Prunes and Prism

RULES FOR YOUNG LADIES: Some arch advice on snagging a husband. Exercising the mouth into a pretty shape through repetition of certain words seems to have been an indoor sport for young nineteenth-century girls; in Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens' overly bred girl repeats, "papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism." (

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Orange(-Haired) Revolution

When one is busy making the world safe for those who love freedom, it's difficult to find time to blog; thus, my regrettable extended absence. Last Sunday I was in Kiev's Glory Square, the most stirring WW II monument in a country rife with WW II monuments (and brides, and brides being photographed in front of WW II monuments). I don't think you can see, in this photo, the little guy perched in the cleft where the two cannons meet, but if you look closely you'll notice the tanks have been painted in a wheat motif: from swords, ploughshares!

The Comrade's brother lives in Kiev with his parakeet, Grisha; the two of them can see the gold domes of Lavra monastery from their window. The Comrade and Comrade frere are fast friends and really love each other, in a way that makes me only-child envious. On our last night there we sat outside at a gypsy festival (horseback tricks, dangling coins worn without irony), and the Comrade was cold, and Comrade frere just put his arms around him to warm him up. Their sweetness makes me feel a little ruined. One day in the metro we passed a television that was playing an old Ukrainian cartoon that featured wedding revelers and a drunken wolf, the hilarity of which was not immediately apparent to me, and the Comrade got terrifically excited and stopped C.f., who also got terrifically excited, and the two of them stood giggling like little kids. Not the way I would giggle at Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, though (Sid & Marty Krofft and their wacky tobaccy!) -- they laughed because they thought it was funny.

I thought of that when I passed three American college kids -- two girls and a boy, in the requisite hooded sweatshirts and windbreakers around their waists -- walking into Domashniya Kukhnya, a cafeteria-style restaurant. I was curious about them, wondering if they were doing a semester there or just passing through, whether they spoke Russian, and so I turned to gawp at them from the other side of the glass doors.

Just in time to see one of the girls gesture to the cafeteria trays and say something whilst making air quotes. Then they all laughed, and the boy repeated whatever she'd just said, and he too made air quotes.

"Oh, look, 'cafeteria trays.' What a scream!"

"I'm having a 'Big Mac Attack.'"

"Can we ever have an 'authentic life'"?

I was torn between exasperation ("Don't you realize all this compulsive satire is eroding our capacity for fellow feeling? And some lip gloss, girls -- we look like farmhands here!") and, well, envy again. I would have liked to make air quotes with somebody, too. Or at least a couple of Yakov Smirnoff jokes.

Readers, I know you understand. I'm sorry I've been gone so long. Watch this space for more photos, and more tales of ruined sentiment and eroded feeling!


Blogger thirty-year-old secretary said...

Oh I understand.

5:00 PM  
Blogger Recovering Baptist said...

I know how you feel about siblings. I've always wanted one. And I have two older brothers. It's just never enough for me is it?

8:08 PM  
Blogger cb said...

prunes and prism,

you are a lovely writer. so glad to have you back. more tales! more tales!

yours in fellow eroded feeling,

12:39 PM  

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