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the immigrant and the exile

The expatriate remains patriotic - loving their country from a distance. Their loyalty does not waver.

The immigrant is a foreigner that works in another country as a result of some form of escape, some desperate act.

The exile does not love their country, and it can be said that their country rejected them.

Which one wakes up homesick?

Which one can shrug off the betrayal, the long shadow of the dream of a better life when it sours and fades?

There are days when  I see no difference between the immigrant and the exile, two sides of the same coin. The expat is a blind romantic, their decisions set as young men and women, their senses dulled to nothing. I have started to understand I am not an expat any more, as I do not love my country. I tolerate it.

passing Gagarin (the Americans)

It has started to rain just a little. We are in the car, and even though I have passed this intersection countless times, I take another picture of Gagarin. He is frozen, arms at his sides just like Superman, but he is not flying. He is a man above so many others, a man to be compared to. "You are no Gagarin." I can imagine someone once said, to someone, at some moment in time.

I was asked to do an interview a few weeks ago. The questions were good ones, not the typical fluffy excuse for light-hearted anecdotes. I told the reporter I was not going to candy coat my answers. "Oh no." I was told. "You have a strong story, we want to share it."  We went back and forth. I tried to understand if things were translating well. The reporter liked what I said. We edited the text together. I went to sleep satisfied, and half-forgot about the things that had been written. 

I often sit down on Mondays, curious about who reads these weekly posts. I have friends that give me reactions. I have people I have never met from places like Ireland and Sri Lanka, from Canada, from Portugal that all share comments from time to time. I do not write every Monday to please, or to entertain. I do it because this process had become a part of my life, sometimes a burden, sometimes an epiphany, sometimes a grey bit of nothing, sometimes something luminous. Often E reads my "Monday stories" as she calls them. I see her chin pinch as she digests the words. Most of the time she shrugs her shoulders and says "That's just life, Pop." She knows I write about what happens to us, plain and simple. 

Last week someone from America accused me of writing fiction here, that the events I write about are not real. They said it was too perfect, too impossible. I told E about this and her face fell. 
"Why would we lie?" She asked me. "Why do they think we lie?" 
I did not have a good answer for her. 
I liked that she said we, that she feels like an author in this.




I just came home from returning the camera we were shooting with all weekend. I have footage to check and organize. I need to pick up E from school in an hour for an exam at music school. There are leftovers in the fridge I warm up, skillet hitting the stove one more time in this rented apartment with the crooked doors. 

It seems the article was published yesterday. There are over 2,000 people who visited this blog in the last twelve hours. 98% of them spent a total of ten seconds and then left. I see the article has been shared on other sites. There are comments there, like "Marco - just an old fart stuck in the 90's, with his "thoughts and morals" finding depression in Moscow ... " and "ha ha, ... the best selling products which are usually hidden under the counter." Well, moron."

It gives me pause. 

I know full well that the internet allows strangers to say the cruelest things they feel like saying, like blowing their noses in the street onto the ground without a handkerchief as people pass them. I know that there are few countries in the world that are as defensive as Russia. Mostly, I am sorry that no one actually looked at this blog, that they did not read about the good mixed with the bad mixed with the triumph mixed with the betrayal. At the very most they looked at a picture and passed judgment, but found it all too easy to say I am a terrible judge of Moscow and Russia. Instead they read answers to a handful of questions translated into Russian and decided I am a typical American idiot, lost in my foolish pride and patriotism. And yet, if they asked me to explain what is wrong with my home, I could talk for hours. Even in an article when I explain what is imperfect with America, no one reads that part. In the end, people see what they want to see. If I see countless cars running red lights in Moscow, I must have vision problems. 

For some reason, my thoughts run to Robert Frank, a man of simple means, a man who changed the course of photography with one small book. Born in Switzerland, he travelled America on back roads and stayed in cheap motels (and was arrested a few times in the process). He showed a country over-run with racism and privilege, a brutal truth that no one in America wanted to hear. As an outsider, he found it all too easy to tell this story. He had perspective, and an unforgiving eye. I definitely find inspiration in his example. Mostly I like to know that he ended up living on Bleecker street a few blocks from my old apartment on East 1st Street, and that is where he found a home. 

No, I am not Gagarin.

Comments

Parke Muth said…
Marco, thanks for yet another beautifully written snapshot of your life and they way you model yourself on others who shared life as it is lived-- mixed, contradictory and full.
Monday Stories: There's the title of the book to come, M. Another glorious post. As for the rest of them... F#@ 'em.
JD Hall said…
Hey Marco, love the Robert Frank reference, his images have inspired me in so many ways. I've done a fair amount of video work in the sea island areas that he photographed 50 years ago.

Anyhow, you reminded me of a first person account I wrote recently about my experience on 9/11. I wrote it primarily because I was disturbed that so many of my older son's friends didn't believe this run of the mill story. Denial is the refuge of the shallow and self-absorbed.

Anyway, good work with the blog.
danefarm said…
Hello Marco,
I'm sorry you were met with such ignorance and judgement by so many. I've read your blog for years - not religiously - but from time to time and feel somewhat of an understanding of a small part of your feelings. I returned from Moscow in 2002 and only had residence there for a year but so many of your sentiments echo mine and I can not imagine the person I would be nor the toll to my physical and emotional being if I had remained. Despite that I am still infatuated with certain distinct parts of my time there... certain warm relationships, sights, that feeling of being alone despite being sandwiched on the subway, the jealousy of me not having a girlfriend to walk arm in arm with like some other female friends of mine, the possessiveness that was charming from my Russian husband and the endearments he used, the old and the ancient and the crumbling -simply all the senses awakened by being in such a place so foreign to my normal.

Perhaps the recent readers just have nothing to compare your thoughts too and can not understand. I hope you continue to write the same as always. Comfortable, accepting, loving, in discontent, in yearning, hopeful, contemplative, and true is what I read between the lines. Best of luck with all of life. Thanks for your honesty.
Sarah said…
Marco, What can you say to being accused of making Moscow sound too perfect??? Is this person reading the same blog? I have read your blog for years. I have Four kids, three from Russia so every post I feel the your emotions and they are so similar to what I felt there in Moscow. I route for you to get the three of you out of there. I feel the struggle and the confusion as you look around at every day life there. Anyway, don't listen to such crazy people...they could be hiding their address and in be in Russia so who knows. Hang in there and we are all routing for you. I can;t wait until you are all living in NYC.
David said…
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