MOSCOW, October 16, 2006 -- Starbucks, the hot coffee that has become the symbol of American cool – or one of them – is coming to Moscow!
In fact, it’s rumored to be targeted for a spot on Tverskaya Street, Moscow’s main drag, not far from my apartment. I will again be able to drop in at Starbucks as I once did at their Broadway outlet in Seattle.
Russia – once the tea empire – has indeed become much more receptive to coffee in the capitalist era of the last two decades. Some of my students actually prefer coffee, and Vanya is as much of a coffee addict as I was when I could still drink it. There’s even a “Kofe Haus” chain here.
But Russia still may not be receptive enough, say the experts.
As one investment firm analyst observed, despite the “Kofe Haus” presence, “there is no coffee shop culture here.” Russians don’t go out for “a cuppa,” they go out for food and wash it down with coffee.
One advantage Starbucks may have is that, since they are a double-decaf-cappuccino-to-go” kind of “restaurant,” they won’t have the sit-down trade and can rent a much smaller shop and avoid the high rents of Moscow.
But there’s even a big problem there, the analysts say. Moscow may be a little too cool for the cool Starbucks!
Who’s going to want to down their lattes in cardboard cups while running to the metro in -30 degree weather?
It’s not -30, but it did drop to below freezing over the weekend, and the growls of an early winter are persistent. Most of the yellow leaves have by now filled up the grounds-keepers plastic bags and my courtyard is turning quite bare again.
In fact, the possibility of snow was actually forecast for Saturday night. It didn’t happen, as usual with Russian weather forecasts, but a few lonely flakes floated down on Monday and it was quite cold. Zhorik said they had their first snow in Siberia on Sept. 26th!
I will soon have to buy new winter boots to replace the ones the road-clearing chemicals ate up last year.
I’ve successfully defended my chump champ title (Chapt. 221) against all challengers. Maxim did indeed use the money to come to Moscow, but not to me. I still have never seen him.
I began to smell the coffee – not Starbucks -- when he didn’t immediately respond to my SMS’s to him aboard the Moscow-bound train about what to do after he arrived at the Kazanski train station here at 5 a.m.
Then, suddenly: “Honey, I want you to buy me a classy shirt in some store in Moscow” flashed across my cell phone screen. “Will you buy it for me?”
“We’ll see,” I said. “How much will it cost?”
He replied: “I want you to buy me a nice shirt, a pair of jeans, and a couple of T-shirts. It’ll be about $ 140.”
“We’ll talk about it after you get here.”
“Honey, I want you to buy it for me, please.” Then: “Can you let my friend stay with me at your house tonight? He’s straight. I told him you’re a friend of my father’s. And on the following night, we will make lots of love. I can come to you in the evening. You aren’t offended are you, dear?”
I asked him to clarify about his friend.
“I will come to you with my friend in the evening, and we will go to a store and buy me a shirt and some jeans. On the following night, I promise you oceans of love.”
“You don’t know anything about my apartment,” I replied. “Where is your friend going to sleep – with me? With you? With my apartment mate? On the floor?”
“Wait a minute, Dane, you can’t handle it? I’m offended. You mean I can’t come spend the night tonight with my friend?”
“We haven’t even met each other, we haven’t even talked about our relationship. I want to first meet with you and talk about our relationship, and then we’ll talk about your friend and buying you a shirt.”
The next SMS informed me that they had found a place to spend the night that night. “Give me the money, and I’ll buy the shirt myself.”
“You can buy the shirt Thursday after we have met and talked. I’m going to bed now and turning off my mobile phone. Good night.”
The next day he SMS’d me to put some money on his phone. I had already put 500 rubles over the last two days. “I’ll put 100 rubles (about $ 3.50) on your phone. But that’s the last money until we’ve met and talked about our relationship.”
The next day I SMS’d him: “Are you coming to my apartment tonight?”
He wrote back, “Dear I’m out of money on my mobile phone. Could you put some more money on it?”
“Are you coming to my apartment tonight or not?”
“Put some money on the phone and I will call you.”
“SMS me yes or no.”
I haven’t heard from him since.
So I’m out 100 bucksi. But I shudder to think how much more I could have splashed on him while he was “dearing” and “honeying” me. At least it wasn’t the $ 300 I threw away on Alex or the $ 20,000 I threw away on the twins or the apartment I threw away on Tioufline.
Maybe I’ve learned something in nine years.
But maybe not! At 2:30 a.m. Saturday my mobile phone rang: “Dane, this is Denis. I’m in Moscow. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Denis: the big strapping lad with the big cock, a friend of Sergei’s who lived with us for several months before exiting back to his home in Moldava in June of 2005 (Chapt. 137). In the meantime, I’ve found out that he had had his slut girlfriend Nastya steal 700 rubles out of student Masha’s purse (Chapt. 136). I also discovered that he had been sniffing glue with the twins. But we had been good friends and had a lot of good sex, so I wasn’t unreceptive to his call.
