Catching Up pt 1: Gettin’ Curly in Perm

Let’s backtrack a few months and get this blog caught up!

We were in Perm from March 30th until April 3rd. I went with Julia, our German friend doing research on waste management in Khanty-Mansiysk, who was there visiting Natasha at an ecological conference.

I had a gut feeling that Perm was An Awesome City for two reasons: Реальные пацаны and Соль, a TV-show and magazine respectively. The show, “Real Guys,” is a divine, loving mockery of the Russian “guy/dude,” one social step up from гопники, my friend explains. Some really don’t like the show at all, but Hana and I can’t get enough. The series cashes in on all the subtleties and specificities of the Russian пацан. Even the way the actors talk is spot-on. The three main characters are loveable, typically pretty hopeless, and always get themselves in too deep coming up with gloriously idiotic schemes to get girls and cars.  The two policemen are hilariously inneffective and while trying so hard to prove otherwise. Here are some screenshots.

I actually met the actors in Moscow by chance! I was at some cafe in the airport and they sat at the table across from me, continuously bothered by giddy girls asking to фоткаться (take their picture) with them. Eventually I went up and gracefully asked, «are you guys some celebrities or something?» and that sparked a fun chat. I hadn’t heard of the show at that point, but promised to watch it!

Next is the magazine Соль (Salt), which I had randomly picked up a copy of in Moscow because the latest print had a beautiful ballerina on the cover. Turns out it’s a fantastic indie-style art-and-culture magazine based in Perm (and only later did I notice that one of the cover articles was in fact, «Реальные пацаны – наконей сериал, который непротивно смотреть» (Real Guys – At last a TV show that’s not appauling to watch)! Fate. Always русская судьба.)  So that was another harbinger of good things to come!

The city struck me as a little grungy and cool. Fresh out of the wannabe snowglobe-perfect Khanty-Mansiysk, the unkept construction sites and derelict factories were actually well-appreciated. What was most unique, however, is how the city dealt with these eyesores: last year, the Perm Museum of Modern Art invited artists from all over the world to paint murals all over the ugly things, effectively turning the whole city into a museum playground.

That was the first impression. Secondly, the city was speckled with interesting monuments – crazy designs that you’d expect to see lurking deep in the private folds of a quirky artist’s mind rather than in the central square.

(For those who didn’t notice it in the picture above this, we’re trying (hoplessly) to form the P and E of Perm’!)

A dung beetle loving up on some dung!!!! In the city central square!! (Also, made out of recycled tires!) Perfect.

Happiness is just around the corner! (Literally: “Happiness is not behind the mountains”)

“Permyak – Salty Ears”

Next, I met up with the friend of one of my close friends from St. Petersburg who was going to school in Perm. She took me to this perfectly obscure restaurant-cafe tucked away in «some allyway off some street» and we had the most incredible meal I’d had all year. The cafe is named after a novel, which just so happens to be one of her favorites, Arbuznij Sakhar (named after Richard Brautigan’s book, In Watermelon Sugar) It was such a little indie paradise – girly flowery pillows and doilies, lovely white wrought-iron furnature, delicate teacups and saucers.  The tea we drank was from herbs from the chef’s garden, the bread was baked right there, and the pork was hypnotically delicious. The chef was also our waitress and cashier, and the kitchen was entirely open right in front of us. Not for any showy, entertainment purposes, mind you; it was just because the space was small(read: cozy) and that design just made more sense. It was the first time in a while I’d seen girls wearing something a little wacky, girls with edgy haircuts and makeupless faces. It made me miss Burlington more than I realized, actually.

We also went to a gallery/youth center/art class place, where they were showing some nice sci-fi ish spray paint graphics by a talented local Perm artist.

(art art art)

Julia, Natasha and I took a day to visit the small town of Kungur about an hour outside of Perm.

We enjoyed wandering around the city, but the best part was the cave. Here are some extraordinarily average photos of things that were in fact extraordinarily beautiful.

This beer bar features fire-holographic babes on their “Accessible Wednesdays” RUSSIAN-POP, EVRO-POP, and DISCO-HOUSE nights

Then we celebrated Natasha’s birthday!! We rang in the morning with champagne and cake for breakfast.

Then grilled shashlyks (kebabs) and played games. One of Natasha’s friend read off this interactive story thing, that involved us waving tissues at regular intervals and wearing hats and things to play certain characters.

Enjoyed some very avant-gardy cake.

Natasha and Julia were pretty busy with the conference, which left me lots of time for just wandering around and getting a feel for the city. Found a used bookstore, even, where I snatched up a beautiful book of the art of Russian theater during the silver age as well as a pack of vintagey Perm postcards. Ah, and also this gloriously impractical postcard with rocks glued on.

I had some fun getting faux-artsy with photo effects – you can see the album on facebook by clicking either of the two photos below.

They have a highly-developed and profitable fish telephone industry in Perm.


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