Imagine the world where you don’t have to leave your house at all. Allergies? No problem, you don’t have to worry about those anymore. Extreme weather? No such thing, central heating and a/c got your covered. Flu sneezing citizens and other unpleasant elements? Thing of the past. The walls around you will take care of that.

And what do you do for essentials? Food, clothing, entertainment? What about friends? Pets? Fresh air? Love?

Well, what about them? Introducing Sense Me, a revolutionary way to experience life. Experience in such a way that you don’t need to leave your couch. Ever. Guaranteed.

Sense Me is a sensor based device that delivers sensual experiences to whoever uses it. It comes packed with sensor pads that can imitate how you feel, taste, smell and hear the world around you. Want to try on a new shirt? You can, with the help of a 3D hologram enriched with hundreds of tiny sensors. Just spread your arms and the hologram will dress you up in whatever you need to try on. These sensors are able to deliver the accurate sensation, whether it’s silk, cotton or a knights armor.

Want to try a new dish? Sky’s the limit. Just program which dish you want, place a sensotic gum in your mouth and chew away. That gum lasts a long time and can’t be swallowed. No hassle cleaning dishes, and you’re never full or hungry- a special chemical in the gum controls your perception of food, heck it even fully replaces your palate!

Want to travel to a new place? Visit Afghanistan or Siberia? Forget virtual reality, our SenseMe proprietary placement technology will make you feel like you’re in the afghan cave or Siberian village, same temperature, just about same thoughts towards Americans, but safe, so safe like nothing else. You can ride a camel in Egypt or scuba dive in Costa Rica. You will never drown or feel discomfort. You will be as comfortable as you can be and yet be anywhere you want. How, you might ask? That same hologram technology that projects a T-shirt on you would project you on a scuba dive trip. Virtual reality? Not at all, you feel it as if you are there. It is therefore not virtual.

What about friends? Well you need those but why bother crossing town, hopping on the subway or driving? Have a drink right here, heck have 11 drinks, you’re not driving tonight. We will project your friends to your room, or even project a beer and snacks, you will feel as drunk as you want to be. Want to get into a fight after a few too many? Your face will swell up if you’re not too lucky or your knuckles will, if you are.

What about love, you might ask? The most sacred of all human contacts? Well hold on to your pants, our premium SenseMe model comes equipped with Jessica or Kyle, or both if you’re into that sort of thing. You think it’s a hologram? Think again. It’s our proprietary technology again. Don’t even get off the couch, it will all happen there and you won’t need to worry about unwanted pregnancy or being caught with your pants down by a jealous husband or wife. No jealousy and no strings attached. But it will feel real, so real you’d want to take a shower. Which is also not really necessary- our clean bots will take care of that.

So what are you waiting for? Just pay down a deposit and enjoy a new life. Not that you have much of the old one.

Stuck in dessert

My family name starts with a Z. When I was growing up it had certain pluses and minuses. On the plus side, if a teacher was going down the list of names I’d be at the very bottom- a real advantage when it comes to a lower chance of being called to present or solve something. Similarly if someone was going through a list of allocating tasks alphabetically, I could potentially figure out good and bad choices while the task scheduler was traveling down the alphabet. With that same token, and it’s a clear minus, all good choices might have been taken by the time I had an opportunity to pick. Most importantly being last on the list of names had a self perception of being last in general.

That aside, and in a more mature day and age, I passed on the joy of a Z last name to my kids who happen to go to daycare. That daycare happens to have holiday potlucks here and there. Guess where we end up every time? We are pretty much stuck in dessert.

Mistaken identity

A long time ago, when I was a young pup still in college, maybe second or third year in, so that would put me at 20 years old or so, I was looking for a job. I felt the need to make a little cash while continuing my full time studies in a demanding college program. When you’re 20, even a little cash is a lot. Even a side gig is a serious endeavor. And so is searching for it.

I don’t remember exactly how I came across this story. I think it was a job ad in the paper (yes, people used to look for jobs through newspaper classifieds) or maybe I snatched a business card somewhere (another nearly defunct antiquity). In any case, I somehow got a name and number of this person – and I think he was some sort of executive or chief something officer in a fairly small company.

