Author Archives: Larissa Puro

Folk Dance – Russia

My mom said in her Russian community, all children had to have at least one artistic talent. The youth were expected to entertain their elders.

Her specialty was Russian folk dancing. The boys and girls who learned this dance were around 11 years old.

The costumes were very distinct. Boys wore special tunics, belts, and leggings. Girls donned elaborate headdresses adorned with real flowers and ribbons on each side. Both wore a lot of embroidery on the sleeves and aprons and danced in special boots.

The dance was passed on in the churches from the older women and performed on social occasions. The girls would dance in a circle with the boys doing kicks, leg lifts, and squats called “yesginka” in the center. Most of the time, they would dance to Balalaika music.

It’s interesting to me that this dance, unlike most folk dances, was not necessarily performed in a celebratory fashion. Instead, it was more to please the adults at a social gathering.

This concept speaks to the level of discipline and familial hierarchy in Russian culture, which contrasts greatly to American society, where kids are never forced to pick up a hobby merely to entertain guests. This is an old-fashioned idea that maybe prevailed in previous centuries in America, but certainly not during my mother’s time.

Perhaps this forced acquisition of a “talent” was a way to teach discipline Russian children. My mom also mentioned how some kids had to memorize long Russian poems by authors like Pushkin and recite them from memory. That must have been incredibly difficult to accomplish, and is certainly not something we even consider a kid capable of doing in America.

Joke – Washington D.C.


9/11 Joke – Washington, D.C.

Person A: Knock, knock.

Person B: Who’s there?

Person A: You said you’d never forget!

This joke references the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. During that time and for years after, the phrase, “We will never forget” came to define the tragedy. It became a unifying American idea that while we will move on as a country, we will never forget the lives lost on that horrific day.

This joke is a spin-off of the classic knock-knock joke, which always follows the format:

“Knock, knock”

“Who’s there?”

When the audience member asks, “Who’s there?” the jokester plays off of the question, pretending to be hurt that he or she “forgot” 9/11.

This joke can arguably both assert and insult the American identity. If a person from another country heard this joke, he or she probably wouldn’t understand the reference, and assume Person B forgot who Person A was. Therefore, only an American can participate in this joke. However, it mocks the tendency of future-oriented America to disregard/forget her past.

Lucy learned this joke seven years ago in D.C. from a friend, whom she says tells many morbid jokes. She does not find the joke insulting because, in her words, “it stretches the boundaries with what we can make fun of.” She thinks people shouldn’t be scared of being politically incorrect. “I think it’s hilarious,” she said, noting that “there is nothing worse than mindless good taste.”

While I think this joke carries an important commentary on America, I’m not ready to tell and laugh at 9/11 jokes. Seven years later, that memory is still fresh in my memory. However, I agree with Lucy that people shouldn’t be afraid of being politically correct, but only if the situation calls for it.

Holiday Tradition – Jewish

Religious Holiday Tradition

The Passover Seder – Jewish

My dad’s Jewish family observed this tradition during the mid 1900s. The Passover Seder is a very ritualized Jewish dinner during the first two nights of Passover. The first born, oldest male child of the family, my dad’s older brother, would read holy scripts while the family ate at designated times. Certain things were to be eaten during certain parts of the script. For example, bitter herbs were eaten during the bitter parts of the story.

There were strict rules— nobody could be sitting straight at the table, all must be leaning. For the more religious families, this process could take many hours. The more casual families, like my dad’s, would take shortcuts and skip parts of the script.

My dad remembers this ritual as very tedious. He used to get bored and extremely hungry while listening to the script. However, he enjoyed the hunt for a hidden matzah (unleavened bread) after the meal, because the person who discovered it would get a prize.

Other foods eaten during the traditional Seder include: Charoset, a mixture of chopped nuts, wine, cinnamon, and apples, which symbolizes mortar the Jews used for bricks; Karpas, a vegetable dipped in salt water to symbolize tears; Maror, bitter vegetables eaten to symbolize the bitterness of slavery; and matzah, the traditional unleavened bread symbolizing the poor man’s food. The scripts are from the Haggadah, a book which tells of the Jewish exodus from Egypt.

While I can understand that this tradition can be extremely lengthy and dull, especially for children, it seems very integral to the Jewish religion. Because my family does not recognize any strict religious traditions like this, hearing about the Passover Seder was intriguing. I find it to be a creative and respectful way to commemorate the suffering of one’s ancestors.

