a few short weeks ago it was REAL snow all over the place, then incredibly fast it thawed. Now we had just a few days sunshine and the white gunk is already all over the parks and roads. As you can see from the date,I wrote it already a few years back, but it still comes back every year to haunt us.



'Look it's snowing'


Even if it is already mid May, there is lots of this white stuff around, though it is a little bit different than YOU might think. But it is also not a "Siberian El Ninjo' as this has happened every year since at least twenty years. It is not so bad when it is raining or there is cool weather. However, when the sun is shining the ground is covered in some places ankle deep in this white fuzz. Nevertheless, even after living over 20 years here in Moscow, the white stuff annoys me and the fellow Muscovites to no end. Moreover, what is it? The white stuff that is floating around is not snow but 'Pukh', the blooms from the poplar trees.
It gets into your room even when all the windows are closed. It floats in through the air-conditioning and even the car's air intakes are being clogged up with all the white stuff. You might sit into in a restaurant gazing into the eyes of your partner, just to be annoyed when some more of the white fuzz comes floating around. Even in places where you never thought the stuff might be around.
Moreover, what is done about all this? No conferences are being held. No clever scientists are writing papers about these phenomena. In addition, nobody is worried or concerned that it might be bad for ones health, sex-life or might make your hair fall out.
However, as usual, someone has to be responsible for all this mess every year or at least take the blame for it. Life is like that, there must be someone who is responsible. And believe me there is someone to blame. No other then the Supreme Leader Comrade Stalin himself. Also to a lesser degree Nikita Khrushchev. Moreover, Russia being a democratic country now, we can blame them openly without getting a one-way ticket to Siberia.To see the real snow....
And how did Stalin get involved in all that. Suppose one day the Supreme leader gazed out his Kremlin windows and saw the streets and squares empty and bare with no grass or trees in sight. The only jungle to be seen were miles and miles of concrete Stalin had built up during his urbanization programs in the 30th.So he might have called his head gardener and told him: 'I want a green City with big trees'. Of course you do not talk back to your Supreme leader and dare to remind him that trees need time to grow. These are minor problems and have no place in the big picture. I assume that the poor gardener was contemplating to get out of town very fast but where to hide? Nevertheless, he remembered that there IS a tree that grows very fast. Moreover, on top of it, can survive in the asphalt jungle. That was the poplar tree.
Therefore, out in the suburbs and surrounding forests thousands and thousands of young and half-grown poplar trees were carefully dug out and the roots wrapped in moist rags. Trucks had to be organized to bring the trees to town. Soldiers were guarding the trucks, lest an enterprising driver might try to stop and sell some trees at the side. Not very likely maybe but things did happen even than and so all precautions were taken.Well, along the plastered-over pavements and in parks thousands of holes were dug and the trees were planted and watered.Soon,after a few short seasons, Moscow was green! Moreover, the trees grew and grew, so even more trees were planted and most of them survived and grew taller and taller.
Then in the sixtieth a second wave of poplar planting hit Moscow.This time it was to hide the ugly housing estates, 'Khrushchovkas' that got the name from Nikita Khrushchev. Citizens wanted to break the monotony of brick and concrete. So they planted with abandon the fast growing poplars to create some shady places where one could sit down and contemplate over a bottle of Vodka with ones neighbors the future of the greatest power on earth.
Nevertheless, live is no fairytale, we did not live happily ever after but have every year that white stuff floating around. And why?
The head-gardener I suppose forgot all the biology lessons about the birds and bees and special about the trees. It is only the female tree that blooms and sends out thousands of her seeds attached to a little white parachute. In addition, it was mainly female trees that were planted. No one listened to the botanics who recommended planting only male trees.
Besides being a general nuisance, Pukh is also quite a fire hazard. Because (mainly) boys like to play with fire,they alight the stuff that accumulates on the pavements or in corners. When dry, the white fluff is highly flammable and burns with an intense heat. That adds to the workload of the already strained Moscow fire brigades.
So one might think, just cut down the trees a little bit and they will use sap to grow and not flower so much? No chance, the more they pruned the trees the more twigs they grew. And flowered even worse. Of course, one could prune them more but than there would be no shade and no green and that was not the idea in the first place. On top of it there are about 1/2 million poplars growing happily and healthy. Moreover, cutting them down and replacing them never was an option anyway.
But in a few days all the white parachutes will be a thing of the past, until next year. Nevertheless, in another couple of month we are wondering whom we could blame this time, now that we are attacked with miniature bombs from above. This is of course when the chestnuts are ripe. Moreover, like the popular poplar there are thousands of chestnut trees in town. Now THEY are ready to drop their prickly seed on the heads of an unsuspecting passer by. If we just could find out who gave the orders to plant all these chestnut trees?!

April 21, 2000, date of writing the story

Benedikt Morak 3