So I called the number and asked a secretary to be connected to that person (and yet another thing of the past – secretary for a mid level manager … potentially still very common in the old country but not so much in a more democratic West). The secretary, who sounded young, sexy, snobbish and unattainable so that so I could hear her tapping her high heels impatiently on the hardwood or tile floor), sighed in near disgust and promised to connect. A long hold to a happy tune that felt like an eternity, with my stomach growling in unison to the tune, I figured she was telling him, well some kid is calling you and him pressing her, who is the kid and what am I paying you for and her (rather rudely) saying how the hell should I know when you give your number away to every slut you meet and then expect me to sleep with you and that’s what you’re paying me for anyway, not more … The happy tune finally ended and the male voice muttered “Yes hello”. What followed was a poorly prepared version of my spiel that attempted to convince him how I, a hardly worthy young individual of non-existent skills and accomplishments, would take his company to a new level. I could tell he wanted to play a nice guy card, softly interrupting my speech with hmm’s and ahh’s but I saw that the end was near – his interest was waning. He did manage to stay on the phone with me for 3 or 4 minutes after which he apologized and said he was late for another meeting. And he asked me to call back next week.

And I did. Diligently, hands shaking and voice as coarse as sandpaper, I dialed the number, and after 2 or 3 beeps the same secretary picked up the phone. I said well me again, such and such, calling for such and such. Because he asked me to call back, that’s why, answering a question she never asked but I bet the one that was burrowing her pretty little brain.

Not 30 seconds later, the executive picked up the phone and crooned, “Stas? Is that you? So great to hear from you!! How are things?” I was stunned. Is he drunk, I’m thinking? High? Both? Getting laid while all this is happening? By the tone of the conversation I could tell none of those were remotely relevant. He was sober as a judge. And lacked the excitement typically characteristic of getting laid. And his voice was steady and happy, like he met an old friend. I started thinking well, maybe it’s just working out?

He started by asking what I want to do with my life. I said, well I am heading towards an econ major, and the country is heading towards a free market and now’s the best time to take advantage of this kind of symbiosis of my and the country’s combined future. Even in his delighted state he was likely thinking, this guy is an absolute waste of space. So the conversation went on, with him telling me in detail what his company was doing and what he was working on currently. Not anything seriously confidential, like a Pepsi recipe or his bank account number but personal enough for a stranger to be made aware of. Then he started telling me where I might fit in. Although they don’t have anything at the moment, he could create an internship for a special guy like me. I am thinking, a) this guy is super lonely or b) he likes young guys and he’s super lonely or c) he is drunk, high and getting laid but is handling all of that surprisingly well. There was another option, that I was missing something and that I actually made a great impression on him and was not giving myself enough credit.

Still very suspicious, I went on. He kept on spewing ideas on how to make things happen for me, increasingly excited and energetic.

And then he says, “And what does your dad think of our industry?”

I thought for a moment and blurted out, “My dad doesn’t think much of any industry, to be honest, he’s a doctor”.

An awkward pause followed. “I’m sorry, aren’t you Vladimir Victorovich’s son?”

“No….?” I replied and there was a bit of a question baked in there. As if asking if there is a chance that my dad’s name is in fact Vladimir Victorovich. And as if asking, do I still have a chance?

Needless to say, the tone of the executive’s voice changed in a split second. The excitement and energy that was so obvious seconds ago melted away. So did his manners. In a rather rude voice he stated the obvious, “I thought you were someone else” and after wishing me good luck he hung up.

I was sitting there and thinking to myself that I wish I’d never called that guy. This is even worse than being out of work. I was kind of hired, under a false pretense, told what my job was going to be, had an equivalent of a sign up bonus – you know, someone powerful being actually super nice to me. And after all that – fired. And for what? For being the wrong guy’s son?

This last part didn’t make any sense. I went to talk to my dad, you know, a doctor with a wrong name, who told me with conviction and authority, his life’s wisdom at play there – “Fuck them”.

After that we had a couple of drinks and I never thought about it again. Until today.


47 is a median age in Germany and Japan. Wait… what?

