Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Here’s today’s essay. I’ll reprint soon the overview, which can be found about four essays down. Or just read the book already. And if you are reading the book, you can check out the plays. And if you are doing all of that, you can write me about how great a writer I am. Things are not going well right now. Not at all. The “gift giving” holiday is New Years rather than Christmas here. And though we are lean this season we are doing the best we can to put smiles on each other’s faces. They have a version of Times Square here as well, but nobody wants to go. Too cold, they say. We’ll do something to ring in the New Year. Today’s essay is kind of a personal rant called “What the hell am I supposed to do?”. It’s about money, which I am sure everyone can relate to. And thanks again for the letters.

I think that there are still a lot of things to talk about involving the description of what it is like to have your life completely stopped by an arbitrary bit of social maliciousness. And of course, there are a lot of things to think about concerning what it is like to have your own country sit back and allow this to happen. I am starting to do a bit of laughing these days when I think of how few options I really have left thanks to what happened to me. Perhaps it would do me some good to describe my situation a little. Get it out! That’s what sympathetic people always say. Why not, maybe it would help.
OK, where to start? Well, a good place to start would be to say that I have money. I guess this is not the winning shot in the argument because quite a lot of people suffer from this disease. I guess I could go into a description of the socio/economic politics that have created the current global poverty situation. Or for that matter, I certainly could pontificate about the ludicrous situation in Belarus and the former USSR, of which I am intimately involved. But for today, I think I just want to talk about the specifics involved in my particular “having no money” situation. Hmmm, where to start?
First of all, I have no money. But, before you start handing me all of that “pull yourself up by the boot-stap” bullshit, I would like to inform you that it is technically illegal for me to work in Belarus. I can compensate for this in two ways; by investing money of my own, or by acquiring an invitation of an existing company here and the accompanying work visa. The first of course is no longer possible because Poland stole all my money and the second hasn’t happened in 8 months now. Teaching English is always the first thing to come to anybody’s mind, but because I am not a licensed teacher, that eliminates doing that professionally and the market for private lessons has been bleak and I will explain why in a moment. So what is there to do?
Well, working anywhere requires both ability and the trust of the people who hire you. I think that this trust is called ”face”. When I first came here, I had tons of face, here and everywhere.
I owed no money, had a new girlfriend and this most inspirational of moments led me to wanting to try to do my thing here. I wrote a Russian language play and had found partners for a bike business. At the time I did all of this, early spring of 2002, I was in shape and had the support of the whole community. That means a lot, especially when one is talking about a five-year dream of returning to one’s grandmother’s hometown. Meant a lot to me anyway.
However, my forced stay in Poland not only cost me all of my money, accusations against me caused a most remarkable amount of damage to my face. When I finally did get to come back here, the theatre that had accepted my play was now not so anxious to do business with me for free. Don’t know if I can blame them or not, but this was the situation. I guess they had heard that I never made good on my promises to the bike school guys. Loss of face hurts doesn’t it? That ripple effect of letting people down here has been following me like a lost puppy ever since I have been back. If we allow for that prejudice, and the prejudice against Americans in general, I guess we can see where my options here have been somewhat limited. And this is without taking into account that working in a factory here would mean working for $5 a day.
So I can hear you even now: “Don’t be a fool!” you say “Give it up! Go back to the states young man!” Ok, let’s talk about this for a minute. My returning to the states is not such an easy proposition as you would think. Firstly, I have no job waiting for me there; no apartment to live in and again, no money. I was not rich when I was in the states; I was a $100 a day, 37-year-old bike courier, who worked also in bike shops as a wrench. I was good at what I did, but the 37-years-old part means something, and the less than $100 a day one can expect from being a simple worker does not riches mean or a solution to the problem. This is not to say that I was a nobody in the states; I had dreams and I made some money. There was potential to do more and I did what I could, but after September 11th, well, you all know what happened to everybody then.
But going back to the states right now more than simply means having to start all over again. This time I am older, I am now in debt, I am no longer really in shape and I will have to be doing this without the people I have been living with and fighting for, for two years now. And, what is a lot more to the point, I will not be able to do any of this work in the place I have been fighting to remain in and help. The “doing it alone part” is very, very meaningful because above the extra thousand or so dollars to transport the Mrs., which is not even close to being available, we would have to be doing all of this with her son. His transportation is not allowed because I am not the father. So, in thinking that the states in our panacea, we must first destroy the very family unit I have just fought for, just for the opportunity to try and live like impoverished immigrants. And, that country didn’t do a fucking thing to help me during the last two years.
So what the hell am I supposed to do? In the moment it took for an off duty cop to purposely drive his car into me, and then lie to the police and try to extort from me $750, I lost two years of my life, all of my money, my credit, my credibility and my face hear. I have had to watch as my relationship with my fiancée got tortured, my relationship with my friends, my partners- with the whole world. Before this happened I was free to travel through any country I wanted, was free to do business with whom I wanted and had people who sort of liked me.
None of these are easy choices, and none of these choices would seem to lead to anything but more pain and anguish. I want my face back. Get it? I want some support for my cause. I need some real help. I am doing something here, and I have been killing myself to do it for two years. I am tired of being ignored. I want compensation for the crimes committed, I want my story represented publicly, and I want to do what I want to because I have well earned it. That’s the point.
I see no possible excuses for the actions of the polish Judicial System, but above and beyond assessing blame, I do not even see how I can gain sufficient restitution for what has happened to me? How do I replace this money? How do I fix my face? And why in the hell did I have to suffer two fucking years torture and abuse? And, while everybody seems to think that going back to the states is the great answer, in terms of empathy or even understanding of the situation, I have not seen where the press or the government of the United States seem to see any value in having a social conscience or in having done a heroic act that eventually leads to social betterment. See what I mean? And it is not that I am standing alone on the podium waiting for my medal, I just want some justice done for all of the tears that have been shed and because of the rancid, putrid lies and corruption I have been forced to eat because of such indifference. And I am not lazy; I have to do two years of really hard work all without the tiniest shred of compensation either in the form of just compensation, or even in payment for the work.
See my point? What world do you really want to live in? I asked myself that question a long time ago and to my mind, I have been working on it. Go ahead and tell me the current excuse for ignoring me, I just keep hearing how little anybody cares about anything any more. And if this is the case back in the good old US of A, explain to me again why life would be so much better?