Friday, March 09, 2007

The Moscow Files Part 2

Where did this week go? I was having such a fun time in Moscow that I didn’t get around to blogging I guess. Now I’m in Domodedovo airport sitting in a nice café having some tea and a croissant, waiting for my flight to Ekaterinburg. It’s amazing the changes at this airport. For those of you who remember Domodedovo, it was considered the farthest and the worst of the 5 Moscow airports. It’s still the farthest but far from being the worst. I remember the Intourist registration and the bus out to the little waiting lounge with a junky café on the tarmac. Now it’s as if I’m in a modern western airport. Plus the express train from the city was an added delight to the trip to the airport. No more cabbies with their outrageous cab fares.
My whole week has been sort of a sentimental journey and sentences beginning with “Remember when…” were uttered thousands of times. I’m a sentimental guy so reminiscing about the early days with Mark, Richard, Artem and other friends was great. It’s still amazing to think how much things have changed and how much they haven’t changed since the early 1990’s. Things have gotten more expensive, lots of new development (some nice, others ugly), changes to the way of doing things, more people in the capital. Moscow seems to have become a harsher city, people more aggressive, a bit nastier. I don’t let it bother me too much and when they push and elbow their way on the metro, I reply with a fierce elbow and heavy block. Grrrrr!
I firmly believe in the “You can never go back” theory and I know that in Ekaterinburg things won’t be the same but friends will be the same, as in Moscow—that doesn’t change. Spent most of my mornings in Moscow at the “Chaika” swimming pool doing my laps. It never gave me full satisfaction but more stress due to the fast pace of the place and the oodles of people who came to swim like me. Quite a switch from my “Kaspii” in Astana where Daniel greeted me every morning and chewed the fat a bit before I went into the pool, sometimes a lone or with one or two other people doing laps. I look forward to going swimming in Ekaterinburg in the mornings, wonder if it’ll be as stressful as “Chaika”. The rest of the day was spent lunching, having coffee with friends, walking around the old haunts, etc.
I trekked out to “Dom Farforov” one afternoon in the cold, wet snow to check out tea sets (my long time obsession). The store had changed tremendously, full of Villeroy and Boch, Rosenthal and other European fine china. In a corner at the end of the store was a small case of Lomonosov china (from St. Petersburg) set a ridiculously high prices. Can go back, can you? I sighed and left the store, going to the bus stop that would take me up to the Moscow State University, down passed my old apartment and onto Kievsky train station near Mark’s house. The bus took forever to come and the weather was nasty—bitter cold, wet snow, mud, water everywhere. Still I waited for my sentimental bus ride through the Sparrow Hills. It was worth the wait. Although the new convoluted way of buying a bus ticket caused a few minutes delay as other passengers glared at me as if I was an enemy of the people, the bus windows dirty to the point of not being able to see much, it was relaxing to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis and enjoy a gentle bus ride through a quiet part of town. Not many changes in the Sparrow Hills to blog about, but on Mosfilmovskaya, my former street, giant buildings loomed over the 5-story Khrushevky a sign that the once quiet heavily treed area was changing. Sad really, but I guess everyone wants a bit of wooded area in the city. Oh developers—the plague of the world!!
Popped in to see my ex, Artem after a swim. He and Richard, his present live about a block from the “Chaika” swimming pool with their two toy terriers, aka Dogs from Hell. Seems I woke him up at the early hour of 11:30 am (Oh these Muscovites start their day late) but still we had a nice visit. After all these years, he and I have remained friends as well as with Richard. Actually Richard and I were friends before they got together. We were together for 2 years and they’ve been together for 12. My how time flies. Most of our time was spent catching up, having some tea, checking out each other’s web sites and keeping those little yappers at bay—ferocious little creatures, at one point one lunged at my leg trying to take a nip out of me. I can go into lots of details about my past with Artem but we’ll save that for my memoirs.
The weekend came and as protocol would have it, there was the whole round of gay bars and clubs to go to. Friday had us all meeting up for dinner at a Lesbian (uh Lebanese) restaurant before heading to “Cherdak” one of the newer clubs in town. It was all the usual things a gay bar could have, music, drinks, go go boys and handsome, mixed crowd. Besides the people I came with, I didn’t seem to know anyone in the crowd. It was OK, I still had fun. After copious drinks there, we piled into cabs and headed to “Shans” the big gay disco in town. I remember being at the very first “Shans”disco in 1992 with Kevin Gardner, passing out condoms and promoting safe sex. It was in a small space in Dom Akterov with not a lot of people. Now “Shans” is in a big space with four bars, two discos, a karaoke bar, a dark room and a great drag show. In a way, just like any other gay club in the world. My how things have changed! Around 6 am I grabbed a cab home, leaving Mark to his own devices at the club, Vincent having left a bit earlier. Vincent’s a crazy character—a bit wild for the Moscow scene (he’s been banned from two bars already) but is a lot of fun. A mass of creative energy, fresh ideas flowing from his brain, some getting fulfilled, others not. He’s got a knack for getting things going so he’ll do well here. He’s already starting speed dating at a bar here. Will be interesting to see how that goes over here in Moscow.
