Monday, September 1, 2008

In Which We Return, Triumphant

Temperature: It was 8C this morning. That’s about 45F. It IS Labor Day, right?

Snow: Um, none yet. But I did wear my winter boots yesterday. In August.

We’re back. I am looking forward to the first day of school tomorrow, and a coffee and Bitch Session with Favorite Girlfriend. She spent her summer in Paris.

I know Paris, and Moscow is far superior. In Moscow, the prices are lower, the buildings are tidier, there are the cutest little boat rides on the river. And the language is so much prettier and more approachable. The people are civilized, and you can sit in a cute little bistro and get wine in little carafes. But in Paris, it's just cold and heartless old bag ladies and getting shoved around in the Metro. Today, I went to the store to get school supplies. Everybody waited in line and the cashier smiled when we got to the front. She wished me a nice day.

I can imagine shopping for schools supplies in Paris . . . ugly, dirty Paris, where the crowds would just push past me to get where they are going, knocking me into the shelves and making my daughters cry. Looking at me like I just shit myself when they hear me speaking English with The Spouse, and the cashier not even looking up from the cash register. People would try to push in front of us, and the people behind us would try to push us, too. On the Metro, some drunk guy who was plastered at 11:00 in the morning on a Sunday would sneeze a huge sneeze onto the back of my head, and I would move, in tears, to stand near the door next to yet another vodka-soaked, middle-aged creep and the fat lady with the bag who would practically knock my school supply bag out of my hand to get to a seat. Like I was going to steal her seat. Fat old cow. Screw you, lady. I hope somebody peed on that seat.

And then going to the Septieme Continent in Paris, which I remember well. There, they don't have any herbs except dill dill dill dill and packages of parsley with dill. Oh, and some olive oil that they wanted $50 for. $50 for olive oil. What? Are these olive trees that Christ prayed amongst or something? Why in God's name would you need to pay $50 for olive oil?

I remember one freezing Sunday in August trying to buy a light bulb from a kiosk in one of those underground passages, and the prices were not at all what they were showing in the window, and the sales lady just sighed and barked at me and The Spouse. And I never would even have to go to such lengths to buy light bulbs under the street from this nasty old bitch if they only had light bulbs at the Septieme Continent, but NOOOOOOO, you have to buy everything in Paris from some underground passage where people pee.

This is why The Spouse and I just love Moscow, and we were discussing this just today while I was taking a shower to wash my hair as soon as we got home from school supply shopping.

I am sure Favorite Girlfriend and her husband are happy to be back in civilization and away from the gray, cold, drunkenness of French failure that is Paris.

You know I’m joking. Right?

Yesterday was actually a disaster on oh, so many levels. The School Supply Shopping Outing I mention above, was, relatively, a bright spot.

The day started off on the wrong foot when I opened one eye as The Spouse left the bedroom at 8:00 a.m. only to open the other eye almost THREE HOURS LATER at 11:00 a.m. Cursed jetlag! Now the day is half shot. And, not only that, but The Spouse is trapped in the dining room with a dead battery in his laptop because the babysitter has slept over on the couch, rendering him loathe to enter the living room and retrieve the cord that enables him to plug the laptop into the wall.

We have a Very Late Breakfast, the sitter leaves, and we venture out to hunt up a few school supplies. Our first stop, one of those underground passages, is fruitless as the shop in which I once bought scissors and highlighting pens is no more. But we get a replacement light bulb, which I then drop.

No problem. It’s fluorescent. We’ll venture over to House of Books, on one of those Arbat streets (I always get Old Arbat and New Arbat mixed up). House of Books has a rather large office/school supply department.

Oh, but the best laid plans can go awry. Hubris overtakes us as in a Greek tragedy. The Metro is busy enough that, on the escalator, a phalanx of Muscovites separates Baboo and me from The Spouse and Skittles. We emerge at the top of the escalator. No Spouse. No Skittles. Nevermind.

Forgetting the First Rule of Separation in the Metro (“STAY PUT! WE WILL COME BACK FOR YOU!”), determined not to let Moscow get the best of me, I soldier on, Baboo in tow.

