Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Moscow, part 2

The mafia attack in yesterday's post wasn't the only one I witnessed while living in Moscow, though thank goodness I never saw any that were really dangerous to my health (barring a truly crazy twist of luck).

I had a friend named Gary who was the opposite of me when it came to socializing. He had no hint of shyness to him. He 'made' me go to clubs with him, and I am grateful for it, because even though I don't drink or really enjoy going to such places, Moscow in the '90's was an amazing time to visit and soak up a truly unique atmosphere. The only frustrating thing was that there were lots of very pretty young women being far friendlier than I had ever experienced in the US, yet embassy rules forbade us from dating them (this rule was dropped after I was there two years, thank goodness or I never would have been able to marry my wonderful wife). I got to watch Gary have girlfriend after girlfriend, while my options were limited to the few non-Russians who sometimes made an appearance.

One day Gary met a Belgian in our favorite club, a dingy, smoke-filled underground room called Krizis Zhanra where there was usually pretty cool live music and loads of young Russians and foreigners. Gary's new girlfriend wanted to drag us to a dinner party at her foreigners dormitory. We took the metro to a rather seedy part of town where the poor foreign students were housed. I was introduced to a very pretty but rather overly bold Belgian girl named Sabine, who proceeded to tell me lots of facts about myself, though she had never met me before. She got most of them right, too.

Gary and his girlfriend Ann wanted to go up to the roof to look at the city lights. The elevator didn't work, so we had to climb out onto a rickety fire escape to climb up the fifteen stories to the roof. It turned out to be a (mostly) good idea, since snow was just starting to fall, and the city looked particularly nice with all the lights coming on. We were standing there at peace when we suddenly began hearing odd popping sounds. We were confused for a moment, but then I followed the noise to one edge of the roof and looked down.
On the road in front of the dormitory were two parked cars, and a third car was speeding away from them. Two men stood in front of the parked cars firing pistols at the speeding car. We spent the next five minutes or so (since we had such a high view, and it wasn't as dark as the photos here) watching as the men leapt into the cars and gave chase to the first. The cars split up, but we never saw the end of the chase as they finally escaped our sight.
This night was the inspiration for my first Moscow scene in the book, which I have take place in an ancient, crumbling dormitory in this very part of town. The place has been abandoned over the decades as the Dark Times caused a contraction in the population, and a mafia group has taken over a room in the building as a safe house.


  1. that's a weird rule about not dating the russians... whew! good thing it was lifted in time for you to get to be with your wife!

    yikes! that mafia stuff would scare me so bad!

  2. Ted-- living the wild life in Russia! It does sound reminiscent of Chicago in the 1920's -- or what I imagine it was like.

  3. This is all far too exciting and scandalous for you, Ted! But I suppose you get to channel all that drama into your stories.

  4. Man, you have had some experiences in life. As you have lived through it, they will make very good background material for your writing, so use them.

  5. ohhh .. it's hard for me to live in this city