Saturday, May 30, 2009

When Life Gives You a Lemon?

After a night spent weeping so uncontrollably and so annoyingly that The Spouse sought refuge on the pull-out couch (yeah . . . that's another set of sheets I need to wash now), trying to figure out if I should arrange to take the cats to the US this summer since there was NO WAY IN HELL I'M COMING BACK TO THIS WASHER-LESS WASTELAND in September, certain that by now everyone thinks I have some sort of Muchausen by Proxy Syndrome involving an appliance . . . I feel somewhat vindicated.

The Spouse, in a fit of pique and in direct violation of our warranty, took the top off the washing machine and discovered the casing that encloses the washer drum--the water-tight casing--is cracked like a walnut in the driveway.

We have a lemon, ladies and gentlemen.

He called Man Friday who gasped and said, "Ahhhh! DON'T open it up! You'll void the warranty!"

"Man Friday," The Spouse sighed, "I needed to know it wasn't an installation issue. This is not a matter of sending over another meister. The machine is crap."

So Man Friday asked for the number on the sales receipt and will call them . . . Monday.

AND, I am laying bets now. Based on my experiences with defective products in the Slovak Republic, how much you wanna bet that this machine gets sent back to the factory for repair. For weeks and weeks? Huh? HUH?!

I will become an optimist when things look up. And not a moment before.

Friday, May 29, 2009

In Which I Put My Head in the Oven

Delivery guys, accompanied by Man Friday (and his daughter as translator), came today with the new washer.

It is NOT a washer/dryer combo. Say hello to crunchy towels and ironing almost everything.

Oh, and it flooded my bathroom after they left.

Man Friday returned, tightened something. Said to try it again. If it leaks now, it's beyond his capabilities: he'll have to call a master.

It's leaking again. It's 6:30 on a Friday night. So I don't expect anyone to come before Monday. Maybe Tuesday.

I've lost my sense of humor over this.

What really pisses me off about this, is that I feel so petty and spoiled, bitching about some appliance issues while people are losing their jobs. Their homes. I'm the Bitch Princess who can't cope with a little dirty laundry and some cat pee on the bathroom rug. I should be tougher than this.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Washer Repair Dude III

. . . arrives right on time. He's shorter than I am and vaguely reminiscent of Richard Dreyfus in The Goodbye Girl.

I swear, he is talking even as I open the door, and I cut him off with my standard greeting to Russians speaking to me in Russian: "I speak Russian, not very good."

This only encourages him.

He continues, with a running dialogue, as he begins diagnosing the latest washing machine problem. It leaks, but I don't know what he has been told. I am trying to guess how to respond based on context and the odd word I do recognize here and there. When I'm off base, he roars and waves his arms, but in a amused Oh-How-Could-You-Miss-That? sort of way. When I'm right, he cheers and practically high-fives me.

I am hoping to slink off to another room and leave him to work in peace as I have done with Washer Repair Dudes I and II. But he's having none of that.

He identifies the sources of water and electricity. Removes the top of the washing machine. Tips it back and crawls underneath it, all the while rattling on in idiomatic Muscovite.

Cat-O sits on his tool box and inspects.

Then Crooky skitters by in her blue hospital gown.

This is a veritable show stopper for WRDIII. For a moment, he is actually speechless. Then he barks, "What the hell has happened to your cat?" his eyes bright with merriment.

Aw, geez. I hate these moments. How do I say "She's been spayed" in my limited Russian.

I wrack my brains for useful vocabulary and cognates. I can practically hear the Jeopardy theme playing in the background as he waits, breath baited, for my explanation.

Eureka! It comes to me.

Pointing at the cat and then miming a pregnant belly on myself, I say, "Dyeti . . . NYET!" Children . . . no!

He can barely contain himself. This is the funniest thing he has ever heard. I hear him repeating my answer to himself and chuckling. He practically gives me a pop on the arm with his fist.

But what about my washer?

He seems to be disappointed in it.

"Aw, gee, look at this," he tells me, or so I assume. I hear the words water and old as he points to the washer drum, which, now that the top is off the washer, is clearly a source of leaks.

He begins waving the work order under my nose and pointing to the phone number, which, I'm fairly sure, is Man Friday's. But Man Friday doesn't speak any more English than WRDIII, and I need to be a part of this conversation, if only for the sake of my own curiosity.

