Somewhere in northern Spain, August 5, 2012 -- On Tuesday, July 10, just 4 days after my 79th birthday, one day after Ivan left to return to Moscow, and 10 days before Sasha was due to arrive, I embarked on my every-90-day odyssey to renew my Spanish visa.
Morocco was the only country under consideration. After my disastrous Moldovan jaunt last summer, Moldova was not even in the running. So it was definitely Morocco; but this time instead of a plane trip to Marakesh, it would be a bus ride to Casablanca, city of mystery and intrigue that I had wanted to visit ever since I saw the Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall movie in the early 40s.
It would be about $ 250 cheaper, a major consideration; and it sounded simple: A bus ride to the city of Casablanca on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, a mere 14 km (about 10 miles) from the Spanish coast. Would we all sit on the bus while it ferried across from Algeciras, Spain? Or would we ride the ferry while the bus remained hidden below the deck? Or would the bus go on the ferry at all, and would a bus on the Morocco side pick us up to take us on to Casablanca?
I left my small northern city at 12:15, just after noon on Tuesday, and arrived in Madrid about 7 hours later. There I discovered a "cyber," or Internet café without the café, where I checked my e-mail and answered one from Sasha saying "thank you," which meant that he had met and received the 100 euros from Ivan. "I'm mindlessly glad that we will see each other in less than two weeks," I wrote.
At about 9 p.m. there was a notice on the departures board in the bus station that the bus for Casablanca was in place. I went to the bus loading zone, but could find no bus for Casablanca. There was, however, a crowd of dark-skinned people to the side in about the same place I had boarded the bus for Bucharest and Moldova last year; went there, where a woman told me that this was not the bus for Casablanca.
Found a guard and asked him. "Yes, that's the bus," he insisted. So I went back to my spot and waited for the crowd of people to start boarding. When I told the woman who had first told me this was not the bus, that this was indeed the bus, she promised to save me a seat if she boarded first.
She did, and when I finally got on the bus she had saved me a seat behind her. It was only then that I discovered that she had a beautiful 15-year-old son named Naoufal who spoke surprisingly good English that he had learned in school. He was very helpful, friendly, and talkative.
I think I was the only non-Muslim on the bus. Many women had 1, 2, or 3 children. It was the Muslim practice, I discovered, to have as many children as possible. I met Muslim boys who had six brothers and sisters, and one who had 10! Birth control not only is not practiced, but is actually anti-Muslim, I learned.
All for the love of Allah!
When the bus pulled out of the Madrid station about 10:30 that night, I thought, "aha! Now I'll sleep."
Wrong again. Between crying children, mothers talking on their mobiles, some dude sitting right behind me who played loud Muslim music on his radio all night long, and rest stops every three hours, I got very little sleep.
It was about 10 hours after we had left Madrid that we pulled into the loading dock at Algeciras at 8:30 a.m. Since I understood not a word of French or Arabic, which the Moroccans all speak - nor for that matter, the rapid local dialects of Spanish - I followed Naoufal and the rest of the crowd to the loading area, then along a long dock to the waiting ferry. It turned out that the buses would ride below and pick us up at Tangiers on the other side of the Mediterranean to take us to Casablanca.
Once aboard the ship, I discovered that our passports would be stamped while we traveled. Since there were only two passport officials and hundreds of passengers, it was a madhouse. I finally got mine stamped, and in the process was greeted by an adorable 14- or 15-year old Moroccan named Abdel. We struck up an animated conversation which continued until we finally docked at Tangiers. He invited me to his home in nearby Fez, which was of course, an impossibility for me.
He passed me on to 20-year-old Mohammed, a handsome lad who had actually boarded the bus at Malaga, on the Spanish side. He was a university student returning from vacation and spoke rather good English as well as Spanish and German. We were seatmates all the way to Casablanca, where we parted after he directed me to the taxi stand.
I would catch the return bus on Saturday morning at this spot, he told me.
When I caught a taxi to my hotel, it was quite a distance from the bus/train station. Casablanca, it turns out, is rather large, with a population of five to seven million, and few high rises, so it is spread out more than Moscow. The receptionist at my hotel was young, handsome, and cordial. He also spoke rather good English in addition to the usual Moroccan Arabic and French.
I went immediately across the street to the "cyber," where I got on Skype as pre-arranged with my Moscow student, another Sasha, who was taking the TOEFL (Teaching of English as a Foreign Language) test July 22 in preparation for enrolling as an MBA (Master's of Business Administration) student later in the year.
After an hour's conversation with Sasha, I went back to the hotel room - home sweet home, I thought, for the next three days. I unloaded all my travel and hotel documents, put a French dictionary in my shoulder bag, and headed out. I'll remember how to find it, I told myself. It never occurred to me to pick up a card from the stack on the counter identifying the hotel and listing its address.
