What’ll Three Years of Russian Get You?

So, when I went to college, you had to take at least two years of a foreign language. Being that I’d changed high schools and graduated from a school so small. . .

How small was it?

The school that I graduated from was so small that, in order to meet my physical education requirement and have room for all my other classes, I was in 1st grade PE my junior year. I walked down to the other end of the school, to the small gym, and had PE with two sets of first graders.

How small was it?

I graduated fourth out of forty-seven.

How small was it?

My calculus class was once cancelled on account of hunting season.

Anyway, I’d had 18 weeks of French and 9 weeks of Spanish when I got to college and I didn’t believe that there’d be anybody in the intro classes to either of those languages who knew less about them than I do. (Here’s the whole sum total of what I learned in French: “vent” is wind and the kid with the French name of Guy will stab a girl in the face with a pen if she tries to take his seat. Guy, if you are reading this, through some strange coincidence, though I’ve forgiven you and the scar is not that noticeable any more, I still think that was a strange and shitty thing to do. You might want to cut back on the caffeine.)

So, I enrolled in Russian. Yes, for some reason, I thought that, even though eighteen weeks of French had taught me one word and a new-found respect for personal boundaries, I could pick up a whole new alphabet along with many new words and be queen of Slavic languages.

I stuck it out for three years. And, boy howdy, do I suck. Do you know what Russians you can communicate with after three years of Russian and no inherent language talent? Three year olds.

But the Professor has a friend who speaks fluent Russian, who went to Russia and wrestled drunken Russians, and, for some reason, when I get drunk, I feel the need to try to talk to him in Russian and recite snippits of Pushkin to him that I can’t remember while sober, but that seem to come rushing back to me without the least bit of provocation after a couple of beers.

Thus it occurs to me that, probably, the Russians that I can communicate with are even fewer than “three year olds.” No, if I ever find myself in Russia, I’ll be stuck talking to the drunken three year olds.

We can discuss milk–moloko, vodka–vodka, beer–pivo; water–voda; cows–corova; god–bog; pomegranate–granat; good things–horoshow; small things–malinki; and dogs–coboka.

Hmm. Now that I think about it, that’s not much different than what I normally discuss on Tiny Cat Pants. . .

The Greenman

I was pretty bummed yesterday, after the Professor tried to kill me off–first by making three gallons of sangria and pouring it into cups that looked suspiciously like the cups containing the egg dye (at one point, someone looked up from the eggs and said, sadly, “I drank the yellow,” but it wasn’t me) on Friday night, and then by hopping me up on jelly beans and egg-shaped M&Ms until I was in a sugar stupor, loading me up with more sangria, and then packing us all into a tiny car in such a way that I ended up laying across three people with one of my knees bent askew and my head tilted up under the Sheik’s arm. One bump, hit wrong, and I would have been ejected from the car onto the big naked statue.

(Weep for the poor Southern Baptists, in that case. Would they have been more outraged at my public drunkenness, as I slept off the evening in the outstretched arms of a three story tall naked man, or at the naked man’s public nudity? Decisions, decision.)

But on my way to and from work, I spent it with XTC’s song, “The Greenman,” which is the best non-Christian Easter song there is: all about love and rebirth and the way the things we love get hidden and carried along with us, even after we’re supposed to be done with them.

Why put a head up high on the church wall, even a leafy green one?

When Bendigeid Fran, the son of Llyr, king of his land, went to rescue his sister, Branwen, he was mortally wounded and knew he was dying. “Cut off my head, and take it with you to Harlech,” he said to his friends, “And while you remain there, my head will be as good a company to you as it ever way when it was on my body.”

The gift he gave these weary warriors, who had defeated the Irish, but at tremendous cost, was seven years of forgetfulness. They didn’t remember their fallen comrades or any other sorrows. Bendigeid Fran’s head was great company to them and they enjoyed his company without grieving his death.

One day, Heilyn, the son of Gwynn, opened a door Bendigeid Fran told his friends to keep shut, and, as Lady Charlotte Guest so eloquently puts it, “when they had looked [out the door], they were as conscious of all the evils they had ever sustained, and of all the friends and companions they had lost, and of all the misery that had befallen them, as if all had happened in that very spot.”

Maybe there isn’t a direct connection, but hanging heads on walls in places set aside from the rest of the world that bring luck and joy. . . that seems to be a mighty big coincidence, if they don’t have anything to do with each other. And I like to imagine that there’s a god, who’s name we’ve now forgotten, who whispered in the ear of one of his last followers, “cut off my head, and take it with you to church and there it will be as good a company to you as it ever was when it was on my body.”