My photo
When I was little, I could repeat by memory any poem or sing a song that my mother used to read or sing to me. If she'll take me to a movie, that have music and songs, I'll be singing it later in any foreign language that movie was on. She'll invite her friends to a party and I'll be the entertainment. From Radj Kapur to Yves Montand, I've sang them all I guess music was in my blood and it stayed with me through all my life. And I can only repeat these great words from Nietzsche: "WITHOUT MUSIC LIFE WOULD BE A MISTAKE"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

See Valery on MTV Latvia

DECEMBER 16th, 2007

See Valery on MTV Latvia on the Latvian Independent Television channel

About Valery


Born in the city of Riga, a fairly cosmopolitan capital of a former Soviet Union Republic of Latvia. Located on the Baltic Sea, Riga is home to a large International port and one of the closest places to the West where music could easily be heard from Scandinavia and Europe.


Valery's first fascination with American Rock and Roll started by listening to short wave radio at the age of six. He learn to play guitar at 10, by watching 16 year old gypsy guy Kolia "The Gold Tooth", playing' and later joining him and playing together in the parks and parties.

American Rock and Roll becomes an underground sensation in all Eastern Europe, including USSR and Riga was a Mecca for trading illegal LP's, reel-to-reel tapes and Bone Records (recordings made on x-ray film).

Valery found a few guys, who also loved to hear and play American Rock and Roll on acoustic guitars. They would spend nights playing and singing. In 1961, he got a hold of "Fender" guitar catalog, from a sailor and for the first time saw detailed pictures of electric guitars. He made the body, copying the shape of a "Stratocaster" with an old acoustic guitar neck, the boys rigged up some electronics and it worked!

In 1962, he persuaded his friends to start a band and play only American Rock and Roll. They called the band "Revengers". The group's repertoire was based on all great rock innovators of that time like: Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, etc. The band started to play at high schools, institutes and universities and became the city’s underground sensation for the kids who wanted to dance rock 'n roll and go wild.


But for Valery, it all ended in November of 1965, when he was drafted into Red Army. After three years, he returned back home and with his old buddy Pete Anderson started a new band "Natural Product" in the spring of 1968. The group’s success and influence among young people is so big, that "authorities" order to disband the group and prohibit any performances, with a threat of exile. In the fall of 1970, the band ended its existence.

Without any prospects to play American music again, Valery made a decision to get out of the USSR and emigrate to the US. Before leaving, he joined three musician friends and they played several special shows for their fans around town, under the name "Three And A Half".

Free at last, he spent half a year in Rome, enjoying life with his newfound Italian friends and famous groups "Banco" and "PFM", with whom he traveled around Italy from Venezia to Napoli. He also managed to make one concert with the help of his musician friends, who all wanted him to stay in Rome.


But America has always been Valery's dream and with the help of a friend Fred Feller, he finally made it to JFK on a Flight # 19 in the summer of 1975. He enjoyed an amazing cross county trip in a car from Washington DC to Berkley, CA that opened his eyes to the beauty of America and it's people.

By chance, he ran into his home town buddy - drummer Jakov, and with two Russian musician friends from Moscow, Sasha and Yuri, they formed the first Russian rock band in San Francisco. The news spread fast and in 1976 they were the media darlings featured on the Evening News with Walter Kronkite, Good Morning America, the September issue of a Rolling Stone magazine. They also appeared on the Midnight Special TV Show with Wolfman Jack. Their band started touring and playing on the same bill with Bob Sieger, BOC, The Band, Eddie Money, Pablo Cruze, Elvin Bishop and Tom Fogerty.

In 1977 Valery opened his first recording studio which became a home to some of the emigrated Russian rock stars. There, he recorded early San Francisco punk and reggae bands.

In 1981, Valery became an American Citizen!

From 1982 to 1983 he traveled and spent time in Canada, Paris, London, Brussels, Barcelona and Corsica.

His old friend, Nick Binkley, suggested to open a studio in San Diego, so in 1986 Valery relocated to Southern California and opened "Flight 19 Studio". This studio became a place for many ‘hair bands to polish their act and look pretty.

