So. America. How you doin big fella? Doin alright?…

So.
America.
How you doin big fella?
Doin alright?
How are things in New Orleans?
Gas prices not too bad?
Still have that dictator of yours? Hmm?
That war goin okay? Hmm?
Still pretending to have elections?[http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/10432334/was_the_2004_election_stolen/1]Screw it, I tried.

See, if you were in Russia, you would have no hurricanes, your ownsupply of oil, a dictator who everyone agrees should be dictator, and thus no need for elections anyway!

Sadly, I’ll soon be back to share the blame with all of you. First off, I am alive. In this city, the ‘All-consuming-gristmill-of-the-century’, I feel nothing if not alive. Scott Bertucci can attest to that fact, having barely escaped the citywith his skin, though being twice mugged in the space of an hour inthe process. Colin Whitherill, a classmate from high school, alsomanaged randomly spot me in a club two weeks ago on the tail end of atransfer from train to plane at a Moscow airport, though even at thetime he was not sure if it was me, and took a triple take when he sawmy hair before he finally asked: Myles??? Is that you??? I dont thinkeither of us are sure it actually happened.

Secondly.

Like the Tartars, Mongols, Poles, Swedes, Turks, Austrians,Lithuanians, Japanese, Teutonic Knights, Napoleon, Bismark and Hitlerbefore me, I am making a ‘Tactical Retreat’ from the Motherland. Like all those before me, I realize I simply haven’t enough forces toconquer the largest country on Earth. In a land as hard as itspermafrost, I have opted for a thaw.

In the last couple weeks I was arrested for not having the proper ‘dokumenty’ on me, survived a knife-point attempted robbery unscathed and without losing my money, despite this managed to then lost my wallet with my visa and passport, spent the last 5 days in police stations and embassies, now I am being thrown out of the country (luckily I was leaving anyway) because I’m illegal, and I spent all day yesterday riding around with kalishnikov-wielding militsia officers as they tried to decide what to do with me. Apparently its time for me to leave.