I am slowly approaching the age that effectively puts me over into a different category of people. Not old and not really young, just another phase within middle aged, the northeast corner of the baby boomers’ kids generation, the original 90s crowd. I will confess, however, that all this lead-up is not an attempt at another sob story from someone witnessing the inevitable- wrinkly skin, bad breath, and the ever increasing slowness. This is nothing but a quest for an encouraging account or evidence that not all is lost and that the northeast corner is not as lonely a place as it seems. I am about to turn 47 in a few days. 

I turned to one of my best friends in this lone, digitally toxic world – Google- for some answers. As it turns out, I am not the only 46-year old looking for some pointers and feel good factoids. And far from being the only 46-year old on the brink (or just past) of the 47 mark.

First, celebrities. As I look at them, despite their celebrity status, there are flaws. And flaws again. Which I, naturally, do not have. As it turns out, I am superior to most of these so called popular kids.

Dwayne Johnson, May 2 he turned 47. He’s big, rich and funny. And doesn’t look a day older than 40. I am not rich or big but possess certain comedian quality improv skills that will send good ol’ Dwayne through the door and outside the comedy club to never come back. After all, he’s got a script and I don’t.

Snoop Dog will blow the candles on October 20. Same rich, but not funny at least to me and looks kind of sickly. He actually looks like he’s got a permanently lit joint inside his skull. That’s one more for me folks. I don’t have a joint inside my skull. I happen to live in a state that has not got the guts to decriminalize a rather innocent spice.

Speaking of spice. Geri Halliwell, aka Ginger Spice of the Spice Girls. A model, dancer, singer, she turned 47 on Aug 2. I have nothing, she’s just hot. Or used to be. Actually, I am still hot. Because – see above – I live in a good, clean state.

Sophie Vergara, July 10. Boy she’s hot, even hotter than Geri. Can’t compete there, to be honest. But she’s older than me … so there, it’s all good.

Jared Leto, December 26. The guy looks like Jesus and he’s conveniently born right after the big man himself. Sacrilegious? Oh, who knows. I myself don’t have that conflict of interest.

Willie Robertson wore a birthday hat back in April. He’s one of Duck Dynasty people (I had to look it up … not that there is anything wrong with Duck Dynasty). His birthday hat was likely made of wild turkey feathers. He may be a good looking guy underneath all that ungodly hair but who can really tell? Another one for me … K-POW! I shave clean, babe.

There is a really cool guy in the 47 club that I truly admire – Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Feb 17. Respect, dude.

So looks like we’re done with pop culture. But what about sports people? Politicians? Entrepreneurs? Let’s spend a little time here.

Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, turned 47 in August. He’s worth $3.5Bn and is successful all around. Fantastic track record, used to play football, supports this and that cause, Forbes top 40 under 40 etc. etc. Well, let’s see. He’s in Baltimore, I’m in Philly – east coast just gave me a point. I am married to a fashion designer, so that’s another point. He’s clearly into sports and technology – that’s another solid 2-pointer for me. I can go on and on but won’t. The point is – it’s people like Kevin that make us 46-ers believe that anything is possible.

Looking overseas, it’s clear that 47 in the US is an equivalent to teenage years in some not so well off countries. As sad as it is, Chad (African nation) has the lowest life expectancy with average lifespan of 50 years. Afghanistan and Gabon are not so far from that either. Russia (mothership of mine) can’t directly compare to these African and Asian nations but people in their 40’s look way older than our own 50-year olds. Combination of cold climate, permanent stress and pretty shitty diet are main causes.

So let’s come back to a 46-er perspective. Is 47 considered middle age, a question popped up in Google. And here’s the answer, according to English Oxford dictionary and US Census: middle age is between 45 and 65. Say what??? I am not in the northeast corner? I am barely across the line? Given my youthful looks, clean shave and enviable sense of humor, a stranger would’ve pinned me on a “just turned 40” board anyway.

Moving on, 47 is not almost 50, it’s actually still called mid-40’s. Ha!
What a discovery! Almost 50 starts at 48, so I have another year to enjoy this small but important distinction.