He finally re-contacted me Saturday evening, and I invited him to my apartment, thinking we’d have another round in the hay for old time’s sake. But when he arrived, I heard two voices coming up the stairs. It turned out to be his 18-year-old brother, Vanya.
I told Denis about Sergei’s theft and that I hadn’t seen the twins for eight months and didn’t want to see them.
Denis and Vanya had arrived in Moscow to do construction work. They had already signed a contract, they said. They would live with his father or an aunt. “You can’t live here,” I explained. “After all the problems and the drug sniffing with Sergei, the landlady told me nobody could live here but me.”
Vanya was a handsome lad (see photo), and rather shy. It was his first trip to Moscow, the Land of Oz for all young bucks in the provinces.
“Vanya doesn’t know about us” Dennis stressed confidentially, which was hardly a surprise. But the point he was making was obvious: Don’t give him any clues.
“Of course, honey,” I reassured him.
My promise – to him and myself – was not a very sturdy one. Denis suggested we all three sleep in my bed, as Sergei, Denis and I used to. So I stripped to my shorts and “Sleepless in Seattle” night shirt and lay down between them on top of the bed to watch a VCR.
They both lay down fully clothed, but before long Vanya announced he was going to take a shower. He came back half an hour later in nothing but his G-string shorts and resumed his spot on my left. Before long Denis told us good night and passed out.
A few minutes later, Vanya turned off the TV and lay back down beside me. By this time I was cold and had crawled underneath the heavy bed spread. Vanya said he wasn’t cold, then turned his back to me and pushed his nearly naked body up against my blanket shroud. I turned my face to his back and slipped my arm around him and hugged him. He didn’t move. I moved my hand slowly over his chest and stomach, and finally let it slide over his crotch to the inside of his thighs. I could hear his heart pounding. But he didn’t have a screaming hard-on, as I had hoped.
A few seconds later, he crawled out of bed. Oh-oh, I thought to myself. I’ve gone too far! But he was back a few minutes later with the smell of fresh cigarette smoke.
He lay down on his side, but very quickly rolled to his back. I put my hand on his chest and stomach, and gently massaged them, gradually working my hand down to his shorts. I toyed with the pubic hair above his shorts and then began stroking his crotch. His dick was semi by this time, so I continued playing and stroking as it got harder and harder.
Finally, I let my thumb slip underneath his shorts and felt his cock, rather hard by this time, but still fully sheathed by the foreskin. I grasped the full rod and squeezed. It was by now fully erect, and I pushed the top of his shorts down and pointed his stiff boner straight upward toward the ceiling.
I continued playing, and then made my move. I let my lips slide over his by-now exposed head several times until I detected the first hint of pre-orgasmic juices. So I shifted my body so that I could slip his whole shaft down my throat. The full taste of pre-cum was there. But just then Denis moved and made a waking sound, so I gave up the quest and Vanya rolled over on his stomach.
My own dick was pouring pre-cum, but there was nothing I could do. The excursion was ended.
Vanya has a nice cock and a nice body. A lot of hair on his upper inner thighs, but not as much as Zhorik; no hair on his stomach and chest, and only a little pubic hair. His dick isn’t as big as his older brother’s – which I was able to verify on Sunday night when I worked Denis’s by-now 21-year-old cock into throbbing tumescence, but it’s big enough. I would love to suck him to orgasm, but I think the opportunity will never arise again.
On Sunday, our relationship seemed normal – cordial but a little distant – no different from Saturday night. And as the day wore on, he seemed quite friendly and unfazed by our private adventure. So whatever his thoughts about it, he doesn’t appear to be traumatized.
When Nizhny Novgorod Vanya came home at 6:30 after a night with one of his Facelink conquests, he was really angry that I had let them stay.
He was drunk, but not comatose. He protested that they were bums, were hoodwinking me, would be wanting to stay here forever, and predicted that I would let them, since -- contrary to my assertion -- I haven’t learned anything in the last nine years. I am still a naïve fool.
He even threatened to tell them to leave himself unless I ordered them out immediately. I simply reassured him that they would only be staying a day or two, and told him that any ordering would be done by me, not by him.
“If they’re not out in a day or two, I’ll leave myself,” he threatened.
I doubt it, but in any case, I reminded Denis that they absolutely couldn’t stay more than a day or two. He offered to leave Sunday if I wanted, but I told him they wouldn’t need to till Monday, and we finally agreed on Tuesday morning.