In the first case, I was arrested upon entering the airport to meet a friend because I didn’t have a copy of an updated stamp registering me to live within Moscow city limits. They brought me into the police\u003cbr /\>station, where a somewhat intimidating 3 feet by 7 feet rusty iron\u003cbr /\>cage greets you upon entry – a bit of a departure from the semi-modern\u003cbr /\>international airport facilities. They cops debated what to do with\u003cbr /\>me, as I played dumb and pretended that all of my documents were in\u003cbr /\>order (I didn\’t have the copy they wanted, but I figured they would\u003cbr /\>get bored of me soon enough, as there were far richer people worth\u003cbr /\>extorting that they were missing out on as they debated with me, the\u003cbr /\>lowly student-type.)\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>The attempted robbery was really just sad, actually. I was outside a\u003cbr /\>café at 3am near the trainstation which goes to the skeevy south, and\u003cbr /\>got into conversation with a guy from Turkmenistan about his homeland,\u003cbr /\>which is probably the stupidest country on Earth, from most accounts.\u003cbr /\>(The president recently built an icepalace in the middle of his desert\u003cbr /\>nation, wrote a book of poems and musings on which the national\u003cbr /\>education system is based, and named the months of the year after his\u003cbr /\>family, and has taken the name Turkmenbashi, \’Father and Protector of\u003cbr /\>the Turkic People.) I left my friend Scott with a girl, then walked\u003cbr /\>off towards home, when after 2 blocks the guy came up next to me,\u003cbr /\>”,1]
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In the last couple weeks I was arrested for not having the proper’dokumenty’ on me, survived a knife-point attempted robbery unscathedand without losing my money, despite this managed to then lost mywallet with my visa and passport, spent the last 5 days in policestations and embassies, now I am being thrown out of the country(luckily I was leaving anyway) because I’m illegal, and I spent allday yesterday riding around with kalishnikov-wielding militsiaofficers as they tried to decide what to do with me. Apparently itstime for me to leave.In the first case, I was arrested upon entering the airport to meet afriend because I didn’t have a copy of an updated stamp registering meto live within Moscow city limits. They brought me into the policestation, where a somewhat intimidating 3 feet by 7 feet rusty ironcage greets you upon entry – a bit of a departure from the semi-moderninternational airport facilities. They cops debated what to do withme, as I played dumb and pretended that all of my documents were inorder (I didn’t have the copy they wanted, but I figured they wouldget bored of me soon enough, as there were far richer people worthextorting that they were missing out on as they debated with me, thelowly student-type.)The attempted robbery was really just sad, actually. I was outside acafé at 3am near the trainstation which goes to the skeevy south, andgot into conversation with a guy from Turkmenistan about his homeland,which is probably the stupidest country on Earth, from most accounts.(The president recently built an icepalace in the middle of his desertnation, wrote a book of poems and musings on which the nationaleducation system is based, and named the months of the year after hisfamily, and has taken the name Turkmenbashi, ‘Father and Protector ofthe Turkic People.) I left my friend Scott with a girl, then walkedoff towards home, when after 2 blocks the guy came up next to me,
needed it to get back to Turkmenistan. I told him I wouldn\’t. Then he\u003cbr /\>said please, and pulled a knife out of his pocket, opened it, and\u003cbr /\>showed me as we walked side by side down the street. For some reason,\u003cbr /\>after this obvious threat, he closed the knife and put it back in his\u003cbr /\>pocket. I was more surprised than anything. He stepped in front of me\u003cbr /\>and asked once again, cutting me off, so I simply stepped in, gave him\u003cbr /\>an elbow to the chin, and ran off. Dude, you\’re never going to get\u003cbr /\>back to Turkmenistan with that routine. Keep the knife in your hand at\u003cbr /\>all times, and stay far enough away in order to have an advantage with\u003cbr /\>it. Amateur.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Losing the wallet was far more of a nightmare. I\’d survive a mugging\u003cbr /\>every day if I could avoid Russian bureaucracy in the process.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>That little Kaftkaesque nightmare has led to me being stuck in a\u003cbr /\>precarious position: I am currently in Russia illegally, as I have no\u003cbr /\>visa, but I also can not leave, as you need a visa to get out as well.\u003cbr /\>I spent two whole days waiting in several different lines at the\u003cbr /\>purgatory which is the Office of Visas and Registrations, only to be\u003cbr /\>ferreted out of office #10 by some asshole deskjockey saying he had no\u003cbr /\>time to find a copy of my visa as he sat at his computer on an empty\u003cbr /\>desk playing solitaire. I was ready to start World War III.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>So basically, assuming that the Russians let me leave either after a\u003cbr /\>well placed bribe or a \’diplomatic note\’ from the US Embassy to the\u003cbr /\>Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I should be enjoying sauerkraut\u003cbr /\>on a Lufthansa special through Munich, Germany by the middle of the\u003cbr /\>week.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Which reminds me – something about the Germans. It would suck to be\u003cbr /\>that nationality. A whole country in self-denial. Face it, you lost,\u003cbr /\>AND are in one way or another responsible for the killing of half the\u003cbr /\>people in Central and Eastern Europe.\u003cbr /\>”,1]
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asking me to give him 500 rubles ($18). I told him no. He explained heneeded it to get back to Turkmenistan. I told him I wouldn’t. Then hesaid please, and pulled a knife out of his pocket, opened it, andshowed me as we walked side by side down the street. For some reason,after this obvious threat, he closed the knife and put it back in hispocket. I was more surprised than anything. He stepped in front of meand asked once again, cutting me off, so I simply stepped in, gave himan elbow to the chin, and ran off. Dude, you’re never going to getback to Turkmenistan with that routine. Keep the knife in your hand atall times, and stay far enough away in order to have an advantage withit. Amateur.Losing the wallet was far more of a nightmare. I’d survive a muggingevery day if I could avoid Russian bureaucracy in the process.That little Kaftkaesque nightmare has led to me being stuck in aprecarious position: I am currently in Russia illegally, as I have novisa, but I also can not leave, as you need a visa to get out as well.I spent two whole days waiting in several different lines at thepurgatory which is the Office of Visas and Registrations, only to beferreted out of office #10 by some asshole deskjockey saying he had notime to find a copy of my visa as he sat at his computer on an emptydesk playing solitaire. I was ready to start World War III.So basically, assuming that the Russians let me leave either after awell placed bribe or a ‘diplomatic note’ from the US Embassy to theRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I should be enjoying sauerkrauton a Lufthansa special through Munich, Germany by the middle of theweek.Which reminds me – something about the Germans. It would suck to bethat nationality. A whole country in self-denial. Face it, you lost,AND are in one way or another responsible for the killing of half thepeople in Central and Eastern Europe.
[Ed> I feel a massive diversion coming on. Feel free to skip to the bottom.]\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>I write as I sit in my living room and performing my civic duty as a\u003cbr /\>resident of any country other than the United States by watching the\u003cbr /\>World Cup soccer tournament.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>The obvious dilemma: soccer blows.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>I just watched Sweden and Trinidad/Tobago \’battle\’ to a 0-0 tie. Last\u003cbr /\>night I caught a bit of England\’s 1-0 win over Paraguay, the only goal\u003cbr /\>coming when an England free kick glanced of the head of a Paraguay\u003cbr /\>defender, past his goalkeeper and into his own net. The following 87\u003cbr /\>minutes were an exercise in futility.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Its cute, really, all the countries with their flags and their fans,\u003cbr /\>the Swedes running around with their blonde hair and their free health\u003cbr /\>care and their Viking helmets which just scream \’see, we used to be\u003cbr /\>bloodthirsty assholes too.\’\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Sweden, not that stupid golf course in my home town, is Val Halla. A\u003cbr /\>whole society of people who basically stopped fighting wars in the\u003cbr /\>19th century, instead issuing peace prizes and granting asylum to\u003cbr /\>anyone and enjoy paternity leave for fathers of newborn babies and 6\u003cbr /\>weeks vacation and free national child care and university education\u003cbr /\>mandated by law to be free and so on and so on. Perfect Sweeden, where\u003cbr /\>everyone is happy and gay. Literally – there is a lot of gays there.\u003cbr /\>Every girl will casually make out with other girls, and most guys have\u003cbr /\>casually made out with other guys if ostensibly to get girls to do it\u003cbr /\>in front of them. But this was apparently standard practice in the\u003cbr /\>Swedish high school. They have sex ed at 12, real sex by 14, but still\u003cbr /\>manage to have almost no births. They also invented pornography, and\u003cbr /\>claim to be the #3 world exporter of music behind us and the UK. At\u003cbr /\>the same time, I can\’t name a Swedish band besides ABBA and Ace of\u003cbr /\>Base.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Point is, the Swedes know that they\’ve got it pretty well. The only\u003cbr /\>”,1]
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[Ed> I feel a massive diversion coming on. Feel free to skip to the bottom.]I write as I sit in my living room and performing my civic duty as aresident of any country other than the United States by watching theWorld Cup soccer tournament.The obvious dilemma: soccer blows.I just watched Sweden and Trinidad/Tobago ‘battle’ to a 0-0 tie. Lastnight I caught a bit of England’s 1-0 win over Paraguay, the only goalcoming when an England free kick glanced of the head of a Paraguaydefender, past his goalkeeper and into his own net. The following 87minutes were an exercise in futility.Its cute, really, all the countries with their flags and their fans,the Swedes running around with their blonde hair and their free healthcare and their Viking helmets which just scream ‘see, we used to bebloodthirsty assholes too.’Sweden, not that stupid golf course in my home town, is Val Halla. Awhole society of people who basically stopped fighting wars in the19th century, instead issuing peace prizes and granting asylum toanyone and enjoy paternity leave for fathers of newborn babies and 6weeks vacation and free national child care and university educationmandated by law to be free and so on and so on. Perfect Sweeden, whereeveryone is happy and gay. Literally – there is a lot of gays there.Every girl will casually make out with other girls, and most guys havecasually made out with other guys if ostensibly to get girls to do itin front of them. But this was apparently standard practice in theSwedish high school. They have sex ed at 12, real sex by 14, but stillmanage to have almost no births. They also invented pornography, andclaim to be the #3 world exporter of music behind us and the UK. Atthe same time, I can’t name a Swedish band besides ABBA and Ace ofBase.Point is, the Swedes know that they’ve got it pretty well. The only
well, they\’re boring.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Actually, there are two problems. The other being that, in the year\u003cbr /\>1707, the Swedish army was destroyed in a battle at Poltava, Ukraine\u003cbr /\>against Peter the Great. If the Swedes, (I know they were outnumbered\u003cbr /\>and lacked ammunition and starving) had simply won that battle, Russia\u003cbr /\>would never have entered European politics, would not have supported\u003cbr /\>Serbia in 1914, which means the death of Archduke Ferdinand would have\u003cbr /\>led to a limited Austrio-Serbian war, Germany would have never fought\u003cbr /\>and lost WWI (especially with a strong power to the North), which\u003cbr /\>means there would have been no embarrassing peace treaty, no\u003cbr /\>nationalism, no Hitler, no fascism, no holocaust, no Bolshevik\u003cbr /\>revolution in Russia (if the Swedes were running it the place would\u003cbr /\>have been another frozen paradise), no Lenin, no Stalin, no purges, no\u003cbr /\>Cold War, no Vietnam, no Korea…\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Basically, Sweden ruined all of modern civilization.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Their only other problem is that, by their own admission, they are\u003cbr /\>some of the most boring people on Earth. They don\’t really know how to\u003cbr /\>have fun, which I think is why they all took a liking to me, because I\u003cbr /\>enjoy mocking America and enjoying life. Maybe there is something that\u003cbr /\>makes you boring if you have no real problems in your society. Damn\u003cbr /\>shame. When they were vikings they knew how to have fun. In contrast,\u003cbr /\>the Russians love to have fun, to excess, though they don\’t really\u003cbr /\>know how to make it happen – it just does. But when it does, they swim\u003cbr /\>in it. I guess there is something about instability, lawlessness in\u003cbr /\>the streets and anarchy that help you have a good time. Must be why\u003cbr /\>the Brazilians are so good at it too.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>So if you hadn\’t guessed yet, about half my friends in Russia were\u003cbr /\>Swedes, the other half Russians, with a mathematically spoiling few\u003cbr /\>thrown in from Armenia, Costa Rica, Germany and a gay guy from\u003cbr /\>”,1]
);
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problem with their limp falice hanging off the top of Europe is,well, they’re boring.Actually, there are two problems. The other being that, in the year1707, the Swedish army was destroyed in a battle at Poltava, Ukraineagainst Peter the Great. If the Swedes, (I know they were outnumberedand lacked ammunition and starving) had simply won that battle, Russiawould never have entered European politics, would not have supportedSerbia in 1914, which means the death of Archduke Ferdinand would haveled to a limited Austrio-Serbian war, Germany would have never foughtand lost WWI (especially with a strong power to the North), whichmeans there would have been no embarrassing peace treaty, nonationalism, no Hitler, no fascism, no holocaust, no Bolshevikrevolution in Russia (if the Swedes were running it the place wouldhave been another frozen paradise), no Lenin, no Stalin, no purges, noCold War, no Vietnam, no Korea…Basically, Sweden ruined all of modern civilization.Their only other problem is that, by their own admission, they aresome of the most boring people on Earth. They don’t really know how tohave fun, which I think is why they all took a liking to me, because Ienjoy mocking America and enjoying life. Maybe there is something thatmakes you boring if you have no real problems in your society. Damnshame. When they were vikings they knew how to have fun. In contrast,the Russians love to have fun, to excess, though they don’t reallyknow how to make it happen – it just does. But when it does, they swimin it. I guess there is something about instability, lawlessness inthe streets and anarchy that help you have a good time. Must be whythe Brazilians are so good at it too.So if you hadn’t guessed yet, about half my friends in Russia wereSwedes, the other half Russians, with a mathematically spoiling fewthrown in from Armenia, Costa Rica, Germany and a gay guy from
obnoxious bubbly shallow materialistic roommate from Seattle. I often\u003cbr /\>had to turn up my Russian punk rock so I wouldn\’t have to listen to\u003cbr /\>her talking to herself from the other room. There were also\u003cbr /\>unconfirmed reports that at a party at a mutual friend\’s house, she\u003cbr /\>defecated in the toilet, and when the thing refused to go down, she,\u003cbr /\>hammered out of her mind and embarrassed at its girth, got a plastic\u003cbr /\>bag, put it over her hand and placed it in the kitchen receptacle in\u003cbr /\>front of several eye-witnesses. I had to convince myself that this was\u003cbr /\>not normal behavior of Americans in order to be able to return there.\u003cbr /\>Sorry for sharing that, but I just wanted to highlight why else\u003cbr /\>foreigners might hate us.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>What I have found in Russia, is that really, not much has changed.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>You get the impression that, should the mood strike the teeming masses\u003cbr /\>or the elite of the moment, they could easily paint the town red (in\u003cbr /\>the political, not the usual drowned-in-alcohol condition which\u003cbr /\>pervades) and make it just like the old days. Hammers and sickles\u003cbr /\>adorn nearly every building, half of the men of the country are\u003cbr /\>enlisted in some sort of uniformed service or public security role, TV\u003cbr /\>news is still controlled by the government, and if its not propaganda\u003cbr /\>news then its old Soviet movies blathering on all day long, which by a\u003cbr /\>rule all feature charming headscarved peasant-women riding around the\u003cbr /\>fields in shiny tractors harvesting overflowing bushels of wheat and\u003cbr /\>gentlemanly clean-cut men riding off to the front to get killed and\u003cbr /\>return home to some sort of mourning scene and honorable funeral. I\u003cbr /\>haven\’t once seen a Soviet movie where the women are the typical\u003cbr /\>overweight grumpy babushka working on her knees with bare hands in a\u003cbr /\>dust bowl while another grandson is taken off to the front to fight\u003cbr /\>the Nazis and then is shot in the back by his officer for refusing to\u003cbr /\>”,1]
