Thursday, October 25, 2007


Memory is one of the strangest concepts that are out there. Sometimes we forget what we did yesterday, but can remember what we did and even sometimes wore years and years ago. No matter rich, poor, or in between, we all have our memories, and while material posessions can come and go, memories that we have are the only thing that stays with us until the day we die.

There is nothing I treasure more than memories that I have in my head. I can pull them up at any time to brighten up my day, and although I realize that those days are over and will never come back, putting myself back into those places and situations always seems to lift my spirits.

It was Curonian Spit in Lithuania, where I went with my grandma almost every summer. I remember the hotel room on the first floor with an open brick balcony that looked out into a pine tree grove. The grove was dry and the pine needles were covering the ground like a brown carpet. The sun was falling and making shadows and patterns on the walls, drowning everything in a yellow light. Grandma would sit and read a book in a chair, while I would lay on a bed upside down and read Issac Asimov while eating green apples. After a while, we would go together to the beach, walking down the pedestrian street covered with pine tree needles. On one side there was a long beach peaking from behind a wall of pine trees. On the other side there was a grove that had a playground with wooden carved statues, on which I liked to climb.

The beach was always very windy and cold, and we would put a large blanket on the sand and try to hide behind the dunes. We would lay there for hours, amidst swaying tall yellow grass, playing cards and talking. Then I would run down from the dunes to the beach and pick seashells and amber pieces that were thrown onto the shore of a Baltic Sea, running up to the edge during the tides and then being chased away by oncoming waves. On the way back we would stop by one of the numerous food kiosks and get ourselves some soda and cabbage pies.

Nostalgia memory #2

Every summer my family and I would go to our village house, which was in a village called Yagodkino ("Berry Village" in transl.), which was not far from Tver', an ancient city located between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Our log house stood on a little dirt road that lead to the forest. To get to it we had to turn off the main road onto the dirt road, driving down the botched surface past the fields of golden wheat that was as tall as me at that time. I remember the house where I spent best years of my childhood: a large Russian style house with a huge barn attached to the side. The bathroom was inside the barn, and I always dreaded opening that wooden door, feeling the stale cold air blow in my face as I enered it. There was no light inside, so I always had someone to hold the door to have the light from the kitchen would light up the way in the bathroom. In the lobby there was a large Russian stove, on top of which I laid during the day when it was chilly outside and read my science fiction magazines.

Ever evening my grandparents, my mom, and my aunt would go for a walk into the wheat fields to watch the sunset. It lit up the entire endless sky in its fiery dark orange glow, getting darker over the forest line. The cold fresh air smelled of burning leaves and hay. We would walk through the wheat fields towards the forest, watching the sky slowly turn from glowing orange to dark purple, and then black. The stars would spill all over the sky and you could hear the lonely howling of the wolves coming from the endless woods. I always wanted to go in and wander through those humongous fur trees at night, but right before the entrance, we would turn around and start walking back, with me dragging my grandma by the sleeve to come with me into this wall of darkness. When we went back to the house, we would sit at the big wooden table in the closed terrace room. On one side there was a small ornate window that looked into the forest, and on the other side there was a long ancient couch covered with tarp that would extend all the way across that wall. The logs on the wall were covered with old dirty pink and yellow wallpaper that was peeling off between the slopes of the logs. On the ceiling there was a small but bright lamp which lit up the whole room in a soft yellow light. There was nothing better than to sit in this cozy room, and peer through the window into an endless darkness. No streets, let alone street lights. Just the darkness and an even darker forest.

Everyone would sit at the table and my grandma would bring out hot tea and a huge jar of apple/blackberry jam that she made with my mom. I always picked a seat on the couch so I could see the window across from me. She would take out cards, and we would play a Russian game of "The Fool", which is a traditional Russian card game. My grandma and I would always try to look into each other's cards, and the room would get filled with noise and laughter. Sometimes I would be in charge of a stereo, in which case I would put in my favorite tape, which was Metallica's freshly released "Black Album", and everybody would try to turn it down as quiet as possible except for my grandma, which was genuinely enjoying the tunes. We would sit into the hours of wee, enjoying the game and tea with jam.

