Tag Archives: USA

Home, Bitter-Sweet Home

Today, I woke up to the sound of construction.  Having had the type of a day that nearly disparaged me with other people’s tests of my boundaries, being brought back to reality didn’t enthrall me much, as you can imagine.  I growled, tossed to the other side of my bed; yanked the alarm plug out of the wall (‘cause I don’t need that shit waking me up later); and on my feet that someone had to have pumped with lead while I was sleeping, I stumbled toward my bedroom window:

“Bloody F!” I shifted the blinds to examine the haps of my ‘hood.

A handful of short, brown men calling out to each other in a foreign language were repairing the roof of the little blue house next to mine.  Right underneath my top-story apartment, I could see them ripping that shit to pieces.  Unlike the men at one of those construction sites with heavy machinery and brutal metallic noises, these guys were tiny; and the sounds they emitted belonged to the old country:  a scraping of the shovel against the stripped wood, an arhythmic knocking of a hand-held hammer and the rainfall of nails hailing into a plastic bucket in the middle.  The shortest of the workers, wearing a safari hat, had been assigned the task of sweeping around with a giant broom with plastic bristles. That thing was thrice as tall!  And their leader — a gray-mustached man with an LAPD cap and a waterproof pouch with architectural drawings sticking out of it — looked out toward my building while smoking a pipe.

That fucking pipe rang a bell:  On my yesterday’s morning jog, while fumbling with the wires of my iPod, I nearly knocked him over.  He didn’t see me coming from behind, didn’t hear my mutters at the wires that would’ve annoyed me less had they belonged to a spider web into which I walked in, face first.

“Ooh…  Sorry…” I said, not really meaning it:  Who the fuck was he anyway and why wasn’t he paying attention?  I began to make my way around him.

“‘S okay, beauty,” the gray-mustached man calmly said after removing his smoking instrument from the thin lips that made him look like my father, “You can bump me anytime.”

Okay, may be NOT like my father, you naughty old player!  I laughed.  I do tend to forget that older folk still haven’t forgotten about sex, and that some of them may still be having it (yikes!).

So, it always tickles me to no end to watch these old guys flirt with me, with the swagger of their old days.  I bet they don’t sext the woman they like; and they know the etiquette of a phone call.  “Liking” a girl’s photograph on Facebook does not pass, for them, as an expression of desire.  And their stubborn commitment to getting doors and pulling out chairs; to taking over a woman’s grocery bags and never letting her whip out her money, no matter her protesting — all that throws me into a state of easy melancholy, readily available to my Russianness.

Yesterday, we left it at a laugh; but as I took off, I continued to smile and shake my head a few more times.  My jogging step suddenly got lighter.  I maneuvered my way around my neighborhood at the foot of a mountain; and considering LA-LA’s latest weather of the Bay-like blues — with its fogginess and unpredictable spurts of sunshine — it suddenly reminded me of my home:  A tiny village on a peninsula at the other end of the Pacific.  The old country.

A fresh cup of coffee would make the perfect finish to my start of the day, I decided, and detoured toward my neighborhood’s market.  Feeling the grogginess of the morning lift, giving room to the lightness of gratitude, I aimlessly walked through the fresh produce aisle.  A mount of magnificent red plums tempted me to pick-up a few and breathe them in.  I rubbed my fingers against a mint leaf and petted the shiny surfaces of eggplants; groped a few avocados.  Letting habit and the vague smell of coffee take me to my destination, I passed the fish counter.

“Hello, how are jew?” the manager said from behind his tempting, never frozen line-up of produce.

“Beauticious,” I answered and gave him my best American smile:  open and down with it.

Surprised by an alert response, the man’s brown face immediately stretched into an enthusiastic smile:  “Beauti-cious?”  I heard remnants of his Spanish accent.

“It’s like, ahem, beautiful and delicious at the same time,” I explained.  “Like those jumbo scallops of yours.”

“Oy!  Oy!” the man was already putting on his gloves.  “Would jew like to take a l’ook?”  (Definitely Spanish!)

