The Mimosas


LOCATION Washington Heights

PRICE $80,000 in 1999 [$461 maintenance]

SQUARE FEET 790 [one-bedroom co-op in post-war building]

OCCUPANTS Radda Rusinova [Ph.D. student, biophysics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine]; Victor Prieto [jazz accordionist-composer]

How joyous to hear the sound of the crickets or some animal as you come out of the 190th Street subway and look beyond to the green forest of Fort Tryon Park. [Radda] We have lightning bugs here too. [Victor] And snow snakes. In the winter, they come up to the door.

Outside of a lovely elevator building! [Radda] The doorman was putting down poison.

I always thought there was no slimy animal life in winter. [An interview with Bronx Zoo herpetologist Bill Holmstrom revealed that snakes are strictly summer animals. There are snow corn snakes but snow refers to their color, bred for the pet trade. Are area pet snakes reproducing in winter and jumping out windows?] [Victor] Radda is the owner of this apartment. [Radda] My parents did everything for me to get it. They live a block away. I came with them from the Ukraine in ’90. My father’s a mortgage broker. He used to be a movie producer. My mom’s a biophysicist.

You yourself work on ion channels. They are like machines that enable the passage of charged particles into and out of the cells. They’re important for signaling and communication between the cells.

You’re an only child! Yes. [Victor] The mimosa. In Spain, they call it when they give you a lot of love—only child or the youngest.

So glamorous to be the mimosa. Ja, I’m the youngest in my family. Radda is coming with me to Spain for a month. It will be two years I haven’t seen my family. Every week I call.

You’re the mimosa! You left Spain in ’98 to go to Berklee in Boston, then a 90-square-foot room in Williamsburg. Ja, like the closet.

Then you met Radda when she heard music coming from a club and she lost her will and was drawn inside. You were a prodigy at nine. Ja, I made my first concert when I was 12. The Principal Theater of Orense. It’s like Lincoln Center but it’s Orense, ja.

Usually it’s not politically correct to spell out a person’s accent but for you, it’s your personality, so musical. Ja, it’s my way. Even in Spanish, it’s really funny the way I build the phrase. [He eats an almond.] Ja, ja. My eyes pressing in all ways. Ju know, New York’s the most difficult in getting what you want. In my fifth month, I was playing like six nights a week.

There’s more that you want? Ja ja, the Victor Prieto Trio. [Radda smiles.] Once I came to New York, I realized how well I am on my instrument. I’m the best I’ve ever seen.

Why did you choose the accordion? Because my mother love it, ju know. Next door, there was a blind gentleman. He was always waiting for me to practice. I used to play for my family at all the [unintelligible].

At all the mittens? Oh, meetings. What is your mother’s favorite song? “The Bird Dance.” [He whistles and flutters his hands.] Ju know it? [He brings out the accordion and plays.] I play the other things, jazz. [I request “Bésame Mucho.” He trills a key a bit.]

What do you think about when you play? My girlfriend who I love a lot. [Radda is thrilled. We look at family photos on the computer.]

Your uncle’s house is blue. The whole family lived in Venezuela before. I was really a jam boy [young boy].

Radda must laugh all the time. She’s juiced to it. Here’s my grandfather. He was really tough people, man. He was a fighter. [Radda] Was he in a tank? [Victor] Foot soldier.

Your grandmother looks tough too. Whew, whew, man. My grandfather and grandmother are really nervous because the photo is for me. That one is my moomy.

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