I first went up to the corner and discovered a street vendor selling snails - the gastronomic delicacy I hadn't had since I visited Paris as a singing college student almost 60 years ago! But instead of the savory garlic sauce a la Paris, these were simply boiled; but still delicious. Then I wandered some more and bought some Dove shampoo, since I had noticed there was no shampoo in my hotel room.
Then I walked a little more before deciding at about 9 p.m. that it was probably time to go "home." So I started walking and looking for my hotel, which was - on what street? - and was named the - what? Esmulda Standart? Esmula Standart? Oh, fuck, I didn't remember the name of the hotel or the street name. I wandered and asked, first this person, then that; then this hotel receptionist, then that. Nobody recognized the name.
I went to the Hotel Washington, which I had seen that afternoon and which I knew was not far from my hotel. No, he didn't know any Hotel Esmulda.
I hailed a taxi, and he took me to the police station. They had never heard of the hotel either. So the taxi driver took me back to where I had first hired him, and I began walking again. I came across another hotel, with two young men/boys sitting in front. I asked them. No, they had never heard of the hotel either. By this time it was midnight, and I had to sleep. They suggested the nearby Hotel Triumf and accompanied me there.
One of them, Abdel, was a little old for me - around 30 - but he was extremely empathetic, tall and blond, and spoke surprisingly good English, which he said he had taught himself. While at the Hotel Triumf, I discovered that they, too, have Yellow Pages. The extra night cost me 18 euros - not bad for a really stupid error.
Abdel and I agreed that I would meet him the next day at the Hotel Rialto, where he worked as a receptionist.
When I awoke the next morning, a Thursday, I first looked at the Yellow Pages. There was only one second-rate hotel whose name began with an "e": Hotel Ennasma at 71 Rue el Wahda, off of Rue Janvier. Could this be it?
I went out and walked some more, but the more I walked, the less familiar anything looked. Finally, about 8 a.m., I caught a cab to take me to what might be my hotel. The closer we got, the more familiar everything looked.
When we finally arrived, I saw the handsome young receptionist on the street.
Yes! We were there! :-)
We were less than a block and a half from where the night before, the receptionist at the Hotel Washington told me he had never heard of the hotel. But I was asking about the Hotel Esmulda, not the Hotel Ennasma. Even so, the son-of-a-bitch had never offered the Yellow Pages!
Now to pay for my taxi. One hundred derhams - 10 euros -- the taxi driver said. I didn't have 100 derhams. I took the euros I had, including a 50-euro note; he grabbed it and gave me 100 derhams in change. It was only later I realized he had stiffed me for more than 40 euros - about $ 50! Oh, well, the stupidity tax again!
I explained to the hotel receptionist what had happened: I had lost my hotel! Why didn't you take one of the cards, he asked. The stupidity tax: live and learn; never again; you name it, I said it.
By this time I was starving. Fortunately, my hotel charge included breakfast. I quickly shuffled to the dining room on the terrace, and had a couple of sort-of orange juices, three pancake-like affairs called something that sounded like mooseaMIN, a croissant-looking breakfast roll with butter and marmalade, and two café au laits -- café con leche in Spain. It was enough to last me till lunch.
About 11 a.m., I asked the hotel receptionist (I asked his name, but forgot to write it down, damn it!) how to get to the Hotel Rialto and the local supermarket, Asima. The two were in different directions, so I went to the Hotel Rialto first to see handsome, kind, and sweet Abdel. He was still handsome, kind and sweet. "I'd like to take you to lunch or dinner," I said.
"I'm really busy now, but tomorrow evening at 7 I'll be free and we can go to dinner."
So that would have to do. Needless to say I spent the next day and a half fantasizing about my dinner date with Abdel.
I remembered the last sexual encounter with a Muslim in Turkey in 1999 with my first Russian boyfriend, Maxim from Nizhny Novgorod.
My first evening in Turkey, a 28-year-old named Murat was on the serving line in the restaurant. He was very attentive, and soon made it clear that he was interested in serving me more than the mashed potatoes. So we arranged to meet that evening after work on the hotel grounds. He couldn't be seen fraternizing with the hotel guests.
When we met we strolled down to the Mediterranean waterfront. We soon had our clothes off and were naked at the end of the dock. While I was sucking his substantial circumcised cock - the Muslims, like the Jews, require circumcision of all male children - he repeatedly said, "I'm not gay, but I like gays."
I'm not gay, but I like gays? All the time having his cock sucked? What's going on here?
And then I remembered the book Gay New York, which described industrial America of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when there was a shortage of women in major industrial immigrant cities like New York, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, and it was not uncommon for the he-men of the laboring class to go to the public "tearooms" - toilet rooms -- to have their cock sucked.
In that culture, unless you did the sucking or let yourself be ass-fucked, you were not gay. If some dude sucked you off, or let you screw him in the ass, he was gay, but not you.
This was the muslim mentality of Turkey at the turn of the 21st century. Was it also the muslim mentality of Morocco in 2012? Perhaps I would find out. I ran through many scenarios waiting for my "date" with Abdel on Friday night.
