The Siberian Basketball Diaries, Part Nine

[ed note: the following is an excerpt from the travel journal of my old high school friend Andrej Mucic. In 2005, Andrej bicycled over 7,000 miles through Siberia to raise money for the American Anti-Slavery Group. Previous installments start here.

Back in Magadan, Andrej nears the end of his visit and prepares to head back to Moscow]


Subject: Atom Tan

When I say I’m going to Metallic Beach, you all have to remember that I’m wearing a fur coat to the beach. The city is on a steep hill and the beach is just a little stretch of sand at the base of a 90 degree cliff. There I go to collect my thoughts. And meet the ell-gathering underbelly of Magadan society.

I recently learned that this beach is very radioactive, particularly in the exact location I like to sit and enjoy the view. You’re probably asking yourselves, How radioactive is it, Andrej? I’ll tell you. On a Geiger counter, a virgin forest reads 12. Downtown Manhattan reads 30. My metallic beach reads a whopping 420! Nice. As I’m catching rays from above, the ground is seething with Cesium ash below me. No biggie though. The locals don’t seem to mind.

So what do I do here when I’m not street fighting, preaching abolition or absorbing radiation? I’ve started translating a 9 year old issue of Russian Cosmopolitan. It’s fun! So far I’ve translated an Estee Lauder ad, and now I’m working on an article about legs.

I have six more days in Magadan. Then I’m off to mighty Moscow.


Next: The Diaries conclude as Andrej returns to Moscow for The Underpass.

The Siberian Basketball Diaries, Part Eight

[ed note: the following is an excerpt from the travel journal of my old high school friend Andrej Mucic. In 2005, Andrej bicycled over 7,000 miles through Siberia to raise money for the American Anti-Slavery Group. Previous installments start here.

Back in Magadan, Andrej nears the end of his visit and prepares to head back to Moscow shortly]


Subject: A Rough Ride to the Balls

The Onyx Bar is very small. There are two seats at the bar and three tables in a small room with a TV hanging from the ceiling. There, I know, I can always find the two Maxes; Handsome Max and Big Max. They are both big, but Big Max is extra large. And Handsome Max is handsome, if you ignore all the scars. The Onyx Bar is on the edge of Gorky Park, where I recently mowed down a band of aggressive little malcheks (punk kids.) It was quite a rumble, two against twelve. Good thing I was armed.

So one cold night (which is day, here), I’m sitting in Gorky Park, with eyes in the back of my head, enjoying a refreshing two liter bottle of Far East malt liquor. The girls are wearing mini skirts and stillettos despite the weather. But they fear me; on account of my beat up Soviet-era bomber jacket, shaved head and goggles.

Then I remember the Onyx, and I head over.

Handsome Max is at the bar pawing Xhenia, the lovely bar maid. He greets me and congratulates me on my victory in the park two days ago; somehow he heard about it? He asks me what happened. I tell him that a malenka sukka (little bitch) malchek (boy) clocked my friend Pavel, so I laid into him, and all his friends, like Mormon at a pizza party. Max told me the special word for coming to the aid of a friend, but I have forgotten it.

He orders vodka and milk. Yeah…just like in the movie.

I must admit that this is an unexpectedly refreshing combination.

Then the KGB arrives. Now they are called the FSB. Two guys: Andrei and Serge, off duty, and drunk, and they’re full of cash and looking for a good time, and they’re full of that certain feeling that comes with knowing that you’re untouchable. Andrei is a real charmer ace. He has a ghoulish scar running down that middle of his jug-head forehead, and his upper front teeth are black stalactites.

After a couple o’drinks, it’s midnight, and the sun is just beginning to dip behind the mountains. The four of us go next door to the little convenience store and buy vodka, tomato juice, pickled gherkins, sausage, and bread. This could mean only one thing…ROADTRIP!!!!  The dreaded KGB-style road trip. I feel as though anything could happen.

We jump into Andrei’s YAZ, pronounced ooo-Az. This is a Russian made jeep, with very interesting triangular doors. It retails for about 7000$, new. And off we go, out of town heading east, and into the mountains. I ask Max, who sitting next to me, and offering me a Baltika tallboy, “where the fuck are we going?” And Max says “To the Balls” and points his index finger into the air.

Magadan is surrounded by mountains on three sides. Directly south is the radioactive beach and the mouth of the harbor. On the ridge of the eastern mountain chain, there are three white balls, some kind of radar installations or observatories. Whom ever I ask tells me something different.

