pühapäev, jaanuar 22, 2012

kaksteist kuud


"And he puts his cocaine in the microwave. I mean, who does that?" Los Angeles, Los Angeles. It's such a ridiculously stupid city. People would rather spend hours in traffic than get behind some kind of comfortable and effective public transportation scheme. And I am one of these people. I am one of these people sitting at a table in an Ethiopian restaurant hearing about the exploits of an entertainer with a $500-a-day cocaine habit. "There were lines going everywhere. I mean here, there, on everything."

I like stories like this because it makes me feel as if I am rather normal, like I've made out okay in the stinky stanky tarpits of life. I've never even done lines. I credit Melle Mel's "White Lines (Don't Do It)," but also just the idea of doing an expensive, addictive, and often life-threatening drug doesn't make sense to me. It's like heroin. Let's count the casualties. And this is something you will pay to do?

Hell yes. South of the border a drug war is ongoing. In fact, it's now referred to as The Drug War, so as not to be confused with the War on Drugs. As it was explained to me at the Ethiopian restaurant, the armies of the drug lords are stronger and more effective than those at the disposal of the central government. The enemies are carved into pieces. When they recently found a human head in a plastic bag near the HOLLYWOOD sign, it was thought at first to be related to Mexico's drug war, though it's more likely some local out to get national attention (and they all are). Should demand for Mexico's wares diminish in the Estados Unidos, the revenue base of the drug lords would similarly decline. But until then, more heads and hands and feet, more entertainers with $500-a-day cocaine habits, more traffic.

The Ethiopians eat with their hands. Their beer isn't half bad either. Better than Saku, not as good as A. Le Coq, easier on the gut than those jars of brown stuff the Setos sell from the back of their cars during the Setokuningriigi Päevad. One downside to knowledge of the Estonian tongue is the inability to speak about Estonia without using Estonian words or expressions. Like Setokuningriigi Päevad. It translates as "Seto Kingdom Days." But that just sounds clumsy and awkward. How else could you say it? "Days of the Seto Kingdom"? Just as bad. How about Viljandi Paadimees, the "Viljandi Boatman." That also sounds odd to my ears. And it doesn't matter how you translate it, because Seto Kingdom Days and Viljandi Boatman don't mean anything to anyone outside of Estonia because nearly all people on Earth are unaware of the existence of the Seto people, let alone their kingdom, and they have never heard of Viljandi, and therefore are completely ignorant of its mystical Boatman!

They do know about Kaksteist Kuud. This means "twelve months" in Estonian, but is interpreted by English-speaking ears as "cocks taste good." Everyone knows about Kaksteist Kuud. Go to some small Polynesian island and raise the blue black and white flag of the Estonian republic and you'll see the little naked children throng the shores shouting out, "Kaksteist kuud! Kaksteist kuud!" They've all seen the YouTube clip where the smarmy backpackers get pretty Estonian girls to say it over and over again.

Listen, even at the lowest points of my sad and alcoholic pre-marital life I did not stoop to the levels of these YouTube clip-uploading cafoni. Cafone is a southern Italian dialect word. It means a disreputable or ill-mannered person. I was once called this by an older person when as a teenager I ordered three hamburgers at lunch. But now I am calling you all out. It's time to let it go. Just as MTV retired "Ice Ice Baby," it's time to retire Kaksteist kuud.

But you know they won't let it go. No one will. Our friend recently was injured in Viljandi. She was walking down the street when someone dropped a couch on her head from a second-floor window. Just a minor concussion. But still! Our friend was hit in the head by a couch. I don't know why some part of me still believes life could be some other more rational or sane way. Couches falling from the sky. Microwaved cocaine. Kaksteist kuud. When the plane landed in New York it was snowing. Our driver was an old man, half my height. We listened to Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra all the way home. "Papa loves mambo, Mama loves mambo ..."

People keep inviting me to all kinds of events. One journalist wants to interview me about jealousy in relationships. Someone wants me to give a presentation at an assembly of Estonian teachers on the local education system. Sometimes I would just like to scrap it all and start playing João Gilberto tunes in some club somewhere. Or even Dean Martin. I could sing like Dean Martin. At this point, why not? In a way, it makes perfect sense.

