Thursday, April 17, 2003

Day 8

So, I guess any day starts at the beginning and ends at the end. But an account of a day can start at the end and end at the beginning. I only say this because I just got an e-mail reminding me that I had for gotten my folks birthday, which was yesterday. My mom seemed in a pretty bad mood that I had forgotten. And really, it shouldn’t be asking too much because both my mom and my dad have their birthdays on the same day, so I only have half as many days to remember. But still I forgot.

My day today was going pretty well up until this time. Actually many things, except for the money situation are going really well for me. Today is Tatyana’s day off from work, and we are going to be going to a couple of schools to ask about potential girls to play Nadia in the play. And then there is a guitar concert tonight I think that we may go to. But this forgetting of things is making it hard for me to write smoothly. I hate forgetting things I should remember.

This day started well enough. Irene, Tatyana’s mother had remade a bank of pares. We drank the compote (the juice. I guess when it is sweet it is called compote, but when it is for pickles it is called rosol) yesterday when the bank was opened, so today Irene added some lemon and some sugar and re-boiled the pares a bit and resealed the bank. Three cups of this, a big yellow one, a medium blue one and a small yellow one were waiting for Tatyana, Igor and myself when we came to the kitchen for breakfast. There was also fresh borsht made and I had a bowl of this with some sour crиme and fresh bread. The compote was nice as I was feeling a little bad at having to go on a diet. I’ll tell you more about that as I go along.

Yesterday ended at the Lenin. Every city in the former Soviet Union has a Lenin, and Pinsk is no exception. If you are going to meet someone in a city here where you have never been, unless you know the hotel or some such thing, you can always say that you will meet at the Lenin, and you will not have any problems. Tatyana was finished at work at seven and I had Igor with me, and while we were waiting, we went over to the Lenin, which is not very far from where her bookstore is. This Lenin sits on a very large granite base. It is a large and powerful bronze of Lenin marching forward with great intensity, while wearing a cape and holding I suppose a cap in his hands. I like this Lenin because I have a history of having met a few people at the Lenin. But the times have changed, and though no one really seems to dislike the Lenin, I think that its meaning is slowly getting smaller and smaller. I think that most Pinsk people these days have put the word “historical edifice” on their Lenin. And so he sits there, a part of the landscape, simply growing older. Pinsk is kind of built on a swamp, it is next to the river, and so everything moves a bit here. The base reflects this movement and the granite is slowly coming apart. Some years ago a very poor workman used some concrete to try and seal the damages of time, but his work was with the wrong material and didn’t last or do anything to keep the base together.And of course you know, I think that Lenin was right...

Igor did some climbing on the statues foundation and we played a bit behind the statue while we waited for Tatyana. When finally she popped out, we all walked home together, and she was nice enough to hand me two pieces of paper where were written the names and phone numbers of two rather gorgeous Pinchankas who might be interested in playing the part of Nadia. Ahhhh, life is hard.

But before we came to the bookstore we went to the theatre at the Dome Kultura, the same place where pod Kablukom is going to be performed. I say going to be, but I will talk about that in a minute. The musical was performed by the kids from musical school number 1 and was quite good and colorful. I was the Peter Pan story, spoken and sung in Russian to some very good music. The part of Peter Pan was played by a girl. This idea that was very fascinating to Igor when he saw the actress standing and talking to her parents after the show. Tinkerbell was plaid by a girl from the dance department who basically twirled around a bit in a shiny purple dress while holding an umbrella. I thought the best character was the crocodile, played by a kid in a green crocodile suit crawling across the floor. Igor was pretty bored during the show.

But before we went to the show I ran into the other actors who would be in Pod Kablukom in the lobby of the theatre. My man Alexander was there, he’s the big guy who I want to play Papa, and, you know, they had had a few… do strovia’s for lunch I guess and were feeling pretty happy. Alexander was in a mood to try and to explain to me how he was far. Far too busy to play the part of papa because he was in several other plays and would probably not be free until October. I answered this by retelling every one that I was only here on a tourist visa, and that I want and need to be here on a work visa, which would allow me to stay longer, and that I needed the theatre to do this play so that they could sign me on as a necessary part of this production. I also told them that I was pretty disgusted with their starting and stopping the production in the first place and about how they made me lose quite a bit of face with the people who I told about their production in the first place. I think I threw in a few “fucks” when I was speaking, and this seemed to show them a little of my actual anger. So we talked a bit more about the play, and I told them that I had come to realize that it would indeed be very hard to find someone who could play the part of Robert.

