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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Winter Frost Brings Songs And Gloom

The word on everybody's lips these days seems to be mrak. It means "gloom" and aptly sums up the mood of the moment.


From my friend Tanya to some anonymous journalist sitting beside me at a press conference last week, everyone I meet is sunk in a mire of glumness.


"It's never been worse," proclaimed the hostess at a dinner party I attended last week. For four hours we ate wonderful food and discussed the general political and social situation (mrak), the coming presidential elections (more mrak), the fiasco in the Caucasus (super mrak) and the prospects for the future (beyond mrak).


With typical Russian contrariness, one of the guests sighed happily at evening's end, saying, "It's just like old times. We sit around the kitchen table and complain."


I sympathized, of course. There is something warm and cathartic about sharing one's desperation with friends. If we're all equally miserable, the thinking goes, then it might actually be fun.


Somebody please tell me when we start having fun. I am starting to feel like a stick of dynamite with a very short fuse.


I wish I could say that it is matters of great import that are setting me off these days. I think most people understand righteous indignation at government corruption, the deaths of innocent people in Chechnya, or, perhaps, the plight of pensioners.


But I am in that need-a-vacation mode when a burnt-out light bulb is cause for hysterics, and a harsh word or a shove can turn me violent.


In this state, it's best to avoid the metro. I thought I was safer flagging down cars, but I almost sprained my wrist last week trying to catch a cab. When a real, live, bona fide taxi stopped and refused to take me where I wanted to go, I got so angry I punched his window.


Now I'm going through the roof because of Vicki Carr.


Who? If memory serves me correctly, Vicki Carr was a second-rate singer who had one third-rate hit -- a terribly soppy song called "Let it please be him," in which she belted out her ungrammatical plaint for several minutes:


"Oh hello, hello, oh Dear God, it must be him, but it's not him, and then I die, again I die," is a sample of the highlights.


I had earnestly hoped that such music had been interred along with the '70s, but Russia has a way of surprising you.


I was walking my long-suffering dog Sasha in the park the other day, an old-fashioned place with Soviet-era loudspeakers, so handy for blaring out patriotic marches or sentimental ballads.


But I caught the strains of a familiar melody, rendered in a semi-operatic, Mario Lanza style:


Zvoni, zvoni, Ya zhdy tebya, zvoni, zvoni (call, call, I'm waiting for you, call, call) was about as far as I got before I went home and took to my bed.


Why, I demanded of Sasha, the only other living being around, why do they have to take the absolute worst that America has to offer? Why do they sit glued to "Santa Barbara"? Why do they buy so many martial-arts movies?


I came here to find the deep, mysterious soul of Mother Russia and I get a remake of Vicki Carr.


Sasha didn't say anything, but she looked decidedly dejected. I just know the word that was dancing on the tip of her canine tongue:


Mrak.