We come to the edge of the city, and get on a trassa (gravel road). Andrei is driving very fast. Then the trassa ends and Andrei warns me that things are about to get “extreme.” Now we’re in a dried up river bed, full of boulders the size of love seats, and Andrei is still driving as though this was a company car. It is impossible to describe the shaking I experienced that night. I was sure that the YAZ was going to shit the bed. I was willing to bet my return ticket on it. After the third time my head smashed against the headliner, I realized that holding on to the little handle above the back door, with white knuckles, was not enough. So with the hand that wasn’t holding the frothy Baltika, I reach down under the seat a feel around for something to hang-on to. Thank God I found a bar down there and clutched it for dear life. It was like riding a mechanical bull, while drinking.

Finally we reached the summit. And the view can only be described as science fiction.

Ok here we go: I’m standing on a mountain peak, the sky is clear, I’m facing west and the sun is day glow orange three degrees above the horizon. On my left is the mouth of the harbor and the Pacific. Below me is Magadan. But the tuman clouds have completely swallowed the city. These are weird terrestrial clouds that roll in from the ocean. But in the middle of the city, the tuman clouds form a huge vortex around the city arial TV antenna.  The low sun paints the vortex yellow and orange. Wow! Behind me is the other harbor, known  officially as Nuclear Beach, and off in the distance is the Horses peninsula. Oh, yeah… and I’m standing next to a three huge white domes.

The domes are abandoned. It looks as though they were never used. Inside the largest one, I entertained the others with my famous Chevy Chase Caddy Shack impersonation. The echo in the dome made it all the more amusing. I think Andrei wet his pants, just a little.

There is always something to do in Magadan.


Next: Atom Tan

[photo: fishing for salmon in the Sea of Okhotsk near Magadan. Totally unrelated to above story– sorry]

The Siberian Basketball Diaries, Part Seven

[ed note: the following is an excerpt from the travel journal of my old high school friend Andrej Mucic. In 2005, Andrej bicycled over 7,000 miles through Siberia to raise money for the American Anti-Slavery Group. Previous installments start here.

In the last installment, Andrej has been set up with a girl by the enigmatic Chechens Mohamed and Vaslan in the city of Susuman. In this- maybe my favorite- entry, he meets the girl Marina.]


Subject: In the Den of the Chechens, Part Two: Marina’s Dream

The handsome Chechen, Vaslan, calls a girl named Marina and arranges a date. I speak to her on the phone and she demands that I speak English as proof that I am indeed an American. She giggles a lot. Vaslan describes her as a real beauty, and he makes the universal hour-glass motion with his hands.

I say goodbye to the Chechens and leave their den. I go back to my little dorm room and stare at the wall paper for 90 minutes and listen to my loud intestines doing their thing. (They are beginning to sound like the plumbing in an under-funded inter-city school in February.) Then I hop in a cab and tell the man “Coldtown” (Holod-nee).

This Coldtown can only be described as post-Apocolyptic. Imagine Mad Max meets Beruit circe 1987. There, in front of a building that looks like twice baked roadkill, there is a girl waiting. She is wearing a black satin dress; it’s basically lingerie. In the back it laces up, like a corset. Her shoes are black ankle boots with 4 inch steel heels. Her hair is dark brown with highlights. (It gets better:) In her right hand she is holding a large yellow daisy, and in the middle of her chest is a day-glow pink button, on which is written, in Russian “I wouldn’t recommend it!” She is beautiful beyond words. And she walks like a sea snake.

In the cab, she asks me how I know Vaslan. I tell her that I met him through Mohamed the Chechen. She looks puzzled. I ask her where she would like to go. She says “to Charm.” The cabbie knows the way.

When we arrive at the Cafe Charm, Mohamed the Chechen is waiting outside. They say hello and I shake hands with him. And I tell Marina that this is the guy I met on the plane from Moscow. But for some reason she calls him Adam. Apparently Mohamed-Adam fancies himself an Arctic James Bond, and enjoys using aliases.

Then Mohamed-Adam jumps in a very expensive Infiniti and drives off.

In the Cafe, Marina and I sit down to chat over beers. She tells me that her dream is to live in Morocco.

At that moment, the beer that had been in my mouth, quickly blasted out through my nose and onto the table between us. Morocco?!??!?!?!?!?!?!!?! Who the fuck wants to live in MORACCO?? * After I clean up the mess she goes on to tell me that she likes Moslem men because they are polite and don’t drink.

