Friday, March 27, 2009

Oy! What a Day I've Had of It!

Many of you are probably wondering, "Gee. How was that concert offert par l’Ambassadeur du Luxembourg, dans le cadre de la Francophonie, au musée Pouchkine, suivi d’une réception à la résidence de l’Ambassade?"

Answer: Um . . . dunno.

It was a perfect storm of disasters, starting when I exited the Metro and called The Spouse.

No. Wait. Rewind.

It started when I, discovering that I am TOO FAT NOW for any of my clothes, spent an hour trying to find something to wear. I had a haircut that morning, so my head looked civilized. I finally settled on a gold damask-esque jacket, a white chiffon scarf, black trousers, and black tall boots. With a pair of frosty white earrings, I looked pretty sophisticated, if I do say so. I could have passed for French (well, FAT French) if I kept my mouth shut.

But back to our tale of woe.

"I'm coming out of the Metro now," I told him, thinking the next step would be to meet him on the street in front of his building so we could turn around and head back to the Metro (I was ever-so-slightly vexed he hadn't offered to meet me on the train platform so that I would not have to exit and re-enter the Metro during rush hour, but only slightly).

He was cheerful. "I'm a little delayed," he told me. "C'mon up."

This did not bode well, and, sure enough, he was not only meeting with a colleague in his office, but that chat meant then he had to make a phone call. My goal was to be at his office between 6:00 and 6:15 so we could get to the concert which started at 7:00 without making ourselves crazy. It was now 6:30. . .

He shared my vexation. The delay happened in spite of his best efforts. It had also been a tough day in the office with the axe falling on 13 lawyers and assorted, now unnecessary, support staff. The Spouse had not been at risk, it turns out, but the mood in the office was grim, and everyone's plans for the workday were in chaos as H.R. meetings took precedence over other tasks.

So back we went to the Metro. We needed to hop on the red line and take it just one stop. I had reviewed this in my head before as I arrived on the grey line and thought about how he could meet me on the platform of the red line.

And, without thinking, I led us both into the entrance for the grey line and down the L-O-N-G escalator where the opportunity to turn around and go back up the L-O-N-G escalator was foiled by barricades.

At the peak of rush hour.


So, instead, we went through the grey station (Borovitskaya) to the dark blue station (Arbatskaya) to the light blue station (Aleksandrovskiy Sad) to the red station (Lenin Library).

It was now 6:55.

We hop on a train. We exit at Kropotkinskaya.

I had consulted the map before I left the house, but had not brought the map with me as it is too big to fit into my everyday purse. I was looking for the Pushkin Museum and the Luxemburg embassy which are technically on Khrustchjovskiy pereulok, but the museum is on the corner of a large street (Prechistenka ulitsa). The Metro is right there, on a big square/intersection. It seemed to me that we would exit the Metro, and it would be abundantly clear which way to go.

Except this Metro stations, like many stations, has two exits.

And we came out of the other one because neither option seemed to point us to the Pushkin Museum we wanted because there are TWO Pushkin Museums, ladies and gentlemen: the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art (not the one we wanted and in the opposite direction) and the Pushkin State Museum.

The signs in the Metro only directed one to the Pushkin Museum of Applied Arts. Hmmmm.

As expected, I got all turned around.

And the maps we found did not include details as small as Khrustchjovskiy pereulok.

And now it was 7:05.

And there was a very stony silence between us.

"I don't want to go back in the Metro," The Spouse says without eye contact.

O-kaaaay. Except, I am wearing these fabulous black boots, which normally feel pretty good, but my feet are lately a colony of various flaws and defects. I'll spare you the boring details of My Medical Problems. Suffice it to say that I was gimpy, and not really in a place to whine as I had made my fair share of contributions to the mess we were in.

We walked (I limped, silently) back to the Borovitskaya/Lenin Library Metro stations, realizing that it really would have been faster to skip the Metro and walk in the first place.


Now, for those of you who haven't seen it, Moscow is a lot of things. But it is very beautiful at night. The walk from (the hideous) Christ the Saviour Cathedral to the Lenin Library . . . at one point we had this view of the Kremlin, which, although from the back side, is pretty cool. I recommend you visit Moscow only at night. Really.

We considered and rejected just going to the reception.

"I wanted to hear the concert," The Spouse was disappointed.

We still needed to eat. But where? We didn't want to spend a fortune. We didn't want a big meal. And we wanted something easy.

Which is how we ended up next door to our apartment building at Taras Bulba, the Ukrainian chain we frequent.

Yeah, yeah. It's a Ukrainian Olive Garden.

But the service is good. The food is consistent. They know us there. And they sell the loveliest горілк, which is a Ukrainian hot pepper vodka.There is little in this town that 100 grams of this vodka won't improve.

Plus, it was the restaurant's birthday. They were having a party. The place, which is normally decorated to the hilt with charming rustic clutter, additionally now was filled with balloons. They had singers--two young women in traditional costumes accompanied by an accordion player straight out of Central Casting. They worked their way up through the three-level restaurant until they landed in front of us. Everyone was given a different percussion instrument, and we all played along while the women sang. The Spouse got this, called a treschetka.

