Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Wild East

IT occurred to me, early in in reading Andrej's e-mail letters from his exodus across Siberia in the name of anti-slavery, that, though the Soviet Union is dead and Russia is in the doldrums, still its time is yet to come. It still has the quality that shaped America: a frontier.

The nights on the south slopes of this mountain range are as cold as a witch's teet. And so it came to pass that your humble narrator hitched a ride on a dyanmite grooz-avik (truck). Yes, you heard right. It was a two grooz-avik convoy. The first grooz-avik was the mighty OO-ral and the second was the only slightly smaller ZIL. You can tell them apart because the OO-ral has a big polar bear hood ornament. They are both six wheel drive and the CV joint on these son's of bitches is bigger than my head.

Allow me to introduce the cast of characters: PET-Ya: driver of the ZIL. PET-Ya is a Virgo, and his hobbies include Jesus, dirty magazines and cursing. OO-Ra: demolitions expert and general all-around outdoor's man. OO-Ra was the MC. He loves to play the guitar and drink and smile. He is seven feet tall and dressed in full camo with a green handkerchief on his head. His weapon is the knife. OO-Ra rides in the back cabin with me.

Roos-Lan: this was our Na-chelnik (boss) and geologist. Roos-Lan is a Gemini and his hobbies include hunting, photography, doting on his lovely daughter, and blowing the shit out of mountains. Roos-Lan sits up front in the drivers cabin, with the foul-mouthed PET-Ya, and he carries a double-barreled shot-gun. Roos-Lan is a Ukrainian and he really looks like one. He has a shaved head, sunglasses and a blond Turkish handle-bar moustache. He is wearing grean camo and, like a real cossack, rubber slippers.

Slava: guman for the ZIL. He carries a TOKAREV in a shoulder holster and is wearing urban, black and white, camo. He also rides with OO-Ra and myself in the ZIL.

In the other grooz-avik (truck), the OO-ral: Kol-Ya: Kol-Ya is a Gemini, and enjoys laughing and visiting the dentist. And with him is Andrei: Andrei is armed with a AK Combat Shotgun loaded with 24 gauge manstoppers. Andrei was very quiet during our trip. He seemed to have a lot on his mind.

The moment I jumped into the cabin with OO-Ra and Slava, OO-Ra busts out two small cucumbers, an apple and a plastic bottle of samagog (moonshine). Now I been warned, by many, many, people, about drinking samagog with the yahoos of the Far East. But, I figured, I'm already drinking beer, vodka, not to mention smoking and playing with live ammo, in a dynamite truck, how much more danger could I possible bring upon myself by drinking a little samogog.

The Russians always ask me how old I am, they all say the same thing: "you are like the Christ." Apparently all Russians, includnig the Muslims, are accutely aware of the age of Jesus when he was Transfigured. 33 is considered to be a man's prime, and a lucky age. Well I survived the jolly dynamite truck.

At one point we were passing through an extremely fucked up little village. Between shots of vodka, Slava points out of the window and tells me that a few years ago a truck, just like this one, had accidentally detonated and annhilated this town. I looked out the window and, indeed, the town looked like Hiroshima. I began to laugh maniaclly and I could not stop for a very long time. Why I laughed so hard I do not know. Maybe it was because I was happy to be alive, even though I knew that I was on the razor's edge.