Tag Archives: USSR

That Goes Without Saying

(Continued from February 12th, 2012.)

The fact that I had lived to tell the tale, to play the endless hide-and-seek with my fam’s myths — defeating them or playing the fool to their call — my murder obviously did not materialize.  And neither did my mother’s old man finish off his wrathful deed in that ill-fated, loaded moment, in their shared past.  They both eventually calmed down:  the old man of stubborn dignity and his very proud daughter whom he himself had raised to never — EVER! — grovel.

Although that child would milk the incident until the man apologized, then, backed it up with some expensive gifts:  a coupla golden objects and some vinyl records by four pretty boys from England, whose bangs of ponies and cherubic cheeks sped up the sexual maturity of most of the world’s teenagers.  Considering the rarity of vinyl back in the U.S. of S.R., those might as well have been made out of gold.  The records could be found ONLY on the black market.  Illegal gold!  Now, THAT’s the stuff worthy of that woman’s beauty!  The gifts from my own father, who had been mortified to have his woman flee like that — with no shame or underwear — were also pouring into my mother’s pretty hands.  After about a week of pouting, she would resume her residence upon the marital bed, but would impose the punishment of her absence every weekend; then, go off to play house back at her parents’ joint.  (Whatever made her think, however, that that was a punishment still testifies to her very high and never wavering opinion of herself.  Because, you see, it was, if not the myth of our women, then certainly some centuries-old wisdom:  That any woman willing to put out on a regular basis was a catch, of course.  But those broads that looked like mother and had some skills behind the bedroom doors (or so I’ve heard) — were copyrighting a category of their own.)

My shrink, whom I would hire in the beginning of my own sex life…

What?  Are you surprised a chick like me would need professional assistance?  It could’ve been the wisdom from beyond my predecessors’ graves — some intuition that, as I was most certain, had always lived in my fallopian tubes — but I would ask for help when I discovered the power of our women’s sex.  It happened via a curious case that struck me in my sophomore year:  A night of my first Romeo’s serenading under the windows of my college dorm, which then resulted in a serious dose of hatred on behalf of all the other females in the building.  When after that one sleepless night, half of my Medieval Lit class failed to show — and our drained by life professor went literal and Medieval on our asses — I quickly knew that I could never bear the responsibility OR the amount of guilt that I began attaching to the act of sex.  So, quite A-SAP, I located my shrink, off-campus.  (All I had done, in my defense, was let my Romeo feast upon my breasts which I never bound with a bra.  Not back in those days.  Or, actually, not ever.  They weren’t obnoxious glories of my mother’s, by any means:  Her hemispheres that guided men to heaven.  Mine were just little handful reproductions.  With Romeo, it was the stuff of innocence, I swear.  A little shadow fuck of that dark force that was behind the family’s myth.)

So, anyway.  My shrink, whom I would hire in the beginning of my sex life, would over the course of my last two years in college break down the driving mechanisms of mother’s psyche:  She strived on endless guilt trips.  If one bestowed a love upon her, in mother’s eyes, they were forever indebted for the sole pleasure of her company.  So, only when one was NOT in trouble — was when one was advised to worry about unrequited love.  Love.  Equalled.  Suffering.  That’s a direct quote from my mother’s Bible.

“But little daughter.  Love of my life.  My sun and earth and all the stars above,”  was singing my grandmother, gray haired fully by the age of forty.  Every week, she would pamper her child in the fam’s private bath house — called “banya” in the mother-tongue — which even in Russian stood for:  “Those bathers are bourgeois pigs and we shall gut them in our next Revolution!”  Such luxury did not naturally run in our fam.  So, there had to be a story about it!  (Oh, but of course:  Another fucking myth!)  And that story went:  When my young grandfather, smitten by his girl, suggested they should marry, she arched her impeccable eyebrows at him and said:  “I do not want a stupid wedding band:  It gives me blisters.  You build me a house with a banya — and we shall talk.”  The chick, who had been showered with men’s vows of their eternal love since, say, the age of six — was doomed to learn the fragile nature of men’s word.  She would have learned negotiating her way through life; and then, behind the closed doors of that same banya, she’d pass her wisdom to her equally gorgeous female child.)

Now, scrubbing each other’s bods with soap suds, then whipping themselves raw with soaked birch branches every weekend, the women bonded.  Some girls grew up admiring the carriers of wombs that birthed them.  (Case in point:  Yours painfully, sincerely.)  My mother never suffered through that stage, however, as a youngster:  From birth she was immediately gaga over papa (but also anything that walked and was preferably male).  Sex was a mere currency.  But since she was NOT about to become a village ho, the young woman quickly learned the suave negotiation — via her stick and honey pot — that could’ve made Edith Wharton herself flip up her elegant white arms in awe and in surrender.  But this recent mishap back in the home of her marriage took our pretty woman for a spin.  And she, spun out, began to seek advice (or rather, pity) from the one woman who’d learned to love her unconditionally, despite the distance the young woman maintained between them, most of their lives.

“This, too, shall pass,” the wise woman was now cooing.  She was beside herself.  After years and years of desiring this closeness with her child, she was on the receiving end of it — FINALLY!

But her advice expired right in that same bathhouse, its hopeful body asphyxiating and curling up under the wooden bench for the young woman to step over — and move on.  This purely Russian, innate resignation of the soul — the forced surrender because otherwise things would never, ever change — was not an outlook my mother practiced much.  She hated Chekhov, walked out of women’s conversations about “That’s just the way things are!”  She never tipped a shot of Stoli to someone’s fatalistic toast; and even as a child, her parents’ “Just because!” was not an acceptable answer to her three-year-old’s “Why’s”.

Everything in life could be negotiated, which to a First World Reader would seem quite reasonable of an expectation.  But we’re talking:  The Soviet Union in the 60s.  So, our young lady had better had a plan!

 

Naturally, something would come out of that incidental female bonding (which, with all due respect to my own gender, could amount to nothing good).  After one night of bathing away her heartache and stress, haloed with a cloud of steam, my mother stepped out into the world, all squeaky clean and suddenly light; her calculating mind — refreshed.

She had an idea!  Hallelujah, a plan!  And it was inspired by the old woman’s promise:

“Your dad and I could always care for your baby, if the going got rough.  And you can always leave her with us.”

My mother’s beautiful face, now red and swollen from the admirably well-timed tears, stopped shedding water for a minute.  She swiped her eyelids with the backs of her soft wrists and muttered through the bubbly saliva inside her rosy mouth:  “How do you know it’s a ‘her’?”

The old woman smiled and raised her hand to brush her daughter’s hair, cut short in yet another recent act of resentment toward her wedding vows.  But from that point on, according to the young woman, the going got so “rough”, it would be border-line of questionable safety for her or her offspring.  As much as a question from mother’s husband about, say, the length of her skirt or the color of her nails — and she would throw a fit.  I mean, seriously:  “Could you pass the salt, please?” at a dinner table she sometimes treated as a scathing comment about her cooking.

“What happened to the man I married?!” she flailed.  It’s true:  The chick was starting to feel jipped.