This, dear reader is the reason I am here. This type of girl is the kind that is ripe for the white slavery system. It takes me two beers to mentally prepare her diagnosis:

Her father is a drunk who doesn’t love her. He brought the family here from sunny Ukraine and then lost his job as the gold sands dried up, and then drank even more. Now she is attracted to men that don’t drink, but that still don’t love her; classic pattern. She was obviously in love with Vaslan, and he clearly didn’t feel the same way. He probably didn’t have the heart to dump her so he hoped that me and her would get together and he would have a good pretext for ending their little tryst.

I told her not to accept any job offers to go and work overseas. I told her about the things I had seen in my travels. I told her that the only way she was ever going to see Morocco was as part of an academic conference. I told her that she has no marketable skill that any other economy could possibly need, except shaking that ass.

[* ed note: I love the fact that ‘Morocco’ is spelled two different ways here– it seems like a product of the narrator’s astonishment.]


Next: A Rough Ride to the Balls

The Siberian Basketball Diaries, Part Six

[ed note: the following is an excerpt from the travel journal of my old high school friend Andrej Mucic. In 2005, Andrej bicycled over 7,000 miles through Siberia to raise money for the American Anti-Slavery Group. Previous installments start here.

Andrej has survived his hitchhiking experience in the dynamite truck and is now in the town of Susuman (map).]


Subject: In the Den of the Chechens, Part One

Susuman is a very little town, with a population of, I would say, 5,000 souls. The main street is called Sovietskaya, and that’s about it. The Kolyma Highway runs along its northern border the mountains border it to the south.

I managed to find lodging here through the influence of the Na-Chelnik Roos-Lan Nickolaievich. The real hotel was full. If you could see this place, you’d have to wonder how the hotel could possibly be full. But it was. So my buddy Roos-Lan gets me a room at the local goldminer’s dormatorium. The walllpaper of my room was Mondrian-esque Soviet print, and the silence of the first night nearly drove me mad. All I had to listen to was the oddly regular movement of my bowels. I would sit in bed and look at my watch and time the various sounds that my guts made. It was all too regular for comfort. Maybe it was all the fish scales and bones I had been eating, against the advice of the locals…but they’re so salty and tasty!

Sleeping is tough here because it’s so quite, and because there is no darkness, and the curtains aren’t thick enough to block out the night’s light.

In the morning I decided to walk around this wee town until I could find the leggy snow maiden Julia.

I’m currently in the middle of a one-man boycott of the Russian telephone system. If any of you ever come here, learn to speak the phrase “I’m an outlander and I am unable to use the telephone, could you please dial this number for me, thank you.” I had Julia’s number but I couldn’t reach her.

I knew that if I walked around long enough I would find her. She’s hard to miss.

In the meantime I decide to go to the park and interrogate the locals about the road conditions for my journey further east. So I buy a 6-pack of Klinsko lager tallboys and head for the park. It was a sunny day, rife with mosquitos, and I knew that there would be many people there that could tell me about the road that passes the town of Khan-ditch-Khan.

On the way to the park I see Mohamed.


On the plane from Moscow to Magadan, I met a very sketchy Chechen named Mohamed. He was wearing a dark brown pin-striped suit, elf-toed dress shoes, has eerie lime green eyes and all gold  teeth.

The first thing he does is hand me a 10,000 Turkmenistani note, and then he asks me for a gift. I had nothing I could give him, except a syringe and a hypodermic needle. He refused this gift, saying that he was not a heroin addict. He showed me on my map his home, a region known as the Terek. He told me he was a gold miner in Susuman. And he asked me if he could share my hotel with me in Magadan. I politely told him I was staying with friends. He was very gregarious and impressed by my undertaking.


So there I bump into Mohamed on the street, on the way to the park. “Hey why haven’t you called me” says Mohamed.
I tell him about my boycott of the telephone system.

He insists I accompany him somewhere. Along the way he asks every pretty girl if she speaks English. We get to a building around the corner and he makes the universal welcome gesture. As he does this I notice a huge hunting knife wedged into his pants, above the left hip. He leads me up three flights of stairs into an apartment.

I know what you’re thinking: Andrej you fool! How could you follow a complete stranger, knife-toting stanger, and a Chechen, into a building without back up?

If there’s one thing I know, it’s Moslems. Not only have I read both volumes of Hodgeson, but I also grew up in Libya. I know that to be a guest in a Moslem’s home is to be as safe as a bug in a rug. Besides, I had Wolfsnoutchopper on me, mounted upsidedown along my spine and under my flight jacket, but I knew I wouldn’t need it.

On the way up the stairs, Mohamed turns to me and says. “Tell them you are an Arab.”

It would be difficult to convince them that I am an Arab, on account of the fact that I don’t speak Arabic and I am carrying four tall beers in one hand and one open one in the other.

