I can tell you God’s plan for this place very concisely: God created this place as a critique of me.
– John Dolan
I hate this time of the year. Being stuck in the Moscow heat is like unpaid overtime work. Have I mentioned how much I sweat? It’s bad, and it’s ready to come back. Like Mike from last issue’s Tipper’s Tips, any being that has had the misfortune of having my Moroccan torso pumping away on top of them has had to endure gutter drains of sweat… What a sight I must make! I’d hate to have me on top of me! Looking up at me! How many times have I heard:
“Ouch! Oi! Wait a second, Mark, your sweat got in my eye and it stings!” Welp, there goes another romantic moment. Pull out, heh-heh, roll over, heh-heh, get the towel, the Visine… heh-heh… by then, “the moment’s lost,” and it’s time to pack the bags-or worse, discuss our relationship. Sweat has always seemed to have a negative effect on my relationships, and with Russians, it just plain freaks them out.
April may have been the cruelest month for an impotent Eurofag from St. Louis, but for me, it’s only the beginning of my troubles. You want cruel? July in Moscow-now that’s a cruel month. Mid July. Try writing an epic about mid-July. I dare you! Poets wouldn’t touch that time of the year. Stick to early April you pale, pencil-necked geeks, but don’t get near July!
You readers are a little more adventurous, though. You read this paper to get some kind of sick kick. And that’s great. So I’ll offer you something entirely new. Come check me out in mid-July, folks, when God’s heater and humidifier are turned up to full blast, and the fan is aimed directly at me, wherever I go. This year, I live on the top floor of a building in the most polluted intersection of Moscow, and the sun rises and sets straight into my windows. I have no cross-ventilation, thin curtains, and no fan. I am the incarnation of heat-masochism.
I should have my own tent at the local freak show. I’d make someone a pretty penny. Some stubble-chinned exploiter-a Mahi Bass, let’s say-top hat and cane in hand, exhorts the cotton candied masses: “Hurry, hurry! Step right up, folks! See the Moat from Morocco! 50,000 rubles for a sight that will leave you grateful for what you have! Slip on our handy goulashes and rain capes, folks, and watch the Human Sprinkler go to work!” (The saddest part is that I’m barely Moroccan-I just like the sound of it. I’m feeling very French these days, so I most of my blame my problems on Moroccans.)
I seem to be the only one in Moscow who hates summers, which does no good for my general sense of am-I-alone-in-this-world-ia. Russians-pale, fair, melanoma-prone-can’t wait for the sun to start up its seasonal gene splicing roulette. Why do Russians love summer? Because Russians don’t sweat. Never. Not one drop of sweat has ever, in recorded history, dripped down the back of a Slav. We have our differences, Slavs and I. I don’t shiver in the cold, they don’t sweat in the heat. It’s a major difference, one that once led me to support Reagan. The Cold War-I liked that. I think a lot of sweaty Americans did. I liked everything about it, while it was going on. Cold and War in one neat package! A sweaty teenager’s dream!
I’d like to live farther up in the north, in the tundra, where bears and snow tigers roam. I’d like to freeze to death. That’s how I’d like to go-frozen in solid white, icicles out of the nostrils, a grotesque blue mannequin to frighten some happy trekker-family that stumbles upon my lipless corpse. Not Russians. They can’t get enough heat! That’s why they like their banyas so damn hot. Do you know any sane person who has been able to last more than thirty seconds in the Krasnopressnenskiye banyi, where those enormously fat-bellied, dickless wonders constantly one-up each other by throwing more and more water into the furnace. It’s right out of a medieval fresco-with the Russians as the red devil tormentors, and me with the pleading, naked, pre-Raphaelite look of suffering. Every day this summer is like that thirty seconds I lasted in the Krasnopressnenskiye banyi, and I dread it.
I thought I was the only person in Moscow who loathed the onslaught of summer. That is, until Taibbi arrived. He may not have brought much to our newspaper energy-wise. But his pores-oh my, what pores! We were wavering about bringing him on board until he mentioned in passing how much he sweats. I like having Taibbi in the offices with me. He makes me look good. For the first time, I’m even kind of looking forward to July. I don’t care if Kostya and Ilya and Masha and Yulia and the two Katyas don’t break a single drop of sweat all summer in our publishing conglomerate headquarters. The important thing is that Taibbi will be a basket case, a panting rival with enormous dark, wet rings in his shirts, and I’m damn glad for it. Come July, Taibbi and I will go together like lemma-lemma-lemma/changity-chang-shoobop. In fact, gals, you better watch out. With all that sweating, our offices will become a veritable traffic jam of pheromones. The air itself will scream sex. We’ll corner the musk market. Perfumers will line up to bottle it! Our offices will be a giant Spanish Fly Chamber. We’ll be like a dog kennel in spring, with hormone-mad Chihuahuas pinning down Rottweilers… Taibbi and I will be like a pair of slimy land otters with gold medallions and hairy chests and sunglasses perched on our foreheads. Disco Land Otters. Techno Land Otters. I can see it now, baby. Come July, we’re gonna score!
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