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Finland. The only American I knew in Moscow was my proto-typical fakeobnoxious bubbly shallow materialistic roommate from Seattle. I oftenhad to turn up my Russian punk rock so I wouldn’t have to listen toher talking to herself from the other room. There were alsounconfirmed reports that at a party at a mutual friend’s house, shedefecated in the toilet, and when the thing refused to go down, she,hammered out of her mind and embarrassed at its girth, got a plasticbag, put it over her hand and placed it in the kitchen receptacle infront of several eye-witnesses. I had to convince myself that this wasnot normal behavior of Americans in order to be able to return there.Sorry for sharing that, but I just wanted to highlight why elseforeigners might hate us.What I have found in Russia, is that really, not much has changed.You get the impression that, should the mood strike the teeming massesor the elite of the moment, they could easily paint the town red (inthe political, not the usual drowned-in-alcohol condition whichpervades) and make it just like the old days. Hammers and sicklesadorn nearly every building, half of the men of the country areenlisted in some sort of uniformed service or public security role, TVnews is still controlled by the government, and if its not propagandanews then its old Soviet movies blathering on all day long, which by arule all feature charming headscarved peasant-women riding around thefields in shiny tractors harvesting overflowing bushels of wheat andgentlemanly clean-cut men riding off to the front to get killed andreturn home to some sort of mourning scene and honorable funeral. Ihaven’t once seen a Soviet movie where the women are the typicaloverweight grumpy babushka working on her knees with bare hands in adust bowl while another grandson is taken off to the front to fightthe Nazis and then is shot in the back by his officer for refusing to
buried on the spot in an unmarked mass grave by a bulldozer to make\u003cbr /\>room for a tank formation coming through. I wish they would show that\u003cbr /\>movie. I wonder why they don\’t.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Probably for the same reason that in the US you never see the movie\u003cbr /\>about an immigrant working at a Texas chicken farm for $4/hour, 12\u003cbr /\>hours/day who is caught by border control sending money back to his\u003cbr /\>family and is given the \’exile or army\’ choice, after which he chooses\u003cbr /\>the army in order to continue sending remissions home and is promptly\u003cbr /\>sent with a honorable, poor, black kid from Detroit and an honorable,\u003cbr /\>ignorant and poor white Sothern Baptist from Nothingville, Alabama to\u003cbr /\>a 120 degree wasteland after 6 months of training to defend a road to\u003cbr /\>an oil field only to find themselves randomly shot at once a week from\u003cbr /\>passing rundown Italian sedans, until one day one of them is finally\u003cbr /\>killed when the road underneath their hummer explodes sending the\u003cbr /\>others into bouts of anxiety, depression and untapped rage which is\u003cbr /\>directed by their commanding officers and government towards some\u003cbr /\>unseen enemy which blends into the populace but must be eliminated,\u003cbr /\>until they finally capture a rebel who may have killed their buddy and\u003cbr /\>ask their CO what to do and are given little or no instruction except\u003cbr /\>\’get the information\’ and their combination of rage, confusion,\u003cbr /\>depression, homesickness, disorientation and ignorance about actual\u003cbr /\>treatment of prisoner laws lead them to hold his head underwater until\u003cbr /\>he confesses after which evidence is found by the press which leads to\u003cbr /\>the CO blaming the grunts as isolated undisciplined actors,\u003cbr /\>discharging the Mexican back to Mexico and leaving the redneck the\u003cbr /\>last standing of the three who after finding a bomb under his truck\u003cbr /\>for the third time in a week loses his grip and kills everyone in a\u003cbr /\>neighboring house.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>”,1]
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charge headlong into enemy lines without a rifle and then later isburied on the spot in an unmarked mass grave by a bulldozer to makeroom for a tank formation coming through. I wish they would show thatmovie. I wonder why they don’t.Probably for the same reason that in the US you never see the movieabout an immigrant working at a Texas chicken farm for $4/hour, 12hours/day who is caught by border control sending money back to hisfamily and is given the ‘exile or army’ choice, after which he choosesthe army in order to continue sending remissions home and is promptlysent with a honorable, poor, black kid from Detroit and an honorable,ignorant and poor white Sothern Baptist from Nothingville, Alabama toa 120 degree wasteland after 6 months of training to defend a road toan oil field only to find themselves randomly shot at once a week frompassing rundown Italian sedans, until one day one of them is finallykilled when the road underneath their hummer explodes sending theothers into bouts of anxiety, depression and untapped rage which isdirected by their commanding officers and government towards someunseen enemy which blends into the populace but must be eliminated,until they finally capture a rebel who may have killed their buddy andask their CO what to do and are given little or no instruction except’get the information’ and their combination of rage, confusion,depression, homesickness, disorientation and ignorance about actualtreatment of prisoner laws lead them to hold his head underwater untilhe confesses after which evidence is found by the press which leads tothe CO blaming the grunts as isolated undisciplined actors,discharging the Mexican back to Mexico and leaving the redneck thelast standing of the three who after finding a bomb under his truckfor the third time in a week loses his grip and kills everyone in aneighboring house.
\u003cbr /\>Am I getting off topic?\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>There is nothing stupider than a Serbia vs. Netherlands match, since\u003cbr /\>their Serbian colors are blue-white-red horizontal tricolor and the\u003cbr /\>Netherlands are red-white-blue horizontal tricolor. Are they Dutch or\u003cbr /\>Netherlandian? If they always wear orange anyway, why don\’t they just\u003cbr /\>change the damn flag? And can we get off of these red-white-blue\u003cbr /\>colors? A friend of mine just back from Hungary was joking that all\u003cbr /\>the tourists in there are confused by the fact that there are \’all\u003cbr /\>these French flags\’ hanging around, which of course is the\u003cbr /\>red-white-blue vertical tricolor as opposed to the blue-white-red\u003cbr /\>Magyar tricolor. Are they Hungarians or Magyars?\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Now for the halftime news break – another typical topic:\u003cbr /\>Anti-Americanism and Pro-Russianism in the former Soviet republics.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Today\’s special is a group of American soldiers having some sort of\u003cbr /\>meeting in the Crimean peninsula, who were greeted by the\u003cbr /\>Russian-speaking locals with chants of \’Yankee go home!\’ The other\u003cbr /\>stories on today\’s news: #2: Russian troops find a hideout of rebels\u003cbr /\>in Southern Russia, another victory in Russia\’s War on Terrorism. #3:\u003cbr /\>Three detainees at Guantanamo kill themselves, another embarrassment\u003cbr /\>for America\’s War on Terrorism – report complete with graphics clearly\u003cbr /\>stolen directly from an ABC News program, judging by the fact that the\u003cbr /\>words were in English and the type-face was a dead ringer. They have\u003cbr /\>the money to make their own reports, they just can\’t help but cheat\u003cbr /\>off someone\’s paper. How do you think they got the bomb so soon after\u003cbr /\>us?\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Well, I caught on to some sweet music in a sea of putrid Russo-pop shite.\u003cbr /\>ДДТ – DDT (crusty old glastnost-era Russian rock band)\u003cbr /\>Дети Picasso – Children of Picasso (Armenian folk rock)\u003cbr /\>Кино – Martyr of glastnost somewhere between the\u003cbr /\>antiestablishmentarianism of U2, the national-consciousness of Johnny\u003cbr /\>”,1]
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//–>
They never show that movie either.Am I getting off topic?There is nothing stupider than a Serbia vs. Netherlands match, sincetheir Serbian colors are blue-white-red horizontal tricolor and theNetherlands are red-white-blue horizontal tricolor. Are they Dutch orNetherlandian? If they always wear orange anyway, why don’t they justchange the damn flag? And can we get off of these red-white-bluecolors? A friend of mine just back from Hungary was joking that allthe tourists in there are confused by the fact that there are ‘allthese French flags’ hanging around, which of course is thered-white-blue vertical tricolor as opposed to the blue-white-redMagyar tricolor. Are they Hungarians or Magyars?Now for the halftime news break – another typical topic:Anti-Americanism and Pro-Russianism in the former Soviet republics.Today’s special is a group of American soldiers having some sort ofmeeting in the Crimean peninsula, who were greeted by theRussian-speaking locals with chants of ‘Yankee go home!’ The otherstories on today’s news: #2: Russian troops find a hideout of rebelsin Southern Russia, another victory in Russia’s War on Terrorism. #3:Three detainees at Guantanamo kill themselves, another embarrassmentfor America’s War on Terrorism – report complete with graphics clearlystolen directly from an ABC News program, judging by the fact that thewords were in English and the type-face was a dead ringer. They havethe money to make their own reports, they just can’t help but cheatoff someone’s paper. How do you think they got the bomb so soon afterus?Well, I caught on to some sweet music in a sea of putrid Russo-pop shite.ДДТ – DDT (crusty old glastnost-era Russian rock band)Дети Picasso – Children of Picasso (Armenian folk rock)Кино – Martyr of glastnost somewhere between theantiestablishmentarianism of U2, the national-consciousness of Johnny
-height-of-his-career-ness of\u003cbr /\>Kurt Cobain, all played over depressing The Cure-type music. About 70\u003cbr /\>Soviet kids committed suicide after their singer died in a car\u003cbr /\>accident.\u003cbr /\>Nautilius Pompilius – Russian 80s music. That pretty much says it.\u003cbr /\>Руслана – Ruslana (Something like a Ukrainian Shakira which I enjoy\u003cbr /\>for some reason.)\u003cbr /\>Ленинград – Leningrad (Extremely raunchy ska-punk from, well,\u003cbr /\>Leningrad. They are banned from playing Moscow because the mayor\u003cbr /\>thinks their lyrics are too explicit. This could be because the first\u003cbr /\>20 seconds of their biggest hit is a musical intro over laid with the\u003cbr /\>Russian word \’Хуй!\’ [khui \u003d dick], or that their second biggest song\’s\u003cbr /\>repetitive chant is a drunken drawl which goes У её такая жопа, очень\u003cbr /\>я её люблю! [U yeyo takaya zhopa ochen\' ya yeyo lyublyu! \u003d She has\u003cbr /\>such an ass, oh how much I love it!] Its cute in a Russian way.)\u003cbr /\>Manu Chau (Some sort of Spanish/French/electro folk thing)\u003cbr /\>Elektromorf – Folk-deathrock from Hungary.\u003cbr /\>Djingis Khan – Everyone in Moscow knows the song about Moscow by this\u003cbr /\>German disco group from the 70s. It\’s the pinnacle of cheese. I beg of\u003cbr /\>you to taste it.\u003cbr /\>The Flaming Cocks – what a great name. They\’re from the Czech Republic.\u003cbr /\>The Tony Montanas – I don\’t understand how the Germans could be the\u003cbr /\>best imitators of American rockabilly, but for some reason, they are.\u003cbr /\>The Red Elvises – Bill themselves as \’kick ass rock-n-roll from\u003cbr /\>Siberia.\’ They have a chick who plays accordion.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>I guess that\’s about all my accomplishments.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>And learning a little Russian.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>And seeing a dead Lenin.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>And surviving.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Unlike Lenin.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>So, I will be in Boston by the end of the week, and plan to attend the\u003cbr /\>traditional 80\’s night at The Common Ground in Allston on Thursday,\u003cbr /\>June 15, with whomever remains in that besieged bunker of a city.\u003cbr /\>Saturday I will attend a university friend\’s wedding, which could only\u003cbr /\>”,1]
);
//–>
Cash and the got-his-ass-killed-at-the-height-of-his-career-ness ofKurt Cobain, all played over depressing The Cure-type music. About 70Soviet kids committed suicide after their singer died in a caraccident.Nautilius Pompilius – Russian 80s music. That pretty much says it.Руслана – Ruslana (Something like a Ukrainian Shakira which I enjoyfor some reason.)Ленинград – Leningrad (Extremely raunchy ska-punk from, well,Leningrad. They are banned from playing Moscow because the mayorthinks their lyrics are too explicit. This could be because the first20 seconds of their biggest hit is a musical intro over laid with theRussian word ‘Хуй!’ [khui = dick], or that their second biggest song’srepetitive chant is a drunken drawl which goes У её такая жопа, оченья её люблю! [U yeyo takaya zhopa ochen' ya yeyo lyublyu! = She hassuch an ass, oh how much I love it!] Its cute in a Russian way.)Manu Chau (Some sort of Spanish/French/electro folk thing)Elektromorf – Folk-deathrock from Hungary.Djingis Khan – Everyone in Moscow knows the song about Moscow by thisGerman disco group from the 70s. It’s the pinnacle of cheese. I beg ofyou to taste it.The Flaming Cocks – what a great name. They’re from the Czech Republic.The Tony Montanas – I don’t understand how the Germans could be thebest imitators of American rockabilly, but for some reason, they are.The Red Elvises – Bill themselves as ‘kick ass rock-n-roll fromSiberia.’ They have a chick who plays accordion.I guess that’s about all my accomplishments.And learning a little Russian.And seeing a dead Lenin.And surviving.Unlike Lenin.So, I will be in Boston by the end of the week, and plan to attend thetraditional 80′s night at The Common Ground in Allston on Thursday,June 15, with whomever remains in that besieged bunker of a city.Saturday I will attend a university friend’s wedding, which could onlymean that I’m getting old. I will be in Maine by Monday. I would alsolike to get down to Conneticut and New York, to see that subsection ofcrew within a week or two.The most pervasive feeling one draws from Moscow is that you are,truly, at the end of the known universe. One trip to any of the trainstations heading East will prove that to you. There’s about equalparts chance I will take a job in Boston or in Washington DC upon myreturn, and be based there for the foreseeable future. Mostimportantly, I am looking forward to seeing all of you, and my family.I am looking forward to sports other than soccer, Thai food, Mexicanfood, cheap Guinness, clean air, the ocean, driving, a city of lessthan 15 million, personal space in public places, orderly waitinglines, toilet seats in public buildings, health care, moderatewinters, nights out that start before midnight, sunrises no earlierthan 6am, and sunsets no later than 9pm.I will miss, however, the most efficient metro system on Earth, cheapvegetables, chaos, pirated Microsoft programs, dozens of 24 hourrestaurants, Russian friends, lewd expatriate journalism, and ohh, theexcess. The monumental excess. The biggest, loudest, most expensive,most obtuse, communistic, capitalistic, obnoxious, dirtiest, exciting,darkest, ridiculous, offensive, intoxicated, cultured, and lawlessplace on Earth. Days that never end in Summer, nights that never endin winter. Everything, right or wrong, to the extremes of the word.This is a city defined by its own excess, to compensate for theshameful deficiencies of the land. These people had no chance to benormal. My lungs, my mind, my patience, my liver, my ears, and thesehands, have had quite enough. For the moment anyway.If I’m not back by Thursday, call the State Department.

