Sunday, November 30, 2008

Minime and the Other One (PICS)

So I spent another wonderful day at my father's place with the half siblings. My father was conspicuously absent for most of the visit. He had to "work". I get the feeling that he spends much more time doing that, than actually spending time with his family. He doesn't seem to understand that this is not the way a good father behaves, but whatever, if he wants to crap out his second chance at fatherhood, it's not for me to judge. (Although, it is a little bit). So anywho, here are pictures of the kids that I took, and three that I pilfered from my father's computer while I was there. It's them on September first of this year. Their very first day of 1st grade.

So here's little Masha looking really happy to be in school:

Here's her being a good student and paying stern attention to what the teacher is saying. Outside of the window...:

Haha, look at my hair. It's ridiculous.

Here's Pasha. I have strong suspicions about his being actually related to us. Look at this kid! He's freaking blond with green eyes. His name should be Ivan for god's sakes. And these two are supposedly fraternal twins. I smell a rat:

Ok, the rest of the pictures were shot by me yesterday. Now in my defense, I had tonsillitis, and the camera barely worked, and 7 year-olds are really shitty models. They just won't stand still.

This is Minime with her mum Natasha. Natasha was checking their homework. Masha doesn't like the level of mistrust in the family. Natasha doesn't like the fact that Minime lied about having all of her homework done:

Pasha had all his homework done, so he's just sort of chillin:

By the way, Pasha used to want to marry Masha. His parents had to explain to him that he can't marry his twin because they'll have two-headed babies. Now he's proclaimed his undying love for me and plans on marrying me as soon as possible. When reminded of the two-headed baby consequence, Pasha's incredulous response was "But we've got different mothers!" Pasha needs a solid lesson in genetics and how incest plays into that whole mess.

This is a picture of the kitchen/child chaos in that apartment:

Ok, this is a side by side comparison of me at 7 and Minime. I just want everyone to see why I keep referring to her as that:

The eyes are the only difference really.

And last, but by far not least, is the hated Sneszhok (who's name apparently changes on a weekly basis. Now her name is Katya):

I tried to barricade the door when I slept over Friday night, but this bastard not only got the door handle open, but also squeezed through the stuffed animal barricade and proceeded to try to claw through my socks while I was sleeping. I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I think I kicked it at some point. Sneszhok avoided me the next day and kept throwing me dirty looks. Like the one captured in the above photo.

That's it for today. I think everyone is already in the know about the tonsillitis, so I won't complain about it here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What is With the Weather Here???

First the streets are frozen solid, so that even if you're wearing boots manufactured specifically for the purpose of crossing the Alps (and I am), you still have to waddle around like a goddamn penguin so as not to fall down. Then it goes up 1 degree, and you're mired in ice puddles. I swear, there are like fjords and shit just floating around the city streets. I honestly don't know how to dress for this weather...
I'm going into full-on arctic exploration-wear mode.

Happy Thansgiving Everybody!
(I won't be eating turkey tonight...)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Insane day at Work

Today, a writer came to the office. This guy's book came out last week. Jesus Christ, starting at 2 p.m., there was vodka for everyone. Because boss lady has left for the Moscow non-fiction book fair, this place has completely disintegrated into a house of bedlam and chaos. It's like Soddom and Ghemorrah over here. So the entire staff (with the exception of the accountant, who is a very handsome clean cut young man and doesn't seem to enjoy hanging out with the literary types) has been hanging out in the kitchen getting soused. The head editor is so drunk right now that he can't stand or talk really. He just keeps mumbling shit, and I've got the feeling that any minute now he's going to throw up all the smoked salmon and salami sandwiches that were laid out on the table at the beginning of the festivities.

Oh and as if that's not enough, there are people hanging out in the kitchen that don't even work here. Random writers came by to congradulate the aforementioned guy, and stuck around to get in on the vodka action. It's been going on like this for 4 hours already. It's time to go home, and they're still sitting there. A few general rules were thrown out the window. Like the no smoking in the actual office rules. I don't mind this one, but it just feels surreal. Like I've stepped back into the 60's, when smoking was allowed everywhere. Also, at first some people said no to the vodka because they were driving. The last guy to walk in, when questioned as to whether he was driving or not, replied "so what?" and promptly sat down to throw back a few. I myself got literally trapped at the table for about an hour by a very insistent young editor. He wouldn't let me out. I had to wait until he went to the bathroom to make my escape.

A few general observations:

--Russian old people have really fucked up teeth and don't seem to know about dentures. (Note to self: brush teeth more often, and maybe start flossing or something)

--Whenever a person in this country is really interested in whether someone is a jew or not, chances are that they are either a jew, or a closeted (or not so closeted) antisemite. There's just no other reason for this interest to exist. And I don't remember anyone in the states ever wanting to know whether someone I brought to their house was a jew or not. Therefore, publisher Kuritzin is an antisemite (cause he sure as hell ain't a jew)

--Deodorant is purely optional here. I don't think that this is news to anyone, but what might be news is that it's a bit difficult to locate in the drugstores. I.e. I tried to buy some yesterday, and after visiting 3 different stores, was only able to find said product for men. Perhaps they believe that ladies naturally smell pretty.