Prank – New York


Blue Moon Cafe Joke – New York

Lucy: Okay so this is the most epic and important joke you’ll ever hear in your lifetime. It’s hilarious, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to hear it again. I need your full attention and I need you to just go along. You ready? Ok let’s do this thing.

There’s this guy, right? And he’s really stressed out, like imagine the most stressed out you’ve ever been your whole, entire life—you doing it?

Listener: Yeah.

Lucy: Okay, he’s that stressed out, like, times a-fillion. Ok so he decides to take a vacay, so um, he goes to his boss, first, and he’s like “Hey, boss-man! What’s up!? What’s happening? Listen, I think I’m gonna take a vacay. I think I’m gonna go to the Bahamas”

And the boss was like, “Oh, the Bahamas! The Bahamas are great! Oh that’s wonderful—oh hey listen, though, while you’re in the Bahamas, there’s one thing you can never do, okay? And that’s go to the Blue Moon Cafe.”

And the guy’s like,  “Um, okay. Whatever.” So he goes home to his wife and he’s like, “Oh hey, Wifey-Baby! What’s shakin’ bacon? Listen, I think I’m gonna take a vacay, to the Bahamas…without you. You know, kind of time to rekindle the love.”

And, um, and the wife was like, “Oh, okay, um, that sounds cool! Listen. Listen, while you’re there, the one thing you must never-ever-ever do, is go to the Blue Moon Cafe.” And the guy’s like “Okay, two people have told me this, fine, I won’t, that’s really random. And strange, but okay.” So he decides that, like, um, that, uh, by the time he gets back from the Bahamas he’s gonna be all tan and fit ‘cause they, like, eat cockroaches there and stuff. Then he’s gonna need a new suit, for when he gets back. So he goes for his tailor before he leaves, Mr. Sketchy-Pants. He’s like, “’Ey, Mr. SketchyPants! I need a suit because I’m gonna be all tan, and fit, and lean when I get back from the Bahamas”
And the tailor’s like [measuring movements], “Oh! The Bahamas! The Bahamas are great! [GASP] The Bahamas! Oh listen, dude, listen [acquires English accent]. The one thing you must never-ever-ever do, is go [laughs], is go to the Blue Moon Cafe, are you listening to me?”

And the guy’s like, “Okay, fine.” So he gets on the airplane, right? [airplane motions] And he’s watching the stewardess do this [points to “exits”], and, you know, do this [puts “oxygen mask” on], and he’s flying over the deep blue sea, and, um, while he’s in the air, every single hotel and cafe in the Bahamas burns to the ground. Ftssssss [sound of incinerating buildings], like burns to the ground. Like, what are the odds of that happening!? Like, you’re more likely to get hit by lightening 49 times consecutively while holding different flavors of, like, Ben & Jerry’s, um, than for that to happen. It’s just not feasible! Like in the whole universe, that cannot fucking happen, but it did! Freaking happen [looks at me].

Okay, so. So the guy gets off the plane. Um, he gets laid by a couple of natives—they put leis on him. Um, mhm, small chuckle. And, uh, he’s like, “Shit! Where am I going to stay?” Um, because everything’s burned to the ground. And then he sees, like, this red walkway, and a silver awning, and a beam of light shines through a cloud and angels are going, “Ahhhh!!! [singing]” and he sees a little sign that says “Blue Moon Cafe.” So he’s like, “You know what? I’ll stay here for a couple days, if I hate it, I’ll go home.”

He stays there for two weeks, he loves it. He has the best food ever, he loses weight, though. He has sex every night with random prostitutes who just present themselves to him. He’s religiously, spiritually enlightened. He just, he, uh, uh, learns to play the sitar. He’s just having the best time ever. So he goes back home. He flies back home. First, he goes to his boss. He says, “Boss-man!! Wazzupp!? Listen, dude, you know what’s weird is I went to the Blue Moon Cafe and it wasn’t bad like you told me it would be.”

And his boss was like, “What!? You went to the Blue Moon Cafe!? You’re fired!” He fired his ass right on the spot and he gets the security guard to throw him out of the building and he’s like, “If you ever return here, so help me God, I’ll pop a cap in your ass.”

