Sunday, June 26, 2005 7:06:10 AM
Sunday morning - this is the first time that the sky has held some of the brown haze I expect so much in any city I've known. The temperature is pleasant, just on the edge of cool, and slightly humid. In degrees it is probably about 25 C.
I walk the couple blocks to the soup cafe for breakfast - after washing my socks and underwear in the sink. I'll talk about laundry in a minute. On the way I see the dregs of Saturday. A middle aged bum-looking man pries himself off the sidewalk as I pass - he is either disabled or drunk. He needs to grab on to a railing to pull himself into an upright position, levering one leg at a time, to the knees, then half upright, then three/quarters, and before he is fully upright I am past and heading down into the terre haute - the walkway underpass to go under Tverskaya. I see socks and electrical extension cords in the stall windows, and stop to examine the offerings and their prices. The socks are reasonable - 60 to 80 rubles a pair. Thats $2 or $3 ea. Not bad. Labeled made in Russia, 100% cotton. The electrical shop has batteries and extension cords. I notice some rechargeable batteries. I will have to look aroung to see if I can find a recharger for the batteries.
I saw AA batteries in the grocery store yesterday. The Everyready coppertop alkaline battery two pack is about $4. A price you could find in the US. The Hong Kong made equivalent brand is $1 for the 2-pack. The 4-pack with only Cyrillic writing on the pack is only $1.25. Big difference. I have to presume the Cyrillic offering is one, Russian, and two, alkaline. But, they are AA, and they would work.
I haven't tried the laundry/dry cleaners yet. They are reputed to be expensive. Instead I nabbed a bottle of dish detergent in one of the little grocery/supply stores I've been through, and have washed clothes in the bathtub. It works, but drying is a matter of hanging stuff from every available spot in the bathroom. I can see this morning when I put on a pair of socks that they are wearing out, and will be the worse for the wear they will get here. All the walking I am doing seems to be pretty hard on 'em. That is why I stopped to look at the socks in the window of the stall. I wanted to know what prices socks go for around here, and what kind of product you get.
The markets here are vigorous. There are market stalls all over in the streets, in the walls of the underpasses, carved out of the metro passages. They are open frequently, and many small gorcery stores - and larger ones - are open 24 hours. It seems to me to be more wide-open than even New York. While I am sure that some of this is because this is Moscow - a major European capital, it seems to me that it is locals mostly who use these services and stalls. Tourists are everywhere I have been, but they don't seem to use the stores so much - except perhaps the French. I hear French spoken with regularity, followed by US English. I've seen one party of Japanese, and perhaps a few Chinese and a couple other SE Asian countries represented. Quite a few Germans, (or people who sound German to me!)
Once in the cafe for breakfast I am not sure that Saturday night ever ended. This is a hip and trendy underground cafe. But they had 4 kinds of hot cereal on the menu for breakfast, along with omelets and pancakes. John said they have good breakfasts, so I am checking it out. The atmosphere is bohemian/punk. But it is stylish in a fun sort of way, not the depressed singularity or hyper-snottyism that I would associate with this style in the states. The music is on 24/7 - recorded. It is US stuff, but not like what I've heard at home. Talking jazz, semi-gospel blues. Really fine tunes. Much more original and fresh than anything I hear on the US radio - even KPIG. I haven't the faintest idea who the artists are, but I've been sitting under a speaker for over half an hour, and I've neither gotten bored or annoyed. Now the tune is a Brazilian samba vocal. I know there is a more accurate style name, but no matter. The tunes are fresh, melodic. The talking jazz was an interesting piece - reminiscent of the NY dj, the one who talked those long poetic compositions in the middle of the night, some rapp influence in the vocal patterns, but melodic, not monotonal, nice jazzy light instrumentation to tie it together. I find myself listening to the words a couple of times. Not necessarily something I would buy - or go see, but definitely good music for the radio/background/cafe kind of listening. As I leave there is a tune on that will characterize the feel for most - "Pastime Paradise". Who did that? I forget, but it is the popular version.