The vampire’s confession

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  Peccavi in extremis, I’m afraid.

It has been … ages since my last confession, a time beyond recall.  I must say I have been rather good, but for one irresistible indulgence.  How shall I say it?  Out with it, then.

Father, I am a vampire.

Yes, I heard that gasp, involuntary though it was, through this rather flimsy barrier.  Why bother, I wonder?  Is it to protect my delicate sensibility, or yours?

No matter.  The sins I have to confess surely blow through such refinements like a spring squall through a spider’s dewy web.

Where shall I begin?  The burgher’s rich, leathery Sangiovese, or the light Beaujolais of girls in the springtime?  Ah, the sublime innocence, with just a touch of peppery insouciance!  I confess to a weakness for the unpresumptuous, even coarse, at times.  A cheap Zinfandel, just this side of plonk, fills the bill more often than I’d like to admit.

There was a certain lawyer, officious, but charming in his utter unawareness, a Malbec, precisely sour, and his lovely Shiraz of a wife.  I dream of her still.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have a profound appreciation for the refined as well.  How can I neglect the rich Barolo of the bishop, or the tawny Port of the late monseigneur, aged to perfection?  Yes, that was me, I’m afraid.  But look at the bright side, we have you, as a result.  I saw you walking to the confessional, with your springy step, that optimistic, wide open demeanor that refuses to be daunted.

I believe I fancy a nice Grenache, on such a fine, sunny afternoon.

Correspondence from the dawn of time

Archaeologists have uncovered a stone slab with what appears to be the earliest correspondence ever.  The hypothesis is that the slab was exchanged with each new entry.  Here is a transcript.

Not the slab, but stone like it.

Not the slab, but stone like it.


Why do you give me this?

No reason.  Just Hi.

What you want?

Nothing, just friend.  What wrong with that?

Here a small circle has been carved, with a curved line in the lower half, and two dots in the upper.

What this shit?

It’s like face, smiling.

OK, haha.

BTW, I have plenty hides, for you, cheap.

Here are just random chips, odd symbols, in a pattern suggesting anger.  There appears to be the figure of a man, decapitated.  The rest of the slab is blank.

Photo credit:

Mail order bride

On a long bus ride into the past, watching Riga Center slip by, I become aware of the two voices from the seat behind me. He speaks American English, slow, measured, clearly enunciated. She speaks language-school English, without undue inflection, practiced.

– Riga is a very nice city.
– Yes, very nice.
– I saw a sign somewhere, on the Maxima, I think. It said 00-24.
– Yes, it’s means it’s open 24/7.
– So, if it says 8-22…
– Yes, of course.


– Once I walked 2 hours to buy a book. I will show you where; it’s on this line.
– You walked 2 hours?
– I wanted just to walk.
– I hope it was a good book.
– Look, there it is, the bookstore.


– There’s a bus with a thing to connect to wires overhead.
– Yes, we call them trolley busses.
– In Paris and London, they have subways.
– They wanted to build a subway here…
– But the electricity is in the rails, not overhead, like here.
– But it was not popular.
– Oh, look, there’s one on rails. They stopped those in San Francisco. Too hard to maintain.
– Yes.
– My ex-wife wants 50% of everything. She will only get 25%.


– Graffiti. That means it’s not a good place.
– Yes, outskirts, not so nice.
– Suburbs.
– No, outskirts.
– No. City, suburbs, then country.
– No. Outskirts.


– Nothing to do out here, I guess.
– No, it’s nice.

My stop, time to get off. I can’t resist turning around. I see a grey man in his 50s, either fashionably unshaven, or just lazy, can’t tell. Beside him is a rather plump young girl, attractive, a determined look on her pleasant face. I hope it works out. I’m not very optimistic.

Riga party line

If you doubt that Eastern Europe is very different, consider this comment I heard at a party in Riga:

“I can’t drink beer or wine; my doctor told me to stick to the hard stuff.”

Someone else, having been told the stuff he had just poured into his glass was wine, and not flavored hooch, recoiled with horror, poured it out, and went straight for the vodka, hoping, no doubt, it wasn’t just water.

And these are the sober types.

I told a story of my profligate grandfather, who drank a bottle of vodka every day, finally expiring at the age of 85. Well of course, they said. What pathogens could survive such an environment?

Of course, all that booze was accompanied by heroic amounts of food: pickled herring, lox, unidentifiable but delicious cured meats, olives, pickles, cheeses of every variety, salads composed of any and all imaginable vegetables, all accompanied with sour cream and dill. Copious dill, always. Someone brought a massive traditional klinger, a thing like a giant pretzel, filled with fruit compotes and dressed with fresh berries. To be eaten with shots of cognac or vodka interspersed. Moderation, you know. Of course, you could always go one-stop, and eat the heavenly en-booze-iated fruit salad. Did I mention that all of this was unspeakably delicious?

This was followed, as the evening grew long, by the actual meal: marinated pork kebabs grilled to perfection. And, had I tried the klinger? I really should, you know. Perhaps a bit of cognac, to settle things?

There was, all in all, approximately a week’s worth of eating and drinking in one sunsetless evening in late June Latvia. I begged off and left the party as twilight began its descent, a rather late and hesitant affair up here at the 57th parallel. My host was dismayed at my early departure, and asked if I was well.

Walking to the trolley stop afterwards, I passed reeling youth, shouting, singing, ignored by more sober pedestrians, treated like a late spring squall, alarming, but not serious. It all seemed oddly calm.

Publish, perish

“I really like your blog.  You should publish that stuff sometime.”

Ever hear that? It’s an interesting point, this question of what counts as publishing. Certainly, when you press the “Publish” button and send off your work to the ether, it is made public in a way that anyone can access. But is it publishing?

Put another way, would Walt Whitman, famous self-publisher, have been content to be a blogger?

Self publishing, except possibly for Walt, carries an onus to start with; that’s why vanity presses are called what they are. As if convincing a paying publisher somewhere of the value of your work removes vanity from the picture. Ultimately, WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr, and even Facebook and Twitter are vanity presses, well within the usual meaning of the term. Walt would undoubtedly have been all over them.

So, what do people mean when they say you ought to publish your blogs? Two things, I think. First, there is a long standing distinction between publishing in a serial medium, such as a newspaper, magazine, or, yes, blog, and publishing a book. Dickens, Conan Doyle, Mitchener, all followed serial publication with book publication of essentially the same material. The distinction even allows, perhaps invites, revision. Serial publications are akin to drafts, in a sense.

The other thing people mean, however, goes to the heart of vanity vs. commercial publication: It’s not “real” unless you’ve convinced someone else that it’s worth an investment of time and money. The implication is that anything published commercially is better than anything self-published. A trip to any bookstore (if you can find one!) should disabuse you of that notion, but there it is. Commercial publication is still regarded as proof of value.

It’s not enough to have the heart of a poet; you need the soul of a salesman to really arrive. I wonder, though, how much of all this is changing, and how fast.