On a very serious note (and it takes a Goliath effort out of me to be
serious), it is very much a matter of perspective and sensibility. What I
didn’t know when I was a young hound is that 30 is not old. 50 or 70 are not old either. I dismissed older people like many other young people did then and do now and, let’s be honest, always will. What I also didn’t realize back then is how youthful and energetic I’d feel in my mid-40’s, despite certain physical properties losing their once unlimited ability, such as consuming alcohol all night long and heading to class the next morning. It’s odd but my 74-year old dad is more youthful now that I remember him in his 30’s or 40’s. Call it a worm-like regenerative process. Minus things growing back of course, like my hair.

I am glad I had this conversation. It let me feel good, uncover a few unexpected facts and learn a little. There is only one thing that remains – I need to learn either German or Japanese. Better yet, learn French and move to Monaco, their median age is 52, and I am just a puppy by their standards!

Dad’s vacation

I recently went on a two-week beach vacation, a mention worthy event on its own since I hadn’t taken two weeks straight in a very long time.

I have three kids – all boys ranging from 15 months to six and a half years. I thought I knew my kids before but we spent so much time together that I ended up learning quite a bit more. Think of it as a kids emersion training, kind of like learning French. Here’s some of what I learned and some more, while it’s still fresh.

  1. I realized I love dining with my kids. We tend to go to fancier places, because “honey, after all we are on a vacation, let’s do something nicer” but kids don’t care if it’s a $3 plate or $10 plate, they aren’t eating their meals anyway, and so I end up finishing theirs. Which, like I said, tend to be pretty good options (like an absolute delight of a bacon cheeseburger that my oldest one simply couldn’t push down his throat anymore).
  2. Their kind of fun is surprisingly the same as my kind of fun. I mean, sun, sea, sand tunnels – they know no age boundaries. The kind of fun that completely wears them out by day end, they pass out faster than usual so we can have more of uniquely our kind of fun.
  3. Their behavior that ranges from squealing kind of whining to bickering and outright fighting is much easier to handle. You are so exhilarated not to be at work or deal with any kind of domestic challenges that you love everything and everyone, for two weeks you turn into a Tibetan monk only in a warm and balmy climate. You actually love your children and everything about them. LOVE them and their nasty behaviors. If it gets too much, you just focus your attention on a pretty dune or a seagull. Anything goes. Don’t even need an Om.
  4. It is for that same reason – your complete detachment from the real world – that you cough up a ton of money on food and entertainment. The wife’s “honey…” statement reinforces what must be done, gents.
  5. You grow to appreciate electronic gadgets, availability of WiFi networks and the digital content revolution beyond any parental instincts. After all, the uniquely our kind of fun often takes us past midnight, and hardly ever sober, and so when the oldest and the middle one wake up at 7, they don’t need to ask for an iPad. They know where to find it, and they know you won’t mind. Because vacations are sacred.
  6. The kind of movies they watch leaves you wondering what happened to this fine art form. However, it’s right in your face, and you start paying attention, and following the story, and after 7 or 8 replays you actually end up having conversations with your three year old about Scooby Doo. I mean, why not? That’s what vacations are for.
  7. You spend such a long time with them side by side that you start noticing actual physical changes. Getting taller, gaining weight, muscle build up… it is an odd change from an hour a day routine plus weekends to a 24/7 routine for two weeks. My oldest one tried out a surf board and it somewhat worked for him. And I thought, hmm, that’s cool and I had no idea he can do that!
  8. You are learning all kinds of things about your kids. After a couple of drinks you start thinking while they are misbehaving, oh they got that sense of humor from me, or they have my energy in them. And the younger one, he’s just my copy, the way he eats or moves or farts or whatever. Your eyes get all misty – a mix of booze making its way through the veins and a monk like attitude towards everything. This is generally the time you get along well with your wife, the in laws if they are present, even your boss if he or she happens to be there too.

The list can go on and on. I don’t want to dwell on it because it’s late and I have to get up early, pack 5 lunches, wipe 3 butts and get everybody out the door so the boss who I loved so much not a week ago won’t give me an evil eye. Like I said, vacations are sacred and we need to cherish them. Just like our kids, really.


So what’s with the heartburn? I mean, is it really that your heart is burning?

Well … of course not. My good friend Google revealed in a couple of articles that the acid reflux- a technical name for heartburn- is felt in the area not too far from your heart, and that’s how the name came to life.