27 kommentaari:

Rainer ütles ...

Katus sõidab?

Spawnie ütles ...

When you feel the need to use the Estonian words, rather than their English equivalent, it just means that you have internalized the language, it's not foreign for you anymore. I do that sometimes too, although I am far far away from speaking decent Estonian. So in that way, I envy you. Having an Estonian spouse surely does help!

I came across the kaksteist kuud joke when I was googling Estonian language learning resources, an eternity ago. I wonder if Estonians find it offensive. I just think it's silly, but not insulting. Humans have largely varying degrees of intelligence, just got to accept it, even if you don't like it.

There's one thing I don't get. What does a couch falling from the sky in Viljandi have to do with The Drug War?

Giustino ütles ...

Rainer -- do you want me to write some boring typical blog stuff, like "I support this, because of this, this, and this"? I can do the meat and potatoes stuff.

Spawnie -- This is about the tug of war between sense and nonsense. LA's transportation system does not make sense, but everyone who visits LA contributes to the nonsense. People walk down the street expect not to get hit in the head by falling couches, but it happens anyway. Expensive and addictive drugs don't make sense, yet people buy them, a lot of them, funding civil wars in certain countries.

Giustino ütles ...

In other words, nonsense is winning.

Spawnie ütles ...

Thanks for explaining, it makes sense now.
As for nonsense winning, I agree only partially. It's all a matter of perspective. The universe can be random and cruel, or magical and astonishing. Or it can be a gray daily grind. It's usually a question of what we choose to see and what we choose to ignore.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

I loved this writing. I am just as incoherent as lucid all the time. I connect to it. I can see how I will one day be this old mand talking to myself and chuckle. Heck, I am already there. How many times I had to tell my 4 year old in the back seat ... "Nothing, nothing. I said nothing."

4 year old protesting: "But I heard you say something, Dad".

That's your future, Giustino. If you are not there already.

I'll be waiting.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

How do you say "roof is riding"?

Katus sõidab. Such a funny expression.

When did we start using it? Late 80s? I do not remember it from childhood ...

Spawnie ütles ...

@Liivimaa parim ratsutaja:

And that's why it's handy to have two offspring. Their constant chatter will cover yours, they will not even notice it and it's possible other people will be distracted by it, too.
There's a downside to this though. I often find myself saying to my kids: stop talking for just one second, mommy needs to think!

Can someone explain the meaning behind 'Katus sõidab'? I know the translation, I am unaware of the reference.

Rainer ütles ...

Katus sõidab is such a good expression, really. That's why I used it. It's not like I asked if you had lost your marbles, Giustino. It's a non-judgmental expression, at least in my book.
I merely wanted to comment on the surreal-bordering-on-nonsensical style of your post. Not very typical of you, is it? Maybe life in Viljandi does that to you.
LPR, I believe the expression could be as recent as from the nineties. I can't remember hearing it back in the 80's.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Kopp on ees?

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Jälle kukkus laps kaaneta kaevu ...

Paneb ju ohkama ja omaette rääkima? Minu puhul lausa vanduma.

Kopp ees, katus sõidab ...

Miks ma loen eesti uudiseid?

Miks?

Spawnie ütles ...

See, you're doing it again, talking to yourself!

You read Estonian news for the same reason I read Romanian news! It's an immigrant thing.
Plus, it feels good to have, once more, confirmation that you made the right decision to leave.

Marko ütles ...

I do believe it's a (Baltic) Russian loan, and as I was a teenager in the 90's, I think it first appeared somewhere in 95-96. It's a kind of Estonian 'street' talk and as all 'street' talks, their origins are often foreign and enter the common language through integrated migrants.

Chavs in Britain, for example, often speak as if they just came off the plane from West-Africa. Funny, vulgar, childish, you name it - it's a good laugh, but I do think that if you reach certain age it is no longer appropriate to use these expressions, and 'Katus sõidab?' is one of them.

