish man buys a Mercedes. (I own a beat up 15 yr. Old vehicle, I bought at an auction.  I am not rich, but it has enough dents to scare those with new vehicles). His relatives are horrified. You would buy a car from Nazis?  His response? If those Nazis knew how happy their car made this Jew, they would die.

Where am I going with this?  I didn’t have a typical Jewish upbringing in the United States.  My father, Marvin Charton, was a Chemistry professor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.  His research gained him colleagues and friends worldwide, including Germany and Poland among others.  Places you’d think I was supposed to be repelled by.  Two of his Polish friends saw me as a surrogate nephew.  I’ve visited them in Poland. There’s a moral to this story and I bring it up here, because Mr. Braeden had to put up with it.  Being born during the Nazi Era does not, in itself make one an enemy. I shouldn’t have to say this, but people are people, and he talks about those issues in the book.

OK, there is my personal input.  Purchase, or go to your library new book shelf and read the book.  Nuff said.

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A Warped Look at Russian History, Debate Beginnings.

Chapter Seven:  Debate Preparation:

Mrs. Ivanova planned the debate with the help of her Principal and the coordinator at the Veterans Club.   She could’ve done without some of the help, but there was not much choice. Local politicians were informed and wanted in on the act.  

People  all over the area had opinions.  Mostly older people of a more nationalist bend wanted the nine year olds put in place by the veterans.  Others thought it was wrong, that the veterans would bully the youngsters and it would be fixed in favor of the veterans anyway.    Natasha, Galina, and Anton were rooting for the kids. The debate was planned for a month later, on a Friday night.

Grandpa was excited and bragging.  Ivan, listened carefully to Grandpa.  He might give something away for the debate.  

The debate coincided with President Putin’s inauguration.  Russian nationalists were feeling high from President Putin’s victory.  

      The veterans club was happier than usual, with thicker cigarette smoke and more food and vodka circulating through the building.  Mr. Kirilenko was selected to present the nationalist side, Ivan’s friend Sergei, was selected by the class to present the student side.

Nine year olds vs. nationalist combat veterans, may seem like David vs. Goliath.

This, however, is the see saw that is modern, post Soviet, post Yeltsin Russia.

The debate was set for a Friday night a month after the Presidential Inauguration.  A local Duma member provided food, which included salads, smoked fish and bread. It was decided, a Mr. Rybkov, who also fought in Afghanistan, and was an advisor, during the Soviet Era in Angola would be the leadoff speaker for the veterans, with Mr. Kirilenko as the second team member.  The veterans figured the youngsters would be awed by a veteran of the Great Patriotic War. Ivan’s half Uzbek, friend Sergei would be leadoff speaker for the class, with a girl with blonde curls named Lara, named after the character in Dr. Zhivago. Mrs. Ivanov, would be the debate coach for the kids, the veterans felt they knew their case cold.

Mrs. Ivanova told the kids how proud of them she was.  She coached them on how to be polite with the answers and not allow the veterans to pick on them.  

The judges would be, two local politicians, on different sides, a police official,  the school principal, and a Russian History professor at Moscow State University. The moderator was to be a Moscow State librarian, Dr. Elena Svaboda who kept track of sources used, and could take points away, like a soccer referee, for inappropriate contact.  Normally, Dr. Svaboda would have been judge as well, but for political reasons, the five judges were chosen. Not that the veterans thought they needed to do any research for the debate: They felt their lives spoke for the life and soul of Russia. Mrs. Ivanova on the other hand, made sure there were sources used.  She had them working on the level of high school students. This was important, as the youngsters were David to the veterans Goliath, right down to physical size. The class would need all the help they could get.

All of Mrs. Ivanova’s class practised for the debate, in case replacements were needed.  The veterans’ “practices,” consisted of eating, laughing, and a lot of vodka. They were very confident, well a little liquor, goes a long way in the confidence department, as Grandpa Zhenya proves quite frequently.  

Mrs. Ivanova, on the other hand, has made learning fun, while keeping her young charges disciplined.  Even when they did well, she pushed them hard.

A Nationalist politician in the Duma, finally felt he needed to take the veterans in hand.  As a former general in Afghanistan, they felt that had to pay attention to him. Every day, at the veterans club, he kept them off the vodka and made sure they followed the rules of the debate.  The general was less concerned with them being articulate, more concerned with their dress and discipline.