Oh, that poor girl!  She still could not accept that, in the world, there never again would be a love that equaled that of her old folks!  That’s how the human race had worked for centuries:  “Just because.”  So, off she’d go again:  Storming out of the kitchen and locking her man out of the bedroom.  Or marching through the unpaved roads on her two legs of fury, yet again.  I, by then pushed out of her womb, would roll and bounce inside the baby carriage that mother pushed through mud, dried mounts of cow dung and ulcerous ditches.  Like an unready kernel of un-popped popcorn, I thumped against the cardboard walls and bottom of the Soviet-made transporter of our future generation.  And by the time we reached my grandpeep’s home, I’d been exhausted, bruised and ready for surrender.

“What did he do — again?” too readily, my grandmother leapt out of her house and onto the porch.  And for a while, my mother would think up some fiction, exaggerating the events of her home, for an effect.

Be it out of some male camaraderie, or simply out of his adoration of me (or did he simply want to rescue me from being accidentally brainwashed by these two women?), my grandfather avoided their dissing sessions at all costs.  Instead, he’d take care of some dirty business inside my homemade diaper and carry me off onto the couch where he had been dozing off after his graveyard shift at the local port.  Or he would take me out for a walk — a bundle cradled in the hammock of his left arm, while he continued smoking with his right — and he would meet his buddies for a glass of foaming beer, at sunset, in the park.

If I remained awake, “Hey there, lavender eyes!” he’d wink at me, occasionally, and flick my button nose while balancing a cig between his lips.  To my unknowing eyes, it must’ve looked like a magnificent firefly.  Some hopeful planet that formerly belonged to the Little Prince.  The North Star that paved the roads of my future paths with flickering, yet never dying, light.

Mother of Myth!

From what was told of my mother, back in the old country, there had never been — and considering that she would immigrate her fine ass to the U.S. of A. later on, in life — never again will be a beauty of equal proportions.  Now, okay!  I get it!  Being the first prototype of a woman I had been born to emulate, I was supposed to be in love with her.  (In certain years, though, my affection would seem to border on affection of lesbian proportions.  I adored my mother, wanted to be — not as much as like her — but with her.  A female version of the Oedipal complex.)

And, of course, considering the passageway that we, children, take in order to encounter this world — god bless it for being so bloody beautiful! — I knew my mother, from her very insides.  There is no stronger bond, they say.  But I must’ve studied up the woman’s inners pretty well; because my own tiny fist would carry on clasping the genetic bouquet — of her generosities and neuroses alike — from the time it was the size of a shriveled potato and until the future days of my own aged self, when my fist would shrivel up again.

While taking residence under my mother’s lungs, I swore I felt her heart’s rhythm go berserk when she discovered a letter from her in-laws about what they had really, REALLY thought of her:  “A girl so dark and pigheaded!  What is she, anyway:  Some gypsy’s bastard?”  According to the myth, that letter included a few racial slurs at my expense, too.  (Way to go, pops’ peeps!)  So, mother — lost her shit.

She always stood no more than five feet from the ground, but don’t be fooled by the compactness of her being:  Her rage had super-human powers!  Upon discovering the letter while doing her husband’s laundry, so blinded became her vision, so overwhelming the heartbeat, she had stormed out of the flat we’d been assigned by the Soviet Army headquarters; and she marched — on her now increasingly fattened from water retention ankles — back to her own parents’ house.  Fury on two points of contact with the Earth!  A few kilometers stretched between her marital base and the house of her girlhood, but this babe refused to hitch a ride from a parade of old Volgas catching up with her, along the route.

(Although six months pregnant, the woman was still a total babe.  And even more so, considering that now her breasts and hips had been gearing up for my arrival.  My mother’s assage was always worthy of anyone’s obsession:  Hence, my own Oedipal Complex.  But the two perfect hemispheres of her breasts I would not witness in real life again until, by then on the American continent, I would discover the new ideal of a woman:  in Playboy ads.

But then again, it’s not like Motha Russia was ever ill-equipped at building the female form.  Perhaps, the starchy diet of the natives was to blame for it — we threw potatoes into everything!  Then, slathered sour cream on top!  For centuries, the Russian broads were always famed for their bodywork.

For instance, how does that one poem go:  “She’ll stop a horse in full stride / Walk into a burning house”?  So, that dude knew a thing or two about them, Russian women.  And understandably, he sounded like a doomed man, nyet?)

“Hey, black-haired beauty!  You wanna ride?” the silly players rolled up behind my mother’s glorious hips that, underneath her nearly transparent house dress, swayed like a pair of brand new church bells.  Angelic stuff, I tell you!

They were the men about town in those days of the U.S. of S.R.  I mean, a man with a Volga!  What woman wouldn’t dream of one?!  But the danger of finding themselves decapitated by my mother’s fierce tongue — without the help of any anesthesia, because, in wrath, the woman rejected all her manners — made itself clear with the single sideways askance glance she granted them.  Medusa, had she been non-mythical, would find herself taking lessons from this sister!  To turn all men to stone!  To entertain some wicked fashion of wearing a snakes’ nest on her crown.  The message got transmitted to the players with no static, and they kept their rolling by.

Oh, how mother was determined!  (I’ve seen some mad women in my life.  But if the rage that boils my own blood at times is just a mere taste of what it’s like to be inside my mother’s being — I do pity the poor fools standing in her way!  Oh, do I ever pity them!)

Young mother watched the coffin of a Soviet bus roll past her, too.  That thing had zero to no chance of making it over the next ditch on the road anyway; and if my mother mounted it, she knew that she would have to simmer down when someone offered her a seat.  And that conflicted with her personal religion, which ruled:  Revenge was better served at scorching temperatures.  

So, mother kept on fuming.  She waved off the driver’s curious linger and kept on marching.  The Soviet coffin passed, and the exhaust fumes ventilated that clammy spot that, in the heat, forms where women’s thighs collide into each other.  My mother realized she had stormed out of the house while wearing no underwear.  What outrage — What scandal! — it would’ve been on any other day, but that one.

Now, mother’s family was never one to practice any organized religion.  They seemed to care for no church and for no party.  But hallelujah!  There was soul!  And the only thing that seemed to arouse my predecessors’ souls to erection — was myths.  Historical accidents of magic.  They swore by them:  Some cats in my family said they saw the ghosts of the old guys at those crucial points when a mortal needed a little guidance by the hand of god.  There was, for instance, one old cracker who claimed the spirit of his drowned baby sister awoke him from sleep and got him out of his house, just mere minutes before the black Chaikas of Stalin’s secret police parked outside his gate.  The women claimed that they would see their dead mothers, on first nights of their marital copulation; or during childbirth.  If I were to believe all that, I’d say I had been born into one of the most resilient clans whose offspring liked to fuck around with the supernatural.  Or, it could be that, after centuries of oppression, we all began to lose our marbles.  Collectively.

You call it what you will, but there it was:  contributing to my family’s survival and the unheard of strength of our women.  And now, it was carrying my mother — albeit commando — through the dusty, roadless suburbs of Eastern Motha Russia, on an Indian Summer’s eve.

“You see, the things that man makes me do?!” the chick was growling at me.