PS British equivalent woulb be something like 'mental much?'.

Spawnie ütles ...

That's a nice explanation Marko, thank you, although my Estonian friends had already cleared this out for me.
One of them mentioned that it could also be used in the context of that joke where a policeman stops a car full of drunks and asks "Who is driving?" with the obvious answer being "The roof is driving."
It's quite a different interpretation, yeah, but what do you think, is it valid as well?

Marko ütles ...

As I said it's a teenage thing and passes with time. I used it in my youth, but I dont do 'street' anymore, as I'm in my early 30's now. The joke you mentioned, on one hand, could be funny for some (especially to the people living in rural areas of the country), but on the other - it makes a lot more sense if you say it in Russian.

It's a type of conundrum - it makes sense to a Russian speaker who's got a deeper understanding of Estonian humor (sarcasm, self irony). Tell the same joke to a Moscowite and they just shrug their shoulders. And in Eglish, well, it's just a nonsense.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Excellent explanation, Marko. That's why these expressions do not transfer from generation to generation that well. A lot of them stay with an era and as people using them age and move on, these words get left behind.

Lingüista ütles ...

Indeed, Russian крыша 'roof' often gets used in contexts suggesting 'craziness' ('наша крыша небо голубое...', etc.) I suppose a borrowing from Russian in the Estonian context makes perfect sense.

Kristopher ütles ...

Katus sõidab does have sort of a "world is shifting under one's feet" feel, if I'm not misunderstanding it.

I.e., the world is going mad, not me.

Thinking of "loose screw", it seems just as unusual a notion that there is a screw in everyone's head, and that to be thought of as well-balanced and sane, that screw would have to be turned clockwise until it is tightly in position....

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

In Russian they say "krysha poyehala" and that means that someone went crazy. I now realize that this is simply a loan from Russian. You say
"katus sõidab" to an emigree Estonian and they will not understand what you meant. There are so many other russicisms in contemporary Estonian, that one can try them out against the language that has not changed since 1940 and you'd be surprised. Although, the new trend is to mix russian and paste english phrases over them. Soon Estonian will become unrecognizable and unspeakable.

Unknown ütles ...

What's tragic is that all the money for the gangs come from the US, as well as the guns to fuel the war between gangs and police/army in Mexico. Actually, gun laws are quite tough in Mexico, and it's difficult to get a permit to buy or own or carry a gun. In the US? They are lined up on the US side of the border so you can buy two assault rifles at one of millions of gunshops. Even WalMart sells rifles.

Marko ütles ...

It's true there are many Russian loans in modern Estonian, I'm not sure if it's good or bad, but it makes sense now that Finnish and Estonian are drifting apart at accelerating speeds. I have always admired how the British and upper class Americans deal with it - it just becomes socially unacceptable to use these at certain age. Making it possible, for example, people from Nebraska(US) and Hampshire(UK) to understand each other even if there havent been any close cultrual interpersonal connections for several hundred years. I've been away from Estonia just about a decade now and I can notice already that many changes have taken place, and not all of them for good. Even the speaking language has got a lot coarser, more monotone - as when I do speak with people who were raised in Siberia they sound a lot more melodic, softer... Anyhow, I think that we just have to make a conscious decision at some point of our lives - do we carry on with playful dismanteling of the Estonian language, or do we try to preserve, maybe even guide it back to it's original form.

Me ütles ...

Well, you live with the world you helped create. In ten years guys who have shabby love lives from suburban New York will begin asking your daughters to say 12 months, and then starting blogs about the hot women, subserviant women that can cook who they are dating and the cycle will repeat itself.

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

Welcome back, Puu! Where have you been, you angry white woman?

Me ütles ...

Same old, same old, drinking various beverages that dehydrate you like coffee and beer...catching up on Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place reruns...

Liivimaa parim ratsutaja ütles ...

The show you WANT NOT to miss is Breaking Bad. Have you seen it?

Me ütles ...

A little. I think it is a little self indulgent.

stockholm slender ütles ...

I like this post, very literary, nice and quirky!