Listening to: John Cale (the Island "trilogy" + Sabotage/Live).
When we were kids in the pre-Russian-Federation USA, we would been shown films every now and then (probably not unlike today). Sometimes in the classroom, sometimes in assemblies in the cafeteria or auditorium. I remember seeing Nanook of the North and Future Shock (women with green and orange hair!!) back in junior high. I also vaguely remember a documentary on everyday life in Soviet Moscow. Oh, i'm not talking about they're-coming-for-your-children, McCarthyist blatant anti-communist propaganda in black and white. I'm not that old, to begin with. No, i'd guess it was a relatively recent snapshot for the time (mid-1970s). It was less a propaganda piece than a cultural exchange on film. I remember stereotypical big peasant women and wizened yet smaller peasant men in colorless, heavy clothing, all threadbare suits, babushkas and shawls.
One scene i remember was people in some city square around a public water fountain (not unlike the disappearing nasoni here in Rome), but the fountain's structure allowed a drinking cup to be perched on the stand...and everyone shared that same glass.
Another scene i remember was shot in the GUM department store, with the famous long line of clients hoping to get one of whatever necessity it was they were queing up for. I remember the narrator implying that they were lucky to get what they came for, due to rationing and shortages and whatnot.
All this set-up and for what...? Well, welcome back to the Soviet Union 2011!
This is yesterday, circa 9:15 am at the Ins supermarket off of Piazza Alessandria here in Rome. Ins is a discount supermarket, carrying a limited supply of (mostly) only their own store brand of products. They open at 9 am. There is only one cashier open. There are around 13 people in front of me.
The cashier is oblivious that the line goes almost all the way to the back of the store, me being equidistant to the front or the back. I am not the last person in line. Nevertheless, she is asking for exact change. Suspicion leads me to believe that the till has enough to make change but she finds a certain disdain in making change.
A paper grocery bag costs 15¢.
The employees stock shelves at all hours. The aisles are roughly 70cm wide.
The prices are heavily discounted while maintaining a certain quality but that is the sole reason to shop there. It is an exercise in subliminal masochism, a study of anti-feng shui, 180° of ergonomics, a mosquito hovering in front of your nose that refuses to be shooed away. It is as if Dr. Yen Lo and his team had designed a chain of discount supermarkets. Every time i go there, to quote Bukowski, i feel raped nine times over.
Yet i still go. I must be a masochist. A cheap masochist, to boot.