Or maybe, she was chanting at her absent-minded gods who had allowed for her suffering of being overshadowed by this other woman in her man’s life.  It’s bad enough that in three  months, she’d have to give over the spotlight to me, whoever the fuck I thought I was?!  (Back in the days, there was no ultrasound to assist Soviet women in their burdens of motherhood.  With my gender underdetermined, mom wasn’t sure if I would be born to worship her in my male form; or if she would find her greatest competitor, if I were born a girl.  My gender was up for grabs in the elders’ prayers, too.  The old women scrunched their constipated faces over glass jars of holy water.  The wise guys shrugged.  Apparently, with all those ghost stories, no spirit bothered to show up and shine the light on my future gender.  My mother, though, could truly care less; for motherhood was sort of “thrust upon her”.)  So, yes:  It was already bad enough that this fine broad was only around the corner from surrendering her currently unconditional, undivided reign.  To add to the damage, the suddenly obvious conservative culture of the natives reared its head, and this recently wedlock-ed woman realized that:  She would ALWAYS take secondary loving from her man.  That’s just the tragedy of women.  And in my own womanhood I’d learned:  No woman had the guts, nor the consciousness, nor the strength to beat her mother-in-law in a competition for the love of that one man-in-question.  No woman — but my mother.

So, what possibly could she be scheming in that moment?  Well, if I was getting the newsfeed from her heartbeat correctly:  My mom — was up to murder.

“You’re getting a what?!” I heard my grandfather’s voice as if I were submerged under a pool of bloody water.  Oh, wait.  I was.

My mother’s voice, in response, cut up the air like shards of hail.  She sounded cold.  Ice cold.  She wore that tone well:

“Abort.”  (Here is your first crash course in my native tongue:  Our words sound often like the very actions that they advertise.)

“You are NOT!  DOING!  Such a THING!”

Oh how, he roared, my grandfather!  According to the testimonies, the dude was as chill as the nerve-racked culture of centuries-old terror and rebellion could ever manage to produce.  The man was zen, by other-wordly standards!  He had been born and always lived by the Pacific Ocean; so perhaps, the frequency of tides had something to do with his temperament.  Some ancient astrology shit, or something.  Or maybe, it was that soul-thing of the fam again.  But never-ever in his life, had he been witnessed to raise a hand — or let alone his voice! — at anything or anybody living.

“Are you?!  Completely out?!  Of your silly little mind, WOMAN?!”  In that particular instance, his daughter stopped being his child.  In a primal standoff, she was no daughter of his.  No daddy’s little girl.  Neither was she the treasured firstborn of her reproductively challenged (or, some would say “cursed”) parents.  “The little sun of the Earth.”  “The baby-rabbit.”  “The navel of the planet.”  At her renouncement of me, my mother suddenly became a rep of that insane and crafty race, called Female.  And in his very first and very only act of violence, the sinewy arms of the old man had lifted up my mother — and by extension me — and not so gently threw us onto the nearest soft surface.  Mother and I went for a ride onto the faded couch from which my grandfather usually listened to the radio — or watched his knitting wife, while she cooed to him stories from her day.  (C’mon!  It’s obvious:  The fam had witches long prior to my mother; and this old man was just another doomed fella, head over heels in love with his broad.  Go figure!)

“You wait!  Till your mom!  Gets back!”  The old man was now heaving above my petrified carrier.  “You stupid bitch!”

By no means was it a scene unseen in human history before:  A parent contemplating a murder of his offspring as if to spare the world the damage that same offspring could cause later.  “From my hand you were born — and from my hand you’ll die!” kinda shit.  But in the ancient culture whose every glory  came from great suffering (of which my Motha Russia’s got a shitload!), such stories of generational collision are plentiful.  You have Ivan the Terrible, for one!  The man had famous rage in him!  (See the above quoted threat he had been testified to throw at his son, before putting an end to that son’s life, albeit accidentally.  Or, so some say.

Over a woman, too:  The Terrible’s daughter-in-law.

Just sayin’:  Russian broads!)

(To Be Continued.)

“Somewhere, Someone’s Calling Me, When the Chips Are Down.”

(Continued from September 30, 2011.)

So, that day, when motha decided to bring home a coconut, I didn’t even wonder if she had to stand in line for it.

“Where did you find this thing?!” I asked instead, while clutching the coconut to my chest.  It felt prickly.

I knew she must’ve gone to some fancy store in the capital.  She had taken a bus and probably a couple of trolleys; and then another bus, packed with other mothers — in order to bring this thing home:  A coconut!

In the midst of the last days of the Soviet Union, she had brought home — a coconut!

In response to my question, motha would start telling a story.  But motha sucks at storytelling; and soon enough, long before delivering the punchline, she started laughing and flailing her arms around, completely unaware of her vanity (and considering motha always knew the effect of her beauty, such abandonment — was quite endearing).

She tilted her head back, as if in the midst of some private exorcism, and she hollered and yelped in between her words.  Tears started glistening in the corners of her eyes.  And she would smack me every once in a while, as if taunting me to participate in her hysteria; and even though she stood no taller than 1.5 meters from the ground, motha could always pack a mighty punch.

Pretty soon, things in her vicinity started falling down to the floor.  Motha crouched down to pick them up; but then, she just stayed there — laughing.

I don’t know what the gist of her story was, at first:  I just kept clutching the coconut.  I wasn’t really sure how breakable that thing was, and I didn’t want motha to knock it over by accident.  Sure, I’ve seen those things before, most likely on some Mexican telenovela or in a film about rich American people, in a pretty town, on some pretty shore.  Both genres would have been narrated in a monotone male voice of the translator, yet I still managed to get addicted to these latest imports on our television screens, full-heartedly.

Because in the last years of the Soviet Union, the world suddenly became much larger — and not as intimidating as it had been previously assumed.  And despite the utter chaos, my own homeland began to seem much more human.   

And despite the last days of my innocence — the last days of my childhood — it was impossible not to laugh along with my motha, in that moment.

I think she was trying to tell me about her asking for a tutorial from the cashier woman at the store.

“And why are you asking ME, lady citizen?” the bitter woman had responded.  You’d think she would be happy to work in such a fancy establishment, with more access to deficit items the rest of us could only see on some Mexican telenovelas or in an American film.  But apparently, Soviet cashiers were bitter regardless of their situation.

“Do I look like I’m married to an apparatchik, to you?!” — the disgruntled woman attacked my motha.  (I have a feeling that interaction didn’t end well, for the cashier; because with motha — it’s better not to push it.)

Bitterness — was the worst consequence of those days.  The flood of unexpected hardships was actually quite easy to understand, because poverty had always existed in my Motha’land.  But while we were all poor together, it must’ve bugged the grown-ups less.  It was when the distance between the new wealth and the old poverty became obvious that Russians began to express their discontentment.  (And we aren’t really a happy bunch, to begin with.)

“So, it’s up to you and me, rabbit!” motha concluded and marched out into the living-room.

She wasn’t too keen on tender nicknames for me, so I just stayed in my place and waited:  With motha — it’s better not to push it.  Something heavy fell down in the living-room.  I heard my motha swear.  The thought of our neighbors below made me cringe:  Daily, the poor bastards had to endure the heavy footsteps of this tiny woman who stood no taller than 1.5 meters from the ground.

Motha reappeared in the doorway.

“How about it then?!”

Her face was still flushed from laughter, and her chest was heaving.  In one of her manicured hands, motha was holding an ax (oh, dear Lenin!), and with the other, she was waving a hammer and a screwdriver above her head.

