Monday, October 31, 2005

Weekend in New York - Part III - RUSSIA!

On Sunday my parents and I went to Guggenheim Museum to check out a collection of Russian art. Creatively named RUSSIA!, this exhibition is billed as the most comprehensive and significant exhibition of Russian art outside Russian since the end of the Cold War. It is largely useless to try to explain in this blog how wanderful the whole experience was. You simply have to go and see it for yourself. Let me just tell you that most of the artworks have never before traveled abroad. In addition to over 250 masterpieces of Russian art from 13th century to present day, there is also a selection of first-class Western European paintings and sculptures from Russian imperial collection and from Morozov's and Shchukin's collections.

Word of advice here - go early and allow plenty of time (upward of 3 hours). We got there at 11am on Sunday and by the time we were ready to leave, at 2:30pm, the museum was packed and the line went clear around the building. Also, spending extra $5 on an audio-tour is recommended.

Afterwards we went to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. It is a noisy, smelly, dark, and dirty place crowded with thousands of hustling and bustling Russians with attitudes as thick as their accents. It's a place worth visiting for all the great people watching. Based on the mix of stores there one might think that Russians are born to eat, drink, read books and medicate themselves. So why do I try to go to Brighton every time I'm in NY? Well, because I love to eat, drink, read books, and medicate myself. In all seriousness, just this time I spent over $70 on books (and books are cheap here, compared to Barnes & Noble). There are also some food items that one cannot buy in a normal American grocery store, especially not in Florida. These include all sorts of dried salted fish, smoked fish, pelmeni, varenniki, all sorts of chocolate, including bitter dark chocolate, blinni, and other such yummy goodness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My weekend: Part II - Russian Samovar

Ok, so after spending time at the museum walking all these floors and looking at all this art we all got very hungry. Luckily, my brother picked us up and we all went to Russian Samovar restaurant on 52nd Street (yes, the place from one of the "Sex and the City" episodes).

Our motley crew must have projected an air of slight cashlessness or rather of unwillingness to part with too large a chunk of our fortunes. Plus we didn't have reservations. And so we did not get to see the upstairs private rooms (damn you, Kerry from "Sex and the City" for getting it all!). Instead we were shown to a small and rather rickety table downstairs, opposite the grand piano and handed the menues.

And now I have a bone to pick with this place. A 4-dollar glass of hot tea?! Gimmieabreak! I understand, this is not a girl-scout lemonade stand we're talking about, but 4 bucks for a SMALL glass of tea with a SMALL slice of lemon and a TEASPOON of cherry preserves seems a bit too much. At least through in a little dry vanilla сухарик in the package! Lesson learned - don't waste money on tea when you can waste them on vodka.

Let's move on... The whole point for us Russians to order Russian food is to eat something that Mom either doesn't cook because it's too much pain in the butt or that she doesn't cook too well or that can't be bought 10 times cheaper on Brighton Beach. Follow our example. Don't waste your hard-earned dollars on a small 8-dollar plate of vinegrett salad when a pound of it can be bought at a deli for half as much.
Don't go for exotic-sounding pelmeni that would cost you roughly a dollar each when your friend's wife or mother makes them every Sunday (not to mention a great little вареничная on Brighton where 50 of those cost $4.95). Admittedly, the food there, at Samovar, is excellent in quality. And yet, if you are looking for a taste of exotic Russia on a budget, try to get some appetizers instead of entrees and skip the desserts (a 10-dollar piece of cake anyone?). This way you don't just save a lot of money, but will also stay in great shape. And that, ladies and gentlement, is becoming more and more of an exotic thing in this country! (And later on you can always grab a 2-dollar hotdog from a street vendor. We did it and survived!).
To be continued...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Museum Mile - my weekend NY-style

First off, my highly critical brother, Arkadiy, advised me to change my profile picture in this blog. Apparently, on it, I look like I have a gap between my front teeth or even a whole tooth missing. This, he said, could be attributed to the loss of pixellation quality due to re-sizing (not verbatum, just how I understood it). So, I took a closer look at the picture and here's my solution - simply enlarge the picture and the "gap" disappears. Of course, in this case my face looks like I've survived a particularly unforgiving strain of the smallpox - all covered in some sort of pokemarks. But don't you get scared - it's all due to the loss of quality (see above) and I'm much better looking in real life (even my Mom says so!).

And since I"m too lazy to sift through pictures looking for that perfect one where my eyes are open, my mouth is slightly open in a sweet-heart smile, all my teeth are present, my hair is nicely done, my skin tone is even, my posture is straight, and my fat rolls are particularly well-hidden, I am going to keep this picture for a while, a long while.

Now, with this matter settled, let's move on to my weekend report. In short, it was a great and terrific weekend. The minor snags, such as ugly weather and my parents' arguing did not do significant damage to the fun level of either Saturday or Sunday.

