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I once got into a fistfight with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau outside the good ol’ Ratskeller in Berlin after I told him I preferred Hans Hotter’s performance of Winterreise, and that he (Fischer-Dieskau) had been in a slow decline ever since the 1950s.

Julia Fischer (no relation to Dietrich) was on the scene and was so turned on by my manliness (I kicked The Fish’s ass), we’ve been seeing each other on and off ever since.

She’s the greatest. We sit up all night long and drink White Russians and talk about phylogenetic profiling, the chromalveolate hypothesis proposed by Cavalier-Smith, Manchester City F.C. (of which we are both big fans), cricket, peonies, carrots, and so on …

In 1968, in the Saint Denis section of Paris, an elderly White Russian female emigré, a former maid in czarist St. Petersburg, and later a follower and lover of the Siberian holy man Grigori Rasputin, kept a polished wooden box, 18 in. by 6 in. in size, on top of her bedroom bureau.

Inside the box lay Rasputin’s penis. It “looked like a blackened, overripe banana, about a foot long, and resting on a velvet cloth,” reported Rasputin’s biographer Patte Barham. In life, this penis, wrote Rasputin’s daughter Maria, measured a good 13 inches when fully erect (one might ask how she knew … indeed , one might ask why anybody would own up to being Rasputin’s daughter).

According to Maria’s account, in 1916, when Prince Felix Yussupov and his fellow assassins attacked Rasputin after unsuccessfully poisoning him with food and wine laced with arsenic (apparently Rasputin ate and drank heartily, declaring the meal excellent, which must have pissed them off), Yussupov first raped him, then fired a bullet into his head, wounding him. As Rasputin fell (remember, he was drunk, had ingested arsenic, been buggered and shot in the head), another young nobleman pulled out a dagger and castrated Rasputin, flinging the severed penis across the room.

One of Yussupov’s servants, a relative of Rasputin’s lover, recovered the severed organ and handed it over to the maid. She, in turn, fled with it to Paris.

Other versions of the death of Rasputin are available, but I like this one.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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