In the apartment are four young Chechen toughs, all dressed in black. The walls of the apartment are covered in Persian rugs, so the place has the feel of a Bedouin tent. They’ re watching TV and their white skull caps are on top of the TV.

So there I am, dear readers, sitting in the middle of five Chechens, drinking a cold one.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Chechen nation, allow me to briefly fill you in: They are a small Moslem nation, living in the Caucasian mountains, that have been  engaged in an on-again off-again war with the Russians for 300 years or so. They consider drinking alcohol harem (forbidden taboo), but the laws of hospitality supercede religious law.

They were very cool.

Mohamed insisted that I pay $40 for me and him to have sex with two prostitutes. I told him that paying for sex was against my religion. He kept on insisting. Then the young boxer, Vaslan, stepped in and told Mohamed to shut his falafel hole. Vaslan wanted to give me a gift. He tells me that he knows a beautiful girl he will hook me up with, obviously a girl he had been going with, and/or, just having sex with. He tells me that this is his gift to me. To refuse a gift is a grave insult, among Moslems, so your humble narrator agrees…..


Next: The Chechens, Part Two: Marina’s Dream

[Photo: entering Susuman]

The Siberian Basketball Diaries, Part Five

[ed note: the following is an excerpt from the travel journal of my old high school friend Andrej Mucic. In 2005, Andrej bicycled over 7,000 miles through Siberia to raise money for the American Anti-Slavery Group. Previous installments start here.

In the previous installment, Andrej hitched a ride with a collection of guys driving dynamite trucks through the Central Siberian Plateau.]


Subject: The Gunmen of the Kolyma, Part Two: The Friend In the Bucket

Not long after I joined the Mountainbusters, the ZIL shit the bed. We pulled over and made camp. I was passed out while the boys were building a fire and getting dinner ready. From the window of the ZIL cabin, I could see that they are busy preparing for the night to come. I wanted to contribute something, so I dig into my backpack and pull out a two foot long, whole, smoked Chinook salmon. The boys hadn’t hooked up the ladder one usually needs to exit the ZIL, so I had to climb down with the beaked head of the Chinook in my teeth. The boys were very amused and they cursed a lot.

That night we stood around the little fire and ate salmon, white bacon, little cucumbers, salted bread and apples, and drank Speznaz (Special Forces) brand vodka out of tin cups. The mosquitos were everywhere. As we chat, we are constantly slapping each other in the face, to kill the little lords of the taiga.

In the morning, I find Kol-Ya using a pair of scissors to cut a make-shift head gasket for Pet-Ya’s ZIL. This did not work. We spent the entire day there, as the intrepid, pious, and foul-mouthed Pet-Ya toiled in the six-foot high engine of the ZIL, completely covered in mosquitos. I declared to all there that Pet-Ya was my hero, for working so long and so hard, all day. They told me there is no alternative. There is no such thing as a tow service out here. Either we fix it or we walk with the mosquitos.

During this down time, I explored the surrounding area. Below us, about one hundred feet down, runs the little Cascade river. It’s about six feet wide and three feet deep and it cut through a very steep and narrow canyon. On the walls of this canyon are ice formations, like shelf fungus, twelve feet long and ten feet thick, just hanging out over the little river, extending from both sides, alternating. The ice is white with blue stripes and it drips sweet cold water. Me and the Na-Chelnik, Roos-Lan Nickoliaevich, went down to gather water for the camp. He took some pretty sweet pictures of yours truly, but the next time he’ll have accesss to a PC will be in September. He took an especially nifty picture of me with WolfSnoutChopper that I hope to have published in Blade magazine.

The Na-Chelnik, Roos-Lan Nickolievich, asked if he could take my bike, the Riddle of Steel for a little ride. We pulled it off of the TNT  truck and away he went, awkwardly: I think the seat was a little too high for him. I told him he looked like Butch Cassidy with the Sundance Kid’s moustache.

After a lot of vodka and a lot of cursing, somehow, with the grace of God, after 12 hours, we were under way.

OK. I’m about to relate to you, dear readers, the hardest part of my journey, so far. At one point, the Na-Chelnik, Roos-Lan Nickoliaevich, asks me if I want to sit up front with him and Pet-Ya. I couldn’t refuse. Besides, they had a better view. I’m sitting between PET-Ya and the Na-Chelnik, and PET-YA is as mad as a wet bobcat because his machine is all fucked up. And he is cursing up a storm. Here’s a little sample:

“Bled (whore), when I get my bled (whore) hands on that bled (whore) mechanic in Magadan bled (whore), I’m gonna smash his bled (whore) teeth on the bled (whore) intake manifold bled (whore). Are you listening to me Roos-Lan Nicoliaevich, bled (whore)? I told that bled (whore) to check the compression ratio bled (whore)…(brief pause)… sukka (bitch)!”

