Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The World is MINE



I don't remember the context. It is not important. Last week I told my husband that I can't be sure anything exists unless I am looking at it. This applies to objects, contracts, people, buildings, etc. My perception is my reality, but is it yours? I don't know. This is something I have obsessed   over for some time, but have never put any valid effort into proving, because everything changes as soon as you look at it because it is being looked at right? Trippy? I know. I get this mirror inside of a mirror mind thing going periodically. It drives me nuts. It has a very tentative relationship with the whole obsessive thing that also habitates inside of my head. No, I haven't had it checked out. No, I don't plan on discussing it with a professional, there is not room for more in my head.

Yesterday, my husband who is currently working on his PhD and consuming an inhumane amount of articles daily, told me about one he had read yesterday that just came up and sort of proved my theory on a molecular level. Obviously I am a genius at quantum physics but I never knew. Or did my husband just read this article because I thought it, and I fabricated this entire exchange in my head? Who can ever be really sure?

Recently, in my spare time, when I am not working on applying for an honorary degree in physics or at my day job, I have been doing a little tutoring here in Russia. The pay is great, the discussion group I have been leading once a week has provided me with so many laughs/interesting facts, and let's face it, this blog has been lacking in content lately. I picked up one learner once a week, and agreed to tutoring a 3 year old 2 days a week. The problem is, I only actually like doing things in theory. Actually doing things is really time consuming and exhausting. Especially now that it is getting dark at like 6pm.




Immediately after accepting this twice a week tutor job I wanted an out. I mean come on, I don't even like kids.  However, I was referred by a friend, and didn't want to hear it dissapoint. So I agreed. I have spent the entire morning figuring out ways to build an acme black hole so I could crawl through it and not do the job. My physics knowledge may not be as vass as I previously thought, because this task is eluding me. HOWEVER, my power of telekentics? Spot on. I just got a text saying the kid got the flu and tutoring will need to be rescheduled. I now have an entire week to regret my decision! I willed this to happen with my mind, and I will accept no other explanation. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekly Obsession: Pinterest

Helping a friend plan her wedding is difficult.  Helping a friend plan her wedding from 5665.32 miles away is damn near impossible. Well it would have been impossible prior to Al Gore inventing the internet (insert snicker snicker here). Now there are fabulous sites such as Pinterest that are making this a nearly do-able task.





Pinterest is a database of visual bookmarks. How many times have you been  wasting time  spending a productive day browsing the internet and come across a recipe, or an outfit, or an idea for your apartment, and thought I need to remember this. If you are like me, then you add the link to the bottomless pit that is your bookmark list, never to be remembered or looked at again. Pinterest has been a huge timesaver for me. I don't spend a ton of time re-looking for things that I swear I saw before, or maybe I just had a dream about it? Damn someone should really make that. There is a "Pin It" button that can be installed on your web browser and then while browsing the internet, when you come across that tattooed-stuffed-merman that you absolutely have to remember for a gag list, you can pin-it, put it on your "things that make you go ha-ha" board (not a standard board, one I renamed myself...you can copy) and you can later see it all in one place.

As maybe you have gleened by now, I am not an organized person. I know, I know, shocking. So for me, Pinterest has been helpful when I am looking to help my friend plan her wedding. We have an 8 hour time difference between us, so when I am doing the majority of my online browsing, she is asleep, and vice versa-- but now I can do all of the browsing I want, label things as potential bouquets, bridesmaid dresses, grooms outfits, Pin them, and she can view them all in one place (rather than waking up to 10 disconjointed email streams of thought that can be easily misfiled or deleted) she can also comment on them, pick what she likes, and repin them to her board. This has been a helpful communication tool for us. There are so many uses for Pinterest, that I know the potential has barely been tapped. Are you going to begin pinning?

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Perils of Gluten: Weekly Obsession

Well, I really had planned on having another post before it came around for Friday Obsession again, but I just got lazy. Hopefully I will be posting a tutorial on hanging pictures, expat decorating, and/or another letter to my (still) unadopted child. I have been really busy lately you guys. Mainly I have been moving apartments, online shopping, and deciding if I am more excited to see my friends, eat at real restaurants with free water refills, or shop during my upcoming trip home to Tampa. Also I have been maid-of-honor-ing for my oldest friend in Florida, and I take my duties of online dress, jewelery, venue, photographer, DJ, baker, and florist shopping seriously. So enough excuses, my point is: don't get too excited. No peeing of the pants necessary.

One of my latest obsessions lately has been the perils of Gluten. Give a man a loaf of bread and he eats for a day, give me a loaf of bread and you'll get a lifetime lecture on the perils of Gluten. That was a recent facebook status from my husband. I've been breaking out a little on my face. I am 29, I never thought battling acne and fine lines would coincide. We are talking civil war here you guys. Since I was a teenager, the acne has been an issue, with brief bouts of relief and hope in between. I was on antibiotics and creams for year. I never tried accutane, because my acne issues were never that serious from a medical standpoint, just from an uhhhhhh my god why is this shit still on my face standpoint. About a year ago when my obsession over this issue kicked in I found out about a drug called Spirnolactone and asked my dermatologist for a script. He obliged me, and it was like a magic cure...for a time. Then I got some melasma on my face and found out that was a commong side effect of this drug. Great, robbing Peter to pay Paul. Deciding between two evils. I wish I had the lucury of being low maintenance. I also wish I could get my blogger our of what ever language it is set on to that does not allow my spell check to work properly. Such is life. So I stopped taking the Spirnolactone, had a mild breakout, and took to the web with my grabby hands for a new solution. Enter the great Gluten debate. I came across this solution quite accidently while reading one of the foodie websites that I regularly check in with, Bon Apetit. I read about a chef in NYC who opened her own business catering to dietary specifications and treating food like medicine. One of the things she mentioned in the article was that for her clients who suffer from acne, she puts them on a wheat free diet. I did some further digging, research, and googling on this topic, and found a lot of evidence to support what I wanted it to support, that adult acne can in fact be cured. I found that Gluten causes a myriad of issues for people who are insensitive, intolerant or allergic.