In the meantime, I had heard that "Rick's café" of "Casablanca" film fame, was alive and well and offering a "Play It Again, Sam" moment to Americans visiting the Casablanca of the 21st Century.
When I passed by the reception desk of my hotel, the handsome dude suggested that I combine a taxi trip there with a trip to the nearby "Mosque Hassan II", built by the father of the current king of Morocco, Mohammed V, as the largest mosque in Morocco and the third largest in the world, not counting the mosque at Mecca, Saudi Arabia, where Muhammed was born, and the one at Medina, Saudi Arabia, where he died.
During the most intense period of construction before it was inaugurated in
August 1993, fourteen hundred Muslims worked during the day and another 1,100 at night. Some 10,000 artists and craftsmen took part in constructing the giant edifice, which can house 25,000 worshipers within its walls and another 80,000 in the mosaic-paved area surrounding it.
All of the granite , plaster , marble , wood and other materials used in the construction, except for some white granite columns and glass chandeliers from Italy, are native Moroccan materials.
What a waste of materials and manpower, you're tempted to think, until you contemplate the massive juggernaut for death and destruction that the U.S. has created in its war department. At least the thousands of Islamists that helped build the Hassan II Mosque weren't killing people.
As a non-Muslim, I was not permitted to enter the gigantic mosque, but that was okay with me. Religion, shmeligion! Instead, I taxied to Rick's Café.
Is the proprietor here? I asked, intent on meeting some of Rick's descendants. No, but maybe a little later.
In the meantime, I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, eggplant parmigiani, at 70 derhams (7 euros) and a bottle of mineral water, 20 derhams (2 euros).
I was sipping my mineral water at a table next to the piano when my waitress whispered "she's here." And who is she? "She" turned out to be the proprietress of Rick's Café. "Rick" is a "Rickess."
Her name is actually Kathy Krieger, from Portland, OR, who first saw the film "Casablanca" in the 1970s and was working with the U.S. State Dept. in Casablanca when the New York City Twin Towers were destroyed in 2001. She decided to retire from the State Dept., consulted with her friend the governor of Casablanca, who encouraged her, and began to develop the first Rick's Café in Casablanca.
Since the original 1942 movie was made in Flagstaff, AZ, "Rick's Café" was a made-up name. There had actually never been a Rick's Café in Casablanca. Kathy scoured the city looking for a suitable location and found a waterfront home not far from the Hassan II Mosque badly in need of restoration. She hired a prominent local architect, re-did the place and for the first time opened Rick's Café in Casablanca in 2004!
Kathy is a gracious, hospitable hostess, and certainly brightened my day by her chatty elegance.
If you ever get to Casablanca, I recommend Rick's highly. If you're lucky, maybe you'll get to meet her. If not, taking a note from the souvenir menu which she inscribed to me, "Here's looking at you, kid."
In the meantime, you can check out the webside at www.rickscafe.ma.
That night was my fateful meeting with Abdel, when we would go to some neat Casablanca restaurant, I would buy him a good meal, we would chat amiably, and then wind up at his place at the Rialto Hotel, where one thing would no doubt lead to another :-)
So it was with a little excitement and trepidation that I set out at 6 p.m. to find it, giving myself plenty of time to get lost.
But I didn't get lost and arrived there at 6:20 - a shocking and unromantic 40 minutes early.
But alas! All my hopes went down the drain when he sadly announced that his boss had told him he had to work that night and he had been unable to get out of it! Oh, shit!
His compensation was a tasteless spaghetti dinner in the cramped space behind the reception desk.
Ah well, maybe another time. But maybe not!
In the meantime, as we chatted, I discovered that he was a Berber, one of the original inhabitants of Morocco, and - though born in Casablanca - returned when he was 10 to his family's original Berber city on the southwest Moroccan coast. One of six children, when he was 24 he returned to Casablanca to find fame and fortune.
But the only work he could find was as a mechanic, which was hard work and didn't pay much. A friend of his told him about the receptionist job at the Rialto, and armed with his self-taught English, applied for and got the job.
Now he was 30, unattached, blond, 6 ft. tall, handsome, kind and empathetic. Something would turn up to brighten his future, he assured me.
Unfortunately, under the circumstances, it wouldn't be me.
It was my last night in Casablanca.
My bus was scheduled to leave the next morning, Saturday, July 14, at 8:30 a.m. from the same spot where I had alighted the previous Wednesday. I caught a cab, which took me there for 10 derhams - 1 euro. The taxi drivers had all been scamming me. More stupidity taxes.
There was not a soul anywhere around where the bus had parked on Wednesday. I went into the adjacent train station. Just wait there, it will be there later, I was told. Inside the waiting room of the adjacent "International Bus Station," I was again told to wait where the bus had been on Wednesday. At 8:45 I went into a nearby hotel where the receptionist spoke some English. No, he didn't know anything about it.
