MOSCOW, May 9, 2009 -- Happy Russian Easter!
Western Easter, what the Russians call Catholic Easter (they don’t understand that most Americans are protestant; since they aren’t Russian Orthodox, they reason, they must be Catholics. I’ve explained dozens of times to deaf ears, but what the hell?) was nearly a month ago.
Anyway, it was cold on Russian Easter. It snowed slightly the night before. Easter Sunday was still cold – about 40 degrees (F) -- and very windy
I was feeling rather upbeat Easter morning. Little Sergei, an adorable little boy toy who has been hanging around off and on for about a year, finally asked me to give him English lessons. He’s homeless and lives on the street. He could be anywhere between 14 and 18. I told him okay, Monday. I figured something may happen. Who knows? The disadvantage is that he’s a good buddy to a lot of people I don’t like and don’t want hanging around – [Sergey]’s brother Andrei, Katya’s brother Lyosha, and some other hangers-on, e.g.
But when Zhorik woke up Easter morning – in his bed, not mine – he told me that Little Sergei had been arrested for stealing groceries the night before. It seems he was hungry. Anyway, Zhorik had taken my last 2,000 rubles (about $ 60) and given it to Little Sergei to bribe the cops with. He was supposed to pay it back the following day, but of course didn’t. To make matters worse, when Zhorik took the cops another 2,000 rubles, they said he was late and demanded another 3,000 rubles. “We’re the law,” they reminded him when he protested. So I’m out 7,000 rubles – about $ 200 from that episode.
Then Zhorik’s buddy Tolya called. He works at the gambling palace next door and is a massive bore. The last time he was here he got very drunk and spent the night. I told Zhorik no spending the night. But Tolya is fixing lunch and just asked me to join him in a “little bit of vodka.” I told him okay, but I didn’t want to get drunk and I didn’t want him getting drunk. Don’t know if it will do any good. (it didn’t)
Sergei’s baby was born the week before Easter and Sasha asked me to “loan” him 5,000 rubles to send Sergei. He’d pay it back Wednesday. Wednesday Sasha had a bad stomach ache and had to go to the hospital. It cost him – guess what? The 5,000 he was going to use to repay me. Zhorik took him to the hospital and borrowed another 4,000 yesterday. He’ll allegedly be home either tonight or tomorrow.
But the piece de resistance comes from Igor, whom I had already sent nearly $ 2,000 to get his Russian passport, and then get him out of the hospital after he had an epileptic attack. They’ve already allegedly delayed giving him his passport twice. I talked to him Friday night and it seems his brother Denis, the drug addict whom I finally threw out of here a month ago, has developed gangrene in one of the sores in his foot where he shot up. Doctor are going to have to operate Monday or Tuesday and, if he’s lucky, they will only take flesh from his foot. But if the gangrene has gone Into the bone, they will have to cut off his foot. Igor is asking me to “lend” him the money for the operation. He won’t know how much it’s going to be until they do exploratory surgery Monday or Tuesday. What can I do? I had sister Ivana talk to him yesterday. Now Ivana understands why I’m not able to save any money.
“Yobe tvoyou mat” is a time honored bit of Russian swearing. Translated it means “fuck your mother.” What else can I say at this point? Yobe tvoyou mat.
What about Mother Russia? How is she faring in the current “economic crisis”?
It depends on who you ask? The Kremlin spin doctors say everything is fine, and it will all be over by the end of the year. Former economic meister German Gref, who is now head of Sberbank, the favorite Kremlin Bank, predicts that a new wave of debt to Russia’s banks won’t be able to be paid, bringing the amount of arears to around 10% of all loans outstanding.
That’s a bunch. Alexei Kudrin, who despite the fact that he heads the current economic cabal in the Kremlin is far from optimistic, thinks that the current crisis may continue for another year or two.
And [Andrei Sh]., my once and future dissident, wrote me a set of e-mails a week ago that indicates he thinks the current flim-flam team in the Kremlin is on its last legs. Of course, he’s been wrong before. In any case, this is what he wrote after I sent him an analysis from the New York Review of Books (which had been sent to me by my Seattle buddy and author/artist BB), that essentially said that Putin is leading the country back into an authoritarian box not seem since Stalin was Chairman, or Secretary, or whatever he was:
He wrote back that the piece was “irrelevant,” which I didn’t think it was, but not wanting to pick a fight with him, I concluded in my reply to him merely that “I thought it was a pretty good analysis of what has happened to Russia under Putin. Of course, Yeltsin was a disaster who helped set it up for him. In any case, it makes me want to get my ass to Spain. :-))
He wrote back: What has happened to Russia under Yeltsin & Putin is nothing compared to what is going to happen - that's why I call such analyses 'irrelevant'.