I researched all food containing gluten. This website was very helpful. And I set off on my pasta, bread and soy-sauce free way. Sure there are pastas and breads and soy sauces that do not contain gluten, but I live in Russia and can not read all most labels, so like I said, off I went. Because we do not eat at restaurants frequently, it has not been that difficult. It has been 3 weeks now and I feel better and my skin has mostly seemed to clear up. I can't be sure yet if the two are related, but my obsession is sure, for now, until it is not.



Friday, September 30, 2011

Weekly Obsession: Travel Shadow Boxes

Travel Shadow Boxes

When we moved to Moscow,  I packed like I was off to Girl Scout Camp. I am surprised I didn't find a box of thin mints and a green baret in my shipment. I don't know if I thought we were moving in to a tent, but I did not pack any of my wall decorations, or personalized decorations. Just the basics, you know like three closets worth of clothes and shoes, a lifetime supply of tampons, and 3 industrial sized jars of peanutbutter. No room for framed pictures, dishes, or plates, but sure lets have a mini cosco in our back room. Excellent work, ROBIN. So I have been insanely jealous of every home-y apartment I enter here in a quest since we moved in to get some personalized art on our walls so we can stop living in a bare walled white assylum while paying homage to a hideous striped couch.  I did manage to take some things to a frame shop last week, I should probably make that a post all by itself. I think I will, so moving on...I came across THIS:


while I was working sifting trough the web for some design ideas. Holy hell. New obsession. I need to make these immediately. Click here for more indepth pictures. Anyone who travels needs to do these. How amazing. I am slightly dissapointed because it would be much better going in to a trip with this idea so you can make sure to collect all of those little trinkets. I used to do that. However, in an effort to fight my lazy packrat nature, I have stopped filling my pockets with stuff because I thought to myself, really, why are you saving this hotel key, what are you going to do with it? Become a hoarder? Is that what you want to do? There are easier ways to get on TV. I do not want to end up living in a one bedroom apartment surrounded by 47 cats, a ferret, and fesces. I just will not have it. I won't allow this to happen to anyone I know, so you are welcome in advance. As long as I have a use for the stuff though, I will be more than happy to save boarding passes, keys, money, gum wrappers, used napkins and what not to make personalized art. My favorite thing about these frames is they give me justifaction for packrat tendancies I love so many of my photos when I come back from a trip, but it would be monotonous to frame and display 10+ photos from the same week/destination, and this project really offers a solution for that. What else are you going to do with all of those sunset pictures? Your friends do not care. They do not want to see them again. Trust me.

This is my best take at the project so far:

Don't be too jealous. I wasted a lot of time on this, because now I will have to scour my apartment (which we are in the process of packing up and moving) and any purse and the pockets of any pair of pants that went with me on the trip for memorabilia in order to bring my vision to life. Or I will have to find suitable stand ins because OH I AM MAKING THIS HAPPEN.

I used Photoshop CS5 to do the letter cut outs. It was quite easy, but tedious. Click Here for a great tutorial on how to do cut out letters. I used one picture per letter, saved each one as a separate JPG, and then placed them in Adobe inDesign CS5 to make the poster. My next steps (after the scouring and possible fraud) are to find some shallow shadow box frames here (you know because it's not like I live in Russia where it is impossible to find normal items), then depending on what size the frames are, I will resize my inDesign graphic, and assemble. It will only take me like a year month.

Will you be single-white(no disrespect)-female-ing this project? I am not worried, it's not like I actually thought of it.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Don't Believe in Moderation: Weekly Obsession

It isn't that I don't believe in the existence of moderation. I know it exists. I have seen other people exercise an average amount of time on a regular basis, I have noticed people who eat normally, and you know, I even once new a girl who never listened to the same song 46 times in one day on her iPod. The problem is, that girl is not me. I live in the over/under doing it phase. I notice, become interested, become obsessed, proselytize, grow disillusioned, burn out, and retreat. To not interupt inertia, I chase and jump on another bandwagon. It is not that I am easily influenced. I am not. I do not jump on fads or trends, or even upcoming ones. Often, I become obsessed with very obscure things, get so excited my head explodes and in an effort to spread the wealth (and avoid having my head explode) I sell the obsession to my friends, family, coworkers, and strangers on the subway. Now, I am going to begin sharing my obsessions weekly with you. Fridays I will start posting what I am currently most obsessed with. At least I plan to, afterall that is a high expecation and the chances of me sticking with it and not growing bored are high, so go ahead, brace yourself to the obsession storm, and know that this too may very well pass.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Silent Treatment

Isn't the silent treatment the worst? It has always been the worst form of punishment in my book, the most torturous, inhumane form. The anxiety train that docks in my head revs up its' engine and excelerates to maximum speed when the silent treatment is administered to me. That is why I am especially ashamed at myself for administering this sort of treatment to my blog. There was no cause for this other than general apathy and major boredom on my own part. I have been bored, and yeah yeah yeah, only boring people get bored, but I did not want to inflict this level of boredom and lack of inspiration on my blog, so I have been hiding out on my couch and various other uninteresting places. But I will get back at it soon hopefully. In the mean time, anyone interested can celebrate my new level of lack of famousness by watching this video of a silly interview I did on Russia Today (scroll about 6 minutes in, the below mentioned Jeff is also featured).

