So, dear readers,
I had such a funny dream last night, that I thought I'd tell you about it. It's already been a few hours, so a lot of details and developments have faded, but I still remember a few.
So at one point, I was meeting with some of my future graduate school professors, only I was going to Chicago and not Stanford. They decided to start showing me their old report cards from the university (which looked a lot like the Russian grade books). They had grades like, "m", "n", o", "j", "a", and "b". "A" and "b" were the best,"j" was the worst, and the rest didn't really correspond in any way to quality, but signified something completely different. Anyway, for a bunch of PhD's there were a heck a lot of "j's", especially one guy (who was actually Mr. Klein from Kenyon's English Department).
Eventually, I walked out of the mahogany-paneled room, where this nonsense was taking place, and found myself in this big, open, outdoor amphitheater place. Apparently I came late to rehearsal for some band I was involved with. The band was really a huge, Broadway-scale cast of dancers, back-up singers, a brass section (which was actually comprised of members of the Motown Band from Kenyon), some directors with megaphones, and me, in some capacity. Apparently, I was a singer, but while the directors were sorting out some technical problem, I, for a lark, started to sing this song from the soundtrack of the Bollywood movie "Bombay Talkie" which is featured on the soundtrack of Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Limited. For those of you who know what I'm talking about, it's called "Typewriter, tip, tip, tip, tip". It's this really silly Indian song I've been listening to constantly as I experiment with Indian cuisine.
So, I start singing this song, and to my surprise, the Motown Band knows the song, and they immediately start playing it. The dancers also seem to know it and start performing some funny dances to the music. I'm amazed and work myself into a frenzy singing "TYPEWRITER TEEP TEEP TEEP... blah dee dah" (I think the rest of the lyrics are in Hindi, and I just imitate teh sounds). If you want to know what I'm talking about check here http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=RU&v=x7e80rBSzC0 or here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzC3GQn_TC0&feature=related . I'm not sure if those links work, because I can't use youtube here, but you should try them. So, this was all really fun, more fun than I can express in words, and lasted about 2 or 3 minutes until I tried to video tape the whole thing and we fell apart. Quite a laugh.
After rehearsal, Steve Klise, my girlfriend, and I decided to go for a bike ride. At this point I realized we WERE in fact in Palo Alto, California, and we decided to bike to San Francisco. We went for a nice ride along some mysterious body of water, and about 2 minutes later ended up downtown at some bustling market place. I was amazed at how convenient it was to commute and decided I'd get an apartment in the city, rather than on campus. We were about to look for some water to quench our thirst after our monumental, two-minute, 45-mile trip, when we saw a guy ride by on a funny-looking bike, decked out in all kinds of speakers and electronic equipment. The guy was smiling wryly and somehow playing some really beautiful music as he rode. The song was familiar, but at first I couldn't put my finger on it. Then I realized, it was the guy from Beirut!
We, of course, all instantly remembered that the guy from Beirut was famous for riding around San Francisco on his bicycle playing guerilla concerts in abandoned parking garages. We followed and he winked the sort of wink you wink when you're a celebrity and someone recognizes you but you're not Hollywood enough to resent it (nor do you let it get to your head). Do you know that kind of wink? So, we followed him, and before we knew it, he and his group had set up and began to play. A personal concert for us! In a minute or two, all of my friends from Kenyon materialized and went googoo for Beirut. There was dancing and sing-alongs, and in general, a lot of merry-making. One thing I remember in particular was Liesel spray-painting a lot of amputated, styrofoam animal limbs. I wondered were she got them but then realized she and some other friends had ripped them off my styrofoam pig that I had apparently tied to the back of my bicycle. I was angry for a second, but I couldn't stay mad with all the great music and wonderful friends at my side. I swear they played about five songs before I woke up, all of which seemed to me to be Beirut, although I don't even know their music that well. There's one in particular that's been stuck in my head all day. I'll be listening to it when I get home today!
Well, that's about all I remember right now, but there was much more to the dream. Thanks to all my friends for appearing in my dream. Really, even if I didn't mention you, you were there. Everyone was there. By the way, I think this gorilla concert business stems from the article I read about Joanna Newsom playing a surprise concert in Big Sur a month and a half ago. Liesel was the one who told me about it, so that's probably why she had one of the lead roles in the concert sequence. If you're reading this Liesel, I'm not mad about the pig! Steve, thanks for showing us the way to the city!
I wanted to tell you about a real, waking-life bike ride I took a couple weeks ago, but I'm pretty tired of writing. Maybe next time.....
Okay, I'll give you a brief synopsis, you insistent readers, you.
So, we took a commuter train out to the village bright and early one morning (after the Victory Day holidays). It was pretty impressive. I definitely got the impression that, at least on the exterior, that village hasn't changed in the slightest since the 1920's. There are cows wandering around in the streets (you have to get there early in the day if you want milk), little wooden houses, two grocery stores, and a bunch of 20-something young men cruising around the village all day on motor-bikes with side-buggies. So we spent the day in the village, reading and picnicking (although the village kolbasa turned out to be green), until we got too scared of ticks with encephalitis and decided to go home.
We, in true form, missed the elektrichka and were told that the next one would come in 5 hours at 9:20 PM. We decided we had to get out and asked this old man how far it was to Tomsk. He said it was at least 50 km and forbid us to go. We asked how far away the next train station was, and he said it was the airport, and that we would have to take this gravel road 12 km to get there. He also forbid us to go there, and told us we could hide in one of the stores if it started to rain. We thanked him and set off. The gravel road really was awful, but we gradually pieced together the street-marker system, and realized the signs were counting down to something, something big, we hypothesized. It took forever, but we finally got to "O", which turned out to be not the airport, but another, slightly larger village called "Mizhininovka" or something. It's famous for it's huge chicken slaughter house, and I believe there was also a Soviet labor camp there back in the day. We tried to find the factory to see about getting some fresh chicken, failed, got a Snickers and the only bottle of water in the village, and decided to look for what we suspected would be a bigger road.
It was there! A huge, beautiful highway that was so gentle and encouraging after the gravel path. By the way, there were next to no cars out here. As we went on, there were more and more. But even then, we would sometimes go 5 minutes without seeing on, this on a major highway. It was the most beautiful bike-ride ever. The road cut right through middle-of-nowhere, dense, Russian, birch-forest. The whole time we were riding the sun was setting. We noticed the signs were counting down again, this time from 25, and we figured the next one must be the airport. The road was nice, the weather perfect, and we still had plenty of time to catch our train, so we decided to find out what was at the next "O-point". We saw a lot of these funny villages, my favorite of which was called "Mirnyi" or "Peaceful". The funniest name was "Protopopova".
At one point, after something like 12 km, I noticed a sign for a village called "Voskhod" or "Sunset". I knew the place, because my roommate and I had almost been suckered into taking a bus out there to buy him a bike. What was strange was that this village was supposed to be 13 km away from Tomsk, but we were supposed to be much further away and heading for the airport. It turned out that when we were 2 km away from this mysterious "O", my girlfriend recognized "Akademgorodok" in the skyline. Yep, we had accidentally arrived in Tomsk. It was such a wonderful surprise. We were thinking we were still two or three hours and one train-ride away, but really, we just ended up in our lovely "lyubimyi" city.
The long and short of this story is that Siberia is a beautiful place to ride your bike in the spring, especially if you get away from the city. Try it!
PS Maybe I'll add some pictures later!