Passion… Tradition

Version 2

La bella Italia. Land of antiquity and artistry, mandolina and Cicciolina. Home of sea, sun and serenade… poetry, popes, and pasta. Favored with the grandeur of the Alps and the Amalfi. Mocked by the circuses of Benito and bunga-bunga.

What is it about this rich but contradictory land that made my father leave at an early age and never look back, while tugging his American-born offspring back again and again?

His flight had much or everything to do with a dying economic future within a provincial Italian social structure. He was young and on fire with dreams about breaking with the past.

Yet, we, the eventual legacy of his New World ambitions, shaped and programmed by American novelty and experiment, now yearn to age in the trusted old wine barrel that quenched the likes of Leonardo, Bellini, Dante, D’Annunzio, Galileo, Fellini, Sophia, and the father who left it all behind.

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Welcome Anastasia Prykhodko — Artist, Patriot


Anastasia Prykhodko is a sultry 27-year-old Ukrainian singer who possesses a smokey contralto that can thunder like a Cossack horde, wail like a steppe wind, growl like a menacing bear or brood like a solitary exile. She is now on her first tour of the U.S.

I became a fan of “Nastya” several years ago while researching a piece on Ukrainian music. I discovered an article about a young, female Ukrainian singer who, after an imbroglio with Ukrainian music officials, was asked by Russia to represent that country in the 2009 Eurovision song contest.

The story included several photos of Nastya. These revealed a face that could either adorn a Byzantine fresco, tempt as a high-tuned tart, or deliver on a lethal beating. I knew I had to hear her sing.

What a voice. Deep, penetrating, soaring. Her performances can range from minimalist to extravagant to militant— and her powerful presence matches her voice. During her concerts she engages her audiences with wit and humor, and displays an intelligence and depth rare for a twenty-something.

Maid of Maidan

Lately, though, Anastasia has matters of peace and politics on her mind. Once an advocate for the  “spiritual and historical affinity between Russia and Ukraine,” her mood changed after the events of 2013 that began with Ukraine’s Maidan protests, which ousted President Victor Yanukovich and later sparked Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its backing of a separatist war in Eastern Ukraine.

Nastya performed at Maidan and has since spoken and sung tirelessly against the  Russian “occupiers,” especially giving concerts in the war-torn regions. This has earned her hero status in Ukraine and enmity in Russia, where a media mud-fling has hurled non-stop insults and opprobrium. They label her one of Russia’s biggest enemies, and the NTV channel aired a program called “17 Friends of the Junta” that targeted Prykhodko and other critics of Russian actions in Ukraine.

Nastya shrugs off the criticism. “I find it funny watching how Russian media are agonizing,” she told Radio Free Europe. “The very name of the program is laughable.”

And despite her former popularity there, she declares that she’ll never perform in Russia again, saying, ” I won’t sing for the occupiers.”

Meanwhile, she twitters back some nastya words of her own: “Dear Russians, I will not show you the way, you know where to go, although, no, you’re already there!”

Anastasia Prykhodko’s current American concert tour kicked off in Philadelphia on March 5th and will take her to New York (March 6), Washington, DC (March 7), Boston (March 8), Chicago (March 13), Minneapolis (March 14), San Francisco (March 15), Los Angeles (March 20), ending in Seattle (March 21).

All concert proceeds will benefit humanitarian aid relief to wounded soldiers and other victims of the war in Ukraine. If you want to find out more about Nastya—and your Russian and Ukrainian are awesome—you can visit Anastasia Prykhodko’s website or, for concert info, her blog.

My Brilliant Career


“Your career is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you’re going to get. But everything you get is going to teach you something along the way and make you the person you are today.” – Nick Carter, musician

If you’re not working your passion then you’re probably wasting your time. Right?

Well, sure, if you’re lucky enough to know your passion and you’re making a fine living working it.

But most of us trod a job path of hit, miss, and discovery that often means taking what comes, fair and foul. And perhaps because of this process, we earn something just as valuable.

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Frequent Floaters

My wife just took me on another cruise. This, our second, was a late-November Viking Rhine River cruise that carried us from Amsterdam to Basel, with well-chosen stops along the way.

First, let me make clear that whatever you’ve heard about the Viking junkets is probably an understatement. They treat you like pashas, with scores of staff coddling every whim, while the multi-starred menu would fatten the Mahatma

And their ports of call and excursions not only proceed with a “no-worries” precision but are actually interesting.

I say that my wife “took” me because she planned, gathered, and confirmed every detail of the trip. She chose this time and place because of a long-held hankering by both of us to see northern Europe during the Christmas season.

We weren’t disappointed. Big cities, like Cologne, Heidelberg and Strasbourg, offered dazzling holiday lights and displays; and the Christmas markets succored us with warm wine, hot schnitzel, and contagious bonhomie. My wife bought ornaments. I bought a wool hat. It was all grand.

Although this was only our second cruise, I had already detected a shared quirk among our shipmates. I describe it as a reorienting of life to coincide with, and be mere intervals between, the next cruise. I call it Frequent Floater Syndrome. Continue reading

DC Friends

“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?”
—Stephanie Perkinshandshake

I play with a community orchestra here in the “Greater Washington, DC” area, and at our last concert I struck up a pre-show conversation with one of the other musicians, a young woman of around 30.

She had been living in DC since her early twenties and during that time had played with the orchestra. She is a skilled hand on a stringed instrument called a domra.

A little over two years ago, she relocated to Portland, Maine but continues to return three times a year to play with the orchestra.

As we talked, I asked about her life in Maine and specifically why she decided to leave DC.

“All the years in DC,” she explained, “I never felt that I made any real friends… Oh, I had a good job and a good social life, but everyone seemed so transient.

She continued: “Even now I talk about my ‘friends’ as the people I care about and stay in touch with—as opposed to my ‘DC friends,’ who are people that I once knew in a fun way but never built any lasting bonds with.”

This admission surprised me. She is bright, accomplished, pretty, sincere, and has a great sense of humor. I just assumed she would be the belle of any ball, anywhere.

It got me thinking about my own links with the nation’s capital.

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