I’m staying sane between school and work by planning our vacation to Italy. One of the cities we’re staying in is Rome. But, Mr. B’s already been to Rome and I’ve seen it so many times on tv I might as well have been there, so I was looking for some place really special to stay and have an “authentic” Roman experience, as the white people say.
Photo from here.
Every Saturday, 1:12 PM, every Uzbek-style restaurant in any city in America.
—Oh, Ludochka! That was such a great meal. I’m licking my fingers!
—I know! Wasn’t it, Verka? Those shashliki. That kartoshka! Mmm. *reaches for the last of the plov* This place is the best. Now what were you saying about your son? He’s done with pharmacy school, right?
— Yes, Mishka just graduated, but he decided he doesn’t want to be a pharmacist! Can you imagine! After $100,000 of our blood, sweat and tears, he decides he doesn’t want to be a pharmacist! He quit after his first week! He could have told us that before we made him take the exam. And now what girl is going to look at him? It’s not stable!
— What a horror. What a horror. (Uzhas, uzhas.) Remember when he was small and you stayed up with him all night when he had a fever? So many nights spent…and this is what you get back! What an ungrateful swine. So what’s he going to do now??
— Oh, God only knows. Ludochka, don’t even talk to me about it. My nerves are all destroyed. *takes a strong sip of tea* How’s your Dashenka?
—Oh, she’s not bad. Not so great, either. You know that art history major I told her not to get? Well, she’s going for it, anyway. What is she going to do with an art history major? She’s going to be an art expert right back in her old high-school bedroom, that’s what. Ten years. TEN YEARS I’ve slaved away at this job as a programmer so she can have a good college education. Her father and I came with nothing. WITH NOTHING. All for her. And how does she repay me? Wit this! This art history.
—Be strong, Lud’ka. Be strong. Maybe if we have them marry each other, they can live in one of our houses and be ungrateful swine together. *nibbles on the last of the bread*
*waitress comes with the check*
*waitress puts check down on table* *both women look at it like wolves look at prey* *waitress leaves*
—Oh yes, I believe we are. *gets out credit card*
—Verka, what are you doing? *also gets out credit card*
—I’m paying for lunch, Luda! And I don’t want to hear another word about it!
—Verka, no. There’s no way you’re paying for lunch. You have a whole family on your shoulders again, you have Mishka to worry about, let me do this one thing for you.
—Luda, no. I’m perfectly capable for paying for myself, and that’s it. *grabs check* Besides, you brought the wine. That’s it-Vsyo!
—Vera, no. Listen to me. Remember how last time you paid? Now I owe you. That’s it. No arguments. *grabs check and starts to look at it* Vsyo!
—Lud’, nu come on. Don’t hooligan. *hits her lightly on the hand* Let me just pay for this, you can pay for the tip.
—Vera, don’t even talk about it. Look at how you’re acting. A grown woman. I’m paying for lunch. *puts credit card in check holder*
—Luda, you are impossible. *takes credit card out, slams it on the table, puts her credit card in* I am PAYING for your lunch, and that’s it.
—*takes check, takes credit card out, and pays entirely in cash* If you want, you can leave the tip. I’m paying, and that’s final. I don’t even want to hear another word about it. Vsyo.
*waitress comes by* Are you ready?
*Luda hands her the check, smiling* Yes, we are
*Vera is deflated*
—Ok, but I’m paying for the tip, and that’s it. Look at how you behave. Embarrassing! You won’t even let a friend enjoy her meal. Next time, I’ll pay. And I’ll bring Misha.
—And I’ll bring Dasha.
So, the other week, Mr. B and I were trolling around in the local Russian bookstore. It’s actually very cute because it’s called “Knizhnik,” which loosely translates to “Booker,” from the word for book, knizhka. It’s named after the owner, whose last name IS actually Knizhnik. With a last name like that, I can only imagine you’re destined either for book store ownership or tax evasion.
Anyway, none of that was relevant to the picture I’m about to show you. Brace yourselves.
This book is titled “Magical Riddles,” but the only riddle I have is why the hell the wolf on the cover of a book targeting the 3-7 age group is dressed like Tupac Shakur? With his own bling, which reads “волк ” or wolf in Russian.
When I first Tweeted this picture on Instagram, a couple of Concerned Citizens pointed out that, even in English, it looked like the wolf was up to no good:
I have no explanation for this cover illustration and why it’s appropriating American gangsta rap culture.