Meanwhile, a manager-type handed out gift packages to each table. These included a small bottle of Nemiroff vodka (!) and two shot glasses. Can you imagine? The booze manufacturer actually gets to give out samples of the product, and not just promotional knick-knacks bearing the product name?

It was silly, but fun. And we were having such a good time, we even ordered dessert. Well, we told Oxana, our waitress, "Pick something typically Ukrainian."

She brought us this: Kievsky tort. Meringue. Butter cream icing. Walnuts.


It was one of those "This is why I bought the ticket to be here" sort of evenings made so much better as it involved the roller coaster ride of disappointment and delight.

Later, we realized we should have taken the opportunity to go to the weekly expat mixer at Papa's. But we had such a memorable time together, I'm glad we didn't think of it at the time.

All of this was supposed to be the brief lead-in to a description of my day yesterday with assorted cat poops, socks with holes, a slip-and-fall on the ice, no heat at all in the apartment, interrupted Internet service, picking all the dried apples out of an entire box of the children's breakfast cereal because the children don't like dried apples in their breakfast cereal, a 7-ruble shortage in the Internet service provider account due to an unannounced anywhere 160-ruble rate hike, thinking my mobile phone had finally died for good only to discover later that it was faking, and home-made croque monsieurs.

But now I don't feel like it.


Jen said...

That was such a great read - I really enjoyed it :) Thank you!!

Luna said...

Damn! I love your life. Makes me feel so much better about mine. HA!

We had that same problem with the Pushkin Museum(s). Kept asking people where it was, and they kept sending us in different directions.

Now . . . as for the dried apples... Get out (ala Seinfeld)!! You are waay to nice. In my house, if you don't like the apples, pick 'em out yourself!! :)

TRex said...

Epic save, well done.

Tina in CT said...

But did you get to the reception after all? How was it?

I also have foot problems so can no longer wear the cute flats, sandals and heels and wear Merrills and Born clogs and sandals. I shouldn't complain.

I love the Christ the Savior Cathedral and it's gold domes atop the white building peaks and more so at night.

I completely agree that Moscow and the Kremlin by night are magnificient. The first time that I saw the Kremlin was at night when we went to a concert there.

You are way too nice to pick out the dried apples. One of my favorite salads at Panera Bread is the one with the dried apple slices.

You need to let us know how your babysitter's hospital stay was.

The Expatresse said...

Tina: No! We never made it to the reception either. We gave up in despair.

I have to look inside that cathedral. It is like the Taj Mahal on the outside. Not my favorite church here, but impressive, it's true.

I haven't gotten all the details from the sitter. She was held captive for a week and as of Wed. was still not allowed to eat normally, which seemed odd. She says it was not all that bad, considering. I have to ask my friend who went to see her there.

Larry said...

Great post! We felt like you were writing about our lives in Moscow. We were supposed to meet at the Pushkin, and husband went to Pushkin Fine Arts and wife went to the old Pushkin. We have also done the wrong-escalator-in-the-Metro trick too many times.

valentina said...

Ok. First you are spoiling those children rotten by not requiring they pick out their own damned apples!! Come on! They have little fingers! Let them do it and without complaining! There are children starving in China for that cereal with or without the apples with or without the cereal! Ok so maybe not China so much but in the Sudan certainly!

I am glad your evening worked out happily! Once Alejandro and I waited for each other for 8 hours at the wrong doors of the Pompidou center and kept going from one door to the other, inside and out, looking for each other, only to miss each other each time we left in search. It was exasperating...but a relief when we finally caught up with each other...And it was a lesson in trust and how crazy we really were for each other...

Or the time you and I ended up on the end of the bus route in Benalmadena and had to turn around and go clear back to the garage in the city and catch another bus to go home...and laughed!

Or the time I got lost as a young student in Florence and took the bus, once again, back to the bus barn because I had gotten on the wrong one once again...

Or the trials of the Paris metro where to know the name of the stop is never sufficient because you have to know the name of the last stop on the line to get the direction right including the stops and the last names of those stops too where you make the switches and how if your French is rusty or non existent this can be murder...

Oh how many times have we all been lost and in how many languages and how exasperating it always is.

I have walked around and around in Rome despite being within a couple of blocks of my destination WITH a map and still unable to find my way!!
And knowing enough of the language to ask directions!!

So you have my utter and total sympathy for getting lost and missing the concert and oh your poor sore feet, and I am glad that it worked out so felicitously and was the fine ending to an all around exasperating day!!

Thank god The Spouse didn't lose his job amidst the misery of all of those poor laid off souls.

Let us all, who are employed and living in relative safety and comfort count our blessings. School starts again on Monday and I will enter my 3 classrooms of expectant young adults and open their worlds to the writing of Annie Dillard, Lely Hayslip, Simone de Beauvoir, Turgenev, Henry James, Kate Chopin and DH Lawrence. How lucky I am! How lucky we are! How lucky your kids are to be living the adventure of French school in Moscow!! We are all so fortunate! Enjoy your spring. We are enjoying ours!oxv

kate said...

I'm glad you "don't feel like it". Isn't that great??

And you got out with your husband! Hooray!

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