Part One: Interaction One Week Ago
I roll up on my favorite local produce stand and launch into my usual inquiries and orders:
“How are these strawberries? Good?”
“Sweet and strong.” Krepkie—I didn’t even know strawberries could be krepkie. “You should buy them. But where are your people today?”
“Your people who were with you last week!” she demands, referring to a couple of visiting friends from last month.
“Oh, they went back to America, but now I have new people—my parents just flew in yesterday so I thought I’d buy them some fresh strawberries. You’ll probably see us around sometime soon, they’re here for a couple of weeks. Could I get a half kilo of the strawberries?”
“Yes, yes. Are your parents here to work?”
“No, no, just visiting me. That’s all for today, Mom’s already made dinner.” Maybe my mother is here to work a little, actually. “Next time, I’ll bring her around.”
Part Two: Interaction Yesterday
“Good evening! How are you?” Sometimes I like to bust it out all first-year Russian style.
“Good, good, thank you. And you?”
“Excellent. My parents have come to see where I bought those delicious strawberries last week.” Here you can see me artfully bumping things up to second-year level.
“Oh, pleased to meet you!” Some translating of pleasantries ensues.
“Your mother, she looks just like Belokhvostikova!”
I won’t lie. At first, I totally thought she said my mother looked like a white-tailed woman (that is, I heard belo (white), khvost (tail), then some feminine ending) and I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Natalya Belokhvostikova. The actress. From Teheran-43. Belokhvostikova.” She says the last word as though each syllable were its own word so I could look up the proper spelling later.
Translation ensues. Then my mom asks, “Who, then, does Buster Sr. look like?”
So I translate, “She says thank you, nobody has ever told her she looks like an actress before. But she also wants to know if you think my father looks like anyone famous?”
Silent staring for a good minute while people in line behind us start leaving as they realize they won’t be getting any delicious cucumbers, berries or tomatoes from Nina anytime soon.
“Jimmy. Jimmy the disco dancer.”
“Who?” I ask, a little astounded that someone just said my seventy-year-old father looks like a disco dancer.
“From the Indian films. Jimmy the disco dancer! From the 1970s.”
Apparently it’s one thing for me not to know classic 1980s Soviet cinema, but 1970s Bollywood trash—what’s my problem? Did I grow up with some old Bengali gentleman who thought that the existence of such movies was a travesty and instead made me watch old Sabu films when I was a little boy and then Satyajit Ray later?
“Does he dance?”
“No, as far as I know, he does not dance.”
Mom loses it again when I translate the “disco dancer” bit and any remaining people in line decide it’s not worth waiting at this stand that no longer serves produce but instead has taken to entertaining a howling lunatic woman and two old brown dudes.
Eventually, I get my produce and Nina throws in some free pomegranate juice for my parents’ health after encouraging me to supply them with more grandchildren soon. Oh, did I forget to mention that she took a full family history and congratulated my sister on her sons? This whole part, by the way, went untranslated to my parents.
But really, only when I got home do I realize how awesome these comparisons were.
Natalya Belokhvostikova, AKA Buster’s Ma:
Buster Sr. says it only looks like her from the bridge of her nose up, which may be a polite way of noting that they both have big foreheads. I guess that kind of subtle phrasing keeps a marriage going for forty years.
You can see some low-quality bits of Teheran 43 with Natalya in her early prime here.
Jimmy, AKA Buster Sr.:
Of course, what Nina was really getting at, as I understand the situation, is that Buster Jr. here has big-time star quality—I mean, he must be the product of the best of the late 1970s/early 1980s world cinema!
p.s. Yes, thank you, I know about the MIA "Jimmy" song already.
p.p.s. Remember when my real life friends and family used to comment on my blog back in the early days? Elwood, McFly and McFry, lizzie b, Didi, and the rest of you? Sorry guys if I've gotten so boring even my loved ones can't take it anymore!
07 June 2008
Part One: Interaction One Week Ago