What a year!! With apologies to those pressed for time, it follows an abbreviated account of events in 2018.

Chapter One – Introduction
I believe that there is a special section in hell that the devil has set aside for me. To get there, you have to go through an entrance guarded by a big steel door with a sign that says BOREDOM, written in massive grey letters. Once the door creaks shut behind you, your ability to speak is taken away from you. There are others in the room but they all ignore you. The days are divided into 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of watching continuous loops of the most boring TV shows you can remember. My show is already in the can – it is a mix of the Soviet and the East German TV evening news, with sports and the weather not included.
That place in hell is why I am trying to keep my nose clean and live life the way it should be lived. Not easy, but I am trying.
Had I kept a daily diary in 2018, the word boredom would not be found in there. So many places to visit, so many people to get to know, so many things to do – and thanks to my beloved family – so much drama!
Before I highlight the major events, I would like to express my gratitude to various Atlanta area veterans organizations who allowed me to share my story (and my opinions) at their respective meetings. The same applies to a number of local Rotaries and Kiwanis. Thank you all, and it was a great pleasure getting to know you – and some of you (and you know who you are) have become good friends.

Chapter Two -Winter
January 13th: Taking my lovely wife and my exited daughter Trinity to the airport for a flight to Miami. We were hosted there by Allan, a local real estate tycoon (note that unless the individuals I am talking about are already public figures, I will not mention their last name). We stayed at his beach house in Key Largo, which is about three times bigger than our home and right on the beach. I am not very demanding. I tell folks that all a need for an overnight stay is a clean bed, a table, a chair, a bathroom and the internet. However, if more is offered I would be foolish not to accept. During our 10 days in the area, I had appearances at Florida Atlantic University, the University of Miami, the annual Miami area YPO meeting and a private soiree at the home of our host. What a lovely way to start the year!
Upon my return, I received notification that the German translation of the book, which is called “Der Falsche Amerikaner” (translated “The Phony American”), is ready to be released as planned in early March.

The next weeks were relatively quiet, with some local appearances, a bunch of interviews, the dentist, and the loss of seven pounds in anticipation of the fact that I would likely get re-acquainted with those pounds (and I did) in Germany.
March 5th: The start of the big trip. Not so fast! – as happened many times in my life, there is a detour. I am headed to St. Louis first. The next morning I am up bright and early because my testimony (no slides just me and my words…) at the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Granite City IL , audience about 500, is scheduled for 7:30 AM. All went well, and I am off to the airport for a flight to Frankfurt, Germany via Detroit.

Chapter Three -European Book Tour
One of my worst travel experiences has always been and continues to be the flight to Europe. I left St. Louis Airport at 1 PM and arrived in Germany at 10AM the next morning. There, I met my chaperone for the book tour, Annette, who dumped me and my big suitcase into her car for the short drive to Wiesbaden.
For me, the best way to overcome jet lag is to stay up. I cannot sleep on the plane (never have, even for a minute), and going to sleep upon arrival will put you out of synch with the local schedule. Wiesbaden is a nice rather rich mid-size city with enough opportunities to walk, talk, eat and drink. At 8PM local time I hit the sack after ingesting 10mg of Melatonin. Miracle of miracles, I woke up the next morning at 7AM local time with nary a sign of jet lag.

That was a good thing, because that very same evening I was booked on my first live German (!) talk show – a late night show called “Das Nachtcafe”.
The other three guests were a lady who is struggling with multiple personalities, an “it” (sorry I have no other word for this person) who was born with both female and male sexual organs and was made into a male via surgery at the age of two, and a Turkish lady who was forced into a highly abusive marriage at a very young age and managed to escape. CNN just featured one of those guests in an article: https://www-m.cnn.com/2018/12/29/health/third-gender-law-germany-grm-intl/index.html?r=android-app%3A%2F%2Fcom.google.android.googlequicksearchbox%2Fhttps%2Fwww.google.com Looks like I fit right in. The most normal of us four was the Turkish lady…….
Given that this was my first time on German TV, I did rather well. The next morning we traveled to Berlin for the official book launch at the Berlin Spy Museum. That event went well – standing room only, and multiple short interviews by journalists.
The next evening I had an absolutely historic meeting. I met an ex “colleague”. W. and his wife are the real “Americans” (I am referring to the TV show). They served as undercover agents for the KGB in New York from 1986 to 1991. They even had a child while in the US – the young lady has two birth certificates, one listing Brooklyn NY as birth place, the other Moscow, Russia. The two managed to get out of the “business” and made a good living for themselves in the re-united Germany (one of the character traits the KGB was looking for in candidates for undercover jobs was resiliency, we both have that in spades). Their story is far too rich to even scratch the surface of in this diary.