I call The Spouse, but, unanswered, the call rolls to his secretary. He is somewhere in the office, she tells me, but, regrettably, not at his desk. I wait a few minutes, but WRDIII, clearly a fidgety guy by nature anyhow, seems jonesing to wrap this up.

I call back and make the secretary talk to him for me.

Yes, it is as I suspected. WRDIII reports that this is an Antediluvian washer. Noah used it on the ark, it's that old. The part, if he can find it, will certainly run me 6000 rubles (about $200 today), money he believes would be better spent on a new washer. I can pay him 575 rubles ($18.55) for the diagnosis please, and he will be on his way.

575 rubles it is. He begins the process of preparing my receipt, saying each word aloud as he writes it. In preparation for what I assumed would be another pricey repair, I had run to the bank first thing in the morning and armed myself with cash. I have 5000- and 1000-ruble notes, but little else. Oh, but wait. I find a 500-ruble note and a few 10s. I steal 100 rubles from the kids' room and hand him 600 with no expectation of change.

He's not having any of that. "No, no, no! That is NOT how we do it!" he chastises me while he pulls out two 10-ruble notes and a 5-ruble coin. He snaps the coin down on the table with a flourish. Et voilà! We are square.

Now he beams at me. Shakes my hand. And departs while still producing his running dialogue.

The Spouse sends an email to the landlords bringing them up to date on the Saga of the Washing Machine. I have no idea if Man Friday has been keeping them apprised, but now we have clearly reached the "What do you want to do about this?" stage. We do, after all, pay for an apartment with a washer/dryer. And it is, for a switch, a renter's market these days in Moscow.

Within hours, The Spouse receives a call from Man Friday, asking for the dimensions of the existing washer. As the machine needs to fit in a very specific space, this is good news.

Fast forward to this morning.

I am making breakfast, when Crooky stumbles into the kitchen. She's still walking a bit sideways, but so would I, I suspect, if I had just had abdominal surgery in a Russian vet clinic. No laproscopic tubal ligation for her.

Then a horrible thought crosses my mind. A horrible, embarrassing, humiliating thought.

What if WRDIII thought that rather than trying to explain that the cat has been rendered unable to reproduce, that I was explaining to him that her funny outfit is the result of the fact that I have no children?

In spite of my best efforts, I have been unable to get The Spouse to call WRDIII's office to explain that I am not Crazy Childless Expat Cat Lady. Nor to stop laughing.

Seems he thinks my realization might very well be correct.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


The vet, Dr. Yuri, and Valeria, his wife, collected Crooky Sunday morning and took her to a colleague for spaying. They brought her back last night.

I was a little bit, but only slightly, sorry to have her neutered right now as I finally hit on the perfect Cat In Heat soundtrack . . . the first 20 seconds of Freddie Mercury singing "Somebody to Love." Studio version. Not live. It's impossible to find on YouTube.

Hey . . . anybody??? Find me . . . . somebody to-oo love?

Since a more realistic soundtrack to our lives is SpongeBob, the children skipped home from school yesterday singing "Crooky's coming, tonight-tonight! Crooky's coming tonight!"

Valeria called me around 9:00 p.m. to ask how late we'd be up, and if we preferred them to return the cat then or in the morning.

"She's at our place. We're on our way home now," she said. "With traffic it could be another hour."


She's been convalescing in their apartment? Which is in the same building as ours?

I suppose it doesn't really matter. And it certainly would keep Cat-O from trying to play with her right away.

Now, it has been ages since I've owned a cat, let alone a female cat. So it has been, oh, maybe 25 years since I've had one spayed.

But I don't recall them ever coming back from the vet quite like this:

(Don't you be passing judgement on all those empty wine bottles behind her . . . we did have folks over on Saturday.)

Isn't that a riot? I guess it beats the plastic cone over the head. She looks like Nurse Jane Fuzzy-Wuzzy in her little get-up.Cat-O was extra affectionate to us while she was gone. I'm not sure if he was worried about her or just realized it was his opportunity to bogart all the cat food. He has been slimmer.

This morning I discovered this peaceable kingdom tableau in the living room:

The minute I approached with the camera, Cat-O tried to look disinterested.

The vet's instructions are that she is to wear the "dressing" for a week. They will return in two weeks to remove the stitches.

Seems like a long time.

All of which got me to thinking: if I have heard horror stories about Russian public hospitals, what must a Russian vet clinic look like?


