26 April 2010


One of the first things that I noticed in Moldova was the music. Not the traditional, old-fashioned music that comes with a particular style of dress, but rather, the techno music. It's everywhere. Go to the grocery store, techno music. Go to a cafe, techno music. Ride in a cab, techno music. It's like this one steady beat has been playing since we've been here, just this one song on repeat, everywhere we go.

Please note that this is just my personal opinion and that I mean no offense by this, but as a musician myself, I can't say that I have all that high of a regard for what I perceive to be terrible Russian techno music. I say this because a.) I don't really enjoy club dancing, and b.) I have a pretty good idea as to how much work and/or talent goes into the production of this stuff. That is to say that if I sat my four-year-old daughter in front of a computer with Fruity Loops or Rebirth or any number of programs like this open, with a little bit of help, she could produce something that is roughly the same caliber as most of the stuff we hear around here. It is atonal, beat-driven crap. If there are vocals, oddly, they are usually in English, which makes me embarrassed for my language if this is all some people know of it. The vocals are also incredibly over-produced, polished to death by auto-tune. There are, of course, exceptions, and I do try to listen to all music with an open mind, but I cannot get around the fact that this music, to me, barely qualifies as such.

And I quote:

Hello, hello, hello Mr. Monkey, 
You're so fast and funky.
Hello, hello, hello Mr. Monkey,
I think I love you.

(rinse and repeat)

In Moldovans' defense, I have a theory. Whistling, for various reasons, is considered bad luck. As Jamie mentioned in her blog, the lady who lives downstairs from us has actually called the landlord to complain about my whistling in the stairwell. I have been whistling since I was five years old, and modesty aside, I'm pretty good at it. I would also argue that my abilities as a musician started with being able to whistle a simple tune. From there, I taught myself how to play piano by ear, and years later, I taught myself how to play guitar and bass, also by ear. Without first developing the ability to hear something and then reproduce it with an instrument that required no technical ability (i.e. whistling), I may never have continued on to more challenging means of creating music. 

In other words, had I grown up in Moldova, where whistling is generally frowned upon, I may have never learned how to play an instrument by ear. As someone who has played music with many, many people in my life, I will say that in my experience, there is a marked difference between people who play by ear and those who are more classically trained. Again, this is just based on my own experiences, but people I have known who play by ear tend to play with a bit more originality, which to me, is one of the things that makes music interesting. 

Most of the time when I'm whistling, I'm not whistling a song that I heard. I'm just making it up as I go along, simply because I like the sound of it. The lady who lives downstairs, however, apparently doesn't like it. But if I have to listen to techno music everywhere I go, then the least she can do is put up with the thirty seconds or so it takes me to take the trash out when I may be whistling something quietly to myself.  

14 April 2010

Cowboy Chicken

We found a place here last week called Cowboy Chicken. The sign out front prominently featured a picture of big, juicy hamburger, so the homesick carnivore in me thought we should make it a point to check this place out. Inside, people who spoke extremely limited English were dressed in cowboy getup, complete with giant cowboy hats, while Johnny Cash blared through little computer speakers in the corners of the room. The walls were adorned with an odd collection of black and white photos of cowboys and indians, each assuming their various stereotypes as exemplified in staged poses.

Jamie, Chloe and I each ordered a hamburger. After about half an hour, our waitress brought us what appeared to be a bun. It was cut in the middle, oozing mayonnaise. I opened it up to reveal a translucent patty of questionable meat; it tasted like it was cut with the ground up pages of a Russian phone book with some dill thrown into the mix for no other reason than to give it some kind of flavor to transcend everything that worked against it. Meanwhile, my two ounces of "meat" was swimming in about eight ounces of mayonnaise on a bun that was literally about twenty times the thickness of the patty. My first thoughts were quickly replaced by a conscious choice to not think about it anymore. It was probably best that way.

As much as I'd like to recommend Cowboy Chicken to anyone who travels to the eastern edge of the western world, who am I kidding? It may have been a mirage, and maybe I really was eating a phone book that had been smothered in mayonnaise.

Moldova has such excellent local cuisine that it seems a shame to try to "Americanize" it.