Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Photo by Franz Gstattner, Studhofstiege, Vienna, Austria, 2005
Was it snowing then
Was it sunny
What was the sky like
Pink at sunrise
Red at the end of day
Grey, as it is now
I remember her smile
I remember the way she walked
Was I dreaming
Oh, if I am dreaming now

Sunday, December 19, 2010

From The Lion and the Sun

Balakirev glanced sideways at Conte. They kept walking. The Rathaus came into view, its four spires and soaring campanile lit by floodlights, the square in front filled with booths and milling people. The whole effect like a combination outdoor sale, flea market, and county fair all garbed in Christmas decorations.

For a while Conte and Balakirev just strolled about looking at the cured meats and Austrian cheeses in one booth, and the hand-painted eggs in another. A group of young men went by holding large cups of beer, laughing and singing what sounded like soccer chants, “Wir sind Zecken, asoziale Zecken, wir leben unter Brücken oder in der Bahnhofsmission!”

The two men followed the aroma of meat grilling and stopped at a booth selling bratwurst on Kaiser rolls. They smothered their sandwiches in hot Austrian mustard and walked on, wolfing them down and looking for someplace to buy beer.

Conte finished his bratwurst and walked to a trashcan to throw out the paper tray. A young girl, perhaps 16 or 17, maybe older, it was hard to tell, was digging through the trash. She was wearing what had once been a white evening gown, and had a dirty, cream-colored scarf wrapped around her neck and shoulders. The girl came out with a half eaten piece of roll, ate it and licked the mustard from the paper in which it had been wrapped. Her eyes darted here and there, and then came to rest on Conte. She pointed at him, smiled and put her index finger to her pursed lips.

Balakirev had stopped at a booth selling gluwein. He held the hot, steaming cup of spiced wine in his hands and blew on it. He looked up as Conte came over to him. “Something to warm us up” he said, pointing to a cup he’d purchased for Conte.

They walked across the front of the Rathaus and turned down Lichtenfelsgasse, sipping their gluwein as they went. Conte asked Balakirev whether Russia was going ahead with the sale of laser isotope separation technology to Iranian laboratories.
“It’s a matter under discussion,” he said, without elaboration.
Conte stopped walking and waited until Balakirev turned and looked at him. “I’ll say it again; that technology could be used for nuclear weapons development purposes.”
“We discuss these things, Daniel, and sometimes certain incentives are offered, oil for example, then we discuss them again, and finally we offer something else.”
"You're going to repair Bushehr?"
Balakirev smiled.
They started walking again.
“What condition is Bushehr in now?”

Bushehr was a nuclear power plant that Iran had started building in 1975. Iraq bombed the plant during the 1980-88 war with Iran. Intelligence suggested that Iran was negotiating with the Russians to repair and finish the plant after the Germans had backed out of the deal.

“Bushehr isn’t too bad. We can fix it,” Balakirev answered.
“Are you going to?”
“What is the expression so popular in the Arab World? Inshalla."

Pond off the 10th Fairway

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pasta With Tomatoes, Capers, Olives and Breadcrumbs


Published: December 6, 2010 in the New York Times

Bread crumbs, crisped in olive oil with garlic, make a flavorful addition to just about any pasta. Make your own bread crumbs if you’ve got bread that’s drying out, and keep them in the freezer.
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, 2 sliced, 1 minced
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup green or black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped (2 ounces)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound spaghetti, preferably a good whole-wheat brand
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
1. Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the sliced garlic over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan or skillet. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic turns golden, about two minutes. Do not let it take on any more color than this. Remove the garlic slices with a slotted spoon and discard, then add the bread crumbs to the pan. Turn the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until the bread crumbs are crisp. Remove from the heat, and set aside.
2. Return the pan to medium heat, and add the remaining olive oil, the red pepper flakes and the minced garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds until the garlic smells fragrant, and add the tomatoes, capers and olives. Bring to a simmer, and simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the spaghetti. Cook al dente, following the cooking recommendations on the package but checking about a minute before the suggested time. Drain, and toss with the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the bread crumbs and parsley on top, toss again briefly and serve, passing the Parmesan at the table.
Yield: Serves four.
Advance preparation: You can make the recipe through Step 2 several hours before cooking the pasta. The bread crumbs will keep for a couple of weeks in the freezer. Reheat and crisp in a dry pan over medium heat. The tomato sauce will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.
Nutritional information per serving: 450 calories; 14 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 70 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams dietary fiber; 718 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 12 grams protein.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Love in Retrospect

He stood looking out across the Stadt Park; back in Vienna after so many years. He remembered it had been about this time of year. The skies were overcast, and a fine mist meandered through the park. The damp cold seemed to find ways to seep through his sweats as he jogged along the wet path, hop-scotching puddles. Russian crows were strutting through the carpet of leaves bordering the footpath. They flew to bare branches complaining in loud cacaws at his intrusion. He had stopped, hands on knees, catching his breath. He couldn’t stop thinking of her despite trying to run himself into unconsciousness.
Back at the K&K Hotel, he'd showered and dressed. He was early. She’d invited him to dinner . “Christmas dinner,” she’d said, although it wasn’t yet Christmas, and they wouldn’t spend Christmas together, ever, as it turned out. He'd paced the room for as long as he could stand it, and then left for her flat on Operngasse.
Garlands of lights were being strung across Kartnerstrasse. A tree had already been placed in the middle of the broad walk. On the Graben, workmen were struggling to erect a set of huge stars. The up-scale stores were setting up their Christmas decorations. He’d be leaving Vienna for Istanbul first thing in the morning. He'd miss the displays, the Kris Kringle Markt, and the caroling. And although he didn't know it at the time, he'd never again see the only woman he’d ever truly loved.