Also this was sort of scripted hence my above-normal level of awkwardness and over enthusiasm.




Saturday, July 30, 2011

From Homeless to Fabulous /or Never Going Back

JEFF

Yea, I don't forgive you Winter, look what the fuck you did to my nose.      

So when Mom adopted me from Lost Angels Animal Rescue, 6 years ago (42 for my dog readers) she totally made an ass out of me. She picked me up and immediately put me in this stupid muscle-man costume and took photographs.I don't even know why she had this costume with her or how she passed the adoption screening. She probably lied to them like she lied to me. She lied to me and said I would never find myself in someplace as horrible as the pound again. False story.

Right after meeting my Mother she took me home to live in her condo with her roomate, the idiot from hell. I am not sure how this girl even figured out breathing. I think sometimes I caught her taking a few steps, stopping, and then huffing and puffing because she couldn't do both at the same time.See, Mom was working at Hooters (she said it was some sort of fine dining establishment) at the time and that's where she picked up that miscreant. I knew from the moment that girl baby-talked at me things weren't going to end well. I spent my days mostly avoiding everyone by living underneath my mom's or Becky's*  bed. It isn't my fault that Becky kept her used bras and panties under the bed and that I happen to be a connoisseur. That is the one thing I am sort of guilty of. Taking the panties and relocating them. Other things of which I have been accused have no bearing in truth. I got caught under Becky's bed during some embarrassing times. When her boyfriend, Jay-Jay-The-Gangsta came over (Ma says she will tell you more about him another time), that was always a particular treat for me. Hey, I am not pervert, but at what time is a good time to slink away and not look guilty, embarrassed, or add the the awkwardness that everyone should be feeling in that situation? You tell me if you figure it out, ok? So things took a turn for the worse. This Becky was 6 feet of legs, it is of no surprise she was a clutz and had no room for a brain. When she knocked the door of the Dishwasher off the hinges? She claimed "Chewey" she had been hanging out in the kitchen a lot. Oh yeah, that was another thing, she decided my name was Chewey.  Oh yeah, I am 10 pounds, so even if I had a running start from the next room ...that dishwasher...I couldn't-- oh forget it I have pleaded my case on this one enough. When CapriSun appeared all over the walls of the living room with no obvious reason? Chewey is always getting in to my stuff. When the glass door of her shower was found shattered? Chewey hangs out in my bathroom a lot, I don;t know what he does in there. Yeah. All of her stories were very believable. If I was capable of this sort of destruction, I would have a much firmer grasp on the direction of my own life and wouldn't waste this talent on stupid small appliances. Mom saw through her stories eventually and told her we were not renewing our portion of the leash. Numnuts donned her best bewildered look and asked well what was going to happen with Chewey then? Where was he going to live?


Really?

Notice my humiliation. I didn't pick this outfit.


We were out of there. I was actually proud of Mom for finally moving in the right direction. It looked like she was making good on the promise she made me about getting out of the pound lifestyle.

Wait a minute. We are going to live with who? My future Step-Dad? Yeah, he's alright. I am a little sick of him always "trying to make a man of me" but overall, I don't see him blaming me for shit I am not even capable of, and I don't think he even knows Jay-Jay, so things are looking ok....but does he still have that giant living with him?


You're kidding, I have to live with this?


But I adapted, because after all that is what we pound puppies do. I life wasn't so bad. I even accepted that giant tree sloth as my Sister/Lover. And just as I was getting comfortable, mom sprung another one on me.



Then, what do you know? Downhill again. We are moving where now? Russia? Ha ha? Do they have my special Chow there? You know I am allergic to Beef. 

So as I realized again that I have very little control over my life, we moved to Moscow. Since moving here, I discovered we now have a platform bed, so my favorite spot has been eliminated, I have been chased by Ferrel street  dogs, told by the grumpy maintenance man that I can not pee on the grass, told by our first housekeeper that I needed to wear a muzzle, and then ended up with a condition called "snow nose". But really, and don't tell mom because I will loose my manipulation bargaining chip, it hasn't been so bad here. On the upsides, The Big Beast Abby hates it here worse than me, and our new housekeeper is teaching my Fillipino. Also Pigeons>Squirrels.