Home life was interesting.  Grandpa couldn’t drink at the Veterans Club, and Natasha controlled the bottle at home.  Grandpa would needle Ivan about debating his betters, but angry looks from the women of the house, and Galina’s husband Anton, kept Grandpa in check.  Grandpa muttered about being back in Afghanistan. Ivan practiced, and read, with the approval of the rest of the family.


Chapter Eight:  The Debate.

By Debate Night, as the media now knew it, oligarchs and celebrities were showing up as well.  The debate had to be moved to an auditorium at Moscow State. Those favoring the veterans hoped the large venue, would intimidate the kids.  If that was the intent, the kids seemed to be enjoying their jockeying.

You’d think the Russian leadership, with all Russia’s problems wouldn’t have the time to worry about a local debate between veterans and nine year old schoolchildren.  You’d be wrong. One nationalist politician in an interview told the television interviewer this was a debate for the soul of Russia. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

When seated, the proceedings were introduced by a local reporter.  The kids were allowed to go first. Lara started to present their case.    She spoke in a soft kind voice, respectful of all.

“ Distinguished guests, moderators, our teacher, Mrs. Ivanova We are honored to be debating with the veterans.  We respect their seniority, wisdom and service. We understand why they think and feel the way they do. We understand Russian history and culture and why Russia is the way it is.

We can’t completely shut the outside world out.  We enjoy being on Facebook and Instagram and speaking with people all over the world.  I have many friends all over the world now. We don’t need to fear Germany or the United States.  All of us have made friends in these places. We are not rejecting what happened. We’re saying don’t let the Russian past hold us back.  Thank you.”

Then Mr. Rybkov rose.  He’s a tall, barrel chested man, who could fill even an auditorium.  His voice, grave and gravelly, he began:

“Distinguished dignitaries and guests.  The youngsters are being misled, by their traitor teacher.  We are not here to debate, but to educate. Their views are treachery.  These online outlets lead Russian young people astray, and give comfort to our enemies, especially the Germans and Poles.  The evil ones, want our children weak, and not ready to face the threat. This is the story of Russia. This debate should not be happening.  It all spiraled out of control, because of the traitorous teacher, Mrs. Ivanova, nee Goldstein!” At the end of the sentence, his voice rose to a crescendo, and he pointed an angry finger at her, as though she was a scorned woman in Puritan New England.  Mr. Rybkov continued. “I demand the police arrest the traitor and end the debate now!”

The moderator, Dr. Svaboda had enough.  “Mr. Rybkov, the veterans, lose three points.  One for your comments against the children, and the other two against their teacher.  You are also removed from the debate. I will not tolerate such behavior.” She held up a red card, as though, he’d been expelled from a soccer match.  

Many in the audience mumbled about Dr. Svaboda being the insolent one.  Natasha and Galina squeezed each others hands, Ivan, and Anton sat stone faced until…

The General whispered, “Zhenya, you replace him.”  

Ivan, went wide eyed, Anton saw red, Galina and Natasha gasped.

“Oh my God,” Galina cried.  “You old fool, try not to be too much of an idiot,” Natasha muttered.  Galina was on her phone, giving a blow by blow account of the debate on Twitter.  

Zhenya stumbled to the table to join Mr. Kirilenko.  He was already clumsy on this evening, he didn’t need help.  

Young Sergei was up for the rebuttal.  “I’m half Uzbek, not Afghan you aren’t planning to strip search me, are you?  Don’t worry, I left the bombs at home.”

Most in the crowd didn’t know the reference.  Some burst out laughing, others were horrified at the disrespect.  Mrs. Svaboda weighed in. “That’s a one point loss for the students for the inappropriate comment.  

Mr. Kirilenko narrowed his eyes, so they looked a little like Sergei’s and glared.  Zhenya also glared. “ Young man, you may continue,” Dr. Svaboda droned.


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Harry and Meghan

I can be a grouch, but even I was impressed by the Royal Wedding.  The British really know how to do splendor. OK, why do Americans love the Royal Family so much?   The link from HuffPost will help with that.

Harry and Meghan seem to be nice people in love.   I’m an Anglophile and have British friends, so I pay attention to this sort of thing.  

I could not be a member of the Royal Family.  Not just am I not connected, by blood, I couldn’t even play a royal on television.  I can be sloppy, if not careful, use the wrong fork, etc. In Downton Abbey, Mr. Carson was my favorite character, but there’s no way I could live up to his exacting standards.  For me, white shirts, were one of the most dangerous things ever invented. If forced, to wear a white shirt, I panic about the menu.  There are rich sauces on the food? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Look at Harry in his uniform, how he carries it off.  I remember my rumpled Boy Scout uniform. I’m more like Onslow in the Britcom, Keeping Up Appearances.  

