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Breathing the right air

Nothing brings more comfort than a bag of good things to cook, swinging under your arm as you make your way home. Somehow it blots out the rest of the world. In these moments, the entire universe consists of a late afternoon sun, a stray dog and a clump of flowers growing strange and wild in a yard. A hit of basil jumps from my elbows with each swing of the bag, a gift from one of the ladies I buy from the most. I visit markets without intention, just eyes open ready to discover fresh peas, or the first corn. Knowing that these products will disappear as quickly as they present themselves creates a certain form of excitement. Each season offers up this rhythm and without it I might become completely lost.

I think of when we were in Tuscany a month ago, feeling like such a tourist until I wandered out along the highway and found the local vegetable stand. I shoved squash blossoms and tiny tomatoes into a bag, rushing back to our room like I had robbed a bank. I made pasta with them th…

a wedding


I saw a long stretch of male balsam trees. They stood, tall and straight in perfect lines along Leninsky Prospekt. They look nothing like the females I wrote about last week. No low branches for the first 50 or 60 feet of trunk, and spaced elegantly – they look down on Lenin’s hill.

Here, you can see the whole city spread out before you. A likely tourist spot, there are countless tables of Bart Simpson matroshkas, Brittney Spears matroshkas, Beatles matroshkas, and the occasional Russian matroshka.

There is a very small monastery, really just a stone-walled room with a few candles inside it. An old woman with a dark kerchief over her head sweeps a few stray pukh from the door with a bundle of twigs tied together into a makeshift broom.

Lenin’s Hill is where all wedding parties make a stop in their festive tour of the city. Some even have the whole ceremony here. There is a sort of house oompa-band, a truly random collection of musicians. A trombone, a tiny trumpet, an accordion and maybe a big drum are the regulars. The band can expand to twenty or more noise-makers on a sunny day, but today in the rain it’s down to the bare minimum. They wait for wedding parties to stop by, and for 1,000 rubles (or maybe 500) they play like madmen, even taking requests for Elvis covers.

The bride’s face is caked with makeup, her hair done into a giant curly-cued beehive. The groom is in an ill-fitted grey suit, stiff and maybe a bit tired. His young face forced into a permanent smile, he stands where he is told to.

Sweet, chemical Russian champagne pops, and the group bursts into song, dancing an odd combination of the hustle, and a polka. It’s hard to stand still, and there’s nothing better than strangers dancing with you to an odd attempt at an Elvis song. Wedding photographs flash away. Relatives with camcorders trip over the tourists and matroshka tables trying to get the perfect moment.

A magnificent stretch limo is bright pink, displaying a giant pair of gold rings on the roof. “Yes.” It announces. “This is a wedding.”

“Gorka! Gorka!” The band shouts, then joined by the guests and strangers passing by.

The bride and groom kiss, and are showered with handfuls of shiny plastic hearts, stars, and a few rubles.

Just as quickly, the party moves on. The pink limo coughs into action, spurting a foul exhaust cloud. The band nips on flasks of cognac, hunching their shoulders against the damp air. Someone is smoking a menthol cigarette.

An old man searches through the party favors on the ground for stray rubles. He kisses each one he finds, before slipping it into his pocket.

I make my way into the forest below us. Tiny birds are chirping above me, and the wet earth smells sweet.

What an oddly correct way to spend Father’s Day, I think.


Comments

Anonymous said…
I really appreciate your blog. You are able to describe Moscow in ways I have not been able to.

Thank you.
Rabbit blogger said…
what a kind thing to say! in truth, i am convinced everyone can write - don;t be scared, and don;t hold back. you need to get naked.

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