Category Archives: Mostly Tourism

Crazy Security at a Building Near Me

Not unusual to see casual security. Tonight’s was on the severe side, though not the most I’ve seen. Four black SUVs with tinted windows. All had the same first six digits of the eight alphanumeric digits on Ukrainian plates. They slowed about a hundred meters from the entrace of the building. Ten or so guys jumped out while the vehicles were still moving. They ran ahead and formed a small perimeter into which the four vehicles then entered. Good disciplined security. No crowding. No confusion. All the guys were facing out except for the few that seemed to go to the main vehicle.

I didn’t linger or try to see who it was. I think there are some heads of state, or their direct representatives visiting Ukraine right now. Perhaps it was one of them.

NYC in 8 hours

NYC in 8 hours:

The city in which I was born and raised is

– still super exciting — best in the world in so many dimensions. Whatever you love, you’ll find high level talent there.
– still the city of beginning. At the drop of the hat, you can have a clean slate among a new set of interesting, worldly, talented people. (pro tip:if you’re tired of beginnings and want middles or ends, get the hell out)
– still super frustrating — I paid thirty dollars twice, for parking < 2 hrs. - still puts you at the mercy of unreasonable and predatory bureaucrats. - Pongal on Lex is still the best Indian food in the world, and an example of perfect service -- everything you want and nothing you don't. - Rosa's Pizza on 69th Street in Queens is still the best pizza in the world. We called it Rosa's II because there was another Rosa's Pizza on Grand Avenue at the time of their scandalous opening in the late 80s. Loved sharing it with my family. Three surprises: - The Orpheum is ***still*** showing "Stomp"??? (I remember saying the same thing about "Little Shop of Horrors", and noticing when Stomp finally showed up . . . twentyish years ago. - Saint George's Ukrainian Church was having mass in English! Broader appeal. Makes perfect sense. The icons were extremely familiar. I spent hours of my youth studying them while listening to masses which I didn't understand. Long, agonizing hours measured in impatient child time. Also: I lit candles to remember departed relatives -- they have a push button system in pace of real candles. Somehow, it does not appear in poor taste. - Though I've been back many times since adulthood, the streets, houses and hills in Woodside/Maspeth Queens still seem much smaller than they were. - An old Army buddy with whom I was delighted to cross paths said that in Williamsburg, there really is a training academy where leftists learn some weak perverted version of hand to hand combat. These psychopaths are really going all the way with their delusions. They have it completely, and dangerously backwards. It was not a lack of leftist violence that accompanied the rise of fascism, but an excess that precipitated it. You have to look beyond the sanitized, popular versions of history to see this, but once you do, it's obvious. So please tell your radical leftists friends -- be careful what you start.

Joke: Two Hutsuls in the Carpathian mountains

Ukrainian Joke:

Two Hutsul in the Carpathian mountains were approached by a tourist.

Do you speak English?  The tourist asked.

The Hutsuls, shook their heads.

Parlez vous Francais?

They shook their heads.

sprechen ze Deutch?

They shook their heads.


They shook their heads.

The tourist, dejected, walked away.

“Hey Ivan,” one of the Hutsuls tells the other, “do you think we should maybe learn some foreign languages?”

“What for?” says the other, “you see how many languages that guy spoke, and it didn’t help him.”

Boys from Banderstadt

Awesome Ukrainian cadence — Boys from Banderstadt

The original song came of Ukraine’s iconic rock band “Brativ Hadiukinyx,” which ofted did satirical rock and roll.

This particular song, which has been re-made into a cadence jokes about how Russia always calls Ukrainians fascist followers of Bandera.

Some of the lyrics herein which are sung very aggressively and menacingly translate as: “We are boys from Baderstadt. We go to church and respect our parents.”

New Years vs Christmas

The communists, in their attempt to destroy culture, and specifically, Christianity, attempted to replace Christmas with New Years, and they shifted many of the traditions, like gift giving, family gathering, and the Christmas tree to New Years.

(This is much less palpable in Lviv and Western Ukraine where the people remain more religious and both pagan and Christian traditions are much more closely observed. That’s part of the reason my heart remains in Galicia, even though I live in the capital.)

Sadly, many Ukrainians aren’t even aware of why the celebrate New Years the way that they do. Ukrainian television seems perfectly content to cater to the godless Bolshevik New Years holiday.

