07 August 2008

More from Yalagin Street

We continue to convert our new apartment, as economically as possible, from a bare shell into a real and hospitable living place. A friend has offered to send us a couple of installers who work for him, so in preparation for their visit we have light fixtures, bathroom faucets, towel racks, and similar necessities all lined up. We have had our first guests, who were willing to overlook our apartment's rough spots to have tea with us. And thanks to the super quality of food here, our tea was quite nice, even if we say so ourselves--salmon caviar (the ONLY time we will spend $7 for a small jar of anything!), unbelievably good black bread (90 cents a loaf), two different kinds of cheese (Lithuanian and Polish, the latter on sale at SPAR), and Polish sausage, along with excellent Sri Lankan tea.

What other hot news do we have? Not the weather--for the last week or so, it has been most unseasonable. It's been like winter in Oregon--temperatures in the 50's Fahrenheit, lots of grey skies and daily rains, and a few teasing minutes of bright cold sunshine each day. Everyone's blaming global warming. Every time we walk everywhere, we have to double the distance just to get around the enormous puddles. (Yes, I'm exaggerating.)

Well, at least ONE thing is hot--the hot water!! After two weeks of annual maintenance work on the hot water plant that serves southwest Elektrostal, during which the hot water pipes were dry, last night we were delighted to see full-pressure streams of cold brown water coming from our hot water faucets. And this morning the brown water was replaced by nearly clear water, and it had turned nicely hot. No more bathtime improvisations--life is good. It is easy to forget how much of the world gets along without hot water pipes; in fact, how much of the world can't count on clean water of any temperature.

The lack of ready Internet access has made the occasional scraps of U.S. political news seem a bit unreal. We get little scraps of trivia--a few words about McCain's comparison of Obama's popularity with that of certain female entertainers--and I can't help imagining what kind of a circus must be going on to get something like that into the news. With this kind of fragmented access to the wider world, my own horizons shift a bit. I've spent the last three days living in the fantastic universe of Mikhail Bulgakov's great novel, Master and Margarita, in which Satan and his retinue turn 1930's Moscow upside down, answerable to no power other than--perhaps--the persistent power of the heroine's compassion, and Pontius Pilate's desperate desire to have a conversation with the Man whose death sentence he confirmed. Somehow, at this distance, Bulgakov's world seems almost as real as a political campaign in which one candidate accuses another of being too popular.

Just to confirm the overlap of reality and unreality, I found the following classified ad in my copy of Master and Margarita:
In exchange for parttime supervision and household duties for me and my folks. I'm a single writer who travels a lot (I keep my boat in the Bahama Islands). House has a housekeeper. If you are a positive person who can get things done, call ....
Now who put this ad in my copy of the novel? And when?

In honor of the sweet dog who greets us every day in our courtyard, here's an old song that Marcia Ball has given a lot of circulation in recent years:

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