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Bohemian Rhapsody

Scott Says stuff throughout this entry, as he did on his blog where this was posted originally.

Pictures are here: http://etapravda.shutterfly.com/

I say: I figure everyone wanted an outside perspective on All That Is The CZRepublic, as well as how Scott Bertucci is getting along in far off lands. So here it is, my 8 day whirlareel with Scott Bertucci. I tried to send this to everyone who knew both of us in some capacity, or everyone who might be otherwise interested, but there may be some over or under. If there was some omission, let me know. At some point over the last few months I lost my cell phone with all of your phone numbers and email addresses, so, I may have missed a few of you, please feel free to forward.

Cheska Respublika March 24 April 1, 2006

After arriving 3 hours early to Sheremetyevo International Airport (“Worst Airport in Europe” The Russia Journal), I managed to barely get to the gate 20 minutes before it closed. Had my baggage screened and went through metal detectors at the entrance, at customs, and at the terminal gate. Stood in line behind a Canadian who checked a Portland Pirates hockey bag, and sure enough, he played for my home town AHL team before signing with the Russian Interior Ministry Hockey Club (there’s a Commie program holdover for you) and playing there for the past year. He clearly wasn’t particularly happy with his career move.

To the sound of 237 Russians clapping, the Airoflot Airbus 319 touched down at Prague Ryzune at 7:30pm. Had to ask the passport control office to stamp my passport, since they were barely opening them as they sent the people through. A far cry from the anal probing of the FSB(KGB) officers at Sheremetyevo passport control. (“Why are you coming to Mother Russia?” “Sometimes, I don’t even know.”)

Friday:

Scott was waiting at the exit portal for the non-EU arrivals, and greeted me from afar with a movement of the head so slight, you might have thought he was caught under the chin by a slight updraft, rather than seeing a close friend 3 months removed. He’s still got the edge, fear not.

We walked to the bus stop, where he looked at the time sheet and announced that we there would be another bus in 3 minutes. Czechs should set their watches to those things. We took the bus to the metro, and the metro to the tram, and the tram to his house, the whole process taking less than 45 minutes.

Scott dropped me into it head first, we went to some pub in Mala Strana (Lesser Side of the City) and introduced me to his TEFL teaching program friends. They are good guys, and I really liked the 30-something divorcee Mark, but it was a poorly kept secret that they didn’t hold water against the old crew. Good guys, but not everyone can be Brash Manimals. Yes, the beer was cheap and delicious. The service, which is considered surly by the expats, was leaps and bounds superior to what I’ve grown accustomed to here. I don’t even care about surliness, really, I just prefer some amount of promptness, which is absent from a culture where someone will answer their cell phone before they take your order if it rings, even right in front of you. After the pub, we hit some other basement club with his crew, then the disco Futurum, which was housed in a 19th century townhouse with 20 foot ceilings. Quite a venue. Actually saw Scott making out with a girl, which I think may be the first time I’ve ever seen that happen. She told him straight out that it would be only make out on that dance floor for the night. As he puts it, with Czech girls, you always know where you stand. Kind of refreshing for a guy who is always being gamed by American women. In true Eastern bloc country fashion, we shared his (thankfully massive) bed every night for the whole trip.

Scott Says: The bed is huge.

Saturday:

Trounced around the old town, as my head swiveled around to catch the fantastic architecture. It was too much to take in. As soon as you get taken in my some Romanesque masterpiece, you get distracted by an Art Nuveau statue or a Gothic spire. Scott: “Between the tail and the architecture, I’ve been suffering from whiplash.” Hiked up to the southern fortifications of the city, through the national cemetery, every marble carved being a work of art, and along the stately Vltava Riverbank.

Dinner was an event every night, and Saturday started the trend. At U Poshty Restaurance (Restaurant by the Post Office), I fell in love with Czech specialty, svichkova, for the first time. Bread dumplings and slow-cooked meat, drowning in a spiced gravy with spiced heavy cream, cranberries and orange rinds. The happy Czech guy serving it to us made the experience complete, as did the extremely comfortable pub setting. That night, Scott demanded that I see Face-2-Face, and I acquiesced to his terms. At what seemed like the edge of the known world, we attended this disco with possibly worse music than I’ve heard even in Russia. An accomplishment. It was quite apparent why he went to this place, what with the age range which stretched from 16-30. On the massive TV projection hanging on the wall of the basement level, there were naked people prancing about, male and female, and I thought we were at Manray or The Basement or some other pseudo-gay club in Boston or London. Some Mad Hatter looking character, complete with hat and a shaved head and a disturbing grin, was running around talking in Czech (all I could distinguish was an occasional ‘Super!’) and agitating for the youths to take their clothes off, male and female. He had two girls in all white that were at times taking it upon themselves to relieve the denizens of their clothes. At one point, the girl was literally blowing a guy. Wefigured they were just playing a porno movie to suit the general mood of debauchery. Later, we went to the upstairs club, and immediately saw the Mad Hatter up on stage, and realized that it was a simulcast we had been watching. The Mad Hatter welcomed us all to Sex Night as he sent out his girls, as Scott dubbed, the Angels of Death, to secure more victims. We retreated to the bar area and proceeded to be shocked and awed. I felt suitably Conservative American, as I watched these girls pulling clothes off guys, and thought, ‘that just ain’t right.’ We left, thoroughly confused, but thus entertained.

Scott Says: Another important point about svikova is that the gravy is based in slow cooked root vegetables, including celeriak, carrot, parsnip which are pushed through a sieve before being mixed into the gravy. In my mind it, is the cadillac of Czech cuisine.

Some of the people at the club had to be planted. It’s not normal for you to be so comfortable with someone else removing your clothes on a crowded dance floor, and then to look so good doing it.

Sunday:

Hiked across Scott’s neighborhood and up Zhizhkov mountain, where the Czech Communist government built the largest equestrian statue on earth to commemorate the success of a hussite leader in holding off a crusader army 10 times the size of his. I realized that Communism here was much different than in Russia, where the Czechs had experienced no military successes during the entire reign of the Communist regime, and their most recent success was as a roaming legion of released war prisoners who conquered of the Trans-Siberian railway from an inconveniently Communist Russia. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Museum of Czech Military History, which, as you might imagine, had an agenda, being

1. we didn’t really want to fight with the Germans and Austrians in
WW1, but we were part of their empire
2. we were ready to kill some Nazis in WW2, and you democracies
deserted us and gave our defensible borders away for nothing.
3. we are in NATO

Later where we ate at a rather famous restaurant, and suitably enjoyed the best garlic soup I’ve ever had, maybe one of the best soups anyone has ever had, and some goulash. We talked and drank beautifully perfect Budweiser Budvars until the dead of the night. We covered all topics, from girls, to our future, to Brad’s predicament, to the Scott Epic, to reminiscing about Final Fight and the Mike Haggar spinning clothesline punch complete with ‘Whooowh!’ sound effect, which became another running joke throughout the trip.

Monday:

Scott went to Dresden to get a passport stamp, leaving Prague to myself for what was the most beautiful day there since he arrived in October. After a brief rain, it was 60 degrees and sunny. This was an aberration, but a welcome one. I trounced around the city myself, taking it all in, probably covering 15 km on foot. Having forgot my student ID, I stayed on the streets, as museum entry was half price with it. I climbed up ridiculous hills, drank beer from the park bars at the top, checked out the former site of the largest Stalin statue on Earth (now occupied by a metronome that doesn’t seem to do anything, and about 200 skateboarding kids), which made the sculptor so miserable to construct it that he committed suicide shortly before it was unveiled in 1955.
For dinner I went to some little place, tried to speak Czech and was immediately mistaken for a Czech by one waitress and a Russian by another. Apparently my pronunciation trills the ‘r’ a little too far. The languages are quite similar, though not Spanish-Italian similar, maybe something like Spanish-Romanian. This was a running theme for my trip, where in simple exchanges and transactions I tried to use only Czech, and was mistaken for a Czech or a Russian every time. And of course tourists approached me about 4 times a day, and asked if I spoke any English before they inquired as to where to find this street or that street or the town square or the old church or the castle or the clock tower. They all assumed I was Czech. I was walking around with a Prague guidebook the whole time. I don’t know if I should be flattered when mistaken by the locals, or just think that people are morons in the case of the tourists.
Scott Says: It struck me as strange that so many people took Myles for Czech, particularly, as he mentioned, since he was carrying a tourbook..

I’m not sure about the sequence of events, but either Sunday or Monday was the night that we drank hot spiced red wine with orange wedges at some other extremely comfortable bar near Scott’s house with his friend Christine, who is friends somehow with Surjeet, which is a good indication of her coolness. I just hope for his sake that he makes good friends with her, he could use a female friend to keep him soft enough.

Tuesday:

Went to Prague Castle in the pouring rain. It rained every day, at some point during the day, but this was the only day that it was actually limiting. The castle commands a pretty spectacular locale overlooking the ford point of the Vltava, hovering over the 14th century bridge which spans the river. The castle itself has been covered over by insensitive Viennese architects with 19th century plaster, but the palace, cathedral and old streets are all rather interesting in their own rights. The national gallery was alright, but paled in comparison the special exhibits I saw later.

Scott and I spent the evening at a traditional Slovak restaurant, complete with a folk band. The food was basically Central European peasant soul food. Tiny potato dumplings with cream and cheese and sausage it was basically like macaroni and cheese, but much richer. The cabbage soup was flavorful, and thus in direct opposition to Russian soups.

Wednesday:

Went to the village of Kutina Hora on the train to see their cathedral, medieval town, and the Ossuary. The bones of 40000 people stacked up into temples, placed on mouldings, framing the alter, and forming columns and a chandelier. Met a Czech guy on the plane who was confused by my presence, traveling on an untouristed commuter line in rural Bohemia with my Russian book and my English-language Prague guide book. Turns out he lived in the US for 2 years and said that he loved the place. He lived in San Francisco and Boston. I told him he tried on our best two shoes. He asked why I lived in Russia, and I said it was hard to remember while traveling through the CR. He said he had never been there, but he ‘could get an impression.’ Well put.

Returned to Prague for the Jan Saudek exhibit, a photographer who is pretty cutting edge and often times disturbing for my Irish Catholic American upbringing. I just get uncomfortable seeing a naked 13 year old posing for a photograph. I’m standing there trying to appreciate his use of skewed imagery, passage of time, doctoring of background images and colors, but all the while waiting for someone to come arrest me or something. His work is loved and hated, which was pretty much how I felt about it.

Met Scott for the infamous Chesky Lev, or Czech Lion, a manhole cover sized plate of baked pork, potato and bread dumplings, and red and white versions of sauerkraut, as well as vegetables. Oh, the monumental excess. We tried to go to jazz night, apparently it was cancelled, then headed to a Cuban bar for Velvet, which is like a cross between pilsner and Guinness. Fantastic. A couple Czech girls gave him 3 looks as we left, and Scott did nothing about it, which kind of got to him. Indicative of his new outlook, though, he was able to get over it rather quickly, rather than dwelling on his inaction all afternoon. I was proud of him, though as we laid in bed, I broke his balls relentlessly on what he could have had.

Thursday:

Karlstein Castle, the secret fortress in the woods between two mountains where the Bohemian kings would hide the crown jewels, so that invading armies couldn’t seize them. Probably the most impressively located castle I’ve ever seen. I’ll provide photos. The Hussites seiged it but couldn’t get through the first gate, and the Swedes during the 30 years war (still a mindfuck that the Swedes were all the way in Central Europe) got into he 2nd courtyard but couldn’t take the main tower. Many a tall blonde man died that summer. Maybe that’s why they haven’t really fought anyone for any reason since then.

Afterwards checked out the Mucha Museum, dedicated to the Art Nuveau pioneer and Czech native. The man was amazing. I might even call his work on Princess Hydastra or on The Liberation of Russia’s Serfs two of my all time favorite pieces of work I fully understand why Scott devoted one of his shoulders to the guy for eternity, with the Sokol Festival Placard tattooed all over it.

Pub Night Thursday is what Scott looks forward to above all other nights on his social calendar. It is his only consistent opportunity to interact with Czechs, and turned out to be only the second time I did so myself. The students were nice, sociable adults. One guy, George, had been a student in their program for something like 6 years, never advancing above the second level. Maybe he just wanted to meet the girls who come through to teach or take classes. Scott and the other teachers bought him a boob cake. How kitchy. I kind of dodged it it takes too much frosting to make a mound of boob, and it kind of threw off the cake. Ate something that resembled fried potato balls with grilled pork and broccoli for dinner, also fantastic. Went to indie night, which was filled with expat student guys and indie music, a recipe for disaster, as turned out to be the case. We packed it in after we realized that we were all about to sleep. How is it indie music if its popular? I mean, indie music is supposed to be unpopular and kind of terrible, and this was merely the latter version. We had fun though, and nothing would be lost.

