Musings on the daily events in politics and sports as well as some local bar stops along the way in LA.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Moscow!

Getting to Russia we didn’t know what to expect, everybody warned us that its gonna be crazy but I honestly had no clue what that meant. So getting off the plane its Sevag and I and we just know that we have to stay on our toes and be prepared for anything. When walking through the airport the first thing you recognize is that every single girl looks like Anna Kournikova and every guy looks like Ivan Drago. While walking outside to try and figure out our gameplan on how were going to get to the airport we’re both bombarded with a million cab drivers all practically forcing us to take their cab to our hostel. Im fending off these cab driving swindlers the best I can realizing we should have had our gameplan before we got off the plane. I look over and see that Sevag has been hooked like a poor trout going for the bait and oddly enough by the only guy there whose under 6’2, its some 5’5 Russian dude who speaks decent English wanting to charge him 100 Euros (proof that our dollar is dying now that theyre talking in Euros) or something to get to our Hostel. We’re speaking in Armenian for two hopes, one that some other Armenian cab driver will hear us and help us out (it must be a bad situation when the “honest” person youre hoping to find will be an ex-Soviet era Armenian), and two in the hopes of being able to communicate with each other for a moment without this cabbie making some sort of remark every two seconds. We realize its really useless to try and do anything, were two well seasoned travelers of Armenian descent so we thought we’de be able to pull something off but believe me when I tell you that it was all over once Sevag looked in this guys direction, we were beat, we knew we were beat and there was nothing we could do about it. Our last hope was that we had no money in our pockets but the guy quickly grabbed Sevags bad on that excuse said we’ll wait here while you go to that ATM over there. I see a sign saying that it costs 60 euros to get to Moscow and not to pay more, so I start haggling with the guy while he’s giving me a million excuses until we finally settle on a price of something around 50 euros or so (Which is still insane by the way). While waiting for Sevag one of these Ivan Drago lookalikes comes by and grabs Sevags bag from the short swindler cabbie and he introduces me and I’m thinking maybe this is the driver the other guy was the English speaking negotiator. Sevag gets back and sees Drago holding his bag and hes all confused I tell him that’s our driver but it turns out he isn’t. A driver pulls up and apparently tahts the guy driving us, the short guy is asking for payment in advance and now we’re getting extremely skeptical. Apparently that’s the way to do it over there, the driver isn’t saying anything because he doesn’t speak any English so we cant communicate with anyone except the guy who saw us coming a mile away as the fresh fish. We reluctantly pay and somehow someway were off on our way to our hostel.

