MOSCOW, January 9, 2008 -- The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain, just as it did for Liza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” half a century ago. In fact, we had lots of it in Ourense – nearly every day – accompanied by late-spring temperatures up to 17 degrees C – around 65 F.
So it was a rude awakening to return Monday morning (Jan. 7), which also happened to be Russian Christmas and Sergei’s and Zhorik’s father’s birthday, to Moscow’s bitter -22 C (about -10 F).
Sergei was overjoyed when he met my express train from Domodedovo Airport at Paveletskaya Metro Station. We spent the rest of the day chatting. He was effusively affectionate. With the new year, he reiterated (Chapt. 273, A happy ending – just in time for Christmas), he has turned over a new leaf. He said Tanya had called or SMS’d two or three times while I was gone. Each time he ignored her. In fact, he’s turned queer again and thinks the reason he preferred computer games to Tanya was the fact that she bored him.
He said when Andrei called from Stavropol, he told his twin brother that he didn’t want to talk to him any more. “I’m walking on a tightrope,” he told him. “I don’t want to talk to you, because if I listen to you and to your problems, and to your ideas, I will fall off.”
He is in an internal battle with his angels and his devils. And he is determined that his angels will win.
In fact, Andrei turned up at the front door of our apartment building when Sergei returned Tueday from meeting with some gay cutie he’d met on the Internet. Andrei wanted to stay “just for three days,” he said.
Sergei told him he couldn’t come in and they had a fistfight in front of the building. But Andrei didn’t come in, and Sergei’s angels are still on the winning side.
Sergei wanted to “gulyat” Monday evening, the versatile Russian word that is used for both “to go for a walk” and “to have a romance.” But first he wanted to have sex, so for the second time (Chapt. 273) since Andrei left, we had a roll in the hay. First he came, and then I prevented my own case of prostate cancer, spilling three weeks’ worth of unspent gism all over my stomach.
Then we “gulyatted” through Red Square and went to one of the immediately adjoining Russian Orthodox churches (it was Russian Christmas, after all),where he lit candles, he said, for his father and for me, so that we will be healthy and happy in the New Year. We also called his father, Valentin, to wish him a happy birthday.
Then we went to the nearby supermarket, bought wine and cloves, came home, and had mulled wine before we went to bed about 11 p.m.
He is happy. He has regained his sense of self worth and hope for the future. He is determined to make something of his life. We are at the moment living an idyllic existence.
He has purposely gained some weight, and his face is no longer gaunt and skeletal. He is trying to quit smoking. He is trying not to be angry and to practice patience. When he is angry at Missy, he no longer hits or kicks her. He is effusively affectionate with me and sincerely grateful.
I’m enjoying my life with him right now, but he of course won’t supplant Zhorik or Igor, and he knows that. But he loves me and appreciates me and is determined not to cause me any more problems.
In the meantime, I talked to Igor, who was still in Moldova. He said he would return immediately. The only question: When is “immediately”?
I talked to him again Tuesday evening and he will come home immediately – maybe tonight and maybe tomorrow. He and Sergei buried the hatchet over the phone. My life is about to be fulfilled again.
The most important development during my visit to Ivan and Spain – and the thing that made it all worthwhile -- was that he gave me an alternative life plan. If things don’t work out here – with Zhorik, with Igor, with Sergei, or with the Russian government – I will go to Ourense and teach there.
Rents there are half of what they are here. I could spend half of my $ 1,000 Bushified pension on rent, and still have enough to buy enough food to live on. Native speakers are in great demand there, he said, and I would have no problem finding teaching jobs at eight-to-nine euros an hour, which -- with my pension -- would be disposable income. The city is small enough that there would be no transportation costs – I could walk everywhere, as he does.
What clinched it is that he said it’s not hard to find young Spanish lovers there!
It all depends on what happens in the next year or so with Russia, with Zhorik, with Igor. But no longer do I feel trapped here and a prisoner of the choices I have made.
It turns out that Vanya is facing his own life crisis: He thinks he wants to be straight again, to get married, to have children, to be a normal part of a community – either in Spain or in Russia.
Madre de Dios! I thought he had put that ghost to bed when he divorced Victoria, the shrew he married for appearance’s sake five or six years ago.
While his Spanish boyfriend, Jorge, talked incessantly of their wedding plans and of what his parents Diego and Rosita would think of a gay marriage, Vanya was confiding to me that he was not going to go through with it.
“I want to try a different life style,” he said repeatedly; at one point adding, “If you have to hide it” as he would from his own Russian parents, “there must be something wrong with it.”
And he had met two Mormons, 22-year-old “Elder” Reese and 19-year-old “Elder” Evans, and they had resurrected the old shibboleth that “men should not lie with men,” at which I exploded in my usual fashion.
“The important thing is what you want,” I said.
“I think I want to try a new lifestyle, to live normally.”
“Would you stay in Spain if you do?” I asked.