I am reminded of a story. If I've bored you with this before, you can stop reading now.

A million years ago, before we had children, we lived in Miami, and I worked for an HMO. My boss was a very funny gay man who owned what seemed like a million cats. It being Florida, most of the cats could live outside. So he wasn't like a Crazy Gay Cat Man or anything. But he did have a soft spot, and he was known to rescue strays now and then and add them to his posse.

To economize, he had all their medical work done at his local Humane Society. They spay and neuter at a fraction of the cost of a regular vet's office.

The vet at this particular Humane Society clinic was Russian. I never met the guy, but I imagine a big, burly Russian. Like a farm vet. With big, muscle-y arms.

Boss tells the story of how once he walked into the clinic to retrieve a cat who had been a patient there for something or another.

Dr. Ivan calls from the OR for him to "Come on in."

Boss does, only to find Ivan, mid-surgical procedure, with a cigarette dangling from his lips. The ash on the end was long and in imminent danger of falling into the unfortunate patient, etherized on the table.

"Um," said Boss, himself a smoker. "Do you think you should be smoking . . . er . . . now?"

"Meh," replied the Russian, stoically. "Cats die. People die."

The washing machine has begun to leak again, and Washer Repair Dude III is due this morning. Light a candle for me, will ya? I forsee a new washer/dryer in my future.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Banya Was a Wash

Sadly, my Banya Companion suffered, yet again, a conflict, so we had to cancel today's outing. The End of the School Year Chaos overtook her. She was most regretful and contrite. I'm sure we'll get around to it in September when everyone is back.

The Russians are basically done with school. Friday, they celebrated Posledny Zvonok or "Last Bell." This is the time of year when the high school senior girls wear those funny pinafores, reminiscent of their early elementary school days. I'm told they buy these the way we buy graduation caps and gowns: through dealers who come to the schools and NOT through the sex toy shops as I had originally been told. Whew.

This web site has pictures from Friday. In fact, they often have cool stuff. If you don't look at the More Ways to Waste Time (But Worth It, I Swear!) column to the right, you're missing out. I put these links there for myself, actually.

The French school soldiers on. July 2 is the last day of school. We're not even sticking around that long.

My dinner party went just fine. I had peel-and-eat shrimp for a starter (from the Sedmoy Continent . . . already cooked and not bad at all) and a faux rumaki with prunes and bacon. The main course was Ina Garten's Parmesan Chicken followed by cheese course and then her Brownie Pudding for dessert. The chicken wasn't dry at all, although I probably baked the dessert just a hair too long: I would have preferred it wetter inside, although it was moist. I'll make that again.

Yesterday was Spay Day for Crooky. The vet picked her up yesterday morning. I should get her back tonight. It seems like a long time for her to be away, but I suppose it keeps Cat-O from jumping on her right after surgery.

In other news, the washing machine





Saturday, May 23, 2009

What She Said

I think we need to make this a regular event.

I don't know what happened to all my hair. Maybe the rain had something to do with it. It continues even now, making me sleepy and lazy.

Or maybe that's because I decided to stay up until 2:30 in the a.m. and watch a movie.

Honestly, I woke up at 6:00, got a drink of water, and went back to bed, satisfied that I could snooze a little longer. Woke up next at 9:30! Skittles has an art class today that, thankfully, was moved back from 10:00 to 11:00 . . . seems last week the only other student overslept and didn't make it. I was just muttering about "How can you NOT get your ass out of bed and somewhere by 10:00 on a Saturday?" and look what happened.


In a moment of temporary (?) insanity, I invited people over for dinner tonight. ARGH! What was I thinking!

Must go out in the rain provisioning, run the vacuum, start cooking.

At least the rain makes it dark in the apartment. They won't notice how dusty everything is.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Favorite Things

I know I am perhaps going a bit overboard on the whole Taras Bulba thing, but I do find it so fascinating how the universe drops things under your nose.

Right before we moved to Moscow I read Jane Smiley's Ten Days in the Hills, which included a reference to the Yul Brynner movie, Taras Bulba. (Not Smiley's best work, by the way, but great sex scenes and plenty of 'em.)

As with many things, I had never heard of Taras Bulba in film nor print. It's based on a novel of the same title by Nikolai Gogol. I would mention it to other people, and if they knew of it at all, they would say, "Oh! Yes! Yul Brynner."

