Thursday, June 2, 2016

On swimming pools and Soviet mentality...

Long before Instagram, I used this blog to unleash my random thoughts onto the world.  Facebook is not very conducive to long posts.  So I am resurrecting this, even though I thought I'd kill it just a few months ago.

Lessons learned from going swimming in a Russian pool (or, you don’t feel Soviet until it smacks you in the face):
  1. I attempted to learn to swim in this exact pool circa 1981.  Unfortunately, it was February, and I got pneumonia almost immediately and never went back.  What I DO remember is chipped tile, dim lighting, and learning to hold my breath under water by holding onto a big stick stuck into the deep end while being yelled at by the coach.
  2. I saw a tail end of a teen swim team practice.  Coach yelling is still a constant.
  3. Until some time this century, the pool was called Khimik - which means Chemist - because it was built by the local pharmaceutical company.  Now it’s a private gym called Aquatica.
  4. Since 1981, they have added a wading pool, a yoga studio, a small gym, a necessities shop, and a cafe.
  5. They also retiled the pool and changed the traffic patterns from the changing rooms into the pool area.  However, the changing room layout is more illogical than ever, and the wall mounted hair dryers, while new, are exactly in the same awkward spot in the hallway.
  6. Russia still has some bizarre notions about health norms.  You may not join the pool without a medical release.  There’s a medic on staff.  She does a visual inspection for skin disease, and signs the release if you show her the following items:
    1. One pIece swim suit.  This requirement did not stop at least 3 women today from wearing bikinis.
    2. Swim cap.
    3. Flip Flops.
    4. Towel.
    5. A bar of soap - not body wash, but old fashioned bar of soap.
    6. A sponge.
  7. Fortunately, all of the above can be had at outrageous prices at the necessities shop.
  8. Lockers are assigned with little numbered keys on rubber arm bands.  I saw more than one person wearing theirs on the ankle.
  9. You are required to take a shower with soap and sponge before entering the pool.  Have you ever tried to put on a dry one piece racing suit on a wet body?  Good freaking luck.  I considered showering in my suit, but other women were giving me some side eye already, i did not need more.
  10. Did I mention it’s a communal shower?  I felt to be back in high school.
  11. In this pool, Russian women of all shapes, ages and sizes believe in total and complete depilation - that was a little jarring…
  12. So open swim only happens 3 times a day, for 45 min at a time.  Which means that everyone is there, supposedly, to take advantage of the short time.  Except for the 2 women who came to chat while clinging to the lane divider mid-lane, the two teens who are getting swimming lessons, and the one middle aged dude in my lane who insists on chatting up the two ladies in bikinis hanging on the lane divider...
  13. Yes of course I will do it all over again, it’s the closest pool to my house AND it was only $10 for the month!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

April 25. Wagner.

I had a chance to see a dress rehearsal of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman yesterday.  The production had stunning scenery, lighting and quite astonishing musically.  The rest of it was ok.

However, the whole time I could not shake this weird feeling of musical deja vu.  I am not very familiar with Wagner, but as the female chorus filed on to deliver the Spinning Song, I realized I was watching every collective farm chorus from every 1930s Soviet Collective Farm musical comedy.  There are at least a dozen films, scored by Isaac Dunayevsky, which quite freely borrow from the sweeping, picturesque tunes of Richard Wagner and (a bit later) Richard Strauss.  They all celebrate the achievement of the collective farm workers of different ilk - harvesters, milk maidens - in expansive, marching and quite catchy tunes.

And while I've been unable to find the exact female chorus I was reminded of, I present a Chorus from 1937's The Wealthy Bride.

1940's The Bright Way - note that these are modern spinners...feel free to skip to 1:00 mark, the song doesn't start until then.  This film stars Lubov Orlova, who has been long held as the most beautiful and most sonorous star of all of Soviet cinematography.

Now I'm all nostalgic.  Damn.

Monday, April 22, 2013

April 22

Today is the birthday of Vladimir Lenin.  And Vladimir Nabokov.  And probably thousands other people, but those two always stick in my mind for April 22.  It was a holiday of sorts at school when I was growing up, Communism and all.  I always think of April 22 as when spring REALLY starts.

I needed some normalcy after this past week.  So I shopped for a patio set.  Now, I'm on a serious budget, and I have some seriously limited space to work with.  Have you ever bought patio furniture?  If not, I refer you to this Apartment Therapy post I just saw - Small Space Outdoors.  While it shows some absolutely pretty bistro sets, they range in price from $200 to $2,400.

I was hoping for something modern, and closer to $100.  I succeeded, but it involved trips to 3 stores and some spray paint.  Behold, my new deck:

I am looking forward to at least 5 months of breakfasts and dinners as this table.