As I’ve mentioned before, Beautiful People, logistical considerations have prevented me from creating new posts. All will be revealed soon, I promised. Meanwhile, my funny and extremely creative son Alex stepped in with his own short story.
“When was the last time you had your eyes checked?” – Slava, my doubles partner, shouts at me.
(And we’re supposed to be partners, totally in synch, like two dancers in the Nutcracker ballet or two pistons in a high performing car engine or two peas in one organically sourced peapod.)
“About nine months ago,” – I answer proudly. “I go every single year like clockwork, especially since my grandfather had eye issues towards the end of his life.”
“Well, in that case, you need better health insurance, so you can go at least twice a year and maybe even three times a year.”
“Huh? What’s this about?” – I genuinely inquire.
“The ninth point. We were up 8-2 and you blew a shot that a five-year old can make,” – he lectures, professor-like.
“Listen, we won the game 11-4 and by the way, nobody’s perfect, everyone makes mistakes. Plus, we’re having fun here and getting some exercise. It’s a nice hobby, this pickleball.” – I reply innocently.
Clearly this was the wrong thing to say.
He was incredulous. “You want to have fun? Stay at home and have fun with your wife. Go play badminton with your kids in the backyard if the weather is good. Or stay inside and play dominoes with them. I don’t care. But this is not supposed to be fun. We’re playing to win. It’s us against them.”
Until relatively recently the word hobby did not exist in the Russian language. It became more popular after the fall of the Soviet Union and the influx of western ideas in the large cities closer to Europe.
And what’s the point of discussing the concept of a hobby with someone whose father-in-law was one of the chief architects of the Moscow metro, though he was a Jew during Stalin’s reign or whose father received a medal for bravery during World War Two?
There’s no time for hobbies when socialism must be built. Hobbies are either for simpletons or debauched capitalists who have too much money and need to occupy their days with something.
There is fun, on occasion, but not hobbies. And even fun is so planned and prescribed that perhaps it’s not so fun.
Fun is like a pyramid: at the lower level, it’s having some vodka with friends because you don’t have a girlfriend, at a slightly higher level its spending time with a girlfriend, at an even higher level it’s spending time with your wife when you’re first married and at the top of the pyramid, it’s having vodka again with your friends while complaining about the above.
But, note, still no hobbies.
Culturally, I understand all of this, but I’m not giving up just yet.
Us against them? I understand there who was them: ethnic Russians holding everyone down, greedy American capitalists, invaders of Russian soil (of course, Russians never invade anyone!). But we’re here: who is them? Americans, our rivals in the next town, our neighbors, the opposing team?
Everyone, all of them.
And we want what exactly?
We want to beat them and be the best.
At what exactly?
Everything – work, school, piano, sport, everything.
And if we fail?
Soviet man does not fail. It’s simply not an option!
I stop arguing. It’s pointless to do so. The game is over, so I drive home.
I get a text five minutes later, “Are we playing tomorrow?”
I reply, “I can’t. I’m not available. I don’t go into details why I can’t.”
Fifteen minutes later, Dima texts, “Guess who called and wants me to be his doubles partner tomorrow? His exact words – it will be fun.”
If you are interested in more of his bursts of creativity, please visit https://cleveritudes.wordpress.com.
Alex Yanishevsky was born in the Soviet Union and emigrated to the US with his family at age seven. He attended Brandeis University for Art History with a minor in Russian Literature. Alex obtained a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages from Brown University and taught Russian language and literature at Bates and Holy Cross. He has been working in the translation industry for over 15 years. His translations of modern Russian authors were published by Hermitage Press; the book is called Times of Turmoil – https://hclib.bibliocommons.com/v2/record/S109C4052562. His personal website contains original humorous poetry and literary translations, https://cleveritudes.wordpress.com/. His work focuses on the émigré experience, the balance between retaining the vestiges of a minority culture against the backdrop of a profoundly different majority culture.
I couldn’t leave you, Beautiful People, without a recipe. This is a photo of our family sushi making day. From the left, grandchildren Shira, Alisia, and Ariel. In the center, Alex’ wife Liz, and Alex on the right. I am repeating my sushi making recipe: