Call me crazy, but I love Russia. I love it. It’s a weird place and it’s super strange and scarred and currently a human rights disaster, and I’m not a political fan, but culturally, I just love it. This is not, I understand, something many other people feel. After all, Russia has a reputation for being a cold and bitter place filled with pain and sorrow. But that’s what makes it so much fun! It’s dramatic! It feels things deeply! It lives on vodka and emotions! What’s not to love?
Real talk, I’m predisposed to love Russia, honestly. My mother’s family is Russian, I grew up hearing Russian (though I can say maybe four things myself), eating Russian food, reading Pushkin fairy tales and thinking about how I could get a duel going. When I was in college I studied abroad in Moscow. I want to work in theater, for goodness sakes, and after Greece and England Russia really has the market on that one cornered. (Don’t talk to me about France, okay? Just don’t. Bunch of cheese eating surrender monkeys who don’t use half of the letters they could be pronouncing because, what, that’s too much effort? Writing plays about Greek myths and corrupt clergymen and defecating kings? Whatever. Call me when Godot comes. Jeez.) And after my time living in Russia, well, there was no going back. I was a whole-hearted convert, a lover of the Russian doucha (that’s soul, come on, be cool) and bitter sad grimness on each crumbled little Slavic face. It’s adorable!
But I no longer have family in Russia, and plane tickets don’t come cheap to the land of eternal winter (See, Game of Thrones should shoot the North of the Wall stuff THERE), so the next best thing for this current New Yorker is Brighton Beach. Oh, Brighton Beach, my love, my life, my youth, my orchard!
Ahem. Just a casual Cherry Orchard reference. Like you do. For those who do not know, Brighton Beach is a Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn, right near Coney Island. For just under a century it’s been an enclave of Russian life in New York. In the 1860’s the area was developed as a resort town with its own racetrack. The area wasn’t technically a part of Brooklyn until 1894, after which it became a residential area with its own amusement park. With the Depression and the Second World War, floods of Jewish immigrants, primarily from Odessa, but also from other Eastern European nations, poured into the area, making it a Russian neighborhood.
In the last few decades, increased immigration from former Soviet states, including those with stronger Asian influences, have added more kinds of food and more accents of Russian to the area. Getting out of the train you might not hear a word of English spoken in any direction for blocks and blocks.
Bright plentiful produce spills out from every store, women in heels and sparkles chatter and bicker, every sign points the way to Russian pastries, watches, oil, pelmeni and perfume.
Headscarves mix with peroxided blonde locks, and everyone finds themselves scattered over the boardwalk, especially in the summer.
I love going there, and I don’t go nearly enough. In fact, I hadn’t been once since I moved to New York almost two years ago. Given that I live in Southern Brooklyn, this is a crime I plan to rectify with frequent trips in the future. For for now, I went with what’s-his-face this past Sunday and could hardly contain my excitement.
We had read about this place last summer and always wanted to go there for lunch, so we finally did it. Totally worth the trip, even if I wasn’t wild about Brighton Beach. I heartily recommend it to anyone.
And obviously I had to wear something new. I mean, what am I, a savage? Luckily in my post-graduate school free time between working and my frequent existential crises, I’ve made a lot of new things. Some of them were for my roommate Emily’s trip, which she leaves on today for a month. Photos for those will be delayed for obvious reasons, but hopefully feature exotic locals! And some things are for my own trip with my parents to San Juan which I am taking tomorrow. Again, stay tuned. But this seemed like a good occasion to bust out something special, and so I present to you my Brighton Beach Bunny Skirt!
The pattern ought to be a familiar one to anyone who reads this, because it’s Simplicity 4529 and I’ve made it so many times and I have no plans to stop any time soon. Look, I’m all for making new patterns and trying new things. But honestly, I’ve been sewing long enough at this point, and also DRESSING myself long enough, to know is something is just not going to work for me, and to appreciate the things that really make me look and feel good. It’s a grown-up uniform, sure, but what’s wrong with that? I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if it ain’t broke…
Actually, this is pretty funny, I was worried that it WAS broke, I had this strange anxiety that this time it wouldn’t fit. I was so worried and convinced that somehow my Puerto Rican caboose wouldn’t be able to squeeze into this that I added fabric in the back, two strips adding up to about 3 inches.
Real talk? This totally would have fit. It’s my loosest make of this skirt to date. But it’s also supremely comfortable and I don’t mind at all. So either I miscalculated or my tush got smaller over night. Could it be the second one, please?
This skirt is unbearably simple for me at this point. I made so many over the winter and one last summer, I’ve got this. But I love how it looks, and this fabric was just too perfect. I love it, I can’t deal with how much I love it. I kept pointing out images to what’s-his-face.
I can hardly decide which is my favorite. The Elephant reading the newspaper? The monkeys in the band? The juggling guy? The frogs? It’s a party! Just the sort of thing to wear in Brighton Beach. This way I’m something to look at, too!
Of course, if you are in Brighton Beach already, you might as well stop by Coney Island.
Though I can’t decide which is more thrilling, amusement park rides or sullen Russians who continuously reference the Gulags? I’m just kidding. It’s obviously the Russians. Sorry, Coney! Better luck next time.