Made it back in just under twenty-two hours. Neck and shoulders fused into solid mass of bone. Hacking cough harnessed as open-mouthed, toothed shovel; 77 souls rescued from Indonesian rubble.
On the evening of the 7th, Elvira and I went to a party at Alex Alexeev's (snow-engulfed) дача; several of the revellers spoke English, but as my Russian had improved a bit over the twelve days of my visit we engaged in spirited Russish instead. Lots of vodka.
Our driver picked us up, took us back to Uschakova, and Elya and I said our farewells. To buoy our spirits we drank cognac... Kissed a few dozen more times, made mental (and digital) pictures of the wallpaper, the bedsheets, the chocolates hanging from the New Year's Eve tree, Elvira's mouth and eyes... Then received the dreaded mobile phone signal. Loaded the bags into the trunk of the green Volga, and made for Moscovsky Prospekt. Big sigh.
245 kilometres through an intense, blinding snowstorm. My driver kicked ass.
We were stopped by the Russian highway patrol (DPS) only twice during the four-hour taxi jouney from Yaroslavl to Moscow. Total bribes paid: five rubles ($2). Why were we stopped? Everyone is stopped. Corruption is blatant in America, of course, but in Russia it's stripped of artifice.
The whores at the Oblast border were huddled into scrums; white-lace stems, black-streaked rabbit fur. One driver directed his high-beams on to seven prostitutes who stood, admiringly, side-by-side in the bitter cold. Their pimp waited beside them in a white Lada, windows rolled up tight. It was fairly mild for early January, maybe -2 Celsius at most. Still, a lousy night to be a hooker.
Drowsily convalesced at the Aeroflot terminal; forgot to sell my rubles. (I've got several hundred more than necessary for life in South Georgia.) Flight was late getting off the tarmac; the food on Aeroflot is surprisingly excellent. No in-flight entertainment whatsoever, but superb eats. A horrid Dutch family with two very obnoxious toddlers chortled as their kids crashed into armrests, ankles, service carts. I coughed in their direction whenever possible.
Ran through Amsterdam Airport to meet my connecting flight (to Cincinnati!); sat with a lovely Dutch gal who attends UTEP on a track scholarship. Made up for the boorish twits who sat one row before me on the previous slog. Nine hours in the air; ignored Catwoman and Shark Tale, but seriously vibed on the Delta Sky ad for Thai resort destinations. A young woman speaks into a cell phone from Phucket; her beau answers from Toronto... Seen many tsunami vids? The one with the three kids on the beach is very hard to watch.
Flew again with Natasha (the UTEP runner) to Atlanta; by the time we landed at Hartsfield-Jackson I'd been in transit for 18 hours, and I smelled like a fucking daisy. Bid farewell to the track madchen, and slouched downstairs to the shuttle. My suitcase took forever at baggage claim, I was tired as Hell on the southbound drive on I-75, and... Here I am.
School starts in the morning, and there's a TLASILA gig a week away. Life is good.