I am a dirty pig. I taught Abby a cool trick, it's called "Sit and be molested"




































Friday, July 29, 2011

Not Without My Parka: The Robin Smith Story

Dear Winter,

I am just going to come right out with it. I am sorry for all of the awful, mean, hurtful things I said to and about you. Sure, it might seem unforgivable that I had eyes for your worst enemy, but please remember that Summer and I go way back. I know I said I hated your fucking guts and how you refused to let me wear half of the clothes in my closet and really had a big say in what shoes were appropriate. I understand now you weren't trying to be controlling, you were just looking out for my best interests. Sure things with Summer started out great. Summer didn't care what I wore, or where I went, I really felt like Summer opened up a lot of opportunities for me. We spent long steamy evenings on patio bars together. I won't say that wasn't special. But now I really do think it is time we go in different directions. Things have just gotten too hot if you can imagine. I can't promise things between you and I will always be perfect. I won't tell you that a few months in when I am stuck in my dark apartment at 4pm I won't complain but I will say, Winter, I am ready to give it another shot, if you'll have me back. 

xoxo,

Sweating-my-ass off Mcgee




P.S. I am also very concerned about the doggy-style woman on man rape that appears to be going down in this fountain. I have so many questions. Why is no one helping this poor man? How is he restraining himself from slapping her because it is just too damn hot for that nonsense?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An Open Letter to My Still Unadopted Ethiopian Child

Dear Marvin "Click-Click" :

How are you? I am well. I am going to get straight to the point here. I know you appreciate directness, otherwise why would you be starring in all of those TV commercials? I mean, I suppose the money may be good, but they have bad time slots so I can't imagine you are really raking it in over there. Anyway, so as you have probably already guessed, I will not be adopting you this month. You see, we just spent a month in the South of France, so adopting you doesn't seem like it would be a responsible decision on my part at the moment. And you know what they say, the only thing worse than no mother is an irresponsible one. Have you ever heard of that saying? I may have just made it up, but it really resonates with me.

Also, on your commercial I saw that I also have the option of sending you like 10 bucks a month and that you could eat on that for the month. But here is the thing, I don't know if anyone is going to send money to your friends and I know how important relationships are, trust me, I have had not much luck in the friend department since moving to Russia, and I wouldn't want your friends to get jealous of you eating whatever it is you eat in front of them and not want to hang with you anymore, because let's be honest here, your life already doesn't sound like a bowl of cherries. Marvin, have you ever had cherries? Very good fruit. If we ever work this thing out I'll let you try them. Who am I kidding? That is not really the reason I couldn't send you the 10 bucks. One reason is I couldn't stand the idea of my dogs not going to France with us, and it is no cheap endeavor flying two dogs around Europe. Do you have any pets? If you do, then you are really lucky you don't ever really go anywhere and don't have to deal with the dilemma of what to do with them. Sometimes, Marvin, I really envy you.

Here is Abby on the plane. She is especially a pain in the ass, as she eats about 10KG of food (at LEAST a month) that is probably way more than you, Click, and I really wish we could swap you guys out.

This is Jeff, he really hates kids, another hurdle for you. 


While we were in France, a friend of ours stayed in our apartment, and drank almost all of our Illy Espresso. That is about $35 a can. She didn't replace it or mention it and I am really peeved. I am in an awkward spot because I'm not sure if I should say something or not.  What would you do in this situation? See what I mean? You don't have any stuff so you don't have to worry about these barriers or awkward moments in your friendships. You lucky devil you.

So another thing about your 10 bucks, the food and wine in France was really incredible. We had muscles by the shore almost every night, because it isn't like we can just order up a bowl of fresh muscles in Moscow, you know? They'd be gross, totally not fresh. I am sure you know how gross out of season not fresh food can be.

Here are some pictures so you can see what I am talking about:






of course I was thinking about you when I was drinking this






Was for sure thinking about you during this meal because we couldn't finish it all and I thought, hey Marvin Click Click would love this but it was a holiday in France and the post office was closed sooo...



I am glad I took these pictures so you don't think I am making it up, Click, I really would feel bad if I thought you thought poorly of me. We don't all have your willpower when it comes to food. I know you said in your last letter you went 2 weeks without eating, and if I had that willpower, wow, where would I be? You know?

If you had the option of staying in Ethiopia or spending a month in Toulon, France -- what would you choose? Now you see where I am coming from. No brainer right. I have said it before and I will say it again, I hope you realize how lucky you are for not having to make these important decisions.

Here are some more pictures to help you understand why France was the best decision for all of us:













Another thing dude, sunscreen in Europe? Really expensive (and not even that good in my opinion) and that is another reason you are lucky, with your dark tan you don't really need to worry about sunscreen. Yeah, I already put that under the pro's list about adopting you, don't worry.

Ok well I have to go, my housekeeper is finally leaving so I don't have to awkwardly pretend to be doing something important anymore.

Keep your fingers crossed about next month, but also keep your options open, if you find a better prospect, I won't be offended. I still see your commercials on TV you sly little devil.

Later Gator,

Robin


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Goat Might Eat the Cabbage

Packing for our summer trip to France is like the riddle about getting the goat, cabbage, and tiger across the river in your canoe without losing any of them.

These items all need to make it to France with us:

An abnormally large dog to support our pity addiction,

This adorable nugget to support my love of all things adorable addiction,



An abnormally large bike case to support my Husband's cycling addiction,


 Also traveling with us will be a suitcase most likely toe-ing the line of allowable weight due to my over packing and hair appliance addiction.

To say the airport system in Moscow to inconsistent would be a gross understatement. We are traveling on a russian airline, Aeroflot, and a Polish airline, LOT. I have made flash cards and studied their baggage policies (highlighting and doing suicide drills over the special item and pet section), called numerous times, written notes in English and in Russian, and still I am worried about being turned away at the airport. This is not unrealistic anxiety on my part, it is a real concern. The printed information on their websites will mean nothing in the face of an airline employee who just feels like "no" or "give me more money" is an appropriate response of the day.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Because Terrorists are Scary as Sh*t

Too obvious? Things are rarely obvious in Russia, or obvious TO the Russians. In response to recent terrorist attacks, Moscow in installing bomb-proof public toilets. The idea is to prevent terrorists from leaving bombs in bathrooms and fleeing. This is not what happened in either the Metro bombing or the Airport bombing, so I am not sure where the toilet concern is coming from. Most terrorist attacks seem to involve a suicide, and they are not typically hiding in the bathroom. I am wondering if Moscow is trying to foil a terrorist attack by Wil E. Coyote?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

But They Can Pee Indoors!