Scott Says: The program at Oxford TEFL is only really for training teachers. The students pay an extremely low fee for the courses because they are sub-par and lack continuity. While they do try to pitch a variety of material to the GPs (guniea pigs, ie, the locals, mostly Czechs) there is some ground which is covered over and over agian and ground that is never touched, even if they come month after month, since the program repeats. George is in the upper of the two levels, but essentially has nowhere to go.

To be fair, Nebe is hit and miss. When Desha was here, she loved it. That night was a definate miss.

Friday:

Friday was something of an epic. The Eastern Bloc epic sort of thing that drove Scott over the pond. We got up late and he went into the office to do paperwork, while I patroned the Museum of Communism to get a bit of anti-Russian vindictiveness. A private institution, which you could tell as it shares the same sign and entryway as a casino. The highlight of the tiny and overpriced exhibit was certainly the 30 minute video from the Prague Spring and Velvet Revolution, showing phalanxes of riot police beating up student protestors in the square just outside of the building only 15 years beforehand. When you walk outside, you feel as though you were walking across history. The victory won on that square 17 years ago is slightly spoiled by the McDonald’s, KFCs and souvenier shops selling Russian matrioishka dolls and Soviet hats.

Scott and I climbed up Prepin Hill, the highest point in the city, overlooking the whole valley where it lies. At some point, we fell into a Wisconsonian accent, and kept that going for the duration of the day. Its even funnier when passers by have to assume that’s your real speaking voice. Got a laugh from the hall of mirrors, and climbed the mini Eiffel Tower atop the hill during what happened to be The Windiest Day in Central Europe, prompting Scott to do his best gasping in fear Hank Hill impression throughout ascent and descent. The view was pretty spectacular, even if the whole tower was shaking throughout the visit.

That night we went back to the top of the hill to catch a psychobilly show by The Flaming Cocks, a local band, and The Peacocks, an apparently popular Swiss band. It was situated near the Communist-built largest stadium in Europe (in disuse, since at 200,000 capacity, its far too big for any Czech sporting events), in the basement of a Communist housing bloc which is now used as a student dormitory. What a deathtrap. I’ll have nightmares of what my Dad, or worse, my grandfather, would have to say about catching a show in that one-exit bomb shelter. No taps, bottles only, which is not conducive to a mosh pit. Neither is my flowing long hair, button down polo shirt, or black slacks from express, but hey, I was traveling. Turns out the Czechs don’t really ‘dance’ anyway. The first band was legitimate, afterwards Scott bought their shirt and I tried to convince them to play Moscow. The second band was alight, and they got better over the course of the show, expecially when they played something that sounded like semi-covers of Revival, Indigo Friends or The Party in Your Head by the Reverend Horton Heat. Some girl gave Scott the look with the invite over, and when he got close to her, she punched him in the gut. I turned around at one point and when I looked back, Scott reappeared with two shots of absinthe for us, which were served without sugar, the truly ridiculous way. (He insisted on taking a shot of it the weekend before, insisting the side-effects often reported were a myth associated with the fact that its just extremely strong alcohol.) The dance party which followed was decent, but we needed to leave to try and catch the last bus, which we did not. So we proceeded to scale down the Prepin Hill through some poorly lit park, trying to go straight down and ignoring the walls, which led straight to a 12 foot drop from the 14th century outer city walls. Scott inexplicably decided to scale along the side of the wall on a ledge, until it led him to a battlement which we was in no way capable of getting around, so he came back my way towards the ground, until eventually the section of the wall he was on gave out and he plummeted to the ground. I thought I would be carrying him the rest of the way, but he snapped right up, somehow, and offered one hand to grab my foot as I came down. As soon as I did, the lights came on in a nearby villa, so we sprinted away as if we were in high school again. I busted his balls the rest of the trip about his destroying a 14th century relic. After another kilometer or so, we came upon a rather major square called Andel, and eventually decided to go to KFC so he could wash the wall remnants off his pants. It was about 1:30am.

Scott Says: Myles left out that after I helped him down fom the wall, we walked for a bit, only then realizing we were in someone’s backyard. The hill rose to the back of a garage (scaling the gate was out of the question) and he went out on the roof, and luckily, there was a pole that served no other purpose than for us to shimmy down it at the front of the garage. It was at this point that the lights went on.

I also looked into it because I couldn’t stand the thought of having ruined a 14th century devensive relic. It turns out that thing is “only” an 18th century retaining wall, which is far less interesting. Oops.

We couldn’t help ourselves, and I bought chicken, and shortly after we exited, me splurging on an ice cream cone. We were crossing the street to the tram station along the river at the center of the night route, planning on taking it downtown to some other interesting venue with 80s music. Then, suddenly, the world ended.

An hour later, I was walking up to the tram station at Hladvi Hospodar, alone. I had no idea what or where Hladvi Hospodar was.

The trams were stopped at what was clearly a turnaround. I checked the schedule, realized that one would start again in 15 minutes, and waited there, alone. When I checked my phone for the time, I saw that I had one missed text from Scott, (‘where you at?’) at 2:26am. It was now 3:37. Throughout this time, I am calling and texting Scott to no answer. I thought I had blacked out and walked across the river, but I couldn’t tell where I was because there was a highway over the tracks to my west, and I couldn’t see the river, I started walking in that direction, and realized quickly that I should turn around so as not to catch the next tram. I got back to the station stop just in time for it to start again, and got onto the first 57 tram, which as the schedule said would stop at Scott’s street. 3:50am.

I boarded the train alone, and when it took off, I quickly realized that I was at the end of the tram line, and heading towards Scott’s house from the east, the opposite side of the city from the KFC we had left together. I got to his place, sat on his stoop (I didn’t have a set of keys), and called repeatedly. I walked around to entertain myself while I waited to hear from him, and after I had been at his house for 45 minutes, he finally answered my call, clearly confused and outside, but at a tram stop and promising he would be back in 20 to 60 minutes. Nice window. Its 4:19am. I tried and failed to find something open to entertain me, and eventually started walking around aimlessly to wait, figuring I could back track on the tram line and meet up with him at a previous stop. Eventually I gave up on this endeavor, and took a passing tram back to his house. He arrived 20 minutes later, alone, and just as lucid as I was. When we got upstairs, we looked at the tram map immediately, to find, to our horror, shame and confusion, that we had ended up at the extreme Eastern and Western points of the city, along the same tram line, with his house in the center of town between us. Both of us remember leaving KFC. He recalls boarding a tram, seeing I wasn’t on it with him, getting off, and then later being woken up by the announcement by the tram operator that it was the end of the line. We tried to figure out what happened for the duration of the night. He said it made sense that I was where I was, if I got on the proper train and went towards his house and the center of town. He thought it was possible that he got on a tram, like me, heading East, saw that I wasn’t there, got off and got on another one going the opposite direction to backtrack and find me, and then fell asleep. He also thinks I fell asleep, because I would have been on the proper tram, took it to the end of the line, and got off like he did, when the end of the line was announced. The only problem with that is the fact that I do not remember anything between finishing that ice cream and walking towards Hladvi Hospodar, thereby do not remember being on a tram at any time. My only explanations: abduction or a single shot of sugarless absinthe.

Scott Says: I agree with this explanation, but I had a case of deja vu recently which leads me to believe that Myles and I were on the same tram initially and I got off at the right stop, but didn’t prompt him to do so (I should have). Then I must have gotten on a train to go back to look for him and that was when I fell asleep. Either scenario is possible.

Saturday was my bloody retreat from the western front. We got up late, walked around a little, and returned to u Poshty for more beloved svichkova. Scott’s unsecretive reason for going to that place regularly was working that day a Czech girl with a minihawk. He was quite enamored with her, but not in the Our House way in a more mature, confident and contented way. She was quite pretty, and exactly the sort of girl he loves, but you felt as though he was too self-aware to let his life be controlled by fantasies. Scott is in a good way right now, and I am happy for him.

In general, it was a great trip. In retrospect, I probably could have tried to spend more time with Scott, since my time with him was obviously the highlight, but it may not have been possible anyway. His carryings on about The Hottest Girl In The World eating a full pork knee and drinking a half liter of beer, our impersonations of the Womanimal (posthuminously named) trying to be sexy, our attempts to read my Hungarian phrasebook in our idea of a Hungarian accent (something like the Klingons from Star Trek), me spitting out my musli all over his kitchen table in reaction to seeing his reaction when I showed him the 17 letter Russian word from one of my readings ( pronounce as: ‘vseperemalyvayushchikh’: English = ‘the all consuming grist-mill’), Scott’s vision of a grand summit, where the two of us would sit in a bar with beers and Brad’s image would be simulcast on a screen at the third chair (probably with a bottle of coke in front of it, from which we would pour a bit out every few minutes), waking up after long nights to soundtracks from spaghetti westerns, Carl Perkins, Tango and Opera as only SB can deliver.

Scott Says: My subsequent trip to Hungary, I assure you did not make our lampooning of Magyar any less valid. Egesheggere. Cheers.

Not that I didn’t create some memories alone, including being mistaken repeatedly as a Russian or Czech, with tourists walking up to me sheepishly to ask for directions and saying “excuse me, do you speak any English?”, yelling ‘A!’ at the obnoxious Russians on my castle tour group to shut them up, since they didn’t get the point when our distraught and ambiguously gay Czech tour guide told them to do so in English, or the plane ride home, when I was caught in the typical Russian situation of pretending to travel with some old lady because her bags were over the weight limit for Aeroflot’s flight home, which turned out to be my first trip on a Russian plane (most of Aeroflot’s planes are Airbuses), though while it seemed to fly just fine, had no stereo, no TVs, no in-armrest tray tables (only removable ones that stuck into a screwed-in afterthought mounting, which inevitably broke so that I had to eat my Aeroflot dinnerbox (2 slices cold meat, 1 slice cold cheese, 3 cucumber slices somewhere between pickled and fresh, slice black bread, 1 dinner roll, 1 cold meat turnover, 1 chocolate, 1 cup of tea) out of my lap, seatbelts that didn’t quite fashion, an overhead compartment that was too narrow for my backpack, backrests made of light plastic and foam, and so on. When the stuardesses pushed the newspaper and magazine cart through our section of the plane, they were mobbed by the middle aged middle class Russian ladies on either side of the aisle, who grabbed about 7 magazines apiece, so that they were out of everything before they reached aisle 15. Oh, and of course there was the obligatory cheering when we landed safely, which was conspicuously more animated on the Illushin-98 than the Airbus-380 I went to Prague on. The problem with Aeroflot is that no one wants to fly on them, and no one wants to come to Russia, so they end up making partnerships with reputable international airlines, so that when customers think they’re booking Air France to Boston or Czech Air to Prague or AlItalia to Rome, they’ll get to the gate to see that lumbering red-white-and-blue on silver hulk of an Aeroflot jet. I really don’t understand why they still use the Soviet hammer-and-sickle on their logo, but at the same time their interior cabins and uniform colors are a light blue and orangey combination, which both clashes with and defies the faades of the planes themselves. And in case you’re wondering, there’s no preferred boarding procedure (where the 1st class passengers get on first) or really a procedure at all, its more like ‘ahhh, Motherland! We are late! Everyone get on the freaking plane now!’

