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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

baba' babo

The pleasures of life come in two flavors. The first is sitting in your front room when its cold outside with Gregory Isaacs' "Night Nurse" bumping on the stereo -- bass turned way up -- a fat janice jammed into the corner of your mouth, playing a long session of Super Mario on the Nintendo 64. Class entertainment.

The other is a bit more familiar to the Cucumber's residents. You know what I am talking about: going to places where you get your emotions jangled and end the evening as a puddle of jelly as all your neurons fire at once -- just as you pass out in the taxi on the way home.

Two totally different experiences, but both are worthy of pursuit.

I'm back from the backwaters of the Central Asian steppe, where economic progress has successfully killed off the little fun to be had and the biznesmeni have taken over the only cool place in Tashkent. The wobble-bottomed-monied-crowd-outspend-cool-people effect once again. At least back in the Cucumber you are pretty sure to be able to go on a bit of a bender if you so wish.

But since the end of last year, the wild rave parties have burnt themselves out. They've been replaced by teenie thrashes aimed at packing in as many sweaty, Sprite-swilling kiddies as the barn of a club can hold, rather than trying to draw the really seditiously minded people that they should be.

Shame -- but good for the old health, I spoze.

For the more discerning bon vivant, the excessive evenings are being replaced with something a little more leisurely (op. cit. pleasure No. 1), but fun nonetheless: bar hopping.

Like so much in this town, Moscow's night life is suffering from Euro-Yank schizophrenia, but what would you expect from a country who's eastern border is closer to American soil than its western is to Europe proper (and don't quibble about geography, as neither the actual American nor European parts that border Russia are places you would want to go shopping).

Having begun with a mindless romp into rave, Moscow is developing a New Yorkesque bar culture, which is worth exploring for the gems that can turn up. Nearly every week sees some new place open as the peripatetic alcohol crowd meanders around looking for something new. The turnover in what is "in" in the Cucumber is frighteningly fast.

There is not much to do in New York, apart from slumming it in Alphabet City's bars, and, at the moment, the same is true for Moscow. The obvious ones are well known. The Duck is Moscow's answer to Automatic Slim's, one of the Big Apple's classic dance-on-the-bar faves (not that I have been there for yonks), but happily for us, the Duck blows Slim's away for sheer excessive wantonness, even if it is dying the death of drink-until-they-are-soggy Russian hooligani. More encouraging are all the alternatives that are springing up.

To list a few: There is the swank Tram, under the OK Club (nee 2x2) on Chekhovskaya Ulitsa, although I was seeing double by the time I arrived. Another is Mayak on Bol'shaya Nikitskaya (formerly Gertsina near TASS), an actor's private drinking club. Annoyingly, it is members only, which means a good blag to get into. Or even the bar under the new Georgian Tiflis just down the road from the Pushkin Museum, which is still empty but has all the ingredients if only it is discovered.

Of course you could stay in with Mario, but sooner or later you're bound to realize that you have spent all your time playing games for children.

Gone, at least, are the overpriced mafia hellholes. In their place are everything from the small and cosy Cote d'Azur eatery to sticky beer dens of iniquity and vice.