I responded as soon as I got up and checked my e-mail and found a couple of messages from Andrew:
Hello Dearest Dane!
Can you please do me a favour?
Can you please check in Ourense supermarket if they sell Hamon (famous Spanish pork meat) - called Hoselita, and for what price?
I would like to buy some when I am in Spain.
I will do my best to get you Pozner book.
What should I do - stay till July 5th (as mandated by my airticket), or stay longer (probably till October 17th when my Shengen visa expires)
If daily expenses on groceries are 30-40 Euros, then I can manage on my own (if I am pretty careful and spend no more than 40 Euros a day)
Tell me what you think. Would you like me to stay longer?
Waiting eargerly for your reply.
Of course I answered immediately:
Hello, my dearest Andrew,
Excuse me for not answering sooner. I just got up. It’s 8:30 here in Spain. I think we’re two or three hours behind you.
Yes, honey, I’d like for you to stay longer in Spain if you can afford it. The 30 or 40 euros is a week, not a day. In any case, I can afford the food so you won’t need to help with the grocery bill.
I’m not sure I can afford to go to Thailand. We will talk more about that when you’re here.
I don’t like to think about the bad times in Russia. I had a good time, but encountered some bad people. I probably had sex with 15 or 20 young Russians, although I met hundreds through my teaching. I never had sex with any of my students, and only with one after he stopped being a student. Moscow is such a huge city that I was able to keep my private life separate from my professional life. I only gave money to maybe half a dozen. I found out later that two or three stole things from me, which was very sad.
I, too, am sorry you didn’t get some of the money I was so generous with. It’s ironic that now I would love to give you money that I don’t have it to give :-(
Knowing Harry, he will never give you the $ 1800 he owes you. If he owes you money, it’s one way of controlling you; you’re afraid to upset him. Harry is what we call a “control queen.” He likes to be in control of everything around him. I don’t want to interfere with your relationship with him, because I can’t offer you any better alternatives. And he may – no, should – invite you to live in London with him when he retires, but whether or not he will remains to be seen.
I will find out the price of the Galician ham. It’s quite famous. I think a whole ham costs 70 or 80 euros, but I’ve never bought one so I don’t know. To buy it by the pound costs, I think, somewhere between 12 and 20 euros a pound. If you don’t have any expenses here – as I said, I will pay for the groceries, my dear – then you probably can afford to buy a whole ham.
I would like for you to stay until at least the 17th of September, when I will have to leave Spain again to renew my visa; then whether you go with me to Morocco (about 400 euros) or stay in Spain or go to Thailand, we can decide after you get here.
Thanks for getting the Pozner book for me :-) I will pay you for it.
It’s so nice to be on good terms again. Thank you, honey.
Love and kisses and ‘bye for now,
This time next month you will be here :-)
Then on May 31, I received the following e-mail from him:
Hello my dearest Dave!
I have made my final travel plans.
I've booked following airtickets: leaving Madrid for Moscow on October 17th, then going from Moscow to Bangkok on October 18th and returning to Moscow from Bangkok on January 23th.
I will buy those airtickets in the next couple of days.
Thus, I will be staying with you till October 17th, when I go to Thailand via Moscow.
Are you glad that I will be staying with you for almost four months?
Please go to Thailand with me. If you do not join me in Thailand, I will feel very lonely there just by myself.
I think you can afford a trip to Thailand.
I just checked Thai Airways, they offer a direct flight from Madrid to Bangkok in October for just 700 Euros. That should be perfectly suitable for you.
Thailand is very cheap, if you still worry about the costs, then we could go to Cambodia and stay there for 3 months. Cambodia is even cheaper, it's incredibly cheap.
I've just calculated that with all those airticket expenses, I still have 7500 Euros from my savings.
I think that amount should be enough for me to live in Ourense with you for 4 months and in Thailand for 3 months.
I hope your health is strong now and that you won't need any more trips to the US for health reasons.
If you had your bladder drained, then would you ever need another surgery on bladder? I hope not.
And as I remember, you have good teeth, so you do not need any major dental work, do you?