Meghan Markle is stunning.  People speak about the “biracial,” part of her.  I guess I can see for “Women of color,” in the UK.  It’s important. I just see two nice people in love, and maybe one day, (Probably not in my lifetime), we will get past caring about skin color, except to see beauty in it.  I try to be hopeful about that.

I watched a lot of the pre wedding coverage.  Some of it talked about Republicanism in the UK.  The cynic and dot connector in me kicked in. I’ve read the Queen likes Meghan.  There was also a scathing article in New York Magazine about the Royal Wedding. The author doesn’t like Royals  to begin with, but seemed to imply, that Meghan is a social climber and taking Harry for a ride. The fact that she’s an actress, makes it easier for her.  

Is that true?  Maybe. Who knows what’s completely in her heart.  My instinct says no, but I’ve been wrong before.

Staying on the subject of Meghan being an actress; did that help the Queen like her?  Think of this. Between Republicanism, and Meghan being biracial, was the Queen thinking for the long term, accepting Meghan as a way to keep the Royal Family relevant.  

Hopefully, my cynicism is completely misplaced, and this is just a happy couple.  

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Charlie Daniels

Some of this is more than a book review.  It’s a personal take on some of the historical and current events Charlie Daniels talks about in his book.  I may disagree with some, the reader may disagree, but he has opinions, and is intelligent.


I’ve always enjoyed Charlie Daniels music.    I just finished reading his autobiography, Never look at the Empty Seats.   It’s a well written book, by someone who is more than a musician.  He’s a bit of a renaissance man. Obviously, he describes his North Carolina upbringing, how his musical career began and thrived.  It wasn’t all milk and honey, there were some tragedies along the way.

    He also weighs in on racism, global warming, Judaism and Israel.    North Korea Greenland, Russia, and China get honorable mentions.

     He spoke about a man, who should’ve been his supervisor in a job he had as a young man, but the man was African-American, so in the Jim Crow American South, this man could not supervise white people.  Mr. Daniels explained how he grew up in that environment.  

He speaks about his religion.  He grew up attending church, but explains how much he learned about Christianity as an adult.  I can’t say much about Christianity, as I am not one.

I can say things about being Jewish, though.  I’m 95% Ashkenazic Jewish (at least according to 23andme).  I’m not religious, but fascinated by the history and culture.

Anyway, back to Mr. Daniels.  During the era of Jesus, he describes the Pharisees as self righteous and pompous.  I think back to the Mark Burnett, Roma Downey series The Bible, and Boris Johnson’s Dream of Rome.   The Pharisees, through the Sanhedrin, were really running Jewish affairs, with the approval of the Roman Empire.  Messiahs had been talked about in Jewish tradition before.  What scared the Sanhedrin about Jesus was he would threaten their position with the Romans.  That’s why they wanted him done away with.

Being Jewish is tough.  Why I’ve paraphrased Malcolm X.  We didn’t land in Rome, Rome landed on us!  

The stories about visiting American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are touching.  Never forget, freedom isn’t free.

Thank you, Mr. Daniels.  

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Lexington and Concord by George Daughan

If you’re an American, you learn about the first shots fired in the American Revolution.  This book concentrated on Massachusetts and what led up to those first shots.  It was more than guys dressed as Native Americans throwing tea in Boston Harbor.  (Who, in his right mind dips his tea bag in salt water?  Just asking).  Then Paul Revere’s ride.  (He said “The Regulars are coming.  The locals still considered themselves British, and there were Redcoat patrols in the area.  At best, if Revere cried “The British are coming!, someone would’ve thrown open a window, and yelled:  “We are the British, ye drunken fool!  Ride on, go home and go to bed)!  At worst?  I leave that to the imagination.

The problems really began with the French and Indian War, (Called the Seven Years War everywhere else).  It was really a world war, and North America, was just one theater.

The aristocratic British officers held the colonial militias in contempt.  Never mind, a poor Massachusetts farmer was literate, and lived better than a poor, illiterate Englishman.  The poor, illiterate Englishman joined the ranks of the regular British Army, which was not that large.  The Royal Navy was the pride of Great Britain.

The author talks about Ben Franklin going to London, for one last attempt to negotiate for the colonies.  Franklin saw the poor in Britain and feared the government wanted to reduce North Americans to that level.

