And So To Iasi

Two old guys with badges numbered #2198 and #2030 spent 15 minutes tearing up the threshold of the door to the train compartment I was in at the border between Ukraine and Romania, and the same with every compartment on the train.  They used crowbars and screwdrivers.  If they were looking for contraband, it should have become obvious from the first rusted screw, that nobody had been in there for a LONG time.  The wood is also mostly decayed.  I’m guessing they were looking for some railroad connected malfunction they saw evidence of under the car.  The car was elevated for the bogie changing operation at the time.  By looking at the turning screws I estimate the rate of rising and descent was about 3 mm per second, which explains why we didn’t feel it in Mongolia.  I was motioned not to take photos of the operation.  Security by habit.  I expect you could find movies of bogey changing on YouTube.

Romanian customs was not so deep.  The man said to me:

“You have liquor?  You have health problem?  You have gun?”

There was a bit of confusion in Suceava because the train did not go to the station it said it would on the Internet and Train Station schedules.  With the use of cell phone technology, rendered more difficult by low battery and low money conditions for Andrei and me respectively, we managed to connect with each other nevertheless.  I got off at Suceava instead of continuing on to my Iasi connection, because Radu lives there during the week, managing some aspect of Iulius Mall’s existence, and Andrei was driving him home for the weekend.  Radu’s car was in the shop.  While waiting for Radu to finish work for that Friday, Andrei and I drove out to the nearest arguable tourist site, a monastery.  There are a lot of them in South Bucovina.

I bought a photo permit for the monastery but I’m not sure what I got for it.  The right to take a photo of Andrei in an apron, to be sure.  He had shorts on and they gave him the apron because you aren’t to wear shorts in a monastery.  God is distracted by thighs.

(The Buddhists at Erdene Zuu took the opposite approach to the problem of Andrei’s thighs.  They put a giant stone effigy of a penis pointing at a valley in the shape of a vagina, to defuse the issue of the Buddhist monks thinking about sex.  Lenny Bruce took the same approach when he said Nigger Nigger Nigger.  The cultural effect has been mixed.)

But beyond the invisibility of Andrei’s knees, you can’t take pictures inside the church because I’m not quite sure why on religious grounds, but there is certainly a physical reason given the cumulative effects of flash on paint and tripods on worship.  And the nuns and monks did not want themselves photographed.  The nuns would not even let me take a desktop photo of chopped peppers they were preparing, presumably for pickles since it’s that time of year.  In the end I took a picture of vestments drying on a clothesline.  I hope it comes out.  The iconoclasts were never vanquished.

(Nor were they victorious.  After al Qaeda were briefly driven from Kandahar, a book was published of photos the Taliban had taken of each other in a portrait shop they had closed.)

And so to Iasi.

My personal experience of Romania is of lesser interest to the general public since I go there to hang out with my friends.  It would be an affectation to pretend that there were issues of privacy involved; the Internet was privatized 21 years ago and in 2009 even surveillance cameras have surveillance cameras, there to insure that nobody is taking unauthorized photos of the surveillance cameras.  There is a line in Blue Velvet about this — “Don’t you look at me!” — which is echoed in the G.I. Joe mashups both as “Don’t look at me when I’m talking to you!” and “Look at me when I’m talking to you!”  Now that I think of it, I’m not quite sure whether the Blue Velvet quote is a Do or a Don’t.  I think we often forget the sense of our experiences.  We remember we felt strongly about a thing, or that something was important, but after 20 years we forget whether we liked it or hated it.  Advertisers count on this.

It’s not like Andrei’s boyz sit around plotting assassinations or drug smuggling or even affairs.  And even if they did, it’s not like people haven’t posted their murder details on MySpace (I had to say “MySpace” for the Retro of it all; it’s like two metaphors back in the expression of inappropriate publicity, having been replaced by “facebook” and “twitter”.  Does anyone mention Twitter any more?  I’ve been out of touch.)

(“Fools’ names and fools’ faces/are always found in public places.”  Did your mother teach you that?  It was about writing on walls.  Physical walls.  I wonder who owns

But a part of the cachet of this writing is making rude remarks about God vs. thighs and Ukrainian security, and one doesn’t speak of ones’ friends that way.  I will say any number of things about God I wouldn’t say about Andrei.  And you aren’t going to be googling for how to visit Andrei unless you already know him.

This alludes to the question of Utility.  If I say Chasing Two Hares is dumb or Coco’s Hotel by Gara de Nord in Bucharest is still a nice place and the best choice of where to stay in Bucharest, and the different Andrei at their front desk is still a sweetheart, who actually remembered me from last year — that’s news you can use.