The Darwin Exception

because it's not always survival of the fittest – sometimes the idiots get through

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A Zombie Tale

Posted by thedarwinexception on November 22, 2007

Zombie lady came and had Thanksgiving dinner with us. She brought chocolates – and not just plain old chocolates, a big box of some fancy Belgian truffle chocolates in the shape of sea shells and seahorses with some praline truffle centers. They are really, really good. And very, very pretty. Very detailed and ornate looking, and shiny. When I opened the box Paul said “What the fuck are those? Chocolates for the bathroom?”

She said she brought the chocolates because she couldn’t find “POM”. And let me tell ya, I’m really glad she couldn’t find POM, because chocolates – yeah, I’ll eat those. Even if they are shiny and pretty and in the shape of seahorses. POM? Not so much.

She also brought Paul his Budweiser, and she brought some green tea – and she had some of the Budweiser. Only not in the bottle and not cold. She asked me to boil the beer and then she dropped two of these green tea bags into the beer, and she drank that. She said this was “British” – and Paul, who was watching all of this with great interest and great amusement, said to her “I thought you were Russian.” She said she is, but that this British concoction is quite popular in Russia.

She was very impressed with all the food – and with the heat. More than once she pronounced the house “very warm!” And it must have been, since she shed her full length mink jacket, which I haven’t seen her without since October.

So, while we were eating I tried to work in some of the questions on my memorized list of “Things I Must Know About Zombie Lady”. And it all turned out rather well, when I could understand her. She speaks with a really thick accent, and sometimes, when the subject matter is something she is familiar with, she tends to speak really fast, which makes it even harder to understand her. But I think I got most of it, so here is the zombie lady’s story:

She was born in 1950, in a small, very rural village on the outskirts of Moscow. She was raised by her grandmother after her mother went to Moscow to work and her father was drafted into the Russian Army. Her grandfather had been taken by the Bolsheviks to a gulag when the Bolsheviks came to the small village where the grandparents lived and demanded that her grandfather turn over his horses to them. The grandfather refused and was taken away – along with the horses. Zombie lady says that back then horses were the same as rifles, highly prized by the Army.

In 1972, when she was married to her “Zionist” husband, and with her 4 month old son in tow, she and her husband came to the United States – specifically to New York City. They came with green cards which identified her and her son as political refugees, but which identified her husband only as an immigrant. For some reason, this seems to rankle her., even now, all these years later.

Five years after they arrived, she, her husband and her son became US citizens when they took the oath of naturalization. She says that she studied American History night and day for 6 months before becoming a citizen, anticipating that this was going to be a lengthy question and answer session, and that she would surely be tested on all facets of “American things”. She was quite disappointed when they only asked her two questions – “Who was the first president of the United States?” and “What is the full name of this country?” The written part of the exam consisted only of writing “New York City” on a piece of paper. She laughed as she related this – saying “Not even full sentence of ‘I Love New York’ – just ‘New York City’!”

Her husband did quite well in the United States and they were soon living in a very large brownstone in the city, she was shopping in all the finest stores and their son went to the best private schools. She missed her family and her grandmother back in Russia, but emotionally she was not able to go back to see them.

As her son grew older and her husband got more and more busy with his work, she found herself spending more and more time alone, and she started to have “emotional issues”, mostly based on her upbringing, she says. Eventually she left her husband and moved into a very small apartment in the city. Her son was not happy that she left, and stayed behind with his father when he wasn’t away at school. For the next 10 years her husband fought every divorce attempt she made in the courts, easy – since her husband had control of all the financial assets. She was basically broke and living hand to mouth and her husband blocked her every attempt to get any spousal support or alimony money or any of the marital assets.

Early last year her husband finally dropped dead – she says with a wry look and a rather suspicious grin – and because of his fighting her in court and because of his greed and stubborn refusal to grant her any kind of monetary settlement to finalize their divorce – they are still legally married when he drops dead, and since he has no will all of his assets pass to her. She sells the big brownstone, gives her son all the furnishings and looks for a place to live that is cheap, historically significant and close to Montreal, where she hopes to go for medical treatment for her still persistent “emotional issues”, since she has had no luck with the American medical community, who only want to give her drugs – which she knows are only meant to poison her and make her talk about the things she knows of Russia and is not supposed to speak of.

One day she is reading a Russian newspaper article about the number of Russian Immigrants who are in the prison system and how a large number of them are in a tiny town in Upstate New York just 5 miles from the Canadian border – a village called Malone.

