Russia and ostentation

Dear Hildie:

I now have a huge bandage on my ear where the dermatologist excised a basal cell cancer. I told him I’d just have to go into creating impressionist paintings. We had a nice conversation about van Gogh as he sewed and cut and burnt. He’s heading over to St. Petersburg at the end of the week. I told him to watch out for the surprise fountains in the Peterhof Palace gardens. Boy, the difference between glum, Asian, gray Moscow and bright, European St. P’burg is (or was years ago and I suppose it hasn’t changed) striking. In Moscow, looking down from hotel window, we saw men on sidewalk drinking vodka out of paper bags—almost like we were in New Orleans or New York.  MM got groped on the subway—Again, might as well have been in the good old US! And the food was horrible, which is probably why so many Russians looked constipated. All of which reminds me that I’m ready for another Martin Cruz Smith Arkady Renko novel. Smith has Parkinson’s, poor fellow, but I selfishly hope he can continue to put out the Russian mysteries, which I really enjoy.

On my walk to work this morning I noticed where they’d cut down an old water oak about two years ago. Funny, but I can’t even remember how it looked when the tree was there except it provided shade when I walked the dog. Odd how it was like it had never been there at all. Yesterday I passed the site on Longwood where my uncle’s house used to be. Somebody leveled it and put in a monstrosity of a palace. Not that they don’t have the right—It’s just that it looks so damned ostentatious. I can’t understand that kind of materialism. For me, a house is a roof over my head with a place for my books and, one hopes, not too many rats and roaches, and a car is a means of transport. What kind of person defines himself by his house? (Or car, for that matter?)

Oh, well, to each his own—I guess.