“Oy, no!” I said.  And, “Bad idea!” — I thought to myself.

“Whoever doesn’t take risks — doesn’t drink champagne!” motha declared and proceeded to march into the kitchen.  I, the coconut, and our offensively obese red cat followed her.

The operation that unfolded in the kitchen was less than graceful:  Crouching down in her miniskirt, motha began pounding the screwdriver into the poor piece of fruit.  But the problem was she was whacking it through the side, and the thing kept rolling out of her grip.  And she:  She kept laughing.

“Hey, rabbit!  Come help!”

Motha’s orders were never up to a negotiation, so, I obeyed.  The thought of the screwdriver being hammered into my palm with my motha’s clumsy maneuver was a lot less intimidating, than her wrath.  Yeah:  With motha — it’s better not to push it.

But first, I examined the fruit:

“Let’s trying breaking in through these three dimples,” I suggested.

The task would have been accomplished had motha stopped collapsing into fits of laughter.  And I thought:  If there was ever anything more dangerous than an unhappy Russian woman, it would be a woman in throws of hysteria, holding a hammer.

Motha reached for the ax.

“Oy, no!” I rebelled and leapt to my feet.  This whole situation was starting to stage itself as some Greek tragedy.  And most of the time, those don’t work out well, for the children.

Motha got up, while still holding the now scuffed up fruit.  With tears and make-up running down her face, she reminded me of a young girl at a Beatles concert.  (The images of such strange life elsewhere were beginning to flood our press, from all parts of the world.  And somehow, that world seemed much larger, less intimidating — and quite wonderful!)

“Rabbit, catch!” she threw the coconut at me.

I ducked.  The fruit bounced off the doorway behind me and hit the floor.  Our offensively obese red cat dashed out of the kitchen.

Motha and I lost it entirely, and when the neighbors below knocked on their ceiling, we lost it again.  The glimmer of joy, dimmed in my motha’s eyes in those difficult years, considered reigniting.  No matter the chaos, this beautiful woman who stood no taller than 1.5 meters from the ground, refused to grovel.   And even if it took hysteria to remember how to laugh, she wouldn’t give it up.

“Somewhere, There Is an Ocean: Innocent and Wild.”

So, there was this one time… 

“Show me — don’t tell me,” my brother always warns me.  He, himself, is a performer and a painter; so his stories are visual.  But the recipe works though, I’ve tried it:  My storytelling works best when I paint a picture instead of lining-up some words.

So, there was this one time, when motha had decided to bring home a coconut…

Motha sucks at storytelling.  When younger, she was anxious to teach me how to read, so I would stop bugging her for bedtime stories.  Nowadays, she tells me stories all the time, and she tends to tell the punchline long before I can wrap my head around all the characters and their histories.

Arizona Muse

And when it comes to jokes, motha — is the absolute worst.  She cracks herself up, and it is impossible to make out a single word through her roaring and yelping laughter.  She tilts her head back, as if in the midst of some exorcism, and soon enough things around her start flying onto the floor while she flails around her arms, utterly unaware of her vanity.  And it is also impossible — not to laugh with her, in return.

So, there was this one time, when mother had decided to bring home a coconut.  We were living in the Soviet Union at the time…

I’ve got a lot of stories, but I suck at delivering them.  I would much rather write them down.  When writing, I can relive them.  I  can get the details out.  I can get them right; or even fix them, now that I know their endings.

But I am not really good at reliving stories in front of others.  Unless, of course, they are someone’s else stories, then I can perform them:  “show, not tell”.

Anyway.  There was this one time, when mother had decided to bring home a coconut. 

We were living in the Soviet Union at the time, and coconuts weren’t much of a typical occurrence on our dinner table.  No, it was all about potatoes instead:  Fried potatoes, boiled potatoes — with skin and without.  Roasted potatoes, potatoes in a soup.  Early spring fingerling potatoes in a salad.  Potato pancakes.  Mashes potatoes:  Those motha always insisted on mixing with bits of semi-fried onion, and I would spend more time picking it out than actually eating (which didn’t thrill my mother much).  And even when we would go camping, potatoes would appear in various formats when it was time to eat:  Potatoes baked in foil, roasted over an open fire potatoes.  Potatoes in a soup.

A serving of macaroni would spice things up a bit.  Macaroni usually meant my parents got paid, and we were living it up for a while.  But then, the macaroni would be recycled too:  Macaroni swimming in milk for breakfast — fried macaroni for dinner.

But this one time, mother had decided to bring home a coconut.  She had been trying something out, with the family:

“A Piece of an Exotic Fruit — per Month,” was the name of the program motha had come up with.

The Soviet Union was on its way out.  We didn’t know it at the time, but the country, as we knew it, was over.  The economy was in the crapshoot:  Folks not getting paid on time, the worth of pensions decreasing down to laughable proportions.  The price of bread was growing every single day; and food was being sold in rations, according to a monthly handout of coupons.  But to get that food at the market, one had to show up right after its delivery.  Because, for whatever reason, there was always fewer rations than the actual people, in town.  So, we would have to line up by the store, hours before it would open.

It helped that I was finally of the age to stand in some of these lines.  I would get there before motha, often right after school.  Later, she could take my place, and I would go home to do my homework — not to play — then, start prepping dinner.  Because I was definitely past the age of innocence:  I had long stopped bugging her for bedtime stories.

Sometimes, I would stand in line for long enough to get to the front of it.  Soon enough though, the cashier would start announcing the lowering numbers of rations.

“Citizens!” she would holler out.  Somehow, she was alway chubby and shiny; and so obviously in love with finding herself in a position of an authority.  “We only have enough for twenty of you!”

People complained, shifted on their feet uncertain if they should keep on waiting — or just go home defeated.  The frontrunners gloated in their places.  Quickly, the last of the fortunate would be counted off.  Oh, how it would suck to be standing right behind her!  (I say “her”, because most of the time, the job of standing in lines was allotted to mothers.)

Still, even then, most people would keep standing, holding their place in line.  Because hope dies last, doesn’t it?  It can even outlast despair.  

The cashier would start getting annoyed:

“I told you, citizens:  We don’t have enough produce for all of you!  So, don’t linger!”

She was obviously getting off.  But people stayed.

They stayed!  Perhaps, it took an incredibly unreasonable amount of denial to survive in such conditions.  But they chose not to hear the abusive remarks by the shiny cashier; and only the ones at the very end would start chipping off, muttering, complaining:

“What is this country coming to?!”

“Mama?” I would think at that moment, wishing she would get there and relieve me from my post.  I may have been long past the age of innocence, but I wasn’t yet ready to give up on my childhood.

So, that one time, when motha had decided to bring home a coconut, I didn’t even wonder if she had to stand in line for it.

“Where did you find this thing?!” I asked instead, while clutching the coconut to my chest.  It felt prickly.

I knew she must’ve gone to some fancy store in the capital.  She had taken a bus, and probably a couple of trolleys; and then another bus, packed with other mothers, in order to bring this thing home:  A coconut!

In the midst of the last days of the Soviet Union, she had brought home — a coconut!