SATURDAY: My friend Irina K. came down from Boston. To celebrate our reunion (we haven't seen each other for, hmmm, I'd say at least 5 years) we decided to spend the day in New York City. Irina was up for anything and proudly proclaimed that she was going to be my "tail" for a day. And I really wanted to go to MoMA (that's the museum with all the weird modern art). So Irina picked me up and all four of us (yes, including her cousin and her little brother) took a train to NYC. Here we are, at the train station.

As we arrived to NY Penn Station and got outside for a leisurely stroll to MoMa (that's the museum with all the weird modern art that you have to pretend you understand) the weather turned from bad to worse. The rain almost stopped, but the wind picked up and it got much colder. In short, it was a perfect museum day. We were walking along Fashion Ave, talking about stuff and snapping pictures. Little did I know that a little kitchy dream of mine was waiting to happen just around the corner or rather straight up the road. For right there, right on a little pedestrian island in the middle of Broadway stood a very special dude that I have heard about for the past several years but never had a chance to see. Yes, it was Mr. Naked Cowboy himself - boots, a hat, a pair of tighty-whities, a guitar, and not much else - basking in the warm glow of camera flashes. Ok, don't get me wrong - I don't think he's all that (not in this cold weather anyway, if you know what I mean, wink-wink). But rather he was a curiousity and a symbol, a cross between the Statue of Liberty and a two-headed calf. And who wouldn't want a picture with either of these?! So here it goes.

Anyway, after some wandering around we finally found MoMA and got the tickets (people, DO carry your student ID on you at all times, even if it's expired. It saves major dough, i.e. $8 off a regular ticket price). By the way, go there on Friday evenings when it's FREE.
Also, pick up an audio guide which is free, unlike the little printed version.

I'm not going to talk much about MoMA since the best thing to do is to just go there and see it all for yourself. Or at least check out their website. I will post some pictures from the museum next week when I download them on my computer. But here's a little advice

- don't waste too much time on the top floor unless you are really interested in quick-on quick-off condoms, bullet-proof evening dresses, virus stuffed toys, and cardboard houses. These are all wanderful and fascinating, but not if you only have a few hours and haven't been at MoMA before.
- do go see Jackson Pollock paintings even if you're not a big fan of his artwork, you might enjoy having an opportunity to sit down and watch the little museum official shoo away art-lovers that get too close in their quest to fully appreciate the complexity of the paintings' texture.
- the Contemporary Gallery is the most fun (from the little that I had a chance to see). Go there if you are looking for some anatomically correct 3-D nudity and stay for a movie. While watching a movie in which some menacing-looking spreading foam causes a chain reaction of little explosions, fires, more chemicals being spilled, and old trash put to ingenious use, keep in mind that your time is precious and limited. Overall, this movie is great - low on plot, high on anticipation - non-stop action yet a total lack of climax or ending. Enjoy!

To be continued...

Monday, October 17, 2005

In New York

I'm in New York now, for the next couple of weeks. Of course, I have to work during the week, a normal 9 to 5:30 deal. But I still get nights and weekends, right? Sounds like my cell phone calling plan.

It's cold here, especially after Daytona Beach. Maybe I'll get used to it in a while, but for now I'm wearing two sweaters and surviving on gallons of hot tea.

Mom and Dad are doing just fine. The are being same as usual, except even more so. Dad keeps talking about moving to Russia once he reaches the retirement age. Mom keeps buying boxes to store stuff in (and she's got tons of stuff). The boxes are all different size, shape, and made of different materials. So there is a dizzying array of them all over the kitchen. Some are even double-stacked матрешка-style.

The house looks much better from the outside - the landscaping is almost all done now and there's a rock wall and a real lawn too. Most of the tools are now stored in a shed, instead of laying all over the yard. Of course, Dad wouldn't be himself if he wasn't walking around talking about how something or other is really poorly done and won't hold for another year all because nobody listens to his advice.

I spent last night at Masha's. Pasha went to Ohio for the weekend and Masha was afraid of staying in the house by herself. At first I was very skeptical and wanted to make fun of her. But after laying in the dark room late at night listening to the cracking and gurgling noises produced by their heating system, I stopped being so brave myself. It was a lot of fun though. First, we had a little party. I saw several of my old friends and met a couple of new people. In general, everybody seemed to have tons of good time, including Alisa who just couldn't stop giggling.

She's so funny now. She makes cute little faces and constantly wants to grab things (especially keys, bottles, forks). In a true Robin Hood fashion, she immediately gives her bounty away to anyone who happens to be next to her. She also likes to get her face dirty with whatever it is she's munching on - apples, bananas, strawberries, and little cookies. At some point yesterday her face was covered in minced foodstuff mixed generously with saliva. She crawled under the table and stood by me for a minute or two before I picked her up. When I did, her face was already clean, if a bit sticky. I didn't give it much thought until later that night when I noticed strange stains on my jeans and figured out that Alisa used them as a fancy napkin.