I went back outside to my original waiting space. Something here was not computing. My ticket plainly said my bus was to leave from the Face Gare Casa Voyageurs, the train station, at 8:30. I had arrived at 7:45. No bus had left.
There were a couple of Supr@Tour buses parked at the International Bus Station. I returned again. This time a dude who spoke no English or Spanish, but who had indicated earlier that I should wait where I had debarked on Wednesday, took me by the elbow and led me to to a seat on one of the nearby Supr@Tour buses.
I was at last where I should be - maybe. The bus driver boarded, put a sign in the front window, and drove away. I hoped it was the right bus; there certainly were no others competing.
But while he was parked at the bus station in the next town, I got off the bus and sneaked a peak at the sign he had put in the front window:
"Moroc a Espagna".
Aha! For the first time, I was certain that I was headed back to Spain. But was I headed to Madrid?
Again, there was a very handsome Muslim lad on the bus. Is this bus going to Madrid? I asked. He smiled and nodded.
It was a different passport regime coming back. We arrived at the Tangier - or Tangiers -- port about 4:30 p.m. and waited interminably while they stamped the outgoing symbol on our passports, then transported us by shuttle bus to the boat at the port, which we boarded and waited for it to set sail at 8:30.
On the Spanish side nearly two hours later, at 10:45, we were herded into a waiting arrival area where again hundreds waited while two Spanish passport officials stamped all the passports. When mine was finally stamped, I was herded again onto a waiting bus which would take me at last to Madrid to catch my final bus home on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
We arrived at the Alvaro Mendez bus station rather early - about 8:30 a.m. Sunday, July 15. I again texted my friend Javi, whom I had met waiting for the bus to Bucharest and Igor last summer. But he answered that he was out of town. So once again I would save my kisses and cock sucking for Sasha, who would catch the same bus in five days.
My Casablanca adventure was over.
On the evening of July 19, one day before Sasha was to arrive, I went to the Cyber Ourense, my favorite Internet café sans café, to check my e-mail one last time before he came.
Imagine my shock and disappointment when on the screen I read:
Dave, I'm in the hospital again. I feel bad. But I will try to come to you all the same.
I was more distraught than I had been since I could remember.
"What a pity," I wrote in my benumbed state of shock.
What's the problem? I'm very, very sad. I love you very much and miss you.
It was only on Sunday when I was looking over the letters sent and received that I discovered that for some reason, my message hadn't gone!
Maybe in my state of disappointment, I had just pushed the wrong button!
Earlier in the week, after my return from Casablanca, I had written him:
My darling Sasha,
I wonder where you are. I forgot to tell you that I caught my bus on Sunday - that is, it left at 1:30 and arrived in Ourense at 8 p.m., and it left from Platform No. 8, but I don't know if yours will leave from the same platform. I hope so.
Be careful, my darling. I am awaiting you very, very eagerly. Till Friday.
After reading my incredibly disappointing bombshell from Sasha, I wrote Ivan, the only person who knows the real relationship between Sasha and me and to whom I had given the 100 euros to pass on to Sasha in Moscow: "Just got an e-mail from Sasha," I wrote. "He's in the hospital again. I'm really bummed out."
Ivan replied immediately:
My dear Sis,
I'm so upset to hear the news about Sasha. I was absolutely sure that nothing was going to stop him from coming to Spain this time; he had the ticket, he had the money, he had done the packing, everything seemed to be prepared for his journey. I'm at a loss for words and I surely understand how you feel about it. I'm so terribly sorry.
Of course I hope that nothing serious has happened to Sasha and he will be out and about very soon. As soon as you know anything about the state of his health, please let me know.
Keep in touch, my dear, and don't fall to pieces too much. I'm sure everything will straighten out after a while. And remember that you always have your little sis to support you, whatever happens.
"Thank you my dear," I wrote.
What I'm afraid of now is that even if he recovers soon, he has spent all his money on tickets, etc., and he won't have the money to come, and I won't have the money to send him L
I am very sad, but looking forward to your coming. I have seen Elvira, Pili, and I just met Victoria and Julio on the street, and told them that you are coming in the autumn. Of course they are very happy.
Thank you for your support.
A big hug,
Your big sis
Actually, Sasha's e-mail was one of a triple whammy. I also had a barely legible message from Misha saying that everything there was chaos and he had moved to another monastery in Kiev.
But as far as I could tell, he wasn't asking for money.
"Good luck," I wrote.
But the real zinger was another e-mail from Igor:
Hello, my darling Dane,
I know that you don't have any money. Dane, have you told Sasha that I am communicating with you? Will Sasha be staying very long with you? I also want to come to you. but I don't have the opportunity.
Dane, I have problems now. Denis is in the hospital, Mama is also in the hospital, I am alone at home, I don't have anything to eat. If you can, can you lend me $ 100? Mama is treating Denis and me groceries to live (I didn't understand this). In August I want to go to Moscow to work a little bit. I don't have money to live or to study. Generally, life has become very difficult. I have only you to thank for helping me!