In response to my question, motha would start telling me a story.  But motha sucks at storytelling; so, she would laugh and flail her arms around, dropping things to the floor.  I would keep clutching onto the coconut.

And despite the last days of my innocence — the last days of my childhood — it was impossible not to laugh with her, in return.

(To Be Continued.)

“Young Hov’s a Snake Charmer: Move Your Body Lika Snake, Mama!”

Rule No. 1:  If I’m not perfect for my man — he is not my man.

Rule No. 2:  If my man is not happy with me — it’s time to look for another man.

That’s a rough translation, sort of:  from my gypsy grandmother’s mouth and directly into your modern ears, my comrades.  Still rings true though, nyet?  The wisdom — lives on!

That woman was a badass!  She strutted around her port city, lithe and decisive in her hips, as if she ran that motherfucker.  She was one them proud broads, asking no man for help (other than her father); and it was just her luck that by the time she entered the workforce, her country was on that whole socialist equality shtick.  So, the broad held jobs that not many women were interested in; and she flourished, climbing whatever level ladders her Communist Party chapter advertised.

She had been a construction worker and a collective farmer in the country.  But by the time I met her, she worked as manager at a fish cannery.  Oh, I’ve seen that broad at work!  From a rustic desk some moron once thought up to paint the color of a stewing swamp, she gave out her packing orders like some women give out their expectations.  She refused to be away from her people, so she moved that swampy thing out onto the factory floor, by the conveyor belt; and considering no Soviet machinery ran low on sound, anyone who needed to talk to her would have to holler out their lungs.  Nope, that job was not for the dainty-hearted!

But she did have a little corner getaway upstairs, which is where she would sit me down, underneath a black-and-white shot of one drunken righteous leader after the next.  For a while there, these leaders would die on us like flies, so she’d leave their portraits leaning against the wall:  What’s the point of worshiping a man if he ain’t planning to last long?

And to keep me entertained, while she strutted on the factory floor — lithe and decisive in her hips — grandmother would equip me with a can of black caviar, a spoon; an old world atlas and a pair of scissors.  There I’d spend my days, cutting up the world and acquiring the beginnings of my sick misconception that there was no distant corner I couldn’t cut through; no country I couldn’t slice across.   

“Thirsty, little rabbit?” grandmother would reappear at intervals with a glass of foaming sparkling water from the dispenser machine outside; or better yet, with a bottle of Pinocchio soda that tasted like a liquid, lemon-flavored Jolly Rancher.

Of course, I’d be fucking thirsty:  Gobbling up that caviar was like drinking sea water or licking the lower back of a tanning Brazilian goddess!  (Plus, all that cutting of corners!  All that wanderlust!)  As if to finish training my stomach to handle anything — in case I ever swallowed anything bitter or toxic (a cowardly lover, for instance) — she would rummage in her pockets and whip out a plastic bag of dried calamari rings:  My favorite!  Like some children with raspberries, I would top each finger with those rings; then, I continue to trace unfamiliar shores and continents, before cutting them to shreds.

What man could possibly keep up with a broad like that? 

The one that knew that taming a descendant of a gypsy was a moot point.  The one with balls enough to wait for all the unworthy, drooling endless admirers and ex-lovers to flake away:  because none of them could handle that hot number in the first place, bare-handedly.  The one with a freedom of his own, addicted to circumvent the globe’s ocean as if each round were a growth ring on a tree trunk of his life.  The one who’d seen enough, who’d lost enough to know that a good woman is a lucky find; and even if it chills you down to your bones with paralyzing fear or with the breath of your own mortality, you better give it a goddamn worthy try — to not keep her, to not conquer her — but to have a daily hand at trying to be worthy of her staying.

To that man — my grandfather — this woman was meant to be followed.  And so he would:  on our every Sunday walk to and from the bazaar, if he happened to return home from his circumventing.

She rarely kept company with other women (but then again, could outdrink every man she’d call “a friend”).  So, when walking, she’d always go at it alone, just a few meters ahead; perfectly content with the pace of my little feet, yet with a strut of someone running that motherfucker.  Sometimes, I’d look back to find my grandfather’s muscular arms with his fisherman’s tan; and from underneath the tattered hat, with a cig dangling on his lips, he’d smile and wink, as if he had just been caught at a naughty secret.

One day, I chose to walk with him, letting my grandmother lead the way, just a few meters ahead.  He lifted me onto his shoulders and told me to hold onto his ears:

“Otherwise, you’ll fly away!”

Every once in a while, he would reach above his head and make a crocodile mouth with his hand; at which point, I would pucker up my lips and let the crocodile devour my sloppy kiss.

And from up there, from the first pair of a man’s capable shoulders, I fell in love — in my youthful lust — with a woman.  That day, she strutted just a few meters ahead of us, lithe and decisive in her hips; and with each step, her tight wrap-around dress rode up higher and higher, bunching up at her tailbone and revealing the naked back of her knees.  A long, shiny, jet black braid ran down from her top vertebra down to the lower back; and the unbraided tip of it would tap each ass cheek as the hips continued to sway and sway, lithely and decisively, making me slightly dizzy with adoration and bliss.

That day, I knew:  It was not a bad deal to follow a woman’s lead.  (It was delectable, to the contrary.)  But it would take some esteem to be worthy of her staying. 

“Yes, My Heart Belongs To Daddy: Da, Da, Da”

What will you be like, the future papa of my child?  Will you be tall, but not necessarily dark?  Or will you be just competent, quietly but certainly, in the way all good men — with nothing to prove — are?  

Yes, I’m pretty sure, you’ll be tall. 

“What are you chirping about over there?” my own — tall — father chuckled on the phone last night, “My little sparrow…”

He hadn’t seen me grow up.  To him, I am still a child treading on the edge of her womanhood with the same gentle balance and vulnerability as if I were walking along a curb:  one foot in front of the other, thrilled and focused, not certain about the destination but quite alright with that uncertainty.

He used to follow me whenever I chose that activity on our walks.  Hanging just a few steps back, as if giving me enough room for my budding self-esteem and competence, he, while smoking his cigarette, would be equally as focused at putting one foot in front of the other, upon his own flat ground.  And according to him, puddles — were always the height of my thrill.

“Don’t get your feet wet:  Your mom’ll kill me,” he’d warn me — the best co-conspirator of my life.  Yet, he’d never prohibit me from my exploration.

Besides, with me — it was useless to object.  He knew that.  It was his own trait:  If I got an idea into my little stubborn head, you could bet your life I’d follow through.  So, he’d rest, while smoking his cigarette on a bench or leaning against a mossy boulder; or on that same curb marked up with my tiny footsteps.  And yes, most likely, I would get my feet wet; and I’d look back at him with a frown:

“Alright, let’s hear it!”

But all that would be given back to me was a grin that my father would be trying so very hard to suppress.

And, the future papa of my child:  Will you be of a quiet temperament, leaving all the chaotic emotions up to me; hanging back most of the time, as if giving me enough room for my sturdy self-esteem, but then always knowing when to step up to the plate — just because you will be taller — most certainly, taller! — stronger than me?  Just because you will be — my man?

True to my stubborn passion, half way through my teens, I decided to leave for a different continent.  That time, it was no longer a matter of exploration (although when wasn’t it, with me?) but a matter of a vague hope for better choices in my youth.

