Taxis of the World

Taking a taxi ride is an instant way to form some conclusions about a place. In Beijing, for example, I was assaulted by a silent driver and Chinese rap song that kept going on and on and on.for about 100 minutes. China, it seems, is embracing the rhythms of western economics and culture faster than China’s leaders would like to admit. In a similar musical assault in Brazil a few years ago, Brazilian pop blasted through a torn speaker in back of me as the cabbie blew kisses at young women we passed.who completely ignored this Latin Lothario.


An American in Paris: Thanksgiving

Photo (c)2004 Russell Johnson

Note: We first published this story in 2004, just after Thanksgiving and a few weeks after the re-election of George W. Bush. The US dollar wasn’t worth too much then and the French found our politics puzzling, to say the least.

Thanksgiving, of course, is completely off the map of the French. My wife Pat and I spent Turkey Day with expat friends shamelessly gulping red wine, slurping oysters and savoring all manner of fats, cheeses, chocolates and filet of boeuf. All of this is good for you…if you are in France.


Looking for Santa in New York City

Christmas Tree, Rockefeller Plaza

The celebrities in Rockefeller Plaza are quite a distance away. They are next to the giant Christmas tree on the plaza, waiting for it to light up. We are stuck in a line, a block away, playing cat and mouse with New York’s finest who are half-heartedly trying to get us to move on. My wife has become quite a star herself.leading the nearby mob in a chorus of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.”

One guy yelled “shaddup! I hate dat song.”

The tree lit up, everybody cheered, we moved away with the mass into one of New York’s biggest weekends. We went in search of Santa.

Mighty Morfin’ Airplanes: Nanotechnology Explained (sort of)

“I am endeavoring, ma’am, to construct a mnemonic circuit using stone knives and bearskins.”
Mr. Spock on Star Trek

In the mid `90s, sages like MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte told us to think about bits instead of atoms. Atoms were unwieldy hard goods.”stuff” like steel and rock. You needed forklifts to move them. Bits were nimble little song and dance men that two-stepped around The Internet and recombined as everything from airline bookings to Britney Spears videos.


Gourmet Magazine’s Private Dining Room

Eat Those Words!

It was a day that marks a life passage in a boy’s adolescence. It was spring and I was helping my father remove storm windows and replace them with screens. Robins mined for worms, Dizzy Dean or some other drawling baseball once-great honked from a radio, power lawnmowers chorused. We stopped and refreshed with a lemonade and he — haltingly — told me: “Son, you are reaching the age when I think it is time that you know some of the facts about being a man.”

I laughed. “Oh, I already know all of that, Dad.”

Are you sure, he replied. “Barbecue is really an art.”

I confess that I have always been more of a food voyeur than a chef, barbecue being the exception. As a child, while other kids stuffed Playboys under their mattress, I pored over Good Housekeeping, leering at juicy cuts of tender meat that looked decidedly different from the gray slabs of roast beef my mother scorched as if she were performing exorcisms.