St. Petersburg, Russia
Cold and raining. I left my room for a walk and bumped into Glenn and Mark in the hallway heading out for the same, off we went our umbrellas in hand. After one block a return to the hotel was made for warmer clothes. While they changed I ducked into the restaurant for a quick coffee then out again for a second try. We didn't get much further this time, not very enjoyable so back to the hotel again. I wanted to push ahead a little more and stayed out walking for an hour or so looking in shop windows and trying to figure out the language. While some characters in the Russian alphabet are different than ours, many sound just as they look in English. Others appear familiar but don't correspond, for instance the letter "P" in Russian sounds like our "R", their "H" is our "N", their "C" is our "S", at the end of a word "bI" is "ES". I think upper and lower case have something to do with the pronunciation of the letter as well. It wouldn't take long to figure out their alphabet and be able to pronounce words, however that doesn't take into account the actual language difference and would only work with words common or very similar to both the Russian and English language. I began to figure this out when I passed the golden arches of MacDonald's and saw it written in Russian. I stood there for a minute in the rain staring at the sign and people round me must have thought I was mad. Then I began looking at everything that way and quickly figured out the word restaurant is "PECTOPAH", literally restoran. "baHK" is bank. Of course there are many letters and symbols that this computer cannot make like reverse letters and others. Their reverse "R" is our "Z" and a "Φ" (Greek phi) sounds like "F" or "PH". All this translation was making me hungry, I figured that trying to negotiate a Russian cafe (K-A-Φ-E) would be a good experience but soon remembered that the currency is rubles and not euros. As we're leaving for London after tonight's show I didn't want to exchange any money so it was a pass, maybe next time.
As a child growing up in America during the cold war, the propaganda we got about the U.S.S.R. was the old 'red menace' line, their fingers hovering over the button that would blow us off the map, Nakita banging his shoe on the table threatening to bury us. Politics as usual but somehow knowing that the real people were not that much different from us. The images on television and photos in the newspapers were black and white, showing the streets around the Kremlin and people bundled up, the weather raining or overcast. I imagined Russia as a colorless place, variations of grey with the occasional wisp of pink across the sky. The last couple of days have been just that including the streak of pink in Moscow's sky.
Tonight we played for nearly 10,000 real people who were not very different from us. The gig was at the new arena in St. Petersburg appropriately named The New Arena and those real people were a great audience. We we're back at the front of the stage, in top form and the sound in the arena was beautiful thanks to Robert Collins our front of house mixer. Toward the end of the show a couple of kids climbed on stage for an autograph, a first. This is the Russia I'll remember.
After the show we flew into London where the Brit contingency will hug their families and the Yanks (Glenn, Matt and I) will have four days off to catch our breath. I plan to go to a few museums, eat some good meals, do a bit of practicing, exercise and rest. I'll pick this journal/travelogue back up in a few days when we play Ljubljana, Slovenia on the 3rd of May. Until then....