Among numerous studio clients, there was a young local band, Bad Radio, that held auditions for a singer. After a few candidates, the band decided on Eddie Vedder because his music was fresh and his singing was honest. They practiced and recorded at Valery's studio for over two years and became close friends. Later Eddie moved to Seattle and joined Pearl Jam.

In 1988, Valery joined together with some talented local musicians and started his first American rock band, Flight 19.

His hometown old friend and bandmate, Grisha DiMant, moved from Riga to Los Angeles. Valery often visted him and his son, Leor, who was born while Grisha and Valery were performing the last gig Valery played in Riga. All grown up, Leor, aka DJ Lethal, had just started the band, House of Pain. Later, DJ Lethal became a member of the Everlast and Limp Bizkit bands.

In 1993, Valery moved his Flight 19 Studio to Escondido, where he records, produces and works with local and international acts to this day.

Flight 19 YouTube Video

Latvian Rock Legend Returns to Riga

The Latvian Institute
News & Events
By Ojars Kalnins
August 20, 2007

Back in the 60’s he shocked the Kremlin and rocked a whole generation. He created the first rock and roll band in the USSR, and had to make his own electric guitar because the instrument was otherwise banned by Soviet authorities. His concerts, together with Pits Andersons and others, caused near riots in Rīga. And now, two US filmmakers are producing a documentary called ‘Rockin’ the Kremlin’ about how Seisky and other Latvian rock and rollers started a musical revolution on the dark side of the Iron Curtain. Although he has spent the last 30 years as a musician and producer in California, Seisky (Valery Safudinov) returned to his home town of Rīga last week for special performances August 17 and 18 at the Bite Blues Club. Seisky jammed with the Latvian Blues Band and Igors Novikovs, bringing his high energy, good spirits and musical virtuosity to a large group of friends and fans.

During the 60’s and 70’s Seisky led three successful bands in Rīga – The Revengers, Natural Product and Three and a Half. In 1974 he emigrated to the United States, where he continued to play rock with other former Soviet musicians, appeared on numerous US TV shows, and eventually founded his own recording studio. Today, Seisky lives in San Diego and continues to make music in his Flight 19 studio. Seisky worked with many young talents, including Eddie Vedder who went on to form the Seattle rock group ‘Pearl Jam’. Seisky has also recently released his first CD called Moonlight Jam 'At the GasLamp’.

Seisky has vowed to return to Rīga more frequently and is even exploring the possibility of writing a musical based on the children’s story ‘Franklin’s Hat’, written by Juris Zvirgzdiņš.

Welcome back Seisky!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Early Years in Riga

A Life Of Music & Friends

"At the Gaslamp" CD - Songs of San Diego

Moonlight Jam
"At the Gaslamp"
© 2007 Valery Saifudinov & Vladimir Yarovinsky (805238817624)

Party Pop


1 Down to The GasLamp
2 Little Taco Shop in Encinitas
3 Coyote Bar And Grill
4 Party in OB (Ocean Beach)
5 LaJolla Manequin

6 Angel from Del Mar

7 Fashion Valley Molly
8 Coronado (Dreamin' of You)
9 House in Oceanside
10 Everybody Wants to Get Some

When you wanna have a good time and party, put on a Moonlight Jam CD "At the GasLamp" This CD is dedicated to the people and places of San Diego, but could be enjoyed by everybody around the world. We had a great time recording it with very talented musicians from San Diego, LA, San Francisco and some special guests from other countries. Recorded and mixed at Flight 19 Studio by Valery and mastered at Capitol Mastering by Robert Vosgien. We have a lot of fun doing it and we hope you'll have fun listening.

Rockin' the Kremlin

Founding father
of Soviet Rock 'n Roll

Here's a Post Script about Valery taken from the
Rockin' the Kremlin web site:

Valéry Saifudinov: One of the Founding Fathers of Soviet Rock, Valéry is now an American citizen. After several years on tour throughout the US, his band dissolves; not long after, he founds “Flight 19 Studios,” now a successful recording studio in San Diego. Along with occasional public performances, he becomes a mentor to Eddie Vedder, lead singer/lyricist and guitarist for the mega rock band, Pearl Jam. In 2007, he releases a new Rock & Roll album of original music in Latvia, while making a series of concerts and television shows in his former country, while also producing Latvian recording artists. MTV Latvia is currently making a documentary on his life.

