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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Life In Moscow Still Holds A Few Surprises

Summer is a cranky time. While poets in other parts of the world compose paeans to the charms of this most romantic of periods, we in Moscow get downright cantankerous. At least I do. I haven't had a hot shower in weeks, I'm choking on pukh, and I can't sleep because it's always light outside. And the summer, which supposedly began in Russia on June 1, has stubbornly held off: It has been cold, rainy, and generally autumnal. Not that I'm complaining. Summer means the beach to me, and that means the ocean. Having grown up on the shores of the Atlantic, I can't get used to the fact that the largest body of water around seems to be the puddle that collects on the road near my house when it rains. This may be nitpicking, of course. Moscow has hazards much greater than the inclement weather or the spore-laden air. This is a town where one Russian father I know sternly cautions his son never to walk near a foreign car on the street, for fear that it may blow up. My brother, recently here for a visit, emerged from his bedroom the morning after his arrival, asking, "Was that shooting I heard last night?" I assured him that it was, although I myself had noticed nothing. I have grown so used to the sound of shots being fired on nearby Taganka Square that I don't even hear them any more. My friend Stan, who saw me off to St. Petersburg last week, said that as he left Leningradsky station a row of kiosks exploded into flames right in front of him. "No one was paying any attention, though," he said. "People just went on selling their cookies, juice and whatever, while behind them these kiosks were just burning away." Oh well, I thought, with a mental shrug. Someone forgot to pay their protection money. It happens all the time. But I have not entirely lost my capacity for surprise. The other morning I left my house and walked out to the metro, since my car, which is also deep in the summer doldrums, hasn't worked for weeks. Crossing Taganka Street by the Marksistkaya metro station I almost fell into a huge, yawning chasm that had opened up in the road. This was no pothole, mind you, but a full-blown crater that looked as if some Jurassic Park-type reptile might come lumbering out of it at any moment. It was at least five meters wide, with a black hole in the center that I'm sure went all the way down to the earth's core. In fact, I was a bit afraid that molten lava might suddenly come pouring out. I briefly wondered if we had been hit by a comet, or if some random piece of space garbage had dropped out of the sky. Nothing quite so exotic, I'm afraid. It seems that the problem had been caused by a sewage pipe that was damaged during a recent road repair. A recent repair? You mean this road was just under remont? I mentally kissed that street goodbye, sure that the havoc wrought by this spectacular collapse would entail months of excavation and major work on the road's substructure. I began planning alternate routes home. Silly me. The city authorities lost no time in dealing with the situation. When I walked past the crater the next day, it had been filled to the brim with wet cement. By that evening they had slapped a bit of asphalt over it and called it fixed. Maybe I'll look into those alternate routes home after all.