The Arrival to Moscow

Written by Herra Honkonen on Friday, February 24th, 2006


This day had to be experienced to be believed. It could have started better, though, since it is clear that I still can’t sleep in a train. I spent two hours trying to find a comfortable way to sleep in the train chair. When I found a position when my head stopped nodding and my neck didn’t hurt, my legs were in such an awkward position that it was painful for my knees. When I managed to correct that, I had drifted so low in the chair that my jeans tried to squeeze my testicles up my body, which was when I got up again and started from the beginning. When I finally got sleepy enough to almost fall asleep, a local guy and a travelmate across the isle started talking to a guy sitting behind me. It went on for a about twenty minutes, each whispered sibilant like fingernails on blackboard in my tired brain. When I finally asked them to shut up, I was already so irritated that I was completely alert. So, I managed to sleep an hour, perhaps two. When it was the time to get up, I was “like shot in the ass” as the Finnish proverb goes. It lasted only ten minutes, though, before I remembered that this trip is actually very fun and forgot all about sulking.

Moscow showed us its Hollywood movie version. The weather was gray, there was a lot of sleet and massive buildings hulked through the misty weather. Gosha took our equipment into the Dom Culture Center and the rest of us took the metro. The metro stations in Moscow we saw were like smoking rooms in the manor of a devout communist. Massive chandelier-like lights, mosaics of Lenin and other soviet heroes and sickles and hammers all around. The guy who said that metro stations are cathedrals of socialism hit it right on the spot.

When we reached Dom, our first project was to check out the wireless net, the geeks we are. Also, we’d have to use it tomorrow to stream the gig. Of course the net worked like a dream for all the other computers apart from the one that should be used for the webcast. I got pissed off immediately when I had to troubleshoot it, but in the end removing and reinstalling the drivers did the trick. I had looked forward to having a shower, but it wasn’t possible in the Dom. The bunch of us were a collection of greasy hair and questionable body odors, so the rest of the day promised to be disgusting.

After the geekery we went for a tour of Moscow. Our first stop was a cafe where we got some very much needed sandwiches and coffee. Trudging through the sleet we reached the Red Square, which was closed off because of the Military Days -celebration. So, no Lenin’s tomb for us. Mr. Vuorensola dropped in to buy a Juri Gagarin T-shirt from a souvenir shop, after which we went to see the rally of old communists. Here the operative word is “old”, because most of them looked like they were old age pensioners. You know, the people who lived in the soviet times and liked it, hardcore Stalinists and so on. We had to go through a security center and a metal detector to get even near the rally. Mr. Vuorensola was the only one who wasn’t admitted through at first, which was because of his bottle of vodka.

Speaking of Russian vodka, it apparently makes you see disgusting little men that sing. We alleviated our disappointment for not seeing the Lenin’s mausoleum by stopping in front of a church and opening the vodka bottle, which started making a steady and fast circuit around the group of people, getting empty far faster than in Finland. When the first round was completed, suddenly a midget clad in leather coat and a fur hat started singing Santa Lucia -hymn in a very good and loud tenor which echoed around the street. For a moment we considered asking him to accompany us on the stage, but ended up dropping the idea, which was perhaps for the best. Our second random encounter was a bunch of grandmother-age women from the communist rally. Gosha asked them to pose with us with their soviet flags and cartboard signs. One of the woman was very fervent with his ideology, we took a photo where Mr. Haapanen is waving the soviet flag (and if published, which will prevent us going to any Baltic or Eastern European tour ever, I suspect). There was a lot of heated and fast paced Russian from the grannies, the locals laughed and we didn’t understand much of what was going on.

During the day I reached the conclusion about our hosts and how they act towards us. It’s kind of passive hospitality, which means they aren’t hovering around the guests all the time, maintaining small-talk and asking if everything is ok. Instead they walk with you, chatting amongst themselves in Russian and paying the guests enough attention so they don’t get lost from the group. If you approach them with questions or try to strike up a chat about something, they talk in a friendly way, joke with you and so on. Some foreign people have said that Finnish are taciturn and withdrawn, but friendly and warm once you get to know them. Based on this experience, I could say the same exact thing about most Russians we’ve met so far, one notable exception being Gosha’s girlfriend, our main tour guide and translator in St. Petersburg, who was talkative from right in the beginning. Well, I’m pretty sure that with most of them the language barrier is a big factor.

Exhausted by walking around the city we stopped in a sort of traditional Russian cafe. Apparently in the Soviet times there used to be many, as one of the locals said, “very lo-fi cafes where you could step in to have vodka, traditional Russian snacks and meet people”. Lo-fi it was, basically a small bar without any chairs and a toilet without a cover on the water tank. We bought some kind of mutton pies which were like the lörtsy from Eastern Finland, plus some vodka that tasted like gasoline. It gave us the energy to walk back to Dom, and to wait a fucking eternity when Mr. Vuorensola and Mr. Haapanen meditated in front of the vodka shelf in a local grocery store.

Back in Dom the four of us collapsed on a loft bed they have in the club. I practically passed out into deep, dreamless sleep, only waking up occasionally when Mr. Paalanen kicked me or Mr. Haapanen tried to feed his dreads to me. After a couple of hours we were woken up by the soothing sounds of hardcore noise when people started doing their soundcheck. When I got my wits back, I spent some time getting up to speed what’s happening with the rest of the world via internet, then rigged up the laptop to handle the sound stream and webcam. The latter was pretty easy, but the sound stream was slightly more problematic, mostly because the mixer and sound tech crew didn’t really speak that much English. According to preliminary tests everything worked fine, but the real baptism by fire is of course tomorrow. There was an embarassing screw-up with the testing, since I was thinking about sending parts of the actual gigs after the regular program of Ubik ended. The trouble was that I had forgot all about the time difference of one hour in between Moscow and Finland. The club ended surprisingly early, at ten in the evening, which was the same time Ubik ceased broadcasting.

The club was two thirds full and I’d say there were at least 100, maybe 150 people. We got to see the video project I mentioned in the previous entry properly this time, and it was still so impressive that I really have to get a copy of it. Then there was an industrial/EBM band that sounded a bit like Eternal Afflict. Noises of Russia threw a really impressive set, which blew us completely away. Sitting in the front row was like being in a torrent of noise. I half expected my hair start to billow by the force of it.

This evening our hosts was this nice couple who lived in the outskirts of Moscow’s downtown, in an old and slightly run-down apartment. They had a cat, a four month old dog that was extremely cute, and one rat. I finally got to take a shower, which made me feel so much a new person I felt like I’ll have to introduce myself to people again. We spend the evening listening to music and chatting with the couple. Mr. Vuorensola ended up downing three bottles of vodka during the day. By the end of the evening he was stinking drunk in the traditional Timo-way, which means that his ambient volume rose to 80 desibels, there was a sharp increase in singing miscellaneus pieces of songs and expressing strong opinions repetitively. Ripa was the first one to hit the bed, I was a close second. In spite of the unholy noise in the next room, the exhaustion and civilian-grade vodka stupor made me fall asleep so fast and efficiently I never even heard Mr Haapanen and Vuorensola come in a couple of hours later.

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