Tuesday, January 8, 2008

In Which I Finally Write About All the Little Stuff I Forgot to Mention

Temperature: -12C
Snow: Just a dusting

On Schools: School resumes tomorrow. That is, the girls officially begin school in the Moscow French schools. This is sort of inconvenient because they will each be on a separate campus, and these are not walking distance from each other, but a metro ride with a line change. From our house, it is an easy metro ride to Skittles’ school (one stop beyond the Spouse’s office) and a reasonable walk (30 minutes) to Baboo’s. The Spouse will generally take Skittles, and I will take Baboo.

This works because his office doesn’t officially start until 10:00 a.m. I thought this was because they are lawyers and need to have more in common with London, but apparently it is just Moscow. I was looking at an editing job the other day and the hours were posted as 10:00 until 19:00. In a town were I suspect many couples are both working, this makes sense, although then one needs a sitter or a nanny to collect kids after school, feed, and process them.

Hot and Cold: It’s been sunny and clear here lately, but I think the lack of cloud cover results in colder temperatures. It’s –12C today (about 20F). But in our house I am wearing short sleeves and have bare feet.

Moscow, and, in fact, all of Russia I believe, still heats itself as if heat were cheap and plentiful (clearly, it is). We don’t even have a thermostat in our apartment. There is no line item for heat: it’s included in the rent. In a throwback to socialist times, heat is organized at some central location. Based on something arbitrary, most likely the calendar, a switch gets flicked somewhere and, like in the dorms at my college, we all get heat, ready or not.

Each room has radiators; some more than others. The windows are all double, but leak like sieves (no matter when you’re not paying for heat, I suppose). This results in our bedroom being comfortable (two windows, one door, only one radiator), but the girls’ room is an oven (three windows and three radiators). We often open one of the upper windows in their room, although the traffic on the street below is rather noisy. I guess we could use the AC (this is what the landlords suggested), but that just seems so . . . not green.

Naked and Funny: We have only local Russian programming at the moment. The Spouse is thrilled. He can watch the Russian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, movies, news, and other shows, and he can turn on Russian closed captions, so he can read along, in a sort of mangled non-Cyrillic script. He gets a lot from it, and the subtitles actually do give me a clue sometimes.

The past two nights he’s watched movies in the evening, and they have been decently written, produced, and acted from where I sit. He has to give me summaries of the action, but it has not been unpleasant sitting through these.

What’s funny is a program titled Naked and Funny, that airs nightly at 11:30 for about 90 minutes (I say “about” because here shows start and end abruptly and with no recognizable pattern, at least not one I can figure out yet). Naked and Funny is a prank type show, along the lines of those Just for Laughs shows you see on airplanes with the added feature of lots and lots of gratuitous nudity. Standard pranks generally involve putting some attractive and large breasted woman in a public place, encouraging blue-collar men to ogle her, and then pointing out the hidden camera. If a wife or girlfriend accompanies the man, she inevitable pulls him away, urges him to cover his eyes, or whomps the naked woman.

Further, they seem to have shot most episodes of Naked and Funny at the Number Sixteen Furniture Factory out in the boondocks. Dentistry has not yet arrived. Fashions are . . . retro. And I can’t shake the feeling that Greater Moscow gets a big old belly laugh out of watching their hick cousins out in the county fall for these tricks.

Prank: Croupier spins roulette wheel in casino, but WHOOPS! Her top flies off. Oh, dear.

Prank: Nurse prepares to do something to patient, but spills some dark staining liquid on her white dress. Never mind, she gestures to patient, who is usually somehow trapped in his chair. She whips off the dress, stands there in only her thong and high heels, while patient gasps. “I’ll be right with you!” she gestures as if this is nothing, nothing at all.

Prank: On some God-awful rocky beach, an innocent young woman goes into a changing booth (itself a strange box on legs, stuck in the middle of the beach). When she emerges, a row of men is sitting there on wooden chairs holding up cards that rate the size of her breasts. She hits them.

Prank: A variation on the one above. A topless young woman is sunbathing on the same dreadful beach. When she opens her eyes, she realizes that the same row of men from above is seated along side her towel. They rate her or applaud her. She usually shrieks and tries to flee, covering her bare breasts. However, when they point out the hidden camera, she inevitably drops her arms and smiles, sheepishly, for the camera.

Prank: Man approaches ice cream vendor in a kiosk. Her back is to him. He raps on the freezer case top with his ruble coins to get her attention. When she turns to serve him, WHOOPS! She’s topless! If a wife or girlfriend accompanies him, she inevitable pulls him away, urges him to cover his eyes, or whomps the naked woman.

You get the idea. It’s like a fiery car crash on a busy highway: you know you should not look, but you cannot look away. Oh, and the advertising during this show: it’s all phone sex, “enhancing” herbs and devices, and weight loss products.

Security: I have a key ring like a jailer to get into my domicile. No more cute little party purse with room only for a lipstick, cab fare, and house key for me. First there is a stick type key for opening the front door of the building (I also have a traditional key for the back door). Our apartment has two layers of doors. The first layer requires three keys, two of which look like what one might use to wind a grandfather clock. Once I open this layer of doors, there is a second, simple set of doors that only requires two different keys. Oh, and there’s an alarm keypad between the doors. And the security camera above the outermost door.

If this weren’t Moscow, your ice cream would melt while you work through your keys to open your door and put away your groceries. More likely, in my vivid imagination, is that the axe-wielding murderer will strike me down in front of my door, because I panicked, dropped my keys, lost my place, and had to start all over again.


Anonymous said...

Don't worry.. I see the axe-wielding murderer even if I have only one key :))

.. it must be the sicilian in me still keeping alert ...


Anonymous said...

You know, this led me to find some bits and bobs from "Naked and Funny" on the net and you're so right! It's absolutely mesmerising in an unspeakably horrid sort of way. I don't know though, it seems something you'd binge on and then never want to be reminded of again. Unsure.
Thanks again for your entertaining food for thought :)
Jen from Aus

MoscowMom said...

Our apartment is that unevenly hot, too. Unfortunately, since we got the cats, we can't open the windows to cool off! It seems so strange to now equate indoor winter clothing with tank tops and shorts...

I hear you about the all the keys! It takes so long to navigate them! And truth be told -- we know people who were robbed as the criminals snuck up behind them after they'd opened the first door, then took the keys and let themselves into all the other doors! Ugh. Moscow!