From here on, I will spare you the grim details of my altogether 6 week travels through Europe. Suffice it to say, I stayed at altogether 20 hotels in 22 different cities. There were countless interviews and a half dozen appearances on national or regional talk shows. After traveling through Leipzig, Hamburg, Bremen, and Bonn, we finally arrived in Munich for one more interview and two days of sightseeing in this marvelous but rather braggadocios city.
One event is worth mentioning. I am often asked whether I am afraid of retaliation. In public I usually give an evasive non answer. Privately, I used to brag: “What me, afraid??? I am fearless!!!”. Well, I was lying to myself. It was at a book signing in a church in Germany (I forgot the town) that I was approached by an odd character. He projected the Goth image – clothes, tattoos and all. Apparently, he was fascinated by the fact that I am able to sleep well after all I have been through. He would not get off that topic until it was too much for me. I found a way to excuse myself and stretched out my right hand for a good-bye handshake (as is the custom in Germany). The fellow kept his right hand in the pocket and reached out for my right with his left. He grabbed the inside of my wrist, looked me in the eyes and said: “And I wish you wonderful and restful good night”. “What an odd fellow”, I thought to myself. And that was that. But it wasn’t. One hour later, back at the hotel, I took my shirt off and noticed a big red blotch where the fellow had touched me. Contact poison? I called over my travel companion and we talked for a while to assess the situation. During that time, the redness faded away. Thank God, false alarm. Clearly, this episode proved to me that I do have residual fears. Perhaps it was God’s way of reminding me that I am human being and not superman. Thanks for that lesson!
March 26th: I am on my own – the Germans are done with me for a while. I rent a car and drive 8 hours to a German border town where I stay for the night. The next morning I get up early for another long drive that has me at the Merkury Grand in Warsaw, Poland at noon. Two days in cold Warsaw with off and on snow, two interviews and two TV appearances, My favorite was the morning talk show on national TV. I made friends with the llama the was the star of the segment before mine:


March 29th: A quick drive to Poznan for an appearance at Adam Mickiewicz University. The start of the program was delayed by 30 minutes – they had to move the event to a larger auditorium because of an overflow crowd. The audience was primarily students in their early twenties. I was gratified to receive spontaneous applause for the following statement: “When you always look to the government to do stuff for you, where is your personal accountability?” I have some doubt that US students would react the same way.
Next day another long drive to Jena, the city where I studied and where my oldest son Günter resides when he is not in some exotic spot on the planet with his surfing buddies. I spent Easter with him – managed to take in a soccer game and a basketball game and connected with 3 old teammates.
April 2: Drive in direction of Berlin with a quick detour to Frankfurt (Oder) to hang with my roommate from college “Spencer” and his lovely wife for a few hours. On to Airport Schönefeld. This used to be the airport for East Berlin in my time. Germany has the reputation to be the most efficient and most well managed country on the planet but they have not been able to close this relic down or replace it with something modern. I could not believe that not far from the center of arguably the most cosmopolitan city on earth I would find such a dump. Anyway, the flight to Stockholm was on time and I arrived at the hotel dog tired just after midnight.
Next day I met the representative of my Swedish publisher. The plan was for one newspaper interview and an appearance on the biggest daytime talk show in Sweden. Did not happen!!! Some Swedish celebrity (I don’t remember her name) had the audacity to pass away that morning, so it was all celebrity 24X7. I got compensated handsomely for that miss, because my host took me for a walking tour of the city which included City Hall, an incredibly quirky building that hosts the Nobel ceremonies every year.

