Auld lang syne

That they aren’t forgot. These lovely people.

This post is a humble tribute to the many night spent on Kamagersky Pereuluk, Moscow, hacking away at the ills of the world, making merry, making the most of it.

*** Looking to donate to the 2016 Movember campaign, raising funds and awareness for men’s health? Head over here and give all you can — help stop men dying too young. 


Raw photo essay of November 2014

It’s hard to explain or relate my life in Russia. So much so it often feels like another life or like I’m reading a vivid pop-up book with a clumsy plot. Open a page and there I am.

Five years… People spend that long in NYC and call themselves New Yorkers. So I was a Moscovite? Hardly. In Vermont we have a saying, “Can’t put a kitten in the oven and call it a cupcake.” By this superior logic, just as much as I don’t quality for true Vermontership—seventh generation—I also didn’t qualify for Moscovite status. Sidenote: Steven Seagal accepted Russian citizenship. Wow. What a world.

The intricacies of Russian life, leisure and the pursuit of happiness are for another post. While I stew on that slow burning pot of mental borscht, here is a page of the pop-up book ala November 2014—Russia, Spain, Vermont.

***I didn’t want to stay up late again and agonize over verbiage, but here we are again at 11 p.m. and it’s all hacked together. Rough. Grr. So be it. So be it. Sleep.

**** Looking to donate to my Movember campaign, raising funds and awareness for men’s health? Go here and give all you can to help stop men dying too young. 


Beardy boy on Red Square with hokey helmet. 



Then it was gone—the beard and smoking—for the first of the month. 


Ya gotta work hard to make the mo grow…just like those cacti. I had those things for YEARS!


I used to feed the birds on my window next to my desk. This was a friendly one.


I worked other places, too (freelance editing, private students, IELTS Examining, Academic Writing Center, etc), but the two above were the bread and borscht winners.



I rode my bike everywhere. She was called the Moscow Mule. This is me in the elevator of my building. Yes, I’m taking another selfie. Sue me.

I biked to work most days. Here’s a video of a particularly nice part of the commute along the Moscow River.




I’d write fridge poetry when the moment struck. I was proud of this one.


I would bike around and take pictures of stuff…like bikes.


The sky looked like this sometimes and I questioned biking…

Then these two invited a big group of friends from the Eramus Mundus Association to Alicante, Spain. Good people. Fun times. (Luca and Charlie got married the next year in the same town. I wish I saw them all more often.)

Everything went pear-shaped when my brother called to say dad didn’t wake up. This was probably the last picture before I got that call at about 11 p.m.


Dark times…


Headed home.


Built dad a cremation casket and said our goodbyes.



And on went the circle of life with little Phoebe in the world, my brother’s second daughter.


November 2014


Photos, Writing

To the balcony, to be a bird

They don’t talk much, but they are excitable and appreciative. Winter is here and their minds are hungry for survival. They need sustenance for their children. Don’t we all? Whether those offspring are ideas, interests, or mouths to feed, we all need…

They are blind to the complexities of humanity, without which they would no longer exist. Descartes.  They make a dill weed perch, survey the yard and decide at once to jump, flap, peck, stand, stop, jump, flap, flap, be.

To be a pumpkin seed eater. To be a bird.


icon_13634Thank you Dr Simon Cox for the nomination. It was a hoot. To the betterment of others!

Also, big thanks to Mr Cliffe and Ms Berkhane for the filming/soaking.

I’d like to pass the buck onto my two brothers, Will and Craig Bunten, and the one and only, Ben Piper.

Don’t spare the ice and don’t spare the cash for your chosen charity!

I’ll follow in my father’s footsteps and give to a cancer charity.



Day in the Life #1

meh.ro9131-455x692They said it was 700 rubles ($20) and I’d get two washes.  With all parties in agreement, Masha was beckoned.

Masha had a mean set of bangs – bi-colored and hanging around her left ear, but high and tight on the other side. She was wearing a black Mickey Mouse t-shirt with pudgy little middle fingers instead of eyes. On account of her roly-poly dimensions, Mickey seemed even more intent on insulting.  The desk in front of the mirror was a mess of dust, hair, and bottles of ‘Blade Lube.’

I stumbled through her question about what I want by saying, “I don’t speak Russian well, especially about hair.” You’d think I’d have mastered this gambit by now, but I enjoy the dissociation from my own vanity.  It’s liberating.

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Photos, Travel

VDNKh (ВДНХ), The All Russia Exhibition Center

During Soviet times it was the Exhibition of Achievements of the People’s Economy. VDNKh was one of the first places I visited when I arrived in 2008.  All the pavilions were filled with rundown kiosks, penned in ornery sales folk, and cheap wares, which must have made Lenin squirm a bit in his embalmed Marxist state on Red Square.

Lenin, doing his imposing thing in front of the central pavilion.

Lenin, doing his imposing thing in front of the Central Pavilion.

Having just reached its 75th anniversary, the local authorities have spruced it up well. All the cruddy kiosks have been replaced with cultural exhibits and businesses from a few of the respective ex-republics – Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Belarus. There are also pavilions dedicated to space, agriculture, academia, etc. Most of them have been finished, but many are still in the process of modernization.

According to the official website, negotiations are ongoing about opening pavilions for the Azerbaijan Republic, the Republic of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and the Volga and Central Federal Districts of the Russian Federation.