You told me that you already had a cataracta surgery done on your eyes in the US. You do not need to do anything more with your eyes, do you?
I am so much concerned with your health, Dearest Dane. Please take care of yourself and take all medications you need.
Waiting eargerly for your reply.
Please tell me if you can join me in Thailand.
About this time my computer was giving me problems, so before I could answer this letter I received a second one on the same date:
Thank you so much for your email.
I have always loved you and have always felt great sympathy for you.
If you say that groceries cost only 40 Euros per week, (it's incredibly cheap), then I will stay till October 17th.
As you say, in Galicia it is much more cheaper than in Madrid or Barcelona.
But when I come to Spain. I do not want to travel to other cities, I want to stay in your home town with you.
We just need to be careful not to go eat at the restaurants (which might be expensive), try to cook food at home.
your town a small one?
Have you done any travelling to other cities, like Madrid, or have you just pretty much stayed in your home town?
Have you made any friends yet? What about that Russian gay friend you mentioned?
Have any of the Russian guys you met in Moscow ever visited you here, or I am the first one?
Looking forward to meeting you in Madrid Barajas airport terminal 2 at 11.30 am on June 21.
You can check my flight number on the travel itinerary I sent you before. The airline is Lufthansa.
Love and kisses
So I went to an Internet café and answered his e-mails:
Hello, my darling Andrei,
Please excuse me for not answering your e-mail immediately. My computer is down (temporarily, I hope) and I´m writing this from an Internet cafe.
I´ll try to answer all of your questions in all three letters:
I`m glad you´re satisfied to stay here with me. Yes, we won´t eat in restaurants, which are, like everywhere, expensive. I`m a rather good cook, so we will eat all our meals at home -- much cheaper.
Yes, this is a small city of about 150,000 people. It is small enough that I walk everywhere, which gives me good exercise for staying healthy.
I have some friends here, including my neighbors, Conchy, a 44 yr. old woman who is also a school teacher; her husband Jose, also about 44; their son, a 14-yr.-old named Javier (nickname, Hobby) who has been to America and speaks excellent English; and Conchy`s mother, Carmen, who is about the same age I am. I have coffee with them every day and lunch with them on weekends. Hobby (spelled Javi in Spanish) is also a computer expert, and I am hopeful that he can fix my computer tomorrow. If not, I will have to come to the internet cafe again, which on Saturdays and Sundays doesn`t open till 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon.
My gay friend is Ivan, or Vanya, who actually lives in Moscow. He comes for visits, and will arrive for about a month on June 29, so you will meet him. He is very nice and we are very close friends, but he has never turned me on sexually, so we have never had sex together. Perhaps you will like each other well enough to have sex :-)
One other former Russian student visited me last June. His name is also Max, and he is very handsome -- but very straight. I don`t know if he has guessed that I am gay or not. Anyway, I love him very much, but will never have sex with him.
I also have a couple of women friends here in Ourense, one of whom is my landlady, Elvira. She teaches English, but can´t speak it. But she can understand it rather well. She is eager to meet you. Of course she doesn`t know that I am gay. Nobody here knows that I am gay except Vanya and his former boyfriend, Jose, who owns the chestnut candy factory I told you about.
I am also friends with a woman named Valle, who also speaks English very well. She lived in Switzerland many years and has a daughter in college in Madrid that I will give conversational lessons to this summer.
It´s wonderful that you will be here until Oct. 17. I am absolutely delighted. On Sept. 17 I will have to leave Spain, as I mentioned, to renew my Spanish visa. Morocco is the nearest and cheapest place for me to go. You can stay at the apartment if you want. We can talk more about logistics when you come.
About going to Thailand with you: I really don´t know. I´m assuming Sasha will be here, and I can`t go off and leave him. Also, Mike said one time that apartments in Thailand were about $ 1,000 a month. Is that an apartment he would be satisfied with or an apartment we would be satisfied with? Again, I don`t know and we´ll have to discuss that more when you are here.
Yes, honey, I´m absolutely delighted that you will be staying here almost four months. We will have a wonderful time -- with Sasha if he is here and without him if he´s not.