A Documentary Film Project in Development

- Historic Time Line -

Revolution that Rocked the World

1955 – 1991

In the annals of rock 'n roll history, Valery is recorded as the Founding Father of Rock 'n Roll in the Soviet Union. Moreover, his introduction of 'a new sound' had such a strong influence on Soviet youth that it literally was the drop of water in the ocean that resulted in a tsunami. Buddy Haley, Elvis Presley, the Beatles . . . the music was hypnotic, fun and made one feel free and fantastic.

The wave of attraction was so strong for this 'new sound' that it overpowered the repressiveness of Communism control - eventually being the phenomenon that culturally brought down the Iron Wall. Not without a struggle though. Followed by KGB and police and accused of inciting the youth to revolt with American propaganda in his music, Valery could no longer play his music without the threat of being exiled into Siberia to shut him up.

He couldn't keep the music inside of him though, and was one of the many Soviet defectors that left their families, friends and everything behind for political and artistic freedom. Mikhail Baryshnikov, the famous ballet dancer, also from Valery's hometown of Riga, Latvia was another artist that came to America at the same time. Ironically, Valery fondly remembers performing rock 'n roll at a party for Baryshnikov Ballet Troupe in Riga. "The ballet dancers were so stiff and controlled that they were like robots trying to dance to rock 'n roll!"

This documentary, inspired by Valery's contribution to rock 'n roll, reviews the historical timeline of rock music's effect of the breaking down of an established political climate. Check it out - it's very interesting.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Seisky" - The Nickname

Valery was fascinated about finding out everything he could about America. One day, a documentary caught his attention and also spawned a nickname that has stuck with him throughout his life. It was a Soviet propaganda film about Moscow's famous "Moiseev Dance Company" first performance at Madisdon Square Garden in New York City. The highlight for Valery was a backstage guest appearance of Harry Belafonte after their final dance performance. He was singing "When The Saints Go Marching In".

Valery was mesmerized! The experience was so FANTASTIC that he spent the whole day at the theatre watching just to see and hear him singing this song. For the next five days, he skipped school and instead hid out in the movie theatre watching this film over and over again trying to remember the words, chords and Harry Belafonte’s singing style.

He would run home, grab his guitar and practice until he could play and sing that song absolutley the same as Mr. Belafonte. Finally, Valery was confident that he had his new song and sound down pat. The time had come to show off!

So, on a Saturday night, he grabbed his guitar and headed out to the central park near his home where a lot of young people would hang out.

When he started to play, the crowd got bigger. He played several songs, but they all wanted to hear was "When The Saints Go Marching In" over and over again.

From that moment on, his friends would drag him to the park to play that song. Because they didn’t speak English, they couldn’t say the name right. They shortened it to "Ohwhendusei" (Oh when the Saints). They started to nickname Valery, "Ohwhenduseisky". Later, they shortened the name even more, to "Seisky".

So, Valery got stuck with it, until he left USSR. Thanks Harry !

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Compilation of Flight 19 Studio Work




Compilation CD Volume # 1 of Local and International Artists

1987 - 2007

Flight 19 Studio was established by Valery Saifudinov in the summer of 1987 in San
, California
. The name "Flight 19" symbolizes the flight to freedom that he took
in 1975, leaving Riga, Latvia, (the former Republic of Soviet Union), to America. It was
TWA, Flight #19 from Rome to New York. Valery, known in Riga as "Seisky", (Say-ski),
started the 1st Rock 'n' Roll band "The Revengers" in 1962.

From 1986 till 1990 Valery studied the art of recording at Palomar College, under the
guidance of Jim Weld, where he learned to record classical music, chamber orchestras,
Choirs, Jazz, Rock, Big Bands and Ethnic music.

From the start to the present day, Flight 19 Studio is professional and affordable facility.
Over the years, Valery collected and selected the best modern equipment, as well as the
rarest vintage gear that no longer exists.

