Owen, a South Californian and UCLA graduate, is staying in St. Petersburg, Russia, these days.
South California, with its Mediterranean climate, lovely landscape, and man-created opulence, is one of the best places for a human being to enjoy modern life. St. Petersburg — still a beautiful city packed with masterpieces of all arts — was built amidst “Finnish” marshes and stands [so they say] on the bones of innumerable Russian bondsmen. To use a cliché, it is strategically located in the estuary of the Neva river, but there are strong reasons to suspect the place was not considered liveable until our bonebreaking reformer arrived. Its previous masters, the Swedes, only kept a small fortress called Nyenschantz in the area; there were major ports and trade centers all around — Viborg, Narva, Revel, Dorpat — but not where St. Pete now stands. The white-night city, worth visiting a thousand times but (to a Muscovite like me) unfit for living and inhabited by shadows, exemplifies, perhaps the best, the “Russia transformed by Peter’s iron will”.
No wonder the water in the northern capital’s water pipes is rife with nasty microorganisms: think of the swamps. (Seriously, it is a good idea to boil tap water wherever you are unless you’re 100% sure it’s artesian. And some places in Europe still have lead pipes, don’t they?) And by the by, Putin and his camaraderie come from St. P… sorry, Leningrad.
Enjoy your stay, Owen!