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the long way around

The living room is a forest of mic stands and cables. A cup of coffee, a large glass of water and a shallow shot of whiskey sit on the tiny white table. I alternate between them, making sure the guitar is in tune, trying to understand if the chair will creak when I lean my head back on the second chorus.  There is a hush in the room. I can hear my own heartbeat. The lyrics are printed out on a fresh piece of paper, large and thick so I can read them easily even though I sing with my eyes closed and will surely forget a handful of words no matter what I do.

The guitar sounds dry, perfect - even honest. I can play a simple D chord with a long strum, or the side of my thumb and it sounds so different. I record a few takes, barefoot in the bright room. I am going too fast in some parts, and my fingers are already sore from the chord changes.

And then all at once, I am thinking of a show I played in an old factory in Brooklyn, way back when I had just started writing songs almost twenty y…

the fishbowl (white nights)


They say the smoke is building up in the suburbs. More fires - not accidents, not forests or dead grass but people burning trash. If the smoke will stay in the city, no one knows. If it will choke the air so you can hardly see a few feet in front of you, no one knows. There is only a blind hope for wind and rain.

This is the seventh summer in the fishbowl of Moscow. We swim in long circles, bellies scraping against familiar rocks, sometimes resting in dark corners, making our way back and forth across the exact same streets, the same stones, the same traffic lights clicking red then green.

It feels like I spend the winter complaining about darkness and the summer complaining about too much light. At dinner I yank the curtain in the kitchen to keep the low evening sun out of our eyes. At four in the morning I wrap a t-shirt around my head to find sleep.

After a short walk with N on a Saturday night, we pass one of our neighbors in the street. He is a curious man, always dressed like he is going on safari. His giant hat, long sleeves and even the small scarf around his neck are easy to recognize as he approaches. I say hello to him, and he breezes past us, like he does not even know us.

Work goes on. Pages fill with words. Meetings are held in air-conditioned cafes. E is growing by the minute. I used to think of life in Moscow as a form of treading water, a marathon effort to stay with our chins above the water as we prepared for the next wave to sweep over us. At one point, I imagined a ladder we climbed, and how it was unnerving to look down.

In the flat sun of August, it feels like nothing is going to happen. We are at a standstill. The city will empty. The streets will empty. It feels like we will be the only ones that did not go to the ocean, or a leafy dacha with apple trees and hammocks to nap in.



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