Feel Good About Your Body

November 21, 2008

In the ad she says she is pushing 40. Is that what a woman of 40 supposed to look like? Apparently yes. That is if she uses the right beauty products. Still, the actress is about 25, you can tell by her titties.

Unbelievable pressure on women. “If you do not look like her when you are 40 you are a slob” - this is the message. Piss off! A 40-year-old woman may still look good if she takes care of herself, but never will she pass for a bird of 25.
Blokes got it easy, I have never seen an advert that would target a 40-year-old man’s appearance. Ha-ha, bloody heck, imagine a 25 year old hunk saying from the telly: “Now that I am 40, life has just began for me. Not only I have got the money, I also look good”.
This will put nearly all male viewers of certain age to misery. “If you don’t make money you are a looser, if you don’t have a young man’s abbs you are a looser too”. No win situation, eh?

I know quite a few people in their forties. Most of them have given up on themselves, they are happy if they simply got somewhere professionally. Then again, not many of them ever dared to rank their own physics too high even when they were 25, why would they care now?

Still, to remain mentally fit (or unfit but appear to function properly), people need to feel good about themselves. How do they do it, best kept secret. Some of the cases are pure gold, check this out: a manager has given himself a birthday present… dick enlargement. He claimed that during meetings it helped him to enter a room full of people, many of them being younger than himself. He said, he still felt superior to them, thanks to that little extra in his underpants.

Getting a bigger dick is quite a drastic performance. Getting a tattoo is a way easier option. Technically it should do same trick: a body modification in order to boost up self esteem. Besides, I don’t believe that a penis enlargement was ever done by a somebody who was a happy person, but I do believe that there are happy tattoos. These are done in order to celebrate your body, they are pure decoration.

Physically, between say 35 and 40, many men go through significant changes: they loose their hair and they bulk up. Consequently, they are running a risk to look older.
On average, a 38-year-old man might look about 45. The good news, he is probably going to look like this for the next 10-15 years. His age, eventually, should catch up with his appearance and, by the time he is 50, he’s got a fair chance to look good again (for his age of course).

40 year old men generally look younger than their actual age when they are thin but healthy, and they aren’t bald. If they also have the money, they are true winners. Example: Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, many rock and pop stars.
Fair enough, a life span of a rock star is likely to be below 40, with the exception of somebody like Iggy, or Mick Jagger (the above theorem may be proved true for the price of two reunion shows).

To finish it off nicely: if you are a bloke, do not, I repeat, do not try and look younger by following younger trends in fashion. Do three other things instead: shave, exercise and stop smoking. These are guaranteed to bring results.

Filed under: Life Outside Russia
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — sasha @ 5:37 pm

The Death of a Go-Go Dancer

October 22, 2008

…and to think about it, I was into angry rap music (called “gangsta” I believe). Often albums would start by the MC crying: I am back mother*&$?ers!. As I am back writing again I guess I could use the “I am back” thing too, but I am not gonna do it.

Am I glad to be back? I dunno… Last night was a club-scene revisit. Same music, same people. Geezers with crap tatoos and birds in very tight jeans. Next year they still very well might be going through same motions, being another year older, thats all. As Nick Knox was saying: “life is boring… even drugs are boring”.