But I forget where I am going, take a wrong turn, and find myself outside on the street in front of the Lenin Library. This is not right, I proclaim, and, paying for two more Metro rides, Baboo and I reenter the Metro.

Although this is a Metro station with which I have a lot of experience, it is the ONLY point on the entire Moscow Metro where FOUR lines and FOUR stations converge. Two of the lines, the Light Blue/3 and the Dark Blue/4, share two, count ‘em TWO stop names. So although I find what turns out to be the right platform, I am discombobulated enough that I watch the train enter and leave the station twice, just to make sure it is the one I want (the one I want does not continue in the same direction, but pulls in, and then backs out).

I try calling The Spouse, but he either does not have his phone or he is deep enough in the Metro that he is not receiving a signal. I have the money and the Metro pass. He has the shopping list. I know where the bookstore is. I figure he has gone on ahead, and I will find him there, shopping basket full, waiting for me to pay for what he and Skittles have gathered.

Nope. Baboo and I are wandering around in the bookstore when my phone rings. It’s The Spouse. He and Skittles went to his office as he decided they needed a phone.

What else do you need to know? He met us. We used machetes to slash our way through the throngs of fellow shoppers. People looked at me like I just shit myself when they heard me speaking English to the girls, and the cashier didn't even look up from her cash register, but sighed deeply, typed the amount due on her calculator, and showed us that like we were idiots because she mumbled the total and we couldn’t hear her. On the Metro, some drunk guy sneezed a huge sneeze onto the back of Baboo’s head, and a fat lady practically knocked my school supply bag out of my hand to beat Skittles to a seat.

Then, later, in a bizarre epilogue, The Spouse e-mailed a document to his experts in the Office Copy Center and asked for six copies. When he picked them up at 8:00 p.m. last night, the document had printed badly but Copy Center Guy didn't notice, so The Spouse had him do it again, which took 90 minutes. At 9:30 p.m., The Spouse exited into arctic temperatures and rain to walk home. He got almost to our house when he met some drunk. We live just on the other side of the Garden Ring on which there are nine lanes of traffic in each direction and no gardens. So he goes into the underground passage to get to the other side, and in there is a guy absolutely trashed and staggering, and he says to The Spouse in Russian, "Oh, so we find ourselves alone here."

The Spouse just stares in incredulity, wondering if he understood correctly, and Dude says again, "So we're alone." Now, The Spouse hasn't had his shower today because nobody sneezed on the back of his head, and he hasn't shaved. He claims he didn’t look at all like anything anyone would want to be alone with, and just thought, “Oh, God, I am about to get raped right here in the underground passage, 100 meters from my own front door while police cars with sirens race above on the "Garden" Ring with no more important task other than to make sure some VIP doesn't have to wait for red lights.”

Fortunately, The Spouse looked tall and big in his parka from the Moscow Summer Collection and was able to speed walk past Dude telling him in English that “I don't understand,” and, mercifully, Dude went the other direction, shouting the whole way in idiomatic vagrant-ese.

Ah! Moscow. Queen of the Russian Land.

It’s good to be back.


Karen said...

discombobulated!!!!!I just loove that - and entering into your Russian fairytale (some of them pretty Grim(m) again is a true delight! Lets go to Paris soon - i miss that darn ugly city too! Hugs the Rollerbladesse of Blava

Mahdi said...

Don't you just love that squalid Berlin Alexanderplatz ambience?

Luna said...

You've just become desensitized. Had you you not abandoned us for two months and forgotten how to behave properly while shopping you'd have been in there pushing like the rest of them.

As Luna's dad likes to say when the line at the meat counter is getting pushy: "Do NOT let them flank!"

And hey, what's a little phlegm between comrades!!

Raluca said...

I thought that is just me.

I'm back home for at least 4 months and I can tell I miss almost nothing about Moscow.

Hang on, a long and hard winter is in front of you.

Debbie said...

Oh, just come back to Ohio already!!

Miami Bob said...

Welcome back. Good to have you back in the saddle again.

Alex said...

I guess we take a lot of things for granted here, I just had a good laugh with your blog. I don't know which is worse today was 90 degrees here but felt like 100+ you know south Florida weather with 100% humidity.

MaX said...

we're definitely leaving in the same city...

Good fun blog !

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