Thursday, February 09, 2006


I was going to say something about the cold. It's cold again. Below zero Farenheit, a frightening number when you go metric, -16 or -18, cold enough for the hair inside your nose to freeze. The wind is coming from the east at 10 to 15 miles per hour, a cold that's unending and relentless, from December to February, day after day after day, until even the inside of your shapka's cold when you're sitting on your sofa in the living room staring at the wall straight ahead because it's so damn cold out you don't want to move.

Cold, I'm saying. The type of cold that requires a bath, not a shower, because a good warm bath reminds you of that feeling you once knew, a sort of California gold, let's say, a radiance that could be felt way down deep in the marrow of your bones. Only in a bath do you remember that, especially on the day your mother writes to say it's sixty degrees in Sacramento, and how is it there? Cold, mom. Thanks for asking. It's cold.

I'm amazed the Ukrainian population is declining. The cold seeps through the stones in the walls and creeps into your apartment. Every few minutes, you check the radiator. Is the radiator still working? They're working on the radiator. Your radiator works? Mine doesn't. It becomes the subject of conversation, it brings people together, it takes on the sort of gravity that I'm sure the Cro-Magnon gave to the fire and charred flesh. I would think men and women would find each other over this. Forget astrology, forget what's your sign? These are the lines of the decadent west. Is your radiator working? Babies are born because of these words. I'm sure of it. How isn't the population soaring? And why do American men seeking a "mail-order bride" for the most part stay away during the winter? In the spring everyone feels good. It's warm, the clothes are coming off, there is no sense of desperation. Right now, in a winter like this, there is only one thing to do. Buy many, many blankets and stay underneath, hopefully with something more substantial than your fur-lined shapka.


The photo above doesn't necessarily reflect my political persuasion. I think the Washington Times said it best in a link somewhere far below -- paraphrasing now: if you supported Yushenko and his calls for integrating with the west, you have to support Gazprom charging market prices to Ukraine, Georgia and all the rest. Is there a reason Russia should help prop up its former Republics? In his expansive talk to the press last week (nice site), Putin said:

The subsidizing of former Soviet republics at the expense of Russia has been going on for 15 years ... Germany spends a huge amount of money for the regeneration of its eastern territory. But they are spending it to unite their country – and what exactly are we paying for?

Do Ukrainians and Georgians consider it a matter of reparations? Do they think they should get the same deal as Minsk, if only because Belarus' buddy-buddy rate shows Gazprom isn't entirely market-driven and that's not fair? What is the reason?

Well, regardless of all that, it is cold. Did I mention it? The person who took the photo ("Gasputin" it reads in Cyrillic) no doubt agrees. She writes a blog about her experiences as a Fulbrighter in Georgia, where it's also cold and where Gazprom is believed to be behind the pipeline explosions and gas shortages that left the capital without heat or electricity for much of the last month.

Today, the blog's author wrote about other concerns:

I was whining to my Georgian teacher about the noisy neighbor kids, and she sledgehammered my complaint by pulling the Stalin card.

I guess when you live in the same apartment building as the grandson of a genocidal despot, you win the annoying-neighbor contest.

The blog is a good read. Sue writes very well. I don't know what she's going to grad school for next year, but I hope it's not for applied mathematics or some other subject that doesn't require much by way of the pen.