April 3: The return flight arrived in Berlin at 9PM. Now it was time to pick up the rental car from the parking lot and drive south to a small town in the area where I grew up. There I was awaited anxiously by one Jutta van Almsick, a classmate of mine in high school. She runs a “Saunadorf”, something you would probably not find easily in the US. It is a collection of comfortable cottages and a central pool and Sauna. Dress Code: None – that means people of all ages and shapes etc. walk around buck naked. The sight of an overweight hairy middle age gentleman ruined my breakfast the next morning. However, Jutta’s claim to fame is that she is the mother of Franciska van Almsick who garnered a total of 42 medals in European, World and Olympic swimming competitions. Another addition to my increasing collection of interesting people.
Next day on to Spremberg, the town where I went to high school. At the impromptu class reunion half of my ex class mates were present. The most surprising attendee was my gym teacher who, at the age of 82, looks as fit as anybody (he was an Olympic canoe champ). I also had the opportunity to apologize to the arts teacher who I gave a hard time during my senior year. In the same breath, I thanked her for the un-deserved “A” she graciously issued me so that my perfect A average could be kept intact (editorial note: I am a triple valedictorian: high school, university in Germany, and college in the US – none of the perfect averages were entirely clean. With a handful of grades there were grace, generosity, manipulation, and negotiation needed to keep the averages clean).
Back up north to Berlin to visit with my best high school friend Helmut and my best college buddy Günter (who has a big role in my book). Too much food, too much vodka and lots of memories, including some flickering 8mm films of our glorious past, where everybody was thin as a rail and had hair to spare.
Two more days of private time, so I take the opportunity to meet with my son Matthias and his wife Desiree, my brother-in-law Richard, and a newly discovered niece Ina. I need to explain Ina a bit because she is another piece in the puzzle of my odd life. Sometime early 2018 I get a Facebook message that says nothing but “Oma Reissman”. Reissman was the name of my mother after she remarried. I wrote back “you must have the wrong person” to which I got this answer “well, you are either my uncle or my father – we look alike and we even have the same ugly teeth”.

And so Ina, one of my brother’s children, found me. We had a great meeting, and took pictures. When she showed those pictures to colleagues and friends it was suggested that she was probably my daughter and that the KGB had arranged to dump her on my brother so I could pursue my spy career. It took me a while to convince Ina that the first time I saw her mother was the day she married my brother.
Next day ,another interesting slightly unplanned event: I had arranged for a meeting with my first girlfriend Rosi (another key figure in the book). Somehow I got my wires crossed, and a reporter from a major German newspaper showed up at the same time and same place. He did get a scoop….
After the interview I get in the car to make the three hour drive to Ueckermünde, a town near the Baltic Sea where my ex “colleague” W. hosted me at a vacation apartment he owns. A long night and a full day of exchange of experiences and memories – an incredibly interesting meeting of three folks who had an almost unique yet very similar life.

April 11: I am getting ready for the drive to Hamburg where the taping for the Lanz Show, the #1 talk show in Germany, was planned for either that evening or the next. At about 10AM my brother-in-law Richard called: “You must come back to Berlin!”. I say: “what? – no way, I need to be in Hamburg for the Lanz show”. Richard: “Trust me, you got to come – I met these filmmakers and they are eager to meet you.” Me: “Okay, I have had contact with a dozen film makers already, nothing ever came of it – I have a commitment to be in Hamburg, and that is where I am going – good-bye”. After some thought, I decided to call the publisher and ask if I am really needed in Hamburg that day. The answer: “Absolutely, get your butt into the rental and come over here – we have a commitment to the premier talk show in the country, and you cannot mess that up!”. A half hour later, Richard calls again: “Jack, I am telling you, this is real, these guys could change your life, you MUST come to Berlin!!”. I told Richard the position my publisher had taken and hung up. But Richard is Richard – he must be taken seriously. If you have read my book, you know that he is singlehandedly responsibly for dragging me from a quiet mostly undercover existence into the limelight. So, I give it one more try – I call the TV station and ask: “Do you guys need me tonight?”. The answer: ”Nope, you will be on tomorrow, we have no room for you today”. So off I go to make yet another detour.
I met Max, the CEO of Senator Productions, his wife, and two of his associates (and of course Richard) for lunch. From the first minute, we had an excellent rapport. When lunch was over, Max got up, shook my hand and said: “I absolutely want to do this” – Richard had done it again! (dial forward: after 9 months of negotiations we are close to having a full agreement and a solid contract for a series based on my book – more to come).