During the last two decades, Flight 19 Studio was home to many artists, groups,
producers, record labels, musicians, songwriters of a different styles and genres. And,
as always, his philosophy is to help and accommodate artist’s creativity and transform
their visions into reality. In his work you'll find the same professional respect towards
the 13 year old beginner, as to a well known International star.

Valery is always open to new ideas, techniques and progress in music.

Volume # 1

1. Moonlight Jam - "Angel From Del Mar"

from CD "At The GasLamp" - recorded at Flight 19 Studio, writen, produced and arranged

by Valery. /Pop/Dance/Hip-Hop/ PSB Records/ 2006

2. Peter Gash - "Polonaise in A Major", Op 40 # 1

from CD "Chopin" - recorded at Hall D6, San Marcos, CA. Classical Piano/ 2006

3. Nick Binkley - "True Love"

from CD "Let the Boy Jam" - recorded at Flight 19 Studio. Country /PSB Records/ 2004

4. JJ Diamond - "Dear Friend"

from CD "Girls Best Friend" - recorded at Flight 19 Studio, produced by Valery.

Pop Ballad / Boxer Dog Records/ 2005.

5. Kamau Kenyatta and Hubert Laws

"Mr.D.C" from CD "Destiny" - recorded at Museum of Music, Carlsbad, CA. Jazz / 2007

6. Michael Morgan - "Oh Freedom"

from CD "Songs of my Soul" - recorded at San Marcos, CA. Bass Vocal / Gospel/ 2003

7. Eddy Vedder's Bad Radio -"Homeless" (now singer with "Pearl Jam")

recorded at Flight 19 Studio. Alternative Rock / 1989.

Transfer to CD from cassette (the only existing copy)

8. Jennette Turner (Ike Turner’s ex wife) "I Got My Mojo Working"

recorded at Flight 19 Studio. Rock / 2003.

9. Palomar College Chamber Orchestra "Dies Irae"

from CD "Sacred Music of Giacomo Antonio Perti". Classical / recorded at Brubeck

Theatre, San Marcos, CA/2000

10. Symmetry of Content - "Look Closer"

from CD "Symmetry of Content" - recorded at Flight 19 Studio. New Age/arranged and

produced by Valery / PSB Records / 2007

11. Tony Laguna - "Tooth and Nail"

from CD "Tooth and Nail" - recorded at Flight 19 Studio. Rap / produced by Valery /

Laguna Records / 2006

12. Curtis and The Kicks - "Drifting"

from CD "Live at Ground Zero" - recorded at Ground Zero Café. Blues /mixed, edited and

processed and produced by Valery / 2001

13. Viacheslav Malezik - "Be in my Dreams"

from CD "In New Light" - recorded at Flight 19 Studio. Easy Listening / produced and

mixed by Valery /2002

14. Marcus Rouse - "What a World We Live In"

from CD " Marcus" - recorded at Flight 19 Studio. Pop / R & B /

Vocal production by Valery/ 2006

15. Rappin' Mathematician - "Math Rappin'

from CD "Rappin' Mathematician" - recorded at Flight 19 Studio. School Rap /

produced by Valery/ 2006

16. Empyrean - "Devil's Chord"

from CD "Circus" - recorded at Flight 19 Studio,. produced by Valery.

Pyschedelic Rock / PSB Records / 1997.

17. Scott and Voices - "Fiver"

from CD “Accappella" - recorded at Flight 19 Studio, produced by Valery. Accappella /


18. Dimitry Kirichenko - "Prelude In C# Minor"

from CD"Rachmaninov, Schubert, Beethoven"

