Thursday, January 17, 2008

Crap Dogs! Life on the Street

Temperature: -4C
Snow: None! What’s up with that?

I was walking back from taking the girls to school and thinking about Moscow street life, what little I’ve seen of it so far, and if that might make interesting reading.

What a Difference Some Sun Makes: Tuesday was sunny, for a switch. In fairness, it is winter here. Columbus, Ohio has short dark days. Even in Miami the days were shorter and the light was different in January. Most places don’t look their best on a cold and gray day.

But, boy, add some sun! This city positively sparkles in the sun. In general, the architecture is pretty. Much of what I see is early 20th century (many buildings have dates on them) and art nouveau-y. Not Gaudiesque, but lots of ornamentation, with curving balconies and decorative tiles and friezes. Colors range from sky blue to apricot to, my very favorite, a persimmon red.

Yes, there is lots of new construction, and the sky is silhouetted with construction cranes. But turn any corner and there’s an Orthodox church with golden onion domes and those exotic crosses wired to the top.

There’s a small hill on the way to school: we get to go down it on the way home. And on Tuesday, with the rare sunshine, suddenly I could see church domes and other lovely buildings all along the horizon. I never saw them before. Today was back to cloudy and overcast, and I looked again: yes, they were still there, but they didn’t pop.

Pardon Me, Ma’am: It is surely a Russian, or a Moscow thing, but people ask one another for directions on the street all the time. They especially seem to like asking me for directions. I must not be cultivating my Gangsta Bitch look. Honestly, I get asked almost every day. Mostly it’s women, but a dorky college-aged boy asked me once.

Sometimes I do have my map in my coat pocket, and I have whipped it out before and looked up the street in question. Sometimes I say, “I don’t know,” in Slovak. But mostly I say, in very apologetic English, “I’m so sorry . . .”

The other day I was standing in front of the French school, when an older woman (yeah, yeah, I’m no spring chicken any more, but she really was OLD) asked me something.

“I’m sorry . . .” I started to say. But she wasn’t buying my lousy excuses. She kept asking me, and I had no idea what she was even talking about. Finally, I pointed at the school and said, “FRENCH SCHOOL!” But that didn’t seem to be what she wanted to know. She continued on down the street, muttering.

Speaking of Old: The other day the Spouse and I went to Stream, our cable and Internet access provider. I sat there, sweating, in my hat and coat and extra sweater layers, watching Snoop Doggy Dog sneer and slime on a flat screen TV that was located above the desk of the 18-year-old boy who was helping us.

Okay, I’m not a hug fan of urban genres, but I have a particular revulsion for Snoop. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out who would find his ex-pimp ass in any way attractive. But music videos, like Naked and Funny, are compelling. Snoop is followed by some gorgeous former Pussycat Girl whose song I actually like.

The Spouse is locked in mortal combat with The Boy, who has no interest in understanding that the hardware Stream sold us does not match the manual that came in the box, nor the information on the Stream website. The Boy does not care, but eventually, reluctantly, prints something off the Double Secret Stream Staff Only website, and, sighing, hands it to the Spouse. I think this was only because the Spouse wore him down, showing no signs of leaving until he had an answer.

But all of this is taking place in rapid fire Russian, so I tune out. I look around the room, at the other 18 year olds serving customers, at the music videos on the TV, at the Spouse, and suddenly I come to the horrifying conclusion that I AM OLD. I am old enough to be the mother of every employee in this room.

It is a sobering thought.

There is a lull in the Spouse’s battle while The Boy goes to retrieve something from the printer.

“We’re old,” I say.

“Yeah.” The Spouse is merely resigned. “I know.”

Crap Dogs: I have mentioned that Moscow streets are filled with kiosks. The main streets have vendors offering everything from roasted chickens (avoid), pirated DVDs (the Spouse, who knows better, bought a copy of Bee Movie, that not only wasn’t in English, it isn’t even in Russian), ice cream, newspapers and magazines, Nescafe, and, my personal favorite, Pasta La Vista. Who would buy pasta to go?

The residential side streets have a different type of kiosk. These are usually permanently parked trucks from which vendors sell fruits and vegetables, and sometimes meats. We have a fruit and veg truck right in front of the Sedmoy. I made the Spouse introduce me to the woman inside and tell her “This is my wife. She doesn’t speak any Russian, just some Slovak. Please be nice to her.” Which he did!

The woman laughed kindly, and said she speaks some Polish. And she has remembered me.

But my very favorite street vendor is the Star Dogs chain. I have not yet eaten a Star Dog. But what endears me to them is that, in Cyrillic, “star” looks like “crap.” See below. It makes me laugh.


JAllen said...

So glad your are settled. We have moved back to Columbus..yea.. and are loving it. Called Lisa T. and Sara Call, but have yet to get together.

I hope you will make it back to Ohio .. love to see you and "Spouse"
Best Wishes
Jeff A.

Anonymous said...

"Crap dogs" indeed!! What a fabulous ending to such an eclectic piece! Cheers :)

Anonymous said...

PS I really really hate those word verification thingies. Suddenly I can't seem to recognise letters. I usually make a few mistakes and have to do it over and over.

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