For many of us there is an event, a circumstance or a series of both that altered us in a specific way, making us strange, odd, whatever you want to call it enough to seek lives less ordinary. It’s different for everyone – Nadya, for instance, was inspired in part by Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation video’s military look and overall stompiness. For there were several components and so I present you a partial list of What Made Me Weird.
Let’s get this one out of the way. I’ll narrow this down to just a couple of things, though I have much to thank them for. They took time to expose me to theaters and museums since a very early age, despite the social state of ’80s Russia and our modest finances. I grew up surrounded by literature and read things like Spartacus and Dandelion Wine. With my parents’ busy schedules I was often left home alone to rummage through my mother’s numerous art books and my father’s hefty collection of science fiction. Soon I realized I preferred to spend time by myself, not making me the best candidate for schoolyard popularity.
Russian Orthodox Churches
Everyone in my family is an Atheist but growing up I was taken to many old churches for their artistic and historical value. If you’ve never been to a Russian Orthodox church, you’re missing out on some prime spookiness. The Very Serious long-bearded priests don all-black, from their tall imposing hats to their floor length robes. The walls are covered with solemn Byzantine icons lit by candles while ghostly incense smoke floats between praying old women. This sort of thing to a seven year old is pure brain candy. I took home pamphlets and tried to invoke god for wish-granting. My parents laughed.
Russia’s obsession with UFOs
Whether it was just the 80s thing to do, Soviet paranoia, or a distraction from the sad state of the country at the moment, UFOs were everywhere. This paired with frequent forays into dad’s SciFi made for fevered theorizing during nap-time, drawing diagrams and wishing for a rocket. A few years ago i found a journal with detailed descriptions of an alien rat I apparently saw, with illustrations. The rat had a light bulb nose and video camera eyes. Sometimes I told other kids I was an alien, communicating with the mothership through a crystal pendant I explained to be a micro computer. The first thing i wanted to be is a cosmonaut.
The Soviet aesthetic
I mentioned before that my brother introduced me to Psychic TV way back when, but before my ears were violated by Genesis P. Orridge, There was Kino. Viktor Tsoi was the Russian Ian Curtis, complete with a memorable tragic death at a young age, and when I was just 10. Ah, his scratchy voice, his brooding sociopolitical lyrics, lines like “He remembers neither ranks nor names, he can reach the far-away stars not thinking it a dream, and he’ll fall dead-burnt by heat of the star we call Sun”. Let the spook begin!
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And all this before I reached 11. By the time I landed on American soil I was ready for a real adventure, but that’s another story altogether. What’s your deal, anyway?