Monday, December 05, 2005


The Soviet Union conjurs up many images in the western mind: the hammer and the sickle, the yellow star against a flag of red, the more-than-slightly androgynous member of the female shot-put team. But perhaps nothing remains more prominent to this day (when steroids are the American athlete's drug of choice) than the smokestack.

What exactly is a smokestack? Just a tall tower, spitting smoke? Does it serve a purpose, or is it in fact just a symbol of progress and productivity? Like, Look, there in the distance, a smokestack - we must be a prosperous people, we must be doing something. Or: The people are unhappy? Build another smokestack!

I took a picture of this set of smokestacks in Moscow, a week or so back, from the window of my hotel overlooking the Moscow River (Moscow on the Moscow, I suppose). It was a nice hotel complete with a VIP board in the front lobby. There were the Clintons, Al Gore, Putin's wife, a guy from Microsoft, and Some King or President of a large Muslim island nation whose name was Megawatti Something or Something Megawatti. Makes me wonder if he was named after the light-bulb, his father fascinated by this modern device, this light-giver -- and I name him Megawatti -- like a character in my terminally-forgotten novel is named Aspirina. There were also several rock bands noted on the board, all of whom were popular during the Soviet era: the Scorpions were there, as were Queen, or at least one member (Brian May). That's how it was listed on the board. Queen (Brian May). There's something sad in that. As if Brian May showed up all alone.

I'd like the VIP Suite please.

And who are you?

I'm Brian May.

No response.

I'm Queen (with Brian May).


Richard said...

Smokestacks! Soviets! Parentheses!

I've just used up the three exclamation points that Mark Twain gave me.

What are you doing in Moscow, Stephan? I thought Ukraine was holding you hostage.

WittyName32 said...

How much time and space did Twain give for those smokestacks? A lifetime, one written response? I'm interested.

I was in Moscow, en route from Norway, where I attended a family funeral. In a matter of days, I accumulated something like seven or eight passport stamps, and that was after sneaking into Norway, no passport needed, on the train from Sweden. Quite a blur. But now I know the number of a very good, and reasonably priced taxi driver in Moscow. So if anyone needs it -- drop me a line.

WittyName32 said...

Duh! I mean exclamation points! Not smokestacks!