Right Nick! On the positive side, I am not at this stage of boredom just yet, I still have great respect for drugs. Still, I am no dope-fiend and I don’t want to become one either, dope-fiends with the drugs being the focal point of their lives are boring too. To avoid this situation, one must depart from the scene and keep to himself for a while. All dope-fiends start out as weekend junkies and I honestly don’t know anybody who would have stayed on the scene and would not cross that fine line between flirtation and addiction.
It is easy to spot a person going through initial stages: when they are not stocked-up themselves, they are frantically cruising nightclubs looking for anybody they know who might be holding. Wah-wah, I can hear them saying, what do YOU propose? Yoga? Sanskrit? Calling your mum more often? I don’t know. May be I am writing this to avoid the sliding, d’you know what I mean? Never mind.
If the club scene did not change during the year, streets of this town suffer significant changes all the time. This season its the far end of Nevski, known as Staronevski, that gets a makeover treatment. One late night, as I was getting a lift home from a mate, I saw a dancing girl in a revealing outfit in the middle of a junction. I figure, she was an employee of a local lap-dancing joint. Traditionally, on any given night, if the place wasn’t jumping, the girls would come out onto the pavement to grab prospective clients. With the pavements all dug up, I guess now they forced to move onto the road.
It would make an excellent headline if one of them was actually hit by a vehicle. In my mind I can see a mouth-watering picture: the collision throws the slender body of a girl in the air and she lands with a thud, arms and legs at different angles, puddle of blood under her head, one of the high-heeled shoes still on, the other flown off her foot…
Her sparkling bra reflects the street light. She is still alive, breathing, but unconscious. It will be hit-and-run, she will be lying there for a while, neglected, automobiles making carefully around her, not stopping. Finally somebody from the club would see her, raise the alarm and call the ambulance and police. Nobody would admit to seeing anything. No witnesses, only the victim. Perfect. It will be said that she was an out of town girl, a student who earned an extra income in the industry of entertainment.
Of course, lap dancers are not strippers same as strippers are not prostitutes. Is being a prostitute classed as working in entertainment too? The area around my house used to have lots of working girls. They cut grotesque figures. Massive heels made them very tall. Too much make up made their hard faces even more intimidating.
May be, once upon a time, when they were younger, they were lap-dancers too, but the revolving door of life threw them onto the street. Gotta be some fine line here too, like one day its sparkling bras and nose full of free coke and then boom! its walking between the raindrops giving local coppers freebies so they wont bust your ass.
Now, is there a moral to this runt? Yes, there is actually. In life we all occupy different steps of social ladder. Climbing it is hard labour, but nothing is done easier then sliding a step or two down. However, do not hurry and judge people, for any slide might have been initiated by a push.

Filed under: St. Petersburg — Everyday Life
Tags: , , , , , , , , — sasha @ 4:03 pm

FBA (Real Time Travel)

September 28, 2008

“Choose career, choose family, choose friends” - £$%& that! I got a Samsung DV3 HD LCD and a Sky+ Digibox, I don’t need anybody else. I can pause live TV, go to the pub, come back and watch whatever program I missed. And get this: I can fast-forward through commercials and bits I don’ like! I can fit 2 hours of real time television into 50 minutes! Now beat that (but you won’t - ha ha)!

The paragraph above has got many exclamation marks. I must be real excited. Well, I guess I am, because pausing the TV feels like I can control it. It sort of scares me a bit, realizing that I must only be able to enjoy things in life that I am able to… control. Then again, it is probably true for most of us.
For example, we enjoy travelling as the ultimate way to be in complete charge of our lives. We find it exciting - to be on the go. But travelling instantly becomes tedious when it gets to the bit we have no control over, such as, for instance, flying.

On a positive side, if flying with BA, you are not in any danger of getting bored. In fact, British Airways are doing a very noble thing by deliberately lowering the standards of their services; to the point where their customers are so exhausted by delays/cancellations/lost luggage etc, they are quite happy to sit in a plane knowing that they are actually at last flying somewhere.
The strategy was originally devised by BA to help the customer battle anxiety caused by the many potential dangers of flying itself - in psychology this maneuver is often called “the innate diversion”.

It is fun to see how, sometimes, when taken to extremes, this strategy trips itself over, falls on its own head and bites its tongue. Anybody who was passing through Heathrow last Christmas is sure to remember how some not entirely favorable weather conditions were used as an opportunity to cancel many international and all domestic flights. It caused a riot, despite the customer services frantically handing out leaflets on what to do “when your flight is being canceled”, where British Airways apologized for any inconvenience caused and offered to cover an overnight stay in one of the designated hotels (nice one, although the cover was something like £100 per person and the cheapest room rate was like £150).