That's all for today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Yesterday was Gray, Today is Gray, and Tomorrow Will Also be Gray

But that's alright. I'm getting more into the swing of things here. I still don't understand exactly what it is that my job entails. I spend most of the day at work just sort of staring at my computer screen and taking cigarette/tea breaks once an hour. From what I can tell, my job will require me to show up at uber-boss's house next week in order to translate between him and a French writer, while they're having breakfast. Unexpected. Also, there's the 10 pages of translation that I'll be doing in some vague future, and the attempts to make contact with American publishing companies. Everyone at work is preparing for a book fair in Moscow (that I won't be going to this time, but will be going to next time). And no one seems to give a crap about what Polena is doing. Ah, just like being home at my old job.

I went to do my laundry yesterday. I don't think that any of the German dryers in this country actually work. I paid money for them, naively trusting that they'll do their jobs and actually dry shit, but after waiting for exactly 3 hours for my clothes to dry, I ended up taking it home, quite warm, but still basically wet. I had to hang it up in the rafters to dry.

Then I went to the theater. It wasn't interesting enough to describe here. I'm going to wait until something less mundane happens to post again. The only other thing is that I've managed to get in touch with someone that I used to know many years ago and haven't had any contact with in 10 years. And lo and behold, he's here in Russia, just like me. So that was a very pleasant surprise for me. That's all that's happened in Russia in the last few days.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Day Whatever (Or I Guess it's Time to Stop Counting the Days) PICTURES

Alright, seeing as how I've been here for two weeks and one day, I think it's time to stop counting the days. What am I an alcoholic? Ok, fine, yes, I am, but only when it comes to actual alcohol. I'm not going to continue counting yet another set of days just because I really want another drink of America on a daily basis. Screw that. It's sobriety and Russia all the way from now on (or at least as long as I can keep from falling off the wagon and flying my ass back to the states.)

So, I've finally managed to take some pictures of where I am, but don't expect much. This was a first attempt, on a camera who's battery adamantly refuses to charge all the way due to crappy voltage/adapter, or it's just broken, and will only let me take two pictures before it craps out on me. So yeah, they're not very good, and they're not of very interesting things, but I promise better ones in the future. Shit, all I did today was go to work and then to a shopping mall (I didn't know they had fancy civilized ones here), and then home.

But before the pictures, I just had to share a few things that I read today in a couple of papers here:
From the St. Petersburg Times (these are direct headlines and quotes):
'Couch-Killer' Gets Off With One-Year Suspended Sentence
--A woman who killed her husband by shutting him inside a folding couch has been given a one-year suspended sentence. In response to an insulting comment from her husband... Vera Lukyanova, 55, closed the folding couch her spouse was lying on...Lukyanova was drunk at the time...Her husband was crushed as the couch folded up, and he suffocated after he was unable to free himself... Lukyanova had left her husband for three hours before checking on him and finding him dead.--
I just don't know what to say. This is as DeathPorn as it gets. Even though the article doesn't mention this, if you read between the lines, you can figure out that these are two aging, hardcore alchashi, and chances are that the husband was drunk too, and that this kind of marital "dispute" happens in Russia on a daily basis. I kind of love this place right now...
From the November Edition of Pulse Magazine:

Ok, I'm not going to provide direct quotes from this piece of trash magazine, but I would like to briefly summarize two articles that I read in it today.
Article 1:

This bitch writer mercilessly ridicules all people who read labels on the food that they are buying for shit such as MSG content and chemical content in general, and also maybe prefer the organic food to the assloads of chemical products from China that have flooded the supermarkets here. Jesus fucking Christ! She makes fun of a dude for telling his wife not to buy random canned products from China because they're actually not that big on poison control or contamination checks over there. What decade is this stupid cow living in? The United States government just set up a fucking FDA office smack dab in the middle of China just for this reason. So they can check on all this shit before it hits shelves in America. But Russians should go ahead and be encouraged to eat all the garbage out there? Whatever. This article just pissed me off to no end, because one of the reasons that I moved here was due to the fact that I thought that the food was better.

Article 2:
Ladies, if you're unhappy with your breast size, a great and healthy, and risk-free, bad-consequence free way of fixing this is through breast implants or augmentation! It's perfectly safe, you can't see the scars at all, they feel totally real, and best of all you'll feel much better about yourself. And nothing remotely bad can occur as a result!
THIS WAS NOT WRITTEN BY A PLASTIC SURGEON, AND IS NOT ADVERTISEMENT. This is a real article, written by a woman. What in the name of... Seriously??!!!
Yes. The only explanation that I could come up with at first was that she was bribed. But then, on further reflection, and in conjunction with the first article mentioned, I figured something out. They've got 1975 happening here as far as consumerism is concerned. They haven't figured out that chemical food is bad for you even though it tastes good, and that breast implants, pretty as they might look on TV and in Porno can totally fuck you up and shouldn't be encouraged under any circumstances (with the exception of reconstruction). Wasn't it just like this in the U.S. in the 70's?

Ok, now that I'm done ranting, on to the peaceful pictures of my day:

Yay for me!
This is the street where I work. Looks a bit gray and gloomy, no?
And this is the window in my office, and what can be seen through it:
What I see on my way home from work every day, right near where I live. It's beautiful:

Me, sitting in the hall, smoking in the dark. Not a pretty picture:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Joke Job and Pedestrian Bastards. And Oh My God the Cars...

