03 March 2007

Clash O' Civilizatons

I just returned from the craft/art/souvenir/antique market at Izmailovsky Park, one of my favorite Moscow hangouts thanks to its abundance of interesting things to buy. It's best to forego the touristy souvenirs being hawked on the lower level for the more authentic articles on sale in the periphery, but the Izmailovsky experience is another story altogether.

I carefully navigated my way around, over, and sometime through the muddy lakes and streams that have recently appeared thanks to warming temperatures and even some rain today. My destination was a little shack separated from all the rest where a pleasant pensioner sells old Soviet posters and paintings. Several weeks ago I left my business card with him and asked him to call me if he stumbled upon a particular poster I've been seeking for 6 years. To my surprise he called me 5 days later and said he had specially driven out to his dacha and dug up the poster. Seemed like a good guy in my book.

I paid my friend a visit today, wanting to look through his collection of, you guessed it, Lenin posters. We pored over a bottomless stack of posters for over 30 minutes. They certainly did make a lot of Lenin posters back then! This, of course, is one reason why I'm somewhat disinclined to collect posters: at no point could you ever feel like you've built a complete collection. Besides, the "no Lenins in the bedroom" rule (her rule, not mine) limits the amount of wall space available to Vladimir Ilyich.

After I had selected two posters, which my friend carefully rolled up in plastic and secured with some newspaper and a rubber band, he said to me, "Do you mind if I ask you a question? Since you're obviously a smart person?"

"Of course," I replied.

He then proceded to ask me my opinion of the coming world war (either this year or maybe next year) between the whites and the non-whites (the Arabs, the Blacks, the Chinese...). "After all, you and I will be allies in that war since we're both white."

Needless to say, I was stunned by the unexpected direction our relationship had taken. Fortunately, as you know from a previous post, when someone asks a question about politics in Russia it's really not a question. Rather, it's a long-winded declaration of opinions. As such, I was spared having to answer the question, but at the cost of standing there listening to him pontificate for several minutes. And as with the ukha, my excessive sense of politeness compelled me to swallow something with a very unpleasant taste. Eventually I pulled the old, "look at the time! I've got to run" trick, and shot out of there like a babushka to a potato sale. Despite some excellent posters, I don't think I'll be going back.

So I guess this means they read Samuel Huntingon in Russia too...

No comments: