Observations from the edge

On the last day of summer, I see a woman reading Murakami on the train, a reminder that I should finish the Murakami novel I’ve been attempting to read for more than six years. We both disembark at the Downtown Berkeley station. The brick rotunda is closed for renovation, and will soon be destroyed to be replaced by a sterile glass canopy, so I take the stairs up to Shattuck, emerging kitty corner to the Half-Price Books.

I make my way through campus. The woman with the Murakami collection disappears up ahead. I have nowhere to be; the chill permeates my clothes. An off-leash poodle frolics in the grass, keeping a cautious eye on his master. The VSLB is just as I remember it – a monolith on the edge of the hill. I skirt the edge of MLK plaza, up the side path to Sather Gate, through the gateway to the plaza between Dwinelle and Wheeler. Here, I once watched what seemed to be thousands of people stream down the hill. It’s empty.

Twenty one years

September 9th will be the 23rd anniversary of my arrival in the United States. When I first drafted this post, it was the 21st. I think that says a lot about what I’ve been doing with my time.

Just months before the 20th anniversary approached in 2015, I received a USCIS notice that my case status had changed and that a visa number had become available for my I-130 petition, which had been filed by my parents in 2008. I wasn’t sure if I could stay in the US to get my green card, which is called adjustment of status, or if I had to return to Russia for consular processing, which would have triggered a ten year bar to re-entry (I had overstayed my visa with my parents).

Because I had received DACA in 2012, there could have been a way for me to receive advance parole to leave the country and re-enter. This would establish legal presence, but it was complicated. I wasn’t sure it would work.

Luckily, I was eligible for adjustment of status under section 245(i):

A1. Section 245(i) allows certain persons, who have an immigrant visa immediately
available but entered without inspection or otherwise violated their status and thus are
ineligible to apply for adjustment of status in the United States, to apply if they pay a
$1,000 penalty. The LIFE Act temporarily extends the ability to preserve eligibility for
this provision of law until April 30, 2001. Use of Section 245(i) adjustment of status
previously was limited to eligible individuals who were the beneficiary of a visa petition
or labor certification application filed on or before January 14, 1998.

I think about 245(i) a lot, since the application that my mother (and I) was the beneficiary of was filed on April 23, 2001.

I received my green card in July of 2016 and went back to Russia about two weeks later, a month before the 21st anniversary of my last US entry in Miami.I-94 immigration form

I’m going back again in two days.

Site update imminent

It’s 1am and I have to be up at 7am to drive to Los Angeles. Perfect time to start messing with WordPress. This is kind of a test, since I haven’t even opened WordPress in months. Yes, this site needs a refresh, which will happen…when I stop working so hard.

I know, it looks awful, but I just restored comment functionality, son now you can tell me how awful it really is!

Jumping back in

Hey! I’m still here. I’ve decided to start writing again; hopefully this won’t be the last thing I post for the next few years.

Stick around for various essays and reviews.

Welcome, welcome to LA

I’m back in LA for a month, working on a film.  Now that I’m a little more motivated to write, I figured I’d write a post here.  I just started reading my friend Peter’s awesome blog about living in Slovenia.  You should check it out because it’s really well written and updated almost every day.

I moved my blog to wordpress because this platform seems to have a bit more functionality.  I think I’ll probably keep the old blog up for a while, just so people can get used to going to a new location.

Can someone who lives in LA tell me about all the new freeway construction going on on the 405?  It’s crazy.  Somehow I doubt that adding a few lanes on the Sepulveda pass will change anything.

I’ve read a lot of scripts lately, and they haven’t all been good, which has given me some motivation to start writing again.  Hopefully someone still reads this!

Oh, if you were my friend on Facebook and you wondered where I went, I deleted my account six months ago.  I’ve never felt better about being anti-social.


What’s happened in three nearly five months? I went to Texas, translated a novel, and am moving to a new place with M in the next few months. It will be one that we’ll own though, so that’s a major step for us. Looks like I’ll also be doing much more translation work.

The dog has grown. We’re going to NYC in April, so we’re definitely hoping to move before that happens, or at least before the summer.

I started going to the gym and I never thought I’d be happy to run a 10 minute mile, but I finally can. It’s sad though, because I ran track in high school and could run a 2:20 half-mile. Hopefully I can keep improving.

