Two days ago I was strolling through the main square on friday night with Vanya and Nastya and some other Petersburgians after seeing a puppet show in Ukrainian - I went asleep for the whole show but it was fun. There was a small band of musicians playing klezma and balkan music - clarinet, accordian, guitar and drums - wow the clarinetist was super hot - a pug-nosed Russian proffessional with more slick licks than a desert weasil in a leapard skin waste-coat! I danced with a drunk blond fan who spun so much it made me feel as drunk looking at her as she probably was being her. I started jumping around on my hands to kick off the dizziness of looking at the blond spinning top and that over, I played a bit of clarinet with the band but they did not really need me what with maestro-vsky on clarinet. I think Vanya did not really want me to hang out with the musicians but before he dragged me off they managed to invite me to some gallery where to my understanding there would be some chilling taking place a little later. Vanya and I went to fetch the car near some metro station.
I arrived around 11pm and the party seemed to be getting quite warm. A manic violinist was playing with the wicked russian clarinet player and the dude on accordian and the tough blond artist appeared in a pink blazer and hit me a few more times before introducing me as Johney to everyone and looking for weed for me to smoke out of some dirty old bottle. I let him go off alone on his search and he came back a little less violent and quite smoked out after fifteen minutes of me not being slapped by anyone. If he had not vanished i may have had to leave but by that time i had met a few cool cats. Infact in Ukraine in general i have witnessed quite a lot of slapping and violence - seems quite acceptable to a degree. At its peak the gallery party was a bit like a saloon fight in a wild western, one girl was slapping the artist repeatedly while he tried to do some kind of drunk hippo dance with her, two others were playing tennis with the wheely bin while the chubby hairy little sozzled man stood grinning as he stood half naked in the empty bath-bin piece of art with his paws perched on the golden rim like a doped hampster in a bowel of nothing. Others were jumping on each other and rolling on the carpet and a boggled eyed witness sat with his knees akimbo like a babe rolling his eyes at the scene infront of him as his head and boddy boobed around like a buoy in the harbour. The various effects of alcohol were very clearly on display... I felt like I was in the alcohol equivalent of Reefer Madness - the 1940s US properganda short movie about smoking marajuana where some youths at a party start smoking and seconds later a young lady is visciously kissing a pianist who is crashing at the piano while another woman laughs manicly as a guy chops at some gent sitting on the couch with an antique sword. Check 'reefer madness' on youtube to see the funny 1 minutes video!
Anyhow, this was not the first time I had witnessed the violent effects of ahcohol in Ukraine ... earlier that evening i had tried to play some music in the subway but a drunk invalid from Chernobyl started making friends with me sitting by my side and he got into a fight with a small ragged drunk blond who wanted to take my phone number for some reason i did not quite get - something to do with irish music and bells??? Just a few minutes earlier a friendly couple had invited me for a beer and I said OK but i just wanted to play music and not really chat to anyone. It all got a bit wierd and I found myself between the invalid waving his crutch to hit the small rag-doll woman while she stood there screaming at him that she was a journalist and the friendly couple came back with two beers for me tried to get me to carry on playing and encouraged me to play on and the huge security guard walked up and watched it all like he was a big well fed tree or content stone lazing in the sunshine.
So it was not totally unintentioally that I arrived at the artists party only 5 instead of 6 hours late the next night. After much dancing including me walking on my hands around a drunk Ukrainian guy lying on the ground and jabbering in Spanish mixed with slow lines of Ukrainian poety I found I was a little tired and not looking forward much to the long cycle ride back to Vanya's place - probably about one hour across town and over the very very wide river Dnipr - it was already 4ish. When the accordian player invited me to stay at his place and give me a ride in his car I accepted and quite soon we had the bike strapped to the roof of his car and we were bouncing along the empty streets in a car with two twin girls, the accordianist and the Gogol look alike violinist whose eyebrows kept dancing to some mental melodies going on his skull-box. Sergei the driver stopped in Uprising Square and we went to eat at a 24 hour sandwich bar called Miiisterr Snyeek ('mister snack' pronounced in the local manner) and I hosted a small conference for the non-plused waiters about what animal products were and eventually got a plate with a sliced tomato and some bread and mustard and only a small discreet sausage hanging out on the side of the plate like the local police smoking in dark corners! Not too bad going considering everything. I posed outside with a gang of street cleaners and then Sergei and I played some music for them and they told us to shut up and then they all piled into the back of their truck and drove off up the hill. We drove to Sergei the accodianists place and I was given a really cool bed and went to sleep as the sun was rising. In the morning i found that the twin sister of Sergeis girlfriend had slept on the kitchen floor but she said she liked it there. I was too tired to realise the night before that i was doing her out of a bed but I soon found that part of the deal of staying the night was that I would pose for a portrait which was fine by me. So after a big breakfast the two sisters started painting me in oils. I sat in the corner looking at the clouds and chatting nonsense for what seemed like a month. It was about 4 hours and it was 6ish when it finished - about four hours of solid painting and posing from 1.30 in the afternoon with a small tea break inbetween. Anyhow it gave me lots of time to contemplate the two twins - quite an interesting couple.
