Archive for March, 2015

Mar 28 2015

Inside & Out

Published by under Country Life,House

Megan stopped by yesterday with a bouquet of lilacs and flowering white heather she had picked in her garden to surprise me. I was delighted, and my house smells fantastic and nostalgic. Lilacs are my favorite flowers, and always remind me of my grandmother, who grew them in New York state. In fact, her part of the world has hosted a lilac festival every May for more than 115 years.

I’ve been enjoying my week off before starting the new job on Monday, including little pleasures like savoring coffee with the purring cats on a sunny morning and the feel of a new wool carpet on bare feet. Time has gone alarmingly fast, though, and I did not accomplish the spring cleaning I was considering doing. As I write, the cobwebs on the doors are glowing in the sunshine. Maybe I’ll clean them off today. Maybe not…

I did (sort of) spring clean the pantry/laundry room/etc. room, though. Inspired by the Vertigo poster I hung there years ago, I ordered some striped orange canvas bins from Target and stored all my cleaning products in them:


It’s definitely easier to find things like silver polish, and it looks much nicer – at least on that side of the room.

I unintentionally updated the living room as well. How, you ask? Well, Monica had a big area rug sale at her shop and I went mostly to support her and say hi, not meaning to buy anything. However, I fell in love with a rug which was 75% off. Practically free! I can always justify shopping. And it looks marvelous:


I finally got around to hanging up the lovely artwork that was given to me on my last day at the jobette:


I think it looks great with the little painting of the Embarcadero at twilight perched on the bookshelf. It’s by Keith Wicks, who also made the big painting of Russian Hill which hangs over the couch (you can see a peek of it above).

I also took the opportunity to meet a friend for lunch and run a few errands in town, including picking up some books at the library. On my way back to Hooverville, I picked up Michael, Lichen’s former neighbor, who is now settled in his new place just a few miles down the Ridge from his old place. He was very happy to get a ride from the Big Town to the Village, and is also happy with his new place and its unaccustomed indoor plumbing which flushes. I was glad to hear that and to have some company on my journey.

Inside the library book, I found a bright pink Post It from the woman who helps set up the artwork at the jobette each month. Her library books and mine are usually next to each other on the holds shelf, and she often remarked on how interesting my choices were. Her note asked me to get in touch – she misses me! You have to love a small town. And a few days off.

A YEAR AGO: A beloved John Hughes movie is converted into a delightful play. By a sixteen year old! Also, being around actual teenagers reminds me that I no longer am one, except inside.

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Mar 25 2015


Published by under Country Life,Special Occasions

Megan and I took a break from everyday life to journey down to the beautiful South Coast. Fog laid its silvery fingers over the dark, wind-swept trees, and sometimes even blotted out the ocean. Occasionally, the sun peeped through, highlighting lilacs and poppies by the side of the winding road.

The original plan was to go to Anchor Bay for fabulous take-out Thai food, and then attend a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire, shown at the historic 1920s movie theater in Point Arena:


but beamed from London. We had a little extra time, so we stopped off in Point Arena on our way, intending to get a mocha and maybe something delicious at Franny’s Cup & Saucer. After all, it was Saturday, and they were sure to be open.

Except they weren’t, being on vacation.

So we headed to Anchor Bay, where our bad luck held. Apparently, the Thai food owners had gone to the same place as Franny’s (the Riviera? Palm Springs? Tahiti?), since they too were on vacation, and coming back the same day, which to add insult to injury, was just a couple of days later.

We went back to Point Arena, where we found finding lunch to be an impossible task. When I went to buy tickets for the play, I learned that they did not take credit cards, but fortunately, I had brought a check to use at Franny’s (knowing their policy was the same), so I used it at the theater instead.

Inside, we admired the beautiful tile work:


and got popcorn for brunch. The feed from London was already going as we took our seats, so we could see and hear the audience in London taking their seats and chatting while we did the same thing. I couldn’t help noticing that Dad would be dismayed by the level of dressiness in London theater audiences.