Dane, if you need help, tell me, come to us. I will always be waiting for you. Well, that's all. I miss you, I kiss you, 'bye.
Oh shit! Igor is starving, his brother is dying in the hospital, and his mother is in the hospital with him.
I wrestled with the problem. I had 150 euros - about $ 175 -- in my pocket, and about $ 300 in the bank in the U.S. The month was only two-thirds over. Especially now that Sasha was not coming for the foreseeable future, at 79 I had to have the money available to return to the States for medical care, if necessary. That means I had, and have, no money to spend unnecessarily.
Money for Igor may be necessary for him, but not for me. I have sent him about $ 4650 - almost $ 5,000 - since April 2011, and he has nothing to show for it but more poverty and more need. I could certainly use that $ 5,000 now.
If I sent him nothing, I might have the money to send Sasha for another bus ticket, assuming he had already spent the money on the ticket before he became ill - a high probability. A hundred dollars for Igor now wasn't so much, but it would be enough that it would make a dent in my ability to send money to Sasha if he needs it; and there would be another hundred the next month, and two hundred the month after. To what end? More poverty and hopelessness for Igor?
The choice seemed clear. I wrote Igor one of the most difficult e-mails I've ever written:
My dear Igor,
I am very, very sorry to hear about your many problems, but I have problems too. I simply have no money to send you. I counted up, and I have sent you $ 4,600 - almost five thousand dollars - since April 2011. I simply can't send any more. I am very, very sorry, but I simply don't have any more. I have told Sasha nothing about our relationship. In fact, he is also ill in Moscow. I haven't sent him any money (a little white lie, because I had sent him 100 euros by Ivan).
Good luck, my dear. I very much hope that you will be successful, but I can't help you any more.
I had sent Max a letter earlier: Ivan wanted very much to meet beautiful Max, and he (Ivan) and I had contrived a scheme by which he could. I would send a refrigerator magnet to Max by Ivan as a souvenir. It would also give me a chance to warn this possibly closeted gay of the pitfalls of marriage. I wrote:
How are you? I forgot to tell you that I sent a little souvenir via Ivan. He is a very good friend and fellow teacher from Moscow. He and I were going to start a school together here, but the financial crisis occurred and the school fell through. The souvenir is a refrigerator magnet from the park where you and I went.
I don´t know if you are thinking of getting married soon, but Ivan is a good example of someone who made a horrible mistake. He wanted to have a child, and so married the woman he is married to now and had a daughter last May. His wife is a vixen (not a nice person) and is making his life miserable for him. He would much rather be here, but I´m not sure he can be at this point.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is marriage is a very serious affair, and you need to be very sure of the girl and that you and she not only like each other and like having sex, but have lots of things in common. Sex doesn´t last very many minutes in a day, and you have to live with her the rest of the day. It´s a very serious thing to think about, and I only mention it because you are likely to meet Ivan soon -- if you haven´t already.
So, honey, I hope things are going well for you.
My friend Sasha from Moscow is due to arrive this Friday. I will be very happy when he arrives and I have somebody to live and talk with :-)LoveDane
Max had replied:
Thank you very much for your admonition...))
I will try to be very careful about marriage. I know that this is very serious thing.
I'm fine. Continue working, trying to write my graduation paper and some articles in economic journals...
How are you doing? Does your friend come?
Hope that everything is fine!
So I wrote Max an answer:
I am very upset. Received an e-mail from Sasha last night saying he was in the hospital and couldn't come. I'm afraid now that he won't be able to come.
I know you are very busy, and wish for you the best.
I also sent Sasha another e-mail, though it was probably the first since the one I had written on Thursday night apparently wasn't sent:
My beloved Sasha,
How are you feeling? I hope, better. My dear, have you already spent all your money? Next month, I think I can send you money for the bus. Tell me how much you need, etc., and I will try to send it to you. I miss you very, very much.
By the way, I have a student in Moscow. He was a student when I lived there, and I am now giving him lessons by Skype. I told him that I was very disappointed that you had become ill and couldn't come, and he said you could call him and tell him the problem, and he can tell me by Skype or e-mail.
I very, very much want you to come. Of course, he - his name is also Sasha - doesn't know that I am gay or that you and I have a sexual relationship, but he wants me to be happy. And to tell the truth, I will be happy only when you are here with me.
Well, honey, answer when you are able to, and if you want to, call Sasha and tell him how you are feeling, and when you might be able to come.
I love you very much,
Also on Sunday, Ivan sent me another e-mail, in Spanish:
My dear, how are you? I am worried about you. Are you feeling better?
So I wrote him an answer:
Hola, mi querido. Thanks for your concern. I'm not going to do anything stupid or irrational. I'm just very sad. I sent Sasha the following e-mail today (Sunday):
My darling Sasha,
Today I realized that the e-mail I wrote on Thursday wasn't sent. I don't know why. But in it I said:
My darling Sasha,
What a pity that you are again in the hospital. What's the problem? I very much hope that you can still come to me. I am very, very sad. I love you very much and deeply miss you.
