MOSCOW, March 26, 2007 -- On Wednesday morning I called Igor at 8:30: “Your Mom and I will be there in half an hour. Get up now. We have a big day ahead of us.”
But when we got to Sveta’s at 9:10 he was still in bed. I rousted him and Finish from their nest in Svetla’s bed and hurried them around, gathering razor, foam, camera, and battery chargers into my backpack. We were actually back home by 10 a.m., exceeding my wildest hopes for these notoriously late sleepers.
Since the razor had been at Sveta’s, I still had to shave, and after dawdling and piddling around for another what turned out to be 15 crucial minutes, we set out for the nearby highway to catch the bus to Garlic.
Slava (right) his brother (left) and another buddy were among the contingent that helped us wait 2-1/2 hours for the bus to Garlic along the main highway, the only paved road in Svetliy. Not shown are Tolya, Kostya, and Marianna.
When we arrived there at 10:35, the bus had come 15 minutes earlier, at 10:20. The next one wouldn’t come till 1 p.m. – nearly 2-1/2 hours! Had I only known, I would have made sure we were there in time. But now, nothing to do but wait. Marianna, Kostya, Slava, Tolya, and a few others showed up to wait with us (see photo). Somehow the time crawled by and a little after 1 p.m., the ancient intercity bus creaked to a halt in front of us. Tickets to Garlic were 35 lais – about $ 3.
We probably had about $ 50 left at that point. If my account was blocked, we were up shit creek. I had thought about telling Mom to pray to her Jesus – we needed all the help we could get – but then I realized that the odds were that my account would not be blocked, and that if I was able to get the money – as expected -- it would unjustifiably reinforce her myth, so I said nothing and put my faith in the odds.
The bus was a local and stopped for everybody standing at the side of the highway. I had figured 150 km – about 94 mi. – would take two hours. But by 2 p.m. we had just reached Komrat, 35 km away. Svetliy and Garlic are separated by hill and lake country, and the wheezing lizard had to crawl in second gear to the crest of every hill.
It was nearly 5 p.m. when we finally arrived in the capital. The driver let us off in the center just a block away from the nearest ATM. Igor and I left Mom and Finish with the luggage and made our way through the underpass to the ATM on the opposite side of the street.
How much money were we going to need – if we were actually able to get any? Fortunately, it was in a bank, so it didn’t take long to find someone to tell us that the exchange rate was 12.6 lais to the dollar. 1000 lais would give us about $ 79.
The moment of truth. Would this story have a happy ending or would we be sweating in poverty all the way back to Moscow? Or maybe even thrown off the train because we didn’t have the money to pay the requisite bribes?
I stuck my Bank America card into the machine and entered my code number. Click. Whirr. “Take your money.”
Yes-s-s-s. Our ass is saved. We would have hugged and kissed each other if we hadn’t been in the lobby of the biggest bank in the capital.
We repeated it three times and took a pause to see where we stood. We had 4000 lais, a little less than $ 320. Mom needed $ 200 to save Igor’s bacon. We should give her another $ 50 to live on for the next two weeks. Igor and I needed $ 100 for the road and bribes back to Moscow. Finish needed $ 100. That’s $ 450.
Back to the machine.
I inserted and punched and waited for another 1000 lais.
“I’m sorry, you have exceeded the frequency limits.”
But my daily limit is $ 500! It’s not my fault the effing machine only spits out $ 79 at a time!
But we had no option.
We sped back to Mom and Finish with the good news: We had the money for Mom. The bad news was that Finish would have to wait until we got back to Moscow Friday, at which point we would send him his $ 100 by Western Union.
We put Mom on the trolleybus that would take her to the bus station to catch the 6 p.m. return bus to Svetliy.
In the meantime, we had no money to finance our “bukhat” for the five hours that still stood between us and our Garlic exit at 11:10 p.m.
The only possibility: We’d try eating on my credit card. If it worked -- that is, if the bank hadn’t blocked any further transactions – we were in clover. If it had, we were again up shit creek.
Only one way to find out: Igor picked out a restaurant with the English name of Beer House, which turned out to be an upscale restaurant that brewed its own beer. We ordered soups, salads, entrees, and a couple of lager beers each for a relaxing, pleasant evening.
“Where’s the toilet?” I enquired.
And there before my eyes for the first time in nearly a week was a sparkling porcelain white goddess with plastic seats, toilet paper, and even toilet seat covers, one of which I moistened at the sink and wadded up to use as a mop to wash away the residue of whatever accumulates during a week of squatting and shooting blindly into Moldovan one-holers.
Ah-h-h, the perks of civilization! How we’re going to miss them when the post-petroleum age hits. The bad news is that Svetliy has never had them. The good news is that Svetliy will never miss them.