Afterwards, we would all brush our teeth together outside, since there was no running water, almost in complete darkness, with a lobby light lighting up the yard. One person would hold a little pitcher of water and pour it into another person's hands to rinse out the toothpaste. Afterwards, my grandma would assist me to the bathroom because I was deathly terrified of going inside the old barn alone. After that, it was time to go to sleep, which was one of my favorite times in the village. One part of the large living room was separated by a white lace curtain, creating a tiny room. My bed that I shared with my grandma was in that area, and I would always choose the side that was closer to the window so I could peer into the darkness and imagine monsters and werewolves waiting outside while I was inside in a safety of my family. Sometimes I could hear a bear or a wolf creeping up to the window at night, and I would spook myself silly imagining them to be those monsters. In the morning, I would wake up to the birds chirping and a big birch tree under the window sway in the breeze. Sometimes a herd of cows would noisily walk by, and I would try to tease them with a piece of rope. After that, I would climb out of the window down that tree, which always made my grandpa extremely worried for my bones.

I remember the lazy afternoons when me, my grandma, my mom, and my aunt would lay in the yard surrounded by various plants that were as tall as we were, enjoying reading, and picking off the apples fallen from a nearby tree. I would cozy up next to my grandma on a big blow up
mattress, jokingly fighting with her over space, and enjoying my science fiction magazines from the stack that I found in the house. The air would get filled with a smoky smell because of my grandpa burning old papers in a metal bucket in a field. After a while I would run up to him and help toss those papers into the bucked, watching flames go high up as more papers were added. I would shuffle them with a stick, crating sparks and blowing ashes all over the place.

Monday, October 22, 2007

small talk

We all have certain things that we hate and find completely and utterly annoying. For me, one of those things is small talk with people I could not give a rat's ass about, like co-workers or neighbors (small talk is a very typical American habit. In Eastern Europe you can avoid this unpleasantry by giving that person an evil eye or condemning them to hell. In Somalia, you can feed that person to a pack of hungry lions or people)

There is always that awkward moment upon encountering that said person and making a forced eye contact, when I feel obliged to break the daunting silence in fear of being considered rude or unwelcoming. There is always that wonderment of who is going to start talking first (usually its the other person), always followed by a severely pointless question or comment like: "Its nice outside, isn't it?" which always makes me want to answer: "I'll be darned! I had no idea, since I was locked up in a cage for the past few days and did not just walk in here behind you from the parking lot".

But, alas, I have to hold my forked tongue and say something like: "Yeah, I hope it stays this way for a while", secretely wishing to drink a cup of bleach for emmitting such cheesiness. This usually is followed by a smile and mutual forgetting of each other's existance until the next day, when we can share our meteorological opinions once more.

If the pest happens to be your coworker, and you happen to be next to that person for an extended period of time, the conversation might grow into a pretencious inquiry of what each of us did this past weekend, pretending to care to find out what exactly it was. Ofcourse the answer has to also be pretentious and fake to underline your stability and normalcy, like: "I had a picnic in the park" or "I went to see a movie with my friends", since saying "I watched my neighbors through binoculars", "I downloaded every porn site on the net", or "I smoked a whole bag of weed" would be considered too truthful and perhaps inappropriate. I am sure even Jeffrey Dahmer's response to that question wasn't "I was stuffing human body parts in my fridge to munch on them later." Also it would mean that you actually took their question seriously and took time to think of an answer.

This whole thing is usually acknowledged by something like: "Awesome", or "That sounds like fun", which would probably be the same response even if you said that last weekend you had your legs ran over by a freight train and afterwards they were stolen by hungry coyotes.

If you are lucky, this small talk might be aborted right there and those parties would continue minding their business and feeling content for taking time to get their own presence acknowledged. However, if you are the unlucky one and that person happens to recently have attended a wedding shower/baby shower/any other kind of shower and has pictures to back it up, you might get stuck in a third circle of hel...small talk, which requires looking at each picture, trying not to vomit and pretend to enjoy the visuals.

This is that nauseating time when you have to be sickeningly sweet and keep yourself from sayin: "Wow, that dress makes you look really hideous, and so does your face", or "Is that a baby, or a roadkill possum with no tail?", or "Wow, there are more douchebags in this picture than in a hooker's bathroom cabinet!"