Before I could switch from smiling to speaking (I’m still figuring out the dynamics of that whole American smiling, to tell you the truth), the old guy was already on my side of the counter, lifting its front cover.  (I didn’t even know it was built like that!)  A whiff of the sea hit my nose:  Ah, the old country.  HOME.  

The man began to gingerly pick-up the beauticious scallops and bounce them in his giant hands.

“Oy!  How ‘bout dis one?!”

“Gorgeous,” I said and rested my forearm on his shoulder.  “Beauticious!”

He chuckled:  My tender presence thrilled him. Perhaps, it reminded him of his own home:  Where men drink beer on outside patios and bluntly whistle at the lovely chicas strutting by; where time crawls and dictates the course of the day with its mood; where lunchtime can last until dinner and where every accidental drum beat can start an impromptu fiesta.

“What cha got there?”  The old guy said to me and starting staring at my breast.

I looked down:  A neon-orange sticker that used to belong to the mount of avocados, sat in the vicinity of my nipple and read:

“RIPE READY TO EAT”.

The man sized me up:  Was he about to get in trouble?  But when I thumped my forehead against his chest and lost my composure entirely, wiping away the tears that ready flooded my tired eyes, he too began to holler with his chesty laughter.

“Oy!  Oy!” he was still holding those scallops in this giant, brown hands and throwing his head back.  He would’ve touched me — it felt like he wanted to — but his American training had taught him about boundaries.

Still:  It was suddenly all so easy; so light.  Beauticious and grateful.

“Yep,” I thought:

It’s time to go home.  The old country.

Man vs. World

“Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone.

It’s not warm when he’s away…”

Fuck.  THAT.  Shit.

First of all, it’s the bloody desert out there today!  Look at it.  The sun has swept off the last of yesterday’s clouds to return the sky to that dreamy blue I had seen only on this coast; and give it a couple of hours, I’ll be basking in it, naked.  (Ah, but I ain’t telling you where:  It’s my secret spot.)Secondly, since his departure, my own comrades and beloved hearts — and all of my small world’s children — have swooped in, dusted me off (for I have not only bit the dust in this fall — I fuckin’ made a meal of it!) and have been taking turns serving me cups of hot tea to melt away my midnight shivers.

“You’re a’right,” they tell me.  They always tell me, never ask.  Not that they’re ever surprised by my strength or resilience; or my refusal to lead an ordinary life.

“It’s not becoming — for a woman like you!” one of my comrades commented on my tears the other day, in his laconic, Tony Soprano-esque way.  (SHIT.  Can’t an Amazon get a break?!  Nyet, apparently.)

“Always an inspiration,” uttered my East Coast angel before departing from me after this weekend’s visit.  She herself is far from shabby when it comes to the quality of her sought life; and soon enough, she’ll return that inspiration with a single postcard from some exotic coast with gorgeous brown people and white sand.  Not too shabby.

In my blunt Russian-ness, I must admit:  I am not really the pining type.  Nyet, I definitely don’t pine much.  So, okay, I’ll mourn the loss of a love while rummaging through my bookshelves for like-minded words.  I may even dwell in nostalgia a bit.  But even that — is more of a Russian thing:  I’m just another Olga, wanting to get to Moscow.  (Chekhov, comrades!  Check that Chekhov:  He knew a thing or two about humanity.)

Perhaps, being an only child had something to do with it:  for as long as the memory of my young self spans, I was always perfectly self-sufficient and often in preference for my solitude.  Considering my parents’ occupations (father was an officer, mother — a social butterfly), they left me to my own devices quite often and willingly.  And if ever one of them wanted to go parental on my ass and demonstrate how to do something, in response, they got my very assertive:

“MYSELF.”

According to motha, it was the first word I learned, and obviously — it was my favorite.  Yep:  While other infants were taking the easier, more natural to their tongues routes and learning to call out for their parents, I was already self-asserting.  To make this tale of V’s childhood even more poignant, I spoke of “MYSELF” in its masculine conjugation.  (Unlike in the English language, in Russian one must conjugate every word in a sentence; which makes our tongue quite difficult to navigate.  Try navigating Moscow, for Lenin’s sake:  Nothing we do is easy!)

