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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…

imaginary places


It is an act only a New Yorker can be offended by. Anyone else would dismiss it as it happened. There are only so many hours in the day, and so much injustice a person can note, rehash, testify to and eventually absorb. There may just be a razor's edge that defines a normal person from an obsessive New Yorker, or that edge may be a mile wide. I don't know anymore. There are no tools to measure imaginary spaces. There is just the cold Moscow winter, the snow littered with shit and piss many feet deep, in long grey drifts that snake around cars and streets as far as the eye can see.

The life of an expat becomes a surrender measured out over time. You lose contact with acquaintances from back home. You become invisible to many people, transplanted in a land where no one sees you.  You become a ghost, a phantom shadow that does not recognize its face in the mirror. The past is so far away, it becomes someone else's past. A stranger's life two times over. But in this vacuum, this limbo  - there is a possibility to reinvent. You can shed a skin, and paint a new face in its place. You can laugh at the wind, or take up stamp collecting. You can walk in the street and take comfort in your anonymity.

There are bitter pills to swallow, those headlines from the place you come from. They go down easier from a distance. They become a bad movie on a dark screen. You can walk out into the lobby, buy some candies, suck on a fountain soda, and stare out at the street. It is raining, and the cars are sloshing their way through intersections while people share umbrellas and run into cafes to dry off, or fall in love, or argue, or make love or go to get their kids from school. It all happens in these imaginary places.



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