But for now, I was absorbing every moment of the best that the peak of the oil age had to offer. I made two trips to the john just to sit and reflect on my good fortune.
Time for the bill. About $ 50. I handed him my card and held my breath. A couple of minutes he was back with the receipt and a blank for my signature.
Yes-s-s-s. We’re really going to make it.
We still needed a few groceries to take on the train, so I again charged some yogurt, bread, and ramen noodle soup to my Bank America card. I even decided to try to squeeze another 600 lais out of my Raiffeisen account.
Yes-s-s-s. We now had more than $ 100 for the train.
We headed back to the station, kissed Finish goodby, promised to send him $ 100 on Friday, and climbed aboard the “platz-cart” car of the Moscow-bound leviathan.
No honeymoon compartment on this trip!
My Moldova adventure was over. I had done a lot of serious kissing with a lot of very sexy teenagers, but there had been no sex. But given the lack of hygienic conditions, did I really want sex? Would I really have been able to overcome the aromatic barrier of dried pee and stockpiled smegma to get an uncut Moldovan cock down my throat?
Dahling, even the Red Queen has her standards, low though they may be!
At least it kept me from indiscretions for which I might have had to apologize or avoid Svetliy altogether. ;-)
It was 5:00 Thursday morning by the time we had cleared all the customs and border checks between Moldova and Ukraine. And not a single bribe.
The “platz-card” sleeping accommodations were similar to the compartment we had had on the way down except that there were no partitions between the sleeping cells; and there was an extra pair of bunks created by the cleverly folding dinette table at the foot of each set of bunks.
My bed was the lower bunk of the dinette set, which turned out to be too narrow to accommodate the mattress and even more uncomfortable than its standard counterparts.
One of the endearing charms of traveling “Platz-cart” is that total strangers become lifelong drinking buddies, as did the two Moldovans now living in Moscow whose bunks abutted mine – a taxi driver and an Afghan war vet.
By the time the border crossing was completed, the volume was well up on their alcoholic bonding, which made sleep for the rest of us extremely difficult. I was tired enough to manage, though, and woke up again around 9 a.m. somewhere in Ukraine.
Igor’s mom had killed and fried one of her geese for us to munch on, but the sucker had very little meat on it and what there was, was too tough to chew. Fortunately, I had remembered to bring toothpicks.
When the Ukraine-Russian border ritual was finally over in the late afternoon, we had still escaped with no bribes.
So our safe arrival in Moscow was now assured. The next hurdle would be getting into the apartment. Sergei had asked me to leave him my key, and Denis had borrowed my metro card. So when we arrived at the Kurskaya Station at 4:30 a.m., we immediately started calling – first Sergei’s mobile, then Tanya’s mobile, then the house phone. No answer from any of them. They were all notoriously sound sleepers. Did this mean we had safely hurdled the 27-hour train odyssey only to be left standing with all our luggage in front of our apartment door for three hours because we couldn’t wake our flat-mates?
The metro didn’t open till 5:30, and it was 6 a.m. when we finally stood in front of our apartment house entry way. Still no one had answered any of the phones. So it was with little hope that I rang our apartment on the house phone.
To my surprise, Sergei answered almost immediately. He and Denis were overjoyed to see us. They had been waiting for two days, but because of our non-commicado phone situation (Chapt. 240), we hadn’t been able to tell them when to expect us.
No one had answered the house phone because it was buried under an avalanche of blankets in the other room. Tanya had given her phone to her mother, and Sergei was out of money on his.
What was important was that we were at last home with everything intact. The only minor casualty was that I had left all my medicines on the train and had to replace them all – about $ 23.
We had also brought three big jugs of very decent Moldovan wine home with us, which the boys immediately broke into; but since I had an 8 a.m. class with Dima and Sasha, I skipped the 6 a.m. wine session.
After my class was over, the next order of business was to take the papers I had graded to Potemkin U and collect my $ 2100, which would be sorely needed over the next few days. That went off without a hitch.
When I returned about noon, I heard voices from Sergei’s bedroom and went in to find Andrei trying to rouse Sergei. I was livid. “Get out of here,” I screamed. Between Sergei and me we forced him out on to the staircase and pushed him down the stairs. What had really flipped me was when he had tried to steal one of our bottles of Moldovan wine. Money, cell phones, and cameras are one thing; but a jug of Moldovan wine after all we had gone through to get it was another.
We later found him drunk and asleep in a window sill of the stairwell.
When the landlady came later in the afternoon to collect the rent, we pretended we didn’t know who the drunken bum who was passed out in the stairwell.
As anticipated, there was nothing left to eat in the apartment, so Igor and I made a $ 50 shopping run. Then we tried to send Finish his $ 100, but the Western Union computer system was down. Igor would have to solo it the next day.
