Remember when I rode on the plane to Moscow with the band members of Papa Roach and talked to them and they were really nice? This billboard is right by our house and every time I walk by I obnoxiously point out they are my best friends. The show is tonight, what are we doing sitting around here?
Tanya, is not only a relative, but also one of my best friends. She left the then-Soviet Union half-way through her senior year because her parents defected. She hasn't been back since. Buildings whisper secrets and shout greetings, "My dad lived here as a little boy until his father was taken away." "My best friend lived in this building!" She's been visiting with her relatives and renewing her childhood friendship with the Three Bears painting at the Tretrikov Gallery. Everything is at once familiar and unfamiliar, the time traveler's life.
I am thrilled to have her here in Moscow. And not just because she can read menus and metro stops for me. I've been crazed with work, and haven't been able to get away much, but yesterday she wanted to find the apartment she grew up in. I figured that might be the moment of a lifetime so I took off with her.
We wandered past the ring road, and suddenly, after not really recognizing anything in the neighborhood where we live, Tanya seemed to know where she was. She found her apartment where she lived with her parents and grandmother. She found the window her dog almost fell out of.
Then silently she walked around the back of the building, down a street, through a corridor, down an alley to a totally hidden building where she had taken ice-skating and ballet lessons--choreography, she corrects--for years. It was obviously a kid's hang out, I can tell by the soda bottles and candy wrappers in the trash. We weren't sure if we could go in , but what's the worst that can happen? They don't let us in?
Inside, it's clearly still a rec center. Tanya explained to the lady guard at the desk that she had skated here as a child. In the nice weather, there are tennis courts, in the winter they flood the tennis courts to make the ice rink where Tanya skated. We sat and watched kids get ballet-with-a-racket Russian tennis lessons. We went and hung out at the iron gate where parents would peek through to watch Tanya's lessons. Tanya once got her tongue stuck on the gate and had to have someone pour water over her mouth to unstick it.
Then she wound her way through the streets to her school. We tried to get in the building, but this time the guard gave us the typical Russian "It's impossible," shake of her head and wouldn't let us in. Then Tanya flashed her "guest of the embassy" badge and the guard softened and went and got the principal, who kindly showed us in.
Tanya demonstrated how she and her little girlfriends walked arm in arm at recess in a circle, talking, contributing to the worn path in the parquet floor. Her biology classroom is unchanged. The cafeteria, where she ate lunch every day from first grade to that last half of high school, is exactly the same. The stove looks like it's been cooking soup since long before Tanya got there. It can and has survived any number of cultural revolutions. Tanya left the Soviet Union and wasn't allowed to write letters or contact any of the people she walked the halls with arm in arm for her entire childhood. She is time traveling, I'm along for the ride.
The ring road was closed to cars today--walking home after a latte at the French bakery today was such a pleasure with no whizzing traffic. Moscow's celebrated its birthday hard--here, let me pour you a shot of vodka, everyone else seems to have had one--and the amount of sparkle defies description.
In the park people danced arm in arm, and those guys in shiny suits actually danced like cossacks. While people partied, this church, in same park, sat quietly in the September sun.
This last one is the view from the Kremlin, flags along the bridge for Moscow's birthday weekend. That building you see in the far distance is Moscow State University, it's super far away, but huge. If you don't get tired walking the 20 miles of halls, maybe the five miles around the base will do it.
It's beautiful here in Moscow, we are having Marin County weather, brought by our friends visiting from Marin County. Adorble Torri is hitting the bottle here pretty hard, luckily it's yogurt.