I wish I had pictures of her to put here, but I don't have any right now. But if you imagine a little girl with showlder-length reddish-blond hair, a pair of sparkling blue eyes, a little snubby nose, 8 teeth and a big smile, you'll get an idea.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Crazy Busy Weekend

Boy, am I glad that this weekend is over! It was absolutely exhausting. Yeh, I know, you must be thinking that I got tired playing strip dodgeball. C'mon, I don't do it, leave it up to professionals. More about strip dodgeball later though.

First, we had some painting to finish. I know, it's much less exciting than dodgeball, but bear with me. So, yes, we finished painting the guest room (it took us a month from start to finish). But then we went even further and painted an accent wall in the living room. Those of you who saw our house understand the magnitude of the task. Oh, and we also hung new curtains and bought a mattress set. So yes, we're going all out on this. Why? Because my parents finally decided to visit us for the first time in almost 4 years. But first I'll be going to New York to see them for a couple of weeks. More on that later...

Ok, so after we were done with painting, shopping, and cleaning the house, we went to the MILFamania strip dodgeball tournament. Ok, it was supposed to start at 2pm and go on until 6pm. We got to Ocean Deck at 3pm and the stip part was already over! After elbowing our way through a dense crowd of about a hunderd people, we saw two groups of women playing dodgeball in their swimsuits (only 1 was wearing a thong). You can see more action on the beach during any summer weekend.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad even though my favorite contestant (a 300lbs M(ILF)) wasn't there! Others were rather plain looking. Some of the MILFs had all the accourtments of their age and social status, including stretchmarks, huge tatoos and breast implants. But to be completely fair, they had tons of attitude and were much more impressive than a bunch of youngsters in bikinis on the opposite side of the improvised court. As for the Future MILFs, at least on of them looked like she was recovering from giving birth to a septuplet. And the sad part was, the Future MILFs lost even though they had numerical advantage all through the game!

Either way, by the time we found an empty table, ordered a couple of drinks and appetizers, the whole thing was over and some crazy-looking dude started preparing an in-doors stage for a karaoke contest. By the way, as nice and popular as Ocean Deck is, don't go there unless you're prepared to pay $1.00 per each halapeno popper or $4.00 for a bottle of beer (import).

So we finished our appetizers and got out of there just in time to make it to the car before the rain started. Chris was free to go home, but I had more planned for the night. Namely, a couple of my Russian friends, Eleonora and Albina, and I were getting together at Albina's for a fun karaoke of our own. We bought some drinks and a Key Lime pie and sat around a cozy living room enjoying a gorgeous view of both the ocean and the river from the 15th floor of Albina's condo. We had tons of fun singing (mostly off-key) some Russian songs, culminating in a spunky trio performance of "Zaika moya". After our repertoir was exhausted, we just talked and entertained Albina's daughter, Bianka.

On Sunday, my husband invited me to the "Wing House", a "Hooters" look-alike chain. "V Tulu so svoim samovarom"! I'm not sure if the waitresses there are any better looking that at "Hooters" (the practice of hiring girls of certain type suffers heavily from the EOE requirements). But if you want to get some good food, go straight to the Wing House. Their wings are great, whether mild, medium, hot, dallas, or what have you, especially if ordered "naked".

That's it. Back to work today! Monday is almost over!!!!!!!!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My Mama's Birthday

Today is my Mom's Birthday. As hard of a life as she had (just imaging dealing with me, my brother, AND my Dad for years), she's as lovely as a daisy. Those who know her know that she's an awesome woman. For those who don't - believe me, you're missing out on knowing one of the best people in the world. She's no angel, but she's damn close to being one!

I know it's only Thursday and so there's not going to be any big birthday bash at my parents' house. And unfortunately I won't be in NY for another couple of weeks. But maybe when I get there, we'll remedy this situation. Mom doesn't like big parties. She's a very private person. So maybe we'll just go to the City like we did a couple of years ago when she was getting her American citizenship. We had a lot of fun exploring the Chinatown. Or what about the other time when we went to see Christmas Spectacular at the RadioCity Music Hall?!

So yes, I'll be in NY very soon. When? I don't know exactly, but I think I'll be around the 15th of October. I'll stay there for a couple of weeks so I have a chance to see most of my family and friends. And then my parents are going to fly to Daytona Beach for a whole week! FINALLY!!!

In the mean time, some of the upcoming events in the Daytona Beach area:

1) Saturday, 8 October 2005 - MILFamania strip dodgeball at the Ocean Deck! (I'll try to get there to get some pictures for my blog).

2) 20-23 October 2005 - Biketoberfest, yes again (I'll miss all of it, so I'll have tons of catching up to do come Bikeweek time).

3) 29-30 October 2005 - Florida Skyfest. Hopefully we'll see the last half a day of it with my parents. It's really cool 'cause they do the airshow over the beach.