To sum things up, I really despise this brief period of time when I have to rape my brain and strip myself of my dignity for several minutes in order to prove myself remotely likeable or to boost somebody's already enormous ego. Bweech!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

more weirdness

It is quite fascinating how much our life experiences shape us as human beings, sculpting every minute detail in our human forms. Some of those forms come out shiny and smooth, very pleasant to touch and to come in contact with, with innate abilities to bounce off any light that shines upon them. They might not be too deep, but all you need to know about them lies on the smooth surface, easily visible to the naked eye (unless there are some deeper cracks that might form overtime).

Some come out with jagged sharp edges others might hurt themselves on, and deeply carved crevasses inside which no one is able to see or set a foot. Sometimes it might take a very powerful flashlight to see the wonders hidden in those crevasses, yet sometimes there are no wonders to begin with but cold empty space.

While some may begin as shiny smooth specimens, if touched too roughly, they sometimes may crumble, revealing not so smooth bottom layers. Our shapes may change depending on the amount and quality of experiences that we have, but the main form is usually carved out at the very beginning. Life is a greatest sculptor, but it is our job to monitor the chiseling process and provide the instruments.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


This weekend at a restaurant I managed to stumble upon not one, but two birthday celebrations, accompanied, as usual, by out of tune rendition of a b-day song, noisy applauds as if the cause of this celebration was a Nobel Prize recepient, and a traditional blowing out of a candle while making a wish (which, if it wasn't such a sham, would have by now eliminated wars, diseases, and fat people).

Looking at those two smiling and laughing people, a thought came to my mind: our life is like a ladder, and every b-day is a step that takes us closer and closer to the top until we fall off since there is nowhere else to climb. Every year on the same day we are putting our foot onto the next step of this ladder, getting more and more worn out and realizing how out of shape we are. So technically, those people are celebrating getting one step closer to their eventual demise. Woohoo, how fun! Not.

I remember the days when I used to get excited about my b-days, even if they meant sitting at the table among boring adults, which enjoyed lengthy conversations about current events and sicknesses, and eventually running off to do something more exciting, like cutting snowflakes out of curtains or peeling off wallpaper in patterns. After that, my degrees of b-day excitement went in stages.

When I was 17, I was impatiently waiting for my 18th b-day, which would have meant finally being able to buy my own cigarettes instead of having to ask for them some strange men, risking a possibility of a 20 minute lecture on dangers of smoking or an offer of an exciting van ride.

After being 18 got a little old, my next b-day to be awaited was, ofcourse, my 21st b-day. On that magnificent day I could finally go to any liquor store, not just the one on 37th and 19th with metal bars on the doors, and proudly whip out my ID while looking at teenagers buying gum and gazing at me in awe and jealousy. However, this is where the b-day excitement ended and frustration began as each year brought more and more responsibilities and frustrations.

Now, all over sudden, I became an adult. While doing stupid stuff previously used to cause a detention from a teacher, or nagging from my mother, or a promise to never see light of day from my father, this time it was different. I was responsible for all my mistakes and was the only one responsible for recognizing and correcting them. There were no more excuses and blaming everything on being young.

After that, each b-day was like a check mark on my bill of life, and my 25th b-day ended with me ranting to my friend about the fact that I was a quarter century old, and half-way to 50. She promised to give me an "Over The Hill" tshirt right now so I can get used to wearing it later. I guess my mid-life crisis started about 20 years too early.

In other words, b-days suck, and eating a b-day cake every year will probably cause clogged arteries in the future, which in turn will make our ladder that much shorter.

Friday, October 5, 2007


Fate. What exactly is it and does it exist? Is there a certain power that holds our future in its hands, manipulating us like chess pieces, and determining whether its check or mate? Is there a path that leads us to a certain destination that was preassigned to us by stars or something else the day we are born? Or maybe it is ourselves and the circumstances that things happen under that determine our outcome?