People, my job is a joke. Would you like to know what I've been doing here for the past two days? I've been reading a book. At work. Just sitting here, reading a book. That's my job right now. I'm getting paid to do this. Because it's a publishing house. Holy shit I've been in the wrong profession this whole time!

Granted the book is tedious at times, but still. I like reading. And I get to use all them skills I learned in college while studying English Lit. Finally! Still, I just can't believe that they're going to give me money in a week. For this.
Also, I've been helping the corrector with some of the idiotic translation mistakes that she's been finding in some of the texts that she's correcting. That's kind of fun actually. I'm the only person here that's a "natural language carrier." That's one of my titles here at work. Tee-hee-hee.

But generally, since I'm being paid under the table (a salary that I'm pretty sure is higher than my position warrants), and straight out of uber-boss's pocket, I think that what I've actually got here is a mafia no-show job. Like when mafia captains show up to the docks and sit on their ass all day for tax purposes. It's like that, except instead of being in the mafia, I happen to be uber-boss's childhood friend's daughter, and he has to justify giving me fifteen hundred bucks a month.

There's not much else to report, other than the fact that everyone here is still taking one-hour long tea brakes several times a day and that yesterday was super pretty. It was just like being inside of a snow globe.

Also, this morning I was listening to "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns & Roses on my way to work, and found it fully appropriate as a soundtrack. Because like Indian people in Jackson Heights, Russian pedestrians think that each one of them is the only one the street, and conduct themselves accordingly. However, unlike peaceful Indian people, who just sort of ramble along, stop short, and generally move slower than fuck, Russian pedestrians take an entirely aggressive stance. They seem to be fully of the opinion that two things CAN exist in the same space at the same time, and try to prove this constantly by attempting to walk straight through each other (and poor little me). Seriously, if you think that NYC is bad as far as pedestrian speed and traffic go, try walking through a sea of angry, frozen Russian people when it's 15 degrees out. They don't fuck around. They're moving in one direction and you're going with them whether you want to or not.

Don't even get me started on the drivers. These assholes like to play chicken with pedestrians while they are crossing the street. And they always win, one way or the other. And by that, I mean, either the pedestrian manages to scurry the fuck out of the way in time, or the pedestrian gets a brand new car driven up his ass. They never, ever slow down. Instead, when they see a "walker", they speed up. I swear, it's as if they've got that point game going in their head, only serious. Like "4 points for the slow-moving babushka with the cart, 6 points for the pimply punk in the leather jacket, 10 points for the yuppie with the designer coat." This place is super fun!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Day 14 (Work and other Observations)

A few observations about my current surroundings:

--Finally saw the legendary and ever-elusive St. Petersburg sun today. It was yellow and warm and circular, just like I've always pictured it. I felt elated and happy for a moment, but then it disappeared behind and ugly brown building. I don't know when we'll be reunited again, or why it's avoiding me. Come back, sun!

--Ksusha the firm receptionist has been celebrating her 24th birthday for two solid days now. This consists of her sitting in the kitchen (instead of reception) the whole day with a bottle of vodka and two bottles of wine and a half-eaten Napolean cake. Other staff members (including the boss lady) join her periodically and stay in the kitchen for hours. The unforseen result of this of course is that no one is opening the door when someone rings our bell. Or answering the phones...
Also, everyone seems a bit not sober.
Non of the visitors have been able to get in because you can't hear the doorbell from the kitchen. Our own driver had to wait for 2 hours outside in order to gain entry.
Boss lady doesn't seem to mind.

--Everyone here is working on Russian-people-time. That means that even though the work day starts at 10 and ends at 6, most people come rambling into the office around 11 (holding their heads tightly and mumbling about bereborshil, i.e. overdid it), and end up walking out of here around 3 when they, as I heard one such employee say, "finally give up on having a sense of right and wrong". Apparently Ksusha the receptionist has been keeping careful track of these comings and goings, but the boss lady only jokingly suggested that employees start coming in on time. She doesn't seem to be serious, and no one here is taking her suggestions to heart.

--The guy that's been training me for two days now, proclaimed today that there's not much for me to do and I should just go home and read one of the books that I've been assigned to translate pieces of. It was 2 p.m. when this ocurred. I had to explain to him that I don't feel right collecting a salary while sitting at home and reading a book. (I do however feel perfectly fine collecting a salary while sitting at work and working on my own blog though.) I'm going to work with an american work-standard for at least another week...

Monday, November 17, 2008

How I Spent a Night With my Shady Millionair New Uber-Boss and the GAI (traffic militsia)

...Or what happens when two black jeeps collide. In Russia.

Dear Diary,

no no, I'm just kidding.