Chapter Four -Spring and Summer
April 17th: After getting back home, I had just 4 days to overcome jet lag, and off we go to another time zone, but in the other direction – beautiful San Francisco. I am there on invitation to a huge IT cybersecurity conference. My host is Vectra, a phenomenal company with great people and an industry leading product. During the days when my brain was still fully functional, I would have loved to work for a company like that. For the remainder of the year, Vectra established a big footprint on my calendar – after San Francisco they got me to Washington DC, Las Vegas, and Nashville. What was so great about these events, besides hanging out with the Vectra folks, none of them was a repeat – they were all unique, the result of applied creative thinking.
In the following months, I did about another dozen local events. After my first appearance the others were all word of mouth – and the string continues….. If anybody thinks, those events are not worth it – they are plain wrong. Here is, in no particular order, a list of great and interesting people I met (by “met” I mean I had at least one lunch with them, and some have become friends) in 2018, most of whom are local to the Atlanta area:
1. Neil Shulman, author of Doc Hollywood (became a movie starring Michael J. Fox)
2.George, a forensics expert who can entertain you all day with stories of how he caught criminals based on some minute mistakes they made.
3. Another George, a retired NASA engineer who worked on the rocket that sent our astronauts to the moon
4. Retired Major General Larry
5. Retired FBI agent Oliver who was operational in New York City at the same time I was. His task was to find people like me (i.e. sleepers). He found me a bit late…
6. Keith, retired CIA and successful businessman. Keith heard about me from a friend and invited me to lunch. He chose a rather odd restaurant for the occasion. He ushered me to the back room which is accessible from the front via a non-operational meat locker. Given the fact that I was meeting with the “enemy”, getting through that meat locker caused me a few anxious moments.
7. Michelle Rigby Assaad, who spent ten years as a CIA operative in the Middle East and wrote the book “Breaking Cover”
8. Boris Korczak, a Polish national who was sentenced to death by the Soviets at the age of 18, escaped, became a CIA collaborator and managed to get hired by the KGB to advance to the rank of Major. In the end, he had to escape again – he is now a US citizen and a friend who has a great story to tell which may never be told.
9. Janos , who used to work for the FSB (a successor agency to the KGB) and engineered a daring high risk escape for him and his wife when his life was clearly in danger.
Professionally, the summer did not have many big highlights. I spent a lot of time upgrading my website. It now contains 50 videos of my various appearances, events and stories. 34 are in English, 12 are in German, and the other four are in Polish, French and Japanese. This day-to-day business was interrupted by a one week family trip to Orlando.

The memorable highlight of that trip was the moment when Trinity met Jesus, obviously an actor. When he walked off the stage, he stopped and talked to my girl for a minute. She was fidgeting nervously the entire time. There may well come a day when she will swear that when she was seven, she met the real Jesus.


Chapter Five: Remainder of the Year
The second half of the year was not as loaded as the first half. There was a trip with Shawna to Nashville to meet my German publisher in order to discuss the possible publication of Shawna’s memoir. Unfortunately, both the Germans and my US publisher declined the offer – issues with commercial viability were cited as the reason. Whatever ….. Shawna’s story is worth telling and worth listening to. The first 17 years of her life she spent in a one room bunker without electricity in the inner city of Kingston Jamaica. There was murder and mayhem all around, and one would never know if one would get to live another day. Competence, determination and personality landed her a job with the United Nations which eventually allowed her to move to the United States. There she made an unusual acquaintance – a retired KGB agent whom she converted to Christianity and eventually married. ‘Nuf said – but there is much more to her story.

Another trip was to Washington DC to do some taping for the Spy Museum. They will be moving to a new building in the spring, and in that building there will be an exhibit dedicated to me and my circumstances. Gee – I always wanted to be an exhibit……
The Las Vegas engagement with Vectra bears mention for one particular reason: At the beginning of the year, I did a Skype session with a Vegas book club, and when I showed up there in person, they took me to a show. Horrors of horrors, it was the Donnie and Marie (Osmonds) show. They had to twist my arms to attend. It started, as expected, with these syrupy Broadway tunes I can’t stand. But sometime into the show, Marie delivered a solo performance of Nessun Dorma that was out of this world. I almost fell off my chair. Unlike many of today’s pop stars, who are pretty and can dance but cannot sing, this lady can SING!. I met her backstage for a few minutes. First impression: She must have an excellent cosmetic surgeon – no wrinkles! Second impression – she is engaging, intelligent and well-informed about politics and world affairs. I silently apologized for my prejudice.
September 10: Testimony at a men’s meeting at Kellytown Baptist Church in South Carolina. As I am headed home the next morning, I notice long lines at the gas stations. It turned out that I got out of town early enough to escape the devastation of Hurricane Florence.
October 6: Heading home from Panama City Beach after a wonderful one week family vacation. Three days later Hurricane Michael all but wiped out that place. Another one of those narrow escapes………….
And now for the two unexpected bonus trips:

