Great Falls and the Origins of Shashlik

The leaves are starting to change and the Russian community in North America is starting to think about turning the heat on in their houses, but not quite yet, because it costs a lot and so we might as well tough in out until the middle of November if possible by wearing the same amount of clothing in our living room as we do in the Siberian gulags. Actually, more, since they didn’t really have clothes in the gulags.  I myself am eyeing this hat for when I visit Russian homes between now and Thanksgiving.

Since it was pretty warm this weekend, Mr. B and I decided to visit Great Falls Park to leaf-watch and spend some time decompressing together after being apart for a week (which is much harder than it sounds).

There are a couple of places to view the falls and all of them are extremely pretty and prime gathering places for people with extremely large cameras.  There was also, for some reason, A LOT of Asians barbecuing. Anyone know whether barbecue is inherent to the Chinese tradition? Mr. B argued that it stems from Mongolian roots; I argued that only Russians and ex-Soviets barbecue because of the whole shashlik thing. By the way-has anyone ever written a book on shashlik? I know the whole Korean BBQ thing, but I don’t think everyone there was Korean.  Ok, this tangent is making me hungry.

It was very sunny that day.  But not a lot of the leaves were changing color yet, which gives me hope since it means we can stave off winter for a bit longer.

Sitting on a rock overlooking the Potomac rushing into the Tidal Basin with the monuments some miles down the river made me wonder, why is life so beautiful sometimes?


Look what I found by the side of the road in Philadelphia


It’s a synagogue! And not just any synagogue, one of the only ones in the United States that retains a Byzantine-Moorish style and is the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. ALSO included:

From its founding, Rodeph Shalom was determined not to exclude members based on financial circumstances. Additionally, in 1829, a rule about intermarriage was established: “Members who married non-Jews would not be expelled as long as they raised their children as Jews.”

Must investigate. Now, to get inside!

Maybe you won’t be subject to posts lamenting how lacking culture Philly is, after all.



If you were National Public Radio’s MIchele Norris (emphasis mine) and Steve Inskeep, what would you think about crazy psycho girl in the audience taking pictures of you on a rainy Thursday night in the Philadelphia Free Library as you had a conversation about race and your new book? Would you be scared to know that aforementioned psycho girl had taken a tour of NPR headquarters in DC the previous week?

If you were a library patron in the Philadelphia Free Library, Vine Street Branch on a rainy Thursday night in October, what would you think about crazy psycho girl in the asiles taking picture of your pretty library and your funny transliterated Russian books ?

If you were a mother-in-law, what would you think after calling crazy psycho daughter-in-law to find out why she wasn’t home at 7:30 on a Thursday night and, instead of imagining her stuck on the side of I-95 North with a flat tire, you were relieved (?) to find out that she was attending a conversation about race with people from NPR?


City at night


I didn’t have a good picture to post with yesterday’s links, so here is one I took last night. It was rainy and foggy in Philly, one if those Sherlock Holmes fall nights, and all the cars were hurrying home for tea.