King George III had the same contempt for the Americans.  I learned from the book a lot I didn’t know.  Some examples:

The government feared the colonies uniting  and forming one nation, so they tried to keep the colonies isolated.  Massachusetts was the most ornery of the colonies.  (This was before the Irish showed up and painted Boston, Celtics green).

Ironically, the British Regulars were green troops, well drilled, but never in combat.  Massachusetts men had been fighting since first settlement.  The first Thanksgiving, with the Native Americans didn’t last long.  It was one thing, when the Native Americans had exotic visitors.  Then all the relatives showed up, and outnumbered the original people.  Almost every Massachusetts man served in the French and Indian War.

General Thomas Gage commanded the Redcoats.  He was a prudent man, who realized, with the squeeze the Crown was placing on colonists, militias were gathering from Massachusetts and other New England colonies as well.  The contempt of King George blinded him to the fact that Gage was being prudent, and saw him as weak instead.  Of course we know the rest.  Lexington and Concord.

A fun book, where I had a chance to learn more about what led up to the first shots.

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The Line Becomes a River, Francisco Cantu, Border Patrol, and the United States Mexico Border

I first saw the book reviewed in one of my favorite magazines, the Economist.  Living in Tucson, Arizona, the border is a part of life.

I was on a long list at the library for the book, and didn’t see hear Francisco Cantu speak at the Tucson Festival of Books, two months earlier, because I hadn’t read the book yet.

I can see why Mr. Cantu took the job for four years.  It was an extension of his higher education in International Studies.

Sometimes, I watch the Justice Channel show, Border Wars.  If you just watch Border Wars, and don’t check other sources, you would have an attitude of “These people are coming here to make trouble and overwhelm the United States.

Someone recommended a French book called The Camp of the Saints.  It’s fiction and predicts Europe being overwhelmed by migrants.  I think it’s out of print now.  I read it twenty-five years ago.

Back to Mr. Cantu’s book.  For those, who know Southern Arizona, there are isolated canyons, dangerous and rugged terrain.  Perfect for illegal migrants and smugglers.

If you drive toward Tucson, from Bisbee or Sierra Vista, you will stop at a Border Patrol checkpoint.  The ports of entry are crowded, and the customs agents can’t stop everyone, who’s a problem.  That’s where checkpoints come in.  Everyone in the car needs to speak to the agent, so they can hear your accent.

Of course, the serious purveyors of illegal activity use the tracks in the desert.  This is where the Border Patrol earns its keep.

Your first act in the United States shouldn’t be illegal.  For four years, Mr. Cantu chased these people in the deserts and canyons, intense summer heat, cold in the winter.  (It does get cold in Southern Arizona.  Much of the land is six thousand feet above sea level.  The human smugglers only care about getting paid.  If someone can’t keep up, they’re left behind.  Sometimes, they are forced to act as drug mules.

I felt for Mr. Cantu.  He seems to be a sensitive soul, maybe too sensitive, in such a harsh atmosphere.

Immigration will follow the money.  If you have no hope of a job in Honduras, you may risk the trip.   Otherwise, why pay a smuggler all that money and risk your life?  The value of the market.

The debates about the border have been held many other places.  You can see the one hundred and fifty Central American migrants camped out at the San Ysidro, Tijuana crossing, a place where I have crossed.  I recognized it.  That would be a story for another time.  A professional conference and a journey across the border.  Is this the last group like that we’ll see coming up from Central America?  Will the groups be larger down the road?

All quiet on the United States border with Canada?


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A Warped Look at Russian History. Drunken Meetings


Chapter Four:  Grandpa Takes Ivan on a Walk.

Ivan is being well treated by Grandpa on their walk.  Ice cream, a walk in the woods. Ivan still respects Grandpa as an elder, but is beginning to wonder about him.  He wonders if he’s learning what not to do.

They come to a building.  The writing says Veterans Club.  Ivan is curious, but wonders what Grandpa is up to.

Both Grandpa and Ivan are greeted warmly.  It’s a large room full of cigarette smoke, sweat, and vodka.

The veterans rarely have young people in their midst.  Ivan has his cheek pinched and is picked up and carried about the room.

Ivan asks Grandpa for a Coke.  “We don’t have that American swill here, you will get juice and vodka”

Ivan has never had vodka, but is curious.  He is given juice then shots of vodka. Ivan feels important with the old men.  He’s feeling the warmth of the vodka, when Grandpa takes Ivan over to an older man seated in the corner.

“Boy this is Mr. Kirilenko.  He’s ninety-four years old and fought in the Great Patriotic War.  Like your great-grandpa he went all the way to Germany. Sasha, we need to make sure Ivan grows up a strong Russian.  There are some bad influences.”

