From the category archives:



by Marinka on March 30, 2013

The other night I was nestled in bed like a snug bug in the rug, or some other insect facing imminent extermination, about to drift off to sleep, when suddenly I had a thought. This in and of itself was not remarkable, as I often have thoughts, and the ones before visiting slumberland tend to range from “I wonder if I have an undiagnosed and incurable disease” to “I hope that North Korea putting Austin on the To Attack List isn’t giving Austin NYC-type delusions of grandeur.”

But that particular evening, I had a different thought.

See, after spending time working on my masterpiece I wondered why I never bothered to look up Lenny from Leningrad on Facebook. In case you hadn’t yet hacked into my computer to read a draft of From Russia With Baggage (working title), from the age of zero to 9, when my parents and I left the Soviet Union, Lenny was my boyfriend. That was in 1975. Or 1976, I’m not great with dates.

I liked Lenny because he did everything I asked him and also because he looked like a prepubescent Omar Sharif. And we were best friends. But then my parents became obsessed with immigrating, and freedom and having enough food to eat, and there was no stopping them. We immigrated to America and my friendship with Lenny ended.

I never heard from him again.

Well, he may have written to me a few (dozen) times, but at that point I was busy living in Italy and then in New York City and learning English and finding out that I was Jewish and a lifelong sinner, what with not eating Kosher food and all that. So I had things going on and writing Letters to Lenny in Leningrad didn’t fit into my life plan. The point is that I didn’t write back and just because I didn’t write back, Lenny stopped writing to me. If that’s his attitude, then it’s just as well that I left the Soviet Union and him.

Later, I learned that Lenny married someone else and had children with her. Maybe even a puppy.


Apparently our nine years together meant nothing to him.

So I was in bed, snug as a bug, and suddenly I thought “how come I never tried to find Lenny from Leningrad on Facebook?” and because all ideas that come late at night are good ones, I reached for my phone and proceeding to the Facebook app, typed in his name.

It popped up immediately, albeit in Russian.

I was intrigued.

And sleepy. And then I pressed on his name, expecting to see photos of a post-pubescent Omar Sharif and some laments about “Marinka who got away!” but instead I got a notification from Facebook that “Friendship request has been sent.”


I was not sure that this is what I wanted. After all, it’s been more than three decades of being out of contact, so I imagined a reunion, even a virtual one at that, to be more ceremonial.

I started clicking every fucking button on the page in the hope of turning back time and undoing my friendship request, but it didn’t seem to work. I may have, however, marked my friendship request “Urgent” and also sent a friendship request to his wife.

I panicked. I sat up in bed, no longer snug as a bug in a rug.

“What the fuck?!” I asked my iPhone. But it remained silent, mocking me.

I looked at the screen again and saw a button to cancel the friendship request. Apparently that’s a thing now.

But I didn’t know if I pressed it whether Lenny would see that I both requested to be friends and then canceled it or what the situation would be. It was too much for me, so I just lay down and hoped to die in my sleep.

Hours later, I woke up, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, like a rabid squirrel.

And I checked my phone.

Lenny had accepted my friendship request.

Although he has yet to write anything on my wall.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to forgive him for not sending me a Friend request first.


Wait, So This Isn’t How Math Works?!

by Marinka on February 17, 2013

One of the problems with writing a memoir, if you are me, is that while you’re writing, all these memories come flooding back in a huge wave of cliches that come crashing on a sandy shore.

And this weekend was no exception.

Because this weekend I remembered that when I was in grade school, I had an issue with addition and subtraction.

Oh, don’t worry, I knew how to add, so 2 plus 2 was absolutely no problem (hold the Nobel!) but then for reasons that no one, including me, could understand, I’d increase the number by one, “just to be on the safe side.” I did the same thing with subtraction, so 9-2 would equal 6, because I wanted to be extra sure that I subtracted enough.

Unfortunately, mathematics had not yet caught up with my genius concept of “safety math” and every single problem I did in math was marked wrong, but I was convinced that my methods were fairer than the more common “2+2=4” approach.

I don’t know how I surrendered to “conventional math” or, for that matter, how I graduated from the first grade. Wait. Unless my math moronism was the real reason my parents had to leave the USSR?



Hammer and Sickle

January 30, 2013

My writing hit a bump a few weeks ago, when my parents and I had a discussion and they expressed displeasure with what I was doing. Oh, they hadn’t read a word of it, lest you think that’s necessary for criticism. They feel strongly that a person like me, who was largely shielded from the […]

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Quoting Stalin

April 4, 2012

Last week I was talking to Mama about something and then out of the blue, in order to make her point, she quoted Stalin. “Are you seriously quoting Stalin?” I asked her. “I am,” Mama said. And then she explained that it was because on this particular issue he had a point, not that she […]

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November 24, 2011

This is how it would work in the former Soviet Union, where I spent the first part of my childhood. You’d be walking along with your grownup, your mother or father or grandmother or grandfather, and suddenly there would be a line of people snaking up ahead. And this was good. Your mother or father […]

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Life’s A Bitch!

May 5, 2011

My parents and I immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, in the late spring, when I was ten years old, and by that summer the novelty of New York had worn off and I was supremely bored. I wasn’t the teenage-bored yet, of course, where boredom melds into ennui, but I was bored […]

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In America

March 30, 2011

When my parents and I came to America, our first apartment was a studio. I don’t know if people outside of New York City know from a studio, but it is a one-room apartment. Not a one bedroom. A one room. We had a bathroom, a kitchen, a dining area that fit a table, snugly, […]

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America, Baby

June 22, 2010

When my parents and I were in the process of emigrating from the former Soviet Union, I got into a huge disagreement with a makeshift friend about whether we’d be going to the United States or America.  Shtatyi, the States in Russian, was a place that our parents talked about in hushed tones.  Good for […]

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