Zhorik also sent me an SMS asking me to send another $ 50 to bribe the colonel. That would have to wait till Monday.
Beautiful Max (photo Chapt. 237) was absent from my Inst. of Diplomacy class on Saturday afternoon because of a medical check-up, but we swapped several e-mails and SMSs.
What had happened in Moscow in the week we had been gone? For one thing, spring had sprung for real. All the ice and virtually all the snow were gone. There was sunshine and 50-degree weather.
Denis and Missy celebrating Moscow spring with her first run with the bicycle and her first exposure to non-apartment living. To prove she's housebroken, she's careful not to take a pee till she gets back to the apartment.
Although the vernal equinox wouldn’t come for another three days, we celebrated it on Tuesday afternoon when Igor and Denis hauled out the bicycle and the roller skates and we hiked and biked and skated around the courtyard, with Missy making her courtyard debut. Amazingly enough, she trotted leashless beside the bicycle as if she had been training for it her whole short life (see photo).
She was not aggressive with other dogs or children, as I had feared a kafkhaz sheep dog might be. It turns out she’s not a purebred, but a “dvor terrier” – “yard terrier,” Russian slang for a mutt. From the looks of her snout (see photo), she may well have some collie in her.
Missy, not quite ready for her close-up, shows off her collie snout that still fails to qualify her as a noble beast. Maybe she's an ugly duckling?
She’s the weirdest dog I’ve ever had – and maybe ever seen. The first thing a dog normally does when they go outside is head for the grass to sniff and pee. Missy does neither. And she completely ignores other dogs. Worst of all, she’s reverse housebroken. She has yet to pee on the grass. She waits till she’s back in the apartment.
I think we’ve got a problem!
There had also been elections in eleven regions of Russia while we were gone. On Sunday, March 11, while we were hitchhiking and busing to Kagul to see Finish’s army brother (Chapt. 240), Russians across the country were going to the polls in what had been widely touted as a dress rehearsal for next year’s presidential elections.
If that is so, wrote Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, co-chairman of the Republican Party here and one of the rare lawmakers who is truly independent of the Kremlin, “then what a rehearsal they were.”
Russians are so disillusioned with the integrity of their voting system that even according to official figures, fewer than 40% of eligible voters actually cast a ballot; and there were unofficial reports of as low as 16% in some areas.
To all intents and purposes, only candidates from the four Kremlin-approved parties managed to surmount Election Commission hurdles to become candidates. True opposition candidates – Mikhail Kasyanov, Irina Khakamada, Garry Kasparov, Dmitriy Rogozin, Sergei Glasyov and Ryzhkov himself – did not appear on any ballot in the entire country.
Out of 135 political parties that attempted to enter candidates in the election, 44 were eliminated by the Election Commission, and only candidates from the four parties approved by the Kremlin actually won seats.
Even the once-oppositional Communists are now patted on the head by the Kremlin because whatever other cause they espouse, they are firm believers in the autocratic and dictatorial kind of government that Putin has put in place. They did worship Stalin, after all!
In Putin’s proclaimed “sovereign democracy,” meaning a so-called democracy manipulated by and for the state, the voter is increasingly recognizing the futility of trying to effect change. It’s all decided beforehand.
“Current attitudes toward politics, politicians, and elections, ranging from deep disgust to apathy,” wrote Ryzhkov in a Moscow Times op-ed piece, “should come as no surprise.
“The culling of parties and candidates, the brainwashing of voters through the control of mass media, tightening of control on the part of officials, evidence of direct falsification of results in the Moscow region and elsewhere, lies we hear at every step and rigging of the competition in general – all of these have reduced the word ‘elections’ to synonyms like ‘dirt,’ ‘lies,’ manipulation,’ and ‘payoffs’.”
What we have learned in this election, continues Ryzhkov, is what most of us had already surmised: “The Kremlin will exercise complete control over the Duma elected in December, and…will custom-fit the presidential election to the requirements of Putin’s successor….”
The only role of the voter will be “to confer a sort of legitimacy…by voting in rigged elections manipulated by” the Putin Kremlin.
So all the charade of elections for the rest of the year will have no meaning whatsoever. Kasyanov will be neutralized one way or another; Garry Gasparov will be – as he was before the last elections – repeatedly sidelined by bomb scares, suddenly unavailable auditoriums, cancelled flights, etc. Irina Khakimada will be buried in untelevised speeches.
Everyone knows that the election will end as the Kremlin wants it to. So why vote?
Most Russians won’t.
The Kremlin’s orders not to allow a replay of the St. Peterburg mass protest earlier this month (Chapt. 239) was obviously taken to heart by Nizhny Novgorod authorities last Saturday when police forcibly prevented a downtown “Dissenter’s March” by beating and arresting participants.