If you find yourself comparing adopting a child to adopting a dog and writing a list of how they are similar and different, the former may not be for you. I was guilted into going to visited an orphanage a few weekends back because my husband had volunteered us to go and was going to "check it out" if I was or wasn't. I asked him if this was just playing or shopping, but I never really got a straight answer for the motives behind this outing. I was given the option to not go, and it was a genuine offer, but somehow the response of "laid on the couch until around noon, foraged in the kitchen for food, and then painting my toenails while deciding if I liked crunchy or smooth peanut butter better" to the question 'what did you do this weekend?' doesn't seem like an option when your husband can respond with, "you know, playing with real live orphan" because you know, I like to make it my life goal to never let anyone ask the question. 'how did SHE end up with HIM?' I like that table neatly turned as it turns out. Because you know, that isn't insecurity or anything. Of. Course. Not.

An hour spent on the air-condition deprived metro, because we live in 1978 and an hour in the back seat of a car where I managed to not get car sick (hooray!) brought us to the orphanage. I spent the entire trip over nervous about my interactions with the children which typically involve a lot of awkwardness after I ask my go to kid questions of, "So, how's school going?" and the follow up one that makes Barbara Walters weak in the knees, "What's your favorite subject" After that I am out of ammo and the awkward silence usually envelopes all around. In fairness I am not just an adult that doesn't know how to relate to kids, I was also a kid that didn't know how to relate to kids. If I wasn't alone silently playing with Barbies, who were having very real deep conversations in my head, I was being indoctrinated with  discussing right-wing politics with my Grandmother. I was never interested in dirt, intramural sports, boy bands, or candy land as a leisure activity. Magnum PI was my first crush, not Joey Macintyre. Fucked up, I know. Maybe I missed out on something, or maybe you missed out on something. Who can tell? I am incredibly ill at ease around kids, just like my dad, and his parents before him. I come from a long line of children-make-me-uncomfortable-folk. Coupled with my disdain of being touched by strangers and this was shaping up to be a perfect Saturday.

I am also not good with pity or sad situations. That nervous laugh? That came from me. Really, genuine emotion in general, not my forte. So, we are spending the day with orphaned children. Yes this seems like exactly something I should be doing. But my excitement to try new things inability to say no because I am worried someone will think I am a bad person won out. Nervous laugh. What do you talk about with orphans? "So how do you like living in an orphanage?" Seems inappropriate. "What's your favorite thing about not having a family?" also seems a bit forced. Turns out, these kids aren't even orphans, they were extracted from bad home lives. For a child to be taken out of the family home in Russia, it had to have been pretty awful. Afterall, this is the country that is excited they have a child-service hotline now, and their PR person gave a conference bragging about how a 4 year old left home alone while her mom went to work the other day called because she was bored and was read storeybooks over the phone by the operator. A flawed system they has.  I was truly expecting emotional basketcases to come bounding towards me. Then, they weren't. These children, politely approached me, extended a dirt-caked-hand, and offered a heavily accented 'how do you do?' They were excited to practice the few words of English they had been taught, excited to play with the sidewalk chalk we brought, and fascinated by the parachute game. Before we came, I wasn't worried I was going to get punched in the nose, I was expecting it. After an hour there, I was laying on the sidewalk having myself outlined in chalk.



Maybe not being expected to have comfortable conversations, after all they know about 5 words of English and I know about 20 10 words of Russian, helped ease the tension for me. I don't know what it was but I found myself with a sense of peace and joy.



I went home with dirty fingernails considering an option that has never been one for me. Maybe it was when I was making a mental list of how it would be harder and easier than adopting a dog, or maybe it was going out that night in heels that were too high deciding what was an appropriate amount of rubles to spend on drinks, that I realized I am probably not ready for that noise.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Childhood Fears and Ominous Dolls

During Conversation Group with the Russians this week, the topic was something along the lines of fears and anxiety. One of the questions pertained to what you most feared as a child. A couple people from my group said America, most of the men said nothing of course because they are not and have never been scared of anything because of course they are Russian men for example, several of the women said of being fat women, and one man veered off into an off topic story that went nowhere about his cousin. While they were talking and I was mindlessly correcting their grammar, pronunciations, and adding the necessary articles, I was thinking back to what I was most scared of as a child. Sure I had nightmares of the Spit Monsters (imaginary horrible things), but that would be too difficult to explain to them. Yeah, I was really scared the kid from the movie Pet Cemetery might be living under my bed and cut my Achilles tendon, but I wasn't sure if they had ever heard of that movie since it came out in the 80's when my mom took me to see it as a 6 year old at the drive-in theatre. I definitely didn't think they knew what a drive=in was, I don't know if you can borrow a metro car for that. So I told them about the incident with the dolls. I was convinced has a child that my dolls came to life after I went to bed and maybe had adventures of their own. This was a neutral subject for me. At the time I didn't think the dolls meant to cause me harm, but I also didn't think they wanted to play with me, them coming to life was just a matter of fact.