I cycled Lena into town on my bike and stopped by a woman selling kvass from a big yellow barrel shaped trailer and Lena carried my cup of kvass while I chugged along crinkled concrete pavements and across manic motorways. We chilled out in the park together with Sergei who was playing in a beach cafe with Mitchos the clarinet lord! After a while we went to meet up with Vanya and we he drove us home where we cooked a big meal with lots of home made fresh delicious vegetables. I cycled Lena home and sat looking at the night sky with her on a bench outside her apartment block. She is very attractive and quite a catch for any guy so I felt quite pleased with myself by not taking advantage of the situation and trying anything on. I came home feeling like I had done a great noble public act of fidelty to Triin who I have been getting along very well with of late. In all truth I do really feel jolly lucky being with one of the most gifted and cheerfully tough girls I have ever met. However, when I came home and Vanya started telling me that Lena obviously liked me and how he thought flirting and kissing and so forth would do no harm to my relationship with Triin, my virtuous mood seemed to crumble into a feeling of self-chastisment for lacking of a certain 'carpe diem' attitude to events. I guess I was just tired and I slowly gave up saying 'Da Da Da' to his interesting analysis of relationships and trickled into dream land.
I guess on this note I may as well make a few observations about relationships in general. Having not been with Triin for several months and haven given up during that time on a long distance fidel commitment I thought that since we did not know how long we would be back together we might as well not loose any chances of love that may present themselves to either of us. What I guess is called an open relationship in 'ze vestern hemispheeere'! But when you have grown so familiar to someone after many taxing adventures and good and bad times interest in others may hotten the blood but seems quite superficial. There is little point in moving flats just for the new oven, if you follow me! And these romantic efforts can be dissapointing to me and despite Triin's pride in her unshakeability, not very inspiring for her and although perhaps masicistically I hope she will have a fling just to see how I react, my record is not so good in such matters. I dont know if it is less painful to keep these things quiet or to talk it over like adults but it is very hard to resist telling the person closest to you about things that you feel strongly so we have been talking about it and despite my efforts I dont think Triin will ever loose some of that Estonian verbal reserve - which on the face of it is no great compliment but if you have read this far, you will probably be starting to appreciate it and wish I had it in larger doses. Basically the whole thing does not make relationships much easier but I guess it does make them more flexible and relaxed and by telling the heart not to get jealous you can rein in the feeling before it sweeps you away. The most important thing in a relationship is to love deeply and honestly and since no deep honest love is conventional don't let conventions tie it down.
However on the conservative side of the coin it feels like finally this year, after ten years of boys schooling and living in a household full of brothers, eventually I am finally making friends with girls in a normal buddy way. Annie from Finland and Gesina and Sara from Germany are good examples - people I feel so comfortable and open with and love in a way I love my mates Bots or Talis or Channing. I think in some ways I have really come to appreciate that side of women and changed my behaviour in a way that makes it more easy to get there ... of course they are wonderful and very special girls too! And as I said before at the moment after a lot of fun in Finland and Kiev swing camps I have a very high regard for Triin - a record high I guess! She gave Vanya some delicious tea and gave me a big bag of dried fruit before she left and I have been swimming in the sweet aroma of the tea ever since. I tell locals here who ask where I am from that I live in Tallinn so they dont look at me like a total wierdo or try to rip me off. I met a woman in the market selling childrens books and told her I was from Estonia and she came to life chatting to me about when she lived there for 2 years in her youth at the military camp in Paldisky - she only knew a couple of words in Estonian so my cover was pretty safe! It felt good to make the old bird selling bits and pieces of junk for pennies smile and also made me feel close to Triin. I sneakily bought a childrens book and soviet badge off her so the woman in the next booth who I had bargained down for the CCCP hammer and sickle red boxer shorts for my brother Henry's birthday would not notice that I did actually have the right price for her overpriced boxer shorts.
OK not the best ending as endings go but it will do.
Hammer and sickle boxer shorts.
Lots of love