Then, we move to Moscow, and not only is my first meal here at a restaurant called Taras Bulba, but we live practically next door to it. We eat there a lot.

In the meantime, there's been a remake of the movie:

That's a whole 'nuther story because not only was this version of the movie financed by the Russian Ministry of Culture, but it takes liberties with Gogol's plot. It can be argued that this new movie is Kremlin propaganda and suggests that Ukraine is rightfully still a part of Russia. Given the political tensions these days between those two countries, it's no wonder the movie is controversial. I haven't seen it yet, so I can't comment.

But back to All Things Taras.

Yesterday, while eating lunch (again) at the restaurant, we discovered they sell themed playing cards. So I bought a pack.

They are just beautiful. Click on the images to see them better.

They would make good gifts, but run a bit steep at $10 for the pack. At that price, they better taste good and ensure I always win, too.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fairytale Is Right


Americans don't get it. The Spouse and I don't anyhow.

I've lived in Europe since 2001, but I never paid any attention to this 53-year-old song contest until Moscow won the right to host this year.

It's all over town. Posters. Billboards. Buses. Everywhere you look. And the venue, the Olympic Stadium, is just around the corner from us.

I had to google it and find out exactly how this thing works. There are a few past winners whose names I've heard of. ABBA won in 1974 for "Waterloo." I know ABBA. Lulu, France Gall, Celine Dion, Katrina and the Waves . . . these are all Eurovision winners whose names I've heard of, even if I can't immediately hum one of their songs.

Before The Spouse and I sat down to watch the final last night, I had the distinct impression that Eurovision was known for the sort of European pop music that makes Americans shake their heads in disgust. The expectation for performers these days seems to not only be to sing a song, but to provide a whole vaudeville act complete with doo-wap girls, acrobats, and skimpy costumes.

We were late to the program, and came in about midway during the finals (Malta). We noted that the performers all seemed capable of belting out a tune with skill. They had stage presence. But when I tried to imagine hearing the respective songs on the radio, or getting them stuck in my head (an "ear worm" as the Germans call it), nothing really struck me.

My personal favorite was Denmark, but this is probably because their entry was very American in style. I even voted for them.

The scandal was Georgia: kicked out of the competition for including provocatively political lyrics in their song, "We Don't Wanna Put In." Eurovision strictly forbids any mention of politics. After that little disagreement between Russia and Georgia last summer, it's hard to take them seriously when they maintain that there is no reference to the current Russian Prime Minister here. But the attention has brought them more attention than they ever could have garnered via the contest. They're loving all the free PR.

But the winner. Sheesh. We heard this guy perform and remarked, "NO way! What a stupid song. The boy sure is cute. But NO WAY this will win."

Shows what experts we are in Eurovision tastes.

Not only did the cute boy win, he won with a record high number of votes. And when he returned to the stage to sing his song again, he didn't just sing the song, as I expected, but they did the whole act again, complete with the flips and push ups.

The Spouse, staying true to form, has already changed the name of the winning song from "Fairytale" to "Hairy Tail." He sings it to the cats.

Now, in Russia, every story has a dark side. And Eurovision is no exception.

Apparently Eurovision rivals Ice Capades in its attraction to the gay community. It is a musical White Party. An editorial in the latest issue of The Moscow News says,

Pride in hosting Eurovision surely has to go hand-in-hand with the traditions that the event is associated with, such as kitsch acts (transsexual Dana International was one winner, for example) and millions of gay and lesbian fans.

But it really came as no surprise that Moscow refused to give a parade permit to the local gays and lesbians who wanted to hold an event and thought Eurovision might provide the right tone and positive attention since Russia isn't exactly a gay-friendly place. What would be funny, if it weren't so sad, is that the OMOH, Russia's elite police force . . . the SWAT and SEALs of Russia . . . are what gets sent out whenever a few gay men and lesbians want to have a parade.

But there is cosmic justice in the universe, and every now and then you see their emblem in a mirror. I don't have to spell it out for you, do I? Think about it backwards . . . H-O-M . . . I'll leave you to it.

I'm told their paraphernalia is all the rage among the gay community in Spain. Anyone know for sure?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sail Cat, Very Flat!

I don't know how to draw on my photos. But notice in the photo below that the window is double, and that the top parts open.

In an attempt to capture those pesky pigeons that sit outside and torment her, Crooky leaped from the CD player up there this morning. Where she teetered with her front paws on the outermost window frame and her back paws on the innermost one.

