I was asked to do an interview a few weeks ago. The questions were good ones, not the typical fluffy excuse for light-hearted anecdotes. I told the reporter I was not going to candy coat my answers. "Oh no." I was told. "You have a strong story, we want to share it." We went back and forth. I tried to understand if things were translating well. The reporter liked what I said. We edited the text together. I went to sleep satisfied, and half-forgot about the things that had been written.
I often sit down on Mondays, curious about who reads these weekly posts. I have friends that give me reactions. I have people I have never met from places like Ireland and Sri Lanka, from Canada, from Portugal that all share comments from time to time. I do not write every Monday to please, or to entertain. I do it because this process had become a part of my life, sometimes a burden, sometimes an epiphany, sometimes a grey bit of nothing, sometimes something luminous. Often E reads my "Monday stories" as she calls them. I see her chin pinch as she digests the words. Most of the time she shrugs her shoulders and says "That's just life, Pop." She knows I write about what happens to us, plain and simple.
Last week someone from America accused me of writing fiction here, that the events I write about are not real. They said it was too perfect, too impossible. I told E about this and her face fell.
"Why would we lie?" She asked me. "Why do they think we lie?"
I did not have a good answer for her.
I liked that she said we, that she feels like an author in this.
I just came home from returning the camera we were shooting with all weekend. I have footage to check and organize. I need to pick up E from school in an hour for an exam at music school. There are leftovers in the fridge I warm up, skillet hitting the stove one more time in this rented apartment with the crooked doors.
It seems the article was published yesterday. There are over 2,000 people who visited this blog in the last twelve hours. 98% of them spent a total of ten seconds and then left. I see the article has been shared on other sites. There are comments there, like "Marco - just an old fart stuck in the 90's, with his "thoughts and morals" finding depression in Moscow ... " and "ha ha, ... the best selling products which are usually hidden under the counter." Well, moron."
It gives me pause.
I know full well that the internet allows strangers to say the cruelest things they feel like saying, like blowing their noses in the street onto the ground without a handkerchief as people pass them. I know that there are few countries in the world that are as defensive as Russia. Mostly, I am sorry that no one actually looked at this blog, that they did not read about the good mixed with the bad mixed with the triumph mixed with the betrayal. At the very most they looked at a picture and passed judgment, but found it all too easy to say I am a terrible judge of Moscow and Russia. Instead they read answers to a handful of questions translated into Russian and decided I am a typical American idiot, lost in my foolish pride and patriotism. And yet, if they asked me to explain what is wrong with my home, I could talk for hours. Even in an article when I explain what is imperfect with America, no one reads that part. In the end, people see what they want to see. If I see countless cars running red lights in Moscow, I must have vision problems.
For some reason, my thoughts run to Robert Frank, a man of simple means, a man who changed the course of photography with one small book. Born in Switzerland, he travelled America on back roads and stayed in cheap motels (and was arrested a few times in the process). He showed a country over-run with racism and privilege, a brutal truth that no one in America wanted to hear. As an outsider, he found it all too easy to tell this story. He had perspective, and an unforgiving eye. I definitely find inspiration in his example. Mostly I like to know that he ended up living on Bleecker street a few blocks from my old apartment on East 1st Street, and that is where he found a home.
No, I am not Gagarin.