6 year olds are my mom's favorite. Old enough to still be gullible, smart enough to be aware, but not quite smart enough yet to flesh out bullshit.

When I was most likely around the age of 6, I found myself in my canopy bed sleeping one night, probably dreaming about hanging out with Lassie or Rush Limbaugh, I was very mature and easily influenced by my very Republican Grandmother back in those days. Whispering woke me up. I spent a period of time, eyes shut, trying to figure out what was going on. Spit monsters maybe? Bastards. One eye opened to see several of my dolls swaying side to side at the bottom of my bed. Holy shit. I thought you guys were supposed to instantly lose animation when child eyes found you. You guys SUCK at Red Light, Green Light. Then there were eight dolls swaying at the bottom of the bed. Then, the chanting began, "Robin, we are coming to get you, we're going to get you, we are going to KILL you!" I don't remember anything after that. I may have passed out from fear.

By the time I woke up from my fear coma the next morning, any thoughts of discussing this incident with anyone were out. I knew what I had to do. It was me, or it was them. This was 1988 Toy Story had not made its debut, but Child's Play starring Chucky the doll had. I knew those barbies and dolls meant business and had nothing good planned for me. I was 6, I just wanted to watch Lassie and listen to republican talk radio in peace like any normal 1st grader.

I packed up all impending threats in a large black hefty bag and snuck outside to the dumpster. I discussed this decision with no one for fear the dolls would overhear me and make a daylight exception. After all they already had the power to stay animated while being watched and let me in on their intentions for my demise. Who knows what these spawns of Matel were capable of.

Good thing it was trash day. This time, I win, suckers.

No one ever asked what happened to my dolls. My mom bought me new ones, and although I experienced a lot of anxiety, I enver experienced the night time animation again.

Many years later, at a booze filled family BBQ hosted at my house,  I heard my Aunt, my mom's younger sister, recount a story about one time when she and my mom had gotten high together, "and listen to what we did to Robin..." The HORROR!  I hadn't thought about this incident in years, once the offending dolls had been properly disposed of, it hadn't overtly crossed my mind again. Sure, I was a little cautious walking down the doll aisle at Toys'R'Us, sure I spent many restless anxiety filled nights sleeping with one eye open, but the memory had been washed around in my head and I didn't quite recall why dolls made me so nervous. Of course the retelling of the story from my Aunt's perspective brought it rushing back. They smoked some pot, snuck in to the gullible 6 year old's room, hid under the bed, while each of their hands held two dolls and mustering their best creepy doll voices, whispered the words of doom. My Mom piped in to the story to give a reason for the psychological torture of her then, only child, "it was payback from her tattling on me to mom about listening to Salt N' Pepa while driving her to school," fair enough, after the Seagull Incident, I don't know why this surprised me.  Oh the trauma.

The Russians in my class were fascinated by my story of child hood fears and had one very important question they were very impatient to ask at the conclusion, "you have canopy bed, for example?"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Pushkin Hangover

Saturday was guzzled down with Vodka Shots and Cheap Champagniski. Now that I have infiltrated a regular social group in Moscow, this is now how most weekends are widdled away. Gladly I add.

I've broken plans two times now with a friend to go see the Dior Exhibit at the Pushkin Museum, and was determined not to cancel on her again this weekend.

This dress is hand embroidered with over 1,000 flowers! Eeep!


Before imbibing on Saturday night, I committed to her once again for Sunday morning, and asked that we not trek out too early on the chance I was hungover. You know you are getting too old for this shit/drink too much too often/live in Russia when...you plan for a hangover. She tells me, "maybe, don't drink tonight so it isn't a risk?" Fool, don't be so bossy, either way we are going to Pushkin Museum tomorrow and we are seeing some mother fracking dresses, so calm down with your nonsense talk.

Saturday evening blearily passed, and Sunday morning arrived unreasonably early. I pushed back my brunch and museum date by a half hour, typical, and awoke feeling sleepy but overall ok. Sort of a B+ for effort kind of a morning.

This is the point we drop off the good news, because it isn't going the same direction I am.

We spend an hour and two metro transfers looking for a brunch place described in a travel book, which no longer exists. We settled on a chain french breakfast place where I ordered soft boiled eggs and was served two raw eggs that gave me the dry heaves and the first indication that a hangover was looming.

At Russian museums there seems to be a price for residents and a price for tourists. I presented my Russian ID and asked for the resident price, where I was told no because I am not Russian I just work and live in their country I shouldn't expect the same rights as a Russian. Fair enough.

We are yelled at by the ticket ladies that we need to leave our jackets in the coat room, despite the fact we are cold. Do you think I am planning to smuggle a dress out in my coat? Ok I see your point here.

I am light headed when I enter the main show room of dresses, and am glad when my friend drops a contact and needs to go to the bathroom. As soon as we entered the bathroom I barely made it to a stall to throw up. If I wasn't going to anyway, the smell in any ladies' room in Moscow will send you in that direction. I swear Moscow women swing their used bathroom products around their head like a helicopter and then to any available corner. Revolting.

Feeling shaky, but much better, we went to the on premise cafe so I could get some water and mentos. My friend left me at a table to watch her purse while she went to the counter. I was feeling awful and almost wished I had listened to her no drinking mandate. A babushka (older lady) who worked in the coat room approached my table and lost her damn mind. She yelled, she screamed, she ranted. Coat-room Babushka was irate. Apparently, she did not like my friend's purse being on the table, illustrating that the table was for food not for purses. This is not something to be irate about. Wow I love a  good confrontation RIGHT AFTER I PUKE. You're kidding me right? Who gets so upset by something that is not in any way affecting them? The table looks dirty to begin with, I think the purse on the table is an improvement in cleanliness. Babushka throws the purse on the floor in a huff and storms off, seeing she is getting no reaction from my half-open, puffy, bloodshot eyes.