Zhorik called Sunday morning, and both Denis and I talked to him. I had finally received his letter the Thursday before. He didn’t flatly deny my accusations, but implied that he had indeed given the money to the recruiting office and that they had in turn lied to him by promising him they would send him to the Moscow area. Instead, two days later, he had orders for Siberia.
He seems to have adjusted to his situation, although “It’s like being in prison.” He asked me to send him another box of goodies, this time to include an English textbook, a notebook, pens, envelopes, throw-away razors and shaving cream, along with the usual candy and cigarettes.
I’ll try to do it Tuesday, the first relatively free day I will have, although that won’t be all that free because I finally reached the Russian doctor recommended by friends of Hong Kong Harry’s, and have an appointment with her at 11 a.m. Tuesday. She will update my tests, diagnosis, and treatment.
Twin Andrei called Sunday wanting Zhorik’s phone number. He said they were driving to Habarovsk, where Zhorik is stationed, in two weeks to see him. But that may not happen, since Zhorik’s expecting any day to be sent on his new assignment and may not be there.
One amusing development is that, after seeing my name on an SMS or a package, his barracks pals have started calling Zhorik “Dane.” “So we’re now namesakes,” he told me.
And what did I find on facelink Monday morning but a provocative “hello” from 20-year-old Dirk, whose profile tells very little bit about him, but whose photo (see below) is enough to force me to defend my chump title once more.
Who knows what a day may bring forth? Last week there was 17-year-old Peter, with whom things were progressing very nicely, and we were scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Sunday for sex, when he suddenly announced that he “had a little problem.” His shoes were bad, and could I buy him a pair of “grinders” for 75 to 100 bucksi.
So I wonder what Dirk’s urgent “little problem” is going to be? I’ll bet I find out.
A surprise "hello" from 20-year-old Dirk renews my interest in Facelink. Wonder what his "little problem" will turn out to be.
In the meantime, I do have a new fantasy: In my new Inst. of Diplomacy advanced English class is an 18-year-old third-year university student – another Vanya – who tall, skinny, very sweet, very intelligent, and even mentioned the “gay” word in class when he was talking about a book he had read by Tennessee Williams!
He lives not far from me and we have agreed that on Thursdays, which are relatively free for me and completely free for him, we will find time to get together and practice his English. And who knows what that might lead to?
The Sakhalin and Shtokman oil and gas deals have dominated Russian news in the Western media for the last couple of weeks. For most of us – even for Russians – they’re just names in the news, but what do they mean? What is their significance?
A brilliant assessment by F. William Engdahl, Contributing Editor to “Global Research” and author of the book, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, describes them as an integral part of “the highest stakes battle in world politics today.”
They’re part of Putin’s strategic end-game against “the complete de-construction of Russia” being engineered by the “Cheney White House,” Engdahl reports. And it’s a game Putin is winning, largely because of the “strategic follies and major political blunders” by the obsessed cretin Bushwhacker and his White House neocons.
“The complete de-construction of Russia,” not just the oil fields of the Mid-East, is the ultimate goal of the neocon strategy, Engdahl says, because Russia is “the one state in Eurasia capable of organizing an effective combination of alliances” -- using its “vast oil and gas resources” -- to combat America’s goal of world domination.
The oil resources of Iraq and Iran are merely the first steps. Defanging Russia as a competing world power is the Bush White House’s real goal.
Putin’s wake-up call came, according to Engdahl, with the “US-sponsored ‘color revolutions’ in Georgia and…Ukraine,” which represented a major set-back for Russia and has prompted Russia – Putin – to "play its strategic energy cards extremely carefully.”
The strategy of the White House, which Engdahl predicts will be dubbed “the Cheney White House” by historians, has been to use the Big Four US or US-tied private oil giants -- ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell -- to gain complete control over all the world’s energy resources.
An integral part of this goal is simultaneously seeking “total military primacy” over Russia “the one potential threat to global ambitions.”
While this aim of encircling, emasculating, and if necessary conquering Russia has been carefully shielded from the domestic U.S. audience, Russian intelligence services – and of course Putin – are well aware of it, and much of what Putin has done in the last three-four years, both in the energy and political arenas, Engdahl contends, has been part of an overall strategy aimed at thwarting it.
Engdahl identifies the Khodorkovsky arrest and trial as marking a major milestone in this strategy. Khodorkovsky was seriously negotiating the sale of 25-40% of his Yukos Oil Co. to U.S. stooge companies MobileExxon and ChevronTexaco, which would have taken these resources out of Russia’s direct control and put them in America’s.
Another factor cited by Engdahl in neutralizing Khodorkovsky was that a “decisive” Russian Duma election was scheduled just a month after Khodorkovsky’s arrest at a Siberian airport, in which Khodorkovsky had been using his “vast wealth…to buy the votes of a majority in the Duma.” Control of the Duma was to be the first step in his plan to run against Putin the following year.
