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By Alexander Zhabskiy
(Alexander (Sasha) Zhabskiy is a journalist in Volgodonsk, Russia. While interning in Iowa several years ago, he lived with Daily Iowegian managing editor Dan Ehl and now he writes guest columns).
I guess when everybody turns to the old age, they not only begin forgetting some things, but also begin recollecting too often and too much. We recall the downright trifles that do not have any practical value.
For instance, I suddenly recalled this morning where I hid a page, torn out about 37 years ago from my student's mark book. It was a teacher's notice for my mummy saying that nobody else, only I, would be guilty of her possible death because of my intolerable behavior.
The teacher survived, thank goodness. This note would have earned a thrashing from my mom, but this threat passed long ago, so why do I recall it? It would more preferable to recall why I am writing this column. Most probably I will remember by the end of this narration, but so far only the different good-for-nothing remembrances are crowding my grizzled head.
Do you remember when Nikita Khrushchev was pounding his heel on the UNO General Assembly tribune in 1958? So, I was very troubled, wondering if the UN office-cleaners washed the floor there carefully because our pot-bellied leader's feet were wearing socks only. My mom made a note that we should not be worried with that, but only if Khrushchev's socks have holes.
Yesterday, I suddenly recollected my dad and I sitting once together in mid-1950s on a park bench in my native city of Tashkent, Central Asia. My dad had been telling me cock-and-bull stories, one after another with the inspiration being my entertainment.
I listened agape with delight. However when my dad said that Russian armies had once paced along this same red-sandy park path to crush the Napoleon troops, I began to sob because I already knew the true history.
About three decades later, in that same park, I made a declaration of love to my wife, Olya, while we were sitting on a park bench embracing one another. And she burst into tears. I never received an intelligible answer at that time and I still remain puzzled. But recently I accidentally recollected it was on that same everlasting bench I once sat upon with my father. Is it possible Olya also knew a certain especial «true history» as I did in my childhood?
I cannot share my supposition with her just now because she is... But where is she indeed? I am sure only that she and three our children are absent from home. Oh yes, they are staying with Olya's parents in Belorussia for a summer rest.
So, I have been loitering alone day by day about the empty apartment like the shade of Hamlet's father, as my lost grandmother joking described in former times, and recollecting, and recollecting, and recollecting...
Here is my own father's shade as if looms up in front of me in the deceptive evening twilight. He died more than 30 years ago — soon after his main daydream was put into effect.
When I was 9, he was palsied. Having a failing body, he repeated one sad day that he wanted to continue living to see me as a student of the university. I grew up and my phenomenally clever, my unbelievably well-educated dad lived to spite death — he died four months after I become a student.
My dad was a Czar's army officer in his youth, and then he was a book editor and a poet until getting a palsy. He used to be writing with red-blue pencils made by Armand Hammer's Pencil Concession in Moscow (now this is a stationery factory, named after Sacko&Vancetti). He usually held them in the breast pocket of a rat-fur-lined coat.
Once in 1940's, he was not quite careful with extracting a pencil from the pocket, and its one-tenth-of-inch blue spike was broken. It penetrated under the skin of the right-hand ring finger in the midst of the second finger.
It never disappeared it was a small greenish protuberance on the finger. I liked to kiss it, while my adorable dad dandled me on his lap.
Eventually, my dad's features have become completely obliterated in my memory. But this precious greenish protuberance is kept before my eyes with extreme clarity.
I don't know for what purpose I recollected this, as well as many other similar trivial details. I have an idea, maybe just through my dad's protuberance a predisposition to using words for getting my daily bread was once transmitted to me. Who knows, probably it has played a part of a mental umbilical connection.
While I think this wild guess, I just recollected why I am writing this column. It means I am not so old a man just yet. We are not old people and our lifetime goes on, while these umbilical chains of our dear reminiscences tie us all together..
На другой день, как обычно, посыпались отклики. Был среди них и этот — от моей тёзки, центервильской радиожурналистки:
I enjoy reading your features in our newspaper, the Daily Iowegian. Although I don't personally know Dan Ehl, I feel a kinship to him... because of his offbeat humor, and the way he tends to view everything askance. I always look forward to reading his editorials on Fridays, but getting to read one of your's is also a pleasant surprise.