Many call Heathrow a mess. They don’t appreciate the fact, that its one of a few places where a true adventure may be had. Remember Alice in Wonderland? In Heathrow you may go down some narrow corridor that gets narrower and narrower with its ceiling getting lower with every step, and at the very end there is a tiny door. You open it and whoosh! - you find yourself within the huge enclosure of international departures. Imagine that!

To be fair, BA is not the only airline that trucks things up. Strangers get their flights canceled every second. The point is that we cannot be in less control of our journey than when we take a flight. An RV is by far the best choice for any self-respecting control freak who is not pressed for time. However, the train is the only option that offers the “plan your own route” opportunity without the immediate disadvantage of being tied to your own means of transportation.

The Trans-Siberian Express is ideal for such creative synthesis, where the fusion of constituent elements (that’s bits of your journey) into a new compound (that’s your desired route) positively reduces any proposition of mundanity to simply non-existent. Ta-da!

Filed under: Life Outside Russia
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — sasha @ 6:08 pm

Mind of a Clerk

September 15, 2008

I saw it happening to others… Yesterday it happened to me: the debit card not going through, payment incomplete, life suspended until the girl on the check-out finally rolled her eyes and called for assistance.

When your card gets locked, the action plan is as follows: pay with a different card or cash, get to the nearest cash point, check your bank balance, call your bank (best from somewhere private). Do not let the shop manager take you to customer services and sort it out for you, because she won’t. The bank people will still want to speak to you and you, my friend, are going to spend about 20 minutes on a phone answering some damn stupid questions. This, in turn, is going to make the rest of the shop aware of your real full name (what if it’s French?), your real date of birth (what if you are a woman?) and the name of your mobile network (what if you are with Virgin?).

They know how to have fun, the bank people (or is it just an example of contemporary white-on-white violence?). They will tell you that it will take five to ten minutes to unlock your card. Fifteen minutes later it might work or it might not, depending if the person who was unlocking your card on the other end got distracted midway or not. For me it took another phone call to complete the procedure.

By the way, the reason my card was locked: it was used after a period of non-use (fair enough, I have been out of the country for a while and not used the card abroad) to make a considerably large payment, which was suspected to be fraudulent. It was my own phone bill. Who’s laughing now? Not me, I am crying and let me tell you: it takes a very special person to make a grown man cry. You know the type.

Sadly this type seems to occupy key positions in some pretty impressive infrastructures. Forget banks. How about education? Council? Inland Revenue? Home Office? I have seen verbal insults hurled at these people, they have been called incompetent idiots. No reason to be rude here. They are simply demons - children of Satan - set upon this Earth to make the lives of the true children of God difficult.

People like myself, unfortunately, prefer not to get involved. We sit back and watch the cookie of world affairs crumble. I think we (bright and educated people) have messed things up already by not putting enough effort into taking the key public service posts at the time the latter were shared out. I guess, we did not wish to get caught doing “dull” jobs. Shame, should have done it, even if only out of duty (much like defending your country in case of war).

Now it’s too late for any kind of action except the most direct: revolution. For this the time is yet to come. For any revolution to be a success the correct set of criteria must be in place. The ruling class (senior management in this case) must no longer be capable of ruling (tick this box) and the class that is ruled (the consumers) must no longer agree to capitulate. And herein lies the problem: in post-modern capitalist society we have created a happy customer, who does not care about quality of service.
Moreover, we also have lumpen-consumers, individuals who have learned how to use and abuse the present system successfully. This is a serious issue in its own right, it does not fit into this post and deserves a post of its own. To be continued…

I don’t know where travelling comes into this post though. Maybe here, this looks like the work of a dedicated team of professionals. Keep it real.

Filed under: Life Outside Russia
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — sasha @ 1:42 pm

Halifax Revisited

September 8, 2008

Hey, I am back home after a long summer away (work, not play, alright?) and its another two weeks before I allegedly get snowed in with work again. I am officially on holiday, ha-ha.
I settle myself next to a cup of tea and a great green recycling bag that has mostly newspapers in it and go through some of the Halifax Evening Courier back issues. This looks like a sensible way to discover what’s been going on in the area and to make up for all times the above newspapers went into the recycling without even being opened.