Chapter 6: Berlin Germany
In mid-October, I finalized a contract for a keynote presentation in Berlin, Germany. That appearance paid enough to allow me to take Shawna and Trinity with me to give them a glimpse at the land of my birth. The start of the trip was a horror show. Trinity had the middle seat on the plane, and when she decided it was time to go to sleep she rested her head in my lap. I dared not to move. To make things worse, the video screen in front of me conked out, and as a result I spent 3-4 hours in the dark in an awkward position without anything to stimulate the brain.
We first flew into Amsterdam, and by the time we wound up in Berlin it was dark again. Where is Trinity’s suitcase? Certainly not on the same plane as we were. I spent three hours in a dark strange airport that has numerous unconnected buildings trying to find that suitcase and to submit a loss claim. When we finally got to the hotel (after a number of wrong turns – the GPS does not work very precisely in Berlin) it was almost midnight. We dropped onto our respective beds and did not wake until 9AM the next morning. The good news: Jet lag conquered. The bad news. We now had to buy a bunch of clothes for Trinity at the comparatively high German prices. The suitcase showed up 2 days later.
From that point on, things got better. In a nutshell, this is what we did:
1. Visits with relatives. It turns out that between Shawna and me we have altogether 7 relatives in Berlin, more than in any other city, with the principals being my son Matthias, my niece Ina, and Shawna’s brother Richard.
2. Some sightseeing. To my chagrin most of that took place in malls and department stores.
3. A one night comped stay in one of the most luxurious hotels in Berlin, the Adlon Kempinsky (the other nights we stayed in the much more affordable Scandic).
4. A reception at the Jamaican embassy in Germany
5. One day of shooting with Senator Productions to create a marketing video for the envisioned series (more about that when the contract is signed).
6. A reception at the German Filmförderungsveranstalt, a German government institution that funds worthwhile movie and TV projects. The enthusiastic response we got to our ideas is very encouraging.
7. A meeting with the German Secretary of Labor (we met at the Lanz talk show) was cancelled the day before, because he had to give a speech on the floor of the Bundestag. Getting bumped for a speech to the national parliament is not half bad.
What deserves special mention is the keynote presentation that funded the whole adventure. The audience was about 200 individuals, mostly high value individual investors, institutional investors, and their potential advisors. I arrived one hour early to make sure that the technology works. Everything was functional. But by the time I got on stage, somebody must have pulled a wire. My presentation is multimedia with some music and even gun shots. It starts with Soviet military music. When I started the show, the Russian orchestra must have been on strike – the video was silent. So, I had to improvise. As the presentation proceeded there were a half a dozen issues: slides would not advance, videos would not start, sound would be squeaky, etc. I had to talk my way through that jungle of IT failures. At the end I got great compliments and a promise to be invited back to London in 2019. Yeah!

Chapter 7: Dublin Ireland
Flashback: My very last engagement with Vectra included a bar hopping social in Nashville. Somehow, I wound up hanging with a handful of delightfully chatty Irishmen. At one point I said to the leader of the group: “You got to get me to Ireland one day”. Two weeks later I got an invite to speak at an event in Dublin in December.
Jet lag, here I come again. Three weeks after returning from Germany, I get on a flight across the Atlantic again. I arrived in Dublin quite early, and when I got to the hotel I called my host Dermott. He said: “I will be right over”. I told him to take his time. First lesson for Ireland, never tell an Irishman to take his time. He showed up two hours later. (BTW, the second lesson is “never leave a place without an umbrella, even if the sky is blue”. The Irish have a saying: “If you do not like the weather, wait 15 minutes”) .
As has been my practice to defeat jet lag, you do it by wandering around. Dermott was gracious enough to give me an extended walking tour of the city, which included a visit to an ancient prison where I took the following picture.