When it came to my early life romances, I was a late bloomer.  Always a bookworm, in all honesty, I found the characters in my novels much more interesting than boys.  Between that and the adventures promised to me at the time by the Communist Party, the world appeared to be more tempting of an adventure than another single human being.  Here, I wonder if my men ever even had a chance, considering they had to compete with the entire planet.  But when my first Russian boyfriend announced he was interested “in seeing other people”, a month later, I won a full scholarship for my pre-collegiate studies in the United States.  He had other people to see — I had other places to be.  (I hear he lives in a hamlet now, married to a milkmaid and working for the “collective farm”.  Mazel tov, darlin’.)

In the history of my womanhood, I’ve treated every break-up as an opportunity to grow.  It’s kind of the way it flows in Motha Nature, don’t you think, my comrades?  When something old expires, it makes room for something — or someone — new.  And the more I live — the more losses I suffer — the quicker that interchange happens.

It’s as if I’ve become more connected to my own intuition; and I’m able to hear the voices off all other opportunities the world has to offer, no matter how loud the moaning of my ego and heart may be.  So, during this currently happening ache, there is a somewhat habitual thrill about everything new — everything yet unknown and unforeseen, yet somehow anticipated.  I may not know what this new shift is going to bring, but I suspect:  It’s going to be magnificent.

Because it has been, my beloveds, all along; every time until now.  Every departed lover was replaced by someone wonderful and better suitable for me.  Every old occupation gave room to sometimes humbling opportunities.  And the only part that I am obliged to play at this time of loss is to respectfully behold for my departed beloved — to wish him well, for the sake of my own grace — then, to grant MYSELF the time and space to heal; because give it half a phase — and that space will be flooded with the world.

And to quote my favorite sister Olga:

“Oh, dear sisters, our life is not ended yet.  We shall live!  The music is so happy, so joyful, and it seems as though in a little while we shall know what we are living for, why we are suffering.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some naked basking to do.

Love yous.  All of yous.  (And who said I couldn’t conjugate English pronouns?  I just did!  MYSELF.)

Single White She-Male

Ladies!

Let this wild cat on her eighth life tell you how it is:  A successful relationship is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Take my word for it.  For most of us, our lives haven’t been ravaged by war or incurable disease or poverty.  We aren’t oppressed on the daily basis into a category of borderline servants in a male-dominated culture.  We are free to choose the cities of our residence, the degrees on our diplomas and the length of our hair.  So, if you happened to live in the First World Country — such as this ever-so-fascinating experiment of the U.S. of A. — that allows for enough leisure time to entertain the concept of CHOICE, you’ve got yourself a complicated task on your hands.

CHOICE. My favorite word.  Ever!  Maybe it’s because in the country of my origin — my badass Motha’ Russia — I wasn’t granted too many of choices.  Or perhaps, the hellholes of my previous six lives have prevented me from making “love” my favorite word.  But to me, a choice is the highest privilege a free man and woman can have; and if it’s been granted to you by birth — well, then:  You’re one lucky mother fucker!  No, wait.  I spoke too soon.  Now that I’ve finally advanced my station in life beyond survival of a mere immigrant, I am starting to understand that one’s right to choose comes with a responsibility.

The very purpose of my humble existence, I believe, is too collect the stories of humanity — and then, retell them; and my favorite subjects — are the magnificent creatures of my own gender.  So, as one of those coolest Amazons I’ve adopted for a sister has once told me:

“It is our responsibility — to live a good life.”

She herself was born into a culture in which women better fit into a category of things.  Having been thrown around enough by her family, she got her wits together at a criminally young age (for, I believe, NO child should inherit the suffering of his or her parents!) — and she fled.  On the coast of her new and democratic country, she spent decades molding herself into an independent, powerful woman with an income that beats most men’s, allows her to explore the world and grants her access to every possible opportunity that arouses her curiosity.  Bare-handedly, she wrangled with her — ah, here’s that word again! — choices of partners, and to this day, has refused to settle for (drumroll, ladies!) less than what she deserves.