Ok, so last night, my mum and I were (forced) invited to have dinner at my new boss's place. Now this is a man that I'd spoken to once on the phone shortly before my trip to London, where I stayed at his fabulous penthouse. And even though he wasn't there, he did manage to tell me on the phone (mind you, without ever actually seeing me) that if I quit smoking, I could have the honor of being his lover for a little while. Ooh. He literally said that to me. I'm not exaggerating folks.
To give you all a better picture of what sort of man this might be, just imagine what it takes to become a millionaire in Russia. There is not a single currently legitimate minigarch or oligarch in this country that got that way without at some point being ass-deep in organized crime. There's just no way for this to have happened via legitimate means. Dude owns a bunch of construction companies, this being the real way his money is made, and this one little itty-bitty publishing company that I was hired to work for. Now some of you may naively be thinking that he's a fan of the written word or something, but really, come on. Obviously I now work for a company that basically launders money for either the mob, or just general criminal activity of some sort, such as tax evasion. I'm ok with this.

Sufficed to say, I didn't really feel like going, and was feeling kind of depressed because I had to fucking get up the next morning for my first day of work at his company, and didn't really feel like having a long dinner with the Sopranos.

What happened instead was really refreshing, and also eye opening. Last night taught me that ya can't really be depressed for longer than about 5 minutes in Russia, because then something unexpected will happen to pull your ass right out of it. It might be a good thing, it might be a bad thing, it might be a bad thing that happens to someone else and you just find incredibly amusing. I.e. what happened last night.

Uber-boss called me on my cell and told me to meet him downstairs in exactly 6 minutes because that's when he'd be pulling up. Actually, it was more of a command than a telling. My mum was already down there. But as I get downstairs, what I see instead of them waiting, is a black jeep being driven by two Azerbaijanis, plow straight into the back of the much larger black jeep being driven by uber-boss. I kind of hoped at that moment that they might shoot at each other a little bit. Not at me though. I want to live.

But instead, after cursing in their respective languages, these folks got their insurance papers out, exchanged them, and got on their cells with their insurance agencies, and of course, the infamous GAI. At this point, my mum, being the trooper that she is, announced that she has to go pee and left me alone in the jeep with uber-boss as he called his friend, who happens to be the head of GAI (fucking rich criminals), who assured uber-boss that a car would be there in minutes. Then I was forced to talk to this dude for a while. He told me some shit about how ten years ago there actually would have totally been shooting, but now they just exchange papers and isn't progress awesome. I asked him if he used to carry a gun. The answer was an enthusiastic "Yes, always in my pocket. Now I don't so much, because I do not need this." Dude is so hooked up, he doesn't need a gun anymore. Ah, progress.

Then, even though he "just came back from Banya with his GAI boss friend", we sit and wait for 3 hours for GAI to show up. In the meantime, two insurance agents, who look like total mobsters, with leather jackets and shaved heads and all, show up with digital cameras and take pictures of the two busted jeeps. The Azerbaijanis looked slightly scared by the way, because their jeep is obviously way cheaper than ours, i.e. we're more dangerous, and also, they are Azerbaijani, and we're at least Jews, i.e more white and less likely to be beaten by anyone in a uniform.

Uber-boss kept calling his friend and getting angrier and angrier about how long it was taking for the militsia to show up, but then we all calmed down (even though I was starving because I was promised dinner and hadn't eaten as a result) because it turned out that all the GAI were at an accident involving four corpses. We all agreed that our little fender-bender could wait.

Finally, they showed up. Actually, it was just this one, pathetic looking, Detina, who took down every body's info, and then made us drive back to the militsia headquarters for more paperwork, where uber-boss had to bribe him with $100 in order to end the now 4 hour ordeal.

So, this is what happens when two black jeeps collide in Russia in 2008. No shooting.

We did end up going to dude's house after all this was over, but just got fed with some tea because it was like 1 a.m. The funny thing is that his son was supposed to be there, and called him while we were still there to tell him that he himself had gotten picked up by the GAI and didn't have $100 to bribe them with, so he wasn't going to make it home in time to meet me.

Overall, the incident cheered me up as if I had eaten a pound of ice-cream. The best part was that uber-boss kept half-apologizing and then stopping himself because he could see that I was doing a piss-poor job of not grinning from ear to ear and giggling giddily. Then I had to apologize a little bit. The guy turned out to be cool, and came into the publishing company just to check up on me. Also, I didn't notice, but according my my mother, he was hitting on me like crazy. But hey, if I don't notice, then I don't have to respond, and it doesn't actually bother me.


Oh god, it's my first day of work, and already I'm suffering. What the hell??!!! Why can't I get a break? Well? God? What's up? You wanna fight? What's up?
Seriously though, it's my very first day of work. This job is going to be fairly easy I think, if you don't count the ten pages of translation that they'd like me to get started on sometime in the near future. Other than that, for now, it's just compiling lists of publishers. But non of this matters right now, because I've been poisoned.
Ok, so apparently, here in Russia, non of the older employees wanted to go outside for lunch and blow a ton of their hard-earned cash on lunches bought from over-priced salad bars or sushi restaurants. So they came up with an ingeneous system where they hire somebody's gradma to cook for the entire office. She cooks a 5 motherfucking course meal for 60 RUBLES a day per person. Ok, that's two dollars a day and there's compote and dessert included. This is great. Except that it would appear that our particular Babushka has decided that it aint right that I got my job via the family connection (many people here, judging by their reaction to me, seem to feel the same way), and so has taken it upon herself to avenge the entire office by poisoning my poor weak-stomached ass on my very first day of work.
I swear to god, I'm sitting here right now, hunched over and sweating in pain, unable to do anymore work, barely able to keep from barfing up the beet salad, buckwheat with beef, potato soup with crackers, black currant compote, and apple pancakes all over the place.
I guess it's possible I may have just eaten too much...