My father knew that:  The country of my birth was about to go under, and there would be no more gentle balancing for any of us, but a complete anarchy.  Yet, never in that chaos, would I see my father lose his composure.  Quietly, he’d take in one merciless situation after another, light up a cigarette and hang back while waiting for the best resolution to become clear.  And then, he’d step up to the plate and follow through, true to his quiet, stubborn, competent temperament.  My father:  The first tall man I’d fallen in love with.

So, when I delivered to him the news of my scholarship for a study abroad (something he’d never even heard of, in his lifetime), quietly, he smoked, hung back and took in the information.  Surely, there had to be a million questions chaotically arising in his head:  questions related to the unpredictable situations my life was certain to present.  But that day, he knew better than to get in the way of my decision to leave.  Because you could bet your life I’d follow through.  He knew that:  It was his own trait.

“Don’t tell your mom I agree with this:  She’ll kill me!” he told me that day, suppressed a grin; and we began mapping out our next conspiracy.

And, the future papa of my child:  Will you be the more lenient of a parent than me, hanging back while letting our kiddo explore his or her own curbs and puddles?  (Because you better be certain our child will inherit my tendency for stubborn passions.)  Will you quietly follow, hanging just a few steps back, alert enough to catch, pick-up, sweep off, dust off him or her, right on time?

Will you be more courageous to allow for our child’s falls:  Because that is the only way one learns?  And will you be calmer, leaving all the chaotic emotions up to me, when it is time for our unconditional acceptance of his or her missteps?

It would be one giant puddle I’d select to tread in my womanhood — an entire ocean, to be exact; and then — a whole other one.  No matter his own heartbreak, my father chose to hang back.  There would be many falls of mine he would be unable to prevent, a million of questions he couldn’t answer; many chaoses he was powerless at solving on my behalf.  But no matter my age — and no matter my defeats or victories — I could always dial in on his unconditional ear.

He would listen, hang back — suppress his tears or a grin — then launch into our next conspiracy.

“Don’t tell you mom I know about this,” he always warned me.

Because besides being an exceptional father, he also knew how to be a man:  How love a woman with a dangerous habit for stubborn passions.  My father would be taller than her, and always much stronger.  Yet, still, he would hang back, leaving all the chaotic emotions up to his wife and giving enough room for her budding self-esteem as a woman — and a mom.  And when he’d happen to catch us at our feminine chaoses — or silly conspiracies of our gender — he’d suppress a grin and say:

“What are you chirping about over there, my little sparrows?”

Money Makes My World Go ‘Round

Definitions, definitions.  This year has been all about definitions.

How I’ve gone through my entire life without defining my boundaries or my personal relationships, I haven’t had time to wonder.  Because I’ve been surviving, my comrades, up until recently:  maneuvering through a hormonal cocktail of adrenaline and testosterone that came from either my obnoxious determination or fear (both of which I often covered up with sex).  But it is now that I feel clear-minded and calm enough to examine my life’s choices and figure out my future ones.  

And according to numerous testimonies:  I’m right on time.  My 20s were supposed to be chaotic.  So, okay, I could’ve settled for a calmer childhood; but that is the very tragedy of children:  They don’t have a choice.  They survive whatever circumstances are granted to them, whatever chaos they inherit.  And I could hope that they come out as strong and compassionate adults at the end of it all.  But then, I’d rather spend that same hope on a continuous prayer that every child is granted a more peaceful, innocent childhood in the first place.  I myself no longer harbor any feelings of being gipped as a child.  Instead, I chalk it up to a lesson in my own better parenting, in the future.

One of the leading topics of the year — is money.  Or rather, whether or not money defines success, and how? I find that for most of my American contemporaries, this particular definition has been long established:  They are more at ease with cash; and many make it the ultimate goal of their living.  Which must be why there is no better plot to an American life than the one in which the pursuit of making a living — is often synonymous to making a life.  (And if there were any saving grace in the current recession we’re all still surviving, it has to be the necessary — generational! — reexamination of our values.)

Many of my friends with more traditional professions invest their lives in the purpose of their jobs.  For the sake of these jobs, they work insanely long hours, taking a few sick days here and there; and they rarely take vacations.  But even then, their typically American vacations don’t last long.  They are comprised of a quick, and sometimes stressful getaway to an exotic location — for just a week; while most European families I know won’t even consider packing their suitcases unless they have a near month to spare.

As for me, it has been ingrained in me by my own socialist childhood that money is merely the means, not the end.  But then again, I’ve witnessed my parents’ poverty; and let me tell you, my comrades:  There is no more brutal dehumanization or humiliation than that.  So, as far as experiencing poverty goes (for me or my folk) — I’m done with that one!  All set, thank you very much.  Good to know; but here, I’d like to think I’ve fulfilled my life’s quota, so I’ll just to join the money race now.  Where do I start?

My bohemian friends who manage their survival via freelance gigs and an occasional income from their artistic endeavors tend to define money as energy.  Many years ago, one of my first LA-LA comrades defined it this way:

“If you use your money to help people — not start wars — money becomes the force of goodness.”

However simplified, I had to write that one down; and thank Shiva I did!  Because back then, so painful was the lack of my own money, I could only be preoccupied with investing it in my basic needs.  But these days, as I invest endless hours in the pursuit of my self-made career, I’m also in a position to start defining the purpose of my money:  current and future.

A couple of days ago, a sensitive and inspiring young creature descended upon my evening, but nearly ended-up staying the night.  I have adopted her, you see, as my soul’s guardian.  It’s a two-way exchange:  I look out for her physical wellness, while she — continuously saves my soul.  (What can I say?  It is a habit of mine:  To walk through every chapter of my life while keeping an eye on a handful of young women.  “Feminism”, “a delayed maternal instinct”, “a comfortably bisexual orientation” — call it whatever the fuck you want:  I believe in helping those who, just as I, have been robbed of a peaceful childhood.)

While she vented, albeit gracefully, about a job at which she was underpaid but also humiliated on a weekly basis, I thought:  Bingo!  My definition of financial success must include helping my friends.  But then again:  My friends are my equals (which is why my friendships have always worked out better than my romances), so I wouldn’t go calling it “help”.  Rather:  I would consider myself ever-so-successful if I were soon in a position to hire my friends.  Of course, I am very careful about entering into any business ventures with acquaintances.  But what better way to pay it forward — for any possible success or prosperity of my own — than to eliminate unnecessary suffering from the lives of those I love, by granting them better opportunities?

And then, of course, there are those beloveds whom I have adopted as my family (which includes, by the way, my own old folks).  There aren’t very many of them, but they are my very truth — the very gist of my worth; and for them, I wish my prosperity were limitless.  I would dream of no better success than to be in a position to contribute to my goddaughter’s education, for instance, or her plans to travel the world.  It would thrill me with gratitude to contribute to my best friend’s first house downpayment or to purchase arrangements for my girlfriends’ getaways while they’re the midst of their undeserved heartbreaks. To buy a luxury vehicle for my old man — just so that nerd could take it apart and put it back together — it would break my heart with humility.  Because what better manifestation of a life well-lived than its limitless generosity?