Is the 700 euro trip to Bangkok round trip? I assume so. That´s affordable, but would living in Thailand also be affordable? There is also my health to think about. As I say, if I become ill I will have to return to the U.S., where medical care for me is free. So I live pretty much one day at a time. I only had one eye operated on for cataracts in 2010, so at some point I will probably have to have the other eye operated on, which again means returning to the U.S. So, again, honey, let´s live and enjoy each other one day at a time.
Well, honey, I think that´s all for now. I would write more if my computer were working. Maybe tomorrow :-)
Love and kisses, my love. I look forward to hearing from you again.
Then on Saturday, June 1, I wrote him again:
Hello, my dearest Andrew,
Again today I had trouble with my computer, but Javi has just fixed it, so now I can reply to you:
Will it help if Conchy and Jose send you a formal invitation? If yes, I don't have your mailing address in St. Peterburg. BTW, I don't have your phone number either. Be sure to send it to me in any case.
The last time I went to Morocco, my bus was late in getting to Madrid. So that COULD happen again. I hope not, but if it does, you will be able to contact me by telephone and I will get there as soon as possible. Even when it was late, we got to Madrid about 11 a.m., so I shouldn't be too late at worst.
From what you say, it sounds as if Sasha may not be able to provide the Russian authorities everything they want, so he may not be able to come.
If he isn't able to come, it may make it easier for me to go with you to Thailand on the 17th of Sept., especially if your Thai friend is able to provide us cheap housing in the South.
Let's hope for the best, honey. We'll see what happens.
Love and kisses as ever,
Then the next day after coffee with Conchy, I wrote him again:
Hello, dearest Andrew,
Conchy is going to ask the Spanish government people here tomorrow if you need a letter of invitation. She doesn't think you do. I hope she's right, but we'll find out.
Love and kisses,
But after talking with Conchy on Friday, I send Andrew another e-mail with some not-very-good news:
Hello, my dearest Andrew,
Conchy went to the Spanish government people here in Ourense, and they said you should talk to the Spanish consulate in St. Peterburg to find out if you need a letter of invitation. Conchy doesn't want to write a letter of invitation, because it would make her totally responsible for you while you are in Spain.
But there seems to be a 50-50 chance that you won't need such a letter to get a tourist visa to Spain for 90 days.
Sorry, my dearest, but I can't do any more from here :-(((( I only hope you don't need a letter of invitation.
I hope to see you the 21st of June. I bought my ticket to Morocco this morning.
Love and kisses,
P.S. I haven’t heard anything from Sasha. I doubt if he's actually coming
And then June 1 from Andrei:
Hello my Dearest Dane!
Thank you for your email.
I found out on the Russian Foreign Ministry website that Russians can stay in Spain for no more than 90 days during each period of half-year.
It means that I can only stay for 90 days till September 17th. I guess we will be leaving Spain at the same time from the same airport in Madrid.
However, I read some fearful information on Russian travel agency site, which says that Russians have to show the residence address, an official invitation from Spain's legal resident, sufficient amount of money (which I have - I can show them my 8500 Euros, that should be enough)
In case I have any problems with passport control, I will give you a call on your Spanish number and you will go to Terminal 2 to testify that you are my sponsor and that I will be staying with you.
I am just nervous that some problems might unexpectedly arise.
Let's hope it will be okay. Let's hope you can make it to Thailand
I have just checked again the airfare for you - a roundtrip airticket from Madrid to Bangkok (direct flight) costs 855 Euros. Can you afford it?
As you know, I have a very good friend - a Thai professor teaching in St.Petersburg. I have known him for 5 years.
He is a Buddhist monk and has many friends in Thailand.
He has a big family which lives in the south. They own a lot of houses there.
I will meet him and ask him to provide a free accommodation for us for three months.
I think he will help us. He likes me a lot.
I also checked prices in Thailand - one night in a nice hotel costs about 30 US (but if we stay for a long term, it must be cheaper), a good dinner meal in a restaurant for one person costs about 10US.
I am so eager to meet your Spanish friends.
See you soon
Waiting eargerly for your reply.