So if I should opt to transfer my ex-patship to Spain, he would still be there to support me.
So in any case, I wouldn’t have to go back to Bush Country, which by that time would, I hope, have been transformed into Obamaland.
On the 5th of January Spain celebrates the "procession of the Magi," which gives kids a third chance -- After Christmas and New Year's -- to get more presents. Here three handsome young Roman Centurions from Ourense's elite crop take their place in the festive parade -- a massive bore unless you're one of the kids getting handfuls of candy as the Three Wise Men roll by.
Other things I did in Spain: Went back to Diego’s club and feasted once more on exotic and scrumptious eel and octopus; soaked my body again in the outdoor hot mineral springs; found a new supply of impossible-to-find-in-Russia licorice candy; brought back a new store of sweet sherry; bought a bottle of Pernod for one euro! and bought a beautiful Spanish leather coat (350 euros), a new Sony camera (200 euros), and a Spanish version of a Harris tweed jacket (100 euros).
But probably the nicest part about the trip was the warmth and cordiality with which I was again welcomed by Ivan’s “in-laws” – would-be hubby Jorge, his father and factory owner Diego, and mother and prominent linguistic scholar Rosita.
Rosita invited me to home-cooked dinner on Tuesday evening, and Diego not only took me to his club, but plied me with Spanish wines, and even gave me a gift box of three to bring back to Moscow, which I unfortunately had to leave behind because of the weight.
“Until next year,” he insisted as we parted. “Remember that you have friends and family here.” It was a hospitality Ivan said he had never seen them extend to anyone else. I can only marvel and be grateful for their friendship and comraderie, especially since they are a very wealthy and influential family.
I stuck my head in the door of Capri Bar long enough to determine that charming and personable little Sammy (Chapt. 231, Land of bagpipes and miracles) was still tending bar there, but didn’t find time to have a chat with him and get updated on his life. Apparently he didn’t go back to Rio as planned. Another reason to return to Ourense.
The effects of the world credit crunch brought on by America’s profligacy and greed-made-flesh in the sub-prime lending crisis, are already being felt in Spain.
On my visit a year ago, Diego was planning to build a new and more efficient factory. Twelve months and several loans later, the factory is essentially completed, but their financing plans are in shambles. The bank has rescinded on its promise of a consolidation loan.
“The money has dried up,” shrugged Jorge.
Their connections are solid enough that they will no doubt manage, but if they are having trouble with bank loans, I can only imagine what those with lower credit ratings and less solid political connections are experiencing. And the horror stories coming out of America are really scary.
Tuesday, the second day of my visit, the story coming out of America was uplifting and unbelievable! Obama, my choice from the beginning, had won the Democratic Iowa caucus! His message of “time to give the traditional values of my native land some mouth-to-mouth resuscitation” had won him the support of the Democratic Party in my native state, a land of conservative farmers.
I believe in miracles again.
Of course, as Jorge quickly pointed out, it’s still a long way to the nomination, as Hillary made evident the following Tuesday in New Hampshire.
But at least hope was born again.
Whoever wins the 2008 presidential election is going to face “one hell of a clusterfuck,” of economic collapse, global warming, and peak oil, warned End of Suburbia author James Kunstler in an end-of-year assessment.
Kunstler predicted this is the year the backed-up shit of America’s rampant consumerism and financial irresponsibility hits the blades of the peak oil fan.
“….My little walnut brain can't imagine any scenario in which the US economy doesn't end up on a gurney in history's emergency room,” Kunstler observed.
For starters, the “death spiral” of the current housing market represents “not just the low point in a regular cycle,” but rather “the end of the suburban phase of US history,” a cycle which will never be repeated.
“The whole point of the housing bubble was not really to put X-million people in so many vinyl and chipboard boxes,” he noted, “but rather to ramp up a suburban sprawl-building industry as a replacement for America's dwindling manufacturing economy,” a stratagem which has now run headlong into “the implacable force of Peak Oil.”
Peak Oil “not only puts the schnitz on America's whole Happy Motoring / suburban nexus, but implies a pervasive trend for contraction in everything from the daily distances we can travel to the the very core idea of regular economic growth per se -- at least in the way we have understood it through the age of industrial capital.”
The suburban housing collapse is being echoed on the commercial side as well, Kunstler notes, leaving the mortgage holders of the “’way too many strip malls, power centers, and office parks” around the country with handfuls of worthless paper.
“What happens out there on the housing market scene will certainly redound in banking and finance and whatever still constitutes the US economy generally….Nor does anyone really know how this is affecting the hedge funds, and their staggering leveraged positions in things that are looking more and more like quicksand. I can't imagine that quite a few major banks will not collapse in the first half of 2008.
“…The death of more than a few hedge funds could easily unwind the entire global finance system
“….The world has never really been in a situation like this before and it is impossible to say what it might lead to. But there is no doubt that the American public has enjoyed an artificially high standard of living in relation to the value of what we actually produce -- fried chicken, hair extensions, and the Flaver Flav Show, so the conclusion is pretty self-evident.”