Apparently, questions about heartburn puzzled other people too. Chrissy Teigen asked “Can you die of acid reflux?”. The good people of the forum let her down easily by saying no but it can be a sign of pregnancy … to which she reacted “Jesus Christ”.

I found a few jokes on the topic of heartburn:

What do you call a Jewish man with a heartburn? An acidic Jew.

“Doctor, I seem to get a get a heartburn every time I eat a birthday cake”. “Have you tried removing the candles first?”

Words like heartburn are misnomers. According to Wikipedia, a misnomer is a name that is incorrectly applied to a person, place or object. So heartburn is a misnomer because it has nothing to do with heart.

As a non native English speaker, I used to find misnomers challenging. Shortly after I moved to North America, a friend asked “Hey can you pass me a Kleenex?”… A what? Had he said tissue, I would’ve known right away. Instead it involved a lengthy explanation of how beloved brands became adopted as everyday nouns.

But rest assured, for the many heartburns that happen in life- misnomer or otherwise- there has to be a Tums you can take.

Commute wife

Commute wife

I go to work roughly at the same time every day. One of the roads I take is a rather busy street with no sidewalks, lots of industrial buildings, gas stations, mechanic shops- a pretty gloomy sight. And every morning, about in the same stretch of the road , I see this girl walking on the side of the road, facing traffic, headphones on and head tilted a bit down, seemingly ignorant of the surroundings. She obviously travels somewhere by foot, job or school, unable or unwilling to use a gas powered alternative. I get to see her many different outfits, in a glimpse of a few seconds try to understand her mood or what she’s listening to. In our busy life, aside from her family and hopefully a loved one, I am likely the only person that sees her every morning, morning after morning after morning. I call her my commute wife.


My stepbrother lives in Virginia, not too far from my dad and my stepmother. He does his mom’s taxes and I help with my dad’s. We exchange texts when we need some info for our respective filings. Last year I asked what his mom’s Virginia adjusted gross income was and he replied, “My mom’s vagi is …”. What a wonderful son, I thought, what an open minded family.

Best friend

“Mommy, but I really, really, really want a puppy”, Cody sniffled as his mom hugged him and drew him closer, now completely enclosing him in her arms: shivering shoulders, knees bent up to his chin. “Okay”, she finally declared with a relief, with the worst deliberations behind them, as if celebrating a difficult decision, “We are getting a puppy!”

That night Cody dreamed of a brightly lit meadow that he and his beloved puppy ran across tirelessly. He’d been asking his parents for a pet for what seemed like a lifetime. Cody was five and not a day had gone by without him badgering them. There was an excuse every time he brought it up. Like their apartment was small… or Dad is allergic to cat dander … Or baby Emma is too small for a pet to be around … or Mom lost her job. Cody wasn’t buying any of that. After all, how can this all possibly matter?

Finally, the ice melted. Mom and Dad agreed on a puppy. Not too fast, they said, first we need to make sure you’re ready to have a puppy. He’d been trying hard – helping with chores, taking care of Emma. The day had come when they were ready to get in the car and head over to the pet store.

Dad was whistling a happy tune, Cody’s heart jumping out of his chest, Mom and Emma closely behind them. “Well, that’s going to be an problem”, muttered Dad. “Oh no”, Cody’s heart dropped as he followed Dad’s troubled look and saw a flat. Mom signed but quickly recovered, “George, just get it fixed, honey, that shouldn’t take long”. Dad countered, “Sheryl, someone slashed two tires with a knife, I think it is going to take some time!”

They never made it to the pet store that day. Later on, Mom consoled Cody, “It’s okay, baby, we’ll go next weekend”. He sighed and went to sleep, upset and wondering why someone would try to carve their names on a tire when there are so many wonderful trees around.

Next weekend took forever to come but, as promised, the family headed to the pet store. Dad stopped at the red light. Seconds later, their car got a big jolt. “Is everybody okay?” Dad yelled and then said something short that Cody or Emma couldn’t understand but Mom scolded him about: “George … The kids!” Dad stormed out but put on the breaks when he realized he was dealing with a 90-year old offender in a Cadillac. “Well, look at that, what are we going to do now???” A tow truck showed up 3 hours later. They all got into a rental but it was too late for a pet store and the mood was ruined. Cody was beyond himself. When he drives his car outside and bumps into Sean’s, nobody yells or says weird short words. And he’s pretty sure Sean’s parents still take him to a pet store after that.

