Drones Club

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Greetings From (Y)Ekaterinburg!

Greetings from (Y)Ekaterinburg! I believe I have found the most delightful city in the world. Into their cozy and capacious underground I have sunk a local heel, and I now count myself among one of the many regulars at my chosen haunt, the marvelous fin-de-siècle Restaurant Troekurov. No sooner do I pop into the bar than Ivan prepares my morning coffee and herring toast; no sooner do I dart out for the early paper than Raguli has it folded and waiting with my ten kopecks’ change resting on top. It is a city which gets to know you, and for that I have searched far and wide. Certainly one can get into a routine in Manhattan or London, and the mongers know your tastes, but never has the transaction seemed so satisfying for both sides of the stall. That is one quality of the Slavic character to which I have always been endeared: conversation first, money second, if at all. You can buy twenty pounds of pork loin from your Chelsea butcher, but there is always the faint suspicion that as soon as you trundle out the door the clerks are sniding it up over the style of your hat or the size of your ass. Not so here. I have taken drink and dinner with the florist, the mayor, a guitarist, and all manner in between. Like the Swede and the Mexican, the Slav is wholly without snobbery and socioeconomic pretense. An open eye and listening ear takes one in, and vice versa. Whereas the chance meeting of two morning tradesmen on a Houston bus might result in a grunt and the sullen consumption of a frosted pastry, Ekaterinburgers would embrace the opportunity to check in with another striver, and quite possibly might spend the after-work hour together at a local discussing politics and sports over Ziewicz (Zubrowka if it’s cold). If one dropped in on the other at Christmas, how much richer the table for their presence.

Do not worry: in all this I have not lost sight of the gem Ekaterina, and I do think of her daily. Indeed, it is difficult to go a week without seeing her name or photo in one of the dailies. Given my progress with the language and customs, I estimate that the date of our coalescence may mark within the month. I see in the Kvarlovsk that she will play a set of exposition matches at home in the coming week...perhaps I will sluice the popcorn salesman for insights as to the locale of their post-game repasts.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

A bit of a detour

The cargo truck out of Kazan, in which I had stowed away, went off a steep embankment during a particularly violent snowstorm. The driver, rest his soul, did not survive the crash. After relieving him of his cash and flask I buried him in the snow, where he will be preserved until the truck is discovered, no doubt before winter's end. The gravesite is marked with a square of fallen logs, I thought that rather an obvious sign.

Unfortunately the truck was not carrying any food, so I was forced to strike off in search of sustenance. After a few hours of wandering in the darkened forest, trying to keep the road at my side, I was hopelessly lost. Not in any mood to be overtaken by the elements, I fortified myself with the late man's warming vodka and kept ever-vigilant, invigorated not just by the liquor but the purpose of my mission.

For several hours I wandered, here plunging into a snowdrift up to my neck, there cutting my hand as I grabbed for a shattered branch. Just as night had reached its thickest pitch, I spied a dim orange ember of light off through the trees. What first looked like a firefly became the glow of a hearth-fire through a little cottage window. Coming carefully closer, I watched as the family inside wrapped itself up and made off down the lane, carrying bottles and a covered casserole. Presuming they would be out for several hours, I waited until they were out of sight and then slipped in through the front door, which they had left unlocked.

It was a modest enough abode, and I was charged to see that a selection of other casseroles had been left on the counter to cool. Though quite against my ethics, circumstances forced me to reason that I needed the sustenance more than did this family, so taking a large spoon from the counter I carefully took a bite from the first dish. Finding it cold, and suspecting the others were more recently baked, I moved on. The second was scalding hot, fresh out of the oven. The third was perfectly warmed through, and I stuffed myself silly on what turned out to be a succulent pot pie of dark turkey meat, potatoes, peas, carrots and white gravy. The pie was washed down with a large draught of marvelous cucumber vodka from the refrigerator, and between the ordeal I'd been through, the heavy meal and the spirits I found myself barely able to make it back out the door. Knowing it would be suicide to pass out in the snow, I went upstairs to find a place where I could nap until I heard them come back in, at which point I would hop out a window onto the roof.

The family seemed to share the loft as its bedroom: a small bed for the child, and two separate beds for mother and father. Finding the child's bed too hard, I tried the mother's. This one was far too soft to be good for my back, so I moved on to the father's bed, where under the sheets I discovered an assortment of extremely violent pornography.

Growing concerned, I went out to their garage and slept in the attic of their carport. At first light I followed the road for a ways until it met up with the highway again, which I followed until I came across a gas station. At the first opportunity I hopped aboard a truck headed in what I presumed to be the right direction. In a few hours I looked through the slats of the cargo hold and imagine my delight as I saw that we were entering Ekaterinburg! I write you now from an underground Internet café, a hot cup of tea at my side. I intend to book a hotel for the night, freshen up, and get the lay of the land.