We have something in common, my name is Sasha. I am not Russian, and not a man, but there it is. My mom decided she liked the name, and so do I. It is always a surprise, and sort of exciting to hear of someone with the same name. I've only met one other person named Sasha, years ago... she and I went to school together in San Diego, California. Most of the time I'm told «My friend so-and-so has a dog named Sasha.»
Well, I'll let you go. Take care.
Надо ли говорить, что я не мог упустить столь уникального повода, чтобы вволю похохмить! И вскоре в «Daily Iowedgian» появилась моя колонка-отклик на послание Саши Гасли.
From Russia to the USA
By Alexnder Zhabskiy
I unexpectedly discovered recently that I have numerous namesakes in Southern Iowa. But, to be fair, the overwhelming majority of them are actually dogs, excluding probably my only faithful reader in Centerville, Sasha Gasley.
In early-August, she e-mailed the following revelation, «I've only met one other person named Sasha, years ago... she and I went to school together in San Diego, California. Most of the time I'm told «My friend so-and-so has a dog named Sasha.»
I greet Sasha Gasley's honorable mom who once named her daughter solely because she liked this name (according to Sasha's unverified version). I also address belated greetings to my mom, who loved her brother, Sasha, who perished in WWII as a soldier in a surrounded Leningrad. And to my dad, who liked Alexander the Macedonian (Greek) and the outstanding Russian military leader under Catherine the Great, Alexander Suvorov (Sasha is the Russian nickname of Alexander).
However, the striking fact that the majority of my namesakes in America are dogs prevents me from eating and sleeping quietly. I feel an unconquerable need for the publication of an open letter to your pets, if both they and I are known to the God under the same name.
So, I launch:
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to greet you at your kennels, kitchen corners and even directly in the owners' beds. We have a lot of subjects to talk over today, don't we? Well, let's go on!
First of all, since you represent all Sashas there, please practice neatness and cleanliness since your owners imagine themselves as the most clean nation of the world.
I was made sure of that when I visited Iowa eight years ago for managerial training. Right after exiting the aircraft, I was immediately given a plastic bag having a bar of a soap, tooth-paste, toothbrush, bottles of shampoo and deodorants. I was told that most Russians usually smell bad, while Americans are used to washing themselves daily.
OK, it is a pity that I was not asked, otherwise I could have answered that I am used to washing twice a day.
By virtue of that, I implore you to not annoy your owners because becoming angry is too conductive to abundant sweating.
Another very important subject is going to the bathroom. Since I strive to do that as a rule in my bathroom or sometimes in the public convenience, I request that you do this natural thing as far as possible from others' field of vision. This is an important request to the dogs sleeping on their owner's bed — leave the bed if you want to make some water.
And you, gentlemen canine, please observe female dogs' rights! Don't you see how many problems American men have if they only look at a woman incorrectly? You should learn from people how to be polite.
Public coupling with female dogs is not too nice. You should take me, your namesake, as a model in this problem because I always avoid interaction with women in the street in spite of any momentary attraction to them.
I don't want to lie and say that the local dogs here don't do it, but you should remember that there are none of my namesakes here.
On the other hand, I have to take care of my good name throughout the world, do not I? Imagine what might happen if one of my readers in Centerville would tell another reader that Sasha wet the bed again. I guess a lot of people would stop reading me cancel their subscription and my best friend, Dan Ehl, would lose his job at once.
Let me also pass on a new-fangled subject — political correctness.
Since my country is a multi-national, we are being taught here to say Russia's people instead of there ethnic origins or nicknames. Naturally, people here say Jew, or Khohol (nickname for Ukrainians), or Chukchi in the everyday life. However, it isn't suitable behavior for a well-mannered person.
So, you should not hail a black dog with, "Hi swarthy!" Laying stress on the race is not polite. All dog breeds are equal and all of you were born in equality. Stop your dissatisfied barking, you Tibetan-Americans (Lhaso Apso), I never said that the Fifth Amendment could also be applicable on you.
Since you are not able to watch Russian TV on how you shouldn't behave in the Parliament where the men frequently beat the women and each other, I urge you to watch the election campaigns on American TV. Only after watching TV, don't strike the cops like young people did once in Philadelphia. The beating of policemen is not an attribute of your civilizing, my dear namesakes.
If any Sasha there doesn't understand me, please contact me by e-mail for extra explanations.
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