Because of the proximity to Montreal, and what she thinks will be a “Russian Presence” because of the prison population consisting of a large number of Russian Immigrants, she comes to look at the place and see if there is any property for sale. The very first house she is shown is only $20K to buy, which is less than she pays for a year’s rent in NYC, and so she buys it, and moves in with just a bag of her clothes. Everything else she gives to her son. This is so she can have “new beginning”.

I ask her discretely about the APS lady – I simply say “Well, you must have friends here now; I saw you had a visitor the other day – some lady in a red truck?”

She says “No, this was woman from government – they come to ask me questions because they think I am crazy.”

“Oh? Why do they think you are crazy?”

“Because – some woman in store when I want to buy cigarette they ask me what year of birth I am. I resent intrusion into my privacy and I tell her “1984” – you get joke, no? 1984 – Like they are Big Brother to ask me what year of birth I am to buy cigarette. This is joke. And woman think that I know not what year of birth I am – so she tells government.”


I then point out to her that this woman from the government was probably only there to help her, and that maybe this woman could help her get her electricity turned back on and maybe get her hooked up with some programs that could help with heating fuel and food and medical care if she needed it. That this might be a real asset to her, and well, then she got all defensive about the electricity thing and again launched into the whole story of the persecution by National Grid and her invention and the fact that National Grid doesn’t want her to go forward with her grand plan and scheme, and that there was no way that they were going to turn her lights back on because they KNOW that she is going forward with her invention, no, it has nothing to do with the fact that she hasn’t paid them….and since Paul had never really heard this story from her, only second hand from me, I was kind of half glad she was getting into it. It was after this story that she went into the kitchen to refill her cup with some more boiled beer and tea, and Paul leaned over to me and whispered “This bitch is a fucking weirdo. I don’t think you can do that shit with solar power.” I just looked at him and said “Ummmm…no shit, Vermeer.”

I then asked her about some of her interesting decorating choices – like the vines in the windows. I said to her “I find your curtain rods rather intriguing – where did you get the idea to use vines rather than actual curtain rods – you know, curtain rods are only $1.00 at the dollar store.”

She said “What is this rod?” and really, she didn’t know what curtain rods were. I brought her into the kitchen and showed her how my curtains were hung, you know, on like real fucking curtain rods, and she was in shock and awe that such things existed. She said that in “The City” she only ever had blinds, and they were hung with hooks, and she could not find hooks like the ones she was used to, so she thought the only other option was rope or vines.

So there’s a data point for you – people in New York City don’t have any idea what curtain rods are.

And the plastic flowers? She only decorates her garden with plastic flowers because – well, “They don’t die”. So there’s a new gardening tip: Only plant plastic flowers – you’ll have a prizewinning garden year round. I’m thinking of bringing my tip to the 4-H – you know telling them, “Look, if you only farm with stuffed animals, you can stay in bed past 4 AM – Because you don’t have to feed them!”

We then went in to her lack of furniture – she says she is going to get some – soon, and her lack of food – she says she can’t find the foods that she likes here – and that the next time she goes to the city (she makes the trip about every 2 months) – she will get some groceries there. I asked her what kind of food she preferred and she said “I am vegetarian” – as she shoveled another forkful of turkey into her mouth. I guess turkey isn’t “meat” in NYC.

But she doesn’t get to the city as often as she would like, mostly, she says, because the trip on the bus is rather distressing. Seems the occupants of the bus are 100% newly released prisoners from the 5 local prisons (including the supermax facility) who are going home to the city. And you know, I can’t blame her there. That must be a hell of a ride – one crazy Russian lady and a bunch of felons who haven’t seen a woman in over a year. Not a trip I’d take too often, either.

So, dinner conversation was lively and interesting. Paul didn’t say too much. I don’t think he knew how to be his usual charming self when faced with someone who obviously has a screw loose. He did a lot of staring and a lot of looking at me with his “What the fuck?” expression. And after dinner he quickly excused himself and went out to the Harley barn. And Zombie lady didn’t stay too long after dinner, either. I gave her a slice of each of the 3 kinds of pies I had made, and she said she would take it home as a doggy bag, that she surely couldn’t eat another bite. I told her to just take the plate with her when she left, and I put some tinfoil over it.

I wanted to make her up a plate of stuff to take with her, and then decided I wouldn’t because she would have no way to warm it up. I think I’ll just warm up a plate some time Friday and bring htat to her.

But, it was an odd and amazingly enlightening experience. I’m still quite convinced she has some problems, and if I were to put on my shrink hat and do some armchair psychology, I would guess that she has a severe persecution complex. She thinks everyone is “out to get her”, and she is quite convinced that there are people following her, that there are people who are looking for her for “information” she has, that National Grid is “in on” the plot, and that the government knows all about it and is somehow condoning it.

