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Austin, Texas
December 15, 2007

It was late of a Texas December twilight, which is to say mild and enchanting. I sit on the back porch, Heineken in hand, the puppy at my feet, watching the sky through the waving branches. The lark's on the wing and the snail is, as far as I know, on the thorn. KMFA is providing a chorus from an Italian opera; but what, what? We have all so puzzled. You know every next note but can't quite place the melody. Donizetti perhaps? Something from Lucia? Puccini? But Giacomo didn't compose many choruses. There was the humming chorus from Butterfly but that doesn't count. Verdi, ahhh. Verdi, si. The Hebrew Prisoner's Chorus from Nabucco. 'Twould wring tears from a stone.

Then I see it. High in the sky. The stratus clouds dragon have formed a lovely dragon; a Smaug or a Fafnir; yes Fafnir for sure. Perfect. There is his head with proper triangular ears, a long neck feathering into a stout body with powerful back legs and smaller frontals. The wings are spread for miles and the tail terminates with a fanciful plume that would make Cranach weep with envy. From his snout there issues a deadly flame. This Fafnir meant business. En garde, St. George, thou Saxon fop.

Where is a Hamlet now with whom to share the Golden Moment? I go to my wife who has just gotten out of the bath. She refuses to traipse to the back porch au naturel. There is no one else about. I sadly return to the porch. The prisoner's chorus has ended. Fafnir is mostly gone.

But I shall remember.


The title, as the cognoscenti will recognize, is Russian for "Art thou South Slavonic?" It is most important that you get the aspiration correct, my children, in the event you encounter a Russian vampire. 'Not bloody likely' you will say, to which I reasonably answer, when dealing with vampires, the adjective 'bloody' is not le mot juste. In addition, as part of your higher education, you must visit Moscow, to see the Kremlin, and St. Petersburg, to do the Hermitage. Without this journey you will never venture above the aspirations of a fire hydrant or a dull-normal tree stump. You must breathe the air that Pushkin breathed and Tolstoy and Gogol. Brace yourself. It must be done.

The problem is that Russia is waist-deep in vampires these days — and, what is worse, vukodlaks, or werewolves. Moscow now churns out films, books and plays on the subject; even MTV's, punk rock, and rap. My theory on why Russia has turned Gothic follows (please take notes): Under the Commissars there were seventy years of sexual repression, which now finds vent in The Cult of the Vampire. Is there a connection between sex and vampires? Oh, mercy, yes.

Now my point is this. Where there is so much smoke there is bound to be a little fire. If the chap sitting next to you at the Ballet Russe taps your foot with his foot and smiles a toothy smile, you had best ask "xxcvvj kdkfjf?" Everything depends on it. For South Slavic vampires are one with vukodlaks, while in East Slavonia, they are deadly enemies. There is no point in telling Rover to sic a South Slavic critter for he (Rover) won't do it, but he will make short work of an Easterner. Also the method of dispatching vampires differs with geography. In the South, a hawthorn stake is required. In the East, an aspen stake is de rigueur. 'Tis best to bring one of each when walking the Moscow parks. And don't forget Rover.

Semper Fidelis


of Things Lost.

We asked Ted to tell us about his life.
His gracious acquiescence follows:

I was brought forth in the fall of 1931 when The Babe was in right field for the Yankees and Herbert Hoover was in the White House. That was in Port Chester, New York, which was a blight upon Long Island Sound, sited between the Waspish Edens of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Rye, New York. The Meads were (literally) on the wrong side of the tracks, and I was poor, small and the only Irish kid in an Italian neighborhood. Worse, I spoke a tongue foreign to peasantry — which is to say, the King's English. All this led to a vast experience in fist fights, which has stood me well in the subsequent three-quarters of a century.

I graduated without honors but with a BS in chemistry from Iona College and had the ill-advised temerity to try graduate school at Brooklyn College, wherein, as the Brooklynites would say, I got kilt. Gravely considering my condition (I wasn't too bright but could fight) I enlisted in the Marines and was placed in a Reconnaissance Company, in which I was taught to kill things with sharp sticks and knives. This was not of much use at American Cyanamid where I went to work as probably the worst chemist in the state of Connecticut.

I did, however, work with Ph.D.s and after a while became aware that, if I wasn't too smart, I was as smart as some of those blokes. Off we went to graduate school at the University of Colorado from which, mirabile dictu, I emerged with a doctorate. My subsequent thirty years with Texaco Research are best passed over quickly. I did have a talent for writing patents and acquired about forty of these, none of which were worth much. However, it should be noted that, after I left Texaco in 1993, the company rapidly disappeared. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, or something.

Since I ended my 'career' around Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, I thoughtfully picked up masters degrees in history, art and English. I was much better at this stuff than at science. For the past six years I, and my wife of 42 years, Elizabeth, have been auditing art history and history courses at the University of Texas at Austin. I am now teaching history at a community college while trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

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