And your humble narrator had to sit through about 30 minutes of this without laughing. It seemed inappropriate to laugh in this situation. I almost wet my biking britches, no lie! Thank god the ZIL broke down again, and I could crawl back to the rear, with the hyper explosive gear and laugh with impunity.

After many mechanical trials and tribulations, we get to a little pas-EE-o-lock (wee village) where my hero PET-Ya has a crash pad. There we ate mashed potatos and hot dogs and salted bread. The vodka, this time, was drunk out of china tea cups. Quickly, the Na-Chelnik, Roos-Lan Nicoliaevich, got sloppy and spilled his cup so it was time to put him to bed. PET-Ya quickly followed. That left me and the seven foot tall OO-Ra at the table with half a bottle of vodka, and plenty of hot dogs.

OO-Ra told me about his experiences in the Chechen War. He described how Russian tanks, under fire, sometimes drive over thier own dead, to prevent the Chechens from mutilating their bodies, in the most unspeakable ways. He told about how he pulled a friend of his from a burning armored personnel carrier, only to have that same friend get cut to pieces by machine gun fire, just two days later. He described collecting the remains of his friend and putting him in a bucket. I asked him his friend’s name. He looked at me and his eyes squinted, his face contorted, and in a high pitched voice, he said Nikolai, and began to weep. He then told about standing over a hole in the ground, Nikolai’s grave, as the bucket was being lowered into the cold cold ground, across from OO-Ra was standing Nikolai’s mother, staring at OO-Ra. OO-Ra, then and there, prayed that I would never have to live through having to look into the eyes of my best friend’s grieving mother. Her eyes were saying “Why didn’t you save my son, it should be you in that hole.” I shed a manly tear, or two for Niky, and we drained a couple of more cups in his honor.

Then, somehow, after the tears, the topic of conversation turned to single combat. OO-Ra could see that I was built like a brick shithouse, and so he asks me, “you think you can take me?” I tell him that I could brake him like a twig, and I made the international twig-breaking gesture. He immediately challenges me to a brawl, either here in the little apartment, or outside on the sooty grass. I declined, telling him that I knew that it would get ugly. I can’t imagine either one of us surrendering until a major bone was broken or severe lacerations require a trip to the doctor, if there was one out here. But OO-Ra was persistent. He nagged me for what seemed like an eternity. Finally I agreed. How can your hunble narrator refuse a little of his favorite passtime, what I like to call La Violencia.

So we both began to remove our gear, so as not to cut each other. Then I go to remove the little silver icon of St.Seraphim, that my good buddy Boris gave me in Moscow, from my neck, and it suddenly dawned on me what the fuck I was about to engage in: a drunken vodka induced brawl with a great friend…that is seven feet tall, and an experienced killer. Thank you St. Seraphim for saving one of us from some possibly serious harm.

Parting with the Gunmen of the Kolyma was very very hard. We exchanged bear hugs and I had to quickly turn and walk away, to hide my sorrow. They haven’t heard the last of me….


Next: In the Den of the Chechens, Part One

[Photo: Andrej left, Petja right]

The Siberian Basketball Diaries, Part Four

[ed note: the following is an excerpt from the travel journal of my old high school friend Andrej Mucic. In 2005, Andrej bicycled over 7,000 miles through Siberia to raise money for the American Anti-Slavery Group. Previous installments start here.

We pick up the action a week after the last installment: Andrej is biking through the Xanadu mountain range in the Central Siberian Plateau, gets cold and decides to hitch a ride.]


Subject: The Gunmen of the Kolyma, Part One

The nights on the south slopes of this mountain range are as cold as a witch’s teat. And so it came to pass that your humble narrator hitched a ride on a dynamite grooz-avik (truck). Yes, you heard right. It was a two grooz-avik convoy. The first grooz-avik was the mighty URAL and the second was the only slightly smaller ZIL. You can tell them apart because the URAL has a big polar bear hood ornament. They are both six wheel drive and the CV joint on these son’s of bitches is bigger than my head.