Op3, No2 Rachmaninov

Piano / Restoration and Digital Remastering by Valery /2004

Friday, November 9, 2007

Valery's "Flight 19" Studio News

  • "Franklin's Hat" -
    • Composing Children's Rock Musical Score
    • Based on the popular book by Juris Zvirgsdins, Valery is collaberating with the famous Latvian poetess Liana Langa in creating the musical score
  • Lester Abrams "Bring It On" Recording Project
    • Benefiting Juvenile Diabetes Research
  • "Social Green" - San Diego Reggae Group
    • Recording and Producing
  • "Rebel" Igor Novikov's Upcoming CD "Nobody's Perfect"
    • Producing and writing lyrics for this popular Latvian blues guitar legend singer for his upcoming CD "Nobody's Perfect"
    • This collaberation was initiated in Aug 2007 during one of Valery's trips back to Riga at the "Sound Devision" studio.
    • More recording dates are schedueld during Valery's next Riga trip in December and January 2008.
  • Producer Brodrick Lewis's "Please Believe Me and Hear What I Say" Project.
    • A recording a series of music CD's and DVD for ghetto kids about the horrors of prisons and jails around the country, including interviews of real criminals expressing to kids the reality of life in prison.

Upcoming International Performances

Valery "Seisky" Sings The Blues

Summer 2008 in Riga


December 16, 2007
MTV Latvia
LNT (Latvian Independent Television) channel

Jan. 11th and 12th, 2008
Riga, Latvia - Bites Blues Club
Bites Blues Cub MySpace

2007 is An Active Year For Valery

February 17th - Performance at Kremlin Concert Hall in Moscow
Performed at the Kremlin Concert Hall in Moscow as a guest of popular Russian pop star Vacheslav Malejik's for his 60th Anniversary concert attended by five thousand people.

February - Reunion Concert at Stas Namin Center in Moscow's Gorky Park
Performed with Nick Binkley, as American guests at the reunion celebration of two biggest Russian groups "Tzveti" (Flowers) and "Time Machine" at the Stas Namin Center in Moscow's Gorky Park

May 1st - 3rd International Rock and Roll Festival in Latvia
Special guest star from United States at the Pete Anderson's "3rd International Rock and Roll Festival" in Latvia, performing for the 1st time in Riga after 30 years, in front of three thousand fans .

August 1st - "Flight 19 Finally Arrived"
Latvia's biggest magazine "Rigas Laiks" published a seven page interview with Valery - "Flight 19 Finally Arrived"

August 17th and 18th - "Bites Blues Club"
Performed two concerts in Riga's most popular night club "Bites Blues Club" with Latvian Blues Band

August 26th - "Viss Notiek"
Latvian "TV - 1" broadcast an interview and a story about Valery, in a popular program "Viss Notiek"

December 16, 2007 -MTV Latvia -Documentary program about Valery's life and music
Latvian MTV will broadcast a documentary program about Valery's life and music

Rockin’ The Kremlin - Documentary Based on Valery's Life in Riga

Listen to a video where Valery describes his experience of founding rock and roll in the Soviet Union - his influences & KGB enforcement against playing rock and roll.

First Soviet youth to hear Rock & Roll (on his mother’s government issued short wave radio); inventor of the first Soviet electric guitar and bass; and in 1962 founded the first Soviet rock band The Revengers. Arrested many times in Riga and threatened exile if he didn't stop playing Rock & Roll. Immigrating to America in 1976, he joins the first Russian rock band in USA Sasha & Yuri; and later becomes a mentor to Eddie Vedder.

Valery is Writing a Musical Based on the Children’s Story ‘Franklin’s Hat’, written by Juris Zvirgzdiņš

Franklin’s Hat
Juris Zvirgzdiņš

This tale of Franklin’s hat was told to me by an old raccoon.

Once, on a rainy and windy autumn evening I was sitting and battling my boredom by browsing through a book – an illustrated biography of Benjamin Franklin.

Suddenly I heard an unfamiliar sound on the porch. When I opened the door I saw a very cold and wet raccoon. I invited him in. The raccoon declined for a long time, saying that he didn’t want to disturb me and would leave footprints all over the house. After hesitating for a while, he finally wiped his paws and agreed.

I found a towel that the raccoon could use to wipe himself, boiled some tea and opened a large tin of vanilla cookies. The fireplace blazed, we drank tea and chewed on the cookies.