I also realized that I didn't write the telephone number or the e-mail address of the other Sasha. His telephone number is _________ . His e-mail address is _________.
In the e-mail I sent yesterday, I said that I can send you the money next month if you have already spent it all on your ticket before you went to the hospital.
I hope that you are better. I am very sad and disappointed. Write me as soon as you can and tell me how you're feeling.
How long will you be in the hospital?
I love and miss you very much.
The other Sasha is my Moscow student that I told you about who is preparing for TOEFL. I told him that Sasha couldn't come because he was in the hospital, and he offered to act as a go-between if Sasha wants to.
If I need to send Sasha money, can I send it to you so that you can give it to him?
Igor also wrote the same day asking for $ 100. I wrote and told him I just don't have it. I counted up, and I've sent him $ 4,600 - almost $ 5,000 - since April of 2011. He still has nothing and no prospects, so I'm afraid he's a bottomless pit. I feel sorry for him, but I can't continue to support him.
Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? (If you don't understand this, it's a sick joke containing the question that a newspaper reporter might have asked Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of Pres. Abraham Lincoln, after Lincoln's assassination in the Ford Theater J It might be a question I would be asked now.
Anyway, I hope your plans are progressing. I look forward to seeing you. Wish you were here now.
Tu hermana mayor
On Sunday I received the following e-mail from Igor. He was obviously desperate:
Hello, my dear Dane,
I am very sorry that you can't help me. Oh well, I will survive.
Dane, I know that you have helped me a lot. I will repay everything, Davn! I need to complete my studies and be a little patient, and find work. I will return everything, and I hope to travel to you. Forgive me for everything, Dane. Things are very difficult for me here, as you know. And with the divorce, I am depressed.
I would like very much for you to come. I was not very good to you, do you forgive me? I don't know what got into me then. I want to live with you like we did in Moscow! I remember how good things were with us. And everything that happened brings tears of shame L Maybe we will live like that again, I hope.
Dane, listen, I can borrow $ 300 from a man Mama knows for Denis and for groceries. I can make preserves and compote, and if you can in August, send me money so I can repay the man. If you want, this winter I can send you preserves! I await an answer. I love you, kiss you, miss you.
Your loving Igor
He's obviously desperate, but I don't have the money to send him, and even if I did, it would be money down a rathole.
So I answered:
Hello, my dear Igor, it's good to hear from you.
Yes, I well know that it is very hard for you there and can understand that you are depressed. I can't go there. It is also very hard for me.
My dear, don't send preserves. There are too many problems. I worry about you, about Denis, and about Mama. I wish I were rich so I could help you. I also love you. Good luck, honey, and say hello to Denis and your Mama for me.
He wrote back:
Hello, my dear Dane!
Dane, you didn't answer the question. I can borrow money from a man here, $ 300 to treat Mama and Denis and for groceries; we need to buy sugar, tomatoes for manzha (a delicious Moldovan tomato gravy). You can send me $ 300 in August to pay the man back. If you can, I will borrow money from him tomorrow! I await an answer. I love you, kiss you, hug you, miss you, 'bye.
And then Tuesday morning, I got a text message from him:
Hello, my darling Dane, did you check your e-mail?
Yes, but my computer doesn't work. I can't send money. I will write more this evening,
He immediately responded:
You can't send $ 300 in August? I wrote why I need it in the e-mail."
And then there was some text missing.
I answered: "No. I'll write more by e-mail tonight."
Looking in the mirror Tuesday morning, I examined more closely what I thought was a scab on my nose. But it had been there at least a couple of months, and wasn't getting any smaller. It didn't respond to slight pressure to pull it off. Oh, Jesus, could it be cancer? I've had several skin cancers removed, including one on my nose. Could this be a recurrence?
If so, it would give more weight to my message to Igor.
In the meantime, I must get it checked to see if it is cancer. If it is, I will go to the States in October to have it removed. Maybe I can stay with Dave Gremmels in Oregon or Bill Bloxom in Seattle. I'll wait for two weeks to see what I hear from Sasha and to be sure my August Social Security check is deposited.
Later in the day, the scab came off. Thank god! It wasn't cancer.
At the cyber Tuesday night, I wrote:
My dear Igor,
Forgive me for not answering the question. My computer isn't working and I didn't have with me a dictionary in the Internet café, and I didn't understand all the words.
But unfortunately, I can't send money in August. I am 79 years old, and god knows when I may get sick and need to go to America to recover. For example, I have a scab on my nose. It's been there for two months. I don't know if it is cancer, but if it is, I must go immediately to America to treat it. And who knows when I'm going to have another stroke, or paralysis? As I said earlier, nobody is going to give me money if I need it, and I have to have it myself. And so I don't have, and won't have, money to lend you.