“It's hard to say - depends how much money they still have, or are prepared to spend, to put patches on their disintegrating economic fabric. And how fast this fabric is disintegrating. Both are closely guarded secrets. Of course, it's not a secret but a scientific fact that such disintegration is bound to accelerate, and when it does accelerate the collapse may happen any time.
“Opposition thinks this bluff won't last more than a year - I think so too. Much would depend on whether the West is still prepared to support its Kremlin accomplices, or not. That will be particularly important for the Moscow thiefdom when the rest of Russia goes under and out.
“Anyway, the sooner you manage to leave, the better: it's so much nicer to watch the agony of a dangerous criminal on a TV screen in some civilized country, rather than sit and wait, and being tied to him hope for the best, i.e. that this monster will kick its bucket quietly. Judging by the increasing impotence of all Russia's social strata, the demise is most likely to be a quiet affair. Of course, theoretically, there could be some puppet putsch staged by the demoralized remnants of the army (there have been some muted threats voiced on their part recently) but it would only accelerate the general collapse, the way it happened after the August ‘91 putsch.”
“What do you think is the time frame for this?” I wrote. “Do I have a couple of years to move to Spain?”
“Don't worry, if you fail to get out in time, you'll at least enjoy the grandest reality show for masochists - something, no doubt, to be remembered for the rest of our miserable lives. In short, relax: it doesn't matter much what actually happens '...if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs ...'
So that’s the background against which I have been wrestling.
May 9, 2009 – Easter has come and gone; Mayday has come and gone. Day of Victory is here. It’s the one day that all Russians feel good because they are proud – proud of “their” victory over Hitler. They can ignore their current leadership.
And today I am feeling rather upbeat – the first time in a long time.
First of all, I had a long talk with Ivana a week ago. She convinced me that I must get my ass to Spain this year, because the treadmill I’m on simply means that the longer I stay, the more I will underwrite the losers I have around me. A year from now, or two years from now, I’ll have no more money than I have now, and I’ll have lost a year or two’s precious time. I am, after all, getting to be an old fart (I’ll be 76 in July), and haven’t that many years left to grace Planet Earth. I’d like to do it in the comfort and quiet of Spain.
Hong Kong Harry asked in an e-mail not long ago if I couldn’t do what I’m doing – i.e., get the skids greased to move to Spain – during the three months every American has there as a visa-free tourist. I asked Ivana that last night, who subsequently asked boyfriend Jose in a phone conversation. The answer was yes, but I need to do everything I can here.
To that end I have written nephew Dennis in Florida – after two trips to the American Embassy here, two e-mails to the Social Security Admin. European office in Poland and an e-mail begging my power of attorney in Oregon if he couldn’t get a letter from the Social Security Admin. and DHL it to me here in Moscow. All to no avail until two or three days ago, when I finally received a letter from the European office of the Social Security Admin. in Warsaw. And just this morning I got an e-mail from my power of attorney, Dave Gremmels, saying he had received my e-mail and would get back to me.
So I have decided to try to get my ass together to emigrate to Spain at the end of next month – around the 25th of June. Red Queen administrator Basil has agreed to store my paintings – by “beat” artist Robert LaVigne and indefatigable artist and author BB in Seattle. Now I have to go to the police to get a note saying I have been a good boy during the last five years in Russia and to a clinic to get a note saying I don’t have any communicable diseases, and I have to pack all my books and translate their titles for the Russian Customs office.
Right now I am broke. Sergei has promised to give me back the $ 3,000 he has borrowed from me over the last year from a deal he is putting together to open a café here. It remains to be seen whether he will actually be able to borrow 500,000 rubles (about $ 12,000) in the current crisis. In any case, I will have $ 2,000 coming to me from the university in early June and $ 2,200 coming from my pension this month and next, and Igor is still promising to give me the $ 1200 I loaned him to get his Russian passport, so that if Sergei and Igor come through, I will be in pretty good shape. Even if they don’t, which I have to plan on, I should have about $ 5,000 to make the move on – a minimal amount, but still do-able.
Igor obligingly showed up about a week ago – six weeks after his departure to Moldova to get a Russian passport.
We had sex, fun sex, the first two nights. His dick was stiff even before I went down on it, as opposed to Zhorik – whose dick I had sucked three times the week before Igor arrived, and who gets a boner only after I start sucking.