Another few weeks went by. He overheard Mom talking to Dad in the living room “George, are you avoiding this? We promised Cody, you can’t do that to him”. “Sheryl, we’ll go, I promise, it’s just these bozos in Corporate are driving me nuts, you know that!” Cody had no idea what bozos meant but he knew he didn’t like them.

In a couple of days Dad got sad news that Nana passed away. Cody loved Nana and almost forgot about a puppy until one day Mom and Dad decided on the pet store again.

There were no carvings or accidents this time, and they finally made it to the pet store. Cody walked around, taking his time, looking into cages, when he saw a black lab puppy that he thought was the one. “I am going to get my Mom and Dad, I want this puppy!”, he blurted out to the nearby salesman and went off. “Mom, Dad, I found him!!” He gasped for air as he ran back to get them, grabbed their hands, dragged them to the cage only to see that it was empty. “Where did he go?” He turned around and saw a fat red-haired boy, licking a whirly lollipop, his mom next to him and that salesman holding his puppy! He couldn’t help it and started crying as Mom went into argument with the salesman and the boy’s mom. “Well, it’s our puppy and that’s the end of it!” The boy’s mom kept on shouting. “Charlie loves his puppy, right, Charlie? You think you rich people can just snatch stuff away from us??” Dad tried to chime in, “Sheryl, it’s alright, we’ll find another puppy”. Mom snapped, “Whose side are you on, George?? Your son’s or the chubby chubbs’ here???” The boy’s mom then yelled that same word that Dad said before and stormed out. “George, I’m sorry, but this was the last drop”, Mom started crying but Cody’s own tears dried out as he wondered what Mom was talking about: “Drop? It’s not even raining…”

Later that night, when Mom put Cody to bed, she held him close and whispered “Cody, baby, your Dad will not live with us for some time, but I promise you, promise you that we will buy you a puppy”. The dream of him and the puppy on the summer meadow seemed like a miracle now.

Another month went by. It was winter, Dad moved out, and Mom, Cody and Emma were getting used to the new life. One day after school, Cody was at home with Emma and the nanny, looking in the window at how the sun played with snow and icicles in all kinds of colors. The door swung open, a gust of cold air and steam rushed in, with it came Mom, red-cheeked, laughing, happy, and she was holding the most precious creature in the entire world – a white, black and brown puppy! Cody grabbed the dog, hugged and kissed him, and the puppy returned love incessantly licking Cody’s face. Everything around him looked different now and his heart was singing. “I just went to that shelter downtown and saw him, and I thought Cody would love this guy”, Mom told the nanny. And to Cody, “What will you call him, Cody?” “I don’t know yet, mommy. Maybe … Brownie?”

For the first time in months Cody slept peacefully, Brownie whimpering on a pillow next to his bed. Mom closed the door and sighed. She went to the living room and sat on the couch listening to the comfortable silence, and for the first time in a long while she knew that things would get a lot better from now on, no matter what.

Cherry pit

I looked at the cherry pit and moved it closer to my face, as if inspecting it. And I thought to myself: “This is the one”.

When I was a kid, I loved cherries. I also loved cherry pits – pitting them, often with bare hands, looking at them, spitting them out. It was intriguing that there was a rock inside food.

When I was 3, my mom washed me a whole plate of cherries. I ate one or two for starters. Next, I filled a mouthful with 10 or 15, chewed slowly and skillfully spat the pits out one by one. Then I started thinking, what else can I do with cherries and, more importantly, with pits? I thought, ”It would be cool to plant a cherry pit in my nose”. I studied the next one carefully and stuck it up my nostril. Nothing happened, so I thrust it further and waited patiently.

The pit got wedged so high up and swelled so fast that no finger in the world could ever pry it out.

My mom ran into the room, following my outcry for help. She rushed me to the doctor, where, with the help of 3 nurses and what looked like pliers, an enormous, swollen up pit was extracted out of my nose, onto a metal tray.