The raccoon, noticing the open book, suddenly exclaimed – “Ha! Franklin! Benjamin Franklin! Interesting to see what they’ve written about him.” He leafed through the book with unbelievable quickness, reading a paragraph here and there, and stopped at an illustration. He looked at the illustration for a long time, smiling. The illustration depicted Franklin wearing his raccoon skin hat.

I was bewildered. Maybe the raccoon didn’t like hats, especially hats made from raccoon skin?

No, my guest didn’t look offended, but rather amused. Holding his teacup in both paws so that it wouldn’t spill, he shook with laughter.

Having laughed heartily, he turned in my direction – “You also think that the hat was made from raccoon skin?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Well, I don’t know – back then all kinds of synthetic fabrics hadn’t yet been invented. At least, it’s written that it was made from raccoon skin.”

“Written! They write a lot of things. But was the writer there? I swear on a lightning rod, he wasn’t even close.” Here my guest grimaced in displeasure. “That was a live raccoon! A real live raccoon!”

“ ?!” I almost gagged on a cookie in surprise.

“Hmm...” – the raccoon scrunched his forehead into a row of wrinkles, “I thought you knew everything! This story about Franklin’s hat was told to me as a child by my grandfather, and to him by his grandfather, who heard it from his grandfather. This tale has been passed from generation to generation - every raccoon in my family knows the true strory! You mean that you never…” here he looked into my eyes with disbelief „you have never heard the story of Franklin’s hat?”

“Never!” I swore, raising my hand.

“Then listen! The night is long, we have tea, cookies,“ the raccoon shook the tin, “we still have some. I hope you aren’t sleepy yet! You know, we raccoons almost never sleep at night.”

I gestured in agreement, indicating that what the raccoon had to say truly interested me.

“Then listen!” Arranging himself comfortably in a rocking chair, the raccoon began his story.

”One day, Benjamin Franklin went out for a walk. He was walking through the woods and noticed a raccoon sitting in a tree! Franklin raised his rifle – it was common to take a rifle along on walks around Boston back in those days because indians and bears also liked to take walks. The raccoon looked at Franklin and asked, ‘What do you plan to do with that rifle? I hope you don’t plan on shooting. You know, I hate loud noises!

Franklin was startled. That’s exactly what he planned to do, to shoot his rifle and shoot down a raccoon.

“You know’, Franklin said somewhat perplexed, “I need a new hat. Winter is coming and it’s getting cold.”

The raccoon’s eyes opened wide. ”You want to shoot me? And just because you want to sew yourself a hat from my skin? No way that that is a good idea.”

Franklin began to think. Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea after all?

The raccoon climbed down a few branches lower and took a long hard look at Franklin.

“You say that you really need a new hat? And precisely made of raccoon skin? Fine, I will be your hat!”

With these words, he slipped off the branch he was sitting on and jumped right on top of Franklin’s head!

Franklin was so shocked that he lost his voice and grabbed his head, for the raccoon was lying across it as if he had been poured onto it.

He went home and studied his reflection in the mirror from all sides. True, no one had a raccoon skin hat like that in Boston, nor even in the entire state of Massachusetts.

The raccoon was soft, warm and his striped tailed hung elegantly down the back.

From then on, Benjamin Franklin and the raccoon remained together and experienced all kinds of different things together.

Here, the raccoon, his mouth full of cookies, asked, “And the way he discovered the lightning rod – you at least know that?”

The fact that Benjamin Franklin was a prominent scientist, and was indeed the person who had invented the lightning rod, was something that I, of course, knew. But I had no idea that a raccoon had taken part in the event.

Noting my interest, the raccoon finished his mouthful of cookies, carefully wiped his paws and mouth on a napkin, and continued.

“Every fall Benjamin Franklin’s house was visited by uninvited mice. They came in large numbers and settled in the cellar and attic, scurried and scratched around every corner, emptied out the kitchen and its cabinet. Day and night they pittered about so that Franklin couldn’t work during the day or sleep at night. Although he was a peaceloving and reasonable person, he finally had had enough. He grabbed his rifle and started to run around the house, shooting.