Kunstler believes that 2008 will be the year that the Peak Oil issue “pushes global warming aside as the most immediate threat to the ‘modern’ way-of-life….A few new and crucial story-lines have emerged to allow us to understand what is happening out there on the world oil scene,” he adds.
Some say that crumbling economies in the poorest nations have reduced demand for oil sufficiently to keep the price stable in developed countries, but “it remains to be seen” whether a drop in demand for oil in the “wobbling US economy” as a result of the collapse of the building industry “will keep oil prices from jumping into the uncharted territory beyond $ 100-a-barrel.”
In any case, Kunstler now sees two other forces now at work:
”One is the growing oil export problem, soon to be a crisis. It now appears that exports, in nations with surplus oil to sell, are going down at an even steeper rate than production declines. Why?
”They are using more of their own oil. The population is growing robustly. The Saudi Arabians are building the world's largest aluminum smelter and many chemical factories. This takes a lot of oil.
“Russia, another big exporter, saw its car sales jump by 50
percent in 2007.
“Mexico is depleting so rapidly, and using so much more of its own oil, that it might be out of the export game altogether in three years, which “will be bad news for the US, since Mexico is tied with Saudi Arabia as America's number two leading source of oil imports. Remember, the US now imports close to three-quarters of all the oil we use.
”The second new factor on the Peak oil scene is ‘oil nationalism.’ It is prompting countries like Norway and Russia to husband more of their own resources as the awareness hits that they are peak and might want to keep their own motors humming further into the future.
“Oil surplus nations are also trending more toward selling their oil on the basis of long-term contracts with favored customers rather than just auctioning the stuff off on the futures market,” which “makes oil a much more important element in geopolitical power politics. Note that the US may not enjoy ‘favored customer’ standing among many of these nations.
Leading oil investment banker Matt Simmons “says that this supply problem will be extremely disruptive in every imaginable way -- economically, politically, and socially,” Kunstler continues. “Most of the commentators I take seriously see the price of oil oscillating in 2008 between $ 80 and $ 160-a-barrel. Simmons says Americans will keep sucking up the price increases, but they will probably freak out over spot shortages.”
How will all this affect the 2008 U.S. elections?
“I have no idea,” Kunstler says, but “the current batch of candidates will soon find their story-lines and pre-cooked messages out-of-date as the nation faces crises in finance and energy (at least),” and “the odds are that the US will have more rather than less trouble from the rest of the world in 2008-- especially if our own financial recklessness trips up the global economy.”
On the Democratic side, Kunstler doesn’t cotton to Hillary but would like to see both John Edwards and Barack Obama push on, while “the mere thought of a president Huckabee gives me the chilblains, and the rest of the Republican pack I would not want to have as my county supervisor.
“In any case, whoever ends up in the oval office will preside over one king-hell of a clusterfuck.”
His final comment: “….There is no fucking way that the DOW, the NASDAQ, and the S & P will not end the year 2008 absolutely on their asses. The charade of permanent prosperity based on getting something for nothing is over.
“That sound you hear out there is reality knocking on the door. It has been standing out in the cold for a long time and it is not happy with us.”
This could be an especially unlucky year for me, according to the Sochi fortune teller I went to with ex-lover Misha in the spring of 1999 (Chapt. 16, Black Sea Cassandra Adds to Trinity).
She told me I had 9 years left to live, which would put my demise sometime during the next 12 months.
I might be a bit concerned if it weren’t for her other consistently bad guesses. She said I had a heretofore unknown 19-year-old daughter who would soon turn up in my life. But I hadn’t “spilled my seed” in a vagina at that point for nearly 30 years. My immaculate conception has yet to appear.
She also predicted that I wouldn’t stay in Russia and that the irretrievably gay Misha would get married and have three children. She also said my mother would appear in a dream and that I must do what she told me.
So with her close-to-zero batting average, I’m not terribly concerned about seeing the turn of the year 2009 a year from now.
If I don’t, it’ll be the only thing she was right about.
And what has been happening in Russia during my week in absentia? Nothing, Basil assures me.
Actually, nothing ever happens in Russia for the first ten days of the year. The country takes a mandated holiday. Nothing gets done. Nobody works. Everybody goes to their dacha, skiing in the mountains, or on a 10-day binge with a massive hangover.
And the Moscow Times doesn’t publish. So even if something happened, it didn’t get covered, and if it didn’t get covered, it might as well not have happened.
In any case, I’m assured that you and I didn’t miss anything while I was in Spain.
See also related pages:
Chapt. #276 - Putin succession battle brings uncertainty to Russia too
Chapt. #274 - New Year’s: Spain for me, Skids for U.S.?
Chapt. #231 - Galicia: Land of bagpipes and miracles
This day years ago:
2005-1-9: Chapt. #100 - Back from the Boonies With a New Dream