& Company


eight (8) years of internet exposure

7 January 2012


This site has been an internet tenant eight years already. And you'd think that, in that time, it would've so grown on Stremba himself, that he'd be embracing all the other developments forced on us since through relentless modernization—even all that micro-tech entailing silly names, names which must embarrass a grownup forced to voice them. (I mean, does not NPR's Diane Rehm gag when she has to say on-air "send us a tweet"?) Maybe if this eight-year-old had yielded for harvest some substantial fruit, Stremba would more easily have joined the rest of the horde a-tweeting and a-twinkling and friending folks. Fact is, if this site were a fig tree, and Jesus were to come along, why, he'd verily have cast a darkling look upon it.


eight (8) more years of blessed living

31 December 2011


The Diplomat, now retired from the Foreign Service, is embracing even more intensely civic, social and ecclesiastical opportunities for exercising her extroversion.

Our Uzbek Tatarka continues her studies—more English, biology—and sings in the Brown Memorial choir but seldom sings at home.

Stremba scrapes fiddle tunes out of a half-dozen violins and makes vague plans for his "The Last Story."

Mamura the Cat breathed her last in November 2008. In August 2010, Bobur moved in—the first male cat in our house since Ambrose (1979), Goliath (1984), Samuel (1991). Much loved were our females Mamura and her predecessor, Pravda (2000), and before them—Squooshums (1993). Bobur's behavior with strangers persuades the three human residents that male cats are much more sociable. Same can't be inferred for male humans.


The Diplomat, the Uzbek Tatarka and Stremba list some major lessons they've learned, insights gained, facts registered these past eight years. You'll have to guess which learning is whose.

1. "Tomorrow ain't promised"—a line from a Blues song—sums up recent experiences of seeing friends pass away much before you'd expect and reflecting then how you just got to love them now while you can, while you and they are still around.

2. There's a pleasure that can arise out of being realistic. You make plans to do only what you know you can get done, only what you want to do—and you get it done, and that feels good—as opposed to getting started on too much then leaving lots undone, which feels bad. There is, however, a downside to this touted approach to happiness: it does lead to doing less, to being more restrictive—and how good is that?

3. The pleasure in postponing, in procrastinating, cannot be denied. One of life's greatest joys is putting off for the day after tomorrow what you might've put off just till tomorrow. (An adaptation of a famous Twain quote.) But it's a pleasure available only to those who are young. Once you've passed a certain age, it's hell to procrastinate because you very well know there's not much future ahead about which to pretend you'll get the thing done.

4. Home Depots all over the country—that's a darn good thing. You're driving a distance and then you sense acutely you've got a full bladder and you can never be sure stopping and parking at a gas station or a fast food joint will promptly meet your urgent need—maybe long lines, locked facilities, filthy facilities, no facilities. But you spy a shopping center with a Home Depot—well, you just roll on in, park, run to the entrance and follow the posted signage. And in no time flat, relief. Depend on it.

Huzzahs for hussies!

which includes the locals, and those afar

8 March 2008


For the locals—especially the women within this house: the Diplomat, the Uzbek Tatarka, and the House Cat—hubba-hubba!
For those afar—from Detroit to Edinburgh, from Maine to Northern Virginia, from Paris to Tashkent, from Yekaterinburg to Zanzibar—hurrah-hurrah!
I celebrate you all this International Women's Day and on all days in between, when I'm not taking you for granted.

Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, Fruit, bronze, 1911, Baltimore Museum of Art Sculpture Garden


Now hush, you hussies, and you shall hear another version of a theme that, for many of you, has been vital and dear. For many others, however, it's a matter so remote as to be almost arcanely quaint. But when you've got one foot in the Catholic tradition and the other foot in Eastern Orthodoxy, then it's a thing you can't miss—the total maleness of the priesthood in those Churches. So, I contacted the only churchman I'm on talking terms with these days—Bishop Yulian Zhalko, Eparch of Shamokin, who leads an ancient community long adverse to making any adjustments to this tradition of an all-male clergy. Our conversation follows. Don't trip.

Jacob Epstein, The Visitation, bronze, 1955, Baltimore Museum of Art Sculpture Garden


We met in the cathedral basement, where a kitchen crew of women were cooking countless varenyky.

Slava Isusu Khrystu, Your Grace. I'm hoping to spend a few minutes of this holiday getting your views on an old theme.

Slava na viky. What holiday?

International Women's Day.

SSND Foundress, plaza sculpture, College of Notre Dame of Maryland

My dear Mr Stremba, who in Western Hemisphere do observation this holiday? You must travel all way to old Bolshevik zone to find anyone who can link March 8 with women.