Now, the issue I pick up is a random choice (Friday, July 11, 2008), anybody who does not believe my story can track it down on line and check it against my words.
The front page displays some unfortunate ugly bird “who is trying to makes sure” the school dinners are delivered without fail. Well, I have seen better front pages (for example “milk vanishes from doorstep, perhaps stolen”), but it’s early days. See what’s on the next page, shall we?
A girl took part in a mass brawl that “left houses smashed, people stabbed and a teenager with part of his ear bitten off”. Apparently “…scores of people [were] brandishing knifes, bricks and iron bars…”.
Wow. Next page. Six Halifax teenagers have appeared at Calderdale Youth Court charged with “three violent town centre robberies in a day”.
Charming.
Ok, stay positive, read on. A man was accused of dangerous driving and “causing death” (a 24-year old on a bike knocked down a 75-year old woman).
Right, next page. A bus driver fell asleep, “careered out of control” and injured 40 of his passengers (one died of the injuries 19 days later). Turn over.
Changes to bus passes of “children from low income families” caused a riot amongst their parents (and I can well imagine what a parent of a “low income family” is capable of). Right, what’s next?
Youngsters (and we are talking infant schools here) “voted horror mystery their favourite” at the local Children’s Book of the Year awards. Nice. And the weather?
A “touring theater company’s second open air offering in Halifax fell victim to inclement weather again“.
The paper also says that on this day in 1937 George Gershwin “…died aged 38 of a brain tumour”. Not a very good day then, huh?

Ok, I am a reasonable person, could be a coincidence, I suppose, let’s have ourselves another Evening Courier. Random choice again, July 15 this time.
The cover story: a father of four had planned to wave a starting pistol about after breaking in, but “accidentally fired it in his pocket” while drinking at working men’s club. The bloke “had a balaclava, a ski mask, gloves, hats and a crowbar with him” in a bag. He has been jailed for four and a half months (for possession of cannabis though).
M-m-m.
Same day saw a drunk man stuck in a tree, pills stolen from a chemist, blaze in a derelict club and a war tribute nicked for scrap.
A-a-a-rh!
These papers should have stayed unread. I no longer desire to do any local catching up and decide to go for a relaxing drive. As I am driving down the road I see a newsagent’s stand: “Shotgun Drama in Pub: Pictures”.
No-o-o-o-o!

They say you should avoid three places: Hell, Hull and Halifax. Don’t know about first two, never been there, but Halifax is in this threesome for a very good reason.
Moral of this story: for better places to be visit www.ostwest.com now!

Filed under: Life Outside Russia
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — sasha @ 12:29 pm

Winter Specials

September 5, 2008

Die-hard clubbers and ice-fishermen share an invisible bond: it’s them and not the morning factory shift who fill in the first Metro train at the break of dawn; an intersection, where both sleep-deprived groups merge before going off their separate ways. There is no further understanding between them: just like heroin addicts, ice fishermen recognize only their own kind and, unless you are one of them, you meet the wall when you look into their eyes.
My memory has the record of the only time this crack in the social sidewalk was bridged. A friend of mine, the drummer in a band, was coming from an all-nighter. He was carrying bits of a drum-kit. The guy sitting opposite had some massive drills on him. They checked each other’s tools with mutual respect.
Indeed, no matter what mind-altering substances are consumed by an average clubber on a night out, compared to the state of mind of an ice-fisherman (imagine all the Zen of fishing multiplied by the cold of a winter morning, plus all the future uncertainty a fresh ice cover may offer) its all just chicken-shit.

