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no gold (things will have to wait)

There is an old Russian expression for the inevitable moment when your neighbors begin renovating. "Searching for gold in the walls." They say, to describe the epic sounds of drills in ancient concrete. You might appreciate this odd humor, this dark joke, this survival tactic. I am not so graceful a man to wrap my thoughts around it. Those drills and grinders, they shake the very walls of our apartment. Early on Sunday mornings and often long into the evenings they go.

This has been going on for the last four months, maybe more. I stopped counting.

I cannot imagine there are any walls left, that there is an entire open floor below us, the wind whipping through the naked beams and nothing else. That is the only explanation. Or that they break down walls, build new ones, find a flaw, some grand mistake and then break all of the walls down again. Not swiftly with sledgehammers, but with one crappy old drill with a dull bit, mashing away, so that children hundreds of miles away…

where (part 3)


There are parades today. Jets screaming overhead in formation, tanks rolling across cobblestones. The embassy sends out alerts, suggesting to Americans that they should stay inside on holidays like this There was a moment when I thought to try to stand in the crowd, saying not a word, my camera tucked under my arm sneaking pictures of faces and children, of soldiers and militia, the crisp lines of uniforms, the cheeks shaved smooth. 

But that is not what happened. I stayed at home. 

On friday I got to E's school on the early side, and wandered around behind it. Here, the river snakes through the city. The White House is just across from this spot, a bridge arcing across the water with flags snapping in the wind. I go to the left, as a party boat cruises past, no music pumping, no people bouncing on the upper deck. It is too early in the day for that. At one point an old man ambles past me, his medals clinking on a tattered jacket, ribbons and gold discs making a little song as they slap against each other. I take one picture as he passes, pretending to be looking at the White House and the water. He smirks, nods his head after I click. He is carrying a pink plastic bag that flaps around in the wind. 

I go back the other way, towards the little gas station that perches behind a hotel. A young woman is walking towards me in a black leather miniskirt, black shirt, black stilettos, black purse with a chunky gold chain on it. Her hair is more puffy balloon than anything else. I see her cotton candy pink lipstick, the big hoop earrings. Something tells me she is going to try to ask me something, that she is a prostitute. I am wrong. She says nothing, chin tucked towards her chest as she passes. I have pulled off two frames before this, with one of the gas pumpers smoking a cigarette in the background. I see her face, it looks too young for the clothing she wears as she cautiously clicks down the sidewalk. Later she will turn back, asking questions from men getting out of their cars as they pay for gas. Maybe she is lost. Maybe she needs to borrow a cel phone. I see them talking her for some time, and then driving away. 

I camp out across the street from the gas station. One guy is wearing no shirt, just overalls and he reminds me of a character in an early Wenders film - Kings of the Road.  The sun goes behind a cloud. I check the meter, framing up the empty street, the red and white smokestacks in the distance. The girl in the miniskirt is still making her way up and down the sidewalk. 

I go back to the school, where children are running with jackets twisted around their waists, where E appears, her face lighting up when she sees me. 



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