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talking to the trees

Most experiences cannot be discussed. No one wants to hear the ugly truth, and chances are you will be attacked for sharing it. To be able to speak freely means that you need a willing listener, otherwise you are just talking to the trees. Time and again I have come to understand that there is no difference between New York and Moscow, no difference between East and West. They are just cults of personality, built on violence and money and moral quicksand.

The life of an expat evolves from those early, awkward victories to one of assimilation or in cases like mine - eventually understanding that you have no country you can (or want to) call home. I am left with just these four walls and my family. This apartment is the only place I actually belong. This is the only place I do not need to soft-pedal my thoughts, where I do not need to apologize for what I have unearthed. The river of betrayal runs deep whether I look outside, or across the ocean. Willful ignorance, willful indifference…

night shoot

A poodle scatters across the ice, approaching me. It sniffs my boots in the darkness. I see it is gray, or maybe just a very dirty white dog. The camera is next to me, pointing up at some trees and a streetlight, some apartment windows out of focus behind it. I see an old man approaching and I try to say a quiet hello. The monitor is perched on top of the camera. I am shooting night cutaways for Blackbetty. His nose wiggles, as if he is sniffing the air around me. I stand, waiting for them to pass before I move on to the next location. He stops and says something to me. I think he asks where I am from. I have gotten into the habit of saying "Canada" just to keep life more streamlined. I cannot imagine someone on the streets of New York asking a stranger something like this. Well, I used to think that way. Maybe things have changed there too.

I try to explain that we live a few houses over. He asks what I am doing. I tell him I am making an art movie, just about life, about trees, sky, moon, streetlights. He does not buy it. He repeats a word, over and over "snimat" which I understand is "to get dressed" so I really have no idea what he is asking. He asks for my passport and my registration. The little dog is stiff sniffing my boots. I tell him they are back in the house. He pulls out his phone and is threatening to call the militia. 
"Fine, I am going." I explain, yanking the heavy tripod and camera to my shoulder skidding across the bed of wet ice towards the path that will lead home. 
"Unfuckingbelievable." I announce, to the trees. 
I do not look back. That is what guilty people do. 

At home, I call N and tell her what happened. She asks if I was shooting near some nondescript two story building. I think for a moment, yes that is close to where I was. "Well, you should keep away from there." She explains. "It is not an apartment building."  Of course I want to chew on this silliness, if it is such important building, why are there no guards? But it doesn't matter. I should have known better, and now I am thinking about the next time I go downstairs to shoot the snow falling, or ice on the tree limbs, or a scene of E coming home from school, or something else and that shitty little poodle and the old man with his phone perched by his ear as he calls the militia. That is how my camera gets taken, my favorite lens, my movie. 


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