Sadly, local ice-fishermen are a dying breed, winters in St. Pete are not as cold as they used to be, in fact they, just like the Russian Christmas, are no more (someone was really bad, I guess). What we have instead of a winter is five months of misery: its still dark when its time to get up for work and its already dark when its time to go home. The air is nice and warm, thanks to the heavy through traffic and seriously damp as well, thanks to the heavy through traffic again. Consequently it might be only minus five but it feels deadly (just like when you get out of the shower and the room feels seriously cold, do you know what I mean?).
People of St. Petersburg generally spend their winters in, hugging radiators and counting the days to the first sunshine. Outdoors isn’t fun anymore, the gray and slushy muck that covers pavements can only be classed as a parody of real snow.
When I was a kiddie we used to scoot on black ice and do cross-country skiing in the suburbs. Nowadays, the only bit of winter activity that is still on offer in St. Petersburg is the ice-skating. There is an ice-skating rink directly on Dvortsovaya and some other rinks set up in most parks around and out of town.

However, if you want a real Russian winter you have to chase it. This means going Tundra. But don’t just go anywhere, my friend, shop around. Kamchatka along with mount Elbrus guarantee some of the best skiing/snowboarding adventures. Lake Baikal is sure to provide some breathtaking scenery to go with its dog-sledding. Ekaterinburg is famous for its “Troika” rides and other romantic winter escapades.

To be perfectly frank, Siberia is not exactly my bag of hammers, I’ve only been there once during winter and I retain fond memories of the hotel I holed myself up into. Not because I was dressed slightly inappropriately, although I would not advise anybody to travel that far North without some sort of a hat and a pair of gloves, I just didn’t feel like getting out of my room. We all get slightly anti-social from time to time, I guess.

Filed under: Russia - everyday life
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — sasha @ 12:40 pm

Killing Melancholy

August 27, 2008

“St. Petersburg is such a beautiful city, its the Northern Venice!”. Oh, shut up already. You should try St. Pete when rain don’t let up for a week and wind blows most of it into your face with traffic adding that extra bit of water onto your shoe and lower trouser leg…
I feel sad. I know what this is. Its the last week of August and I got the blues. Happens to me every year since I was a child. Something to do with this week being the last week before the new school year starts, I guess.
I know, by mid-September I will be alright again, but meanwhile I need help.
Over the years I found that drugs don’t work (alcohol is a drug too, remember!) - they only make things worse (unless you are a long term user, in this case do not stop using without taking medical advice). In fact, there only two kinds of therapy that work perfectly against the autumn blues syndrome: true love or escape to a geographical dive.

The true love has to be a particular type of girl (or boy if you are a straight female or a homosexual male): she has to have the right sort of eyes. The rest of true love, as far as therapy goes, don’t matter, although it helps if she has a good rear and a nice pair of legs. The eyes have to be blue. Its better if they are larger then your own. The best are slightly cloudy on the surface but should have something like a grainy backdrop deep at the bottom. Look into this pair of eyes for a while and you will feel better. Much better. Perfect.
There are some minor setbacks with the situation though. Girls (or boys) like this are not easily available at this time of year. And you have to give something in return, as its not fair to just take.

For those who are happily married (myself included) or not looking for other relationships it’s the second option: to take a fortnight off and go somewhere else. Somewhere slightly more miserable than you present surroundings.
In this case, for many, St. Petersburg is the ideal travel destination at this time of year.
This kind of therapy is based on the same principal as the idea of watching telly to counter-act a particularly bad day: a cheerful feature might kill you, a horror movie is almost certain to help you to bounce back to life.

I myself, have already booked a flight to Manchester and am looking forward to seeing all the horrible red brick houses of Salford drenched in rain, their residents looking worse for wear, sitting in dingy pubs crying in their pints of bitter. I don’t really know what to do if you are already living in Manchester though. Is it possible to find a place to go where you could sink even lower? Or is it easier to simply kill yourself?

Of course all of the above does not count if you are a dynamic person living an exciting life fulfilled by work, friends and family. In this case you might ask yourself why did you waste time reading all this? Fear not, nobody goes home empty-handed. Take every second word of this post and make a sentence. Repeat the procedure using every third word, then every forth and so on. Take away half of what you got and you will end up with a something that might seem a little nonsensical at first glance but after some digging will turn into a charming post-modernistic poem about a pig dancing in a court-yard. Have fun!

