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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…

Albino (part one)


I began writing Albino two million years ago. I had an editor then, who lived a few blocks away. We would meet for breakfast on Avenue A, quietly forking into home fries as we discussed the structure of the story - the economy of objects. A dollar bill was not just a dollar bill in this story, it was connected to thought and action, to music and transformation. This was the story that told me there was a whole book to dig into, mining for diamonds in the backwaters of America, turning over the ugliest rocks to better understand relationships between fathers and sons.

Last week, I stumbled across a call for submissions - not for a journal, but for a podcast where the work of new writers was read aloud. I thought back to a reading I had done of just the first few pages of Albino - a messy hero's journey,  a young man and a guitar, a man with loss and regret, a man that still had something to lose. That reading went well, enough that I felt a strange elation stepping off the stage in my engineer boots, drinking whiskey later that night at the Cedar Tavern, still feeling those goosebumps from behind the microphone. So, without much thought I went back to that place, in our Moscow living room. I sent the mp3 file to the editors, and moved on to the next task at hand. A handful of days later the email came, that I was going to be their next episode and then as the conversation unfolded, the next three episodes. I got their answer on the playground, with V making imaginary strawberry cakes in the sandbox and N just inches away. There is nothing like sharing good news with the people you are close to. It is their victory somehow, as much as yours. I still remember those empty days, when the victories were so hollow  - and how I celebrated them alone.

Here is part one of Albino, from a collection of short stories I will somehow put out into the world this year, called Papa on the Moon. My thanks to the good people at Sunday Night Stories, for their interest and support in this awkward, personal tale.




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