It hurts me, because I know how much you need it, but first I have to take care of myself. Nobody else will. I hope that I won't need it, but if I do, I have to have it.This is true unless I win the lottery. I hope I will win it, but I can't count on it. And so, my dear, I am very, very sorry. I worry something terrible, but I can't send it.Your Dane
Later that night, when I checked, there was an e-mail from Sasha!
Thank you, my darling Dane. I love you very much.
I am not well. I am ill, but I absolutely will get well and come to you in Spain.
I have for you a tasty sausage!
Are you eating any Spanish sausage?
I kiss you,
He's joking again, so he's obviously feeling better. I still don't know what's wrong with him, or if he's still in the hospital. But the prospect of his coming - er, arriving, or maybe both - turned me on so much that on Wednesday morning, I jerked off - for the first time in five weeks.
How I love him! How I miss him!
The next day I answered him:
My darling Sasha,
Thank god you are alive and are coming to me. I eagerly await your sausage.
Are you still in the hospital?
After I received your e-mail, I jerked off - the first time in five weeks! As I said earlier, you are simply my inspiration.
I hope you get well quickly. I eagerly await you, my darling,
At midnight Tuesday, the message indicator on my mobile phone rang. It was Igor. He had apparently received my message that I couldn't send the money.
He wrote, "Dave, did you check your message on e-mail? I am leaving on Thursday for Moscow to work. I don't have any money, either to live on or to treat Mama or Denis. I await an answer."
"My dear Igor," I texted back. "I don't have any money. I already told you."
On Wednesday, at the Cyber, or Internet café without the café, I read his e-mail. Poor guy. It made me want to cry:
Hello, my dear Dane! Dane, do you forgive me for everything?
Dane, I am going on Thursday to Moscow to work. I don't have any money to live on. Mama is sick. Denis is sick. I am sick. I don't know what to do.
Dane, I have a favor to ask, send for the last time $ 300 for Mama? I am leaving on Thursday; I want to borrow money for the road from a guy; in August I have to pay it back. Please Dave, can you help? I will work more…Help now, please? Send in August $ 300? I don't have anything to wear, nothing to eat. Everybody is ill, I am ill too, but I survive..,.Now I will be working in Moscow day after tomorrow on construction,.,,In order to treat Denis and for groceries.,..If you can send it, send it to Mama, I will already have left Moldova …Ekaterina Vasilevna Covaci, city Taraklia, street ........................., No., telephone .............. where you send number of Western Union transmission.
Dane, please? It will be the last time, further I myself will be working and earning.
Perhaps, at last, I have the poor, helpless Igor and his poverty-stricken and hopeless mother and dying brother off my back. Have I pronounced their death sentence? Probably. I don't see how they can survive. I feel infinitely sorry for them, but I simply can't jeopardize my own health and well-being by throwing money at them in their bottomless pit. If I have pronounced their death sentence, god, or whatever there is, forgive me! But I must look after myself first.
I must be firm, no matter how much it hurts.
And then to top it all off, I had another e-mail from Misha in Kiev:
Hello, Dane, how are you? In August I want to go to Moscow. I am asking you to send $ 200. Only you need to send it to the city Cherkasi, Ukraine.
So I immediately answered:
My dear Petitmichel (French for "Little Michael" and the name he's been using for e-mail since he was in France several years ago),
I don't have any money, and won't have. I'm sorry. Forgive me. I love you.
And then Friday morning, I received another e-mail from Igor:
Hello, my darling Dane, do you have $ 200 to send for Mama's passport? I am leaving tomorrow and will earn money to send you. Please?
"My dear Igor," I responded.
I simply don't have it. I'm very sorry. Good luck.
He immediately responded:
In August you won't have $ 180 to send? I will repay the loan. I need it now for groceries and for the road. I will pay it all back. I will write you from Moscow.
"My dear Igor," I texted.
I need the money. I might have to go to the U.S. for cancer. I also told Misha I couldn't send money.
"Dave," he responded,
Send about $ 150, as much as you can. If I don't pay $ 150 in August, Mama and I will have big problems. Can you help? I will repay everything! Really!
He really was persistent; but it only showed how desperate he was. Poor guy. I answered:
My dear Igor,
I know that you have big problems, but now I can't help. I'm very sorry. I love you all.
And then again from Igor:
Can you send $ 150 as a loan? In a month, I will return it. I will find work.
And my reply:
I simply don't have it now. Forgive me. I love you.
But he wouldn't quit:
Dane, send the 5th of August $ 180. On the 25th of August I will send you the money. I will get an advance and pay you back. I very urgently need it in August to give back to the man. And there are other problems.
Dane, please, help? I will pay back everything. Starting Monday I will be working and will pay you back a little at a time.
I replied again by text:
Honey, I don't have it and on the 5th of August won't have it. Forgive me.
Honey, I understand. I simply can't help you.