Say, you’ve finally found “The One.”  (I cringe here a little, my lovely ladies, because I would be so very, very, very careful with granting that title to anyone other than your self.  There is no more crucial relationship in life than THE one you have — with YOU! And if you haven’t invested in that honest and intimate and most important love of your life, then you will neither be a happy partner nor make a partner happy.)

So, back to “The One.”  You’ve done the legwork and the self-examination.  You’ve explored your choices.  You’ve suffered enough in bad match-ups to live up to your better expectations; and here you are:  coupled up with a partner that suits you best.  You’re done!  You’re on the threshold of your Happily Ever After.  Hallelujah!  Right?

Nyet!

I must break it to you, ladies, but the tale of your Happily Ever After will demand continuous commitment and work.  Here is my beef with fairytales:  After an epic search for love by their heroines, these tales we’ve lapped up as little girls cut-off abruptly once the match-up finally happens.  No one tells us about how Cinderella deals with moving into the Prince Charming’s bachelor pad and handles his messy living habits.  Or whether or not the Pea Princess welcomes all the other hard things her man presents in bed due to his insatiable sexual appetite.  Does Snow White agree to her in-laws’ demands to change her last name; and is her Prince chill with her having a multitude of male friends?  When Rapunzel pops out her babies, gets a job and decides to cut off her hair, how does that sit with her lover; and how do they get past the negotiation?  See what I mean, ladies?  The questions, the work, the communication and the diplomacy required for a successful relationship — are never-ending.

So, I wish you courage in pursuit of your fairytales, the gorgeous sisters of my gender; because courage is exactly what it takes to remain in love with yourself, another person, or this whole living deal. May you stay curious, continue changing and may your partner have the balls to keep up.  But here is my most crucial spiel:  Pah-lease, remain authentic to yourself in your own story writing. Don’t follow other women’s choices, especially if those choices haven’t been examined, but predetermined by fear, laziness or the majority’s dogma.  If you are lucky enough to have choices — don’t take them for granted. You are free to write your own fucking fairytales, my Amazons; and besides that being a privilege — it is your bloody responsibility to do so.


My Russian Badass

As any immigrant, I suffer from a dual personality.  Actually, I’m a bit of a special head case and the list of my personalities seems as endless as the line to Moscow’s first McD’s back on the verge of Russia’s democratic regime; but if you’re one of those purebred Americans (do those even exist?), you should know that in the head of any emigre reigns a border-line schizophrenia.  I’m kinda like that Nina chick from Chekhov’s Seagull:

“I’m a seagull — I’m an actress.  No, I’m a seagull!  Nyet:  an actress!”

In my head’s case, the endless tug o’ war is on the topic of my identity.  When it comes to the tales of V as a child — she is a Russian little bugger; and those memories and dreams happen in a whole different language.  But as a woman, I’ve built my history here, in the U.S. of A.  My first love, my first sexual partner, the first heartbreak, the first loss of a loved one — all happened here.  So, when it comes to my consciousness as a lover, I doth speak English.  In other words, when things get hot ‘n‘ heavy between me and my boos, my tongue communicates in the language I’ve adopted by choice.

So, the hardest question from an American that I can ever answer (besides:  “Do you guys have TV’s over there?”) is this MoFo:

“Which country do you prefer?”

Fuck me!  That’s the hardest toss-up ever.

There is no pride stronger — or devotion more realized — than the one an immigrant feels toward his or her chosen country; especially if the country they’ve left behind gave them some tough lovin’ back in the day.  Some of my fellow ex-patriots, for instance, react to Motha’ Russia’s name with dry heaves:  So impossible is their forgiveness! But seemingly, I’ve finally reached the very delicate balance of being able to not only fully participate in my American life, but to cash-in on my Russian-ness.  By that I mean that, for the very first time since I’ve switched continents, I am able to speak of Russia with forgiveness and admiration.  Now, I am not blind to the irony that out of all the choices of my potential homelands, I had to go choose the largest mother fucker after Motha’ Russia; so that I could continue my gypsy bounce without having to switch visas.  Also, I don’t need the help of my shrink to point out the element of rebellion in the Soviet child’s selection of the country her father spent his entire life opposing.  (Papa was a Soviet Army officer.  ‘Nough said.)