My friend Stevie Edwards got into the Cornell and Michigan MFA for poetry. Congrats to her! I forgot about the MFA application season. I’m sure it got pretty crazy on the MFA blog, as usual.

Up the coast

We went to Arcata to visit my sister last weekend and met her boyfriend Andrew, and after the trip I realized that I really like Humboldt County. No, not because of the weed, but maybe because it has so much potential as a source of literary inspiration. Take, for example, this story that Andrew told us:

Both he and my sister worked at a bakery owned by a wealthy man who opened a French cafe in town. The impression I got while this story was being told was that the guy had no culinary experience and poor management ability. So, I guess he opened the cafe because he was rich and he felt like it. That’s logical, right?

After he opened the cafe and bakery, he took his pastry chef to Tartine in SF (for those of you who don’t know, Tartine is a famous bakery on 18th and Guerrero, known for amazing baked goods. Check it out.), and supposedly “stole” a bunch of their recipes and ideas and whatnot.

It seems like a true story to me. Some of the baked goods in the cafe look like exact copies of stuff in Tartine. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but because it’s a small town with only a couple of good bakeries, it’s a funny story. I feel a sense of small town drama in it. Apparently, Andrew’s current employer (another bakery) is set to expand and compete with the other guy’s bakery.

Arcata reminds me of something, but I can’t place it. Maybe it’s Berkeley, or what Berkeley sometimes stands for – independence and a refusal to become commercialized and hip. There are a lot of local businesses in both places, but it seems as though Berkeley can’t staunch the flow of big business for long.

I bought my sister the Tartine bread book for her birthday, and now I wish I’d bought myself one as well.

Below: Ming and Mia at the visitor’s center of a redwood forest, the avenue of the giants, and a coast view north of Fort Bragg on the PCH as you leave the redwoods.

You have to think about these things

It seems like a lot of people have stopped blogging, which is depressing. I used to have a ton of new posts on my dashboard when I would log in, and now there are none. It’s too bad, really. Now, my links area is very depressingly low on people. But I’ve finally updated it!

Oh hey, Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, “Freedom,” is out, and this time, Franzen didn’t object to it being an Oprah’s Book Club pick. I find that a little strange. Am I the only one who would want to reject Oprah twice? Nevertheless, it’s been a long wait, and I bought the book a couple of days ago, so I’ll be starting it soon.

What I’m even more excited about is David Mitchell’s “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” which I also just bought. There’s no rational reason for this excitement, since I thought “Cloud Atlas” was very slightly overrated, but this historical novel is about early 19th century Japan, and the protagonist is Danish, which implies insane amounts of research. From the first five pages it is evident that this should be good!

Also, Rick Moody’s “The Four Fingers of Death” is out! Need I say more?

Anyone read any good short stories lately? I’ve kind of fallen behind on all that stuff.

What just happened?

Haha, there’s been some interesting stuff floating around online lately. What was that thing about Anis Shivani? Oh yeah, along with that really ridiculous post about the most overrated writers in America, he’s got the best HuffPost article titles, like, EVER.

Check ’em out.

In other news, Mia now weighs 7 lbs and has her own Twitter account 😉 I know you care!

Still haven’t taken the time to update the links. Still haven’t really written anything about anything. Bought Alice Munro’s short story collection, Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. Read a few stories and still think that Runaway is a far superior collection.

Also have been reading Roberto Bolaño’s short story collection The Return, which feels eerily like a practice run at The Savage Detectives and 2666. Probably one of the best and not Bolaño-related stories in the first half is Snow, about a Russian mobster and his henchman. Probably worth the price of the collection.

I’m a week late on this, but please check out Christine Lee Zilka’s literary auction for Jennifer Derilo, who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Worth your time and money!

I’m in LA working on a Hellraiser reboot. Lots of screaming involved.


I got back to SF last week, and we got the dog the same day, so we’ve had her for a week now. She’s pretty quiet and loves to cuddle, except when she doesn’t see one of us and starts crying. So it’s been a bit of a challenge to go anywhere. She got motion sickness on the first day when we were going home and threw up on me three times.

Her name is Mia and she just turned three months old. Next week we’ll be able to take her out to play with other dogs, and I’ll post more pictures 🙂