Filed under: Russia - everyday life
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — sasha @ 12:41 pm

Bad Religion

August 20, 2008

Sundays about 2 p.m. I am usually busy ignoring the procession of Hari-Krishnas who sing and dance their way down my street much to the amusement of local drunks. “Any religion that expects you to perform weird things in order to celebrate your faith, looks a bit dodgy to me”, says my wife. Not just a pretty face, is she?

I can’t be classed as a church-goer myself, but some of the things God seems to want us to do (be a good person, do not murder/steal/etc) are perfectly in tune with my own philosophy of life.
If somebody uses religion as the ultimate pain-killer (my dad does that), I don’t mind. If somebody, in order to feel that their god is truly and properly celebrated, wants to be subjected to all sorts of uncomfortable rituals (my dad does that too), I don’t mind either.
I do believe, if God exists (and as I don’t know for sure, I am not denying God, why take chances?) we all are his/her holy and innocent children until proven otherwise, no matter what gods we do celebrate and how.

To me, religion starts to stink when people try and push their religious brands down other people’s throats. Isn’t it slightly odd that some think their god would like them to put on business suits and go out selling their faith door to door?

Once, after my wife and I just had a baby, we were in, waiting for health visitors. You know how it is when a new baby arrives: you don’t get enough sleep etc, so when I opened the door at the sound of the door-bell and there were two women standing there, dressed in smart navy-colored suits, I simply said: “Come on in”.
I was a little surprised when the answer was “No, first we would like just to have a little chat”, but I quickly caught on when the leaflets appeared. According to the rules of our street I had to say “Jesus *&%$-ing Christ!” (no thank you) and shut the door in their faces (it was nice talking to you, have a good day).
I swear, the expression of extreme worry when I asked them in, changed into expression of extreme relief after I told them to f*ck-off. Is it because they only know the first step of the drill: hand a leaflet, and as people are not supposed to take one, they don’t have an action plan for the next stage of conversion? Or maybe these are like ground troops or scouts, and the next stage (a visit to the prospective convert’s house for a theological discussion) is carried out by other, much higher priests?

I recall, in the mid-nineties, St. Petersburg suffered an invasion of American Evangelists. Some of them were standing next to churches handing a free copy of the Bible to every person who was going in. Apparently they were trying to convert Russians to Christianity. In English too.

Russians are one of the most Christian and god-fearing nations in the world - this is reflected in the quality and quantity of places of worship. Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities offer an exciting selection of cultural and architectural wealth related to the Orthodox Church. Russia’s monasteries, convents and cathedrals are sights that should not be missed by any self-respecting visitor. Honest, cross my heart!

Filed under: Russia - culture and people
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — sasha @ 11:19 am

Pressganged

August 14, 2008

Yesterday, although admittedly not a shepherd’s delight, was an ok sort of day. That is until I got back from work and found out that somebody had tried to deliver me a “povestka” (summons) to the draft committee - a body that, a-hem, well, oversees military drafts and such. I, being ever so slightly above draft age, am a qualified telecommunications engineer with a military rank of lieutenant. The latter was slapped on me when I graduated and every now and then I am still wanted for field-training. This rather annoying event creates all sorts of complications: being off work for a couple of weeks at a time not convenient to myself, missing out on quality time with my wife and children at the beginning of the school year and, simply, spending a fortnight in the company of strangers I would not normally choose to socialize with in the first place. As I did not sign for delivery I will not be expected to show up, so I won’t.