When I encounter my fellow Russians on this fast American land of mine, I gotta say:  They are kinda badass! I now reside in a close proximity to the Soviet Emigre Central, otherwise known as West Hollywood — still the most liberal ‘hood you can find yourself in LA-LA Land, in my opinion.  So, I tend to run into a few of my former country’s comrades.  Yes, I’ve seen the type of the middle-aged, purple-haired woman who looks at you as if premeditating ways she can kill you.  I’ve passed the line-ups of male retirees playing dominos on park benches — all unanimously wearing tracksuits — while they maintain their stoic silence despite the shortness of my dress.  In Hollywood clubs, I’ve picked-out the cluster of young Russian males, in black leather jackets, telegraphing their attraction to me with no more than an eyebrow raise.  But those types are usually guarding a handful of decked-out, made-up, pretty and very expensive Russian girls with demands of such high maintenance, you’d think they’ve never lived through deficits of toilet paper or winter-long power and water outages.  (See my rant about dem Russian girls:  https://fromrussianwithlove.wordpress.com/2011/02/16/from-russia-with-love-very-very-expensive-love.  So, yep:  I usually stay away from those.)

Recently, I’ve even encountered a couple of Russian business types.  By “business,” I don’t mean they handle those jobs that a real-life Tony Soprano would be helpless to do himself.  Here, I am actually speaking of Russians who are in pursuit of some honest livin‘ — and some American dollars.  (Although, if a Russian “businessman” ever threatens to kill you — I recommend to just take his word for it:  It’s just safer that way.)

From this year’s encounters, I began to wonder about the source of my pride I feel toward the better-equipped, better-integrated generation of Russian movers ‘n’ shakers in the midst of their American professional careers.  First of — and most importantly! — these types are always well-educated.  Even if most of their college life unfolded in this country, my dear ex-patriots maintain a very high standard of learning.  There is no such thing in Russia’s educational system as “an elective subject,” you see, my comrades:  You bust yo’ ass and pretend to enjoy soaking-up every science, every art and every humanity.  So, it’s been my experience, that usually, my peeps know what they’re talking about.  The second reason for my pride for my fellow ex-patriots has been better articulated by the previously mentioned Boss Soprano:

“You Russians, you got all the angles.  You come over here, you bust your ass.”  He did manage to get himself some Russian ass at the end of this pep talk, but still:  Russian emigres are some of the hardest working people I know.

And then:  there is the cultural heritage.  I’m not just talking about the again mandatory exposure to the richness of Motha’ Russia’s arts.  I mean:  The national strength that originates from one’s ability to bear and persevere. As we all know, Motha’ Russia has got herself a long and tumultuous history.  Oh how inventive She’s been in the ways to make her children suffer!  Famine, political unrest, centuries of oppression and dictatorships; wars and invasions; inflations and poverty; exile and holocaust — She’s got it all!  (She sounds like a lovely place to visit, doesn’t She?!)  And still, the people of my old country refuse to settle down.  No matter the forever-looming danger of persecution, they insist on practicing their right to an opinion and the pursuit of change. (Here is a tale of one recent Russian whistle-blower:  http://soviet-awards.com/digest/pavlichenko/pavlichenko1.htm.  And I thought, my blog was controversial!)

“Now is the winter of our discontent,” the bard once sang.  Considering the length of those damn Russian winters, the unrest of my former people seems never endless.  But just as my own Russian motha’ prefers to love me from afar, something tells me it is better to practice my affection for my former land from a distance as well.  And still, whether they choose to suffer back home or excel in their pursuits on the American land, I have to hand it to my Russian comrades:  May your stubborn courage and high expectations of your Motha’ country finally deliver a summer of rest and prosperity.