Tuesday, March 29, 2005

So many interesting things happening.

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I thought I was going to the dacha today. I thought I was but the road through the foreest, the one that lops about 3 miles off the trip was un-crossable. Still snow there. And mud. Lots of mud. I got about 100 meters into it and then gave it up as not being worth it.

So instead I went to the metal yard to by some wire for our nursery greenhouses. What you do is you get some bendable metal rods, or thick wire, and make them into arcs with a distance between the ends at about one meter from each other. You stick these ends in the ground, make some more about a meter apart from each other and voila! You have a little greenhouse just right for protecting growing plants from wind and keeping them extra warm as well. So as we will be planting over 200 tomato plants, 150 peppers, eggplants, pickles and the like, we are going to need several of these. And for the cabbages too.

So I bought about 50 meters of wire which should be enough for 25 half-hoops and I got a good price for these as well. However, the problem was getting this wire, which weighed about forty pound and was in the shape of a hoop 1 meter high, across town and back to our place was the tricky part. As I said I was on my much renovated Schwinn. I tried to get a truck driver to give me a lift but they were all going in different directions. Bad luck. But you know, they say that where there is a man, there is initiative. Well, they should say that anyway. But as I am a man, there was in the end nothing to it but to do it. I hefted the hoop onto my shoulder, pushed off and simply made the ride. The weight was not too bad but the shape and size made things really uncomfortable and I had to do the riding with my right hand on the bars and my left hand holding the loop in such a way that I was not banging against it with my foot. Bad riding.

I don’t know if this was the worst bike ride I have ever been on or not. I remember when I rode a bike across the us in 1998 that I had some bad moments going over the mountains in Arizona. And also you know there were some broken bones and broken bikes and such when I was messengering in New York. But maybe you get the point that this was at least up there.

Anyway, I was burnt to a crisp for several hours afterward. And you know, one day after my 41st birthday I now truly appreciate why pro ballplayers quit at about this time.

However, later in the day I had a reason to go out and get some needed paper and some bread. The weather if I hadn’t mentioned was glorious. Crisp and clear with a lot of new sun and just the lightest touch of cold on the breeze. Perfect. And I was feeling great in my new Hawaiian shirt which did bring me some attention, some I liked and some, well I wish I had not dressed so bright.

The unwanted attention came from a pair of bums begging money. I guess the new begging standard is 300 rubles (about 14 cents) because both of them asked for that. Tatyana told me later that there is some kind of rub that costs that much at the drug store. The rub is maid from alcohol and I guess if you don’t really care, it must make for a cheap shot to cut the chill.

Maybe the first guy though was the harder of the two to deal with. I knew the guy and didn’t read him for putting the touch on my until I was cornered. I knew him from the bike school as a friend of Kolias and when he came over to me I thought he was just going to say hello and I made the mistake of telling him I was shopping for a new notebook. Bam.

“Gimme three hundred rubles.” He said. The word please is not really in the couture. Shit. I stood there for a minute making faces that showed I had a bad taste in my mouth. He just smiled at me. He knew he had me.

“For what?” I asked. He repeated the question to his friend. And then smiled at me as if I would know about such things. Am I supposed to know about such things? I gave him the money.

“Why are you so angry?” He asked. I answered in Russian. I said “Nye Nravitsa.” I don’t like it. Now Russian is a funny language. You end up leaving a lot out and saying things as simply as possible. I was talking about the situation and I had thought that he would take it that way. And I left and as I was walking away he told his friend that I had said that I didn’t like him! Well I don’t but that isn’t what I said. I decided I didn’t care and went over to the store.

I bought three notebooks for about 1100 rubles each (About $1.50) and was on my way to the bread shop when on the exact same spot I got tagged again. This time though it was a mistaken hello. I was trying to say hello to a girl who is in Egor’s class who was sitting in the sun on a bench outside her house. But my greetings were intercepted by a rather bedraggled fellow who immediately grasped my hand and commenced to conversate with me.

“Good health to you.” He started happily.
“And to you as well.”
“I have seen you around town many times but I have always wanted to speak with you. I find you to be a cultured person.”
“That is a compliment”
“No, it is not a compliment. You are a real cultured person. I can tell by how a man walks and goes about his business. I have seen you many times coming and going from the Market and I have always thought that you are cultured.”
“Well thank you.” I said but is wanted to say something like cultured is as cultured does, but I doubted the reference translated. I was looking over his shoulder at Egor’s friend and rolling my eyes at the hold up but she didn’t seem to get it.. She is only nine, what should I expect.
“You know this weather is fine.” The fellow went on “I feel very good when the sun comes out. I am getting very old now. Do you know how old I am? I am in my 51st year. You are a much younger man than me.”
“Not so much younger.”
“Oh, you are much younger I can see that. Your health is everything. Without health, you have nothing.” And then he coughed a few times. And then he said something conspiratorial to me that I didn’t understand and when he finished he laughed. I only hoped he was not making a reference to the girl. Or should I have even thought that myself?
“Say,” he said holding up two horrifyingly yellow-stained fingers to his lips “you don’t have a cigarette I can have?” I held up two of my own fingers to show him what I was speaking about and then told him I didn’t smoke.
“Oh, too bad.” He said “Could you give me 300 rubles?” Like I said, this is the new number. I was prepared this time and told him I had spent my money of these three notebooks and now I had to be going home. We parted with a hearty handshake and he teetered away. Looking back though I am confused as to why I gave the rude guy the money and not the guy who thought I was cultured.

And so I finally had the chance to talk to Egor’s little friend. “Hello!” She said brightly. They study English in school.
“Hello.” I said back and then in English “And how are you today?”
“Shto?” (what in Russian.) Ah, forget it I thought. I can never understand how these kids can study a language for three years and still none of them know more than “Hello”, “Goodbye” and “What is your name?” I decided to give up trying and asked her about school in Russian. It is the end of the term so I asked how her grades were. She told me that she got all eight’s. Eight’s?! How’s she got better grades than Egor. Especially in English. Bitch knows two goddamned words. I can yell at Egor in English and he understands me. And he only got a seven.
Prejudice is all I can say. Simple anti-American-bias is all it is.

I know I am digressing. I will get back to Yasha and the gang soon. Maybe after tomorrow’s trip I will be more in the mood.