Wednesday, October 15, 2008

From the ridiculous to the sublime (and back)

Young men here drink a prodigious amount of beer. At least that’s the way it appears to me as I walk the streets in the evenings. It would apparently be inappropriate for a young man to be out without a large bottle in his hand. A liter is certainly acceptable, though most guys settle for half a liter at a time. I haven’t seen a large number of stumble-drunks, but there’s clearly an outflow issue as a result of all this consumption. I can’t count the number of guys I’ve seen urinating in the courtyard outside my window, and I know enough not to walk through there after dark.

Tonight I did pass through the courtyard around dusk on my way to the Palace of the Republic to see another ballet. I’d already seen a few guys whizzing on the back wall, but figured it was early enough I wouldn’t be grossed out. Wrong. There’s struggling little cluster of bushes at the end of the courtyard leading to the Palace of the Republic, and as I passed the bushes they were completely enclosed by a ring of guys whizzing into them. There would be no question about taking the long way home after the show. I don’t think I want to pass through the back of the courtyard ever again, regardless of how much I like the view as I exit the archway.

Anyway, the ballet far more than compensated. I saw Le Corsaire, and I just don’t know the right adjectives to describe it. My first phrase as I walked out of the theater was mind-bogglingly head-explodingly great. It’s the first time I’ve seen this particular ballet, and I found the story compelling and easy to follow, the staging superlative, the costumes amazing, and the music and dancing completely beautiful. I might have to go see it again. It was the best $8.25 I’ve spent in a very long time. Wow. My hair still stands up when I think about it.

Stepping out, I was right back to the ridiculous. Belarus is playing England here tonight (soccer) and the stadium obviously won’t hold everybody who wants to be there. A huge crowd filled the plaza in front of the Palace of the Republic, watching the jumbotron TV usually showing President Lukashenko in meetings and other inspiring and patriotic news. There was a lot of beer too, and not a single port-a-potty or WC in the area. I didn’t go home through the courtyard.

Since I walked out during a commercial break and I don’t know the Russian word for “score,” I couldn’t learn the score right away. The subdued crowd led me to believe that Belarus was behind. I was right. The whole city erupted in a cheer a while later, when Belarus scored its first goal and tied the game 1-1. It’s half-time as I write this, and I suspect I’ll know later if Belarus won without turning on a TV.

I’m glad I have lots of bottled water because they’re working on my water line and I have none at the tap. I imagine those mysterious notices by the door said something about this, but I didn’t bother to try to read them so shame on me. Anyway, the workmen have a huge hole dug now and I figure it’ll be filled in again by morning.

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