Why Following Babushkas Around the Streets of Saint Petersburg is like Watching a Bag of Popcorn in the Microwave

photo_2018-12-09_17-58-22

It is common knowledge amongst young residents of Russian cities that Babushkas [older Russian women] do not like to be followed. If you tread, especially at night, too close behind a babushka, she will turn, check to see if you are a murderer or a thief, then pause and let you pass.

This is normal.

The trouble began afterward. I stopped in a store for a pack of cigarettes. I came back out, lit one, and continued my journey home only to find myself, again, treading a little too closely behind that exact same Babushka. She stopped quicker this time, turned faster, she scowled and hugged her purse a little closer and so I nodded as if to say, “I’m sorry,” to which she read, “I’ll get to you in a minute.”

The first few kernels had popped. I walked on.

A little further down the road, I bumped into my friend, Ivan. I stopped to chat. I couldn’t help but notice the babushka passed yet again. I tried to smile in the least creepy, I-am-going-to-find-you-and-steal-your-bread, possible way. She was puffier, redder, expanding.

But it is no use. I vowed to take a good long while with Ivan, who turned out to be in a rush. He left. But, for good measure, I stood and finished my cigarette. I looked up and found the babushka was nowhere to be seen, so I trekked home.

I came up to the end of the alley into my courtyard and–oh dear god. There she was, she had stopped to feed the homeless ginger cat that lives behind the dumpster. She saw me. There was a panic in her face and she was popping at full speed now, backing away. I could almost see the fluffy pops of panic flying out of her brain, accumulating beneath her bonnet. It was tense.

I held up my hands, “I am sorry! I live just there.”

Then something happened. She frowned. Her whole demeanor changed, and I could almost hear her thoughts as she shrugged and went back to feeding the ginger cat: 

Oh, he’s American. I could take him.

Why Russia: Cats and Cockroaches

I drink a glass of water before bed. I stand and watch my cats try to eat the cockroaches sprawling over my cutting board. Those damn cockroaches. The first time I saw them, I went numb behind the ears and almost puked. Six cans of Raid, a dozen roach-traps, a kitchen full of containers full dried goods and one month later, I just watch them. There are hundreds more now, many of them are babies. Someone has been getting their freak on.

Good for them.

In the morning, reality knows only two things; the roaches have fled into the cutlery drawer, or the dish-rack, the microwave, the cabinet beneath the sink, a crack in the walls, above the shelves, beneath the floorboards, behind the toilet, under the bath, or in some other dark nook cranny or crevice inside this apartment of seemingly endless dark nooks, crannies, and crevices, also the cats are hungry.

I am truly grateful that they are so fat and sweet, those cats, and they cuddle.

But hell, what good are they.

IMG_3082

Why Russia: Cancel Monday and Fuck off.

IMG_3101.jpgI live with my friend ‘D’ in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The man, Olek, who works in the shop where we buy our morning coffee sometimes calls D, “Bob–something.”

Once, we asked why and Olek said, “He black–you black. He big–you big.”

Olek is a delicate man.

This morning, his shirt said, “CANCEL MONDAY”

And, in case you didn’t get the point, just below it read, “FUCK OFF.”

It is Thursday.

He smiled when we walked in, “Tyson!” he cried at D. We all shook hands.

“You–” he clapped me on the arm. “Every morning you come in here and you look like–” he finished with a Russian word. He frowned. I frowned. D frowned. The old lady standing at the counter behind him waiting to get served, frowned.

I shrugged. He said, “one moment.”

As he served the old woman, he looked up something on his phone. When the old lady finally left, he came out to stand beside us and together, we read his phone.

“like a junkie going through withdrawal.”

He sounds it out slower. He points at me as he does.

“You…look…like..junkie…going…through…withdrawal–hah! Yes?”

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Yes.”

We get our coffee and leave. When we arrive back in the courtyard to our apartment and round the dumpster, we find a crouching skull-capped man with a large zit on his nose taking a shit on a pile of old wall art that had been there since yesterday. There were bunnies on it if I remember correctly.

The man-made eyes at me, then at D. He had a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. He nodded. We nodded.

“Excuse me,” he said.

We waved our hands to him in the same way you might tell someone, “don’t worry, no one was going to eat that last cookie anyways.”

 

*If you guys would like to check out D’s blog, he writes stories about life here in Russia as well as a bunch of other great stuff: https://dantonlamar.wordpress.com/

The Babushka Society [Russian | English]

The Babushka Society is now available!

photo_2018-11-20_02-11-06


Baba Yaga menaced Russian children for generations, but what would happen if you ran into her in modern-day Russia? The Babushka Society is a demented magical-realism adventure set in the heart of Saint Petersburg, where two young men stumble across a babushka conspiracy, led by Russian fairytales’ stalwart character Baba Yaga, to take the country of Russia back from the Hipster scourge.