The set for the play was minimal and placed in the round, perhaps three feet from the audience. It also rotated slowly throughout the performance, which was spectacular. Gillian Anderson, who captivated me this year in The Fall, was a raw and powerful Blanche, heart-breaking and vulnerable without being pathetic, giving the performance of a lifetime. When she took her bows at the end, she looked like she had been through a journey, and she had taken us with her. It was an experience I will never forget, and I am thrilled that we country mice have access to such cultural wealth, right here in the boonies.

As we made our stunned way back to the waiting Wednesday, Megan suggested that we call Libby’s to see if they, against all odds, might actually be open. We have been done out of Libby’s for months now, so we were delighted to find that they were open and ready to make us burritos.

We headed to the Valley, where we found the sun and Megan observed that only country dwellers like us would find it entirely reasonable to drive 45 minutes out of our way to get take out. But we had already done so much driving, what was a little more?

At Libby’s, we placed our orders and sat at the bar with an arrangement of flowers picked from the garden outside:


and had chips and house-made salsa with a glass of local wine while dinner was being made. It was an unexpected end to an unexpected, yet perfect day.

A YEAR AGO: A tragedy rocks our little corner of the world.

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Mar 22 2015

Country Roads

Published by under Country Life,Friends

You never know what you’ll find on the Hooterville back roads…

One of the conditions of the new job was getting tested for TB, a new experience for me. They inject something under your skin, and two days later, you go in, they look at the spot for .000001 of a second, and tell you that you don’t have it. More than an hour of driving for a millisecond of looking!

On my way to the mini appointment, I came around a sunny curve in the road and found a flock of wild turkeys. The tom was in the middle of the road with his tail feathers spread wide and gleaming in the sun, while his less splendid wives and girlfriends milled around, partly crossing the road and then retreating. Honking at these silly geese turkeys is not effective, and I had the rare and delightful feeling of being slightly superior in intelligence.

By the time the chickens turkeys had crossed the road, there was quite an audience of paused cars with drivers watching the floor show. I have to admit to being totally delighted by the whole thing, and I smiled all the way to town.


One of the good things about breaking up with my work family (and, so far, the only good thing), is that we are now real life friends instead, so I can do things like meet a former co-worker and current friend for a glass of wine overlooking the ocean:


While waiting for him to turn up, I took the opportunity to snap a picture of the iconic Hooverville bridge from a different angle:


The august New York Times just wrote an article about the preservation of this bridge, which is the last wooden bridge on historic Highway One. I couldn’t help wondering where the writer stayed and what he thought of my little town. You can take the girl out of the jobette, but you can’t take the jobette out of the girl.

When my friend arrived, we had a wonderful time catching up with each other. He always has the funniest stories, and his family has so much drama in it that they should have their own reality show.

He noticed the label on a bottle of wine that a couple had brought with them and asked the bartender to open for them. It was Silver Oak, and my friend asked whether it was Napa or Sonoma. Napa, 2004, they replied, adding that it was their 22nd anniversary and a friend had given it to them. My friend replied that the bottle probably cost upward of $150, which surprised them, and gently suggested that they decant it before dinner. They were even more surprised when he looked it up on his phone and discovered that if you can find a bottle, it will run you about $225.

They decanted it.

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Mar 20 2015

Family Style

Published by under Family,Friends,Special Occasions

jarrett1Jarrett and his sister Denise

It was a family reunion at the property last weekend. Jarrett met his half sister and some of his cousins for the very first time! Above, you see Jarrett with his sister Denise, who also has a twin sister Danielle, who couldn’t make it on this trip. These relatives live in southern Illinois, about six hours drive from Chicago, so it was a long, strange trip for them, especially the seemingly endless curvy roads that lead to Hooterville.

Dinner was a family affair as well. Erica helped me to plan everything. We delegated Jarrett to be in charge of taco toppings and beer, Erica made beef filling, and I made chicken filling, using the slow cooker I recently bought. At the last minute, Jonathan reminded me that it was, in fact, Pi Day, and yet we had no pie. So Megan and I went to the Gro and picked up some apples. When we got back to Jonathan’s place, he had made the crust, and I peeled the apples (one of my few special skills is the ability to peel an apple in one long piece) and cut them up Nana style (cutting pieces off until you get to the core). Jonathan made them into a filling and took over from there, with this delicious result:


Dave and Jennifer joined us, even though I later learned that it was their anniversary and they had other plans originally, which I thought was really nice. Before dinner, some of us tried out our archery skills:


while some of us watched:


That’s Jarrett’s beautiful girlfriend Kalli keeping an eye on him.