Of course, the mice got frightened and hid, but not for very long. At night they rashly snuck out of their little holes and boldly continued their noisemaking. Franklin ran from one corner of the house to the other, search through the attic, crawled up and down the steep cellar steps and let loose with a barrage of rifle shots that almost used up all his income on lead pellets.

The raccoon finally got annoyed with all this shooting. He called over an old, and judging by his grey whiskers, wise and respectable mouse, and he made a deal – the mice would all as one have to clear out of Franklin’s house and relocate to the grain storage barn. This put an end to the shooting, for as it turned out, the mice also weren’t very fond of loud and scary sounds.

In the evening, as it began to get dark, the mice gathered together their treasures, household goods and countless herds of children to prepare to relocate to their new living quarters.

The raccoon carried Franklin’s rifle out of the house and hid it in the bushes.

All evening it was quiet, until suddenly the sky grew dark, rain began to fall, lightning began to strike and thunder roared.

Reclining in their rocking chairs, Franklin and the raccoon sat on the terrace and watched the storm. Everything was normal, except…

“Why does the lightning always strike in one and the same place?” wondered Franklin. “Always the same place!”

The raccoon shrugged his shoulders – the lightning struck and struck. Obviously it liked to strike there.

When the storm ended, Franklin, who was curious, (not to be confused with nosy) ran outside, and found his rifle in the bushes.

The raccoon was convinced that Franklin would wonder how his rifle, all by itself, had ended up outside in the storm and rain, as opposed to resting in the house, where it was warm and dry. But the raccoon was mistaken.

Franklin lifted up the rifle and looked at it up and down and all around and quietly murmmered to himself, “It appears that the rifle attracts lightning. Thus, thus. But why? It is made of iron, so iron must attract lightning. If I carried the rifle up to the roof then the lightning would strike there! Yes, but then the lightning could strike the house and burn it down! But, if in place of the rifle I took an iron rod and fixed it to a high place, lets say by the chimney, and then buried the other end of the rod in the ground, then the lightning would run down the rod and hide in the ground! What do you think?” he asked the raccoon.

The raccoon nodded in agreement. Let everyone hide where they want!

For all of the next day Franklin crafted a new tool, which was later called a lightning rod.

“I have to say” the raccoon added, “ that news of Franklin’s invention traveled with lightning speed to all the neighbors, who agreed that this new invention was a good thing. Franklin’s reputation grew from day to day.

“I think,” added the raccoon, closing his eyes and tossing another cookie into his mouth. “that if my ancestor hadn’t hauled that stupid rifle outside, then nothing would have happened! Thunder would roar, lightning would strike, it would hit houses and burn them to the ground in blue flames. Insurance companies would go bankrupt one after another and America would never have become the wealthiest country in the world!”

Growing silent for a moment, the raccoon carefully wiped his paws on the napkin, paged through the book and said, “Hmm... Franklin’s visit with the King of France. Interesting.”

Here I decided to show off some of my knowledge. “Of course! After two years of long and difficult talks, on February 6, 1778, America and France signed a trade and friendship agreement, which meant that the United States was no longer alone its struggle for independence.”

“Of course!” the raccoon nodded in agreement. “But! But if Franklin had not been there to together with my great-great-great…” here the raccoon tossed another handful of cookies into his mouth and continued to talk with his mouth full, so that I never learned just how many generations of raccoons have lived since those times, “then history would have been very different!” The raccoon smiled triumphantly.

“You know, at the beginning of its war of independence America was alone against Great Britain. No one supported it. The Dutch and Spanish made promises, but…even the French hesitated. Then Franklin went to Paris. For days and night, weeks and even months he wrote to the newspapers, he sat in Parisian cafes and tried to convince the French. You know that in Paris everyone sits in the cafes and talks and talks and talks.”

The French came to like Franklin, - a famous scientist, visiting from such a faraway land, and he even looks interesting – dressed in black clothes with a wig, then there was his hat! First it’s on his head, then it jumps down to the ground! Even more - Franklin always ordered a bowl of milk for his hat, because raccoons don’t like coffee. There were even some cafe patrons who tried to imitate the raccoon and poured a little milk into their coffee – that’s why to this day the French still love their cafe au lait – coffee with milk.

