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City Beat October 2, 2003
Walk On The Shy Side
By John Dolan Browse author Email
Page 3 of 4
"Now it's dark," as Dennis Hopper would say.

Most of the kiosks in the perekhod are closing. Except for the beer-sellers, of course. The really decrepit are visible now that the crowds are gone. An ancient woman moving toward the metro entrance so slowly she's like a horrible Tim Conway skit. Another streetwoman with the noble Dust-Bowl face you get when you're about to die is sorting through two bags of garbage, drinking out of any container she finds. Another, younger woman with a face full of bruises pushing a baby in a dirty pram.But there are still no noisy drunks. There must be people drinking somewhere, but apparently they don't come here to do it.OK, finally some DeathPorn action: two aged, queenly men, one looking eerily like J. Edgar Hoover, looking over the streety kids. But nothing much happens.

Went up topside again. The crowd around the Plevna monument is calmer now, more mixed.

As I got back to my building I had the only real approach of the evening: by a dog. One of Moscow's breezy, confident strays, amazingly like Sharik from Bulgakov. Dogs here have such fine, breezy manners. This one smoothly fell in beside me as I fumbled for the key, wagging and panting like a suave dog-of-the-world, and waited for the door to open so it could come in with me -- maybe have a few cocktails, chat...

It was the only approach that could have reached me that evening, and I wish I'd accepted it. But I didn't. Just slammed the door behind me and locked Sharik outside.

10:30 pm

OK, so I'm running a little late. Still no decadence. Kitai-Gorod is turning out to be one big PG-rated disappointment. The few people in the perekhod are respectable couples; there's only one sleazy-looking bunch of guys drinking beer.

Got disgusted, went up top to see what's happening at the Plevna Dalek. One of the horse girls was clomping down the green strip. These girls ride horses around here late at night. They're another of the Moscow details you'll never really get. I'd wake up in the middle of the coldest winter nights to hear clomping and come half awake, wondering, "why was I thinking of Westerns?" Then you place it: the coconut clomp of horseshoes on pavement. And in the morning there'd be dry, oatmeal-like dunes of horsedung on the icy sidewalk.

Not much going on at the monument, though. People talking, drinking beer. Knife-fights: zero. Sobbing drunks: zero. The place is more respectable than Atherton.

Note re: beer. Russia's switch from vodka to beer is supposed to be an improvement. I have one comment: more beer, more piss. More piss, more smell. I don't care what they say, beer sucks. Opiate of the populist.


My schedule slipped because there was a boxing match on. Featherweights vying for the title of fiercest munchkin in Las Vegas -- but I just can't resist seeing two people batter each other's heads to pulp, no matter how tiny or inept they are.

And there sure isn't going to be any violence here in the perekhod. Just grumpy, tired people coming home from failed dates. Groups of girls in elf-shoes coming back from a bar as single as they left and pretending to be fine about it. Then a bunch of English-speaking snowboarders in blond dreads, staggering home after a wild night of red bull and guarana pancakes. Don't pull a muscle, Wild Ones! And a few couples, strolling fresh-squeezed to the Metro entrance, looking smug.

Went up topside; Plevna monument totally transformed! Everyone was gone. And where they had been, all around the monument, were vast numbers of empty beer bottles and cigarette butts. Some bomzh is going to make it big tonight.

Still no decadence in sight. New hypothesis: Friday night debauches in the Kitai-Gorod district seem to consist of drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. Pitiful.

I gave up, walked home -- and ran into the only actually decadent sight of the evening. As I waited for the elevator to descend, I heard a weird cooing sound descending with it, and expected to see a couple necking when the door opened. It was something much creepier: my downstairs neighbor, voice and face slurred with drink, holding his ill-tempered Pekinese to his face, nuzzling it and whispering endearments at its squashed, petulant muzzle. He saw me, mumbled the start of an excuse, then simply stomped to the exit, furious.

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