Erica, of course, took one shot and hit the bull’s eye. The only thing more impressive than Erica’s archery ability was Jessica’s poise and politeness. As soon as they arrived, Jessica walked right up to the strangers, put out her (now Suzy-sized) hand and said, “Hi, I’m Jessica. What’s your name?” I was delighted by her courtesy and how unintimidated she was by a group of strangers.

jessmar15Hi, I’m Jessica

We all gathered around the picnic table Jonathan built and had a great, happy dinner together, getting to know each other and trading stories about our pasts and hopes for the future. It was a great time, and I hope we all see each other again soon.

A YEAR AGO: What do you know? Having dinner with friends over at the family property.

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Mar 17 2015


Published by under Family,Memories

Dad and Jonathan in Maine

This is one of the batch of photos John very kindly sent me recently. It shows Dad and Jonathan in Maine. I’m guessing that Jonathan is about 6 in this photo, which would make Dad about 40. See? Kittenish! I am further guessing that this is on Otter Cliff, a spectacular headland more than 100 feet high. We often walked from Sand Beach to Otter Cliffs along the ocean path.

I look back at those golden summer days with great fondness, when we’d be dropped off at the beach for hours, or sailed with Jonathan at the helm (“if not duffers, won’t drown”), or went to the annual book sale at the library, or had popovers as big as our heads at Jordan Pond House after climbing the Bubbles*.

As you know, I’ve been feeling pretty lucky lately. And I am lucky to have had a father who was not only my parent, but my best friend. I am thankful for all the wonderful moments we had together, from the rocky shores of Maine to the sunlit canals of Venice to the gilded palaces of Russia.

But when I think of Dad, as I do every day, I think of all the small moments, like his rolling around on the floor with me and laughing, or telling me stories, or carrying me on his shoulders. Yes, he was a great scientist, but he was also a great father.

Happy birthday, Dad. I’m glad you were born. And I’m glad I was born to you and Mom.

*You can imagine what their nickname was.

A YEAR AGO: Thinking about Dad. And dogs. Of course.

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Mar 16 2015


Published by under Work

Stop me (or try and stop me) if you’ve hard this before, but I have a new job!

Yes, another one. But this one is permanent, unlike the other new job, where I learned on my first day that it was not, as I had been told, an indefinite assignment, but rather I was covering for someone on medical leave. So it’s a permanent job with more money, actual benefits, and someone on hand to train me from Day One (the person I’ll be replacing is moving into a management position within the same organization). Imagine.

The reason I’ve been writing so much about the past lately here is that I couldn’t write about the present, other than the fun I packed into the weekends so I could face the rest of the week. Let’s just say it was challenging.

Despite that, it will be hard to walk in there and quit this morning, because the work they are doing is so important and the people who do it are so nice. They told me every day how wonderful I was, so it will be really hard to tell them I’m leaving. Even though I could have been on the other side of this equation at any time.

I am just about the luckiest girl in the world, you know. When I lost my job back in October, my family rallied around me. I passed the tests and interviews for the county job, and when I left the jobette, I was showered in love and appreciation. When I interviewed for this new job, I also got that. How lucky can one girl be?

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Mar 14 2015


Published by under Cats,Family,Friends

A couple of days after we buried Megan and Rob’s beloved cat Ramona under the chinquapin tree on the family property, I came home to find a Fed Ex package waiting for me. I rarely, if ever, get Fed Ex packages. Even the Grand Jury summons came by humble mail. So I was both mystified and curious.

Inside, there was a selection of photos – you know, the actual printed ones – in a plastic bag with no note. The photos were of Ramona and her sister Harriet as kittens, along with some of me as a kitten and some of Dad at what now appears to me to be quite a kitten-ish age, though he was likely a bit older than I am now in most of them. John had found them and sent them to me.