My friend returns with water, mentos, and a diet coke. With my hands propping my head up, I tell her about the going ons while she was in line. At this time I'd like to mention that this is a very new friend, of which I have only hung out with on several occasions, usually in a group setting. I had no idea of her level of comfort with confrontation. She stares down Coat-Room Babushka, who is enjoying a fragrant mayonnaise and fish sandwich at a nearby table, and plops her purse back on the table, never breaking eye contact. Babushka will have none of this, storms back, and goes through her rant once more, directing it all towards me, as I am obviously the weak link in this scenario of unfortunate events. I give no reaction until she begins poking me. I do not like being touched by strangers, and I like being poked by no one, unless of course you mean...ok ok, anyway...I swat her imposing finger away from my chest. Irate-ness (most likely not a real word) escalates, and my friend is now red and yelling about calling security. Yes, because security is obviously going to believe 2 American yahoos who speak 30 words of Russian between the two of them over this Motherland Grandma. Eye roll. Please, let's just get out of here and look at those damn dresses.

We finished the exhibit (most amazing museum exhibit I have ever seen, (despite my poor pounding head) and I would highly suggest if the exhibit comes to your town you go see it. Of course it would take clothes in a museum for me to understand the awe people are refering to with art at museums. This is not terribly surprising. I managed to wrap the even up only getting yelled at once more, for trying to read a text from my phone. No phones or photos allowed. Sigh-iski.

I really need to learn a Russian phrase to shut these crazies up, and prevent myself from being poked in the future.



Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Full-on Goose-ing and the Subway Cinderella

So while wandering around the city laughing last weekend, we took the Metro to a local Irish-Ex-Pat-Wow-People-Here-Speak-English-Bar, called Katie O'Shea's. Simple 2 stops on the Metro away from where we were, should be fine, right? This is Russia though, land of the no expectations. On the way to the restaurant, I got full on goosed. An underwear snapping goosing. This was really surprising to me because one thing I have liked and struggled with in Moscow has been how women are typically ignored by men. By ignored I mean, you don't get the under the breath comments on the street, the too long-wow-you're-making-me-uncomfortable-but-YESSSSS-I-still-got-it-kind-of-glances, the whistles, you just get passed by. At least that has been what I have noticed on the streets here, not just towards myself, but women in general. In the states I don't think a woman could walk down the street in a barely there mini and thigh high boots on a Sunday morning and not at least get a few glances. So the goose-ing was surprising. Also was surprising was how little power I realized I had in the situation. What could I do? Call for security? Police? Tell this guy he is an ass? I really need to learn Russian. Sigh-iski.

So that alone could have been the event of the day, however, after leaving the bar, where nothing notable or interesting occured, we were on the metro platform waiting for our train when I was approached by a hysterically crying woman about my age. She did not look crazy other than the sobbing, and looked put together enough to not have a sense of homelessness around her. But what is with the sobbing? She indicated she wanted me to sit on the bench with her, which I obliged because I had drank enough to not know better.

She says in very accented English "help me, I need help" ok this is scary. She points to her left foot which is missing a shoe. Her other foot has a 5 inch heel. She keeps ponting at her foot and sobbing. Missing a shoe? How can I help you? I asked her several times what happened, she was unable or unwilling to tell me, and asked if she could have one of my shoes. I was wearing flat sandals and not sure how this would help her and also unwilling to give up my shoe to Cinderellasova. She is hysterically bawling now, pointing at her empty foot, and the back to my shoe. I tell her no I can not give you my shoe, I am firm on this. She offers to pay me 200 rubles (about $8) which is ridiculous. My shoes were way more than that to begin with, I'd never replace them in Moscow for anything close to that, and I don't want to be hobbling around with one or no shoes either, lady. I offered to be a human crutch and help her to get home, instead of giving her my shoe. She told me to fuck off. I really need to learn the Russian equivelant of that phrase, for example.

This interaction left me with so many questions. What happened to her shoe? Was this some sort of scam? What if I had helped her back to her apartment and it was filled floor to ceiling with single shoes?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Robin on the Rocks

This past Sunday was a day made for outdoor drinking. The highs were in the very low 70's, the sun was shining, and a new recipe for Vodka Mojitos and Patriarchy Ponds were calling my name.

Patriarchy Ponds is a beautiful park, near my apartment, and is the location the book Master and Margarita was set.





Lately, when I walk my dogs to the park (often weeknights, around 9pm because with these 10pm sunsets, I have no concept of bedtime or anything of that sort) I have noticed large congregations of young russians, treating the park like an outdoor patio bar. They sit on benches, drinking champagne out of plastic cups, beer out of very large bottles, chips out of bags with pictures of fish on them, while the women wear their shorts and nude pantyhose (a phenomenon I have yet to grasp). They chat, they eat, the drink, the make out and sometimes straddle each other. The day of the week or the time of the night matters not at all for the park crowd, as long as the sun is shining.

