For Russians, your birthday is kind of like New Year's Day, when you reconsider everything you've done in your life, and start wondering if there's any good you could do for the world. For my recent birthday, I decided to go over my list of all the good, bad and ugly achievements I have made over the past 29 years. Not surprising, the "good" list was way too short. So I started to think of the most effective ways for that I could wash my karma laundry.
One of the big new elitny trends is to "do good." Most of the conversations among Moscow's tusovka include stories about lent (going 40 days without meat, booze or sex—or so they claim), participation in animal protection funds or support for some virtual orphanage in the middle of nowhere. I don't really believe that all these newly-rich crooks suddenly became saints, but still I always try to listen to them patiently.
I have never participated in any charity at all, and I have only a very vague understanding of this concept. On the one hand, I know a few people who made fortunes using charity programs back in the mid-1990s. On the other hand, I remember getting some charity—American ham, which they gave us at school, together with Tampax for the girls (that was the first time I saw this thing!), all part of what they called "humanitarian aid." I guess ham and tampons were two different sides of the same coin.
Since then I always had this idea in my head that charity was just another invention of rich Americans who have so much money that they don't know where to spend it. Not all Russians in my opinion are rich enough (or open-minded, depending on your point of view) just to give away their money for some virtual cause.
Excuse my gross generalizations but to be perfectly honest, I don't trust any charity funds whatsoever, because I know how people make money there. This line of reasoning brought me to the conclusion that, if I'm going to do something good for my karma, I need to arrange something small but practical and put in on my "good" list.
Luckily, I started planning my good deed on the eve of a particular holiday which offered me lots of opportunities to be good. I'm talking about May 9, the day we kicked Nazi Germany in their balls. I know, they don't use the term "Nazi Germany" anymore, replacing it with politically correct "Victory Day," and some of you American readers are taught at schools that you won the WWII. Actually we Russians won it, and most Russians are proud of that fact even though it happened long ago. Perhaps we just have a certain stamina that most countries don't have.
Anyway, my mission on Victory Day was not to discuss historical questions. A couple of my friends and I met in the newly opened PAPARAZZI BAR which occupies an ancient basement on Pyatnitskaya Ulitsa in old Moscow, to discuss our plans for making the world better. Sipping through a very long list of reasonably priced drinks (a shot of Absolut for just 90 rubles!) and listening to the famous DJ Arkady Air's set, we came up with an idea: wouldn't it be really cool to make a party for veterans, so that we could hear some of their stories and show them that we appreciate them on the day that is theirs. The Paparazzi Bar had a good vibe and real charm, but the veterans would probably be shocked to see the packed basement with its crowd of half naked ravers, their eyes aglow. So we decided it would be best to take our charity somewhere else, outside of town.
Those of you who live in Moscow and have never visited Peredelkino should be ashamed. Moscow doesn't have a huge number of cultural sites (compared to Saint Pete's for example) so visiting this village for famous Soviet writers and checking out their estates makes for a great way to spend a weekend.
Through some of my good connections, my friends and I were able to book the fantastic dacha of Korney Chukovsky, a famous Soviet-era children's writer, who owned a vast tract of forest along with his gorgeous Peredelkino house.