Here you can see Ramona on the down-filled couch and her sister Harriet on the carpet at my now million dollar former apartment in San Francisco in December, 2001, freshly arrived from their rescue from southern California.

I thought it was an amazingly kind gesture and thanked him accordingly. Even by email, it was clear that he was both self-deprecating and embarrassed, which is what I would expect after knowing him for more than 25 years. As I observed to a friend, he is the best ex-husband ever.

A few days after that happy surprise, I got a less happy one. John texted me saying that he was in his local ER with high blood pressure and a racing heart. Fortunately, it was an anxiety attack rather than a heart attack, and all tests came back clean – his heart is fine. He has since seen his doctor and hopefully all is now under control. He said it made a big difference knowing that I was prepared to go down there and look after his cats, including the irrepressible Jack, the last of our cats together. We’ve been in touch every day ever since* and he is doing fine. I’m thankful that he is healthy and well, and that we are still friends and have each other’s backs, no matter what.

*He texted me yesterday to say “Thanks for checking in with me every day. It means a lot.”

A YEAR AGO: A young man with a bow tie is rather naughty. Also: a culinary challenge.

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Mar 11 2015

A Trip Into the Past: Russia, Part II

Published by under Travel

St. Petersburg, Russia
September 15, 1992

Sheets of tickets

Braved the number 1 tram to the Hermitage. As usual, it was insanely crowded and reeking of sweat and vodka. Long line to buy our tickets – sheets of paper equalling 200 rubles ($4). The Hermitage is a breathtakingly beautiful place, with its elaborate inlaid wood floors, high, vaulted gilded ceilings with paintings, both troupe l’oeil and otherwise.

The grand marble staircase:


led to the Impressionists. There were Monets I had never seen before, including two incredible paintings of the garden at Giverny. I was transported back there as I gazed at them. There was a Renoir painting of his beautiful, radiant mistress dressed for the opera, which I had only seen in pictures before.

There were beautiful Degas drawings of nudes, and a stunning Van Gogh painting of a garden, as well as some fine Rembrandts. We were surfeited by early afternoon and took a taxi back to the hotel. The taxi driver told Dad and Margaret that England must crush their own Communist party. He said that things were very hard now for Russians, with runaway inflation, no jobs, and no money. It’s a beautiful place, but buildings are falling into disrepair, the shops are empty, lines are long, and the people look so hopeless. The taxi driver hoped that things would be better for his children.

In the evening, we went to the “Nobleman’s Palace”, formerly the residence of the Grand Duke Vladimir Romanov and built in the mid 1800s. Luckily the house was spared after the Revolution, becoming the scientists’ club, so it is exactly the way the Grand Duke left it.

We were welcomed with champagne by a guide called Natalia, whose voice was like music. Her history of the house was translated by Evgenia, the Intourist guide. We were shown over most of the house – the kitchen and bedrooms were under repair – including the formal ballroom, a confection of white and gilt, and the dining room with its Murano glass chandelier.

The concert was held in a room with copper chandeliers and walls of gypsum painted to look like oak. The first part of the program was a group singing and dancing to Russian folk songs. They used handmade instruments, including pipes shaped like birds. They had great energy and joy.

At the intermission, we had champagne, peaches and truffles in a room paneled with elaborately carved wood. After this, we returned for the last part of the concert, which was wonderful – a famous Russian opera singer and her piano accompanist, whose hands moved like birds. The singer’s voice was glorious and she did an encore – I could have listened to her for hours. It was a magical evening I will never forget.

St. Petersburg
September 16, 1992

After breakfast, we were loaded into red Intourist buses in the pouring rain and drove to the Catherine Palace in Pushkin. It is a beautiful, elaborate building painted turquoise, white, and gold. It belonged to Catherine the Great, and in her time, the parts painted gold were gilded with real gold leaf. The French Ambassador is reputed to have said that the palace was a treasure and needed a protective box. Catherine replied that she was the treasure and the palace was her protective box.

The palace was completely gutted during WWII, but has been perfectly restored to its original splendor. There were photos of the rooms circa 1944, and it’s hard to believe that these are the same rooms. I was surprised that the palace was so lovingly restored during the communist era since they were such symbols of decadence and were half-destroyed anyway. Fortunately, the Russian people are so proud of their heritage and craftsmanship that the palace was saved. We walked the marble and elaborately inlaid wooden floors in protective felt slippers over our shoes.