I mixed up a pitcher of this:

Vodka Mojitos - adapted from Giada on Food Network and her freakish quantity of teeth. Chomp chomp.
  • 1 1/2 cups mint simple syrup, recipe follows
  • 1 cup vodka, chilled-ish, because my freezer is too cold and my fridge tries to ruin my life by melting everything
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 large limes, or whatever you can find, because it's not like we have lime trees in Russia, ya know?)
  • 1 cup club soda, chilled-- who can find club soda here? Not this vodka drinker, so I used sparkling water. Same-ish.
  • Ice - I have 1 ice tray for my freezer, so that is about how much I used, but would have liked 15 times that.
  • Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish- I didn't bother with this, because who cares about a garnish when it is in a pitcher and you are on a park bench?
  • (this part wasn't in the recipe but I added it) Some macerated strawberries (strawberries soaked in sugar and water over night)

Directions

In a pitcher, combine the simple syrup, vodka (extra for sipping), lime juice, and club soda  sparkling water. Pour into ice-filled  sparse glasses empty 1.5 liter water bottle (because I am fancy) and garnish with mint sprigs. Once again, we have no ice, and who needs garnish, unless we are talking about what I count as my daily serving of vegetables that comes atop my Bloody Mary? I then squished up the strawberries with my hands and added those.

Mint Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 packed cup fresh mint leaves
In a small saucepan, over medium heat (or really whatever heat my soviet-ish p.o.s. stoves decides to output on that particular burner, on this particular day), combine the sugar, water, and mint leaves (I chopped mine up for maximum minty-ness). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer wait impatiently, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally  constantly hoping it will make it melt faster because dammit, you're already 20 minutes late and losing daylight, until the sugar has dissolved  you are too bored/impatient to wait any longer, this is a cocktail not rocket science we don't need to be too detail-oriented here, ya know? Remove the pan from the heat and allow the syrup to cool for 20 minutes  by sticking the whole pot in your too-cold freezer and jumping up and down annoying your neighbors while you are doing the happy-snoopy dance in anticipation. Strain before using (so glad I finally broke down and bought a mesh strainer), pressing on the mint leaves to extract as much syrup as possible.

The next part of the recipe that I would add, if I were the one writing the recipe, would say to take your mojito-filled giant water bottle, two plastic cups (we don't share, and the plastic cups are now adding to our fancy-ness), and straws to a park bench and enjoy, allowing plenty of time for drunkenly wandering around the city laughing.

Monday, May 2, 2011

They Got Me Wet: Thais Gone Wild

The week we spent in Thailand happened to interupt Thai New Year which is celebrated with Songkran, a water festival in the streets. Our first night, celebrated in Patong, a tailor who was making suits for my husband warned us that nothin would be open in the city during Songkran. This turned out to be a sales ploy, which worked, but Songkran was very real. The tailor, as a special favor to us because of course he would not otherwise be open on the Tuesday of Songkran, later opened the shop for us so my husband could have a final fitting. So, we traveled to Patong planning to also squeeze in some temple tours, and maybe visit The Great Buddha of Thailand.

These plans were doomed. As soon as I got out of the taxi, already cranky from a hangover trying to seep it's way in and a lack of breakfast, I got sprayed by a water gun to the eye. What the hell?

Terrorists! We are under attack! I've seen Hostile! (Ok, well I haven't seen Hostile, I self-imposed a ban on all scary movies since seeing The Ring and The Grudge. I learn my lessons. But because of my overseas traveling, enough people have told me about Hostile to make me feel as though I have seen it. So I have seen it, thanks for the latitude you guys.)

Ok, maybe not terrorists, just a wayward child, I think as we turn the corner to the main road. I am now hit in the purse and back by a super-soaker. Amoeba laced water is now dousing my underwear. When the tailor is in our sites, I am stopped by a man holding a bucket of water, he keeps with my pace, his intentions clear. I plead. No use. He tells me in english to hold still it will hurt less. Rape? No, dumping the entire bucket of water over my head.

Now I can't go to the tailors. I sit and wait at an outside bar drinking a San Miguel (seems to be an equivalent to a Corona) with salt and lime.

I change in to my bathing suit and cover-up. I was going to have no fun unless I had retaliation at the end of my trigger finger. We bought two super-soakers, for around 15 bucks and joined them. Now I get it. This is an anarchist video game, 4d.

We wandered around, making anyone dry our target. We got desperate and down to the people with dry spots. We exchanged shots with people across the street. Laughed at babies shooting babies. We drank beer. We sat on curbs and targeted mopeds with a group of men on Holiday from Australia. We bought dry clothes and stored them in ziploc bags. I thought this is great, because once you are wet you can only get so wet.

Then they brought out the mentholated talcum powder. Mentholated Talc burns.
Editorial note: This is NOT a romper, just an accident of shadows. I do not wear rompers. 

The next day, having no more use for the super soakers, we found children at the resort and gave them the guns. We did not give their older siblings guns. Hope their parents had fun with that one.

You are not a Sex God, But Your Boyfriend Is

It is always interesting heading to the Grocery Stores in Russia. I enjoy seeing some of the strange products. Especially the products that are all in Russian but have a few words advertised in English. I came across this drink in the store a few weeks ago, and it has been sitting in my fridge awaiting a review.




I did not plan on the matching nails, serendipity at its finest. I did not enjoy the drink because I am not 16, being fed kool-aid like drinks by someone hoping for my lapse in judgement. Those days are long gone, you guys.

I did enjoy the label enough though to make my 60 rubles purchase worth my while. I love that it does not promise to make you a sex goddess, but the girlfriend of a sex god. They also forgot the article again. Typical Russia.