A Duma victory “would have allowed him to change election laws in his favor,” as well as to alter a Duma law then being drafted that “would prevent Yukos and other private companies from gaining control of raw materials in the ground, or from developing private pipeline routes independent of the Russian state pipelines.”
Yukos had also just made a bid to buy rival Sibneft Oil Co. from exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky. The resulting oil giant, YukosSibneft, “with 19.5 billion barrels of oil and gas, would then own the second-largest oil and gas reserves in the world after ExxonMobil,” and would turn YukosSibneft into the world’s fourth largest oil producer. The Exxon or Chevron buy-up of YukosSibneft would have been a literal energy coup d’etat.
“Cheney knew it; Bush knew it; Khodorkovsky knew it,” Engdahl observes.
“Above all, Vladimir Putin knew it and moved decisively to block it” the only way possible: Removing Khodorkovsky from the scene, even if it took the full power of the Russian government using questionably legal means – which it did.
That event “signaled a decisive turn by the Putin government towards rebuilding Russia and erecting strategic defenses from the foreign onslaught (being) led by Cheney and friend Tony Blair in Britain.”
No more Mr. Nice Guy.
The Khodorkovsky drama also took place “in the context of (the) brazen US grab for Iraq in 2003 and of a unilateral Bush Administration announcement that the USA was abrogating its solemn treaty obligations with Russia under their earlier Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, in order to go ahead with development of US missile defenses, an act which could only be viewed in Moscow as a hostile act aimed at her security.”
By that time, “it took little strategic military prowess to realize that the Pentagon hawks and their allies in the military industry and Big Oil had a vision of a United States unfettered by international agreements and acting unilaterally in its own best interests….
“Putin began to make a series of defensive moves to restore some tenable form of equilibrium in face of the increasingly obvious Washington policy of encircling and weakening Russia,” Engdahl concludes.
“Subsequent US strategic blunders have made the job a bit easier for Russia. Now, with the stakes rising on both sides—NATO and Russia—Putin’s Russia has moved beyond simple defense to a new dynamic offensive, to secure a more viable geopolitical position, using its energy as the lever.”
Hence his flurry of meetings with non-U.S.-aligned world leaders, and even with some traditional U.S. pals, like Germany’s Angela Merkel, and the logic in removing Shtokman 1 and 2 oil, gas, and LNG projects from the world grab bag, and taking whatever steps deemed necessary – including trumped up violations of environmental regulations – to keep the rich Sakhalin fields from slipping from Russia’s full control into Western – particularly U.S. – hands.
Another move underway is the construction by Transneft, the Russian state-owned pipeline company, of the $ 11.5 billion East Siberia-Pacific Ocean Pipeline (ESPO) near Lake Baikal in East Siberia to Russia’s Pacific coast. It would pump some 1.6 million barrels/day from Siberia to the Russian Far East and from there to the Asian market -- mainly to China. Also in the planning stage is an oil refinery on the Amur River near the China border in Russia’s Far East to allow sale of refined oil to China and other Asian markets.
Putin is pointedly excluding the U.S. – not only from competition for development of the energy resources, but even from being able to buy Russian oil and gas. He promised German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week, for example, that Russia’s oil and gas would be diverted from the U.S. to Europe – particularly Germany.
Engdahl also notes the U.S. construction, through NATO, of a European Missile Defense System, whose “only conceivable target… would be Russia in the sense of enabling a US first strike success.
“Completion of the European missile defense system, the militarization of the entire Middle East, the encirclement of Russia and of China from a connected web of new US military bases -- many put up in the name of the War on Terror -- all now appear to the Kremlin as part of a deliberate US strategy of Full Spectrum Dominance…, the ability to win a war at any level of violence, including a nuclear war.”
So, concludes Engdahl, the current world headlines about Russia’s oil, gas, and nuclear projects are punctuation marks in Russia’s chronicle of building “new economic alliance partners across Eurasia in the coming showdown with the United States.”
And of course, Putin’s extraordinary reaction to Georgia’s arrest of four alleged Russian spies (Chapts. 220, 221) is a furious slap at America’s CIA, whom he sees as the guiding hand behind the insulting and embarrassing accusations.
This all sounds like a cold war spy thriller. But are Cheney and Bush and the rest of the neocons really that crazy? Judging by the insanity which has governed their power grabs so far, the answer would have to be yes.
So there is method behind Putin’s “vertical of power” madness. He’s sacrificing civil liberties, freedom of speech and press, and free elections, to achieve his national goal of preserving the state.
Precisely what Bush is doing.
I’m living in your future.