Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Eat, Shit, Die

Wrote this last Wednesday in Amsterdam:

* * *

I'm aware that there's a popular book and film called "Eat, Pray, Love" about a spoiled white woman who gives up her spoiled affluent white-woman life so she can abroad and find herself by boning some foreign dudes. (I assume she lives affluently while this happens.) Travel broadens the mind, right?

Horseshit, some of the most closed-minded, selfish, and stubborn people I've ever met are the most well-travelled.

Does this woman get accused of sex tourism, or running away from her problems?

I'm sitting in Amsterdam's Schipol airport as I write this, feeling exhausted and greasy and more than a little bloated from all the beer and fast food I consumed in the last few days. Amsterdam is a much nicer city in September than in August; still enough tourists to give it a festive atmostphere, but everything's not quite so slammed. Weather was cool and sunny, so I enjoyed walking around.

I've gained such a hatred of airports and planes. I'm not exactly afraid of flying, but I hate the crowds, the lines, the expensive food, and of course the security restrictions which prevent you from bringing your own beverages and cause endless hassels with baggage.

So my 2.5 month holiday is over; it never particualrly seemed relaxing, probably relating to my hatred of airports and a lot of worries over visas and hotels and accomodation and such. And of course my relationship. . .

But there were some things learned; I definitely feel the truth of a couple things now:

1) I'm middle-aged and my body can't take as much punishment as it used to
2) La Vie Boheme in Vodkaberg and Russia in general is completely and finally over, for me defintely and probably for most English teachers
3) Soaring global inflation means I was wise to get a high-paying job and try to sock a lot of money away. (I spent enough money in the last 2.5 months to buy a good used car, and didn't have more than a couple of Big Nights Out.)

So I'm going back to my monastic life of work, TV, books, sunshine, Internet and exercise.

I can't say I'm not looking forward to it.

* * *

And I came back to Saudi Arabia to find that the ceiling of my bathroom had collapsed, due to a slow leak from the water heater, and the walls were all covered with mold and mildew.

Monday, September 20, 2010

St. Petersberg

I can’t think of a fun­ny ti­tle for this. I con­sid­ered “Piter, Piter, Pump­kin Eater” but that doesn’t make any sense. (They call it 'Piter' for short in Russia.)

I just spent two days in St. Pe­ters­berg; I’m writ­ing the draft of this on the ex­press train down to Moscow.

The last time I vis­it­ed St. Pe­ters­berg was in 2003; in the in­ter­im, un­sur­pris­ing­ly, the In­ter­na­tion­al Tourist City Bland Bomb has gone off. The dark streets lined with strip clubs and seedy bars with free ad­mis­sion for for­eign­ers have been re­placed with bright neon-​ad­ver­tis­ing-​slathered streets lined with $5-a-​cup cof­fee shops, chain sushi restau­rants, and gener­ic shop­ping cen­ters. I re­mem­ber a lot of hook­ers and skin­heads; now it’s most­ly tour bus­es full of old peo­ple and Japanese. An air of spu­ri­ous fes­tiv­ity and shit­loads of traf­fic clog Nevs­ki Prospekt. Prices are a bit low­er than Moscow, but still about on the lev­el of most Eu­ro­pean cities.

Al­so, the mys­te­ri­ous alche­my born of moder­ni­ty has oc­curred by which men be­come slim and ef­fem­inate and well-​dressed and wom­en be­come heavy and fumpy and wear no make­up and big glass­es. Wom­en in Piter didn’t seem any bet­ter look­ing than wom­en in any oth­er city.

I met with some girls who I had known years ago in Sama­ra; none of them are mar­ried but all of them soon will be.

It’s a beau­ti­ful city, though. Can’t de­ny that. Had a love­ly view from my ho­tel, which was rather run­down and full of a box­ing team from Bashko­rtis­tan, who looked a bit in­tim­idat­ing but as they were in town for a cham­pi­onship were well-​be­haved apart from eat­ing vo­ra­cious­ly at the break­fast buf­fet.

Al­so went to the Her­mitage — where they were has­sel­ing Rus­sian peo­ple to show their pass­ports to prove they on­ly had to pay 100 rubles, com­pared to the 400 rubles that the for­eign­ers have to pay.

So ba­si­cal­ly I’m com­ing to the con­clu­sion that the on­ly rea­son to live in Rus­sia now is if you smoke, as cigarettes are still cheap and you can smoke most places.

I don’t smoke.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Proof Is In The Pudding

Yeah, I did it -- I did something asinine and offensive, just to show my girlfriend she wasn't dealing with the Perfect Guy.

First I lied to her -- I told her I was meeting with a male English teacher. Then I went to a banya -- a Russian sauna -- with 2 girls.