At the end of the day, I had a typical Irish meal: fish and chips, washed down with a pint of Guinness. With the help of melatonin, I managed to get a decent rest within local time parameters.
The following day was yet another manifestation of the incredible coincidences in my life. When I notified my new friend Keith (ex CIA) that I would be in Dublin that week, he connected me with his son Daniel who lives in Italy and was going to be on his honeymoon in Dublin the same week, with Monday December 3rd being the only day for which he had no plans. Well, Monday was also my day without commitments, so we decided to meet. Imagine: Ex KGB who lives in the US meets son of ex CIA who lives in Italy, on the one and only day both are available in Dublin Ireland. It was a delightful day. Daniel and his young wife are two of the most pleasant individuals I have ever met. Daniel knows the town, so we did some more sightseeing – there are awesome bars and there is awesome history in Dublin. I said good-bye with a heavy heart.
My presentation on Wednesday was well received and I got some more indication that I might be back in Europe sooner rather than later. My stay was extended for several days because Dermott got me a booking at the #1 Irish talk show , the Late Late Show for Friday. However, on Wednesday we were notified that they could not accommodate us anymore because the Prime Minister had requested to be on. Well, if you have to get bumped, it helps that the “bumper” is somebody important – Prime Minister qualifies.
The extra days gave me some more opportunities at golf and sightseeing. Ireland is a lovely country with more history I have ever seen cramped into such a small space (remember my frame of reference is Germany!). The people are genuinely friendly. It is quite possible that if you strike up a conversation with a stranger, he might invite you to his house. Dublin is a super attractive city. The only “skyscrapers” there are hundreds of years old. This is a big city with a small town feeling. To circumnavigate the center of town on foot will take easily one and a half hours. There are many pedestrian only streets, the street performers are excellent, and there is a bar on every block. On a Monday night these bars were full and from most of them emanated Irish music, which I happen to like.
Golf was another story. It is interesting to play a course where the club house is about 500 years old. Off we went with our push carts. A typical Irish / British links course shrouded in fog makes you feel like you have traveled back in time.

I was well dressed for the occasion, including a pair of new golf shoes my wife had bought me on the internet. They fit a bit snug, but I did not pay much attention. About two hours into the round, I felt some pain, and the last hour I was barely limping along. When I got to the hotel, I noticed some blisters the size of a quarter on both heels. I thought that they would heal on their own and since I am very pain tolerant, I did not seek treatment. When I got home and showed the feet to my wife she almost fainted. Actually, these were not ordinary blisters, they had turned into flesh wounds. I had to walk around in sandals for almost three weeks for those wounds to heal. Another featured stupidity in the life of a “top notch undercover agent” ……….

Finally home for the year, doing the family thing. For starters, I got my SUV totaled by an idiot who mistook the gas pedal for the brake and plowed into me from behind. As you probably know, the insurance payment is never enough to buy a decent replacement. This was third time in my life that I suffered significant financial loss due to a totaled vehicle thanks to the kindness of strangers.
On the good side of the equation there were Trinity’s 8th birthday, Thanksgiving, yet another Christmas tree, presents galore, the fabulous multimedia Atlanta Ballet’s production of the nutcracker, and a lookback at a year so filled with people, experiences, impressions that I can only shake my head. If you got to this sentence, I appreciate your hanging in there. Believe me, I only wrote down the short version. And if nobody reads it, that does not bother me either. One day Trinity will.
God bless you all
Jack B


  1. It’s been one helluva year, Jack! Boy, I did not know about the car accident. I take it you’re okay?

  2. Thank you, for sharing, Jack! Such an exciting ‘read,’ more exciting for you, living the adventurous life!

    Car accidents stink, and you are correct in that you never get a good compensation for what the other guy did to your car! I am glad you are okay: More people will get to hear your story.

    Take care, God continue to bless you, and may you have safe travels!

  3. Thank you, for sharing, Jack! Such an exciting ‘read,’ more exciting for you, living the adventurous life!

    Car accidents stink, and you are correct in that you never get a good compensation for what the other guy did to your car! I am glad you are okay: More people will get to hear your story.

    Take care, God continue to bless you, and may you have safe travels!

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