Friday, December 12, 2008

Tales of Moscow

Reading the Economist's survey of Russia on the country's demographic troubles -- high alcoholism and low life expectancy and birth rates -- reminded me of Katya, friend of my roommate Oleg on Ulitsa Vavilova back in the day of my dissertation. Katya was rail thin, maybe 26, a student at a theological seminary (like they would ever let her be a priest), mother of four with a junkie rock and roller husband. In the afternoons she would often come by the apartment just to sit around and smoke. It was kind of a pain in the ass, but I understood -- it was the only place she got any rest in that smoky, dusty, chaotic capital that was not so long ago likened to a big village.

One day Oleg and I went out to the "suburb" where she lived to get something, maybe an old TV they needed to get rid of because it was taking up too much space in the "one room" apartment. That is, one room plus kitchen and bathroom, for a family of six. So we took the subway to the end of the line, got on a rickety old bus, walked half a mile to a typical Brezhnev era building, wrapped a television in some stout wine, drank tea with Katya and her mother and maybe bought her husband some cigarettes or something, and reversed those steps to get the TV back home. Good livin.

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