Finally:  What is the definition of money for my own existence?  Easy-peasy, comrades:  MONEY — IS FREEDOM.  Freedom to pursue my own opportunities, to fulfill my own wonderings (and to pay for my wanderings), to chase my own dreams.  Freedom to have the privilege of time.  Because not every life may have the deficit of money — but the deficit of time does appear to be universal. 

So:  “Time — is money” it is, eh?  And considering I’ve already been quite successful at defining the ways I choose to spend my time, I’m right on time in defining the spending of my money.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

“I don’t see how your outlook can be helpful,” a lovely creature was texting me last night.

And I could do nothing better than to talk to her, but I was en route home — back to my sanctuary; a tired, little girl running away from the Big Bad Wolf — because I had my weekly long-distance call to make:  to Motha Russia!

For over a year now, I’ve made this call, every weekend:  To my old man.  I say “old”, because I assume he is such, my comrades.  But truth be told, I haven’t seen my father in nearly fifteen years.  Yes:  As others’, my family has had many tragedies; but this is the one — he and I have shared.

History does that It makes peg pieces out of people, moving them all around the world or taking them off the board entirely, as if a part of some sick master plan carried out by a player smarter than the rest.  A sly genius with a brutal vision.

I often wonder about my father’s memory — of his time and the way history presented itself to him, so obviously unkindly.  Although we’ve both lost our country to a collapsed ideology, followed by chaos, then a slew of changed regimes and a massive emigration (to which I ended up belonging), my old man’s lot had to be heavier to the millionth degree:  Because besides losing a county he’d spent four decades serving, he was losing his only child.

History does that.

Back then, in a reckless way to which most young are prone, I departed from Motha Russia with a courageous commitment to never look back.  And I didn’t.  Instead, I strained my eyes at the new horizon:  I had my whole life in front of me, my comrades, based in a whole new country; and however tumultuous or exciting — it was mine!  It was all about ME:  I was building this thing!  I was the one in charge!  It would take me a decade to build that life, while becoming the person my father had wanted me to be (but would not get to witness, still).  It would take a decade of hardships typical for any adulthood to eventually begin empathizing with my father’s lot.  But not until my own consideration of motherhood would I decide to reconnect with him.

In that first phone call over a year ago, my old man was so silent, I continued to question our phone connection.  Fuckin’ Russia!

“P:  Are you there?!” I kept repeating.

“Yes, yes, yes…  Forgive me.  Forgive me.”

And then, we’d go back to silence.

I realized:  Silence — was the sound of my old man’s crying.  An Alpha to the core, he had never cried in front of me, but once:  On the day of my departure.  So, words would fail us that day.  So would the connection, several times:  Fuckin’ Russia! 

But in between the silence, and my committed redialing of the operator, my old man would continue to say:

“Forgive me.  Forgive me.”

As if it were all his fault, the way life had played us.  As if the loss of connection — throughout our lives and that evening — were his responsibility to bear; because he was the adult, after all.  But what he didn’t know was that I too had learned the burdens of adulthood, which I was by now willing to share.  As far as I could see, between us:  Forgiveness was unnecessary.  Love — was.

So, it’s not that my last night’s chat with the lovely creature was unappreciated:  I have adored her for years.  But as we had witnessed each other’s recent love affairs go to shit due to the lapses of our men’s courage, our endless pontifications on their reasons, and feelings, and intensions — blah, blah, fuckin’ blah! — were beginning to feel gratuitous.  Why were we giving these guys so much benefit of the doubt?  Why were we wasting our loves on men who didn’t even want it?

So, I wrapped it up, perhaps clumsily and rushed (because last night, I was a tired, little girl, running away from the Big Bad Wolf):

“A person in love will do everything possible to be with his beloved.  My guy — was NOT in love with me.”

To my lovely, my conclusion had to seem brutal.

“I don’t see how your outlook can be helpful,” she said.

I dared to forget that she too was suffering.  Forgive me.  Forgive me.  So, I attempted to decoy the whole thing with a self-deprecating joke:

“I’m Russian:  I’m used to tough love.”

The joke didn’t work.  I lost her.

But this morning, post the conversation with my old man, I have to reconsider the pattern of my rushed departures:  If I am not loved — I leave.  I burn bridges.  Seemingly recklessly, I impose change with my departures — onto the lives of others and myself — and cope with the consequences later.  But what I don’t do — is wait around for a man’s change of heart.  

My lovely of last night was not the first to accuse me of brutality of my choices.  I’m tough, she says;  “so strong!”  But to me, love — is a matter of black-and-white, really:  It is a privilege that cannot be wasted.

Too hard was my lesson with my old man, my comrades:  No matter the turmoil of history or life, you do NOT take your beloveds for granted.  Because there is way too much unpredictability in life.  Too much chaos and pain.  And to forsaken a love — is a choice I can no longer afford.

Thankfully, my old man was on the same page last night:

“Run:  He is not in love you,” he said.  “Run — for your life!”

And so, I did:  A tired, little girl running away from the Big Bad Wolf.

My Life — and Sex — in Art

“What’s it all for?” a comrade of mine and a regular reader of my rant blog was interviewing me last night in the midst of a chaotic nightspot filled with beautiful children at play.  “I mean:  Why are you doing it?

When I started self-publishing my words on the first of this year, I had already been writing on a daily basis — for years.  Years, my magnificent reading eyes!  As a child, I was always the smallest creature in every classroom, quietly and perpetually jotting things down in my journals.  Motha blamed it on my lack of siblings; but I think:  I was just meant to write.

I am story collector, you see.  In the fashion of my motha’s nomadic people, I’ve bounced all over the world, passing by tragedies — sometimes getting caught in them — then retelling those tales, to a human ear or to an empty page.  Why else would I be granted a life that has made me a witness to dozens of world-changing events of the current and the last century?  And if that weren’t enough:  Why would I be given a hand of lacking a home — or a home country — or a family, or any other predictability, or insurance?  (These are valid questions, my comrades, although I am no longer seeking an answer.)

Since my landing in LA-LA six years ago, writing became more of a regimented daily activity; and when this Russian says “daily,” she means, “every bloody day.”

(Well, to be more precise, she actually means:

“Fuck my birthdays, fuck your birthdays!  Fuck national holidays and vacations!  Life’s too short!  Do something about it!”  Which makes V — an intense lil’ cunt on a mission; but y’all already starting to pick-up on that, I suspect.)

But not until my good-hearted and boyish comrade’s interview last night had I actually formulated the objective of my rant blog:

“Well, I want to make a living at art,” I said; but judging by my comrade’s face, I quickly realized I was being all Russian-mysterious and overall too vague for his American ear.  So, I elaborated.  “If this thing takes off as a column or a paid blog, with a steady following — great!  A book deal?  Even better!”

My comrade was beginning to nod.  Phew!  At least, I was on the right track of being understood — an event of rarity in my daily life.

“So, you’re trying to make money?” he said.

The socialist in me got a bit uncomfortable with being simplified this way, so I had to grope for my own balls — just to remember I still had some:

“Well…  Yes!  I want to be a working artist. But I also revel in the act of DOING it.  You know?”

He didn’t know.  My boyish friend still looked as if I was breaking down the gist of quantum physics for him, but I found myself somewhat surprised at the sound of my objective:  To do art — for the sake of doing it. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it?

