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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

LETTER FROM VLADIVOSTOK: Reality in Far East Beats 'Santa Barbara' Any Day

Both cities have beaches contaminated by parasites: in Vladivostok's case, microscopic intestinal worms caused by sewage spills; in Santa Barbara's, oily surfer dads who tell their 3-year-olds, "Zach, if you gotta' pee, just go up the beach there where nobody's looking."

Perhaps in an ideal world, neither Russia nor America would have to deal with such public health menaces. But life's not like that. And thus, I have to say I am looking forward to heading back to Vladivostok after visiting my parents in Santa Barbara.

True, there are certain advantages to life in a Mediterranean climate where the sea doesn't freeze and the town is filled with palm trees. I am relatively confident that no one will ever call a soap opera "Vladivostok." But Vladivostok has perks of its own:

...Naked bungee-jumping sailors. Last month, a handful of Royal Canadian sailors took a bungee operator at his word when he offered a free leap to anyone willing to bare all, sailors reported. Alas, police received this with less jubilation than the onlookers. The bungee operator is said to have had to pay to keep the sailors from being arrested.

...A clairvoyant mayor. On July 4, Santa Barbara Mayor Harriet Miller rode down the street in an open car, and she had a very nice wave. But there was no indication she commands supernatural powers over forces of light and darkness like Vladivostok Mayor Viktor Cherepkov. Last year a reporter found Cherepkov under his desk talking to a "cosmic benefactor," and in 1994 he used psychic powers, he said, to stun a would-be kidnapper and escape.

...Cow inseminating contests. Americans, though laudably interested in presidential insemination habits, fail to reward those tireless workers who ensure there will always be an Arch Deluxe awaiting every hungry McDonald's customer. In Vladivostok, Governor Yevgeny "The Bull" Nazdratenko confers a prize each summer upon the top "insemination technician." I'm not sure how he establishes the winner.

...A vigorous media. Vladimir Shkrabov, publisher of Krasnoye Znamya, reportedly bashed down the door of a rival paper and chopped all the computer cables with an axe in a property dispute last fall. This year, he cut a hole in the wall of his former building, sneaked in and began publishing after a court awarded the site to a rival. There was no indication that the Santa Barbara News-Press' publisher has wielded an ax against alternative news weeklies.

In short, while Santa Barbara has much in its favor (24-hour electricity, girls named Dawn and Amber), no Canadians bungee-jumped naked or cows got pregnant, to my knowledge, during my stay. It makes you want to flag down the mayor and say, "And you call this a city?"

Russell Working is editor of the Vladivostok News.