It is colder than a witch's tit here in the office, and whenever I voice my complaints about it, I am joyfully told "Don't worry. You'll get used to it." What? Screw you people. I'm putting on my fur coat!

P.P.S. more to come later on how I spent my evening with my shady millionaire uber-boss and the GAI (traffic police)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

4 Days in London, back in April (way nicer than where I'm at now)

I finally got the card reader up and running, but unfortunately haven't taken any pictures here in Russia yet. But I did find a few pics on the camera that I took when I was in London back in April. I know, I know. Everyone wants pictures of Russia. Well you'll get them, you damn vultures! For now, enjoy pretty London. It's civilized.
This is me on my first night in London. I stayed at an awesome penthouse.

This is me at the London Bookfair (my reason for being in London in the first place). I didn't take these pics, my new boss here in Russia, at the publishing company, did.

This is an awesome poster of a robot that they had there, that was sort of a robot itself because it kind of moved, flashed lights, and interacted a bit.

And by "a bit", I mean that when I tried to take this picture in front of it, as you can see, it's eyes lit up red and it mumbled something about assimilation and resistance.

This is what I'd like to call "British pluck". There's something so upbeat about the words written on this monolith, that I just had to take a picture.

Ah, this was the Saudi Arabian table at the book fair. Homeboys brought a scale model of their kingdom with them. It was amazingly done. Or maybe those are just the imperial palaces...

And last but not least, I had to take a picture of the river Thames. Just had too. Read so much about it during my four years of English Lit.

So this is England everybody. I enjoyed it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 10 (Or the day that Polina got her dance on Ya'll)

"Your freckled face is out of this fucking world when surrounded in that beautiful lace made of dark hair". The one thing that I have to give to Russian men is that no matter how drunk, or ugly, or even busted-eyed they may be (fights happen a lot here), they still whip out the prettiest, most poetic pick lines that I've ever heard. That's right folks. Polina finally went out. And as you'll soon see it was completely unintentional.
The day started out as uneventful as usual. My mother and I prepared to treck out ("to catch some (invisible) sun" as my mother once again insisted), and get some simple tasks done, such as file and paint my nails (motherfucking finally!) and buy a few items such as a digital card reader (pictures coming soon at last.) Naturally, my mother told me to get ready and put my coat on incessantly for about 15 minutes until I finally gave in and did it. After this she proceeded to run around the apartment for, I swear a solid hour more, and in the end said that she wasn't feeling well and had to lie down and that I should just go wait for her outside. Shit, I was already sitting out in the hall smoking fevourishly and trying to stop all the bad thoughts about killing her from flooding my imagination. But anyway, eventually we managed to make it out the door.

We went to Gostinii Dvor (this is a nightmarish shopping mall that has a very special smell because they're mixing like a thousand different things because they've got the perfume store right next to the cheese shop, which is right next to the sporting goods store which is right next to the shoe polish store). Thankfully, we were only in there for a minute. But then I got to experience that which I can finally call Bladerunner. Yay for me! We walked in this really busted alleyway that went on forever, and by busted I mean there were filed down stone steps and wooden planks (under construuuction everybody) and every few steps, both the lighting and the music/soundeffects changed because every few meters was crammed with another shop selling another pile of crap, and it was both futuristic and totally Caucasion ghetto at the same time. In other words, Bladerunner. Oh, and obviously it was filled to the brim with chels.

Ok, I'm going to try to speed it up here because this isn't a fucking diary and I know all about people's attention spans and blogs.
After we bought all of our crap, my mother took me to this place that used to be called "The Starbar" and is now called "Chort Poberi" which means "Damn it". This place was special. It was Rockabilly. I hadn't encountered this phenomenon in the U.S., but I know that it exists there. Everyone was dressed very 50's. Some people were wearing straight up cowboy outfits. And in between all of these, there were waves of anarchist punks and Antifa (for those not in the know, these are youth antifashists). Over all, a really cute atmosphere with mostly Johnny Cash, Elvis, and random country music playing in the background. I mean NYC hipsters have nothing on these people. They've ventured so far beyond the realm of ironic, that they can't remember what it looks like.
Then a boring interlude when I went to get my nails did around the corner from this place. People, Russians suck at doing nails. I'm sorry, but I miss my little Chinese Lily who gave me backrubs while my nails dried. Also, she wasn't a bitch like Yulia, who did my nails here. But to be fair, Yulia was prettier to look at and had immaculate nails herself. Which also confirmed for me that she sucks at doing nails. Anyone that has ever had a manicure knows what I'm talking about.
After I came back to Damn It, my mother grabbed me while screaming some incoherent shit about being on a list for LaMiNore and we cabbed it to some other place where a very very large man refused to let us in. Also, he was scary. Also, he was the security, obviously. Eventually, these bastards got their shit together long enough to actually find the list that we were supposed to be on, and as a complete surprise to me (we'd been standing in the rain for about 20 minutes at this point) we were on the list and the doors magically opened for us. This place wasn't as cool, but it was filled with beautiful friendly people, free coat check amazing food upstairs, and a great band venue. And when the band went on, the band called LaMiNore, I forgot for a minute where I was and thought that I was back at Mehanata during a live show. Of course, then I noticed that there were no dark skinned people anywhere, dancing or otherwise, and the illusion was broken. Still, it was an awesome band, all of whom are my mum's friends. (See people, crazy mothers are still good for some shit, such as partying and meeting cool people who think that her very obvious insanity is actually quaint eccentricity). So I met a bunch of great musicians, listened and danced to some awesome music, and had a good time in general. Finally, gawd damn it.

