- days to joe-
or 20 minutes with JORGE in RUSSIAN
The first day of any trip is always a write off, as if arriving in a foreign city jetlagged after a 14-hour flight isn’t enough the itinerary states we attend a lavish reception at Saint Basil’s Cathedral followed by an inclusive five star banquet. I had drunk enough on our five-hour layover at JFK then another three Vodka tonic to get in the mood to watch Leo Dicaprio die in Titanic, for the third time; all I wanted to do was sleep.
But of course I didn’t.
If you have never been Moskva- or Moscow- is magical, the moment you step off the plane you are overwhelmed with images, the city is filled with beautiful Russian men, just the fragrance, the lights and drink were intoxicating like no other city on earth. Men and vodka are my weakness, so I went along. The first time I came to Moscow seven years before, I took the Red Square tour, Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Spasskaya Tower, the Moscow Kremlin. Supposedly the Kremlin and its surrounding buildings are monuments in architecture, they look just like gingerbread and even from three feet you feel like you could just reach out and eat the door frames, they’re beautiful. The pamphlet explains them in detail but I don’t read Russian and the translation is horrible.
The publishers were paying for the whole thing, they sent me on a 2 week vacation with food budget -thank you very much- half way around the world. I was writing 'Snows in Hell' my first novel based on the experiences of a Russian child I read about.
It was a promising story the about feral instinct. -The child was left in the late 1980’s to forage the streets of Moscow. It painted a fictional portrait of the child's life alone, the later adoption an attempted integration by an American family. It was a fictional account of a true boy told from the inside out. Due to the abuses he suffered and the choice between the Russia he knew and a concept of freedom he didn't, the boy turns inward and becomes mute.- It wasn't well received and hence fell out of circulation by the end of 2003. This is only one of the fictions that enveloped my life.
The reality is what sat three seats behind me, Joe, on our ride back to through Red Square that night. He sat alone reading a tourism magazine, in Russian of all things, he could have been riding a donkey up and down the aisle and I would never have noticed. After five hours of sleep I was excited to spend the day touring the Red Square and tasting the city -I only had one run in with disaster, the Russian equivalent of street pretzels, I could have died.- Joe stood right in front of me during the loading procedure to board the train that evening.
Again the donkey, never would have noticed.
You’d be surprised how easy it is the sleep on a train, nothing like a car or plane; the smooth glide and repetitious sounds lull the mind. I slept from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod; half the day spent dreaming of Russian men in tights, time well spent, not too much work however. By the time we arrived in Kazan I had written an entire description of the Volga River from inside the train car. -I suppose in my mind this little boy was going to express through poetic license the feelings of his captivity and fluidity of the river- Nothing could have prepared me to actually see its grandeur and feel its true power, I threw away eleven of the seventeen pages, It was nothing like I had written.
The river was the highlight of day three but day four held the most magical moment of the trip, Jorge. Finally I get a full nights rest and we cross the Europe/Asia divide arriving in Yekaterinburg freshly rested and ready to take in the city, structure is the name of the game on this tour and let no one be left behind, we visit the Romanov execution site - Depressing? Yes!- and I meet a handsome young Spanish man working at the Urals Mineralogical Museum. Twenty minutes later and the “tour” completed I kiss my Spanish Romeo Adios, in time to catch a bite and board the train no one the wiser.
Красота России была моими 20 минутами с Хорхе
(The beauty of Russia was my 20 minutes with Jorge)