Now, don’t get me wrong:  I am fully fed-up with taking on endless, completely random and often hectic survival gigs.  I’ve had it with the tedious, mind-numbing office jobs, and restaurant jobs; and Shiva knows:  I’ve had enough of the self-abuse that comes from having to report to gigs where I’ll be lectured or patronized or, what’s worse, perpetually jammed into a box of a more convenient category by employers with bored or fearful mindsets.  So, yes:  I am ready to get paid for my art!

But what makes the grind of survival much more tolerable is that, in the very act of creating MY ART — it feels like the best life I could possibly ask for.

 

Last night’s conversation with my comrade got stuck with me for long enough to bring it home; and despite having had such a day — to call it day, I’ve kept myself awake by watching this tribute to Sidney Lumet:

 

 

http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/04/09/obituaries/1194838961597/lwlumet.html

 

Allow me to recap the words I wish I had the wisdom to pass on to my boyish comrade (but then, I think he’d already had plenty of my intensity by now):

Reporter Tim Weiner: “How do you want to be remembered?”

Sidney Lumet: “I don’t give a shit!”

TW: “But what about the work?”

SL: “It’ll make its own way.  Nothing I can do about it any more.  [But] I’d like somebody to take notice of that…  That I wasn’t afraid.

And here is my favorite part, my lovelies; the part that I am only now starting to get the balls to admit to myself.  Because, as I have written this late morning to my lover (oh, but I do so like quoting myself!), who’s currently three time zones away from my heart:  Life — is chaos.  We try to slow it down by making sense of it, and sometimes by demanding justice (and that, more often than not, leaves us disappointed.)  The better route to commemorate a life or a person — is, but of course, with love.  We, artists, do it by commemorating completely random happenings of beauty; and it does take courage and fearlessness to commit a lifetime to doing it. And thusly, we live:

SL: “I don’t think art changes anything.  I do it because I like it — and it’s a wonderful way to spend your life.”

Does that answer your question, my young-hearted comrade?  Oh, and look at that:  You’ve just been commemorated.  Yourr velkom.

Take it away, Comrade Kanyeezy!

Foreign Girls — Gone Wild!

I swear I wasn’t misbehaving, but minding my business while looking through the modest collection of crummy Russian DVDs at the local West Hollywood Library!  Those things looked like they’ve been excavated out of the buried Chernobyl reactor:  with their Xeroxed black-and-white covers and shredded cases that must’ve contained more ex-Soviets’ fingerprints than the American Embassy in Moscow.  Still:  I was curious.  Or was I brushing up on my native language, which according to my Motha’, sounds Chinese to her ears?

“Oi, Verra!” she usually moans whenever I attempt to communicate to her in my mother tongue.  “Dan’t push eet.”

So, I was in my preoccupied 5-year old’s state, sitting in a lotus position on the Library carpet and yanking the filthy covers out of the misfiled line-up on the shelf.  To me, shit like this — is the very height of romanticism:  so archaic and old-country it feels!  And I wasn’t particularly squeamish about the germs I was going to harvest from this little adventure; because just like those tortured DVDs, I too have lived through Chernobyl.  So, chances are:  my Motha‘ Land has granted me an inhumanly high tolerance for all viruses.

The first thing I noticed about him — were his shoes.  Actually, I had no choice, because those things entered my sphere with no hesitation.  They were those clunky, white kicks reminiscent of the nursing shoes better belonging on the shelf of Payless than on a self-respecting male who’s flipped through at least a single issue of GQ or Esquire in his life.  But boom!  There they were, at my right hip, not even as much as looming but stubbornly intruding.  And right off the bat, I knew their owner had to be my former countryman; so I braced myself.

(A little confession here, my comrades:  I’ve never shagged a Russian.  It’s a choice, really, because no matter my personal nostalgia for certain old ways of my Motha’ Land, I am not a fan of the Russian males’ swagger.  I have yet to encounter a specimen who will approach me without an element of ownership, as if he’s been fucking me for a coupla years.  Don’t get me wrong:  I respect their badass Alpha-male-ness!  But in my bedroom, I want me a happy combination of Steve McQueen and George Clooney; and there ain’t nothin’ debonair about most Russian ex-patriots I’ve had the pleasure to ward off.)

The shoes loomed at my side, until my act of ignoring them started to seem ridiculous and uncomfortable; so, fuck it:  I looked-up!  And sure enough:  from the shoelaces, along the pant of his girly jeans; to the black t-shirt with Ed-Hardy-esque silver writing, the bling around his neck, all the way up to his un-styled buzz cut — this playa was Made in the USSR.  The deadpan on his face altered at a microscopic level when he assumed that very smirk of ownership mentioned above:

“Aren’t you a wild riddle?”

Yep.  That is the most precise translation of his first approach of a woman he barely knew, my comrades; but even my bi-lingual talents fail in describing the level of brazen familiarity in his tone.

Normally, in such a set-up, I would put on my Is There a Problem? expression; but the content of the Russian’s pick-up line caught me off-guard.  (At least, I think it was a pick-up line.)  Now, I am no motorcycle-riding, fire-spewing, gun-shooting, male-taming Angelina Jolie; but behind the wheel of my car or the closed doors of my bedroom, I do tend to unleash a lil’.  And lately, the degree of wildness has grown significantly because 1.  I’ve run-up some serious mileage to hell ‘n’ back this last year;  2.  I am a woman on a mission; and 3.  I’ve got NO time to spare en route to that mission.  Unless resting my messy head upon the chiseled pecs of my lover, I move fast and stubbornly upright.

Many a men have been left scratching their heads on the origin of my olive skin and my character, as equally untamed as my hair.  To this town’s casting directors and agents, the task of boxing me into a category appears burdensome and repeatedly annoying.  To them, I am either too brown or not brown enough; never Slavic-sounding but ambiguously European.  But my acidic sense of humor and refusal to draw smiley faces on sign-up sheets, next to my now Latin sounding stage name, has definitely chalked me up into a category of “intense” and just generally:  “not from around here.”

As for the mortals not in the business of casting, I tend to unsettle them quite easily.  Just the other night, a middle-aged white woman began interrogating me about the name of my hair stylist:

“Who did your hair this morning?” she interrupted my tete-a-tete with another “ethnically ambiguous” brown girl.

“No one,” I said, quite plainly, and nodded.

The white woman’s irritation jumped a hundred degrees immediately:  “Did YOU do it?”

“No,” I said, now smiling politely.  “My hair does its own thing.”

“YES!  But what I mean!  Is…”  Whatever her problem, the lady began to over-articulate, as if I were some FOB innocent she met Walmart.  “Did you — DO something to it?!”

As you can probably tell, my comrades, that interaction didn’t go over well; because after a 70-hour work week and 3-to-5 hour nights of sleep due to the stubborn pursuit of my dreams, I was not in the mood to tippy-toe around that white woman’s unreasonably hateful, uncalled-for tone.  But I had to quickly forgive her for the inability to decipher “the wild riddle” of V.  Perhaps, she would be more pleased if I cooperated a little, or got intimidated.  Or perhaps, it would be more convenient if I didn’t enter her sphere at all.  But in this day and age of not only post-colonial but fully globalized world, I believe she is the one the minority.  And that minority — is ignorance.