We had lunch at the airport of all places, in a grand room with painted ceilings, classical columns, and elaborate moldings. After lunch, we visited palace of Catherine’s son, Paul. Apparently, she was not very fond of him and bought him this land three miles from Pushkin so he wouldn’t live with her. Paul’s palace is located in a town called Pavlosk. The palace is yellow and white, shaped like a semi-circle with a central dome, and is full of treasures, including Gobelin tapestries and Sèvres china which were gifts from Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. There was almost too much richness and beauty to absorb.

A YEAR AGO (2014): My boss meets the President! Also: the horrors of health insurance, an earthquake, and an unexpected visit from Audrey.

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Mar 07 2015

Darkness & Light

Published by under Bullshit,Family,Special Occasions

Well, we’re hovering on the brink of yet another time change. I have finally realized that the entire point of the exercise every single time – whether it’s forward or back – is to plunge us back into the hateful darkness in the morning.

As soon as there is even a glimmer of early morning light, the Powers that Be change the clock, ensuring that getting up at 5 am is much worse than it already is. Clearly the Powers do not routinely get up in the cold and dark day after day.

So I can look forward to already being late when I get up tomorrow; getting up in abject darkness; driving to work in darkness; and my body knowing full well that it’s 4 am when I drag it out of bed.


Time to stop the madness, peeps! Who’s with me?


Speaking of madness, my brother once again made his annual leap into the chilly river where it meets the cold Pacific. You might think that Jonathan does this just for the hell of it – and it does sound like the kind of thing he’d do – but it’s to benefit Special Olympics.

This year, he and his team were dressed as rubber duckies, including fuzzy duck hats and yellow rain slickers:


The boxes they are wearing represent bathtubs, and each one was personalized. Jonathan is on the far right, and his reads “USS SemiconDUCKtor”, a nod to his electrical experiments. Everyone had little containers of bubble mixture and wands to make bath bubbles. They sang a stirring rendition of the Rubber Ducky song from “Sesame Street”, and I wish WordPress would allow me to post the film of it, because it was hilarious. Not only does my brother make a great Christmas ham, he is a great big ham. 🙂

I was surprised and delighted that Erin (who would rescue me from the closed road adventure just two days later) and Rob turned up unexpectedly to join Megan and me in cheering them on. I was so happy and touched to see them both. We watched together as the team tossed off their costumes and ran into the frigid water.

Jonathan, of course, was jumping and diving and even swimming around before running back out:


He said the water was so cold that it made the air feel warm when he got out. He was glad to get into his commemorative sweatshirt, though:


and we were all glad to be there to support him. Jonathan and Megan raised about $300, and it’s great to know that the money will stay local and benefit local residents. Just being there was exhilarating!

A YEAR AGO: At the Polar Plunge, of course.

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Mar 04 2015

You Can’t Get There from Here

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

Well, Monday did not go as planned.

I was about a mile and a half from my house when I was stopped by a line of other stopped cars. A member of the local volunteer fire department (not my brother) informed me that the road was closed due to a huge propane* leak, and it might not be open for “several hours, or maybe overnight.”

This was unwelcome news to someone who had left the house 11 hours earlier. There was nothing to do but turn the car around and drive back the way I’d just come. I parked off the road and called Megan, to let her know that she had the opposite problem: she couldn’t get to work.

Megan said she’d get the cats in, feed them, and close the doors which I always leave open for them when their doorman is absent. At least that was one less thing to worry about. Ever the worrier, I was wondering if I’d have to sleep in my car and go to work in the same clothes without benefit of make-up, toothbrush, or shower, an almost unthinkable proposition (even though I thought it).

I called my friend Erin, who lives nearby, and asked if she was up for an unexpected guest for an unspecified period of time.

Fortunately, she was, so I headed to her place, where I was warmly welcomed . I hung out with her son while Erin made dinner and her husband helped to deal with the propane situation (he is also on the fire department). We had a happy dinner together in her lovely, redwood-paneled dining room. We were just considering sorbet when Megan texted me to let me know that the coast was clear.

