To people who are wondering why I needed to travel to North Carolina to sit alone in a room all day, I can only say that this is how I know they are not mothers of small children.
All due respect to North Carolina, but there’s a swimming pool and a gym at the hotel, and wild horses won’t drag me out of here.
The moment I arrived in Chapel Hill, I went to a grocery store. My plan is not to leave the hotel at all tomorrow, and I needed food. And guess what? The cashier turned out to be from my small town in Illinois. Overcome by the joy of that and of me being from Ukraine, the cashier gave me a 10% discount.
Groceries are cheaper in NC than where I live. They are very fancy because this is a fancy college but still cheaper. Strangely, seafood is much cheaper. I have zero knowledge of geography, so I don’t know if there’s a body of water nearby but I bought an exact same-sized box of cooked shrimp here for $5 that I bought for $11 at home last week. (Please don’t judge me, I was desperate).
This is actually the second time that I go out of state for a conference and immediately meet somebody from my tiny town. Mind you, not somebody from St Louis, which wouldn’t be a big deal but from my unknown little place in the boonies. God, I love my Midwestern boonies.
One thing that’s weird is that everybody is masked. Back home, we forgot all that a while ago. Plus, I immediately started getting notifications on my phone that the state of North Carolina wants to inform me when I have “potential exposure to COVID.” I thought Illinois was COVID-nuts but we haven’t had that kind of silliness for 18 months.
I’m in North Carolina, and it’s very warm. Today is a bad day in the war, so I’m not in a great place. While I traveled, I read a novel titled Un amor by the Spanish writer Sara Mesa. This novel is from 2020, so it hasn’t been translated yet, but Mesa’s earlier novels have appeared in translation. I particularly recommend Scar. It’s very good.
Mesa is one of the leading Spanish writers today. She’s my age, which is youngish for an author, and Mesa’s skill grows massively from one novel to another. Un amor is very good. Clear, unpretentious, strong writing. I rarely see my own experience in the literary depictions of love but what Mesa describes is exactly what I understand as love. It’s intense, relentless, and obsessive.
An excellent novel that helped me not think about the war all the time. I can’t tell you, friends, how exhausting it is to live completely dependent on the damn war. A Ukrainian who’s under the bombs every day wrote today that we shouldn’t let the war reduce the amount of happiness that exists in the world, and that people who are safe should go do things he can’t do and really enjoy them. But it’s hard.
One thing people need to remember that Russians who are trying to emigrate from Russia right now aren’t leaving because they have a problem with Putinism or the war. They are leaving because they miss Starbucks, Instagram, and their credit cards. Wherever they go, they’ll promote the same values that have caused the war.
Dissident Russians are a myth. The appeals to facilitate the immigration process for citizens of Russia are deeply misguided. We have enough America-haters right here. Honestly, who needs more?
Immigration isn’t an answer to everything. These people should go back home and make things right, not inflict their dysfunction on all of us.
Please never donate to the Red Cross again. I never donated them because they are extraordinarily corrupt but now there’s even more reason to not waste money on them.
Elderly people in Ukraine who are being evacuated from Mykolaiv. The subtitles are in English: