Tuesday, March 1, 2011

From Brooklyn to Russia With Love, Part I

As promised, here is the first entry in my tour blog.

To begin to understand Russian culture you must first experience the winters.  It's the first thing you feel coming off of the plane.  It seeps through cracks and permeates walls.  You may be indoors where the warmth is abundant, but one look outside a window and you see a beckoning menace.  It tests you, challenging you to a duel.  It asks, "can you feel me?"  Between the slaps of wind you can only open your chapped lips long enough to say, "da."

That being said, you can now begin to understand the Russian people:  warm, resilient, ever-persistant in proving that yes, you can flourish in an environment that many foreigners misconstrue as practically uninhabitable.  This is the root of their beauty - the ability to see the power of the human spirit and cultivate it under extraordinary circumstances.  It is apparent not only in their history, but in their architecture, writing, visual art and music.  All of it dances around and points at this wintery clime, almost in glamorous mockery.  If you have ever gazed at a painting by Vrubel or listened to the music of Rachmaninov you have received a glipse through the eyes and ears of the Russian soul of what it means to endure and luxuriate.

I write this as I gaze out the window of my apartment in Moscow, looking across rooftops that scratch a late afternoon blue sky.  I have been here for a week, know only a handful of words, and seen only a small portion of the largest city in a country which spans 9 time zones, is inhabited by 140 million people, and who's history begins roughly 200 years after the birth of Jesus.  The mammoth amount of cultural wealth that has already been bestowed upon me in that short period of time cannot be measured in numbers.  It is an opulence that can only be understood in feeling - I am wide-eyed, drenched in the beauty of the city and the people that surround me.

John Forte and the band have performed twice thus far - once at the venue Soho Rooms and most recently at the performance space B2.  The small experiences that we have already had were streaming from our performances - a visit to the Tretiakov Gallery, a tour of Red Square, walking through crooked narrow streets and dinners with new friends and new foods.  I anticipate the remainder of the reservoir that is behind the outpouring we have encountered.  Such new environments always seem to have this affect, but I sense a special connection with this place.  In fleeting moments it almost feels like a home.

There is one last performance in Moscow tomorrow night at Spaso House before we venture beyond the city walls to the Golden Ring (Vladimir, Suzdal, Yaroslavl), St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan and Yekaterinburg.  Thankfully, we will be traveling by land for the most part, allowing us to see not only the places that we arrive, but the multitude of landscapes in between.  If the next leg is only a fraction as colorful as the previous it will provide excellent fodder for more writing.

Dosvidaniya until then.


  1. Well, if I wasn't able to bring forth an image or deeper undertanding of just how peacefully meaningful an experience it has been for you thus far, I can now.

    I'm glad you're able to take it all in from jump. I'm guessing that as the tenure expands, to most it would prove overwhelming. There is so much to see, and even more to welcome.

    I wish you the best of times there.

  2. Firstly, you are as musical in your writing as you are in your playing. Secondly, I envy the totally different experience you have had. We were allowed to go nowhere and see nothing, except what and where they took us. It was so dreary, confining and sad (totally the opposite of your beautiful experience) that I will never forget the sadness that engulfed everyone of us on our trip. I can truthfully say, there were no exceptions. I am, however, thrilled for the differences you have experienced.(our trip was, of course, under the Communistic Regime) Sounds like you have (perhaps) returned 'home' from a former life? Please keep on writing your gift giving blogs! xxoo and Thanks, Trudi Mann

  3. So beautifully written - you evoke a sense of place so eloquently! Can't wait to read more.