Allow me to introduce the cast of characters:
  • PET-Ya: driver of the ZIL. PET-Ya is a Virgo, and his hobbies include Jesus, dirty magazines and cursing.
  • OO-Ra: demolitions expert and general all-around outdoor’s man. OO-Ra was the MC. He loves to play the guitar and drink and smile. He is seven feet tall and dressed in full camo with a green handkerchief on his head. His weapon is the knife. OO-Ra rides in the back cabin with me.
  • Roos-Lan: this was our Na-chelnik (boss) and geologist. Roos-Lan is a Gemini and his hobbies include hunting, photography, doting on his lovely daughter, and blowing the shit out of mountains. Roos-Lan sits up front in the drivers cabin, with the foul-mouthed PET-Ya, and he carries a double-barreled shot-gun. Roos-Lan is a Ukrainian Cossack and he really looks like one. He has a shaved head, sunglasses and a blond Turkish handle-bar moustache. He is wearing grean camo and, like a real Cossack, rubber slippers.
  • Slava: is the guman for the ZIL. He carries an AK-74 and a TOKAREV pistol in a shoulder holster and is wearing urban, black and white, camo. He also rides with OO-Ra and myself in the back of the ZIL.
In the other grooz-avik (truck), the URAL:
  • Is Kol-Ya: Kol-Ya is a Gemini, and enjoys laughing and visiting the dentist. And with him is…
  • Andrei: Andrei is armed with an AK Combat Shotgun loaded with 24 gauge manstoppers. Andrei was very quiet during our trip. He seemed to have a lot on his mind.
The moment I jumped into the cabin with OO-Ra and Slava, OO-Ra busts out two small cucumbers, an apple and a plastic bottle of samagon (moonshine). Now I’d been warned, by many, many, people, about drinking samagon with the yahoos  of the Far East. But, I figured, I’m already drinking beer, vodka, not to mention smoking and playing with live ammo, in a dynamite truck, how much more danger could I possible bring upon myself by drinking a little samogon.

The Russians always ask me how old I am, when I tell them I’m 33, they all say the same thing: “you are like the Christ.” Apparently all Russians, including the Muslims, are acutely aware of the age of Jesus when he was Transfigured*. 33 is considered to be a man’s prime, and a lucky age.

Well I survived the jolly dynamite truck. At one point we were passing through an extremely fucked up little village. Between shots of vodka, Slava points out of the window and tells me that a few years ago a truck, just like this one,  accidentally detonated and annihilated this town. I looked out the window and, indeed, the town looked like Hiroshima. I began to laugh maniacally and I could not stop for a very long time. Why I laughed so hard I do not know. Maybe it was because I was happy to be alive, even though I knew that I was on the razor’s edge.


Next: The Gunmen of the Kolyma, Part Two

[*ed note: Czechs always make this comment about ‘Jesus age’ too, and they’re all atheists. Must be a pan-Slavic thing.]

The Siberian Basketball Diaries, Part Three

[ed note: the following is an excerpt from the travel journal of my old high school friend Andrej Mucic. In 2005, Andrej bicycled over 7,000 miles through Siberia to raise money for the American Anti-Slavery Group. Previous installments start here.]


Subject: The Cravchenskaya Mafia

My friend, the misbegotten, and beautiful, Cravchenka, has all the sweet hook ups in Magadan City night life. Cravchenka is a local cub reporter. She interviewed me when I arrived and we are now thick as thieves. She looks like the stereotypical Scottish lass. She also has a hollow leg. Last night I hit the sauce with her and her friends. To them I preached abolition. They had a hard time believing me. They think I’m a fugitive from American justice.

When I tell them about the enslaved Russian girls I saw in Cyprus, their attitude is fuck em, they knew what they were getting into. Why should they give a fuck about strippers and whores that go overseas to make some cash and then end up as chattel. I tell them that there is nothing wrong with being a stripper or a whore, hell some of my best friends are strippers and whores. The problem is that these girls, country bumpkins really, are tricked by the pimps into leaving Russia with promises of real work and once they are in the clutches of the pimp, they are separated from their passports and beaten constantly for a month until their spirit is broken, and at that point rebellion against the filthy pimp is unthinkable. I try to use the analogy of the volunteers that came here during the time of the DALSTROY gulag combine. They came here to work in the gulag mines as free citizens of the USSR. But quickly the distinction between convicts, political prisoners and freemen was lost, and they were all fucked. They think I’m crazy, but at least now they might think about it a little more. I told them to ask their elected officials about this problem and what they are doing about it.

After my fifth Baltica tallboy, it was time to chill and enjoy the company.