On the cab ride over the first thing you notice about Moscow is that the buildings are huge. Its exactly the communist style architecture you expect but these apartment buildings look like they fit 10,000 people or so theyre ridiculously large. We’re happy to finally see a McDonalds which we know we’ll be hitting up soon since we’ve been eating khorovadz literally everyday for 2 weeks its time for some good ol fast food. We finally make it to the hostel in one piece and with no controversy with the money or anything. We walk into the hostel and it looks like its inside a hotel and we cant figure out the way its all set up but we do notice that theres actually a strip club in the hostel! Now that’s what I expected from this city. When we walk up to the receptionist somehow Sevags name is already on the computer screen so we feel relived hopefully from here it’ll get easier. That was a stupid assumption. Even though his name is on the screen they act like they’ve never heard of him and have no clue who we are, communication is impossible because nobody speaks English (or Armenian) so when it looks like theyre gonna kick us out or whatever they take our passports stamp some paperwork and hand us a keycard with a number on a piece of paper which we assume is our room number. We go up to our room and the card gets us into the hallway but apparently we need a key to get into our room. The door has two room numbers on it so it seems like theres another hallway on the other side, we knock and then when Noubar is there on the other side we all breath a sigh of relief both sides commenting how we thought it was bad news on the other side. Finally we get to relax a bit, we in our room which I don’t see why its called a hostel since it looks like a nice hotel room. While nothing really happened we still feel like it took a lot out of us since in Moscow you always have to be ready for anything. (as well find out the next few days).
So we relax a bit and hit up the nearest McDonalds which turns out to be THE date spot for 16 year olds. The line was about 20 min long with people trying to cut in front of you in every direction. We had to created a shield around Noubar so people wouldn’t cut in front while he ordered. After eating we obviously hit up the nearest liquor store and we buy two bottles of Vodka for a grand total of about $4.
We start drinking in the hotel room just plain ol straight Russian Vodka, noone even considered getting a mixer or chaser. Every single shot is proceeded by a lengthy toast about everything from the liberation of Shoushi to good times in Moscow and everything in between. Noubar quickly points out how obvious it is that we just came from Armenia because how we cant take a drink without making a toast. We heard that there a cool bar called “Che” named after Che Guavara where all the English speaking Russian girls go so we head over there. Noubar teaches us rule number one of being in Moscow- never get a real cab just stick your hand out and the next car will pull over willing to take you wherever you want to go for a roughly 95% cheaper price that you have to negotiate. He sticks his hand out and the first 3 cars pull over in about 2.2 seconds and you can negotiate a better deal cause now theres competition. We’re wasted as we head over to Che wondering if there will be anyone there since it’s a Monday night. Well it turns out that Monday is the new Saturday cause the place is quite packed. We quickly head over to get some drinks when Sevag meets some guys from Egypt who were complaining that there aren’t enough women in this place. Since Sevag is born in Saudi Arabia he quickly mentions that and starts talking with these guys. Turns out theyre looking for weed because this bar serves Absinth and they’ve been drinking it all night. Once we hear the words Absinth we all head straight for the bar and order three shots. We take the shots not realizing that its 150 proof and tastes like Oghi which I hate. The shot doesn’t go down well for me and its 150 proof, not a good combo. I head straight to the bathroom to puke but don’t make it so I end up puking in a corner on the way to the bathroom. The janitor and some other guy come straight for me, im thinking im about to get my ass kicked but instead they ask for a bribe. It was something like a puking fine so I had to pay them the equivalent of 10 bucks or something for puking in the club. The good news is that it wasn’t one of those pukings where youre out for the night, it was one of those where it just went down bad and you can keep drinking. I head back to the bar to tell of my puking fee tales when Sevag says he went to the bathroom to puke but started thinking of the Karabakh soldiers and what they went through and some punk Armenian American isn’t going to puke over this toilet on this night, so he holds it in and is back. (man do you have a different perspective of things when in Armenia). I’m not sure what happened to Noubar but were all back at the bar ordering more drinks. Sevag continues to talk to the Egyptians who are offering him places to stay next time he’s in the mid-east and Noubar seems to be off practicing his Russian with anyone and everyone. I go to some girl sitting down, grab her and give her the Martin style twirl and start talking to her. She asks me where I’m from and I tell her American and Armenian, she stops and gives me a look, whispers something to her hot sister that everyone was talking to all night and turns out shes Turkish. Coming straight from Armenia a Turkish chick isn’t exactly what I was looking to pick up on that night, but I’m wasted so whatever. She ends up giving me her number that I never asked for and says we’ll go clubbing tomorrow. (this is important info for future entries).
We leave the bar around 430 looking for somewhere else to go. We find some other bar but it looks dead. Noubar starts talking to the bouncer about where else there is to go and he explains a spot. A couple of Russian cops come up and join in on the conversation. At this point I have no clue if were about to be arrested or taken on a police escort to the club. Turns out the cops are going to walk us to the club. Noubar and the cops take the lead and me and Sevag hang around a few steps back and try to figure out whats going on. On our walk to the club which is apparently not that close we go into random corners of Moscow trying to figure out if were about to get mugged by these cops or if were safe. We go down to the subway area which apparently they have a mini police station type place where they check in and bring one more cop with them. This guy is drinking an almond rum and coke out of a can and they start walking fast outside the subway area back to the street. Noubar is telling us that through their walkie talkies their boss is calling them back to the station, but theyre basically ditching their boss to walk around the city with us. So were walking around and pass a walled area, I turn around and am in awe I look over and see Noubar also notices it, WERE IN RED SQUARE!! Its about 5 o’clock in the morning and were in an empty red square with everything lit up to look incredible. The cops don’t miss a beat since to them its normal and they keep walking while we have to tell Sevag to turn around to realize that this is insane. We look around for a while and then keep walking with these cops and realize these guys are sausage like the rest of us and aren’t really leading us anywhere but they keep saying its around the corner. We kind of get sick of them and as they turn the corner we run the other way as fast as we can and walk into a 24 hour Sbarro to hide out from the cops. While there we grab a quick Pizza and steal some bread for no reason whatsoever except for that were wasted, we realize theres a club next door so we walk in. Its about 530a.m. but theres still people in there, you cant tell the sun is coming up cause the club is in a basement. Theres noone really dancing but were wasted enough to go straight to the dancefloor and all of a sudden people are joining in. I guess we were just the spark that place needed cause now it looks pretty cool. We hang out with the locals a bit then figure its time to go back to the hostel. We stick our hands out and the gypsie cab pulls right over and we head back to the hostel.
Not bad for day 1 in Moscow.

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