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)


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.