The whole point of this trip came to light for me on the way home. Its easy to forget out here what its like to have such good, close, and complete friends. Less surprising may be that you forget about the comforts of living in a normal country, from friendlier people to safer streets, freedom from spies, comprehensive public transport, good food, good beer, better weather, beautiful landscapes, I could go on. I was pretty broken up to come back to Moscow, and I know Scott says he’s looking for a new crew, but I’m only thinking of getting my old one back. During the Chesky Lev feast, I had a sudden realization: ‘Scott, you’re never going back, are you?’ ‘I may not,’ he replied. I guess we all have to get over it.

MS.
Photos: http://etapravda.shutterfly.com

Scott Says: Myles is that type of complete friend he speaks of. I experienced the same feeling, particularly as he stayed with me and was here for a long time. I was already aware of it from visits by Desha and Surjeet as well. Myles was fortunate to come at a time when I was changing schedules, so I had an abundance of free time compared to when the others had come, so despite his lamentations, we did spend alot of time together, comparatively.

It’s true there is no substitute for long time relations. I am now reaching the point with some people here that is as good as it can be after a short time, and I know I will stay in touch with them. But of course by it’s nature lacks the depth of a 4, 6, or 8 year freindship. The jokes, the collective experience, the paragraph with a look; it’s all unique.

Come see it all for yourself.

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Comprehense-less Guide to Moscow Nightlife

“It is wonder you haven’t died yet.”
- concerned Moscovite

Café Havana:

Europe’s largest Cuban restaurant/salsa bar. A semi-authentic sits in a corner at what looks like a piano but is actually a rolling station for Cuban cigars. The mental adjustment which accompanies your black Cuban waiter speaking fluent Russian is par for the course. I enjoyed some rice and sausage garnish smattering for a reasonable $3 accompanied by a standard issue Russian lager such as Starry Priodsnak, which is unreasonable at any price lest it be served with nose plugs. The all-Cuban band was ½ black ½ latino, with a drummer who bore a striking resemblance to the quality soul/hip-hop singer Mos Def. There is an internal debate continuing in my head whether it was the stolen 42’ plasma screen TVs playing a 13 minute loop of a beach party scene in some Black Sea paradise (e.g. Russian version of) featuring the exact same salsa band that you are watching play live right in front of you at the same moment, or if it was the fact that the couches at the tables were so wide that when you would sit back in them, your feet would have to stick straight out in front of you and making you feel like you’re on the assembly line at Geppetto’s workshop which killed the atmosphere. The Russian waitresses in those flowing red and white linens make you it look like its Christmas in July weekend in Minneapolis, but you’re in Moscow and its September. Gypsy cab driver on the way there called me “American Mafia”. That alone makes it worth two Soviet Hero Emblems and a Third Class Badge of some sort.

ORDERS:
Readjuster of Capitalist-Exploitist Propaganda Tendencies; Third Class
Castro-Khrushchev Award of the Worldwide Movement Toward Socialist Unity

Karma Bar:

I went here on two consecutive nights about a month ago, when the only person I knew in the city was my roommate. After these experiences, I decided that no company was vastly superior to his, or at least to the kind of guy who would get face controlled at an empty salsa dancing club on a Thursday night at 10pm, an hour usually reserved for drunkards and old ladies. Dividends were paid, as he resigned a month ago and moved to Kiev, leaving me with a two bed room apartment to reign over as dictator.

Enter through the steel gate and metal detectors on Kuznetsky Most. Cover is a bit steep at 300 rubles on Friday and Saturday, but they do their best to ‘entertain’ you. After passing the gate, you realize that you are actually walking down an alleyway in a courtyard between two buildings which is covered and lined by red tapestries. You pass tables and eventually end up at a coat room, small dance floor and bar, which feels something like the forts I used to make in my bedroom when I was 10 using blankets and pillows. The main club is down into subbasement 2, half way to hell and about as likely a fire trap. A bar with low couches, black red and glass framed by buddist artwork welcomes you to the bottom of the nothingness. There are separate rooms for hookas, drugging, staring, chatting and a sizable dance floor. It was like everything else, strangely interesting.

Anyway, salsa night at Karma is the kind of place where a 5’5 balding squarefaced 83 pound middle aged Chinese guy with a OCD induced habitual throat clearing tendency could dance a heated salsa with a 19 year old Russian girl for two consecutive songs without resistance or an attempt to flee or excuse herself. I don’t know if it was the club or the crowd, but everywhere you would find men dressed in what they woke up wearing partnered with Russian girls who tried oh so hard to look a little bit Carribean, all sharing this beautiful dance together in a very casual atmosphere.. There is plenty of diversity in a crowd of Russians, but not of those Western Hempishere sort of flavors. There was a certain 7th grade prom feel to the procession, as at the end of every song, the couples would separate and look for new partners, then continue again with little hesitation and ostentatious vigor. I of course did not know how to dance the salsa, but was capitally entertained by the spectacle. A few friendly Russians would strike up conversation with me, asking why I was a wall fly, to be met with an awkward ‘I don’t know this’ response. I didn’t know the word for dance until this week.

Everyone danced with everyone. Boyfriends would get drinks while others danced with their dates, and they would try their best to not look like they cared. Chaotic. Egalitarian anarchy. Aldous Huxley’s nightmare incarnate. Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” played by a live band of all Russians fronted by a red-haired semi-Asian looking girl, who sung the tune in Spanish. This might surprise you, but they sucked.

Friday night, no live band, instead there was a guy with a microphone headset who looked like the infomercial peddler of those home exercise machines who was recently mocked in a Geico commercial, barking out instructions for an introductory salsa dancing lesson in Russian. I struggled, and I don’t think it was because of coordination. At about 11:40, as the previous night, the salsa dancers disappear into oblivion, and I realized then for the first time that the actual Moscow nightlife starts no earlier than midnight. The class and kitch of the salsa dancers was supplanted by mediocre house music, fat embassy employees and European businessmen in their suits (on a Saturday), and art directors and nondescript looking goons. As I left, no worse for wear, I walked through the main bar room on the lower level, to notice a Man- and She-Man-Zilla dancing on the bar in nothing but bikini wear, to little notice or fanfare, and to the beat of their own down tempo drummer. Hard to tell if they were paid to do it or just felt like deeply disturbing me for the rest of my eternity.

ORDERS:
Communist Hero, Second Class (before midnight)
Trotskyite-Proto-Fascist Conspirators, First Class (after midnight)

Pancho Villa:

Is it possible to be a professional-salsa-dancing roommate and insist on pronouncing the above bar name “Pancho Will-UH”?? Sadly, yes. Happily, this was the last night I knew Eddie Wong – he was gone within days afterwards, leaving me to enjoy my entire Vill-AH alone.

Live Russian band played a decent selection of Latin music without any sembelence of cohesion or timing. Chaotically typical. Few people dancing, most people just eating – the dance floor was again surrounded by several rooms of underground dining. The Hispano-Amero Southwestern atmosphere was about as authentic as a semiprofessional salsa dancing instructor who says he’s a native speaking American but is actually from Hong Kong. Feel free to distract yourself from your company by gazing at the Discovery channel on flat screen plasma TVs hanging above the bar. You will find someone from Britain here. I met several expats and tourists, and no Russians, which made me even more prepared to leave immediately. Overpriced fare. The few girls who are here will not be able to dance the salsa. You will realize you aren’t enjoying yourself after the band plays “Oye Como Va” with a Russian accent, and you will leave for stranger things, confident you will find tem.

ORDERS:
Enemy of the Botherhood of Socialist Workers and People’s Committees, First Class
Brezhenev Award of Stagnation, Price Inflation and Underinvestment in the Arts

Zona:

I don’t know where this place is, I jumped in a gypsy cab from Poncho Villa and asked the driver in 4-day Russian to follow the black Range Rover pulling out in front of us to some place called Zona, which none of us had ever heard of before. The Range Rover people wanted me to come but couldn’t give me a ride because their personal driver was under countract not to allow anyone into the car other than the Scottish oil tycoon’s daughter and friends it was currently carrying. None of us spoke Russian, which was fun when we arrived and tried to pass the Macarthy quality Face Control at the point of entry.

After escaping that, you’re welcomed to pay the 300 ruble cover for the privilege of passing through a barbed wired gate and steel door, only to wait in a second line within the courtyard heading to the warehouse which houses the club.

The entire place is done up to feel like a Soviet political prison, complete with a cage of barbed wire which encloses the queue, watched over by wax maniquin KGB agents with kalishnikovs pointed down at you from windows and awnings, followed by a steel bared entry system, after which things start getting strange.

We arrived at 1am, and the queue took us about 45 minutes to clear. The main hall was long and fairly narrow, with two levels of balconies encircling it above. There were drapes descending from the ceiling that brought in a level of intimacy to the otherwise gaping space. All of the patrons were courteous – as I have noticed to be the routine, everyone keeps to themselves or their group of friends, dancing in a circle or a line and allowing no one to disturb them. Guys didn’t press onto girls, girls didn’t fawn over guys, people just danced near each other and then left the floor to talk in one of the myriad themed rooms on the upper levels. I recall one of the waitresses walking around shirtless, and neither her nor anyone else seemed to notice or think it out of the ordinary. We met the Scot’s kids’ brother upstairs in a glass room, next to a small red bar which was held aloft by a sculpture of a pair of breasts made using traditional Orthodox iconography.

At 4am, there was a show on the stage suspended between the balcony and the floor of the main hall.

Add the costumography of Donnie Darko to the drug-inspirography of Alice in Wonderland, and still don’t come close.

The first ‘dancer’ was a crotchety 4 foot 10 inch 60 year old man in a fluttery 19th century venture capitialist/Mad Hatter costume. His toothless grin and untamed gray hair flowed seamlessly with his jarringly abrupt and limited steps across the suspended stage. He was joined later for a dancing duet by a 20 year old blonde chick who was taller than God, wearing a pink Moulan Rouge stylized getup. Follow this with a guy in a gray body suit, with a long solid beak and a mask consisting of two 6 inch eye sockets and a dunce cap, something like the black spy of the Spy vs. Spy series, albeit with the sort of creppiness that I assume makes people on acid trips run the risk of hear explosions while they bear witness.

None of these ‘dancers’ actually danced, as much as crept about the platform, while gazing about in an uninterested sense, giving little notice to a crowd that seemed to pay be returning the favor, preferring instead the pounding of the decent house music that whaled its way through your torso en route to the next non-obstacle. I may have been the only one standing motionless in the middle of the floor with a stare fixed to the spectacle, as the characters interacted in a rather seamless but entirely uncoreiographed sequence. There was at least one girl who seemed to have suffered a ‘wardrobe malfunction’, but she didn’t seem to notice or care. And then there was the guy videotaping the whole thing from the front of the suspended catwalk. At some point one of the Scottish girls went to find her brother upstairs to pick up so they could leave, though the kid was unresponsive because the waitress who had come to clear the table where he and his friends had just enjoyed a meal was apparently dancing atop it at the time.