I’m not against celebrating the New Year, but I want to see its status lowered to well below that of Christmas.

Oleksandr Usyk dominates, stops Thabiso Mchunu to retain his cruiserweight title

By winning the belt in only his 10th professional fight, Usyk, the 2012 Olympic heavyweight gold medalist for Ukraine, broke the division record for fewest fights needed to win a world title, surpassing the mark held by Evander Holyfield, who won a cruiserweight world title in his 12th fight by outpointing Hall of Famer Dwight Muhammad Qawi in an epic 15-rounder in 1986.

Rabbit hunting with my father-in-law

Didn’t get anything, but it was still fantastic. We surprised one rabbit who didn’t wait to let us get close. He sprung up maybe 30 from me while we were walking on both sides of an underbrush filled ditch. It was toward the end of our hunt and I didn’t quite have time to get a good shot.

Lovely experience. Perfect weather — just above freezing. The snow stopped shortly after we began, so it was easy to distinguish between new and old tracks. Saw tracks for fox, rabbits, mice, birds, and one deer.

Felt great the rest of the days. There’s something spiritual about hunting.

The New Yorker: Ukrainian Writer Serhiy Zhadan and Dobas

In the novel, Herman returns to a world that remains deeply familiar, in part because nothing has changed. “I’ve always had the sense that after 1991 people in the Donbas . . . didn’t allow time to move along in a natural way,” Zhadan told me. The result was “blacked-out places, temporally anomalous zones.”

In this temporally anomalous wasteland everything existential emerges through the physical: a bit of soccer, a lot of sex, still more violence. The material objects Zhadan describes with an almost grotesque precision—wooden icons of Christian Orthodox martyrs, a Manchester United pendant, a pair of Bosch electric scissors—serve as missing words amid laconic dialogue. It is not only words that are missing. People call the Donbas the “Bermuda Triangle,” Yevhenii Monastyrskyi, a twenty-three-year-old graduate student in history from Luhansk and fan of Zhadan, told me: objects, years, people—like Herman’s brother—disappear all the time there. Many of those who remain have survived beatings of various kinds. “We all wanted to become pilots,” Herman says, of his friends from childhood. “The majority of us became losers.” And not only losers, Zhadan wants us to understand, but damaged losers, their torsos, limbs, and faces inscribed with scars. “I looked more closely at the rest of my old friends, their bodies battered by hard lives and the fists of their rivals,” Herman says. . . .

After the Maidan’s victory in the Ukrainian capital, the population in eastern Ukraine remained divided. Russian “tourists” began arriving from across the border to take part in “anti-Maidan” demonstrations. On February 26th, Zhadan posted on YouTube, in both Russian and Ukrainian, a six-minute appeal to the residents of Kharkiv. “Don’t listen to the propaganda,” he said. “There are no fascists, no extremists. None of that is true. Come over to our side.” Three days later, on March 1st, Zhadan was led away from a demonstration in Kharkiv bloodied, his head bashed in. The poet was cavalier. “I’m a grownup—it’s hard to stun me with a blow to the head,” he said in an interview later that month.

. . . .

Today the former Voroshilovgrad falls within the territory of the self-declared Lugansk People’s Republic—an entity which, Zhadan wrote in May, 2014, “exists exclusively in the fantasies of the self-proclaimed ‘people’s mayors’ and ‘people’s governors.’ “ The latter form a cast of characters that could easily be drawn from his novel: Zhadan provides telling depictions of men in tracksuits with stretched-out tattoos, glass eyes, and missing fingers. (The missing fingers are not part of the magical realism: Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the forty-something separatist who in April, 2014, declared himself the “people’s mayor” of Slovyansk, has two fingers missing from his left hand.)

. . . .

(I wrote to Zhadan in Polish about a novel he had written in Ukrainian and I had read in English. He answered me in Russian. The whole situation was very Ukrainian.)

. . . .

The graduate student I spoke with, Monastyrskyi, prefers the Donbas to Lviv, where he lives now, precisely for the chest’ and chestnost’ that supercede a more conventional bourgeois morality. For all its violence, Monastyrskyi insists, “the Donbas is full of joy and mercy—and empathy.” And he loves Zhadan for portraying these people who don’t have a lot of words more authentically than anyone else, for showing us that “these people are beautiful, beautiful in their ugliness.”