**This is a bilingual Russian-English story, translated by Julia Pyatnitskaya**


Where can you pick it up?

KINDLE: check us out on Amazon and receive your copy for .99 | click HERE

PDF: Pick up a FREE PDF from Nada Blank E-Press | click HERE

PATREON: If you’d like to support me on Patreon, sign up and receive a copy and follow along with future projects. | click HERE


photo_2018-11-20_01-37-00

*Illustrations by Nikita Klimov

When you’ve finished if you could please leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads, we would greatly appreciate it.

If you haven’t already listened to The Babushka Society Radio Drama, you can check it out here:

News and Events

NEWS:

Discount: The King of FU is available for purchase on Amazon for only $2.99 on Kindle and FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D2YYL6S

  • If you don’t know what it is about you can find more info here: http://kingoffu.online/
  • If you don’t have access to Kindle, please contact me about getting the book in PDF
  • If you have already read it and (hopefully) enjoyed it, we’d greatly appreciate it if you took a moment to review it on Amazon and Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42203127-the-king-of-fu

The Babushka Society

  • Nikita and I recently created a Radio Drama in collaboration with the podcast She’s In Russia. You can listen to it here:

https://soundcloud.com/shes-in-russia/73-the-babushka-society

UPCOMING EVENTS:

*November 30th @ 6:00 PM – Reading at the British Book Centre

  • Nikita and I will be at the British Book Centre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. We will be talking about our current projects as well as presenting and reading from The King of FU. Copies of the book will be available for purchase. FREE event, but you need to register here:

https://british-book-centre.timepad.ru/event/832645/

 7-Ya Krasnoarmeyskaya Ulitsa, 30, Sankt-Peterburg, 190005

*December 2nd @ 4:00 PM – The King of FU Book release at Mayakovskogo Library

  • Nikita and I will be at Mayakovskogo Library in Saint Petersburg, Russia to present our debut novella The King of FU. FREE event, no registration required. Books will be available for purchase.

 Fontanka river embankment, 44, Sankt-Peterburg, 191025

The Babushka Society | Radio Drama

 

The Babushka Society!

 

Last month we worked with She’s in Russia, a podcast based out of Saint Petersburg to create a Radio-Drama rendition of The Babushka Society. Written by me, artwork by Nikita Klimov and featuring my brother Elliot as BABA YAGA.

What exactly would happen if you ran into Baba Yaga in present day St. Petersburg? Come along with B and N on their adventure through the city.


*LISTEN NOW*


 

Being an American Expat in Russia

I have been writing articles about life in Russia for Russia Beyond over the past few months, so I thought I’d leave them here for anyone who is interested:


Why Russians and Americans Are NOT that different

“The U.S. president is a bombastic, overweight businessman. Russia’s president is a lean and tough looking former intelligence officer who allows himself to be photographed shirtless. The preposterous manner how media portray these two leaders have fueled misconceptions that are ubiquitous among the people of both countries.”

* READ MORE *


Three Insane Conversations I’ve had with my Russian Girlfriend

“I don’t need your opinion!”
“Then why ask for it?”
She gave me a look that sends me back to my childhood, when the whole world was a mystery and I was the only one who seemed to know nothing. She looked, and she said, “I don’t need your opinion, I need you to reaffirm my opinion.”

* READ MORE *


Lost in Translation: Why one American Writer Often Feels like a Dog in Russia

“They were yelling all sorts of things in Russian that I couldn’t hear through the blood in my ears. There were any number of wonderful things that I might have said, like “Hey! stop! What are you doing? What is going on! We aren’t criminals! I am a dog! I am a dog!” but I was at a loss for words.”

* READ MORE *


How Russians Changed my Life

” I knew I must know something interesting. I must. I knew philosophy and literature and I genuinely enjoy 80s music. But, I couldn’t find anything to say. As I searched, I realized there was nothing to find; that I’d put it away somewhere. I’d put it away in some dark closet filled with the birthdays of unlikeable cousins and every math class I’d ever taken. Worse still, as I explored, I found that I’d been replacing all of those thoughts with new ones; chic ones, ready-made IKEA-style thoughts about How I Met Your Mother and the names of every Marvel character’s alter ego.”

* READ MORE *


Three Reasons You’re Not Funny in Russia

“Russians smile. Russians smile quite often, some smile big, some are all lips about it, some have an adorable gap between their front two teeth that they are sometimes embarrassed about, and sometimes see as a point of pride. Russians also laugh. They laugh quite loud and sometimes it is a bit annoying, sometimes it is infectious, and sometimes it fills a room.”

* READ MORE *


Three Things you Should Worry About in Russia

“If you’re coming to Russia, bring small bills and hold onto your change. For two years I’ve been in a passive aggressive war with the woman who runs the shop down the road because once I paid for beer with a 5,000 RUB note.
She remembers, always.”

* READ MORE *