St Petersburg

Russia in bullets, and footnotes (1): the summer saga continues

*Art: Neva river by Igor Dubovoy

    • Russia carved a seal upon my head.


    • For months, maybe years, the biggest oddest reddest whitest bluest most fascinating country in the world (at the time, still today?) had called to me (2). Here she was, for a she she was, beneath our feet, not so humble, neither she nor we, yet moving slowly, surely moving, united in that, too. Now let us–the reader and the writer–travel together, in the past, from twist’d to tied phrases, smell a bouquet of wild flowers along the two-way highway of mutual imagination, toward a relaxed conclusion.


    • Говоришь? No. Говорите? Yes.


    • (Dogs outside bark as I type; I am in Houston, at my parents’; enjoying the Friday-morning after Thanksgiving-night in peace, traveling downward, rightly, onward from bullet to bullet to footnote. Btw you know the (#)’s are footnotes, right?)


    • What can be said of the third country on this trip this summer, 2018? What can be penned or pixeled that has not been penned or pixeled before? My experience, your encounter with this experience, these are new. A Julia Cameron cup shall be performed to expound, to narrate. (3)


    • My brother and I traveled to Russia with our faithful friend, who met us at Heathrow in London. (4)


    • We flew tardy from London, due to unforeseen Aeroflot mismanagement.


    • There was a world cup going on! St Petersburg has a hell of a stadium, Krestovsky, which would host the final. This brought thousands upon thousands of tourist to the cultural capital of Russia. And brought the best and worst out of people. But first, enter Moscva, where the security check point did their job to let us through. From there, the flight to St. P was upgraded to first class. Aeroflot–an airline which earned the right to offer “first class.” Their first class is world class.


    • Midnight St. P welcomed us with a series of oddities (5).


    • St. P Culture: Nabokov house, Dostoevsky house, exquisite art galleries, craft brews, mid-afternoon tourist naps or russkie double espressos. My favorite cultural activity was the Necropolis. RIP, homies. Would the people of Russia grant me the honor of allotting a hole for my remains there?


    • Architecture: Carlos Rossi gems, churches, cathedrals, avenues as wide and tall as the golden ratio, islands still wet from serfdom sweat.


    • Museums: Hermitage before noon, museum of emotions, vodka museum, museum of science and technology… wait, the aeronautics museum was closed.


    • Food: 300 ruble borsch, 600 ruble borsch, 1500 ruble borsch.


    • Unforgettable lines outside of bars, personifying the city’s invincible nightlife (6).


    • Our uncle and cousin, who we had enjoyed Brixham with, popped in for a few days and a game: Argentina vs. Nigeria. This was the first international game I had ever attended, thanks to our tio who got us tickets. Thanks, also, to the soccer lord, for we won that day–and partied and chanted into the unconquerable night (7).


    • The Neva treated us well (8).


    • Good people (9).


    • A bullet to honor a promise made to many of the people we met: I promise to go back.


    • And another to say there is so much more to say, I just didn’t know how to say it. (Relax.)



(1) Ahem. My apologies, dear Reader, this is not a travelog, besides who likes travelogs, not me! Heheh. Instead, this is a way to express newly an oldie, a trip through St. Petersburg. Inspiration for this form? A book I’m reading called Amor se escribe sin hache by Enrique Jardiel Poncella, a Spanish humorist from the early 20th century; and Julia Cameron’s cup exercise. Regret of the trip? Not seeing more of Russia, due to only proportioning a week in Russia this summer 2018. Promise to come back? Yup. I promise to go back.

(2) Why was Russia calling to me? Jesus. Well, anyone who knows me knows I was in love with with a young woman who for me represented this country of 144.5 million inhabitants, of 6.6 million sq miles, of 1156 years of age. When we broke up, inevitably, I took all the things she cited as causes of such inevitability, and worked to improve myself. For example, she teased my writing as “travelog.” What else: I learned what I could of Russian. Learning the language, the culture began titillating my senses and sensibilities. Next, I read dozens of works by dozens of its authors. Eventually, I internalized the Russian author model: write long philosophical humorous prose for the greater good, accept loss forever, and work with a loving partner. (Breath in.) To round the contour of this footnote, so you can keep reading the bullets (or did you read these notes last?), I will conclude by saying I traveled this summer 2018 with one book–“The Wives” by Alexandra Popoff. (Breath out.) It is with guarded anxiety that I admit I traveled to Russia for two reasons: one, to OWN Russia, at least a small part of it, so I didn’t have to associate the whole country with someone now lost to me; and two, to have a fucking good time with my bro and my brother and my cousin and my uncle.

(3) Cameron cup: Make a list of events to write about, each worthy of an emotional investment from you. Pick one and write breathlessly about that one point, passing your “cup” or imagination through it. Voila. In my case, you’ll notice, I ended up not writing a cup for any one bullet, but just making a long list of bullets and footnotes.

(4) This man is a mister in my eyes, this friend, a certain MR TOUPS, who proves the answer to the question: “Can two bros really be brothers?” Yes. More on him later.

(5) The Uber from the airport asked for cash, the hostel we were supposed to stay in burned down the night before, the rep, among charred wooden planks, with a stoic face that read “we will get through this,” helped us arrange new accommodations across the statue of Peter the Great, whereat we met young boys and a girl running a hostel out of their four bedroom apartment, scored a round of FIFA-xbox with them, passed out, but not before promising to partake in a boat party a few days later. The boat party lasted from 23:00 to 7:00, under a full moon, over the Neva River we would even later see sparkle under the red sails and colorful fireworks of the university’s commencement ceremony we were lucky enough to learn about and attend that very same week.

(6) What I mean is, it was really hard to get in anywhere. But once in, it was tremendous. Oh. Story. One night my brother sees a leather jacket push a pink blouse against a wall, walking out of a bar–we run up, the three of us, to ask the jacket a question: “What the fuck are you doing?” “My problem, my problem,” he replies. “No,” we say, “our problem.” The blouse by this point has run away. We hold the dumbass between us, stare at the meth scars on his face, keeping him from chasing after, for as long as we can. Nothing is understood, but what’s essential. He walks off into the night, alone. I wonder how long for.

(7) An evening which made being knocked out of the tournament one week later not so bad. The next post about this summer will be set in Croatia–about us losing the world cup and what that meant for us travelers–stay tuned.

(8) Again, that boat party with the hostel folks, legendary; and the Red Sails graduation/commencement festival. All on the water. From Wiki: “It is a site of numerous major historical events, including the Battle of the Neva in 1240 which gave Alexander Nevsky his name, the founding of Saint Petersburg in 1703, and the Siege of Leningrad by the German army during World War II.”

(9) Just pure good class in St Petersburg, everywhere, everyone. Even the street scammers doing tricks for coins were nice about it. Going out for beers, lost, past the hour where normal stores sell alcohol, I ran into a lad who was on his way to a birthday party. He took me, kindly, to a secret hidden spot under a kebab shop: there the merchants sold the good stuff in half-liter cans. I gave the Piterec a can and we shook hands. What a guy!


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