Magical powers for accountants

During a recent trip to Russia, probably a 10th during our married live, B grasped a new concept that opened to him the new depths of the Russian soul. It happened to him over a pool game with my sister’s fiancé, who also likes to wear shorts and t-shirts on March days in Russia.

By then, for days everyone else was busy trying to figure out how to distract B from Angry Birds and a murder mystery in discussions about world economic policy and advances in Physics, and therefore mostly kept quiet and tiptoed around him. Physics in English is just too intimidating. But the fiancé didn’t have that problem. His language skills increased exponentially with each consequent bottle of beer, and he suggested pool. Hands on and engaging.

“I know now why you do the things you do!” announced B when we came to check up on them at the pool table.

Taken aback, I shot the fiancé a look that would have crispy-crittered a small animal.

“You know how you like whack the pool balls and see if anything goes in? Now I know! It’s called avos!” B said, explaining the Russian concept of blind faith into a positive outcome. It also works for things like showing up at an exam without ever opening the textbook or spitting against the wind and not getting hit.

All this coming from a guy who likes to calculate every pool shot trajectory and would probably like a laser level for a birthday present.
The rest of the relatives jumped on the opportunity to chime in.

“Did you know that in the Soviet Union, people carried around a small sack just in case they came across food in the store?” some said. “It was called ‘avoska’ based on that same idea.”

Those were two words that B learned on that trip – avos and avoska…

When he got back home, this guy with an accounting degree and a shopping list that synchs across three phones, posted the following on the Facebook page for his business, enticing customers to stop by for a free shopping bag:

“The Russians are so serious about the avos philosophy that many carry a cloth bag (called an avoska) with them in case they find something they want. In the spirit of international understanding, we have such a bag that we will give you. It is bright red and can be used a grocery bag when you are not in the avos spirit.”

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What to do when you can’t do it anymore

One of my favorite Russian bloggers recently ran into the door frame and split open her forehead… all while trying to sneak a cigarette in the middle of the night. She made a deal with her husband that if he buys her a French château she’d quit smoking…

So now she’s in this state of unshakable depression, fueled by a throbbing scar and nicotine withdrawal, and she’s crowdsourcing depression remedies from her readers… Here are my top five nuggets of the collective wisdom:

-          Gorge on sweet and greasy

-          Watch Dr. House

-          Open a bottle of Champagne and make a toast to new life

-          Wash the windows and scrub the toilet

-          Yell at your partner and then to have wild sex. Or to go for a drive, and then to start the yelling part.

Is that what Cyndi Lauper had in mind?

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Schadenfreude

Think 5th Avenue in New York, 4 pm on a sunny early spring day. I’m humming Putting on the Ritz and nod at a doorman with golden buttons who instantly puts a price tag on my belongings and goes back to napping.

And then he appears. Gray, short hair. Checkered woolen jacket with a single pink rose sticking out his breast pocket. Next to him, a giant white poodle that comes up to his waist, prances along. The poodle is so white he seems to glow in the evening light. Probably has pink toe nails too. Pretty soon the poodle comes up to what must be the only puddle in the street… and steps into it.

Think an oil changing garage in Utah. It smells like gas, sweat and melting snow. I am pretending not to be there by immersing myself in Angry Birds.

And then she appears. Cowboy boots painted with flowers of all colors and shapes. The kind of boots you’d put on a shelf next to a vase and a family portrait. Not the boots for walking. She sits down, pulls a phone out of her enormous flowery bag and starts to put one leg on top of the other. But it doesn’t work. There’s a chewing gum stuck to the sole…

Moral: Boots and white poodles pass but schadenfreude is forever. Yey to Avenue Q.

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Why guys do stuff

Oksana Marafioti, my inspiration in a local writers community, is an American Gypsy who speaks four  languages and has witnessed her dad perform exorcist. She has a memoir coming out with a major publishing house. And she’s married to an Italian guy – so that’s a stew of at least five distinct cultures bubbling along on any given day.  Stole this from her Facebook page.

“A scene from a bookstore:
Me: This book looks interesting. “Why Does My Cat Do That?” It’d be even more interesting if the title was, “Why Does My Husband Do That?”

Husband: That would be a one page book.

Me: Really? And what would it say?

Husband: So he can get some.”

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How to get along with your American husband. Part 4

B and I are in essence a tortoise and a hare. He always gets to where he’s going and doesn’t seem to break a sweat, and I run around in circles, screaming “It’s the end of the world and we know it!” and “Our electric tea pot is too slow,” and collapse on the couch, exhausted. In the meantime, he sets a new record in Angry Birds and does our taxes.

So on Saturday morning we are in the process of getting into the car to go grocery shopping. I am standing and waiting, fuming, considering to walk around the block or to raid the fridge. Pretending to be a responsible adult, I pour myself a cup of tea and say,

“This cup of tea is boiling hot but when it’s done, I’m leaving without you.”

The tea is disappearing. B is walking back and forth, humming along to a song in his earphones. And even dancing a little. He’s putting clean laundry away. He’d washed it too. Who could be mad?

As the last line of defense, I cut off a piece of cake with a large chef’s knife. The kind of knife that if it drops on your toe, there’d be no toenails to paint. And walk upstairs to see what B is doing, a knife casually in hand.

He doesn’t notice me, still in a happy bliss of his headphones, putting folded socks in our drawers.

Then he looks up and sees my knife.

As any normal individual, he takes a step back, takes off his headphones and says my favorite line from the Chicago musical.

“And she ran into my knife. Ten times.”

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How to get along with your American husband. Part 3

B. does a lot of things you won’t catch other husbands within a mile radius. Like doing the laundry. I attribute his natural inclination to washing to him being a Cancer, or maybe he’s just a nice guy. Or I’m lazy. Or both.

On Sunday night, he shows up in our bedroom with my navy sweater arranged on a hanger. It’s a great sweater, adopted on sale at one of my favorite unaffordable stores. The kind of sweater you swear you’ll only wear once a week but then it just keeps sliding onto your body morning after morning.

“Your sweater is confused,” he announces.

“What do you mean?” It’s me who’s confused now.

“It can’t decide whether it’s a pullover or a cardigan.”

In all honesty, it does have a large opening on the front. That was one of its biggest assets, the fact that it’s sort of both things at once. I guess I’d never seen it as “confused.” Does that mean that something I’d always considered it as “versatile,” most people actually saw it as “undecided?” Can a sweater have “failure to commit?” Does that put its owner in the same category? Maybe that’s why I can never pick out what to wear in the morning, whether or not to quit a job and what to be when I grow up.

Morale: Husbands can be so much cheaper than a shrink…

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Love across cultures

Just happened…

Three women are sitting at a restaurant. Chinese, Caucasian and Russian. Speaking English and sharing green beans and fried eggplant and drooling over crispy duck that’s going to the next table. As in any situation with two or more women, after a while, the conversation steers towards guys.

“Which guys are hotter? Chinese? White?” the Russian says.

“Chinese guys are cute, not all of them, but that one over there, he’s hot,” says the Caucasian.

“No, white guys are the best,” says the Chinese and her eyes get all dreamy… “Especially Californian surfer dudes.”

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