The 120 or so beaten and arrested included four foreign journalists, including reporters and photographers from the New York Times and the Associated Press.
As with the St. Pete protests, no mention was made on national TV of the march or the excessive force used by the cops to quell it.
Two of the organizers were arrested the day before the march on charges of suspected terrorism. Garry Kasparov’s secretary was also arrested the day before on grounds that her car bore the same license tag number as a stolen vehicle.
The St. Peterburg and Nizhny Novgorod protests might be called rehearsals for what should prove to be a real spectacle -- a similar protest scheduled for Moscow in mid-April.
Organizers obviously have given up hope of altering the outcome of the elections. The one thing they can do is draw international attention to the force used by the Russian government to prevent any show of dissent or protest against the Putin government.
So April’s event may prove to be something of a spectacle, since the presence of virtually every foreign press assures global coverage of whatever happens – either at the rally or by the government to put it down.
After a bathless week, Igor took two of them Friday after we got home. When he came to bed that night, I went through my usual exercise: “Do you want to play?”
“Not tonight. Tomorrow night.”
Okay, I’ve done without for a week, I can wait one more night.
Saturday night I again put my arm around him when he crawled into bed. “Do you want to play?”
“That’s what you said last night.”
“Tomorrow night for sure.”
When I awoke on Sunday morning, my hand made a quick survey and found his hand tucked inside his shorts. I followed his fingers to his rock-hard cock. When I squeezed the head, it rose majestically. It only took two squeezes before I myself was flooding into my shorts and preventing another case of prostate cancer.
That night, I again posed the question: “Do you want to…?
So we had our long-overdue romp in the hay. Not spectacular, but it is nonetheless always a real high to suck and play with his erect cock and to savor its ejaculation into what’s left of my tonsils.
My early morning orgasm ritual has been repeated several times, and for at least two of them, I’m pretty sure he was awake. It usually starts with him lying on his back. When I slide my hand from his stomach to his cock, he typically rolls away from me on the side, but not so far that I can’t continue to play with it.
As it stiffens beneath my fingers I reach for my own cock, and in my state of sexual hypertension I very quickly come -- almost without stroking, When I get out of bed a few seconds later, he usually changes positions, leading me to think he has been awake and aware for – and maybe even enjoying -- my manipulation of his dick. Last night I again asked him if he wanted to play.
“Tomorrow night,” he promised. So I have tonight to look forward to.
I can live with this.
Zhorik’s leave status at the moment is unknown. His original plans called for him to start his leave today by embarking on a train trip to his father’s in Svetlograd for a week before coming on to Moscow for the next two weeks.
He asked Sergei to call the colonel last week, but when Sergei called, the dude seemed a little offended the relatives calling, and said the decision would be made not by him, but by his own commanding officer, the next general up the line.
So Zhorik still doesn’t know when – or if – he’s going to get home, which actually gives me a little more time to try to figure out how I’m going to juggle him and Igor.
A 32-year-old shorts-clad Muscovite was found dead in an owl cage at the Moscow Zoo last week. Police weren’t sure if had frozen to death or bled to death from an injury sustained in an apparent bout with the owl.
Along with his clothes, which were scattered around the cage, police found his documents, money, and a half-empty bottle of vodka.
In the early hours of the morning, he had apparently climbed over the gates and made his way through the zoo to the owl cage. During the course of whatever happened next, he apparently hit his head on the ground – “possibly following an altercation with the owl” -- and was knocked unconscious.
The owl, which escaped its cage after the incident, was reportedly “still in a state of shock.”
Owners of Rottweilers, pit bulls, Staffordshire terriers and other breeds deemed to be dangerous will have to undergo testing to prove they aren’t crazy under a bill recently introduced in the Russian Duma.
The bill would also prevent alcohol and drug abusers from owning such dogs, would bar them from public places, and would require that they be always muzzled and leashed. It would also require special training for their owners.
The number of attacks by vicious dogs has been continuously increasing since the fall of the Soviet Union. Last year 30,000 attacks were reported in the city of Moscow alone, up from 28,600 the year before. Several have resulted in death or gruesome mauling.
One of the boosters of the bill is Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the rabid clown of Russian politics whose son owns a Rottweiler and who some think should be leashed and muzzled himself.
“Why don’t they keep poodles?” he posed rhetorically.
See also related pages:
Chapt. #242 - Is Peter fantasy becoming reality?
Chapt. #240 - Extreme poverty, one-holers, and pretty boys
Chapt. #239 - Anti-Putin demonstration kept under wraps
Chapt. #237 - Moldova adventure almost a certainty