It only took a short visit to Tbilisi -- our first trip back to the FSU in a year -- to make us realize that the FSU is our creative homeland. We have DOZENS (well, ok, four or five) posts ready to go in our head that were inspired by actual events over a long Thanksgiving weekend.
Maybe Turkey isn't as hilarious or maybe long-term Turkey expats aren't as entertaining as those who have been wintering in Kyiv for a half dozen years or more, but holy crap, we have a rich vein of ridiculousness.
Anyway! Let's get down to it.
We sat down with Borko of Nenand's Murse, an up-and-coming blog that explains things about Europe that Americans don't understand. And to be clear, Borko uses the Eurovision definition of "Europe," which pretty much includes Kazakhstan. Eurovision, of which Borko is a world-reknown expert, sets the gold standard, other than soccer, for things about Europe that Americans don't understand (American seven year-olds understand soccer, though. No one understands Eurovision).
Borko has been living in the FSU almost since it was the regular kind of SU, and believe you me, you can tell. Here's a transcript of a conversation, which took place at an outside table at a bar in Tbilisi's Old City. Alcohol *may* have been a factor, but it was after 11am, so no flag on the play.
Borko (B): "I bought two Hugo Boss suits in Kyiv, but I noticed a tag on the sleeve that said "Made in Bulgaria." I had to rip it off right away. I can't believe I bought a suit made in Bulgaria."
Carpetblogger (CB): "Did you notice anything else wrong with the suit?"
B: "No, why?"
CB: "How shiny was it?"
B: "It wasn't shiny at all! It's Hugo Boss."
CB: "Right. My bad. Hugo Boss became the favored brand of oligarchs from Donetsk, taxi drivers from Batumi and gangsters from Varna by skimping on the shine."
B: "You're wrong, CB! Hugo Boss is a very stylish brand for suits."
We mulled the statement for a moment, thinking of recent insecurity experienced while shopping for skirts to wear to Paris. "Is this stylish or retarded?" went through our head, after it occurred to us that we have no idea what 40+ year old consultants whose "work" wardrobe consists primarily of yoga pants wear in "business situations" in normal countries.
But maybe we have more self-awareness than Borko. We think that making a bad shopping choice in Crapistan could be like, in 1985, wearing the JC Penny's galloping horse on your Catholic school uniform polo shirt -- rather than the real polo player -- only you wouldn't be painfully, horribly aware that what you're wearing wasn't quite right in subtle but important ways. Borko trotting around in a suit with a bit too much shine not only would not know that people were silently mocking him ("Where's he from? Kharkiv?") he would think they were admiring him and walk about with the confidence of someone who is tres a la mode.
Sure, tres a la mode in Minsk. (Do you not remember the principles of FSU fashion?)
CB: "Has anyone who doesn't live in the FSU examined that suit for shine?"
B: "No! It doesn't make any difference! Besides, I paid $600 for two suits. They're not shiny."
CB: "Oh, I think it makes a difference. Did you buy shoes to go with it?"
B (getting increasingly agitated at the direction the conversation): "NOT SHINY."
CB: "OK, I believe you. They wouldn't make anything shiny in Bulgaria."
We decided that Borko was in too deep and wasn't going to arrive at the correct conclusion without some assistance. If we didn't take action, he was going to wear that Bulgarian Hugo Boss on K Street in Washington DC. While we would find that personally entertaining, we decided to graphically present his choices using a tool we knew he'd understand.
Even after this, Borko fought and fought, and even revisited the topic later in the weekend ("Brown suits can't be shiny!" ORILY?) but we knew the battle had been won.
We received an SMS tonight: "OK, there might be the slightest sheen on my Bulgarian "Hugo Boss" suit."
Carpetblogger offers fashion consultations for long-term FSU residents. Hourly rates apply.