Let’s put the amount of time and logistics spent traveling to and from Moscow in perspective; in order to get all the gear through Russian customs and baggage check, we left for Sheremetyevo airport at 6:45 pm (Los Angeles time), with a scheduled arrival in L.A. at 8:50 pm the next day. We had 25 checked pieces of gear, and 4 carry-ons, all of which weighed close to a ton. Hollywood and I packed, loaded, and moved all this shit by ourselves because the other two members of the crew were useless as goose shit on a pump handle and couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed at 5:45 am to go with us to the airport, or help in any way once they arrived.

The process was as follows: we loaded the van at the hotel in Moscow; unloaded the van at SVO airport; collected luggage carts and loaded onto those; unloaded the carts to put everything through the x-ray machines at the door to the fucking terminal; loaded it all back onto the carts to get it to the counter; unloaded it to check it in; loaded the oversize stuff back onto the carts when we discovered it had to go somewhere else to get x-rayed again; unloaded it there; loaded it onto the baggage trailer because the fucking Russian manning the thing couldn’t be bothered to lift such heavy shit by himself; loaded it all onto carts again at JFK to clear US customs; put it all back onto the plane to LAX; loaded 7 small luggage carts at LAX; unloaded those carts into a GMC Yukon that was packed to the gills by the end; then unloaded all of it again at my house.

Did it mention it all weighs around 2,000 pounds? Between that and the bi-polar producer/director turning into a bit of a haradin near the end, it cast a bit of a pall on what was otherwise and awesome trip. I hate to say goodbye to Moscow on that note, however, so here are a few tidbits of information about the weird, amazing Russian capitol to ponder.

  • Most Russian men look like Mr. Whipple.
  • Women in Moscow wear either flats, or five-inch heels. There is no middle ground.
  • A “parking space” in Moscow is anywhere you can stop your car, including (frequently) sidewalks, driveways, and even (seriously) the center of intersections.
  • Russians don’t eat Russian food. Their diet consists mainly of pasta, lamb, and chocolate.
  • There are three bicycles in all of Moscow.
  • All conversations between two Russians encompass at least one argument accompanied by shouting, and end in humorless laughter.
  • No one has ever smiled in Moscow. Apparently, this is both illegal and sinful. Russians must have utterly hateful sex. I find this very exciting.
  • Moscow has far too much American capitalism for its own good. Alongside the assload of Subways and McDonald’s in Moscow, we encountered Баскин Роббинс (Baskin Robbins), Пизза Хит (Pizza Hut), Старбуцкс (Starbucks), Синнабон (Cinnabon), Венды’с (Wendy’s), Дункин Донутс (Dunkin Donuts), TGI Friday’s (they just call it that), and others. And, yes, I had to teach myself to read Cyrillic while we were there.
  • The Moscow metro has some of the most ornate, elaborate, beautiful stations I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been on subways all over the world.
  • Muscovites are elitists and consider the people from countries in the former Union to be third-class beings. Mongolians and Siberians seem to get the worst treatment of all.
  • There are miles of secret Metro tracks that were once used by various arms of the Politburo and KGB. These tracks are still an official secret, no one outside the GRU knows where they actually run, or if they are still in use today.
  • Moscow street vendors haggle badly. Vendor: “2,000 Rubles.” Hollywood: “What? No. 500.” Vendor: “No, my friend, very best. 1,800.” Hollywood: “550.” Vendor: “Okay, 600.”
  • The smog in Moscow is thicker than it was in L.A. in 1980, except for weekends when everyone leaves the city.
  • The Soviet Cosmonauts Memorial Museum is a stunning disappointment.
  • Your average two-week trip to Moscow is likely to include the following kinds of vehicular shenanigans: driving up one-way streets, on train tracks, on trolley tracks, over medians, on sidewalks and on bike paths; parking on the sidewalk in front of a bus station and waiting for the bus to leave; turning right from the far left lane; turning left from the far right lane; making U-turns across 7-lane high streets; getting blocked by gridlocked trolleys; merging with the fifth lane of traffic crammed into a two-lane road; swerving to avoid city buses which turn randomly in front of you; getting stopped by the police for turning left… from a left turn lane; etc., etc., ad infinitum.
  • It is necessary when making the above-mentioned U-turn to announce it as a Crazy Ivan in honor of the submarine maneuver from Hunt for Red October.
  • Russian tea is stronger than American coffee.
  • Somewhere, there is a central storehouse that supplies every single tourist shop in Moscow with the exact same 17 shitty T-shirts. This is not hyperbole. Every. Single. Store. Every stall. Every vendor. The same 17 shirts, most of which are horrible. This is an area ripe for aggressive expansion.
  • Like Spanish, the Russian language seems to now grow largely by transliterating words from other languages. For example, “supermarket” is “supermarket” (супермаркет), and though the Russian word for chicken is kuritsah, it’s being supplanted now by “чицкен” (chicken).
  • Night Flight, the world-renowned strip club in Moscow, apparently has no strippers. We went, had a world-class dinner, then sat baffled in the bar for ten minutes while 25 very attractive, but fully-clothed women, asked us if we “vanted company.” I’m still trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

I could go on and on. It’s a fascinating place and a fascinating city. I’d love to go back someday and really take the time to dig around. Maybe on that mythical vacation I keep planning…

Whatcha think?

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You can’t learn too soon that the most useful thing about a principle is that it can always be sacrificed to expediency. — W. Somerset Maugham