A very popular place for a traditional Russian ‘stroll’ – cruising at top speeds of .5 mph, holding hands (for couples or girls, not boys) or locked arms, setting the world to right – having a shashlik and breaking out your roller blades (yes, still outrageously popular here).  A huge area, so some sort of wheeled device is important. Skateboards are becoming hugely popular here for such purposes.

You will probably leave with is a strange desire to eat wheat and go to space.


Photos, Writing

Design Study?

Can I call this a design study if I’m no designer? I like to draw, but I don’t think that makes me a designer. If someone bought me Adobe Indesign, or better yet the whole Creative Suite, I could figure it out.  But could I create such things? Would someone take a picture?  What makes good design? Lord knows.

Wednesday questions.

These designs drew me:

The simplicity of it all. The easy lines. Flowing static. Sometimes so basic you hear, “A child could do that.” It’s all about context, surely.


Then you have the more ornate. More difficult to blend with others. The child argument fades. Curves, bends, flowers, stems.  A pleasant chaos, like fractals.

Returning to simplicity – the flag. An immediately recognizable narrative, for better or worse. Symbolic color, rarely understood. Shapes to rally fear, hope, and all else between. With all the talk of succession (Crimea, Scotland, Basque Country, Catalonia, etc.), a flag (re)designer might be a position more in demand.

Toothpick flags.

Toothpick flags.

Finally, the simplicity of nature.  The order of old. The work of the original proletariat – for the better of the hive. Motivated, somehow…

Bees, Vermont, USA.

Bees, Vermont, USA.


Running, Travel

Music Half Marathon, Moscow

“All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.”

~ Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I was inspired by Murakami in the run-up to my first marathon in 2010.  First, his literature was gripping and full of an indescribable tension, like love or balancing a spoon on your nose – difficult to do right, playful and mildly exhibitionist.  Second, his take on running in the above-mentioned book was right up my street. I had visions of taking on a marathon every year for the rest of my mortal days in his honor.  A mysterious Moscovian illness kept me from my third back in 2012, but I’ve been planning the comeback ever since.  For the time being, I’ll suffice to run two half marathons in a season.  The first of which being…

The Music Half Marathon in Moscow, organized by Adidas, was a splendid event.  Materials in English, pace runners, whacky-wigged, high-fiving supporters (volunteers), live music/DJs the whole way, excellent medals, and a view of some of Moscow’s most historic sites to help shape your own ‘homemade void’.

Moscow route

Pretty flat, out and half-way back route from Luzhniki Stadium to the Kremlin.

There was the usual stone-faced police folk lining the route, but past the noticeable lack of public support, it could have been an event organized anywhere in the Western world.  I ran the 2011 Adidas half marathon  (the first clip shows the outrageous registration line and later you can see many of the 90 degree turns in the race.) and the organizational quality was night and day. Very happy to see the improvements over time…

It was the first time I’d run that far in the Merrell Barefoot shoes since I bought them last summer. I’d like to think that the epic calf cramps I got towards the end of the race were not associated with them, but maybe others can attest to such happenings… They could have also been down to the cold wind and rain that pelted the last few kilometers, but one can never know.

Wet, but happy to have finished. Total – 1:41 (unofficial).

Wet, but happy to have finished. Total – 1:41 (unofficial).

The second half marathon will be a sojourn to Yaroslavl in mid-September. Hopefully I’ll be able to connect with some Burlington-Yaroslavl Sister City people, too.

I’ve seen far too little of the “Golden Ring” towns, so ticking off some UNESCO World Heritage vistas will be a treat for the ‘homemade void’.


Photos, Running

Barefoot 5K Race – Босоногий забег

All the kit you need.

All the kit you need.

I tested the theory that running barefoot was possible by doing 2.5k around my local rubbery track. Well, the plan was five, but two huge blisters circling the balls of my feet slowed me down. Dismayed but determined, I tried again a week later in Vorontsovsky Park. No issue. Conclusion – going uber-pace around four corners of a hot track was a bad way to start. All is possible.

It didn’t matter, anyway, as I had already paid the 1300 roubles registration (a bit steep, but they said it was due to it being hosted for the first time and a lack of big sponsors).

Arriving on race day, I was unsurprised by the Soviet chic.  The thatched roof houses did throw me for one a bit, though.  A bizarre mix of eras.

Although we were promised the grounds would be scoured for glass and such, right next to the shoe-drop I casually stepped around a few shards. No one seemed bothered. No one was hurt. This supports a general policy around Russia – don’t depend on signs and watch where you’re going.

As for the course, it was half in the woods, and half through some fields – lovely grass or packed ground (no glass to speak of). The downs seemed much harder than the ups for some reason, but all told no injury or areas that were too tough on the feet. There was a lot of adrenalin and a herd feeling about it, for sure… the slappy slap of tender human feet on packed ground dashing through the woods (watching Planet of the Apes: Revolution last night probably had some influence on this. Terrible film, by the way).

Generally speaking, a great event and experience that I’d do again in a heartbeat. Something I’ll try to develop in my running schedule, too. If you have a running bone in your body, give it a try. Very natural. A good analysis of the body dynamics can be found here (Harvard). Or some reading in from the science journal, Nature.

22:09 finish (unofficial).

22:09 finish (unofficial).