Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

15 Jul 2001, 7:26 a.m.

Moscow, Part II.V

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

This documents Sunday night of my Moscow travelog. Parts I and II, if you please.

Day 3.5: Sunday Night.
The "tsar of wishful thinking" joke was basically a refernce to some 1980s (?) song in which a line from the refrain was "I'm the king of wishful thinking."

I saw, in the sculpture garden (or outside its gate, actually) a statue of several people. One of them was a woman holding a shield, upon which was printed Mir zemle -- World peace. The idealism of that, and of early Communism in general, really hit me. It also seemed connected with my personal/emotional life. This problematic attitude of mine shows up both in politics and in relationships: isn't it possible to just sidestep the bad parts of human nature, with enough planning?

The "advertise on the Moscow Metro" signs in the Metro are rather clever. They insinuate the red "M" logo into unexpected places. Nice.

There are Communists everywhere. Some of them are Young Commies, so they kind of have an excuse -- they weren't around during Stalin's reign. But others are old people who just yearn for order, I guess.

I see too many little tourist-merchandise-vendor stalls and tables wherever I go. This makes me fantasize about two different unexpected vending situations. One is seeing a vendor of standard Russian items (e.g., matroschki dolls, icons, vodka flasks) in some touristy spot in the US. The other actually happened (sort of) today. A random stall in a perehod had incense and Ganesha icons and the like. It took me bizarrely home for a moment. I kind of wanted to pray. (The last time I saw a Ganesha icon was in the Ethnography museum. There I actually did stop and say a prayer.)

I have explained in my entry, "Lenin, booze, metro, uniforms, guns", that I got my documents checked on Red Square. I described it there. I had all sorts of emotions and thoughts running through me all night.

  • It's Fisher-Price, My First Document Check! And John's.
  • About ten minutes after the doc check, I got asked by some mall security guard, "Where are you going?" I had an answer, but it was still unnerving. (I was trying to find the 24-hour net cafe which was creepily hard to find -- so hard to find, in fact, that I did not actually find it, but gave up, since the empty underground mall was creepy.)
  • What is wrong, exactly, and umbrage-inducing, about a document check? What exactly is it that makes the bile rise?
  • "Just doing my job," the apparatchik says. There are arguments for both sides when one opposes the individual's conscience against the orders and wisdom of higher-ups and the state and its apparatus.

I saw My First Arabic Graffiti in the metro.

Linda Crew's children's book Children of the River made me cry several times when I read it in high school. I remember it now because of a moment when someone cries because someone else calls her a good person.

I miss home, I thought. And I thought of St. Petersburg as home!

There were stares and possibly judgment on the metro that night. It was a long metro ride home, and halfway through, since I had a seat and John was standing, I got up and successfully urged him to take my seat. He later reported stares from other passengers, although I'd hate to employ post hoc, propter hoc. People stare a lot here anyway.

Is the metro faster, louder, and inhabited by louder and rowdier drunkards here, or is it just me?

The hoo-ha over blue M&Ms strikes me as Boorstin-esque fake news.

Argh, I thought, asking what horrible concoction we'd have for breakfast the next day, and thinking I had homework due the day we came back. John and I grabbed a late supper at some cafe near the hotel, where American music from Russian MTV blared from a TV on the counter.

I had weird dreams that night, including a document check at an airport.

Originally published by Sumana Harihareswara at