Friday, May 27, 2005

Technical data.

So many things to do and so little time. These next few days are crunch time for us in our preparations for our stamp deal. Lots of stuff do, places to be, papers to secure. And then for the first time this year, all of us are going to be going to the farm for a day or so. This includes Anya as well. And I am finding that figuring out how to get things done these days is like planning the invasion of Normandy.

I guess this is what family life is supposed to be like. It has been years since I have been involved in this sort of thing and I must admit to being kind of rusty. Yea, it is like riding a bike, once you learn you never forget, but still it takes a certain amount of subtlety. You have to account for the things you need, how they are going to be carried, and what times do you need to be at what places. And this includes this piece of writing as well. I guess this is why I am writing about it.
So all of this starts today with my coming here to do this and Tanya heading off to get some film for the camera. The camera is for Egor’s Lenyeka, his graduation from school this year. I have been at almost all of these but this is the first time in a while that Tanya has been free. She had always had to be at work during the previous several. But it is also for Anya’s and Tatyna’s first day at the farm. And also I think I want some pictures of what Tanya has does to our place since grandma has moved away. All of these are Kodak moments I think.

So this is how the plan sizes up: After I finish with my internet work (this writing plus several letters) I get to do a bike run to the passport bureau to see if our documents are ready. If the document we created is there for us today, we can begin the next phase of the operation. If this piece of paper is ready, I take it and bring it back with me and then we all go to lenyeka together. After Lenyaka, we would then go to another bureau office, have that document officially stamped and filled in, head over to a bank, pay for the work and receive a receipt and then return back to the passport agency and turn all of this in. After that we wait another week. This is IF the paper is ready and IF this particular bureaucrat is in her office.

If the papers are not ready, or if this very nice lady is not in her office, we go to plan B: We go to lenyeka, take some pictures, and after I ride up to the office while Tanya and Anya ride the bus up there. We take the paper together and then I ride back to get it typed whoile Anya and Tanya go to the bank and then we all meet up again and try to turn in all of these phase two documents before 5:00 when the office closes.

I won't bore you with the details of what we have to do to get ready for the trip to the farm except to say that they make this bureau/biking/banking business seem like playing jacks.

But with all of this familial orderliness, I got a reminder from Mel Pinsto of Mel Pinto imports-

(Importing quality racing bicycles into the United States in 1958)
-exactly how far away from my old life I have drifted. Mel is a super nice guy who has supported the bike club from time to time and this all started when I tried to get some bike parts for the bike school as a gift. The occasion was to celebrate Andre Snitco’s first victory. Andre Snitco is a really talented 13-year-old rider who had just stepped up into the older age group. He was not expected to do anything this year as he is competing with 14 and 15-year-olds, but in fact he outright won his first time trial race in this group and then took a third place in the group ride the next day. A huge victory for him and I am sure only the first in what I hope will be a great career.

So you know we really don’t have money for anything, but I thought that this win was worthy of a contribution to the cause. So I wrote to Mel and asked for three new rear gear clusters and chains and some tools to work with these things. All simply stuff that the club really needs and has been in need of for a while now.

But in the return letter I got, Mel told me that he didn’t understand my order. I thought I had made it clear what I had wanted, but I guess I had both used slang expressions for the parts I wanted and also had not specified specifically which part. Damn. So I wrote another letter and this one didn’t get it either. Again because of specifics. Now I could make excuses and say that there is no catalogue to reference, but I took it personally. What made me think that a professional in the bike business would want to take responsibility for sending the wrong parts 7,000 miles? I mean, why should I make the guy worry about this? (Note, as of Moday the 30th, we have got it all worked out... I think.)

Now there was a time when I was in New York when ordering parts was as easy as pulling my cell phone out of the pouch on my messenger bag. This was a huge part of my business there and I enjoyed that I had my deal running smoothly. It was good for me and good for my customers and therefore good for business. This three-letter nonsense is bad business. And this was a shock to me to see exactly how far away I have drifted.

Maybe I am over stating this, but in that moment it all seemed to be a signpost telling me that I am really no longer the person I was. It has been a long time since I was in New York. I mean, I still have the same bike and I still have the messenger bag, but other than this I feel as though I am a million miles away. In a way I think that what I am feeling is called nostalgia, but nostalgia is a longing for times past. People here suffered for the longest time over communism’s end here. Their nostalgia was absolutely cancerous in how overwhelming it was. But in my case, I am not sure I would trade all of this to go back to my old life. Who knows? I used to crave Chinese food from time to time, or the smell of the popcorn in the movie theatres. But I am not sure it moves me any more. I mean, I remember riding in the city, my little place I used to live in, Roger Bergman’s bike store, Chinese food… And money for that matter. And now I am potatoes, bureaucracy, teaching English, changing diapers and poverty.

It’s is not better or worse, it is just different. Well, if you include Anya of course, it's much, much better.

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