Monday, June 8, 2009


Clouds of this tree fuzz (balsam poplars) everywhere! Yesterday and today have been especially bad. It gets in my eyes, up my nose. It's stuck on the front of my shirt and on my bedroom rug.

This is what it looks like on the ground. I can't get a good picture of it floating around in the air, but it is really quite dense today. The Russians call this fuzz pukh, which means tuft.

So Saturday was Baboo's birthday. It was sort of low key this year. On Saturday we had lunch at the Starlite Diner, and then spent the evening at my friend's house as her parents are visiting. This is the same gang from New Year's Eve, so there were six children, all roughly the same age. Everyone brought things to share, and, as always, it was a nice crowd and a nice time.

Sunday we went to the circus.

Now, I do love a good circus. And this circus (near us on Tsventoi Bulvar) is excellent. It seems to have a variety of names including the Old Moscow Circus and Circus Nikulin (and not to be confused with the Great Moscow State Circus).

Did I mention I scored front row seats? There's not a bad seat in the house, but if you are in the first row, you get to touch some of the animals and the clown interacts with you. It's not vital, but once in your life, pony up for the front row.

The theme for this show seemed to be Russia. The costumes were gorgeous, colorful, traditional Russian garb. There were plenty of opportunities to play the patriotic card by waving the Russian flag or incorporating red, white, and blue in the costumes or props. And why not? Ringling Brothers would do it, US-style.

This circus is animal-light, in that there are not a lot of animal acts in it. There were jugglers and a trapeze act and a high wire and a very pleasant and not at all scary clown who worked the crowd between acts.

One of my favorite acts involved vaulting a guy by means of a see-saw. His compatriots would jump on one end, and he would be thrown up in the air and caught by his other compatriots who carried a large and very heavy sort of giant mattress to where they estimated he would land. Then he did it on stilts. Then he landed, blind, into a chair on top of a very tall pole. Then he did it on one stilt. Then he did the chair landing again, except this time his compatriots where holding the chair/pole while balanced on stilts and standing on two very flexible balance beams that still other compatriots held.

It was breath-taking.

There was a quick-change act that was very similar to this one, except the woman wore beautiful, traditional, Russian-y outfits.

Her finale gown was a bias-cut Russian flag. Big cheers from the crowd.

The animals included horses, cats (my personal favorite), ferrets (which we got to pet because we were in the FRONT ROW! The kids report they were "very, very greasy."), a dachshund (he was the surprise element in the ferret act), one cheerful bear (you could smell him . . . he smelled . . . bear-y), more horses with trick riders who unfurled a huge Russian flag in their finale.

And the monkey act.


I had heard about the monkey act. But for some reason I thought it was at the other Moscow circus.

The monkeys and the handlers were dressed for an Orthodox Jewish wedding. With yarmulkes. And sidelocks. There was even a chuppa. I mean, the lights came up for the act, and there was a chuppa in the middle of the ring, and I thought, "Oh. My. God." And sure enough, out came the chimps and orangutan in traditional dress.

The Russians all laughed and laughed. The Spouse and I were speechless.

In fairness, the monkeys were also quick change artists and mocked, I mean impersonated Mexicans, Chuck Berry, and Elvis, as well as some Russian serf-types.

It was profoundly offensive, which is a shame, because the rest of the show was so wonderful. I suspect I am not alone in this.

Today, I went with my friend and her parents to visit Lenin's Tomb. Except Lenin isn't open on Mondays. So we'll try again tomorrow.

We did go see the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Completed in 2000, this is a relatively new church, although there was a church on this site from the 1880s until 1931 when Stalin had it demolished to build the Palace of the Soviets. Turned out that the ground was too soft to support such a large structure and funding was a problem, so Khrushchev had the world's largest outdoor swimming pool built on the site instead.

If you go, be sure to find the basement. It isn't finished yet, but is full of not only icons, but photos and relics of the original church, plans for the Palace of the Soviets, and photos of the swimming pool. Admission is free, and although devout Russian Orthodox women cover their heads, you are not obliged to.


Anonymous said...