Um, so the guy goes home to his wife, all befuddled, and he’s like, “Wifey-baby, I just got fired for going to the Blue Moon Cafe!” And the wife’s like, “WHAT!? You went to the Blue Moon Cafe!? What did I tell you!? I’m divorcing you right now!” She has the papers all ready, he signs them. She burns all the clothes, including the one, stuff, the ones on his body, sends him out onto the street with nothing. He’s now jobless, wifeless, naked, severely burnt—just all kinds of crap is happening to him. So he goes to Mr. Sketchypants to get his suit so he can not be naked anymore.

He’s like, “Mr. Sketchypants, I just got divorced, fired, and burnt for going to the Blue Moon Cafe. I don’t know why.” His tailor is like, “WHAT!? [French accent] You went to the Blue Moon Cafe!? Sacre bleu! What’s wrong with you!? I’m charging you for this!” And um, um he rips up his suit and sends him out into the street.

And the guy, he’s like wandering around. So he decides to look for religious enlightenment so they can tell him what happened. So he goes to his local priest, Father BillyBob, and he’s like, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned [praying hand motions], but, um, heh, I went to the Blue Moon Cafe and everyone’s mad at me.” And the priest was like “Oh my God! You went to the Blue Moon Cafe! Oh, get out of here right now—if I weren’t a man of God, I’d strike you down with…a hammer [hammer motion].”

So he goes to a Protestant dude and he’s like, “Oh please help me, tell me what happened!” And they try to kill him too. He goes to a Jewish rabbi, a Hindu…person, and, um, no one will tell him what he did wrong. So finally, he hears tell of this one Buddhist monk on top of Mount Kilomanfufu, that will tell him the answer of anything he asks. So he climbs [climbing motions]. It takes him 13 days and nine hours and three seconds and he climbs the top of the mountain, and, uh, he kneels before the monk and is like, “Please, God, I…I’m going to kill myself if you don’t tell me why the Blue Moon Cafe is so bad.”

And the guy’s like, “Ok, you know what, I will, I, eh, I will tell you [laughs] but first I have to purify my soul for what I am about to impart upon you.” So they row out the middle of this big lake [rowing motions] in a rowboat, and, um, and the guy, the monk, prays for 10 hours. So finally he stands up [stands up] in the boat, and he’s like, “The reason why everyone is mad at you for going to the Blue Moon Cafe is—”

And this huge wave comes [sweeping wave motion] and knocks him overboard, and the moral of the story is, don’t stand up in boats.

This joke has been the bane of my existence for the past year. As it is Lucy’s signature joke, she tells it to every new person she meets. And as I am always around Lucy, I have now heard it more than I can count. The first time I heard it, I hated it, and each consecutive time thereafter, I hated it more because it had no point. However, after sitting and transcribing each word of the joke, I now realize why Lucy loves it so much. Because it follows a set basic formula, the speaker has the freedom to add many details and silly side points in between the important parts. Each time Lucy tells the joke, it changes subtly—this time, she added accents, and despite being horrendous, they actually added humor to the joke. I must admit, despite my hatred of this joke, I can’t complain about it being redundant. Her constantly changing antics keep it engaging even though I know, and hate, how it ends. This is the most important part of performing a long piece like this—the ability to change it up and keep people’s attention.

Lucy learned a different version of this joke in 2002 in Saratoga, New York. To this, she added her own personal jokes and details. She has even created a Facebook group entitled, “30 minutes of my life I will never get back again…” in which every one of her victims, I mean, listeners, can rant about the pointlessness of the joke.

In the end, this joke is not really a joke—it’s a prank. Lucy is the only one who actually gets amused in the end because she was able to fool everyone. The audience instead of being rewarded with a punch line, are left high-and-dry to suffer. This makes them want to make others suffer, and thus, the Blue Moon Cafe is spread.



The Bedbug Rhyme

“Good-night, sleep-tight,

Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

And if they do,

Get a shoe,

And hit them ‘til they’re black and blue!”

The first two lines of this rhyme are what my parents used to say to me before tucking me in at night. I learned the longer version at a camp, and thinking it extremely clever, ingrained it into my memory. Everyone I tell it to loves it because while the first two lines are a common rhyme, the extended lines are not very well known.

I never understood the original rhyme. What bedbugs? Why did my parents feel they needed to remind me not to let them bite me? Isn’t that common sense? For years, this disconcerting bedbug-biting image irritated me because I didn’t know its purpose. When I learned the rest of the rhyme, it was a relief because it offered a simple solution to those ever-warned-about bedbugs. So after years of being worried by my parents about bedbugs, my young mind quickly embraced the advice the rhyme offered about the shoe.


De Grote, Diane. Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite! Seastar: 2002.