Are Russians hoping to corner the hip-hop marketing segment of children’s literature? Do they think the wolf (W-Dawg) appeals to those 4-year old toddler girls who are dreaming of someone sexy and dangerous, yet safe, to escort them to Grandmother’s house? (Yes, that is little Red Riding Hood, but in Russian she’s Little Red Riding Cap, because, you know, communists)
More importantly, if the wolf can afford bling, why can’t he afford a nice pair of Prada pants without patches, like Kanye? Is it because the illustrator is trying to show that, while daddy has a Boomer and a 14-k gold nameplate he’s still relatable to the proletariat?
We many never know.
But while you’re puzzling over that, there’s another Russian children’s series I’d like you to check out. It’s called Tanya Grotter and it has no resemblance at all to anything in English-speaking culture whatsoever.
This pacticular book is called “Tanya Grotter and the Hammer of Perun,” Perun being the Slavic pagan deity of fire, mountains, and plagiarism.
I can just imagine a marketing meeting where the publishers of these books got together.
“We can’t. Now that everyone has the Internet, Russian culture is boring. America, America, America, they all want.”
“So what are we going to do?”
“We will plagiarize and appropriate everything, by God.”
“ALL of American and Anglophone culture?”
“Yes, all of it.”
“But it’s so overwhelming! Where do we start?”
“How about you draw a Hip Hop wolf, and we’ll go from there?”
“But even if we develop a hip hop culture, we don’t have the ‘hood. How do we rap without a ‘hood to objectify?”
“Are you looking around you? You have a whole country full of rusting post-Soviet machinery that hasn’t been maintained in over 40 years just waiting to give you tetanus, and you’re complaining that we don’t have a ‘hood? Get back to drawing that wolf, bratan.”
I am looking for someone to give our house a good spring cleaning. Here’s a before shot:
Don’t get me wrong, Mr. B and I spend around hours every week cleaning our house. But as soon as it’s clean on Sundays, it magically starts to become dirty again, and thus the cycle restarts. We also haven’t deep-cleaned for months, meaning there are some corners where it’s possible the fifth dimension exists amongs the lush vegetation and spider webs. Our domovoi is probably angry.
When you add the fact that right now my MBA and the ebook have top after-work priority, and for Mr. B is working on two online classes, you get something extremely terrifying.
So, Mr. B and I are trying to hire someone to take care of it in a deep spring cleaning. The problem is that we are afraid of Russian cleaning ladies and even more afraid to hire an American one that we don’t know.
This is how our conversation about it went the other day.
Me: Maybe we should hire someone Russian? Don’t you know some family members that have cleaning ladies?
Mr. B: *pointed look* Yes, but do you really want that?
Me: What do you mean?
Mr. B: Cause they’re going to come by and sooner or later it’ll get back to us. “Oh, Vicki and Mr. B? THAT Vicki and Mr. B? Yeah, my aunt’s sister’s cousin’s brother’s niece cleaned their house last week, and let me tell you all about it.
Me: Good point.
Mr. B: Do you really want some Russian women you don’t know telling the Russian women you do know what’s inside of your house and what a disgrace it is?
Mr. B: *mimics older Russian woman in Russian* Oh, Zoyachka. Those young people, the way they live-I disapprove of everything. And let me tell you all about it.
So, we are still looking for a house cleaner. Preferably one that won’t murder us, or gossip about us. Although at this point, I don’t know which is worse.
If you’ve ever been to a Russian house, you know what I’m talking about. The tea set comes out, the fruits and nuts come out, and out comes the Ferrero Rocher.
Ferrero Rocher is the currency of Russian households. We received at least three Ferrero Rocher gift boxes this holiday season, and gave out at least two. What is it about this candy that makes it the Mercedes of the Russian community? Is it because it’s just expensive enough ($9.99 per box) to say, “I care and here’s something for your house so we don’t come empty-handed”, but not big enough of a commitment as wine? Is it because we love Italians?
I mean, for me, personally, it’s because it has Nutella in it (which I actually didn’t know until recently), and also because it reminds me of every Russian dinner gathering I’ve ever had to sit through in my childhood.
But back in the day, in the salad days of immigration, you only bought Ferrero Rocher for other people if you were a baller. So maybe the brand recognition has stuck.