Again, he texted back:
That's really too bad, Dane. I will have problems. If I don't return about $ 150 I will have only at the end of August and I have to return $ 150 at the beginning of August. Help me, please, Dane? I can help you in life, look after you in your old age or if you get sick, I will always look after you. Can you help me? I need now as never before.
By this time I had used up all my mobile text time. I went across the street to put $ 10 more on my mobile. Meanwhile, he sent me another message:
Help me, Dane, please? I will return it all and will help you with everything. Do you forgive me for everything?
In exasperation, I replied:
I'll try, but I can't promise.
He was jubilant:
Hurrah, Dane! You have saved me. It very, very much helps me! If you can help me send it to Mama, I have already written her address. Her telephone number is ................ I hope you can help me. I will be happy out of my mind. I love you, kiss you
I could only respond,
Good luck, honey
To take my mind of my Igor problem, in the afternoon I received a message from my beloved Sasha:
My dear Dane,
I will be in the hospital another week. I can't depend on the Internet; for that reason I don't always get your letters.
My sausage often stands up, and wants to be in your mouth so you can eat it.
It's great that you jerked off. I hope you jerk off again soon.
I kiss you,
Russian medicine has a long way to go to catch up with the Western style. They still practice the old Soviet medicine which required that if you went to the hospital, you had to stay there at least two to three weeks, whereas American medicine is geared to getting you the hell out of the hospital as quickly as possible. In Russia, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, and many people simply get sicker in the hospital.
My god, my darling Sasha,
You will be in the hospital another week! Do you know what the problem is? I worry about you.
Yes, I understand that you can't always use the computer. All the same, write and when you can, answer.
Yes, my darling, I will be ready to eat your sausage. Do you know when it will be? I wait impatiently.
I'm glad that your sausage often stands. I will eat it impatiently. I hope that after you arrive, it will never again stand without coming. With pleasure I will help it .
Come quickly. I am eagerly awaiting you
But my respite didn't last long. By e-mail that night I received the following from Misha:
Dane, forgive me? And when will you have it? I need it badly.
I could only reply:
My dear Petitmichel, I don't know when I will have it. I have very little money now. I'm afraid that will be true for a long time, unless I win the lottery.
And so now, on the 5th of August, as I read in a pay toilet in London on the same trip as I ate snails in Paris nearly 60 years ago, "Here I sit, broken hearted. Paid a six-pence and only farted."
But my sadness is much deeper than that. I sit, broken hearted, awaiting Sasha. Will he come at last to make life begin for me at 80?
I sent Igor's mother Katya $ 150 yesterday, and that will definitely be the last.
Now I await a message from Sasha. When will he be here? I'm not getting any younger. But the delay is giving me something more to write about in Life Begins at 80 :-)
The other Sasha, my Skype student, will send about 130 euros the 10th of August. And you, in America, wait - for what?
I read on this morning's Yahoo News that if Obama wins a second term, he will target Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. Is that just Republican propaganda? Does it make any difference?
In the meantime, we have the 2012 London Olympics to entertain us. There's the circus; where's the bread?
And one final note on climate warning from EnergyResources network. I didn't write it, but I might have, because it reflects my concerns and my age. Take heed:
This planet will not do just fine, and is not doing fine now.
We have directly and indirectly caused the 6th greatest mass extinction of life on this planet. We have caused the rapid increase in atmospheric entropy burning fossil fuel at a rate that is hopelessly unsustainable. We have grown a human population that is about 8 times what the planet can sustain without producing and burning the current rate of fossil fuels. There is more CO2 in the atmosphere now than there has been in 600,000 years. Even if we were to stop all fossil fuel burning today, the acceleration of the changes we have started would increase the entropy and global warming. We are already seeing what were typical once-in-a-100-year events almost on an annual basis. We are blindly nearing a climate breaking point. Oh, but lets argue about things like gay marriage and interest rates, instead of doing anything real about anything. I hope that you are young. If so you will see some amazing things that will unfold in the next 20-30 years. They are already happening now if you care to look. The entire boreal forests are dying from insect infestations because the temps are warm enough for the beetles to survive further north. The arctic permafrost layer is melting. Arctic sea ice is melting earlier and longer. The arctic tundra is changing to grow more dense shrubbery. Greenland and Antarctic glaciers are melting at an ever accelerating rate. The Cascade and north Pacific glaciers have all but disappeared in my lifetime.
Entire reef systems are dead from a few-degree rise in ocean surface temperatures. Average temperatures are getting higher and record high temperatures are being recorded at a record rate. Meanwhile we are maxing out on available resources like fresh water, arable land, oil, ocean fisheries, metals, and oh yeah, food. We are creating a de-forested, de-iced, de-diversified, more radioactive, hotter desert planet void of sources of available food, energy and resources.
I am glad that I am old enough that I will not be around when things really hit the fan on this planet. Or so I hope. Things in the next 10 years are likely to be an extreme challenge. After that it's a crap shoot.
Don't say you weren't warned :-)
This day years ago:
2005-8-8: Chapt. #155 - What we need is a revolution – of kindness!