27 September 2009
20 September 2009
Crammed into the tiny apartment, stepping over sound cables and cigarette butts we practiced covers, and a few originals. Will pushed the songs along, dropping into a sonic mayhem whenever it seemed right. Cole thumped away, checked his watch quite a bit and made tea for anyone that wanted it. Vova made a lot of jokes about paying a cowbell during the show, and splashed around on the keyboard. Jenny sat in the corner, her legs crossed around each other, concentrating on memorizing the lyrics and wondering how she would handle her nerves. Ed the drummer was in St. Petersburg, so I guess he was drunk or seeing some giant amazing things.
The balcony was open and I found myself looking out across the rooftops, seeing Red Square in the distance. I had not played my saxophone for years. My lips raw, lungs in pain, I played dirty solo after dirty solo. Of course, it felt fabulous.
I went home and made pasta for E and myself and we curled up on the couch to watch cartoons.
The next day I woke up to the smell of autumn coming in through the windows. I made a giant plate of French toast that I dusted with sugar. E was just getting over a cold, so we agreed she would come to the next show. She did help me pick out an outfit. Something very low-key.
That afternoon we rehearsed quickly, and I felt like I had forgotten everything I had learned the day before. I couldn’t even remember the names of the songs, much less what I was supposed to do on them. I know one thing about the last rehearsal before a show – if the rehearsal feels a bit off, the show will be amazing.
The gig was a sort of house band for some expat actor who recited a very long passage from The Dumb Waiter. The room was packed, with people spilling out into a hallway, all perched on top of each other. We opened for him, and played a few songs that we had never even rehearsed. I have always felt incredibly comfortable playing the saxophone. Well, it’s been since I was seven and all seven-year-olds are fearless. The big question about playing for me is how MUCH fun am I going to have doing this tonight, in this moment, in front of these people? I found my body shifting into familiar positions, elbows bent like a bird, stomping on one foot, then the other, jumping onto the microphone like some sort of cat in blue jeans. My ancient, magnificent horn was out in the open again. Snarling, fluttering, stomping, wheezing and howling the songs piled up on each other like a Dagwood sandwich. Jenny got over her nerves, pushed the hair from across her face and sang dark and low about carpenters and dead things.
After the show, waves of bright-faced students came to us asking when the next show would be. A DJ took over and started playing ABBA remixes. Giant TV screens flickered on, and a man walked around taking people’s names so they could play video games. A minor celebrity talk show host was the first one to start, playing Mortal Kombat against a grey-haired mafia driver.
Just another typical Sunday night.
14 September 2009
It's hard to believe my little girl has her first day of Detskie Sad (Kindergarden) tomorrow. I'm not sure who is less prepared - me or her. We've organized all of the tests to confirm she hears ok, sees, ok, breathes ok, has no TB, etc. The school is about 10 minutes walk from the apartment.
There is an overgrown courtyard with apple trees, their fruit littering the dirt. There are poppies, and little purple dahlias. There are clumps of little mushrooms that look like houses that we found this morning, on the final preparation visit.
I understand how much she just wants to stay at home, surrounded by countless familiar dolls, puzzles and magic markers. I don't really have a great reason for why she needs to go. Every time I explain why she should go, it sounds quite silly. Effortlessly, she replies and my talking points fall apart in my hands.
I decided to take another tact. I explained to her how we ended up living in Moscow and things took a different perspective. I explained why I went to school, and even how I was a professor for a while. I told her that I had always wished she would lead an interesting life, and that going to school would ensure a future of adventures. Tough to argue with that one. She lives for adventures.
She suddenly looks so tall in her calgotki (tights), with her legs dangling on the side of couch as I look for her new sneakers. We agreed I would pick out her outfit, and she would pick out mine.
Tomorrow is the big day - -well, for at least an hour. Then we come back each day for one hour more until she finds herself.
07 September 2009
By my fifth day in New York, the city felt like an old pair of jeans I had misplaced and then found in my luggage. Everything just fit. People smiled at me. Every lunch was a blue plate special. Old friends uncorked bottles and bottles of wine, whipped up late night macchiatos and tucked me into bed under Mexican blankets.
I slept the whole flight back, returning to a rainy Moscow afternoon with a suitcase full of toys. The city was oddly quiet.
Lost in time again, I surrendered to naps in the afternoon and spent my nights trying to fall back asleep. I felt like I had forgotten my travel clock in New York this time around.
On Sunday, I took E on a walk to рынок (the outside market) and recognized a famous clown in the street. Kuklachov, founder of the Moscow Cat Circus nodded kindly to me as I said hello. There is no kinder or gentler clown alive, as far as I am concerned. He finds stray cats, takes them in and teaches them to perform in his imaginative and charming little theater. He lives with something like forty cats in his apartment upstairs. The marquee is covered with portraits of them, with their names spelled in giant yellow letters. He also has a little dog – some kind of white terrier.
We bought triangle shaped pastries filled with lamb and onions. E likes to eat them in street with me, sitting on the curb like we are in some lost Chaplin film.
I really felt like I was in Moscow again.