Only her tail was still in the kitchen.

Which I grabbed.

And pulled her back inside.

That would have been fun trying to explain to the children over breakfast. I would have to use my father's method:

"All of you with a cat, step forward."

"Oh. Not you."

In a New Topic: Did I explain about the latest doctor visit? The one where we determined Skittles had three NEW cavities (she averages 2-3 each visit), and I am a lousy mother?

This came about because I scheduled appointments for the girls and me to have our teeth cleaned. And, at the same time, I scheduled an appointment for myself with the General Practitioner to discuss why I am so damn itchy ALL THE TIME and what, if anything, I can do about my plantar fasciitis.

But that plan got scuttled because Skittles had headaches every single day last week (no doubt triggered by a massive drop in pressure). So I gave her my appointment.

We talked to the doctor about what we can do to treat her headache pain because although Advil (ibuprofen) works really well on the headache, it upsets her stomach. Last spring she developed a small ulcer even from it.

So the doctor gave me something she can take with the Advil to protect her stomach as well as an alternative drug called Efferalgan (a French paracetamol that effervesces like Alka-Seltzer). And asked about how much exercise Skittles gets.

"She walks to and from school every day . . ." I said as the doctor shook her head. Okay, once I explained how long the walk is, she conceded slightly.

"But it's not aerobic. What does she do to get sweaty?" she asked.

Bloody little.

"How about horseback riding?"


She actually suggested HORSEBACK RIDING! Here? In Moscow? I mean, I know people who do it, but these are people with cars/drivers and much richer lifestyles than I will ever have here.

Horseback riding. I don't get to go fucking horseback riding. And I'm the one who is actually into it.

She suggested a swimming pool then, and it seems reasonably priced, although it could be more reasonably located for my taste. I mean, it's do-able, but the thought of dragging swim suits, goggles, and towels for three (because she can't go by herself) to the pool after school twice a week and then dragging all that and two tired and cranky kids who still have to do homework back on the Metro during rush hour . . .

Maybe my glass is half empty and I'm making it more difficult than it is. But I returned home after the appointment and just cried because I couldn't provide my kids a nice way to get sweaty a few times a week here in Moscow.

Then I had a brainstorm.

Yeah, they both have these at home in the US. But we aren't in the US 10 months of the year. And yeah, Moscow isn't scooter-able for a good part of those 10 months. But it is now.

One of the few good things about Moscow is that you can get anything delivered. The Spouse ordered two scooters via the Internet on Thursday. And I accepted deliver this morning.

Baboo and I scootered over to Starlite Diner to meet The Spouse and a very surprised Skittles.

It is certainly aerobic. And lots of fun.

We may need another scooter. Maybe two.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Do You Know This Guy?

A few minutes ago I got an email from a Very Nice Man at the Travel Channel. He was writing to tell me about Dhani's Season Finale: Sambo in Russia.

Just this week The Spouse looked up from his breakfast and remarked, "We've been expats for ten years now."

Which goes a long way in explaining why I have no idea who this Dhani is. Seems like a nice enough guy. Certainly good looking. But I had to look at his Facebook link to get a clue.

The Very Nice Man included the following information about the episode:

This Monday at 9 PM E/P Dhani is going big with Sambo fighting in Russia. Sambo is known as the "art of self-defense without weapons" and it definitely proves to be a complex and challenging sport.

To prepare for his fight, Dhani endures grueling outdoor training, takes ballet lessons and visits a Russian military base. Mr. Jones takes a break from training to visit a traditional Russian Banya where he sweats in the sauna, gets flogged with Venik (a bunch of leafy branches) and cools off in the plunge pool.

See if Dhani has what it takes to become a truly inspired and coordinated Sambo fighter.

Hey, I'm going to a banya on Tuesday! I'll tell you all about it, and you tell me how Dhani fared.

Here's the preview VNM included:

And here's a link to the show's website.

Tell me all about it if you watch it.

Because the satellite programming I get here in Moscow won't be airing it. Not yet anyhow.

Dhani Tackles the Globe on the Travel Channel, this Monday at 9 PM E/P.

In other news: This blog has another mention in Aeroflot's in-flight magazine. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm told the May issue includes something from this entry. The Jimmy Choos.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday, May 11

Since May 9 was on a Saturday, today is a holiday. The Spouse had the day off anyhow, although the children had school. Russian children did not, but the French school did.