The whole experience made you feel like you were somewhere near the distant edge of the Universe, or at least near to its distant End. It was like a scene from an futuristic movie about the collapse of humankind, like Total Recall or the 5th Element. There is no line between a dance club and a strip club, there is no place that is normal, no place that isn’t completely uncorrupted. The collapse of the system that imposed and artificial conservatism has led to this swing of the pendulum, leaving me to wonder if the bell will swing through the case and shatter the world around it, or if a backlash will send them back where they came from in a horrible cancer of repression. Pendulums never stop in the middle.

ORDERS:
Star of Commemoration of Soviet History
Gorbachev Award of Openness and Reform (Glasnost and Perestroika), First Class

Road House:

See earlier comments. Hole in the wall blues club a la some dusty road in Tulsa. That the only beer on tap is Heineken is their only sin, meaning they’re still headed for some secular Communist version of heaven. Don’t bother talking to the bands during breaks, they sing in English, but only speak Georgian.

ORDERS:
People’s Committee Order of Merit for the Friendship and Understanding of International Workers and Farmers
Demonstration of the Political-Economic Failings of a Capitalism through Song, Second Class
Personal Honor of Stalin, The Constructor of Happiness (saw this on a postcard, had to include it somewhere)
UPDATE: newly installed Guinness tap, making this the coolest place in the coldest place on Earth, which might be good, I’m not sure.

Kutuzov Hall:

See earlier comments. Russian mafia, $8 water, and a stellar American jazz-fusion performance.

Orders:
People’s Award for the Preservation of Muscial Heritage of Foreign Oppressed Minority Peoples, First Class (the music)
Trotskyite-Proto-Fascist-Anti-Revolutionary Terrorists, First Class (the crowd)
Stronghold of the Enemy of the People’s Soviets (the venue)

Sport Land:

See earlier comments. Las Vegas style casino tries to be Chicago-style sports bar. Fails miserably at both.

Orders:
Trotskyite-Proto-Fascist Conspirators, First Class
Enemy of the Soviet People, First Class, Second Class
Gorbachev Award for the Attempt and Failure to Introduce Western Key Aspects of Cultural/Political Heritage to the Motherland

Propaganda

The original progressive club in Moscow, Propaganda opened up with Glasnost and was a staple of the opening up of Russian culture after 75 years of repression. It closed recently, probably either because some politician wanted to show that they cared about drug abuse and cracked down, or because its owner at the time heard through someone he knew at the Office of Taxation that they Tax Cops were going to come for him, so he took off for Monaco and hasn’t been heard of since. Recently, the place reopened, and while the popular perception is that they lost a step, I find it to be about my speed. The music ranges from mediocre to average techno, but at least without the stupid pop bounce that is the plague of Russian radios, malls, culture parks, casinos, car stereos, alarm clocks, and McDonald’s bathrooms, and is in general is about as good as one can expect in this country. The waitstaff has an undeniable Paradise Rock Club quality, expecially the Mongolian looking guy with 2 foot hair who, if you ask for whiskey and coke, he adds lemon. They just don’t know any better. And they don’t have ginger ale here, but lets not even start on the problems that creates.

Has a medieval wooden architecture, with an intimate balcony area. Its about as dark as a cave, which makes it feel like a medieval beer hall dug into the side of a mound of dirt, like something out of Braveheart. The drinks are reasonable.

When you arrive, you’re going to see the remnants of what was once an Irwin Rommel styled face control system, which will consist of one guy sticking his arm out in front of you so you to stop you from passing through the door, followed by another guy who will ask you how many people in your party.

This happened to Misha and I when we arrived once a few weeks back. We were asked how many, as we were the only two people outside of the building or within view of the door for 300 meters in either direction. If I could, of course, I would have said, “Well, there’s 17 angry youths with scars from Chechnya that we’d like to bring in here too, and they’re just waiting around the corner to you to give us the okay, then we’d wave them in behind us.” Of course, then he wouldn’t appreciate the sarcasm, and then I’d be dead.

Just out of curiosity, I turned to Misha after about an hour here, and asked “How can you tell which ones are prostitutes?”

“Just ask: how much?”

“I see.”

ORDERS:
Gorbachev Star of Glasnost and Perestroika, First Class, Second Class, and Honorable Mention

Pistelene [‘Plastique’ or, plastic explosive]

Visit was the first and potentially last time I will ever hear Enya’s Pure Moods classic “Sail Away” mixed over the domestic abuse house-call of Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up.” Irony lives on in the frozen wasteland.

Order a Byelorussian, and be entertained as the bartender asks repeatedly how its made, then asks another bartender, then a passing waitress, then flirts with that waitress, then tries to find milk, then returns with cream, then fails to decide what sort of glass to put it in, then pours it for you, unmixed, and gives it to you bez stirrers, and asks for 150 rybley. Dance the robot while the dyevs look on in confusion. No protentions, democratic door policy, conspicuously clean toilets. Subbasement 2 makes it impossible to realize that the sun has risen when you emerge at 7am. (well, not in winter, but at least the trains are running again by then.) Located in a courtyard off an alley of a pedestrian walkway, with no sign save a henna tattooed portrait of a fellow playing a trumpet to a girl sitting under a tree, emblazoned on a stretched animal skin canvas. Everyone is cool here, even the goon who guards the ‘coat check’, which is a converted fire exit stairwell.

ORDERS:
Ribbon to the Heritage of the People’s Revolution of Worker’s Solidarity
Merit Badge for Efficient Use of Public Egresses
Putin Award for the Embracing of an Unlikelihood of Escape from a Subterranean Tomb

That Place Without a Name

Proves that despite sporting a stupid clichéd name, such a place can support a decent party, like one night last fall where all dance tunes were mixed with samples from 8-bit video games. Tired? Try enjoying reasonably priced pelmeni dumplings in the dining room at 4am. Do this especially during the set of the semi-popular German indie-electronica group’s set, who’s crackling high pitched English-language explanation that during some ridiculous throwback song that probably only makes sense in robo-efficiency terms he will be placing his glass on the stage, and that he ‘hopes that someone will put something in my drink!’, while you hope it will be arsenic and not acid. Or at least some really bad acid. If that’s possible. I really have no idea.

Orders:
Distinguished Emblem of Service to 3rd Shift Workers Unions and Militias

Art Garbage

The art really is garbage here. A little piece of Allstony Boston. Allow that to conjure up whichever fantasies or nightmares you please. Came based on one-line announcement in the Moscow Times that a German-based rockabilly band named after Italian-American moviestar Al Pacino’s famous Cuban druglord anti-hero would be playing a midnight set. If anyone can for some reason locate any purchasable music by The Tony Montanas, please, procure one for me and yourself. I was shocked too. Germans playing Amero-hillbilly music? I half expected the four horsemen of the apocalypse to come riding across the beer-stained floors and into the feudal theatre-style wooden pit of a concert room, based on that anachronism itself. Closes at 6am. Access through a courtyard. Sign something resembling that of The Model. Noting that I have no counter-culture friends here, I haven’t been back. Waiting for another one-line announcement in the Moscow Times, for fear of stepping into an experiemental-rock trap, or worse, a no-concert night where they fill in the void with trip-hop and you wished for a ZZTop jukebox with all your might.

Orders:
Cultural Seal to the Preservation of Working-Class Musical Heritage
Lenin Award for the Somewhat Successful Introduction of Germans to the Russian Populace that Did Not Result in the Deaths of 20 Million Citizens

Krizis Zhanra

50 Rubley for Baltika #3, 24 hours a day. That’s $1.75. For Moscow, that’s like an Oasis in the desert. First experience featured some underground London/DC based hip-hop group called One Self which I had never heard of before. Only the 2nd occasion that I was impressed by a live MC performance. He and I were essentially having the conversation throughout, since I was the only one who could understand the words and properly reply to his requests for holler-backs. Him trying to get 300 Russkies to shout ‘One Self does it now’ in reply in the middle of a tune ends up with 150 of them missing the instruction entirely, 149 coming up with ‘Van Silf dakhz it nahv!’, and me in the middle laughing hysterically. After the set, confronted the DJ and MC to say ‘that was great, I’d never even heard of you guys, where are you from?’ to get a dumbfounded look in response, followed by a pause, and the refrain: ‘where the hell are you from?’ Overall, excellent. Though the CD I purchased was write-protected (a technology unbeknownst to or wholly rejected by the Russians) and wouldn’t play in my computer, rendering it useless to me.

Everyone has fun here. Recent expedition sported a retro 70s set so terrible that you couldn’t decide if it was supposed to be kitch-irony to play ‘Disco Inferno’ and ‘Staying Alive’ or if the guy was serious. They have food, but I haven’t the bravery. Lost points for projecting an Aerosmith Live DVD from this decade on a wall, but gained them back as none of the clientele seemed to recognize the band, and the sound was off. Besides their increasingly shittier music, I just cant understand the homoeroticism of those guys. Does that sell records?

Orders:
Medal of International Friendship with our African Worker-Brothers
Certificate for the Support of those otherwise Unnourished Students and Laborers [as is inevitable in any system in which international imperialists and their fascist-Trotskyist allies will export their oppressive systems of distribution thus rendering it inevitable that prices of some establishments frequented by our comrades will be wholly capitalistic in nature while still…]

Albion Bar, Rosie O’Grady’s, Molly Gwinn’s, John Bull Pub

I’ll list them together since these are all the same – fake exported British- or Irish-pub themed hellholes for Embassy types, Citibank employees and New Russians pretending to be one or the other. The only reason I ever go, and the only reason to ever go, is for Guinness. Sometimes they put the shamrock in the foam, sometimes not, but the price is always around 229 Rybley. That’s about $8 a pint. It’s a one pint a week ritual, for my counter-indoctrination of my Russian friends into Irish-American culture. They wonder if its authentic, I wonder why it has to suck. Piles of cash exchanged regularly. Foreign imperialist capitalist fat-cats abound. Sometimes makes you want to start a revolution.

Orders:
Enemy of the Revolution, First Class
Yeltsin Medal of Failure to Properly Mimic Western Cultural and Business Practices
Cultural Stamp for the Importation of Necessary Foreign Material as Required to Develop Support of Socialism in One Country (for the Guinness)

Silver’s

Shitty expat bar, though one I’ll mention one separately, as it is a slightly different animal. Tiny and unique in decoration, clearly emblematic of the work of one or several totally spacially incapable men, not of a team of interior designers which attempted to bring the ubiquitous King’s Heads and Queen’s Heads of West London to West Moscow as was obviously the case above. Slightly cheaper Guinness, but with shamrock this time. Irish pub theme destroyed immediately after I entered with my Irish styled hat to be greeted by a hammered guy name Steve who turned out to be the owner, and when I told him my name was Myles Garvey, I was given free Kilkenny’s for the night. At least you knew the place was owned and operated by Westerners making a Western experience for its own sake, not by Russian oligarchs who live in Monaco and put up the money for the fake exports listed above. I suppose that makes this the better option, but if I lived in Southie maybe I’d spend my time at O’Leary’s.

Everyone speaks English, or is English. The men are fat Western accountants. The women are the most boring expats you’ll meet in Moscow, mostly English teachers at the big language factories like BKC. I was closest to an Irish person they had, and could produce a better accent than anyone. Was so bored, I ended up staring blankly at a 9’ inch rebroadcast of some WWF match on Sky Sports.