Oh, one last thing. I witnessed this one dude, who got so drunk that he started grabbing all the people around him. I thought that he was trying to fight them or something, but strangely, he seemed to want a hug. This was a giant gopnik with short cropped hair and no neck. Just try to imagine how comical this looked. Of course, eventually he decided that he needed a hug from a female, and both she and her boyfriend objected. So at some point, she ended up in a very angry sandwich between the life-loving, hug-seeking gopnik, and her totally angry punk boyfriend. That shit was also comical.
Also, a man asked me why he had the bad luck of being in a lesbian bar after I declined his sweaty offer to dance. So I'll end this post the approximately as I started it. You gotta love Russian men.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Night 9 or 10 (Or the night that St. Petersburg finally gave me a reason to fall in Love with it just a little bit)

Ok people. I know that I've been complaining about this place a lot lately, or rather almost non-stop, but tonight, this city did something pretty for me. I went out to my mum's hallway to have a smoke (because damn it that woman won't let me smoke anything other than coffee scented cigars in her apartment) and saw fireworks out the window. And it wasn't like some small children firing off some firecrackers or some bullshit like that. It was like 4th of July fireworks. And they went on for a solid 20 minutes. And you know why they were there? Somebody's birthday. That's right. That's how rich people roll here. And even though I'm living with my mum at the moment and this may seem sort of pathetic, fuck you all because I live in a part of town where you can see amazing fireworks randomly out of your window. So thanks St. Petersburg! I don't hate you as much any more. (Even though you're still cold and scary and full of skinheads and bad radio)

I didn't really mean that fuck you. Please don't stop coming here. I was just kidding.

Day 9 or 10 (Or the Day I went to my Job and Finally took the Subway)

People, today was a good day. But before I get into that, let me just say this. Blyad yobonaya v rot!!! What the fuck!!! The internet was down for two days again. Now the last time, it was explained away by some drunk plowing his car into a telephone line. This has significance over here because all the internets is still dial-up. Yes good people. Dial up. So how do they explain it this time? Have they just not fully fixed it from the last time (which wouldn't surprise me at all, because this is in fact what's called 'dealing with problems with Russian efficiency), or has another cracked-out drunken gopnik, plowed into yet another ill-placed telephone line on his way back to the whore house? The phone company is keeping it a secret this time. Either way, it's not as funny the second time around.

Anyway, back to how nice my day was. I think that I've finally stopped freaking out terribly, panic wise, so the blog won't be as funny anymore, because as one of my friends put it, other people's panic is comedy to everyone else. But that's ok. I can still be informative.

I went to check out my new job today, where I'll be starting on Monday. I'll be working completely under the table for $1500 a month. That's not very much money anywhere, but at least it's tax free. During my initial meeting with my new boss, she called in the dude that I'll be replacing to talk about how he plans to train me to do his job, which he's not even getting fired from, but rather moving to the editorial department. And do you know what this little predatel says? He says "well, there's really no work right now. There's nothing to do in that position at all for the rest of the year because we haven't released any new books in a while." Basically dear friends, this little bitch is trying to get me fired before I've even started. Because even though $1500 may not seem like much, over here, given the current CRISIS (oh yeah, I'm going to caplock that shit from now on in order to distinguish it from any number of crisis that I might go through myself) it's still an assload of salary. Thanks a lot Alex, you fucking asshole. Hope I do your job way better than you did and show you out as the little incompetent bitch that you is.

On a lighter note, I finally took the subway and it's not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. I had these nightmarish memories of being dragged down to one of the circles of Dante's inferno, on a super fast escalator that made my head spin. But actually it wasn't nearly as fast or as deep. (that's what she said).

Just a few more comments and we'll be all done.

1. Russian people love their tea. They also love to make everyone else drink their tea. If I see one more cup of tea, I'm going to learn whether it's actually possible to fit a tea saucer into a human anal cavity.

2. Russian women love high heels and have the magical ability to wear them out, no matter how craggly or fucked up the sidewalks are, and I'm going to have to learn to do this as well.

3.Never ever, ever, move back in with your Russian mother, in Russia. Even if she's not batshit crazy like mine is. No matter what, she is going to force you to wear that same uncomfortable outfit that you had to wear in Russia as a little girl in the winter time. The one that you could't move your arms or legs in very well. The one that scratched the shit out of your throat. Yeah... that one. And you're going to walk around like an asshole in that, while all the women around you that are not living with their moms, are dressed in pretty, high heels, tight pants, and little itty bitty jackets.

That's all for today folks, hope it wasn't too much.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 8 (or the first day that I didn't lose my shit outside)


Yeah, so today I went outside and finally didn't lose my shit. No hyperventilating or fight or flight. Yay!