After she left, Paul came in from the Harley Barn and the first thing he said to me was “I know exactly what you’re thinking – you think she killed her husband, don’t you?”

I find it fucking amazing how utterly well he knows me.


27 Responses to “A Zombie Tale”

  1. mbmb said

    Now that was “Priceless”. Thanks for sharing that with us. I could hardly wait to hear about your Thanksgiving with Zombie Lady!

  2. Jill said

    If she had killed him she would have taken home his entrails and use them for curtain rods or something, the borderline insane are seldom organised well enough for straightforward murders.

    This was an amazing story. I hope it’s all true, even though some human entrails would be entertaining too.

    Happy turkey day to you and to Paul.

  3. karen said

    I was looking forward to this entry ever since you mentioned that you were going to invite ZL over for Thanksgiving. As usual, you did not disappoint. Did you happen to take any photos?

  4. Holy Toledo said

    I am not disappointed. This may have been one of your best yet just because it is so f—–g far out.

    Yep, she killed hubby, poetic justice if you ask me. I’ll say one thing, she’s no dummy. Her sense of humor cracks me up….1984, no?

    Oh God, beer and green tea. So that’s the secret to living without heat. I was wondering what her hygiene was like????? Did you take pictures? I don’t think that would go over so well with someone who is paranoid.

    Kim, what you did was heartwarming. Thanks for sharing it all with your admirers. And I think you did have a Happy Thanksgiving, didn’t you?


  5. luvgabe said

    Thank you, Kim, for your Thanksgiving-with-the-zombie-lady story! I had so looked forward to reading it. I think she can be clinically diagnosed as a paranoic. Did you manage to take her picture? or would doing so spook her?

    I’m so glad you invited her. Bless you!

  6. Caroline said

    What an amazing story!

    I am about her age and a lot of the factual info she states are true. There was a massive influx of Russian Jews in the early ’70’s. Before they were allowed to emigrate they were all shipped out to the Gulag never to be heard from again. Hello! Anti-Semitism is still alive and well throughout Europe.

    Russia was a terribly impoverished country after WII, all of their money was going into munitions and assorted military hardware.. how else to put on those lavish May Day parades? I believe her story about her early years on the farm, horses were widely used, mechanical farm equipment was not widely available or even used on anything other than a “government farm” before the ’60’s.

    Crazy or not, where is her son? Why is he not keeping in touch with her? He of all people should be aware of her “problems”.

    I have got to hand it to you Kim. You have a kind heart and despite all of the snarky comments thrown your way, you are an awesome woman!

  7. Susan said

    Zombie lady’s story makes sense although it’s obvious she needs mental health attention. I’ve worked with people like her,(as an RN clinical/discharge coordinator) and her paranoia does not surprise me. However, she should NOT be left to her own devices or she’ll freeze to death or blow up the neighborhood with her “heating devices”. APS should do MORE but they won’t. However, keep calling them in anticipation of her “needs”. In the long run it will pay off.

    Kim, you and your hubby did a MOST wonderful and kind deed by sharing Thanksgiving with her. Kudos you and your hubby for offering what governmental social service departments can’t and won’t do. Sharing this special holiday with a completely and totally foreign “entity” is America at it’s best!

    You and your hubby are wonderful!!!!!

  8. nita said

    Kim, I have your blog on my homepage and read quite regularly. I’ve followed the tale of the Zombie Lady for quite a while with great amusement and some sadness for this lady.

    I grew up in NJ in a town with many Russian immigrants (3 Russian churches!). They were the parents of my friends and know how they totally feared the government.

    I also know that she probably lived in a Russian enclave in Brooklyn, NY…and probably spent her days among those like her own. She would have shopped in stores where all her normal foods would have been sold.

    If, indeed, she chose Malone for the reasons she did… my heart goes out for her! Such a different place! I’m so sure it isn’t what she expected.

    I am greatful that you made the effort to invite her for Thanksgiving. It sounds as though you and Paul are probably the only friends she has. And you are the only ones who witness her difficulties with life in a home of her own.

    Please keep on keeping an eye on her… and hopefully she’ll go “on the grid” when the worst of winter comes. Perhaps you could point out to her that it makes YOU and Paul sad to see her cold and in the dark until she refines her invention.

    A few cards are missing from her deck, for sure…but at least she knows it!

  9. Greg Smith said

    I haven’t been to NYC since 1992 and I don’t remember whether or not there were curtain rods. But I do remember that no one had garbage disposals back then.