Orders:
Enemy of the Revolution, Second Class
Cultural Stamp for the Importation of Necessary Foreign Material as Required to Develop Support of Socialism in One Country
Putin Medal of Slightly Less Egregious Failure to Properly Mimic Western Cultural and Business Practices

Doug & Marty’s Boar House

How many Manchester United fans could there possibly be in Moscow? Went here to meet a British guy for dinner, and though the food was good an cheap as dirt, there would be no other reason to return. It is a legend among former Communist bloc expats, which is precisely what loses my interest. Two kinds of people come here – newly minted expats who are completely lost and afraid of Moscow, and dirty old expats who are completely lost and afraid that they can never go home. Well, three kinds, there’s also prostitutes praying on both groups. Has a roulette table, blackjack table and a few slots, just to confuse you. Might have been saved by the wall-mural of the Blues Brothers, were it not for the fact that there were three of them and the third guy was not Cab Calloway, nor anyone else I could recognize. Has that sort of Harper’s Ferry barnyard feel, but still manages to be 85 degrees inside when its -37 outside. Guinness is cheap, so cheap I fear for its quality. You’ll see a waitress approximately once ever 1.6 hours. Drunken women may smash ketchup bottles for use as weapons.

Orders:
Enemy of the Revolution, Third Class
Emblem of Appreciation for the Preservation of Logical Decision-making when faced with the Course of One’s Possible Future in Russia

Kult

Young, hip, and cultured, without the intelligencia pretensions. First time I ever saw Moscovites break dancing to Run-DMC. Some of them can, most of them can’t, but as any true Russian, they will try. No tension whatsoever – people seem to come with friends and leave with them. The best 11-2am place in town, with superior music and a comfortable atmosphere. Bartendresses will take your drink order, then forget, but at least they’ll feel a little bad about it.

Orders:
Gorbachev-Reagan Star of Cultural Exchange and Friendship
Sholzhenitzen Prize of Underground Rebellion Against the Established Norms

Project OGI

I’m thinking The Fore Street Pub in Portland, Maine, but that’s just because I’ve never been out in Brattleboro, Vermont. But, its not all bad. Everyone genuinely cool despite their smell and the smell of the place in general. Dirt cheap. Music somewhere between interesting [50-year old tiny African front-man in a purple bowtie of an indie/rock/samba outfit of grungy looking Russian hippies] and abominable [femiNazi band which can’t find the C chord during the chorus, let alone start on the same beat, though I suppose some I know might have found that display sexy]. Has an attached expository book store. Open 24 hours. I don’t know what OGI stands for, but I assume its retarded.

Orders:
Medallion of Brotherhood with the Quasi-Revolutionaries of the American Continent
Chairman Leonid Brezhenev’s “I Would Never Go Here” Award

Fabrique

Once elitny, now democratic [I should note if I didn’t previously, that ‘democratic’ in the Moscow sense means that they let in anyone who shows up until the place is full, as opposed to the rather omnipresent ‘face control’ policy which will turn away anyone and everyone for either good reasons (hockey fans or mungy backpackers to lazy to clean themselves up) or none at all, but just to prove that they have some power and authority within their miserable, pointless existences], club complex along the Moscow River. Has a fine gloss of class, with lounging areas as uncomfortable and queerly lit as one would expect in the finest spots in Ibiza, matched with a prison-style dance pit as only the Russian mind can fabricate. Come at the behest of aristocratic Western assholes who are interested in your female friend and let them buy you drinks to buy your approval, even when its not at all necessary. DJs were of fine quality, as they all had Spanish names, you could entertain guesses why. Bathrooms hosted an off version of black-marble squatty potties on small throne-like podiums, which might have been the most entertaining aspect of the place.

Orders:
Shield of Comeradeship for Securing Socialistic Access in a Hostile Capitalistic World
Red Star of Friendship with Foreign Social-Economic Communities

More entries, and madness, inevitably, to come…

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Elevator

I came home from a long day of work and class yesterday, arms laden with 6 liter jugs of grainy Siberian bottled water, and entered the single working elevator of the two on the first floor, to be confronted with the sight of a dead pidgeon on the floor. It was almost a welcome reprive from the usual odor of human urine which has not subsided despite the attempt to ‘refurbish’ the elevator made last month, which amounted to some guys nailing new laminaton down on top of the old, putrid laminaton without removing it, which didn’t so much remove its smell as assure that it would have a certain time-release quality. So I was faced with the choice of sharing the lift with the spirit of a dead pidgeon, or dragging 12 liters of dirty drinking water up 9 flights of stairs.

I chose the pidgeon.

The next morning I decided to avoid my feathered friend by taking the stairs down. Between the 6th and 5th floors, I found a guy wrapped up in a fatigue jacket, sleeping on the stairs. He may have been dead. He had certainly been there for a while.

Perhaps he didn’t want to mingle with the spirit of the pidgeon, decided to take the stairs, then passed out drunk half way up.

Both the dead were removed by the afternoon. Good to know the local ambulence can find your building.

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Ambulances

At least once a day I see an ambulance rambling through the narrow alleyways around the seventeen fourteen-storey apartment buildings on my 1.5 square kilometer block. They drive at about 15 miles per hour, looking around corners and trying to read the signs on the corners of the buildings which indicate their address. (There is only a sign on one of the many corners of a building, no matter what its size or orientation.) They all have lights, but I’ve never seen an ambulence with the lights on, under any circumstances. My two mental images of ambulences are of them stopped and looking at a map or parked while one of the drivers walks around asking for directions from a local. When they pick someone up, they take their time driving them to a hospital – I’ve never seen an ambulence driving faster than traffic. If youre having a heart attack, you might as well struggle onto a trolley bus, or just die.

Which is pretty much the attitude around here in general. There is no handicap access anywhere. I lived here for two months before I as much as saw a single wheelchair bound person. In the past week I’ve seen three, all of them have been on Metro station platforms. I have no idea how they got there, since the only way down is via a 1000 foot escalator followed by steep stairways decending to either side of a platform. Its as if they live down there, or else simply appeared there spontaneously.

I saw a fellow today with no legs, wearing army fatigues and rolling around on a 4-wheel cart, using thick hand brushes to propel himself across the floor of the subway car. He was clearly a Chechen War vet. [This was not because of the army vest - nearly all lower-class men between the ages of 18 and 50 wear army fatigues on a regular basis, since universal conscription [some university students - and the rich of course - do not have serve their 2 years] still exists and nearly all of those men have served in the army in one capacity or another. The fatigues, then, amount to free warm clothes, an invaluable good since the army essentially does not pay conscripts for their service.] You could tell because of the attitude of the older male passengers, putting a few kopeks in his vest pocket as he passed. He didn’t ask for anything, but would look up at those who gave him something and say a kind word. His eyes were hollow. There was nothing left of him.

I guess the handicapped are just expected to die. I wonder sometimes if there is some big soviet handicapped city somewhere that the buildings are all one floor instead of 14 and there are ramps to the entrances. [To clarify, there are 'ramps' on some stairways, which are actually metal runners for wheels to fit in that are built at the edges of many subway ramps. Of course, they are usually only on one of several staircases that one must traverse to enter any location, and amount therefore to dead ends. This is besides the fact that they are often at 45 degree angles, without inturruption or hand rails. They end up being used by mothers with baby carriages, though only to stop my heart from beating as I watch them struggle as the carriage gets caught on a rusty bolt, tipping it forward while the kid dangles over the safety bar and inches from imminent doom.] Its a daily occurance to see people who should be in wheelchairs limping around with canes in the floods of people on a crosswalk or in a subway. They must simply struggle along with those canes until the day when they can’t possibly go on, they fall an break their hip; leaving them with no choice but to spend the rest of their life in their apartment until they die.

Unless, of course, they die right there, while the ambulence tries to figure out which alley will take them to House #12, Building 7A.

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Potatoes

Its been a while. General updates:

My pregnancy was miscarried or aborted or bypassed or whathave you after about 2.5 weeks of near deathedness. After first going to the Pharmacy for some over the counter hard core perscription strength medicine, I found that the Ukrainian colleague who had gone with me to converse with the chemist had procured meds for treatment of liver disease.

I do not have liver disease. Lesson learned: Ukrainian and Russian are just different enough.

I then decided to take the learned advice of a few babushkas from the canteen at work. They gave me some little black pills that are ubiquitous here for the treatment of temperate stomachs. Theyre actually coal. We have pink stuff, they have coal. They also recommended a secret curative diet for clearing out infections in the gut: mashed potatoes and black tea.

So I ate mashed potatoes.

Every meal.

For four four days.

And now I feel like a millionaire.

In fact, the daily ailments have subsided entirely, apparently I’ve been acclimatized to the air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, nose pollution (Slavic male endorphens), lack of fiber in diets, absence of potable water, bread which may or may not have been mixed in some Armenian’s basement, watermelons which may or may not have been sitting in that cage beside the road since April, lack of toilet seats, shared silverware and flatware, and the fact that everyone else here swares that they suffer from some some sort of head cold from October 3 until some time in May.

Potatoes are the secret. I’m like an Russo-Irish popeye. Without an ocean.

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Babushka’s Basement Vodka

Misha, Tatiana, Some Girl, Some Dude, Evgenni, Fyodor.

I know there was only six of them, but I still managed to forget two of their names. To be fair, I was only given them once, and not even in formal introductions – Misha kind of just showed up with me as if I were his “Show and Tell” object for the day, which technically I was. The entourage included Misha (with headlight), Fyodor (the Russian Dutchman), Evgenni and his girlfriend Tatiana (47% of all women between the ages of 20 and 55 are named Tatiana. At least thus far in my research.), along with some other guy who’s name I can’t remember along with his girlfriend whose name I also couldn’t remember. They were all extremely welcoming and friendly. I was quite touched that I would be invited to join this small group of friends to celebrate a somewhat important event for a guy I had only met once before. Apparently it is the Russian way, and I’m glad that this cultural rumor turned out to be true.

Follow your moonshine shot with an immediate bite of shish, and this crooked look will be your only suffering.

Russian birthdays are a big deal. We drank homemade vodka that Fyodor’s grandmother made in her basement. Fyodor brought it in a plastic water bottle, and we had to water it down before drinking it to assure our esophaguses wouldn’t melt. The meal included chips, cuts of a pepperoni type sausage, cucumbers and tomatoes sliced, a ‘salad’ made by Fyodor’s mother (which consisted primarily of beets, carrots, celery, raw fish and mayonnaise), and shish kabobs piled with onions and smothered in, to no surprise of mine (anymore), cilantro! As it turns out, its one of the more prevalent herbs in Russian cooking, which has been a welcome shock to my Tex-Mex sensibilities. I thought I would never see it again, that last time at Boca Grande in Coolidge Corner. Here they serve it in Chicken Soup. I figured with a name like cilantro! it had to be the kind of thing that only grows in Mexico and the Spanish Mediterranean Coast. I love cilantro! I feel like it should be written in italics and an exclamation point every time its written. Its even fun to say: cilantro! cilantro!


Misha always gets in the pictures before Evgenni, as you can see.


So we ate and drank and ate. We ate so much that we couldn’t tell we were drinking. The guy who’s name I can’t remember (Lyosha) opened the trunk of his ’03 Russian Lada (think ’83 Honda Civic) and played some Euro-pop-house-dance garbage. And there was much rejoicing.


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