Then, after long and difficult talks and discussions, and endless hours in Parisian cafes, yes, it was truly my ancestor who taught the French to drink coffee with milk. And Franklin was invited to meet the King.”

“ Louis the XVI!” I beamed with pride.

“Exactly! In the royal palace!”


“Yes, Versailles. But you better listen. Thus Franklin, with my ancestor on his head of course, arrived at the Palace of Versailles. A palace among palaces, endless rooms, filled with mirrors and gold…”

“So Franklin stands in the middle of the royal court but forgets to take off his hat. You know, scientists can be that way.”

“The members of the court start to whisper, but no one says anything, thinking that maybe that’s how they do things in America.”

“The door opens, everyone freezes. ‘The King is coming!” But first a little dog runs in with crooked, trembling legs but a very loud mouth. He sniffs the air and starts to bark relentlessly. He had smelled the raccoon! My ancestor, seeing the dog, jumped down from Franklin’s head and started to play hide and seek with the dog. Or maybe he was playing ‘doggies’?”

“The courtiers stood with their mouths open. Those Americans sure do have strange hats! But then the King himself appeared. He chuckled and then both sat down at the table and signed the treaty. But imagine what would have happened if my ancestors had fallen asleep and the dog hadn’t started to bark? You know how the French love etiquette, and all kinds of manners? You understand what I mean?”

I understood. The raccoon unsuccessfully tried to shake some drops of tea from the tea pot and then looked at me questioningly. I understood that as well and rushed to the kitchen, returning quickly with a fresh pot of tea. There were no more vanilla cookies, but I found some cinnamon cookies, which thank God, were very agreeable to my guest.

“Do you know how the American Declaration of Independence was signed?” the raccoon asked after taking a sip of his tea.

“Who in America doesn’t know that????!” I exclaimed, ”The Second Continental Congress, July 4th, 1776.!”

The raccoon nodded in agreement. “Yes, of course, but how? Do you know that? Did you know that a British agent was working in the hall where the Declaration was signed? And you know of course that this very clever and sneaky agent almost sabotaged the signing of the Declaration?”

„They didn’t teach us that in school,” I exclaimed.

„In school! I haven’t gone to school but I know! Then listen! The British agent worked as chef’s assistance in a Philadelphia restaurant, where he spied for many years for Great Britain. He was already old, well fed and fat because the English paid him very well. On the night before the signing of the Declaration he snuck into the hall where the solemn ceremony was to take place and stole all the goose feathers - back then everyone wrote only with goose feathers - and tossed them all into the fireplace!”

“The next morning, when the Congress delegates arrived, there was not one, not one goose feather! Everyone sat in stunned silence. Even Franklin sat silently. So my ancestor ran outside, saw a goose swimming in the lake and hurried over to the lakeside.”

“Goose! Goose!” he yelled.

The goose looked up. What was a raccoon looking for here alongside the lake?

“Goose, goose! I love you so, sooo much, you are so delicious!” The raccoon hungrily licked his lips.

The goose looked.

“I will catch at least one of you and eat you!” my ancestor announced, “but there is another option.”

The goose trumpeted with fear.

“Each of you must give me one tail feather, as a payment.” The geese gaggled in confusion, but eventually each one parted with one tail feather.

“As fast as he could, my ancestor chewed the end of each feather so that it could be used for writing, then called Franklin over and handed him a bundle of writing quills. Franklin returned to the meeting room table and proudly pulled the quills from his coat pocket. The Declaration was signed!”

Smiling triumphantly, the raccoon winked his eye, “I think that was the first payment of a federal income tax in the history of the United States of America. Now do you understand the role of my great-great-great and so on grandfather’s role in American history?”

With these words my guest poured the last crumbs of the cinnamon cookies into his mouth and got up to leave.

“Wait!” There’s something I don’t understand! Why is it that on the 100 dollar banknote that features a picture of Benjamin Franklin, he doesn’t have a raccoon on his head?”

“Maybe the artist didn’t know how to draw raccoons!” the raccoon shouted back as he disappeared into the morning mist.

The End
(Translated by Ojārs Kalniņš)