And again June 2:
Hello my Dearest Dane!
Thank you so much for your care.
I really do not know what to write about, how to compose the letter of invitation.
I hope the letter won't be necessary, I hope I can pass passport control without it.
Let's keep our fingers crossed.
See you on June 21.
Then, on June 5, I received another e-mail from him:
I have decided NOT to buy a return plane ticket yet, I want to wait and see if I am going to like Spain.
If things go wrong, if I dislike Spain, if I find out that local prices are too high for me, and most importantly, if I discover that I will have problems with immigration for staying for 90 days, then I will have to leave Spain on July 5th (as planned by my original roundtrip airticket)
If things go well, then I will buy a return airticket for a later date (September 18th). I will buy it in Spain.
Do you think it will be much more expensive to buy it here rather than in Russia? Will I have to go to Madrid to do that?
It's not a huge time difference, it's only one month.
I have a problem - I found a very cheap return airticket from Madrid to Moscow for September 16 for the price of only 100 Euros.
I wanted to buy it but could not make a reservation because credit card is required. I don't have one, so I am losing a good ticket for an excellent rate.
When we are together in Spain, could I please use your credit card to buy this airticket? I will pay you back in cash immediately.
My problem is that unfortunately I don't have a credit card so that I can't book a lot of airtickets.
Please understand that I would very much like to stay for 90 days, but I do not know if I am really able to.
I called the Spanish consulate here, they won't tell me anything, they redirected me to their visa phone line, which is very expensive to call (10 US per minute)
I am afraid to rack up a huge phone bill. I do not know if I need an invitation or not.
I would love to celebrate your 80 birthday with you, but I need to see how things develop
Is the cost of living really so cheap in Ourense? You say that 30-40 Euros a week is enough for groceries? It's like 5-6 Euros a day, which is increadibly cheap for supermarket shopping.
What about you going with me to Thailand?
Are you able to join me or not? The roundtrip airticket costs 855 Euros (Madrid-Bangkok), can you please shell out the money for that. If you have 1150 Euros saved, then you can afford that airfare.
The reason why I am asking is that if you do not go to Thailand with me, then I won't go.
I do not want to go to Thailand alone just by myself, I will be too bored and lonely there just on my own. I need a company.
So please let me know if you are going with me, so that I can make plans.
But we will decide on that when we are together.
The airticket I found for you is the best and cheapest offer among all others. You will fly with Thai Airways, which is a very good quality airline.
They have a sales office in Madrid. I think that 855 Euros for a roundtrip is an excellent price.
Please tell me what you think.
Please do not rely on Sasha, do not put too much hope on him. I am not jealous or hostile to him, but I believe that he won't come to Spain as he promised you.
You can't be stranded and tied to your knees waiting for him to arrive. You can't be too much dependent on him.
I would really love to spend the next six months with you, Dearest Dane!
Looking forward to hearing from you soon
So my reply:
My darling Andrew,
It sounds like you've made the best decision under the circumstances. I hope you can stay 90 days, but we can only wait and hope for the best. At least I will be able to see you and spend some time together.
Honey, I think we can buy the ticket here with my credit card without any problem. No, I don't think it will be more expensive here and absolutely, you can use my credit card to buy tickets for you while you're here.
The cost of living really is cheap here. I only spend $ 25 a week or so, so when I say $ 35 or $ 40 a week, I'm assuming that we buy a great variety of food while you're here. I eat fried chicken with potatoes and gravy every day because I really love it and it's cheap. You can also buy pork, beef, fish, and even rabbit here for a little more than I pay for chicken.
As far as going to Thailand with you is concerned, it depends on a) whether Sasha comes or not; b) my health; and c) how much money I'm able to save between now and then. I, like you, seriously doubt if Sasha is coming, because he hasn't asked any of the questions you've asked about visas, etc. So I doubt that he's coming. So it probably depends on my health and the costs of being in Thailand. I'm assuming my health is going to remain good. Have you talked to your Thai friend, the professor, about whether we could stay in one his houses for a reasonable amount of money? It would probably be cheaper than staying in Bangkok. I think I told you that Mike once said you couldn't get an apartment in Bangkok for less than $ 1000 a month. I think he was judging by his standards, not ours. Still I think staying in one of your friend's houses or apartments would be much cheaper.