Like in Paris, many of Moscow's museums are closed on Mondays. So I was having trouble finding something to do.

Here's what we ended up doing.

The Spouse took the children to school and went to his gym. I did the breakfast dishes and went to my gym.

This giant fountain is outside the Kievskaya train station near my gym. I saw a sign there that says it was a gift from the European Union, and since there is the Evropeisky or "European" Mall next to the train station (in fact, you can see it behind the fountain), it all sort of makes sense.

I met up with The Spouse, and we walked through Aleksandrovskiy Sad (Alexander Gardens) towards Red Square.

I had never spent any real time in GUM. There's an elegant grocery store, Gastronom No. 1 . . . what I call a "Museum for Food." We walked around in there for quite some time and had a coffee in its little cafe.

These are some of the things featured in the display windows. I thought the labels on these cans were really lovely.

Government standard stewed pork:

Cuts of pork. But the cans on top have pork tongue.

Rabbit in its own juice.

We walked behind GUM towards the old Rossiya Hotel site. The Rossiya was a behemoth of 1960s Soviet ugliness. Twenty-one storeys, 3,200 rooms, the Rossiya was demolished in 2006. Although it is now surrounded by walls that suggest work is taking place on the new Zaryadye project slated for that site, we could see that not much was happening.

The street there is called Varvarka (Barbara) after St. Barbara, the patron saint of merchants, and is one of the oldest in Moscow. It is lined with very old churches. We went there because I was looking for the Old English Court, and The Spouse thought he'd seen it there. We did see it, but I couldn't get any interesting photos of it. Nor could I figure out how to get close to it. I later realized it is closed on Mondays anyhow, so that was moot.

This is the Cathedral of the Sign built in 1684.

Then we stumbled on this: the Palace of the Romanov Boyars.

Now a museum, this was home to the Romanovs until 1613, when they moved into the Kremlin. It is full of artifacts from the period, depicting what the life of a boyar might be like. I like these green boots.

This is a detail of a kokoshnik or traditional head-dress. This is all I could get in the shot without glare or reflections on the glass. But you can see it well enough to get the idea. (Reminder: my birthday is December 31 . . .)

For some reason, I didn't take any pictures downstairs in the "men's quarters." But they were exquisite. Like a classic men's club: dark and cozy. The wallpaper was leather, and painted in the most beautiful designs. I paid for the right to take photos, but I got it into my head that flash would be a bad idea in this part of the museum. Here's a link to a photo of the dining room.

Upstairs, in contrast, the women's quarters were light and airy. They needed the light to embroider and spin and do the other handicrafts that resulted in clothing for the family.

Here is the tile on their stove.

A decorated box.

Another stove.

The entrance and main courtyard.

Next door is the Church of St. George (the patron saint of Moscow).

The domes are described as "star-spangled."

Then we walked over to Erik Kayser bakery for a little lunch: cream of spinach soup and salads. Mine had shrimp and avocado and tropical fruit. The Spouse had a salad with pork tenderloin, fig chutney, and sun-dried tomatoes on mixed greens. They were both very good . . . this shop is over on Maroseyka ulitsa (Metro: Kitay-Gorod).

Like a tourist, I took pictures of the display cases. I did not eat any of these, but I wanted to.

Picked up the children and walked home through the Sretensky monastery. The exterior walls have these green tiles, all different.

Inside the walls, Dumbledore was gardening.

He had been sitting in the chair watering the plants. I was just a moment too late snapping the picture.

Not what I expected or planned, but a nice day out.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

STAR DOGS! No, Really!

Since I heard that Belka and Strelka, two Soviet cosmo-mutts, were on display at the Space Museum at VDNKh, I've been itching to get back and pay my respects. Today was the day.

Belka and Strelka spent a day in space in 1960 with a grey rabbit, 42 mice, 2 rats, flies, and a number of plants and fungi. They were all the first living creatures to go into orbit and return alive.

Meet Strelka ("Arrow"). Now taxidermy-ed, she's in the museum and looking towards the heavens. She's in serious need of a pedicure.

As is her buddy Belka, which means "Squirrel" or "Whitey."