Some dude shows up, dressed in a track suit, tall and well formed. He sits to my left. As time goes on I notice that he’s talkin a lot of trash about the USA, as he’s listening to Aerosmith. I didn’t give a fuck because all I was concerned with was staring at the beautiful shorthaired blond, named Lena, sitting directly across from me. After my eighth Baltica tallboy he challenges me to an arm-wrestling contest. I smiled. Little did this silly malchek know that I am an arm-wrestling wunderkind. With my right arm I finished him without any opposition. With my left in 4 seconds. Then he kissed me three times and we celebrated with congac shots and more Baltica lager.


Next: The Gunmen of Kolyma

[Photo: Andrej in the Taiga, Dukcha River, Magadan]

The Siberian Basketball Diaries, Part Two

[ed note: the following is an excerpt from the travel journal of my old high school friend Andrej Mucic. In 2005, Andrej bicycled over 7,000 miles through Siberia to raise money for the American Anti-Slavery Group. Previous installments start here.

Here, Andrej has flown from Moscow to Magadan (map), gateway to the Kolmya region and a former transit station for prisoners on their way to labor camps during Stalinist times.]


Subject: The Jaws of Hell

I’m here y’all.

I’ve just arrived in the Jaws of Hell. I’m writing to you from the Laboratory of Extreme Physiology at the Scientific Institute of the North. I was met at the airport by two lovely girls. Julia who works for the local Ministry of Sports and is working on her Master’s in powerlifting and Lena who is a PhD candidate doing her thesis on Arctic aging. Cool beans.

I’m staying the Hotel Ocean and it’s pretty sweet and only 27$ a night.

I’m  gonna feel out the weather and then break north.


Give to the AASG you maggots!!!!


Subject: Magadan Rocks

I visited the Magadan Geological Museum.  I saw some amazing things. Here’s a brief list:

  • a shiny iron and nickel meteorite, cut on the bias, the size on a huge sack of potatoes;
  • a large floor made entirely of green striped dalolite crystal tiles;
  • a photo-realistic crystal mosaic of the local sea coast, amazing;
  • a preserved baby mammoth and I got to handle real mammoth leather!

I saw a stuffed wolf that looked EXACTLY like the wolf in American Werewolf in London, the last scene when he’s tearing apart Piccadilly Circus.

Yesterday I bought six huge Kamchatcan King Crabs and me and my new friends glutted ourselves to excess on borsht and sweet crab meat and beer. They tell me that there is a species of HAIRY crab here. I’ve looking for it at the fish mongers but I can’t find it. Apparently they are immediately shipped to Japan where they command a high price.

More interesting local lore:

  • The most common Russian name for a domestic black cat is PINOCHET.
  • When a man touches a woman inappropriately, the women will scream at him “Keep your hands off Honduras!!!”

After I was on TV,  I was contacted by the local Society of Disabled People. Here they are called invalids. They are planning to ride tandem bikes along my route next year and they asked me if I would be their scout. They gave me classified ultra-detailed government maps and they would like me to describe the road conditions from Magadan to Moscow. Of course I agreed. They hope to raise awareness of their plight here in the Far East and petition the central government in Moscow for more assistance. Imagine a group of blind people biking across Siberia! Now I am their eyes, in sense. They gave me letters of introduction I can use to get help from invalid groups across Russia as well as veterans groups.

The local head of the ruling United Russia party also gave me letters of introduction I can use when cops hassle me. He also forced me to accept a shit load of campaign trinkets. I didn’t tell him that I hate his party.

Now I have the whole political spectrum covered. I am friends with the Limonovists and their enemies the United Russia Party. I think if the local party boss knew about my association with the Limonovist he would not have been so friendly.

At the Regional Museum I got a taste of the GULAG system. I got to see all kinds of fantastic documents and physical objects from the regional slave camps.

I topped all that off with a visit to the Mask of Sorrow, a huge monument to the men and women that perished here under the regime of DALSTROY, the state enterprise that ran the slave camps here from roughly 1931 to 1951. It’s on top of a mountain and the weather was appropriately eerie and foggy. At the rear of the monument there is a statue of a woman kneeling covering her face and crying. I offered libations to all the dead homies by sprinkling her with sunflower seeds and beer. I was very sad.

When I tell the people here about my work on behalf of the AASG they seem to have trouble believing me. The only way to get people to believe you, it seems to me, is to do something really grand and stupid, as a demonstration of personal conviction. The Russians understand this philosophy well.

Tommorrow morning I’m taking off.