I would dearly, dearly love to live with you for six months :-)
Well, my darling, I will look forward eagerly to meeting you at Barajas Airport in Spain. Just stay at the Lufthansa arrival point until I get there. I will get there as soon as possible, and we have each other's phone numbers in case we have problems. I have already bought my bus tickets to Morocco and back.
I really hope you can stay with me in Spain for three months, and we will make plans for Thailand.
Love and kisses, my darling,
Then he sent me a copy of his ticket, which I couldn’t make heads or tails of. So I responded to his letter on June 7:
Wow, honey, you've given me a lot to think about.
I will respond, but first, because I couldn't manage all the information about your ticket, can you just give me your Lufthansa flight number into Madrid and the city you'll be flying from and the exact time of your arrival in Madrid on the 21st.
It's very exciting about being with you 6 months. But first I must see what Sasha is going to do. I doubt if he will come, but I have to make sure.
Secondly, like you, I think I can afford the trip to Thailand, but I want to wait till you get here to make the travel arrangements, even though it may cost a little more.
Honey, I don't think my friends can arrange a letter of invitation for you. They would be legally responsible for you and because they don't know you, they don't want to assume the responsibility for you. They know me, but they don't know you. I am very sad about that, but that's the way it is :-(
Yes, the timing is perfect for the Thailand trip. I haven't bought any tickets for Morocco except for the 14th of June. As I say, I will return on the 21st and will meet your Lufthansa flight IF YOU GIVE ME THE FLIGHT INFORMATION.
I will have to continue to pay my $ 225 U.S. rent here while I'm gone so that I will have a place to come back to. But $ 225 isn't much money, and I think I can afford it.
I do all the proper things for my health -- take adequate rest, walk, sleep well, no alcohol; I take all necessary medications, avoid stress etc. The only thing that could affect me is something unexpected -- but it is possible. However, I am a Pollyanna and will assume that with you by my side everything will be all right :-)
I am very excited about your being here and about the possibility of our going to Thailand together. I can't wait for you to get here. I hope to god there is no problem. BE SURE AND GIVE ME YOUR FLIGHT INFORMATION.
I can't wait to see you and to hold you in my arms. That will be very soon.
Much love and oodles of kisses,
On June 7, he send me his flight information. He is arriving June 21 on Flight 1800 from Munich at 11:30 a.m.
I immediately wrote him:
Thank you so much, honey. I should be able to find you with no problem.I'm looking forward eagerly to seeing you and holding you and.... :-)
Love and kisses
So that’s the way things are in northern Spain. Will I connect with Marco, Sydny, David G., and Cary in Morocco? Will we have the super time we’re all counting on?
Will I meet Andrew and Sasha in Madrid, and will we live happily ever after? Good question. Stay tuned.
And now here’s a good question for you: How long will the dying – in many instances, already dead – remnants of sclerotic capitalism continue to dominate the political and economic world we now live in?
James Howard Kunstler, author of The Death of Suburbia[/] and one of the prophets of our time, was recently quoted extensively on the “EnergyResources” web site on the weakness of the American civilization. In introducing his comments, Australian energy observer and environmentalist Dennis Frith had this to say:
“This sound comment by Kunstler…provides insight into the factors that make it more vulnerable than Russion civilization to the impact of physical reality. The Americans have been too successful in building in an unsustainable manner a temporary infrastructure of cities, roads, etc. etc. for their selfish purposes. They have consequently ravished their life support system to such an extent that they will now have to cope with a hard powering down as nature bats last.
“Climate change is starting to wake them up to what they have done wrong. The Americans have led the way to Apocalypse in recent times with many European countries trailing along. The Asian giants are doing their utmost to emulate this ravishing of the environment but their prospects are not good. (Jared) Diamond provided a sound assessemnt of the problems that China and Australia are having to face with no prospect of success.”