You're probably right, Your Grace. Over there, they do get the day off. Can't beat having another paid holiday. In Yekaterinburg, there's even a street named Eighth of March Street.

You are thinking about holiday. I am thinking about holyday. Is it not astonishing—Protestants and the Romans—this year—their Pascha—their Easter is middle of March!

March 23rd, Your Grace.

Would you not think some smart fellows amongst them would rise up—protest—"Enough is enough! How we celebration Paschal Life in winter?"
Ay-yi-yi, every gospel with exception of Holy John—they put Jesus death at Passover. What self-respecting Jew ever consider do Passover in winter? But even more than authority of gospels is Nicea council. How Roman Catholics come to disregard Holy Nicea, its rule about date for Easter? As for Protestants, well, those good people do not have clue what we talking about. Nicea-Micea, for them, maybe is new brand deodorant, sale at Rite-Aid.

Speaking of smart fellows, Bishop, what's the latest position of your Church on the role of women?

Latest position? Latest? Like we change positions with each roll of fashion, of mood??? Our position—she is unchanged. Same as we holding since Church began.

So, you're in agreement with the late Pope John Paul II who dismissed the question by pointing to Jesus' first Apostles—all males.

In agreement? Absolutely not. Jesus-Schmeezus, who knows for sure what our Lord had done while on earth? Our scriptures—not history textbooks. We ordaining only men because Church early, very early, she decide only men is best. Lord have mercy, if we let Jesus call shots on this—no telling whom we would be obliged to ordain. Thankfulness to God for wisdom of Church.

Well, Bishop, if it's not what Jesus did or did not do in his lifetime on earth, what's the "wisdom" of your Church based on when you refuse ordination to women?

Cold hands.

Cold hands???

Women may be warm in their hearts and other parts of their physical and spiritual anatomies, maybe, but what is undispute fact—they all, without exceptional, their hands—hands are cold.

Without exception, Your Grace? Even the Virgin?

Even Bohorodytsa herself.

Our Lady, Gibbon Hall, College of Notre Dame of Maryland

Cold hands excludes from priestly ministry?

Let us say—initial screening, eh? My dear Mr. Stremba, why does this surprise you? We are very physical Church—all our sacraments and sacramentals are so—how do you say?—so hands-on. Why, Slavonic term for ordination is rukopolozhenie. You know this?

The laying on of hands.

You cannot conceive of Christian life without touch. Unless you are Protestant. Why, our faithful, they are forever grabbing at priest's hand—to kiss hand. Pious person grabbing hold hand that's cold, cold as Arctic Sea—such Christian would suffer crisis of faith.

If the Bohorodytsa had been blessed with warm hands, would Jesus have ordained her priest?

You would think so. But he didn't, now, did he? Cold hands. Even Bohorodytsa. No exceptionals. Not even Senator Hillary. Not even Mizzus Pelosi. Who can argument with nature? The Good Lord, our Father God, must have something else in mind for women when He give them all—brrrr—cold hands. Brrr.

Plaza sculpture, College of Notre Dame of Maryland

Just never thought of it that way. Thank you much for your time, Your Grace.

My pleasure. Will we see you at the Paschal Vigil?

April 27th? It could snow that day.

Down Argentina, maybe! Shamokin, she knows spring. By then, tulips—up and gone. Find out for me, when you can, why all western Christians—such sheep—durno—falling into line—Easter in winter. Oy-yo-yo.

Sculpture Credits

First photo above: Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, "Fruit," bronze, 1911, Baltimore Museum of Art Sculpture Garden.

Second: Jacob Epstein, "The Visitation," bronze, 1955, Baltimore Museum of Art Sculpture Garden.

Third: SSND Foundress, plaza sculpture, College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

Fourth: Our Lady, Gibbon Hall, College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

Fifth: Plaza sculpture, College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

'Hush, America!'

which is what I'd like Baltimore to say to you and me

7 February 2006


We're back. Been back from Russia since the summer of 2004. Back in Baltimore since September 2004. And, gawd, is it ever NOISEY here! Whether Baltimore was always such a disturber of the peace, or—well, could it be the contrast with Gogol Street in Yekaterinburg or our cul-de-sac off Sadaf Street in Tashkent, or is it just age-related—can't say. Some days it seems as if Howard Street down at the bottom of the hill is the emergency-vehicle corridor for the whole east coast, siren after siren. Any peace that manages to muscle her way into the neighborhood gets punctuated with stupid-ass car alarms or ought-to-be-outlawed motorcycles or screaming graffiti vandalism. So you take a break on a MARC train for a jaunt to Washington, sit back, looking forward to the classic clickity-clack putting you to sleep, your favorite book open on your lap—and there's this person behind you, or across the aisle, or in front of you, her/his fist to her/his jaw and s/he's yakking away like it's everyone's business!!! No wonder no one's outraged with Bush's monitoring telephone calls. Independent of the NSA, all these hammerheads are already willingly sharing half their private conversations with strangers. Yes, we're back. Now, hush, my soul, hush.

