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So I’ve come to New York for the RNC protests, though I haven’t done a damn thing to overthrow the government yet. I took the fabled Chinatown Bus (only $35 round-trip) from DC last night, but traffic was horrible and the trip took more than six hours (it’s usually only four and a half). So it dropped me off in Chinatown in the wee hours, and I was staying at my friend Ryan’s in Inwood, which is about as far as you can get from Chinatown and still be in Manhattan. After some fumbling about I finally made it there at 2:45 a.m. (But the Aero bed was great! Thanks Ryan!)

Nonetheless, New York is abuzz with convention energy, most of it anti-convention energy. The Penn Station/Madison Square Garden subway stop is sparkling clean. And that’s about all I have to report at the moment, but will post more as soon as I can.

I’ve been waffling on the question of whether I want to go to New York to protest the Republicans this weekend and next week, mostly ’cause I’m a little burnt out after being out of town all last week, but articles like this are a good reason to go.

Releasing swarms of mice? If you’ve ever been to New York, you know that the mice are already there. Prostitutes with AIDS discouraging condom use? What’s a good family-values politician doing with a prostitute? And I thought conservatives discouraged condom use!

I would just laugh it off, but actually, articles like that frustrate me and make me sad. They prove how successful the GOP has been in creating ridiculous notions about anyone left of center, and in branding anyone who disagrees with the president a “terrorist”. In GOP parlance, the opposite of “terrorism” is “freedom”, but “freedom of speech” equals “terrorism”. How DO their minds work?

I’ll be bringing a crate of DC’s finest rats with me to New York. (That’s a joke, Mr. Ashcroft.)

So I guess I wasn’t the only one to notice that the arrangement of “The Star Spangled Banner” being played at the Olympics is a little less strident than usual. As the Washinton Post article describes, at “the rockets’ red glare” portion of the piece, instead of triumphant war trumpets, we get thinly orchestrated strings. It’s quite beautiful, I think. It kind of reminds me of Barber’s Adagio.

Not knowing how the process works, I assumed that someone on the US Olympic Committee had gotten sensitive to the worldwide impression of Americans as bomastic jerks and tried to make our image a little more humble. Not so. It turns out this arrangement was written by a Czech-Canadian, who was chosen to re-orchestrate all of the anthems for this Olympics. That seems like a weird approach, and apparently even the Canadians aren’t too happy about a jazzed-up version of “O Canada,” but I love it that a Canadian wrote a kinder, gentler “Star Spangled Banner” for us.

The other day I saw a van which was coated in anti-abortion bumper stickers. Several of them referenced the Catholic Church and one said “Good Catholics Don’t Vote for Kerry.” Well, I hope good Catholics don’t vote for Bush either. The Catholic church is opposed to capital punishment and the pope himself has stated his opposition to the Iraq war.

However, I know plenty of Catholics who are fervently anti-abortion, but are in favor of the war and the death penalty. I understand how they justify this in their minds: they believe that fetuses are innocent babies, while death row inmates are sinners who deserve to die.

That’s not what the Church says, though. I can respect a person who thinks that a fetus is a full-fledged human being (though I disagree) and is opposed to any form of human-induced death. It’s a morally consistent viewpoint and one that I come just inches from sharing.

But I can’t respect hypocrites who selectively apply religion to try to justify their political beliefs.

NAHC had a staff field trip today to Greenbelt Homes Inc., a very cool housing co-op in the outer suburbs of DC. I’d almost be willing to live there, even given my great antipathy toward the suburbs. The co-op consists of 1600 units spread over many acres of lawns and parks and surrounded by forest. It was started as part of FDR’s New Deal public housing, and was later purchased by the residents and became a cooperative. In the middle is a town center with a cooperative grocery, cafe, and movie theater, as well as some other (uncooperative) businesses, a municipal aquatic center, community center, and public library. It was designed to be walkable and safe for kids.

Of course, it still has a lot of the drawbacks of the outer suburbs. You’re a bit isolated without a car, though there is a bus to the Metro. It’s easy to keep out the “undesirable element”, but that results in a homogeneous community and just displaces the undesirables someplace else.

All in all, though, it renewed my enthusiasm about the possibilities of cooperatives. After hearing about troubled co-ops for a week, it was refreshing to see a co-op running smoothly and serving its members so well.

Just returned to DC from a week in Bahstun. NAHC was having its annual conference there, and putting it together has been the main purpose of my existence for the past 10 months. Everything went pretty smoothly, and I have lots of new ideas for next year’s, which makes me a little sad that I won’t be the one organizing it. It would be so much easier, now that I know what I’m doing!

Just spoke with Aunt Kelly, who is in St. Petersburg at this very moment. She will be looking at apartments tomorrow. She named all the addresses on her list, and they’re all in the city center, which will be great. I recommend Dostoyevsky’s short stories if you’d like to get a feel for the area we’ll be living in. Look for references to Nevsky Prospekt.

After an 80-hour workweek accompanied by way too much alcohol, coffee, and sugar, I have today off to recover. I haven’t finished recovering though, so you’ll have to wait til tomorrow for the latest witticisms and insights. In the meantime here’s a game for you:

Cyrkam Airtos

OK, I lied, I do have a snarky comment for the day. Recently I’d been thinking that there need to be “Assholes for Bush” bumper stickers, and decided to Google the phrase to see if they already exist. Know what comes up first in the Sponsored Links? W Ketchup!

Come on, guys. Theresa Heinz Kerry’s fortune may fund John Kerry’s yacht, but it doesn’t fund the campaign. As a former FEC Compliance Officer for a campaign, I can say that yes, corporations do influence the U.S. government and elections, but they are not able to fund candidates* directly.

Furthermore, if you don’t want to make the Kerrys richer, you’re going to have to give up more than ketchup. Such is the nature of the multinational conglomerate.

I’m not saying you should buy Heinz. I recommend organic, High Fructose Corn Syrup-free, third-party ketchup instead.

*See Chapter 2.6.

When I tell people I’m moving to Russia in the fall, naturally they ask what I will be doing there. As a young lefty nonprofit type in Washington, DC, the expected answer is that I’ll be working for Doctors Without Borders or Amnesty International or something. Alas, no. Actually, I don’t know for sure what I’ll be doing.

The situation is this: my favorite aunt’s employer offered her an expatriate assignment in St. Petersburg. As she doesn’t speak Russian, she told them she’d consider it if she could take me along.

So I’ll live with my aunt and navigate the Cyrillic-lettered world for her. I’ll also probably get a job teaching English, take more Russian lessons, and do a lot of reading and writing. And visit Finland whenever Russian life gets too gloomy.

OK, so it’s definite. Aunt Kelly and I are moving to Leningrad, er, St. Petersburg, in the fall, for about a year. She’ll get there at the end of October, and I’ll join her in mid-November after a previously scheduled trip to France. She’s going next week to apartment-hunt!

So here’s my fall schedule:

August 29-31 New York City, protesting Republican National Convention

September 9-12 Warrenton, NC – Washington DC, Hero of the Day AIDS Ride

October 8-11 Upstate NY, re-living my childhood

October 30 Halloween/Election/Going-Away Bash?

November 2 Election Day (If you are a U.S. citizen, please vote for anyone but Bush)

November 4 Fly to France

November 15 Onward to St. Petersburg!

Check back for updates!

About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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August 2004