Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Russian Attack

I'm not a fan of the big fuzzy hats, per say, but I do love a girl in stilettos. Which is why I didn't mind waiting for an hour this morning to clear customs. I had it all planned. I had a hostel in Moscow, even an agenda. All I needed was a train ticket. Looking out at the "Baltik" beer stand that is shaped like a boat, seeing the iron fence along the waterfront that casts doyley-like shadows along the sidewalk and men taking photos of sexually posed women as if it is an activity as normal as talking on a cell phone, I was suddenly back in 2005, expecting to turn around and see Caterina or Krish. It has been rather odd to follow the same itinerary, but today was the first day it really hit me with such harsh nostalgia. I think also because the July 4th BBQ is around the corner, which marks the three year anniversary of Captain Kritikos's death.

I remembered from last time where the closest metro station was, so as I made my way down there I passed a sign that said "Santander," and also remembered that it was a bank. I had cash in my pockets, made it to the Moscow train station with no problems, so my positive vision of the day unfolding in my favor was working out rather well. I found the ticket counter rather easily, but once I entered the room the smoke and mirrors of the day slowly faded away. I waited in line, the first line, for an hour. Literally, from 1205 - 1300. I had nothing else to do but check the time, and observe the amount of hair product on the mullet of the gentleman in front of me, who was making out with his girlfriend of the exact same hair style. In my hour, I had learned how to say "pri-vyet. ga-va-rit pa an-gli-ski," which according the experts in my Lonely Planet was supposed to equal, "Hi. Does anyone here speak English?"

That phrase was about as useful as the note I had someone write in my journal that was supposed to say "3rd class train to Moscow" in Cyrillic. The older women behind me first pushed me, then laughed when the woman at the ticket window didn't know what to do with me. Pointing at the lonely planet did no good, since nothing in that entire book is in cyrillic. Spelling out Russian words in roman characters is the equivalent of writing down English ones in Japanese. She finally got something when I said "Moskovsky," which I had figured had to mean Moscow. She came back 10 minutes later -- which was the other odd thing about this train station. The ticket counter attendants, all women under 35, would just get up and leave periodically for five minutes at a time, then come back with a wad of cash? Instead of handing me a wad, she wrote down the number 8 on a piece of paper.

After about 10 minutes in line 8, a short, stubby woman with drag queen makeup started a conversation with me. I couldn't tell if it was to me or somehow about me, but I indicated with a nod of the head and arms flailing that I had no clue what she was talking about. Pfff, she said, as she had another conversation with the people behind her, I'm pretty sure that one was about me. 50 minutes later, exactly, I was in the hands of another blonde with a lot of lipstick. She spoke a little English, and after typing something in the computer said "no." Before I could ask her if "no" meant no trains tonight, or no sleeper cars, or no third class, my drag queen friend said "no" repeatedly and shoved my arm, I'm sure thinking that "No" somehow hadn't been translated. I asked about trains for the next day, or the week, but the answer was apparently "no" on all fronts. It's peak season, and it's white nights, so I'm not completely surprised, but I'm still suspicious.

I am only admitting this out loud because it is somewhere between sad and hilarious. I was literally so famished by the time I left the train station and got off the metro, I actually had a moment where I thought I was going to faint, and wondered what they would do with my unconscious body. Anyhow, when I managed to get out of the station (the subway is like 20,000 leagues below sea level, mind you), I saw something resembling the golden arches just steps in front of me. I waited in another crazy line, of course, taking note of the fancy decor and coffee bar. When I got to the cash register, the 35ish blonde woman kept saying god knows what while I figured out how to order. Everything was in cyrillic, and with the pictures above their heads there was nothing for me to point to. I ended up with a cheeseburger, a hamburger, thick fries and coke. At least it wasn't a filet o fish. I think I would donate my body to Russian science over trying to get one of those down.

So I sadly let my hostel reservation go and have surrendered to St. Petersburg. However, I think it might be a sign that I am supposed to go back to the circus and purchase the two headed doll that I passed up last time. Maybe I can even find a smiling Hello Kitty. Which reminds me, Japan TBC ...

1 comment:

freddy funk (dave) said...

poor you -- lost in translation -- true -- you should take it as a sign -- enjoy the immediate surroundings =-- I'm sure there's plenty to uncover/discover right underneath your nose...