Monday, January 12, 2009

Splish! Splash! SLOP!

Moscow is at its most hideous today. The temperature hovers right at freezing. The sidewalks are a sea of slippery, brown slush not deep enough to even cover my boots, but wet enough to cling to them and be tracked in the house, be splashed up the backs of my calves as I walk, and to give cover to legitimate patches of ice, lurking below the unattractive glaze . . . waiting for the unsuspecting pedestrian to become lulled into a false sense of security ("It's too cold for ice today!") and wipe out with a landing in the wet, shit-colored sludge.

Yes, temperature-wise the world is right pleasant. Last night I even went out without my hat. But the temp comes at a price. It isn't just the unattractive state of affairs. The temperature rose yesterday from -12C to 0C during the course of the day, twisting the sinus cavities on the left side of my face into a torture device straight out of the Spanish Inquisition.

Yeah, I know: nothing is more fun to talk about than one's medical problems and nothing, with the exception of another person's dreams, is less interesting to hear about (while certainly the most over-heard conversation in restaurants).

So I'll spare you the details other than to say that I have always believed that the most intense pain is said to come from kidney stones. I don't know how this could have been much worse. I seriously wished I could have driven a spike into my head because that would have felt better. I was so restless and fidgety with the pain, that I finally ended up in the kitchen, sitting on one of those big plastic storage boxes, with a hot water bottle sandwiched between my hands and my face, while rocking like a mental patient. The drugs finally kicked in, and I was left with a buzzy after-glow.

Which was just the right state of mind to soak up a little Russian culture!

It's called Судебные Страсти or Judicial Passions. Think People's Court in Russian. If you can read Russian, here is the link to the episode we watched last night. If you can't, I'll give you some highlights.

The shows lasts an hour, and each episode features four cases. I cannot say for certain that the show is completely scripted, but I had reason to suspect it is not a reality show. Instead of the avuncular Judge Wopner (showing my age here . . . just googled the show and found the comely Judge Marilyn Milian now presiding), Russian viewers get the devil-may-care Judge Nikolai Pavlovich Burdelov. (See for yourself here). Judge Burdelov doesn't suffer fools and dishes out justice every 15 minutes with a BAM! from his gavel.

Two of the four cases yesterday were especially Russian-y. In the first, the plaintiff complained that the Ded Moroz (Father Frost) she hired for her Christmas festivities ruined the affair by arriving drunk. She even supplied video evidence (much to the horror of defendant) of a very impaired Ded Moroz staggering off a bus and proceeding to urinate against the side of the vehicle (the cheesy quality of the video is what convinced me this was all pure entertainment).

The defendant claimed that the bus suffered various delays, stranding him, his lovely assistant (Ded Moroz is always accompanied by Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden), and the bus driver for more than three hours in the cold. The bus, said the defendant, was in such condition that he could tell it had been "written off as scrap immediately after the victory over Nazi Germany." He claimed the driver provided the vodka in spite of his repeated requests for tea (after all, he and his partner can live six months off of the money they earn over the holidays; they would not jeopardise this income by behaving unprofessionally).

The plaintiff even produced the bus driver to help her cause. Long story short, the driver confirms that the bus was in a sorry state (he had asked the plaintiff to finance repairs to no avail), and that the cold conditions on the bus while he tinkered under the hood certainly necessitated a few "drops to lift the tone." In fact, he has the liquor in question with him in the court room, and offers the Judge a taste of his mother-in-law's special recipe. It is 78 proof.

Judge Burdelov wisely finds in favor of the plaintiff.

But what I found so funny was the Jeraboam of bootleg hooch on the bus does not merit even the bat of an eyelash. Neither does the offer to sample to brew in court.

Second case. Manager of a theme restaurant wants an employee to pay for damages done to a costume worn for work. There is much discussion of the size of the changing facilities, the train schedule, and whether or not the defendant merely liked the costume and wanted to wear it home that night. The defendant claims that the costume provoked a sexual attack by strangers on the street. The damage indeed occurred, but it was not her fault.

Judge Burdelov finds in favor of the plaintiff, but, as I predicted, awards her only 10 percent of what she had been seeking as the defendant earns so little.

The custom-made costume is by the plaintiff's side during the proceedings. She holds it up from time to time to point out where it was stained. But never does she, the defendant, nor the judge ever comment of the fact that the costume is a sleazy dress featuring fake bare boobs.

BAM! Next case.

The Spouse and I must be the only people in Russia who found those details remarkable.

Judicial Passions airs daily at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. on DTV.