Saturday morning/day found us lounging around the apartment watching “East Enders” and other shows on BBC, nursing hangovers and regaining our hearing after a night of clubbing. Just like in the old days when I used to fly in from Ekaterinburg for the weekend and Rick, Jon and I would go out til all hours on Friday and spend Saturday watching BBC and lounging around the apartment all day until we got enough energy together to go out for a meal or something. Vincent got locked out of his apartment so wound up sleeping with me on the couch which caused a ripple of gossip when Mark passed through the living room and we waved good morning to him. He didn’t know the whole story and assumed we were shagging and went into his room, called Richard in secrecy under his duvet to spread the gossip about us. Ah gay gossip, I don’t get this in NYC.
Andrei, my friend from Ekaterinburg, arrived in the afternoon on his way to a week long conference in Barcelona. Vincent and I met up with him in the uber-glamorous European Center next to Kievsky train station at a café. To think this chic mall sits on a former park that was full of drunks and gypsy beggars in the 90’s was a bit mind boggling. Not many people can remember back that far or were not around in the old days but I was. So was Mark and Richard and we had many moments of reminiscing about the good/bad old days. It still blows my mind how things have changed in such a short time. Back in the early 90’s when people said it would take a good 10 yrs. to develop Russia, it seemed so long. Now it’s 15 years along and things are looking good. Anyway, luckily Andrei wasn’t in a “I have to go to a gay disco”mood but more go with the flow and the flow went to the Kinoteatr “Oktyabr” where we saw “The Queen” in English. A second time through, it was still an excellent movie. Don’t know how well it will translate into other languages because so much of the film plays with the different kinds of English, lot of great nuances in the language that are lost in translation. Post-film, we traipsed around Moscow from restaurant to restaurant in the chilly rain looking for a place to eat. In the end we had Lesbian food again and called it a night.
Sunday was spent at an old colleague’s from the CARE days, Olga, who I happened to find out about through a friend. They say if you know three people, you know the world and it’s so true. So in a casual conversation over a cappuccino with my friend Irina, it appeared she knows Olga with whom I worked with many moons ago (1993 to be exact) at CARE. She was an office assistant back then now she works for the American Bar Association doing all sorts of things. My how far we have come. Her kids are grown, she has a fabulous apartment, just divorced her husband (it was a mutual agreement and they are still good friends) and is very happy. We spent a snowy Sunday afternoon catching up over lunch and a bottle of red wine which was nice. I love reconnecting with people after a long absence.
Post-Olga met up with the boys at Sanduny banya for a steam to round out the weekend. We used to do this regularly when I lived in Moscow and it’s so nice to just sweat, steam, dunk in cold pools and hang around socializing wrapped only in a sheet. Afterwards went to Krisis Genre, one of the swank eateries in town for a meal and to check out one of the waiters. Mark had been chatting with one on line so he wanted to check him out. Anton I think his name was and he was working in the balcony. We couldn’t get seated up there so we sat downstairs and checked him out from below. OK looking but he had a mullet which got a thumbs down from me. It seems the mullet is all the rage here in Moscow—UGH! Little do they know if they come to NYC, they’ll be ostracized if the US Customs guys don’t get a chance to cut it off at JFK. A night cap at another hip bar, Suzy Wong’s (sorry no Asian drag queens) and it was off to bed. Next stop—Ekaterinburg!

1 comment:

eric welsh said...

thanks for your return to the blog...we were jonesing here in NYC while you were out.

speaking of closed bars, i spent a good hour here early last saturday morning discussing all the bars that have closed in NYC over the last 18 years.


not only was the list extensive, but my friends and i could barely even remember the names of some of the places. we could sometimes just remember the streets and the spaces. after some memory proding, we could then just remember the clientele and the vibe of the place...then ultimately the name would break through.

often, the same place would have housed several incarnations over the years. and even, we recalled, entire "districts" of bars and lounges had now completley vanished. anyone recall the the bridge bar, star saphire, and bogarts, all once by the 59th st bridge...all long, long gone. before new chelsea, there was an old chelsea. there was once even a series of bars in the old meatpacking district (lure, jackie 60, and a third place the name not to be recalled). and the tip of christopher had a trio now gone (sneakers, badlands, and the ever vicious keller's). tribeca had the alter. the upper west had the works, three of clubs, and the candle. granted too see some of these taken away was NOT a bad thing at all.

so many years gone, so many good time had. but i am still here and kicking, of that you can be sure!