Friday, October 08, 2004

St. Pete Archways and Backyards

I've posted over 50 pictures of Moscow on my photo page today. All from one day, July 19, when we stopped there on our way to Kyiv. Mishah worked that day, and I walked.

That day I realized something for the first time: that I'm gonna miss St. Pete when we move away from here (and we will, sooner or later).

I love Moscow, I miss it. I miss its energy, and its anger, and the way it kicks you in the ass and makes you run around like crazy. I love it. But St. Pete is too sleepy. Even when I can't sleep at all - like now, or like during the White Nights, when it never gets dark. And I didn't think I'd ever miss it too much.

But that day in Moscow, I kept turning my head to look into every archway I passed - and I didn't see anything worth remembering. Nothing but the boring, green, somewhat dirty backyards. Disappointingly boring. (Another way to look at it, though, is to admit Moscow's mayor is doing a good job.)

It was then that I realized I'd acquired at least one habit in St. Pete - to expect something from those archways and backyards. A habit that seems sort of useless elsewhere.

It's not just the graffiti - that stuff is cool but it's everywhere. It's not knowing which components you'll see through the next archway, or how many components together: trash, graffiti, trees, kids' chalk drawings on the walls, homeless people, mamas with baby carriages, wrecked cars, cars that cost a fortune, drunks asleep on kids' playgrounds, freshly laid cobblestone, recently installed streetlamps, cats, dogs, rats, dog shit, swastikas, people's laundry, things that are impossible to describe, little nothings presented dramatically... I'm sure there's more.

And when I walk in St. Pete, I always turn my head to see what the archway/backyard I'm passing is like. (It's also helpful to check for cars driving out right at you - but that's a generic survival skill, valid everywhere.) It's like having a million of boxes in front of you, filled with all kinds of stuff, each unique - it's like opening all those boxes and always being surprised with what you find in them. It's like attending a modern art exhibit every day - only better.

And most of the time I don't feel like taking pictures of what I see. Most of the time I'm kind of scared to enter those backyards - shit does make me nervous. Most of the time each of the components that you see through those archways, pretty or not, you've also seen elsewhere, more than once, more than you'd have liked to. Most of the time I think I'd rather not see what I see - I'd rather be in Istanbul.

But I am in St. Pete - and these archways/backyards are one thing I'm gonna miss terribly when I leave.

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