With that introduction, here’s what Kunstler recently had to say:
For most people, the collapse of civilizations is a subject much more appetizingly viewed in the rear-view mirror than straight ahead down whatever path or roadway we are on.
Jared Diamond wrote about the collapse of earlier civilizations to great acclaim and brisk sales, in a nimbus of unimpeachable respectability. The stories he told about bygone cultures gone to seed were, above all, dramatic. No reviewers or other intellectual auditors dissed him for suggesting that empires inevitably run aground on the shoals of resource depletion, population overshoot, changes in the weather, and the diminishing returns of complexity.
Yet these are exactly the same problems that industrial-technocratic societies face today, and those of us who venture to discuss them are consigned to a tin-foil-hat brigade, along with the UFO abductees and Bigfoot trackers. This is unfortunate but completely predictable, since the sunk costs in all the stuff of daily life (freeways, malls, tract houses) are so grotesquely huge that letting go of them is strictly unthinkable. We're stuck with a very elaborate setup that has no future; but we refuse to consider the consequences. So messengers are generally unwelcome.
Will the cost or availability of oil threaten America's Happy Motoring utopia? There should be no question. But rather than prepare for a change in our daily doings, such as rebuilding the railroad system or promoting walkable neighborhoods over suburban sprawl, we tell ourselves fairy tales about how the Bakken shale oil play will make America "energy independent" to provide the illusion that we can keep driving to WalMart forever.
This is an especially delusional season in the USA, with salvoes of disinformation being fired every day by happy-talkers seeking to reassure a nervous public that everything is okay. Just in the past few weeks we've seen an Atlantic Magazine cover story titled "We Will Never Run Out of Oil" followed by a report from the International Energy Agency stating that the USA would become the world's number one oil producer by the year 2020, and many other bulletins of comforting optimism from The New York Times, NPR, and Forbes. The Atlantic Magazine used to be a credible organ of the American thinking classes, and the Paris-based IEA is vested with authority, though its political agenda (to prop up the status quo) is hidden. In any case, these are the interlocutors of reality for the public (and its leaders) and the memes they sow travel far, wide, and deep, whether they are truthful or not. The infectious cornucopianism they gleefully retail has goosed the stock markets and made it even more difficult to put out the contrary view that we are in deep trouble, perhaps even on the verge of an epochal disruption.
Dmitry Orlov published a fascinating book on this subject in 2008 titled Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects. Orlov, born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1962, had the unusual experience of emigrating to the US as a twelve-year-old in the mid 1970s, and then returning periodically to what is now called Russia before, during, and after the collapse of its soviet system. He had a front-row seat for the spectacle and an avid intelligence rigorously trained in the hard sciences to evaluate what he saw. He also possessed a mordant, prankish sense of comedy that endowed his gloomy subject with a lot of charm, so that reading him was the rare pleasure of encountering true prose artistry on a par with his countryman and fellow émigré, the late Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov was a scientist, too, by the way, working for years as a professor of entomology (insects, with a specialty in butterflies) to pay the light bill.
Recall the smug triumphalism in America that greeted the shockingly sudden collapse of the sclerotic USSR in 1991 (no bang and little whimpering). Serious historians were so intoxicated that one of them declared it to be "The End of History," meaning that there would be no more geopolitical struggles henceforth, a preposterous idea that became instant dogma from Harvard to the US State Department. To our pols and their wonks it proved the manifest superiority of neoliberal corporate capitalism. Case closed. Now the USA could go forth unopposed and turn the Black Sea into a lagoon of pure Coca Cola, bringing liberty, democracy, Chicken McNuggets, and Michael Jackson videos to the disadvantaged citizens of long-benighted lands yearning to "consume" freely.
From his special perch between the two nations, Orlov saw the whole show differently: as a warning that the USA would probably meet a similar fate, but that the outcome for us would probably be much worse due to our massive stranded assets (the whole kit of suburban sprawl), our degraded sense of public goods, our lost traditional craft skills, and our pathetic lack of mental fortitude. The arguments he presented were clear, sensible, and absent in virtually every other venue where people discussed the repercussions of the Soviet collapse. To me, Orlov's points were startling in the slap-your-forehead sense of "…but of course! Why didn't I think of that?"