Still a little shaky toward the end of my forced walk (forced by my overseer obviously, who insists that I need to see the sun everday), but not as bad today.

And speaking of the sun, I've encountered an interesting phenomenon here. Everyone cheerily tells me to look at the sun every morning, and when I point out that the sun is this little yellow circle in the sky that gives off warmth, and which there isn't the slightest sign of anywhere in the sky, and all I see are gray fucking clouds, the response is "right, that's the american sun. Here, when we say 'look at the sun', we just mean look at how not dark it is." So this basically surmises Russian attitude. It's like "we know that it's all cloudy and shit, but somewhere behind those clouds, there's a sun, and that makes us piss ourselves with happiness. Just knowing that it's there." I'm going to have to adopt this somehow, or I won't last here.

Let's see, my mum and I went to exchange some of my dollars to rubles, the exchange rate being great for me because the ruble is totes losing it's value again. Yes! This country is heading straight back for the third world financially, again. So when we went to do this little exchange, the guard wouldn't let me go with my mum to the cashier because only one of us can go at a time so as not to "distract the cashier." I hadn't realized that we look like such con artists, or that the cashier who handles foreign currency has ADD, but whatever.

So then the guard is like "why do you need to go in there anyway?" And I calmly explained that I hadn't changed currency in a long time and wanted to see how it's done here. His response was to ask me if I'd spent my schooling years in a "special institution." I can only assume that he basically just asked me if I was in special ed. But that's ok, because I just responded with a dirty look and he lost interest in me completely.

Then we went to a really nice tea house where I got some awesome soup and a piece of pie for something like 6 dollars altoghether. I kind of love that about this country. Ok, so maybe Russia's not so bad. I'm still on the fence though.

And, on the plus side, I finally found a manicure place. They also do wax facial hair removal. So good by mustache! No need to come to the motherland looking like Yosomite Sam. The best was when my mum asked this very polite and well groomed lady at the counter if they plan on ripping my whole face off with the wax, or just the mustache. The lady gave her a sarcastic look, and my mum was like "what? You're putting hot wax on her face. Doesn't it ever happen that you burn a person's face off or something? Do you do these often?" The lady kind of stopped looking or talking to her at this point and just directed all of her responses to me. Which I encouraged fully.

And the last little bit of info for today is that I found an awesome hostel right here on Nevsky, smack dab in the middle of the city and only about a five minute walk from where I'm staying. A four person room is about 30 bucks per person per day. These are perfectly European and reasonable prices. They also have 8 people rooms that are a bit cheaper. But the place is awesome with wireless internets and a kitchen and private bathrooms and showers. Totally clean and polite. So if anyone wants to come for a visit before I get my own place, this is something to keep in mind.

Ok, so that's it for today. I khow it wasn't that interesting, but it was more of an informative post for those who are taking an interest in the motherland.

Oh, and here's a pin up of me that a lovely photographer named Grace took shortly before I departed our loving country.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day 6

Yesterday, for about 4 hours, there was no water. There. was. no. water. Ok.
Then, some drunken gopnik plowed his car into a telephone line near the Technoloshka station, and there was no internet. It's still acting all hokey. Ok, ok, so, no water, and no internet. That's ok, that doesn't make this Siberia, or way more like the U.S.S.R. than I ever wanted to get this close to again. I'm going to do some breathing exercises now...


Ok, I feel a little better. Oh, did I mention that yesterday on my way to my mother's place I was forced to listen to Russian radio for about an hour? Yes, and you know what they said? That they heard that Obama is naming Dr. Dre his Chief of Staff or the Surgeon General or something. Ah, I've missed that subtle Russian racism.

I've taken to reading the St. Petersburg Times. It's a paper for expats, just chock full of useful information. For instance here are some stories and headlines:
-- Medvedev Tells Police to Quell Signs of Crisis-Linked Unrest
Ok, this is a really cute little story about how now that there's another economic Crisis, kind of like there was 10 years ago, with unemployment rates going up, the street crime is going to rocket back up to New York in the 80's levels. I didn't believe my father when he threatened me with this, but apparently it's true. Also, they are planning to revive the Soviet-era practice of compulsory treatments for alcoholics. So that they don't commit street crime. Or something. Anyway, that can't be bad. Oh and by the way, all you hear about here is the Crisis. THE CRISIS. But I love Russian attitutude towards it. It's just very "We're fucked. Again. Oh well. We'll deal. We've been fucked before. Let's get ready for those food rationings." Seriously.

--Communists Use Anniversary To Tell Capitalist World: Told You So!
This might be the best headline and story I've seen so far here. Apparently, tens of thousands of still existing commies here took to the streets on Friday to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution, and were yelling things such as "Capitalists! We recommend you start reading Marx's 'Das Kapital'" Good solid advise from the communists everyone.

Ok, that's it for today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

DAY 5 (I think)

Ok, got a ride with my father in the morning, back to what is called civilization here (and I use this term lightly).
I desperately need to find a manicure place. I used some of my father's wife's nailpolish to do my own nails, which looked a lovely pale pink in the soft glow of their kitchen light. This morning when I got outside, it turned out that I'm wearing a color that can only be described as "Russian Slut Pastel Pink." That's it, nothing more to report this morning. It's only like 12 in the afternoon here. I still feel the need to flee from here though.
Oh, just as soon as I find a plug converter and charge up the camera, there will be pictures.