  10. Anakerie said

    OMG.. I am so glad I popped in here tonight! I was hoping you’d post something about your Thanksgiving dinner with the Zombie Lady… lol, I’m still sitting here chuckling!

  11. lost indie said

    I’ll bet she poisoned him with tho pomm.

    Avoid the pomm.

    She’s got to become your new bff. These stories age great!

  12. Tazzie said

    I started reading your blog during the Spector trail because everyone on the CTV message board would get so excited when Kim’s blog was up. Love reading it. Thank you for inviting ZL to Thanksgiving Dinner. I think I am convinced that life doesn’t make sense, it just is. I am glad you are helping her. BTW your hand work is beautiful.

  13. Amy said

    I took my computer home for the holidays for the express purpose of being able to read the ZL Thanksgiving tale, and you didn’t disappoint!

    My diagnosis – paranoid schizophrenia. Although having a relative taken by Bolsheviks and having to flee Russia as a political refugee would probably make anyone a paranoid schizophrenic. Just reading her story made me look over my shoulder.

    I wonder if there’s some way you could get the gas or electric heat turned on at her house under your name – that way “they” wouldn’t be able to find her, and you wouldn’t have to worry about her blowing up the ‘hood. Of course, I’d get like $1000 in advance or something, so you don’t end up getting screwed.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  14. AtwoodLady said

    Yes, warm beer is the norm, I learned, from my neighbor’s guest (previously mentioned in a previous post).

    They don’t have refrigeration or ice as we are used to and just drink beer warm. HOWEVER, beer boiled with green tea definitely is a challenge.


  15. Sea said

    Kudos to you Kim for being such a good neighbor on Thanksgiving. What an interesting story she had to tell about her life. A Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your readers…

  16. Charlie Pearce said

    This British concoction may be very popular in Russia, but it’s completely new to this Brit…

  17. MyrnaTurner said

    I spent some time in the Soviet Union. ZL was taught that people were out to get her. Because they were. The damage that The System did to its people is something we can’t even begin to fathom.

    She’s a survivor.

    You did a nice thing, Kim.

    Happy Holidays!


  18. Did you happen to take any photos?

    Yes, I did take pictures. I’m experimenting with hooking the camera to the laptop – as soon as I figure it out, I’ll post the pictures.


  19. I’ll say one thing, she’s no dummy. Her sense of humor cracks me up….1984, no?

    She does have a biting sense of humor.I “get” her humor. She’s also very well read – but, of course, she would be with no electricity and no TV. If I had no TV or electricity for 6 months, I’d have read both War & Peace and the Bible by now.

    Although I don’t know if Russians are allowed to read War & Peace.

    Lucky bastards.


  20. Hello! Anti-Semitism is still alive and well throughout Europe.

    You know, that was another thing I was going to ask – are Russians and Europeans pretty racist as a people? Because a couple of times she made some comments that I thought were…odd, but I didn’t know if it was a cultural thing.

    I was telling her about Malone in general, when she asked why there was no “industry” here. I told her – well, to have industry willing to move into an area, you have to have an educated workforce that is eager to work – and that wasn’t the norm here – that most people are either on welfare or disbility, with no ambition or aspiration to change that.

    She said “State Assistance? Really? They are living like the negroes, no?”


  21. I’ll bet she poisoned him with tho pomm

    OK – that made me laugh out loud.


  22. This British concoction may be very popular in Russia, but it’s completely new to this Brit…

    Really? Are you sure you’ve never had it? Maybe it’s new – are you “hip”?


  23. Val Dalton said

    omg Zombie Thanksgiving sounded wonderful. How about Zombie new year? I would love to come!!

  24. Val Dalton said

    oh i forgot to ask did zombie lady like my pickles or did you keep them all to yourself

  25. oh i forgot to ask did zombie lady like my pickles or did you keep them all to yourself

    HA! I was going to write and tell you! She LOVED your pickles – she said something about how she made pickles, too – but she bought them. I don’t know – that’s what she said. I asked her twice “HUH?” And she kept saying the same thing – I made some – but I bought them.


  26. omg Zombie Thanksgiving sounded wonderful. How about Zombie new year? I would love to come!!

    Cool!It’s a date! You bring the vodka and I’ll boil the English tea beer.


  27. IndyGena said

    I lived in England for over five years… I have never heard of the beer/tea thing — very strange. And, Brits know and love their tea, let me tell you. I may have to try this, but not with green tea (not much flavor in that), but the proper British black tea (Typhoo or PG tips). I wonder if you get a buzz off of it?

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