What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

My Brighton Beach Memoirs


©Donna Kramer

It’s real! ©Donna Kramer

Today, my love and I went to Brighton Beach to explore and take pictures just for you lovelies! Also called “Little Odessa” for the Ukranian city from which many of its residents hail, Brighton Beach is a primarily Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn located on the Atlantic right next to Coney Island. I spent a few months living there thanks to a very kind friend who took me in when I was residentially challenged in 1986. We lived in a 5th floor walk-up with 6 cats: 5 were my roommate’s, 1 was mine. (Upon learning this statistic, a date once pointed out that this was too much pussy for three rooms. Nonetheless, we managed to have fun.)

This crap was surprisingly expensive. ©Donna Kramer

This crap was surprisingly expensive. ©Donna Kramer

Though I haven’t been back much since then, I have never forgotten the neighborhood, which really hasn’t changed much since 1986. Nearly all the shop signs are still in Cyrillic, conversations on the streets and in the shops continue to be conducted almost entirely in Russian; the only real difference is that the price tags (for everything except caviar, which is shockingly cheap) are now staggering. I assume if you speak Russian like a native, the prices go down by 75%. Either that, or this is now the most expensive neighborhood in New York.

"Fabergé" eggs were a big thing. ©Donna Kramer

“Fabergé” eggs were a big thing. ©Donna Kramer

Aside from the prices, what still strikes you about this neighborhood is the otherness of the culture. Shop windows, in particular, seemed very strange and haphazard. Not at all like most of New York. I was also completely fascinated by the purity of the Russian faces we saw. I have always found Russian features to be very distinctive, and we saw a lot of people today who I think I could have identified as Russian no matter where they were. Today was some great people watching, though I still can’t get up the nerve to ask to take people’s pictures, so I missed photographing the faces I most wanted to capture. I’ll work on that for next time.

If you want to read more about the neighborhood, NYCGO does a good job of describing it.  Now, without further ado, here come the visuals!


©Donna Kramer

©Donna Kramer

©Donna Kramer

The dress on the street is a mix of very casual and very, very fancy.  ©Donna Kramer

The wares are a bit bizarre. ©Donna Kramer

This was a housewares store. Not sure what the sheep was about.  ©Donna Kramer

Did I mention the sheep was wearing sunglasses? ©Donna Kramer

We kept coming across beautiful hand-made details in the most unexpected places.  ©Donna Kramer

Every time I tried to take this guy’s picture, he dropped the damned clubs. He wasn’t very happy with me. ©Donna Kramer

They really do love their fish. ©Donna Kramer


So much of the merchandise was floofy-fussy-fancy. I kept wishing I could get a look in someone’s apartment to see whether they actually decorated with this stuff. ©Donna Kramer

©Donna Kramer

Mare took this one. Don’t miss the elderly dog under the rollerblader’s arm. ©MaryAnn Nellen


More crazy shop windows. These places sold absolutely everything. ©Donna Kramer

Of all the possible I heart t-shirts in the world, I definitely didn’t expect this one. ©Donna Kramer

©MaryAnn Nellen

In case it’s not clear, this sassy house-coat-clad mannequin is proudly clutching a bra-and-boob-shaped purse.  ©Donna Kramer

Seriously. It was a bra-and-boob-shaped purse. ©Donna Kramer

©Donna Kramer

The, um, fashion was what I would call surprising. Don’t miss the fact that they are all wearing crowns of pom poms. The creepy child mannequins were equally bizarre. ©Donna Kramer

I was horrified by the pierced leather boots with open toes in nearly every store window. If this trend is not limited to Brighton, I plan on moving to a yurt until it’s over. ©Donna Kramer

Finally, something I understand! My father brought me Russian nesting dolls from a business trip once, and I’ve loved them ever since. However, while you can purchase them for less than $10 on eBay, the price tag here was $259. Seems legit. ©Donna Kramer

I don’t know what it is, but I know I regret buying and eating it. ©Donna Kramer

More very Russian items for sale for crazy amounts of money. No, thank you. Just looking. ©Donna Kramer

We so wanted the woman in the hood to turn around, but she never did. ©MaryAnn Nellen

Nothing like Paris. Nope, not even a little. ©Donna Kramer

I loved how self-satisfied this mannequin looked. You go, girl! ©Donna Kramer

And speaking of Paris . . . Wait, what?

Brighton Beach, home of lifelike mannequins . . . ©Donna Kramer

. . . And mannequin-like people. ©Donna Kramer

I thought he looked familiar, but it took me a while. The Ronald Reagan puppet from Phil Collins’ “Land of Confusion” video is exactly what was in my head. Eerie, isn’t it?  ©Donna Kramer


Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

5 thoughts on “My Brighton Beach Memoirs

  1. Really enjoyed that!! And yes!! to the Ronald Reagan puppet!! 😀


  2. Fun virtual tour of the place. I enjoyed it.


  3. Love this!


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