Blog3 Oct15 Russia
Another fortnight of plays, cathedrals and a trip to the Peterhof summer palace and fountains. Another week searching for food and transportation and locations with undecipherable lettering. Another week of reacting to surprises and frustrations and beauty — and then opening up to them and letting go of habitual responses (especially when pick-pocketed twice!)
Peter the Great towered over his people at 6′ 7″. He was an expert in everything from ship building to hydrology to dentistry. He lived for some time in the small house seen in the background of the middle picture above where we saw his dental tools. Peter thought nothing of the deaths of Swedes or serf, but died saving people during a Petersburg flood.
LIFE IN ST. PETERSBURG. We all went to a Russian style party at our professor-leader Danilla’s house for his students and actors. Good food and good fun. Some of the talented actors gave welcoming performances. Sergei makes a good living doing Russian films and TV shows — mostly “bang-bang, car chase” to his disgruntlement.
Another day he drove Franny and I to a sort of Russian Walt Disney studio’s where we does voice overs. We had borsch in their colorful cafeteria.
Danilla’s theater used to be one of the walls of the 300 year old Peter-Paul fortress (by the flag at the left of the picture. But it was condemned and they have been looking for space for a year.
This involves much smoozing of officials. Finally, they have found new space — a hundred plus year old brick loft that on the second floor. The inside is more of a disaster than the outside. We will start cleaning it up to prepare for building out the theater this Saturday. [YEEP!]
We saw a play called Children of the Sun. Lots of witty dialog, but it was in German with Russian super titles.
The set with its rolling screen that an old hag kept painting was fascinating. As was the guy who got so pissed at something that he completely stripped to great laughter by the audience. Amazing how much you can get from a play with now words. [Or how you can get a clerk to find, say, a knife sharpener, with only gestures. ]
Later this month we have tickets for Carmen and Swan Lake at the Marinski Theater — home of the world famous Kirov Ballet .
I had to go to a Russian chiropractor since the only American trained one in the city moved to Spain! A fascinating experience. This is the view from the Doctors office (St. Petersburg is like that). The office itself had 15 foot ceiling with columns with curlicues. Soviet era nurses took xrays in the echoing chambers of me dressed in a inch thick bright blue lead scull cap and matching skirt. The room reverberated with Danilla’s laughter. But the heated rolling machine (from the US – 1975) and the mild adjustment and the steroid shots in the back left me pain free — all for $40.
Every day is another adventure. We cross the street by the statue to Alexander Nefsky – who killed a bunch of swedes and was made a saint, and down -down-down into the metro subway and atomic bomb shelter.
But the metro is also an art gallery (Franny taking picture of Gostiny Dvor station). Coming out of the metro, we may cross to canal with a view of the fantastical Spilled Blood Church.
And after crossing the canal we may stop at the Dom Kinnigy book store. Here am I reading Dostoyevsky’s “Idiot” in café — with the Kazan cathedral seen thru the window.
Then we go by the $500/night Europa Hotel, and past the “Art Park” with its statue of the poet Pushkin, to the Stray Dog or “Art Café” where later poets recited and incited a hundred years ago at the dawn of the Russian revolution.
It is in this café that we have our English speaking AA meetings (see pic of Franny in the café). The mainstays are a Finn, a Dane, a Brit, and an occasional American or British tourist and us. But the programs seem solid and good. I hope to feel out some Russian meetings soon. And Peter, the Finn, is going to introduce me to the monks at our local monastery to see if I can help with their recovery work — or possibly lead a meditation!
And then finally home on subways that are sometimes so crowded that the pick pocket that got me could barely squeeze his arm down to my pocket. [More on the tale of the double pick pocket in a later blog.]
MORE CONTRAST. Most (six) of the students in our group are in their 20’s. Then there is Patty (50), and Franny and me. Sitting in our class the other day, I just recalled that when I was 25 in 1963, I had a job working for Boeing in support of a U.S. strategic initiative called M.A.D. — Mutually Assured Destruction. [There is a video game of it out now!] The basic idea of M.A.D. was that both Russia and the U.S. were deterred from starting a war because each could totally destroy the other country. As an expert the then exotic arts of whole system analysis and computer modeling, I did a project comparing the efficiency of various nuclear strategies. It boiled down to how many millions of Russians we could kill per billion dollars spent on each system. We must, of course, be efficient in our M.A.D. strategy!
Over here, the Russians, were naturally trying to minimize millions of Russians killed per billions of dollars. One of their efforts we can now see out our kitchen window. We can peer thru the glass sides of the metro station below to the escalator that descends to a combination subway and nuclear bomb shelter system tunneled out thirty stories below.
M.A.D. worked in part because of the vivid horrifying images of what the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs did to living humans. Nobody wants to risk inflicting that horror on their country.
While the Russians and Germans were killing each other in this city, my dad, and admiral, was busy killing Japanese on the other side of the world. He wrote up a detailed report on the effects of the Hiroshima bomb. [Later, in an ironic twist, I found myself working for a good and decent Japanese boss whose company had purchased mine.]
Half the 2 million citizens of this city died in the three year German siege of Leningrad during WW2. The determined men, women, and children made tank traps and munitions that stopped the arrogant Wehrmacht in its tracks — and then burned books, boiled boots and ate human flesh to endure. The survivors of that time still have a burning hatred for Germans, but young Russians today wonder what’s the big deal. Our theater project is about a Russian and a German who fall in love. German cars and German products and Germans themselves abound on these streets.
World War II ended 65 years ago, and now the two countries are so intertwined they could not possibly go to war. Before the Germans, the French burned Moscow in 1850 and before that the Swedes and the Russians hated and killed each other. Peter the Great had to defeat the Swedes in 1700 to build this city, and soon founded the monastery across the street from us. It is named for Alexander Nefsky, a general [later made a saint!] that killed a bunch of Swedes back in 1250. These bloody wars and raids and slaughter have gone on for all of human history. Even the chimpanzees raid and kill neighboring tribal groups. Yet, World War III never happened, and I believe there is great hope for the future.
My website, AcceleratingEvolution.info shows that higher technology and higher economics leads to a higher morality and a higher-wider view of “who is human” as we evolved from tribe to state to globe. The productivity of agriculture ended tribal infanticide and cannibalism. Industrialization ended slavery. And now globalization is ending racism and major wars. No major economic powers have had a war in 65 years. [When the macho president of India started rattling his nuclear sword at Pakistan a few years back, his outsourcing billionaire financial backers quickly squelched him — bad for business.] Food, toys, cars, planes and trains in Russia, as in the US, Germany, Japan, China and other major countries around the world, come from countries that used to be deadly enemies. Today, it is virtually inconceivable that the US and China would go to war — we are so interdependent.
MORE CONTRAST. As a class assignment here, we each picked out a poem and then had to do a visual expression of each of the poems. I did Rumi’s “God is fire and water”, but one young man did the hollow man which ends with “this is the way the world will end, this is the way the world will end — not sits a bang, but a whimper. This was the one poem I memorized in my dark high school days. Now, I get to recognize that these dark images are balanced by focusing on contrasting ones of joy and light and laughter. Our human experience needs contrast to generate a creative life. [but its more fun to “accentuate the positive”.]
I’m writing this in the kitchen with water boiling away because we still have no heat even though the temperature is near freezing. [Huge city boilers heat the buildings here.] Hearing a banging, I clear a hole in a the steam on the window and peer thru the falling snow to see a workman under a multicolored umbrella welding a pipe which I hope will restore heat to our apartment.
From Russia with love, Carter.
End Blog 3, Oct 15, 2010