Next: The Cravchenskaya Mafia

[Top photo: Mojva fishing in Nagajev Harbor, Magadan. Left to right: Andrej, Lena, Viktor Nikolievich. Mask of Sorrow photo: courtesy of Flick user kachwc]

The Siberian Basketball Diaries, Part One

[ed note: the following is an excerpt from the travel journal of my old high school friend Andrej Mucic. In 2005, Andrej bicycled over 7,000 miles through Siberia to raise money for the American Anti-Slavery Group, a nonprofit that fights international sex trafficking. Read more about Andrej’s mission, or watch this Russian TV news clip about it.

We pick up the story on the fifth day of the journal: Andrej is in Moscow, preparing for his journey and searching for the Limonists, a group of anti-government radcals named for dissident writer Eduard Limonov (shown above, second from left, with assorted comrades)]


Subject: Party in the Bunker

Yesterday in Red Square I found a guy selling Limonka, the newspaper of the Limonovists. On the back I found their address. It seems they moved the Bunker over to the University of Moscow area. Finding it was a bitch. The entrance is an unmaked massive steel door in the basement of an apartment building. That door leads to a short tunnel and another massive steel door with a viewing slot. They asked me “what do you want here?” I told them I was here to see Eddy. They let me in and checked my credentials and everything was cool. That’s cuz I had my Serbian passport with me. At the threshold of the Bunker there is a flag they use to wipe their feet. It’s a red flag with a white St. Andrew’s cross. “This is the flag of our enemies” Grigori says to me. The Limonovist are engaged in a street war with a group of government thugs known as the NASHI and that was their flag.

Three months ago I sent an email to a guy named Alexei. I found his email on the Nationalist Bolshevik Party website. The Limonovist’s offical name is the Nationalist Bolshevik Party. In the email, I told him what I was doing and he briefly replied “we are waiting for you in Russia you fag.” He was very suprised to see me, he thought I was fucking with him. To make a long story short, I met a bunch of these fine young patriots and we took a group photo, but my flash failed to go off so I’ll have to get another when I return. Alexei promised me a big party in The Bunker if I live through this journey. Alexei also warned me not drink home made Russian booze known as samagon. Later me Alexei and the beautiful Natasha went to the magestic local park in front of the Mega-University and had a beer and talked about our common hatred of policemen. It was a nice day.

Now I’m off to Sunny Magadan. I missed my last plane on account of the fucking traffic here. This time I’m going to leave for the airport seven hours early, so I can beat the dacha traffic.


Next: The Jaws of Hell

Scurv Your Enthusiasm

Good times abound: spring is right around the corner (last night, I heard a bird chirping in the evening twilight for the first time this year), baseball season is a scant three weeks away… and the Idlewords guy is finally posting again. Maciej Cegłowski is the best writer around, but for months his site was lying dormant with some inscrutably geeky (to me, anyway) post about ‘Using WordPress to generate flat files.’ Now he’s back with a resplendent discussion of scurvy.

The article was apparently sparked by his re-reading of a book called ‘The Worst Journey in the World‘ by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, an account of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole that I’ve had my eyes on for a while. As I mentioned in an early blog post, I went through a phase a few years ago where I read accounts of adventurous expeditions for a few months to the exclusion of everything else. There’s something addictive about the asymmetry of lying in the comfort of your living room while other people have to go freeze to death on antarctic voyages, or have their still-beating hearts torn out by Aztec priests, or get swallowed whole by whales and emerge bleached and peevish. I once thumbed through a few pages of ‘The Worst Journey in the World’ at a relative’s house and have been meaning to get back to it since. Among other promising indicators: while there may be better book titles than ‘The Worst Journey in the World’, and there might be better author names than Apsley Cherry-Garrard, I feel fairly confident stating that no book could possibly have a cooler title/author combo than this one.

Scurvy’s frustrating comeback is covered in entertaining detail by Cegłowski. The disease has basically been eradicated by the middle of the 18th century (when the British Navy began supplying sailors with a shot of lime juice in their daily grog), but then bounces back in time to harass Scott’s expedition in 1911 thanks to a variety of factors of which good old human ignorance is the most readily identifiable.

I know of a case of scurvy that happened as late as the early 1960s, and I only know about it because my ex-housemate told me about it, and he only knew about it because the victim was his father. The father was a classic hyper-driven, bachelor lawyer-type guy whose life apparently became so oriented around work that he didn’t get around to consuming the bare minimum of vitamin C necessary to thwart off scurvy. In my roommate’s telling, he then became a kind of cause celebre in the local medical community, as doctors crowded around to get a look at an actual case of scurvy, a disease they had believed to be long extinct.

I think this would make for a great reality show premise: which contestant can contract scurvy first? It’s apparently simple enough to pull off, once you put your mind to it.