Here is a scenario: a young 18 year old man slams his car into a tree and dies in a fiery crash. Some may argue that this scenario was written in his unfortunately short book of life, and this was the last chapter. Others may say that his demise was brought on by himself, and if he wasnt speeding, or maybe drinking, or paid a little more attention to the road, he would have avoided the accident and continued enjoying his life. Then, if his life is spared, the first group may say that if he could have avoided that tree and stayed alive, it was his fate, and his book of life may continue. So who is right? The answer is that there is no answer. This is something that, no matter how hard we tried, we have been unable to prove or disprove so far.

Being humans, intelligent (mostly) creatures with brains designed for internal and external reasoning, we hold a certain amount of power over our future, but this power is not absolute. We can decide what steps to take to benefit ourselves and where those steps might take us. We realize that getting an education might lead us to a successful career, which in turn might lead to success in personal life, making our lives as great as possible. We think if we follow those steps, everything will go smoothly as we plan. As we think we are in total control of our lives, we go outside and get hit by a bus, which sends us into a vegetative state, followed by someone pulling the plug and getting us out of our mysery.

Our control over our life is oficially over. While we managed to control to a certain extent the steps we took, we could not control our final destination. Was it determined by fate for us to go out so prematurely in such an unflattering way? Or were we just a victim of an unfortunate circumstance which could have been avoided would we have looked both ways? Again, both reasonings could apply.

While we cannot control our life to the fullest, there is one thing that we do have control over: our death. If a human being decides to take control of his death and bring it on prematurely, he can do so at any time with a high level of success. When he has his finger on a trigger of a gun applied to his head, he has a full control of the outcome and can bring his death upon himself at any second.

But who is controlling him? Is it his hand that pulls the trigger on a gun, or is it a hand of fate that pulls his trigger and makes him predestined to die of a gunshot wound?
If we go to a fortune teller and she tells us that our demise would be brought on next Monday by a brick falling off the roof, we might try to cheat fate if we believe one exists and stay home that day.

However, if there is such thing as fate, all this could mean is that it was predestined for us to not go out on Monday and get killed by a fallen brick. Since there is no way for us to check this the day we are born, we may never know. It might also mean that you should not trust fortune tellers for they are nothing but scam artists. Whichever way of thinking you prefer, there is only one thing that is certain: whatever happens to us is either a product of fate, or circumstances.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Doors

There are many concepts out there that are hard for a human mind to comprehend. For me, one of those concepts is a door in a public bathroom that requires a handle to be pulled in order to open it.

Obviously, these doors are designed for us to physically touch that handle in order to let ourselves out. It is also obvious that whoever decided to install those types of doors by now has got to have some sort of desease caused by constantly touching the said handle every time they use a bathroom.

Why? Because, while in an ideal world all creatures would wash or at least rinse their hands after having their them in such close proximity to their not so clean nether regions, we do not live in such world. There is always that one individual that, as much as our peripheral vision lets us, we see make a bee line from a stall or a urinal directly to the door (we also usually try to look in the mirror to see if we personally know this savage so we can tell our coworkers about his/her awful hygiene habits and try to avoid any handshaking in the future).

As we see that individual grab the door handle, we realize that at that moment millions of tiny but potentially harmful and equally disgusting bacteria quickly make their way off the host onto the door. Oh, no! If only this was a "push", not "pull" door so we could kick it with our foot and escape unharmed! After we start contemplating on how to open it without having it come in contact with our exposed skin, we pull our sleeve over our hand and pull on the handle, treating it as if it was a leper in an Indian colony.

Sometimes we take a paper towel, wrap it around the handle, and then, after opening the door with it and avoiding it slamming on our hand or head, aim for the garbage can, sometimes with a success of a blind man at a target practice. On occassion, though, we pry the door open with our pinky finger, thinking that this nasty bacteria will only roam in that designated location instead of our entire hand, thus making it safe to eat a doughnut as long is it does not come in contact with that contaminated body part.

Sometimes an elbow or a foot may also come in handy, as long as the handle is low enough and we dont embarass ourselves by falling onto the floor while performing this acrobatic stint. Also, a workman's comp package does not cover injuries brought on by getting your foot stuck in a door handle and smashing your face on the floor. All these troubles would be eliminated if only we could push the door with our shoulder or any other body part. In other words, bathroom door handles are the enemies we avoid and despise, and so are the inconsiderate morons that installed them.