“Come, boy,” Sasha said.  Ivan sat next to him and began his story.  

“I’d just graduated from secondary school, and was about to start a factory job, when the Germans crossed into Russia.  They were just one of many. Germans have been trying to conquer and undermine us for eight hundred years!

Well, as with Napoleon, we left him an empty Moscow, plus we of course can handle winter better.  So arrogant, those Germans. They thought they were going to wipe us out and settle in our Motherland!  More fools they!

I fought in all the major battles.  Stalingrad was the hardest. Once the cowards surrendered there, we were on our way.  There was much hardship, but General Zhukov and Stalin led us to victory!”

Ivan had questions.  “Why didn’t the Red Army save Warsaw from the Germans blowing it up?”

“So the Poles would be demoralized.  The Poles need to be kept in place! Always making trouble.  They think they’re better than us. So do the damn Czechs! Russia is the protector of all Slavs.”

Ivan laughed.  “We hear the Czechs are rich.”

“Because they sold their souls to that bum Vaclav Havel.  Poland had that Catholic, they called him John Paul, who helped the Poles be rebellious again.  All those centuries, they never stop and they look down on us? Anyway, before you so rudely interrupted, we liberated concentration camps and arrived in the heart of darkness, Berlin!  We got our revenge, and taught those nasty Germans what real Russians were like!”

Like Grandpa, he busily got himself all worked up.  Ivan wondered if he would do that, when he was their age.  Ivan wondered if men’s intelligence declined with age. Mom and Grandma kept their intelligence.  Then he made the connection. The vodka. The shots were already getting to him. So that’s where old men got their courage and bravado.  

Mr. Kirilenko snapped Ivan back to reality.  “Boy this is why, Russia lives! We are strong, and President Putin will keep us that way! Now go home, stop the foolishness your Grandpa Zhenya has told us about, and be a real Russian man!

Grandpa was happier than he’d been in a long time.  He held Ivan’s hand and sang as they walked back. Galina greeted him at the door.  No amount of juice could cover the vodka.

“YOU GOT MY SON DRUNK!”  Galina’s open mouth showed such rage, she looked as though she could swallow Grandpa whole.  Her eyes narrowed to slits and her contorted face looked as though it would get stuck.

Galina’s yelling brought Grandma to the front door from the kitchen.  She smelled the vodka. “You old fool, have you finally gone mad? Where did you take him?”

“To my veterans club!  They enjoyed meeting Ivan.  Mr. Kirilenko enforced my Russian history lesson.”

“That fool?!”  He’s worse than you are!  I’ll make sure to kill you, long before you make ninety years old, if the booze doesn’t do it first.”

“Dad, Anton is already angry about what you did to Sergei.  Only some fast talking on his part kept Sergei’s parents from pressing charges.  Any more bad attitude toward Sergei, we will press charges with them. Understand?”

All Grandpa could manage was a belch.  “A belch works, you old fool. You took my grandson to be with those morons.  I’d like to say I don’t believe it, but I do. What’s to be done with you. I know, another night in your room.”


Chapter Five:  A Call from Mrs. Ivanova

Galina’s phone rang.  “Mrs. Ivanova, always a pleasure.  A debate? The students and the veterans?  Sounds interesting. Let me know. Thank you, bye.”

“What was Mrs. Ivanova saying about a debate?”

“She wants the children to debate the veterans.”

Grandma responded with a sly smile.  “The kids will win.”


Chapter Six:  The Twitter Affair.

Galina taught her mother how to use Facebook and Twitter on her phone.  Grandma decided to have the moniker Mrd2oldfool Galina created a monster.  Grandma has joined the high tech age and is having too much fun with it.

Tweeting two hundred and eighty characters is becoming great fun.  Grandpa is at the Veterans Club, the only place where everyone agrees with him, although today people are chuckling at him.

“What’s so damn funny?” He snarled.

One of the younger members smiled.  “You might want to spend more time at home with your wife, than coming here.”

“Why is that?  Who are you, young brat to comment on your betters’ home life.  I’ll be where I want to be!”

“Let me show you.”  The man took out his phone.  Grandpa was bewildered. He might be one of the few people left in Russia, without a cell phone.  “Why is this man showing me his cell phone?”

Grandpa saw the Twitter feed.  “What am I supposed to be seeing?”  Only then, did Grandpa see the moniker, Mrd2oldfool.  He read on. My idiot husband got my nine year old grandson drunk at his veterans club.  He humiliated the boy in front of his teacher and friends. He thought an Uzbek child was a terrorist.  Oh God, what else?