Stremba & Cat, both without a cell-phone, at home, at peace.
Stremba and Cat,
both with-
out a cell-phone near,
at home, at peace
on a Sunday until
the next siren-blare
bursts up from down
the street.

Mamura's resume:

1. Put paws down in
four different Tashkent houses,
two Yekaterinburg apartments,
one New Hampshire cottage,
and now Baltimore.

2. Never once, in all that
nomadic frenzy, never forgot
where to find the litterbox.

3. Scratches with delicious fury
only three designated carpets.

4. Tells moving stories with
a limited vocabulary.

'Hush kelibsiz!'

as they say when WELCOMING you in Uzbekistan

19 August 2003


Stremba, an American, spent three and a half years (1998-2002) in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. He was quite happy there, even at that late date, to keep a considerable distance from the internet. Long before that, this Stremba, baptized Matthew-Daniel, managed, along with the rest of humankind, to get by rather well wholly without the internet for what might be called a very healthy era of lead pencils, Remington typewriters, and carbon paper.

When he began, shortly after graduating from childhood, teaching high-school English, the math teacher across the hall was still teaching slide-rule competence, but downstairs a crazy breed of humans was hatching something called data-processing where machines punched neat squares through funny looking cards. "Oh, lord, let them poke holes," sensitive souls of the Important Department murmured, "while we teach paragraph construction and force exposure to Poe, Dickenson, Twain and all the other worthies of American Lit." Now, then, how can Matthew-Daniel's participation in this website be construed as anything but treacherously giving to the Golden Age of the 1950s, 60s and 70s what Russians call the "figa" ???

Well, it was only in mid-2003, in Yekaterinburg, Russia, that the internet began infiltrating Stremba & Company. In the Tashkent years, and earlier in Baltimore, and in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and in Moscow, USSR, Stremba & Company made appearances as storyteller in a variety of venues from ballrooms to front porches, from backyards to mainstream churches, as well as in issues of The Plot Thickens, now out-of-print collector's items. What insidious Russian thing is it that, in these recent months, has slipped inside the door, one footfall at a time, and kicked Stremba's soul upside down?

In the scale of things, not a major question. But it is undergoing study.


The work of Stremba & Company is funded exclusively by one smart woman who works 16-hour days and sees that MDS is fed, dressed, housed and caressed. There is no support from corporate favors, government grants, advertising, or juicy deals. And there has been no income generated since God-knows-when. With a small staff and a network of fans, Stremba & Company does what it can when it can.

Stremba & his bride on Berezova Mountain, one foot in Europe & the other in Asia
This monument, about 30 miles west of Yekaterinburg, Berezova mountain, marks the boundary between Europe (on your left) and Asia (on your right). Straddling the continental divide — determined in 1837 by V.N. Tatishev, a geographer and historian — Stremba and his Bride, Barbara, on 31 August 2003. They are not the first tourists to put one foot in Europe and the other in Asia.


one ex-seminarian
one ex-high-school-teacher
one ex-bingo-caller
one ex-denture-chauffeur
one ex-house-painter
one ex-cubic-space-salesman
one ex-Pennsylvanian
one househusband
one sub-deacon (unlicensed but enjoying the benefits of apostolic succession anyway)
a storyteller or two
one Matthew-Daniel Stremba
five hack writers
a Carpatho-Rusyn
a Ukrainian
a Baltimorean
a cat
and Nastya
and Feruza


Positives: "Wow." "Ah, another gem. Keep 'em coming." "You're Baltimore's best kept secret."

Negatives: "Stop, already." "Derivative." "Aw, come off it."

"If I were alive, I'd pay good money to see this guy's work before an audience. He's got lots going for him. He owns a house in Baltimore, not out in the county somewhere. He's not a Methodist, so he knows good beer and buncombe. Besides, he reads my stuff. And the man wouldn't be caught dead clutching to his head one of those cell phones."

–H.L. Mencken.

"Who? Come on, give me some peace, will you?"

–F. Scott Fitzgerald.

"You can take the man out of the church, but you can't get the church out of Stremba."

–Bishop Zhalko, Eparch of Shamokin.