For instance, he pointed out that the food production system in the Soviet Union had been so direly mismanaged for so long — most of the 20th century — that a whole counter system of work-arounds had been established in the form of nearly universal household gardening. Even families who lived in the ghastly Modernist apartment slabs of Moscow had access to garden plots in the vast un-suburbanized Russian countryside, and they could get there on public trains and buses. The more privileged had dachas ranging from humble shacks to fancy villas, each with its garden. The Russian people were used to the necessity of growing their own food and had the skills for preserving it to offset the idiocy of the official distribution system in which citizens wasted whole days waiting in line for a cabbage ¬— only to be told they had run out. When the soviet system collapsed, the effect on society was far less than catastrophic, perhaps even salutary, because a large cohort of people with an interest in growing food, who formerly only pretended to work in dismal bureaucratic jobs, were now available to reoccupy and reactivate the de-collectivized farming sector that had been a drag on the Russian economy for generations. After a period of adjustment, one thing was self-evident: no more lines at the Russian grocery stores.
By contrast, in the USA, even farmers don't have kitchen gardens. This is not a myth. I live in an agricultural backwater of upstate New York where dairy farming modeled on industrial agri-biz reigned for decades (it's in steep decline now) and as a rule the farmers do not grow gardens. They buy balloon bread, Velveeta, and Little Debbie Snack Cakes at the supermarket, just like the insurance adjusters and other office drones, and whatever leftover part of their farm is not planted in corn is occupied by an above-ground pool, or the carcasses of retired all-terrain vehicles, or the miscellaneous plastic crap associated with raising children in a "consumer" culture. When even farmers don't grow any of their own food, you can bet that a lot of knowledge has already been lost. American supermarkets operate on a three-day resupply cycle. The system is much more fragile than most Americans probably suppose. My guess is that few even think about it. The resupply system has never failed, except briefly, in localities hit by natural disasters. However, a financial crisis could cripple the food distribution system of the entire nation. Truckers who don't get paid won't deliver. Trouble in the Middle East oil nations could provoke an oil crisis — something we haven't experienced since the 1970s. There are many ways for this complex system to fail — the point being that when it does, there will be no backup as was the case in the former Soviet Union. So one might conclude from reading Orlov that our prospects for being able to feed ourselves are a lot worse.
Housing: a similar story. There was no private real estate in the old USSR. People just occupied apartments and homes that belonged to the state and were assigned largely on the basis of privilege and connections to the people in power. When the political system collapsed, nobody got kicked out of their dwelling place. No foreclosures occurred. Over time, the situation took care of itself emergently, shall we say. Private ownership resumed after a 75-year hiatus. Laws regulating it were put in place. Many Russians ended up in possession of apartments and houses they had occupied for decades and a real estate market emerged from that (with some strong-arming from the potent Russian mafia).
Contrast that outcome with America's experience beginning in 2007 with the imploding housing bubble: an extravaganza of foreclosure and even homelessness. And that episode must be considered a preview of coming attractions because the USA has not entered the robust phase of collapse yet. When that happens, you can expect the tribulations of property loss to be epic. It could throw our system of property law into chaos for a generation or more as the volume of foreclosures would become virtually unmanageable. Property law is at the core of our political system, which would then follow directly into an unmanageable condition. Orlov's point, I think, is that a political collapse in the US would leave many more people discommoded than was the case in old soviet Russia.
Similarly, too, transportation. The Russians never adopted a culture of car dependency. A small minority of connected people had cars that they ostensibly "owned," but the vast majority of the population depended on an elaborate public network of subways, trams, buses, and railroad trains. As a result they never constructed an alternative universe of suburban sprawl. When the soviet system imploded, the trains and buses, etc., kept on running. Russians could still get where they had to go to do what they had to do (rebuild their lives). We in America have poured our accumulated national wealth into a drive-in utopia that has no future in the remaining years of non-cheap oil. Any kind of an oil problem, whether it is a sharp geo-political event or just the slow crushing grind of high gasoline prices, will leave American stranded.
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