It took a moment for it to immediately dawn on Grandpa.  When it did, all Grandpa could do was croak. “How many people know about this?”

“People all over the world.  I translated this response, it’s from New York City.”

“You don’t speak English.”

“No, the translator is on my phone.”

Grandpa read the response:  You go girl!  Maybe you can hit him over the head with a vodka bottle!  

Grandpa then saw the poster’s profile.  It was that of a beautiful black high school student, called BronxSassy16.  The steam built up in Grandpa.

“You mean, this black brat is talking to my wife?  How does she know Russian?”

“She may have seen your wife’s Twitter handle and translated it, as I did for her tweet”

“What is Bronx?”

“A part of New York City.”

“So, you’re telling me, that some black in New York is cheering my wife on for her comments?  Does the CIA know about this? Are they spying on Russians this way?”

The young man laughed.  “Zhenya, I don’t think they care that much. “

“Well, I have something to say to this wayward girl.”  Grandpa said.

“OK, I’ll use my Twitter feed.  What do you want to say to her?”

“Tell her this.  I expect no respect from a young black bitch in America to one’s elders.  Calling my wife girl. How rude!”

The young man translated the tweet into English and sent it.

A response came back within a minute.  “Yeah, I’m a bitch. I stand up for my sisters who are older, and treat them as honored aunts!  Giving a little boy vodka. Your wife deserves sainthood!”

Grandpa was so angry, he went beyond shots and drank out of the bottle.  “I need to go home, and put my foot down.”

Grandpa stumbled toward home.   He made it home, opened the door and walked gingerly to the kitchen.  Natasha was showing Galina her twitter posts. Galina could read English and was laughing uproariously.  

“Woman, I’m putting my foot down!”

Grandpa stamped his foot, then dropped to the floor, like a boxer, who’d been knocked out.

“Should we call an ambulance?” Galina asked.

“No, he’s fine, he’s snoring.  Leave him there, the old fool!”

Ivan came home, saw Grandpa, and looked at the two women.  “OK, who knocked him out?”

Anton came home looked and asked?  “Do I need to call friends to dump him in the forest.?”

Grandma muttered.  “He’s not dead yet, though at this rate he should be.  Let’s have dinner and walk around him. He’s hibernating. “

With that, Grandpa woke up confused.  “Why am I on the floor?”

“Are you sure you want me to answer that, you old fool?”

“Who hit me?”  Grandpa muttered.

“Who else you old fool, but your mistress Miss Vodka.  Isn’t she a beauty?”

Grandpa doesn’t get sarcasm, especially through the bleariness of a hangover.  He looked at Grandma confused. He saw Ivan staring at him. He then realized his humiliation, especially when Galina used her phone to take a photograph.  

“What will you do with a photograph?”  Grandpa muttered, barely able to speak.

“Mom & I may send it to BronxSassy16, who we both started following on Twitter.  She may be sixteen, but mentally, she’s smarter than many we know. She should see what someone, who gives a nine year old vodka looks like.”

Grandpa tried with all his might to respond, but all he could do was fall back to the floor.

“Out!” Grandma shouted with a laugh.  “Let’s have dinner, seeing as we were so rudely interrupted.

The family ate dinner, while Grandpa snored away on the floor.  Moving him was too much work, and Grandma is running out of ways to teach Grandpa lessons.  

Meanwhile, Galina sent the picture to BronxSassy16, as well as pictures of the rest of the family.  BronxSassy16 wrote back: “How could someone get such a beautiful boy drunk like that? He needs help.  You seem like a nice family. Others on Twitter are picking up on it. The family, except for Grandpa now had a fan club.  Grandpa would like to think the Veterans Club is his fan club, but now they make fun of him there. They have seen more of the Twitter posts.  Grandpa in his more lucid moments tries to figure out how he can save his reputation. Then, the Jewish teacher he so hates, may have thrown him a lifeline.  Well, maybe, but Grandpa thinks, “Beware of Jews and Tatars bearing gifts.”


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Pandora Was Very Impatient.

I was up at 12:30 AM, working on a blogpost.  Pandora is not supposed to be fed at this hour, but she was feeling neglected.  She kept picking at my feet, as I was working.  It was getting old fast, but she’s the older cat here, and when she wants something, she wants it.

I surrendered at two a.m. and fed her.  I got the other blogpost done.  My toes thanked me.

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