The army and I stopped talking a long time ago. The last face to face encounter was when I was changing my address and had to go and get my passport stamped at the draft place. I was a little worried I might be asked to complete all those field-trainings I owed them, but I guess, as any self-respecting bureaucracy, they got different departments for different things and the departments don’t communicate all that well. The chap in charge, a sub-colonel of this or the other, got mildly pissed off at the fact that I didn’t care to come and get my promotion signed some years ago. He was nice bloke though and didn’t want to let me go without said promotion put in my papers although I tried to reassure him it was perfectly fine with me. He had three pens in his possession and one by one they all failed to work, I swear I saw them running out of ink on me. He finished the job with one of them old-fashioned pens that you dip into the ink first. The tip of it broke off as he was writing. I still have this record, a four word sentence written in four different pens.

When I was a boy I dreamed of becoming a soldier. My favorite museum was the Artillery Museum. It displays articles of warfare dating back to medieval times. It also has three or four rooms devoted solely to WWII. Last summer a friend with a son came to visit and I took the boy to the museum. He loved it. I was disappointed. The magic was gone, my eyes saw nothing but piles of old junk. Directly opposite the Artillery Museum stands the Peter and Paul Fortress, an establishment I did not care for during my boyhood (apart from maybe its dungeons and bastions). Nowadays I find the walk through its courtyards quite a relaxing and pleasant activity.

The founding of the fortress is considered to mark the founding of the city itself. Its history is a gruesome affair. Many forced laborers died while building it. Its dungeons were used as prison cells. However, its Cathedral, along with other features and splendid views of the Winter Palace across Neva, make a visit to the Peter and Paul Fortress a must-do. When in town, go and explore it on your own or, better yet, book one of the guided tours offered by Ost-West Kontaktservice.

Filed under: Sightseeing in St. Petersburg
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — sasha @ 2:26 pm

Vodka Rocks!

August 12, 2008

The previous night’s excessive hospitality of my local made me the person I am this morning (this afternoon really) - unshaved, bloodshot eyes, trembling hands, unsteady posture.
A bloke who bums change off people at the corner of my street and talks into a can of beer, made the gesture of offering me some of its content. The queue at the sandwich shop let me go first. Women smiled at me. Men nodded with respect. I was given a clear indication that I had achieved a reasonable goal just by getting out of bed this morning.

The tolerance of Russians towards drunks is phenomenal: if you show up for work with a hangover you will be treated with understanding and commiserations. People whose work suffers due to their alcohol intake (deadlines missed, things forgotten) generally get written off by their colleagues in a much nicer way than if the same would happen due to some other vice (women, gambling, drugs). Correction: all of the above is true if you are a man. Women seldom get pardoned for their drinking, they get pigeon-holed and labeled sluts instead. This is unfair. Women have as much right to get pissed as men do.

Although there are many alcoholic drinks on the Russian market, domestic and imported wines and beers included, vodka is still the nation’s favorite. It is rumored to have been invented by Moscovite monks in the 14th century. Peter the Great was fond of flavoured vodkas and invested in modifications of the distillation process to improve the quality of the finished product.
Nowadays, St. Petersburg’s distillery Liviz completely dominates the scene in northern Russia. Apparently, the renowned pure waters from Lake Ladoga are used during the distillation. The amount of vodka brands available is so vast it might easily confuse a first time buyer. I dare say that with vodka you get what you pay for. Don’t go for real cheap brands but it’s also quite unnecessary to purchase exquisite brands especially if it is meant to be for your personal use.

Those who are interested in the history of vodka making and the culture of vodka drinking may want to book one of the vodka-sampling parties run by the “Russkaya Izba” (Russian Hut) restaurant. These are known as the “Russkaya Trapeza” (Russian Feast) where a variety of vodkas and “nastoiykas” may be tried along with a traditional range of mouth-watering accompaniments called “zakuski” (snacks). Be warned though: by the end of this fun fair many participants often get quite drunk. It is acceptable and even expected of them to try and do some Cossack dancing but any attempts at getting behind the steering wheel of an automobile will be frowned upon by the traffic militia. Rules about drink-driving are strict. You get your licence taken off you. A five year ban along with many fines is likely to be your punishment.

Filed under: Russia - culture and people
Tags: , , , , , , , — sasha @ 2:48 pm

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