DAY 2, 3, 4

Ok, so I spent these three days at my father's house getting to know my half brother and sister. Just some basic impressions:

--Children are really cute, especially twins, right up until they have to get up to go to school and it's still dark outside. Then they are cranky little bitches and cry a lot and my god I wish I wasn't forced to share a room with my seven year old sister.

--Cats are really cute, especially fluffy white ones, right up until they spend half the night scratching at your bedroom door, then finally make it in to the room, and then proceed to first knock shit over, second, fall off of shit with really loud bangs, and lastly, eat your exposed feet. It hurt, Snezshok you bastard! We're now officially enemies.

--Spending three days with your relatives in what is the equivalent of far Rockaway, Queens, is really fucking boring. I could hear the paint peel.

--I suspect that my father and his wife think that they've found themselves a free babysitter, but they're wrong because I ain't feeding nobody, no matter how hungry those kids get.

--My father threw some insane amount of money at me the moment that I got to his house. Yes, my love can be bought. Totally. So maybe I will babysit from time to time.

--After a few conversations with my father, I began hyperventilating about being in Russia. Thank you Russian parents for knowing exactly when we're vulnerable and helping us out there.

Thank god I got out of there today, finally.


Ok, the panic hadn't hit at this point yet, I woke up with a cold and set out to visit my father and his wife and kids, whom I hadn't seen in five and a half years. My mother and I agreed that it would be best if I take a taxi since I have a cold. Taxis, by the way, cost the same here as they do in New York. They are basically the same except that the guy driving the taxi is a skinhead with a fucking German Reich cross hanging off of his mirror and rockabilly taste in music. So I basically spent the entire ride hoping that this dude either doesn't hate jews, or doesn't notice that I'm one of them, and wondering why he's so into Fats Domino if he's not into ethnic minorities. It's a total mystery.
Oh, but I haven't mentioned the door system here yet. They've got these magnetic door locks on all the building doors, so in order to get out of a building, you have to press this green button which then politely tells you that you can now open the door. So when I left my mother's apartment that morning, I was all chipper because everything seemed to be working out with the other ten billion doors that I had to unlock and then lock on my way out, and then I get to the downstairs door, push the green button, push on the door, and bam, nothing. It's just not opening. I think to myself that this can't be happening and try to open it again and again and again and finally give up and call my mum on her cell. She calls me a retard and tells me that she'll come down and open it for me. I keep trying. I can't describe the level of frustration that not being able to perform the simple task of opening a door will cause in a person.
Of course that didn't compare when someone opened the REAL door from the outside, and I realized that I'd been trying to open the WALL that the green button was mounted on next to the door, instead of the door itself for the past 15 minutes. I called my mum back and told her that yes I was a retard.

Second day everybody.


Ok, for those not in the know, I have decided to move back to mother Russia because for some reason I thought that it would be better than New York City. Mother Russia turned out to be a frozen rainy bitch in November. Each day, my apprehension that I may have made a terrible horrible, no good, very bad mistake, grows. I've been here for approximately 4 days now, though truth be told it feels more like 2 months, and can't say that I don't freak out at least twice a day and start hyperventilating about the fact that I'm here and not say back in my safe warm apartment back in the good old U.S. of A (busted as that shit might have been, at least I wasn't getting threatened with street crime during casual conversation with various members of my family.) All that having been said, I'm going to go ahead and keep a record of the day to day impressions. Hopefully things will look up eventually. So, onto day 1. It was actually my very first night here, straight off the plane. I'm just going to copy what I already wrote to one of you in an email.

I flew into St. Petersburg fairly drugged up, alternating between xanax and Advil PM, the sleepy kind. At the airport, I got picked up by a car that my father's wife sent for me and then it took a really long time to get home. We got stuck in traffic completely, and this is where the problem started because I realized instantaneously that I had to piss like a racehorse, and that St. Petersburg is notorious for not having places to do this. So we're stuck in traffic and tell my mum (who also came to pick me up) that I need to pee and she's just kind of like "well, deal, there's nothing we can do about it." As in "Here in Russia we don't need to pee." So I left my bags in the car, and my mum, and set off on my own, in the dark (oh yeah, it was 5:30 p.m. and dark) to look for some place to relieve myself. My mum handed me her cell phone and told me to look for some street and some building after I've taken care of that, which she had no faith that I would be able to do. Did I mention that I was still severely drugged up?
I then spent the next 15 minutes or so running up to every person I saw and yelling "bathroom?" at them as hope slowly died and I sort of started to prepare myself for the fact that my first act in Russia, will be to have pissed myself. I thought, "that'll be a funny story to tell people after I get over the trauma. Like I got to Russia and immediately pissed my pants, because that's how scary it is." But actually, everyone that I asked was sort of pointing in some direction and going "there". So eventually, I found a public restroom that you have to pay for and because I had no rubles (it cost 15) I ended up paying 5 motherfucking Euros for that shit. So this will forever be known as the most expensive piss that I've ever taken.
But I was very proud of myself for finding this restroom and then finding my way to my mother's apartment all on my own without being
a) beaten
b) robbed
c) raped
d) killed
e) drenched in urine

First night folks.