Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday roundup

Milbank on Israel.

Tolentino on the laws of patriarchal physics and Petri--who, when she is good, is very good--on who should be afraid. See also Monica Hesse and pretty much every smart woman writing right now.

You'll never guess this one neat trick to reduce your water footprint, except you will: eat less meat.
A sanctimommy gets slammed. BTW I went to see "Pramkicker," which was pretty good.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


Not a word of English was spoken from when I got off the subway outside my aunt’s place to when I got back on the subway after the burial to catch my train back to DC. The service itself was in Russian; the funeral home workers addressed us in Russian from the second we walked in; and the directions to the cemetery and other instructions were in Russian as well.

I was the only person there who functioned more fully in English than Russian, but I didn’t stand out in any way and nobody would have guessed. When I got back to Manhattan,  got in line at Cinnamon Snail outside Penn Station, and ordered a beastmode burger, nobody would have guessed that I’d come from another world. There was probably at least one other person in the same line and countless others in other lines that might have come from another world that morning; they didn’t necessarily show it (and maybe some of the ones who looked like they might have been immigrants, weren’t).

At the office the next day, my coworker asked me if I’d met one of the new interns, who speaks Russian. People had been directing her to him, because he once spoke Russian (passably, in his own words). It didn’t cross the minds of those people, some of whom know me well,  to send her to me (he suggested it) because I code-switch so thoroughly that they can’t see me as Russian. I don’t fit the image, which is how I prefer it. But it never ceases to fascinate me how even good friends of mine (even those who are aware of my heritage) can’t get their heads around how fresh-off-the-boat I am. Code-switching can be exhausting, but it’s quite the magic trick when you pull it off.

A loss in the family

My cousin was in Ukraine visiting his wife’s family and ready to gtfot—he wasn’t the kind of guy who found peace in a lack of indoor plumbing—when he got the call that his brother died. He asked that his mother not be notified until he could get back, so we didn’t find out until last Saturday. Their mother, understandably, couldn’t articulate words when I called. When I got to New York on Monday night for the funeral Tuesday morning, she was holding up, propped up by a combination of family and the distraction of logistics. She lost it again the next morning once we got to the funeral home, and it was a very tearful morning for all.

My cousin and I were close when I was younger. He was a really good guy, and had overcome a lot, even though he could be his own worst enemy. His mother has always been one of my favorite people—always warm. She’s my father's cousin, but they grew up as siblings. Their fathers were brothers, and mothers, sisters. My father has said that he’s not sure he and his family would have survived the Blockade without him.

My late cousin immigrated first and then brought his family over, which may not have been the best idea. His (also late) father never adjusted as a child I found her stylish and chic. Remembering that made me think about whether I ever thought about my mother that way; I didn’t, she was more on the frumpy side. She was decent toward these relations of my father’s, more so than any others. She essentially shut out my father’s sister’s daughter, who’s only now back in our lives. My mother, ever the drama queen, would go on marathon phone calls and demonize her to everyone who would listen. So much about everything comes back to my mother—down to memories of the last time I was in my aunt’s Brighton Beach apartment, having arrived a day before I needed to only to inhale my uncle’s smoke and overhear his Russian tv, all because my mother couldn’t be bothered to check the time of the wedding we were going to. I think about the time my mother made my aunt and cousin super uncomfortable by yelling at me (apparently I’d left something uncovered and it turned into This Is Because You Don’t Care about Anybody but Yourself).

These memories of my mother being awful keep coming up at every turn. I acknowledge them—there’s no use in pretending she wasn’t awful—and come around to feeling bad for her rather than angry or bitter. Ultimately, she was a woman who succumbed to her own demons. It makes me more motivated to fight harder against my own.

My aunt called me later in the week to thank me for coming to the funeral and reiterate how dear I was to her. She’s holding up for now, learning to live with the new normal.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Quick Saturday roundup

Congratulations to Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

Get you a man who makes you video tributes.
And a monkey that loves you this much.
Read this thread on emotional labor.

Watch this kidney bean sprout.

Yes, I'm tired of gratuitous gratuities. I'm all for a living wage and higher, transparent prices that allow for one.