But when I was riding my bike that morning, I thought about weather or not I could do the job myself. When I was writing the play, I don’t think I ever thought of how it would be to “see:” the part of Robert, through the eyes of the actor playing the part. Listening for the cues, walking out onto the stage, speaking the lines… My biggest problem with actually playing Robert myself, was twofold: One, I don’t like to act and two; I am not a handsome 27 year old guy. Now, I don’t think I am a bad looking guy, but I don’t grow hair, I am (especially after Poland) fat and I am about 13 years too old to play the guy. But if there are no 27 year old actors who live in Pinsk and speak really good English, the job of playing this part might very well come down to me. So, while I was talking to those guys, I told them that I would do the part if there were no one else who could step in. However, I also mentioned that when Robert DeNiro played Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull”, he got paid $2,000,000 for gaining the weight for the scenes of Jake as an old man. Well, I AM JAKE AS AN OLD MAN, but nobody is paying me to drop the 25 kilos and wear the wig! However, there is no telling what is going to work for some people, especially after drinking their lunch, and this seemed to do the trick. And so, when I told them that I would agree to play Robert… well… I think we agreed to play the play. I mean the word for I agree is “saglassen” and when I “saglassened”, they “saglassened”. So, this is good. I am supposed to go to the theatre today at one o’clock or so and we’ll all know more then.

Before this though, we were at the Igor’s chess club. Igor had got a call from one of his chess friends who could not play to go to the chess club which is right across the street from the theatre and to play a game for him in a low level tournament. So, after stopping to buy some sunflower seeds from a babushka on Kirova Square, we walked over to the chess club. We climbed a spiral staircase and found ourselves in this room with three rows of chess tables, all with white two sided chess clocks and black and white wooden chess figures. The room was filled with children, all between perhaps 5 or six and maybe 12 years of age all banging off of each other like pin balls. Igor’s opponent was a chubby little boy with weak legs and glasses and a short attention span. When Igor got the phone call to come and play he told me that he knew the guy with whom he had to play, and that it would be a fast game and that we would have plenty of time to get to the theatre for the play. And this turned out to be true. When we found his boy, Igor sat down, and had a very quiet and easy look on his face. While he was playing, one of the directors of the chess club came over and expressed his opinion to me about Igor’s chess. He told me that he had good command and that he was learning very quickly, but that he had a propensity to make poor moves sometimes and does not recover well. I said a few da’s and a “saglassen” at one point, but he wasn’t interested in my opinion, just his job of telling me something I should hear, and I was OK with this because I didn’t have to draw any attention to myself as an outsider with my grammatically poor Russian here in this room. The chubby boy brought out his queen too quickly; Igor set up a simple trap and had the queen in the 9th move. After taking a bishop and seeing the inevitable checkmate after the thirteenth move, he allowed himself a small glance at me with the slightest hint of a smile. Two moves later, the smacking sounds began and I knew that it was all over. The chubby kid was squinting even more through his glasses by now, and I think he had become a even a little gimpier. Checkmate; spaceba. After this, Igor chose not to play any more. The club director dropped a piece of candy on Igor for his “vigril”, his win, and after watching a few more games (one interesting one in which the players made two moves at a time each) we went to the show.

Before this was homework time at the house. I asked Igor to finish all of his homework before we went to the theatre because I didn’t want a replay of the previous night where he had forgotten and then woke everybody up on a fit of panic at five in the morning. I can help a bit, though not all that much. Obviously I can help with the English, and the math. But the Russian and the Belarussian are over my head. Well, not really over, if I look at the books and I know what he is doing, I can sort of be there. But still, one shouldn’t stray too far from one’s true abilities, so for the most part, I used this moment of quiet for a well needed nap.

Before this though I was out and about, checking on leads for actors, and calling the embassies to try and get the papers for the work visa. This is harder then I thought, and I find that I am really at a loss of good information as what exactly I must do to get the information that I need. My contact at the embassy in Warsaw, the lady who speaks really good English, was not there, and I had to fight out the details with a bureaucrat who only spoke Russian and polish. The best I could get was a referral to another location, but this turned out to be a wrong number, and so this problem transfers over to today.

Just before this however, I did have one interesting moment. A… uh… former girlfriend…well, this is not really the way to describe her… um, a lady with whom I… well, anyway, someone I had met before, last year and before I met Tatyana grabbed me in the street to say hello. She was having a beer with a friend and invited me to join them. I accepted the invitation but declined the beer. We talked about our… time and I told her that the number that she had given me was bad, and that I had tried several times to call her, but that there was never any answer. This, and that I did not know her address, prevented us from talking again. Maybe it would have been better if we had simply met at the Lenin. Anyway, I told her about Tatyana and that I was quite happy, and she told me that he daughter (never met) was good and that she had been… um… working occasionally in Germany and that she was doing fine. Our catching up seemed to slow down a bit, I asked her if she knew any 27 year old guys… she smiled…who spoke English… she smiled again… who lived here in Pinsk and might be interested in playing the part of Robert in the play. And here she stopped smiling and said that she didn’t think so. Ehem… so, I excused myself and left. It was grand to see her though. And I was sort of happy to see that all things were possible still, including the handling of some mild potential social delemma’s.

And before this, I was at the Internet, where I forgot to send a note wishing my folks a happy birthday.