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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Good News For Skaters: Spring Is Here

Moscow is certainly a good news/bad news kind of town. The problem is, the good news often provides barely a tickle of emotional or physical relief, while the bad just reaches out and clobbers you.


Take the weather, never one of the city's strong suits. The recent cycle of rain-sleet-thaw-freeze has turned Moscow into one giant skating rink. Half the people I know are sporting bangs, bruises, sprains or breaks from falls on the ice.


One local news agency reported that 472 people had received injuries in just one day from Mother Nature's latest caprice.


On the other hand, the rising temperatures have proved a boon for a certain segment of the population. In the past few days, according to the news report, "those with a fondness for drink and a tendency to fall asleep outdoors have been much luckier. Not one person has frozen to death in Moscow in the past 24 hours."


Now that's something to celebrate.


The good news is, spring has made an early appearance in the capital. The bad news is, it could be a dire threat to life and limb.


I welcomed the chance to shed my shapka, and the inevitable matted, "hat-head" look that goes with it. But I may have to trade my fur hat for a construction worker's helmet. Those lovely, pointed icicles now forming on virtually every roof or door have a tendency to come crashing down at the most inopportune times.


Spring here is not a poetic season of pale, watery sunshine, budding trees, burgeoning love. It is a slogging, muddy, gray and brown month or more of misery, where the melting snow combines with the mud to form permaslime. Forget a return to normal footwear. Just plan on wearing hip boots until May.


That's the bad news. The good news is, the day lasts longer. Or maybe, considering the mess outside, that's part of the bad news, too.


Weather gripes aside, Moscow is on an upswing. Private enterprise is creeping into Moscow's furthest corners, including the one in which I work.


Just a few months ago there was nowhere for blocks around to grab lunch. Midday hunger pangs were assuaged with candy bars from the local kiosk, expensive take-out, or long treks to more civilized regions.


All of that is now in the past. There is now a small restaurant next door with pretenses to international cuisine. It's clean, cheap, and quick.


That's the good news. The food, on the other hand, is normally on the indifferent-to-bad scale remembered from Soviet days.


But yesterday all that had changed. Sitting innocently at the bottom of the menu, after the shoe-leather beef and greasy pork, was frogs' legs!


No, it wasn't a joke, it wasn't a misprint. There it was, big as life.


That was the good news, at least I thought so. A cautious inquiry into the amphibians' origin, however, did not produce a felicitous response.


"From a swamp. What did you think?"


My appetite evaporated immediately.


I must confess I have been tempted, on occasion, to drown my sorrows at the local kiosk. A few bottles of Stolichnaya, a couple of frogs' legs, and I can curl up in the nearest snow bank. At least I can be sure I won't freeze to death.


But I can't stomach vodka, champagne gives me a headache, and spring doesn't last that long, anyway. Winter will be back before you know it.


That's the good news.