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The Russians are here

December 23rd, 2011

In our neck of comparatively multi-cultural suburbia, there is a fair percentage of people who hail from the former Soviet Union. Kimmy recently relayed an anecdote that illustrated that rather amusingly.

She was having lunch in her middle-school cafeteria. A few girls sat together, as usual. Kimberly, Danielle, Gabriela, Emily, Nicole – common American names, proper English-language conversation.

At the nearby table, a boy with a distinctly Russian name Artyom (easily converted into “Artie”, of course) was bragging to his non-Russian-speaking friend how he could say anything he wanted in Russian and no one around would understand a word of it. To prove his point, he switched to Russian and started chanting rather loudly “No one can understand me! You can’t understand me! No one can understand me!”

Distracted by the noise, Kimmy turned to him and said in her perfect Russian, “I can understand you”.

Then, Danielle, Gabriela and Emily, all with Russian-born parents, said each, “Me, too”. Only the Italian-American Nicole was left out of the proceedings.

Kimmy says Artie’s jaw almost literally hit the floor. His family moved to the area very recently.

Suburbia

The grass is greener…

September 1st, 2011

I would really like to live in a place with no natural disasters or extreme weather conditions to disrupt the normal flow of life. No tornadoes, no hurricanes, no volcanoes, no earthquakes. No snow storms dumping ungodly amounts of snow on my driveway. No heat waves, for that matter.

Fine, I’ll take an occasional heat wave, as long as A/C is working, but not all that other stuff.

Unfortunately, it looks like where I live the only thing missing from the list above is a volcano. Counting my blessings, I suppose.

More importantly, I want to live in a place where you don’t lose power two days after extreme weather ended, courtesy of an imbecile knocking down a power line in a delivery truck. Or at least can get it back in short time, and not remain without power for days because of all of the other repairs that are going on post-extreme weather.

I’m sure such places exist…

Suburbia

On street names (encore)

April 27th, 2011
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Remember my editorial of several years back on the curiosity of British street naming practices? It occurred to me the other day that the Brits do not have monopoly on making weird decisions in regard to street names.

Not far from where we live, if you travel eastward on Lafayette Mills Road, you will eventually pass intersection with Robertsville Road going off to your right. If you continue straight on Lafayette Mills, then in roughly 200 meters you will pass another intersection with Robertsville Road, now going off to your left. You may or may not notice at that point that you are now traveling on Wyncrest Road.

Here is the map:
 

 
The same road changes its name for no good reason, and in the same vicinity two roads not too far but not too close to each other share the same name. Who comes up with these rules?

Suburbia

Self-indulgent thought of the day

September 22nd, 2010
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On balance, having a pool in your backyard is probably worth it.

It costs ridiculous money – the exact total expense will be tallied later in the budget year, but I can already venture a fairly educated guess.

It takes plenty of effort to maintain – hiring a pool guy sounded too expensive when we had considered it last spring, but I am so exasperated by my unending fight against debris that it might be a wise choice next year.

We can only use it for about 5 months a year, from late April to late September – it is heated, but when the air temperatures consistently stay below a certain threshold it is obviously a disincentive for outdoor swimming.

And yet, on a reasonably warm day in the second half of September, after an intense work day, splashing in the warmed-up pool with kids is as close to heaven as I can imagine.

Suburbia

Depressing

March 16th, 2010

Russian language has a vast trove of colorful gems that remain on the fringes of literary norms. On different levels of obscurity even in the street vernacular, these nouns and adjectives often sound out-of-place in a refined discourse among educated adults. Yet, they often provide the most eloquent and brilliant descriptions for some commonplace phenomena.

Take, for instance, лахудра. Pronounced luh-WHO-druh (try “lump” without “m” and “p”, followed by stressed-syllable “who”, followed by “drug” without “g”), it means a slovenly, uncombed, unkempt woman. It is a derisive term, not meant to convey any degree of destitution, but rather an advance state of neglect of personal appearances. Which, astonishingly, can be glimpsed quite frequently in our environs.

Taking the kids to various activities, Natasha regularly comes in contact with other mothers bringing their children. A surprising portion of said mothers look like they just got out of bed, put on random outer garments and left their houses without given any thought to what they look like. Wearing what appears to be rumpled sleeping garments (or, at best, less-than-fresh track suits), their hair not having been touched by a brush for seemingly weeks, their faces showing not the slightest hint of make-up.

Ok, I’ll give it to you feminists out there that somewhere in your hard-core credo it is postulated that a woman is not truly emancipated until she is free from the make-up that the sexist society forced on her for untold generations. I’m sure if you subscribe to that you’re in a minority.

There is obviously a varying need “to impress” in the corporate world, and you are not likely to show up bedraggled and disheveled at a social event. In those instances, you either want to look good or you have to look good, but the bottom line is you will most probably choose to look good one way or another.

But, is making yourself presentable to an outside world something you do for other people or something you do for yourself? Away from business world or social occasions, why wouldn’t you go at least part of the way to keep a pleasant appearance. Even if you don’t care about others looking at you and thinking “what a лахудра!”, doesn’t your inner voice scream the same at you?

We don’t seem to recall seeing much of the kind in Europe. Nobody puts on a ball-gown every time they get out of the house, obviously, but when people do appear in public, whether for work, social occasion, or for a mundane trip to the supermarket, they tend to wear something other than pajamas or sweat-suits and at the very least have their hair combed.

Must be some new levels of the world-famous American self-confidence that now excludes any notion of self-regard.

Re-pat's culture shock, Suburbia

Conditions did not permit

December 21st, 2009

The speed limit signs on Garden State Parkway advise the drivers every half a mile or so that the limit is 55mph with a disclaimer of “conditions permitting”.

The heavy Saturday snow did enough to reduce the number of cars on the road, but the Parkway was well cleared, and absent traffic, not one car was driving below 70.

Apparently, conditions did not permit staying under 55.

Suburbia