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to be an expat

How can I even begin to explain the experiences of an expat?  The great assumption is that East and West are terribly different. One is vilified, the other painted as a land of patriots and heroes. One is crude and filthy the other has streets paved with gold. Look up and you will see miracles of architecture. Beyond the windows there are supposed to be good people, open smiles and warm hearts. How can I tell you that none of this is true? How can I untie my shoes, and somehow put them on your feet three thousand miles away? You would never believe what secrets they have to tell.

Every time I go back to the states I become more embarrassed to be an American. I overhear conversations in the street, the whines of privileged and moneyed voices. Coddled, dumbed-down and mislead they are drunk on a calculated fairly tale. And then back in Moscow, the same ignorance - the same questions from curious taxi drivers about how good it must be in America, where everything is possible and life mu…

where are the lovely strawberries


When I fell asleep as a boy, it was to a Pete Seeger record. I can still remember waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of it skipping, the needle rubbing against the center of the disc. There was something welcome about that sound, that habit, the repeat of the repeating. 

Now, I wake up to these long distance calls to home. Well, the news. The stories, the comments, the rhetoric, the bubble, the gif, the joke version, the annoyed version, the simple version, the reshared version. The story is on repeat. The grinder turns, the meat comes out, the sausage filled, shipped, sold, cooked, inhaled, shit out and then all over again. 

Last week, I saw more friends check out. More people left the conversation, the platform, the circus. It reminded me of the exodus of expats from Moscow four years ago. If you could get out, you did and never looked back. 

I built a gas station last week. A middle of the night story. A woman, alone. An old black car. A motorcycle swings past in the distance. I made all of this inside a piece of software. A story built from pictures, fleshed out with lights and shadow, a camera drifting and focusing. It all happened in a corner of the living room, while meat roasted in the oven, while the baby was on the playground with my wife, while E was in school. One lonely gas station, and it took days but when it was done I found it to be profoundly satisfying. I watched it, over and again. 

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