I haven’t yet told Igor my plans. He was going to live here and give me most of the 27,000 rubles he would earn each month – that was before the current crisis. Now he will have to pay for a place to live, so I’ll probably see very little of his monthly income after I leave Moscow.
And Zhorik? After giving him 4,000 rubles (more than $ 100) to catch a bus to see a buddy somewhere halfway between here and St. Pete, he changed his mind and when he went back to the train station Friday to exchange the tickets for the following day, he was accosted by a bum, to whose jaw he landed a hefty right, for which he had to pay the cops an additional 5,000 rubles, which was kindly provided by guess who.
He is still begging me to stay in Moscow, and he says he loves me. But is it really my money and the free rent and food I provide that he loves? Or is it me? I’m afraid I know the answer. He is still jealous of my attention to Igor. He woke me up at midnight the other night to ask me if I had sucked Igor’s cock since his return.
“Yes,” I told him sleepily.
“You’re only supposed to do that to one person,” he replied.
“You have girlfriends that you fuck; what’s the difference?” I countered.
He’s been very nice since, but we haven’t had sex because Igor has been sleeping in the bed with us. I gave him 3,500 rubles – about $ 100 – again yesterday to go visit his childhood friend Maxim who is stationed in the suburbs of Moscow. He’ll be back Monday to work, he said.
I have a new student, Dmitry, who is a retired Russian State Department employee and a well-read, well-connected and savvy and gentile guy.
On Thursday we got into a discussion about Obama, who is a vast improvement over Bush, we both agreed. We also agreed that he is making some tacit “Socialist” moves with the economy, as did Roosevelt. They’re tacit and unspoken, however, because as I explained to Dmitry, “socialist” is a dirty word in America and when people hear it, they think “Communist” and turn against anyone it is aimed at.
Despite Obama’s “socialist” moves however – the automobile industry, the banks, health, etc. -- I have some serious reservations about Obama’s being plugged into the fact that capitalism is dead – or at least dying. Came across a quote by economist Kenneth Boulding that “anyone who thinks an economy can be expanded forever, within the confines of a a finite planet, is either a madman or an economist.”
And capitalism assumes a constantly expanding economy within a finite planet, something which the availability of cheap, abundant, oil since about 1860 has made possible. Now that we’ve peaked, or are peaking, the increased carrying capacity which it made possible – e.g., increasing the world population from about two billion to nearly seven billion, guaranteeing a constantly expanding consumer base, is over. The economy cannot long – if at all, after the current “economic crisis” is over, if it ever is -- continue to expand exponentially.
In any case, Dmitry said he thinks the same thing may happen to Obama in America that happened to Gorbuchev in Russia. While the West conconsiders Gorbuchev a hero, here he is considered something of a traitor – he disbanded the Soviet Union and introduced the idea of capitalism, which has destroyed the cushy life Soviet “communism” was supposed to guarantee.
Dmitry also told me something I didn’t know. Kosygin, who was prime minister under Brezhnev, realized along with many other Soviet Union “thinkers,” that the system as it was being practiced then couldn’t continue indefinitely. He drew up and circulated a plan for revising and remodeling the Communist Party which included many elements of capitalism among property owners and small businessmen. Brezhnev and other “old guard” forces feared that it would open up the Soviet Union to attack from NATO and the U.S. and it was vetoed. Kosygin was soon after quietly driven from power. (I ran remember Kosygin’s mysterious demise, though of course didn’t know why.)
So it was Kosygin’s plan that Gorbuchev dusted off and tried to put into action. And we see what happened to Gorbuchev.
Will the same thing happen to Obama? Will he be trounced by Republicans in 2012 for being too socialist? Is the realization that this is a possibility keeping Obama from being outwardly more “socialist” than he is? I frankly don’t know. I hope so.
What is clear is that consumers aren’t consuming because either they don’t have the money or they’re keeping what they have for the “rainy days” to come; assembly lines around the world are sitting idle; millions of people are out of work – for how long? I read in the Yahoo news that the current real unemployment in America is reaching 15%! It is about that in Russia – not counting the underemployed.
Is capitalism already dead and the masses just don’t know it yet? Or will there be a rally or two before it goes into its final death paroxysm? What will happen to the oligarchs of the U.S. and Europe and Russia? What will happen to the ordinary people? Some form of socialism is inevitable, it seems to me. Communism – “from those according to their ability to those according to their need” – has already been proved a failure, not only in the Soviet Union, but in a little known colony in the earliest settlements of Virginia.
The one thing that seems certain is that I won’t be around to find out. But my chances will be better, I think, if I’m able to make my escape to Spain next month. Will I? Stay tuned.