One of the girls is married, the other is engaged. We had a history of going to the banya together, starting in about 2007. 3-ways orgies? No. Plenty of nudity and lewd behavior? Yes. (A private Russian banya consists of a room with a Tv and pool table attached to a small pool and a steam sauna, with showers and, often, a padded table for massages or banging prostitutes.)

So I met with the 2 girls and we drank beer, but neither of them were able to go into the banya or the attached jacuzzi -- one was one the rag and the other had just gotten her nails done.

So it was mostly an innocent old-time beer-drinking session, starting at about 4.30 and finishing at 9.30. I could have been home by ten.

It would have been fine. . . but I managed to drink enough to black out.

Drinking only beer. I had bought 3 liters of draft beer from a supermarket -- most supermarkets in Vodkaberg here sell strong, bacteriologically unsound draft beer straight from various manufacturers -- and somehow in drinking that and an indeterminate amount of bottles, managed to get shitfaced enough to become a mumbling incoherent stumbling mess.

One of the girls brought me home in a taxi, after answering my phone when my current live-in girlfriend called. She says this was because I couldn't tell her my address and she didn't want to leave me on the street.

So I came home and vomitted a few times and collapsed onto the bed.

My live-in girlfriend responded by hitting me multiple times and then telling me to sleep on the floor, and then angrily going out to meet with some other friends, where she also got very drunk. She told me later she found three condoms in my pocket, also. (Of course, the magic number 3 means I didn't use any.)

Was that the end of the relationship?


That was a few weeks ago.

When she came home the next morning, I told her that she should find a better guy, that I wasn't right for her.

This is of course the last thing you tell a girl, if you actually want them to do that. She told me SHE would decide if I was right for her or not, not me.

We worked it out. Things got back to their normal routine. I even took her to Kazan to see the Cirque Du Soleil.

So we see -- it is not a question of whether or not I WANT the old life, it's a question of whether or not it's possible -- and answer to that latter question from only a physical perspective is no.

My 2.5 month holiday is coming to an end. I'm going to St. Petersberg on Thursday, on Moscow on Saturday, on Amsterdam on Monday, and then back to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Being Normal Is Hard Work

I'm in bed about 12 hours a day, for some reason.

We get in bed about 10 or 11pm, the girl and I. We have sex for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour -- depending on whether I'm abusing the Cialis -- and in the night I usually wake up for an hour or more due to mosquitoes, sinus problems, being too hot (the first few weeks) or too cold (the last few weeks.)

She gets up at 6.00am to get ready for work; I claim the whole bed and go back to sleep, and inevitably wake up again at 10.00am or 11.00am.

There's no logical reason to be such a slug-a-bed. I haven't been doing much of anything taxing. A few hikes in the country or some walking around the riverfront embankment, a few beers per day. A few mild and civilized meetings with former colleagues and friends.

We tried for one old-fashioned Boy's Night Out -- we went to the grungy cheap student nightclub we'd always patronized, known as the House of Pain due to the horrific hangovers one inevitably got from the cheap alcohol and poor ventilation. It was practically deserted on a Friday night at midnight -- something that would have been unheard of a few years ago. We had a few beers and shots of Jaegermeister, and then Crazy Bob got kicked out because he said something rude to some girls on the dance floor. I didn't catch exactly what, though I did hear him yelling at them.

We went to a slightly more upscale nightclub -- where, as it happened, my live-in girl had gone with her Girl's Night Out.

So it ceased to be Boy's Night Out, but it was still a good enough evening. English Teacher J got so drunk he slept right through his class the next morning, and Crazy Bob got beaten up on the street outside while trying to get a taxi, for reasons he can't fully remember.

The next day was the end of the big Russian Heat Wave of 2010 -- it was cold and rainy all day, so the girl and I stayed in bed most of the day, brutally hungover, venturing out only to the supermarket in the evening. (That's definitely that kind of day you don't mind having a woman around.)

All in all it's been quiet though. Most of the girls in my little Manson Family, and most of my colleagues, are married or shacked up themselves, so I maybe see them for lunch or whatever, or invite a few people over for dinner, but we have not repeated the excessive retarded drunkeness of the Boy's Night Out, or of the years 2004-2008.

As far as the co-habiting in general -- it doesn't suck. But I'm not completely comfortable with it.

It takes some getting used to, not being able to do whatever the fuck you want, whenever the fuck you want. It's the freedom I was addicted to, I should say, not the pussy or the alcohol.

Still, I think it's important that I try this -- I've seen too many old English teachers in the Middle East who are so miserably selfish and self-centered that they can barely abide amicably sharing an office with someone, or speak politely for more than a few minutes without starting to rant and rave about some personal obsession, and I'm not sure I want to end up like that.