They were only two of many Soviet space dogs. You can read all about them and their colleagues (collies?) on Wikipedia. My favorite was Bolik (Болик), who ran away just days before her flight in September 1951. Smart girl. She was replaced by ZIB (a Russian acronym for "Substitute for Missing Bolik", "Замена исчезнувшему Болику" Zamena ischeznuvshemu Boliku), an untrained street dog found running around the barracks, who was quickly located and participated (although certainly not willingly) in a successful flight.

I'm going to name my next dog "ZIB."

Belka and Strelka had some great PR.
Here's a photo of the intrepid travelers while they were still on this earthly plane.

Here they are pushing a hand cream.

And on a post card. Which, it seems, they autographed.

Finally, here they are promoting an upcoming movie, Belka and Strelka: Star Dogs, that is supposed to come out this year.

I can guarantee that when I see this DVD in the grocery store, I'm buying myself a copy.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Just a Normal Saturday, Chez Beet

I sort of over slept this morning and didn't wake up until 7:45. So by the time I made coffee for The Spouse and sort of tidied up the kitchen, I didn't get out the door to the gym until after 8:00.

Swam my 40 laps, came home, grabbed three slices of bacon The Spouse saved for me, and we all went out to look at the May 9/Victory Day festivities.

The Spouse and the girls had been watching the action on the teevee. I especially love it when the guys get to stand up in the convertibles and zoom around Red Square. Which is closed to commoners today. You gotta have connections or be some sort of VIP to get tickets.

We did catch the end of the air show just outside our door.

Then we walked over to Tverskaya to see the last of the heavy armaments returning from Red Square. Last year we got there early and watched the whole thing. It wasn't much different this year (I heard they added a few more of each item), and frankly, I don't find the parade all that exciting. (Where ARE the Shriners with their tiny clown cars?) But the people watching was first rate.

Skittles got a good seat. I focused on the building across the street.

It has some incredible detail, complete with hammers and sickles and stars.

I gave Baboo the camera for a while since she squirmed her way to the front. Here's a picture she took.

I liked Dude here. Like a Good Russian Husband, he's holding his wife's pink jacket. Probably her purse, too. (Really. They do that.) Notice the orange and black ribbon of Saint George on his flag.

Everyone was taking pictures.

Okay, now I'm going to be catty. This pretty girl was wearing a white halter top with green stars. Like all halter tops, it was backless. But because she felt she needed some support, she also wore a white bra with little red hearts. It was cleverly disguised by her black sweater. Meow.

Lots of people had Russian flags.

Here you can get an idea of the crowd. The parade was over, and people started crossing the street. But the police kept asking them not to.

But they did it anyhow.

Including the police! Or maybe he was a military guy from the parade. Looks like Green T-Shirt Dude might be carrying a beer.

Pretty soon it was chaos. The cops just gave up.

So we walked home. Look how green it is in front of our building now. There are several beds of tulips over by the grocery store.

Since all I had for breakfast was my few slices of bacon, we decided to go to our favorite Ukrainian place for some vodka. I mean lunch.

That's when it all got sort of weird. First, Skittles began to suffer from one of her debilitating headaches. She confessed that she had been feeling bad earlier and had taken some medicine (one adult Advil, which is the dose I usually take for minor issues). But it wasn't working. She began to look more and more pained. I had finished eating, so I gave The Spouse some money and took her home. I gave her something stronger, closed the curtains, and put her in our bed.

The Spouse and Baboo returned shortly, but later than I expected. Baboo scampered immediately to the shower. The Spouse stuck his head in our room.

"It went down hill suddenly," he said.


"Baboo suddenly declared she was going to vomit, so she put her hand over her mouth and ran from the restaurant," he said. "I don't know what happened exactly, or where, but I found her on the street in front of our building covered in pink puke."

Oh. Yeah. We had raspberry mors at lunch.

So next thing I know, both girls are sacked out in our bed.

Baboo said, "I felt remorse." Groan.

I got shoved out.

Crooky found a paper bag.

The Spouse had a little nap on the sofa.

Cat-O decided to catch 40 winks under the laundry rack.

Yeah, you heard me right. And this photo IS from today. Ladies and gentlemen, that is clean laundry drying in my living room. I've done three loads now.

May 9 really is Victory Day.

Now, in that mysterious way kids have, both girls have made a complete recovery. I thought they were eating Kit-Kat bars in their room. Cuz, like, they're hungry. But it seems they have finished their snacks and moved on to playing with my makeup in the bathroom.

Make up and chocolate.

Good thing the washer seems to be working.