Why monkeys dressed up as Jews are offensive?
And why monkeys dressed up as Russians or Mexicans are NOT offensive? You probably don't know but in today's Russia, 'jewish person' (evrei) is an ethnicity (like Russians or UKrainians) Not (for the most part) religious following.
You got so much to learn! You see, Jews make fun of Russians all the time, considered no big deal. "GREAT" American PC culture has not yet reached mother Russia.

Tina in CT said...

I think it is not PC for the monkeys to dress up as anyone.

We went to the other circus when I was there last month. I want to go back at Christmas when I'm there.

I don't need to go to Moscow to see bears as my neighbor has them quite often in her yard. The past week it's been during the day. She leaves the bird feeders out so that attracts them.

I have a dachshund but she's definitely not ready for the circus.

Glad that your daughter had a good birthday celebration.

My daughter did a post about the fluffy stuff last spring. Since they're in Italy now, I hope it's gone by time they return.

valentina said...

Too bad about the fluffy stuff. It makes my eyes itch and nose run just thinking about it! Pardon me while I sneeze!

And I guess the monkeys are what we call a "teachable moment" but the cats seemed good. I looked at several sites of Moscow cats after reading this...

And the flying through the air did sound spectacular!

And I couldn't get your Youtube clip to work but I looked it up and it was fabulous! I really wonder how that magic act is done? It seems totally amazing and impossible!! I bet it was stunning to see something like that!

So it seems all in all...

Several amusing events and one racist one...well that's about how it is these days...

Sounds like Russia could do with a little PC culture and maybe some animal rights?

If Cat-O and Crooky only knew how good they have it!!

Glad Baboo had a good B day!

I am so looking forward to having you home! xov

katbat said...

loved the post! :-) the fluff is killing me! I finally scored some claritin from a neighbor and that helps.
The quick change was Ps favorite part - I also loved the vaulting see-saw guys! amazing.
Perhaps in the US we are over the top PC, however, the monkey act was odd. The costumes and the constant stick jabbing when we were there just rubbed the wrong way. Was the free range tiger in the lobby?

Susan said...

Kat also went to that circus and objected to the monkeys. She said that she didnt like that the monkeys were dressed as people, and were made to do things at the prodding and poking of the handlers.
PC or not, thats not right!!
Americans are more accepting of other cultures and religions to let something like that pass as entertainment.

Anonymous said...

LMAO! I was just telling my sister-in-law and nephews about Pukh season in Moscow the other day as we sat at the benches outside the ice-cream joint and every once in a while got a tiny bit of pukh whirling round. Nothing as ubiquitous as in Moscow!

Annie said...

I can't help but be slightly with anonymous; at least a VACATION from PC is nice.

I also LOVED the cats.

I love animals, but sometimes the animal rights thing goes SO far that you wonder... My husband's good friend is a zoo director, and at their very, very contemporary and PC zoo, the animals have so much natural habitat that natural habitat is all you see; I probably saw one animal.... a gazelle - I think. It was very......far......away..... Of course things that are presumed not to "mind" - lizards and such are in environments small enough that you can occasionally spot one, but the animals we wanted to see were not in evidence. There must be a happy medium. And, really - if the monkies are as cheerfully cooperative as the average dog, I bet they like dressing up! typ

The Expatresse said...

I don't categorically object to putting clothes on animals. And most circus-type places I've read about insist that the animals are not only their livelihood, but practically family . . . so, of course, they are well treated.

I saw a bear in another circus here who was definately embarassed by his costume. He plainly was saying, "WTF?" I felt bad for him. These monkeys were did not seem profoundly happy in their work, but they didn't seem abused either.

Dogs and cats, especially, are here to make us laugh, I think. I used to put Christmas reindog antlers on my dog every year. Laughed and laughed at that. Until he ate them. Great value for the money.

Anonymous said...

Hi Amanda, we experience the 'tree fuzz' phenomenon here in the Pacific Northwest as well. From the Western Balsam Poplar (aka Black Cottonwood). I found a blog with video clip of the 'snowfall'.
Paul & Jennie

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