I thanked my gracious hosts and headed home in the dark. I was so happy that I could actually go home that I didn’t even worry about the horror of night driving. I got home about 14 hours after I left it, and got into my PJs and went straight to bed without passing Go or collecting $200.

When I left the house in the early morning darkness a few hours later, I had this strange feeling of déjà vu…

A YEAR AGO: I was having a lot more fun, having both my ‘do and my ‘tude refreshed with a visit to the wonderful Angelica.

*Surely the bane of the country dweller’s existence. So expensive! Those hideous tanks! The icky smell! And now this. To paraphrase Eric Clapton, “She don’t like, she don’t like, she don’t like…propane.”

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Mar 01 2015

A Trip Into the Past: Russia, Part I

Published by under Travel

Nothing to declare but my genius

Jump into the Wayback Machine with me! We’re going to post-glasnost Russia!

St. Petersburg, Russia
September 13, 1992

Now in my bleak Russian hotel room, sitting on my narrow bed [the coarse, less than white sheets would not be changed during my stay, and bore the bloodstains of many slain mosquitoes]. Time has changed a full 11 hours for me – I’m almost half-way around the world.

Flight was bumpy and very full. Couldn’t see anything but clouds. Actually walked down steps to a little bus to reach the terminal. Waited almost an hour for our luggage. Dad and Margaret had brought suitcases full of food, toilet paper, and duty free alcohol [later I would appreciate the wisdom of this]. We filled out declarations forms in French, asking whether we were importing firearms or objet’s d’art, and how much money we had and in what currency.

The terminal was very small, but had high vaulted ceilings decorated with stirring paintings of World War II. After the bags finally arrived, they were x-rayed, found satisfactory, then we went through yet another passport control and onto yet another bus, which took us to the hotel.

The Hotel Moscow looks like the projects and has a distinctively ’70s decor. Found a cockroach in Dad and Margaret’s bathroom, but he met a watery doom. They also have tiny twin beds, but their room overlooks the Neva. View from my room is completely uninspiring: backs of buildings and a construction site.

September 14, 5:10 pm

Well, it was a walk on the wild side today. Breakfast was mystery meat, mystery porridge, some weird soggy cheesecake type thing with no crust, hard bread, and weak coffee. Our ultra coiffed Intourist guide, Margarita, was giving some spiel during breakfast, and Dad suggested we leave during it to get some rubles. 400 rubles equal one pound, so we made the 400 ruble dash, as money often runs out before noon.

Nevsky Prospekt

We escaped into the sunshine and walked up Nevsky Prospekt [it’s the main street], but it’s three miles long and our hotel is situated at the boring end, so we got on a tram. The shops are really strange – no displays, or mystery displays. Many are down stairs and through dark doorways, filled with lots of people and few goods. In the markets, people were selling odd assortments: shoes, candy, a toothbrush, what appeared to be home-made vodka, maybe a melon or two.

Wine label

I did meet a little kitten outside a cheese shop and played with him until Dad came and got me. I miss Buddy so much, and it was a pleasure to meet and pet a Russian cat.

We finally figured out that the word that looks like “PECTOPAH” means “restaurant”. We opened one such door into a wide foyer and were beckoned past painted walls and up a flight of red carpeted stairs into what looked like an enormous nightclub. For $5, we were each given tomatoes with dressing, an egg shaped like a flower, borscht and beef stroganoff. I’m sorry to say that I’m not adjusting very well to the food here. I guess I’m just not a third world kind of girl.

On our way back down Nevsky Prospekt, we passed a long and animated line, which we learned was for cigarettes, a hot commodity. Everyone smokes everywhere here and they all seem to smoke the same brand, which smells worse than Gaulloises and Gitanes.

We finally reached the Hermitage, which is beautiful, painted green and white and presiding over a great square. The other side of the square is dominated by the admiralty building, a sweeping yellow Palladian-style building. We knew the Hermitage was closed that day, but enjoyed walking by it to the river. From the river, we could see the Peter and Paul fortress, its golden dome and spire glowing in the afternoon sun.

A YEAR AGO (2014): Feeling powerless.

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