Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Face Control

Some of you are probably aware of the raving club scene in Moscow. There are hundreds of clubs in Moscow that appeal to virtually any taste. However, the more trendy and popular ones tend to have stricter "face control". What is face control? It's basically the discretion of the club owners, staff and security to subjectively choose who will get in and who won't. It is a form of legalized/privatized prejudice. Often times such decisions are formed based on your race/ethnicity, nationality, sex, and perceived mannerisms. You can be dressed well and be shaking a wad of cash in the bouncers face, but that won't guarantee you entry.

Enter XIII aka Club 13. A posh nightclub situated in the center of Moscow. It is minutes away from the Kremlin walls, scores of embassies, other clubs, restaurants and shops. The immediate atmosphere feels safe. While 13 didn't appear to be as segregated as club Propaganda (no pun intended) one can still observe a handful of "key men" or bouncers dressed in black suits guarding the entrance.

It was a warm summer night and I possessed a VIP pass to 13. I had unlimited in-and-out privileges, access to the owner, free drinks and song requests. The place was filled with people migrating in droves from place to place. Each dance hall had its own unique look, music, and crowd. There was also the lewd yet obscure passion room. Its entire interior appeared red and had dozens of love seats and couches for people to sit on.

I began making my rounds by intermingling with the crowd. The girl/guy ratio on this particular night was probably 3:2. After some chit chat with some of the DJ's and getting to know a few new faces I decided it was time for a drink. After a few minutes of gulping down some shots I received my buzz. In a few moments there would be a charming girl waiting for me in one of the dance halls upstairs. Inside there was a dance cage that was constantly occupied by an alternating group of female dancers. At the far end of the room sat "Anya", which is the Russian form for Anna. She was an exquisite girl with dark wavy hair that descended her back. There was no resisting the urge to connect with her.

To be continued...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

From Russia With Rob

Recently I stumbled upon a message board with a thread conducting a poll. The poll's question was, "If you have been to/live in Moscow have you been mugged." My answer to this question was yes and I wrote a detailed reply on it and how to prevent danger and loss of possessions.
I am from Moscow and have been mugged before. I am Russian. Robbers don't discriminate between tourist or native Muscovite in the middle of the night. They seek opportunities to attack their victims when it's dark and when they notice a victim is wandering alone in some dark alley. Daytime occurrences are not unheard of either.

I had a friend who was attacked in broad daylight by several guys. He was sitting on a park bench with his girlfriend's purse and bags while she went across the street to pick something up from a bakery stand.

Let me tell you about one of my muggings. First of all I don't consider myself easy prey nor am I arrogant and willingly seek danger. I am usually a cautious fellow who happened to be drunk one night and lost his way. With that said street thugs these days are increasingly bold and will take great risk just to rob you of some petty cash.

So here goes: I had just left a restaurant/bar with a bunch of friends and everyone was parting ways and going home. My cousin and a bunch of his friends squeezed into a little Mitsubishi Eclipse. I didn't really feel like sitting or laying across the legs of my friends and their girls so I opted to walk home. I wore my cellphone on my belt. In my left hand I carried two Baltika beer mugs I had purchased for a few bucks a piece as souvenirs and over my right shoulder I had my camera bag along with passport, cash, credit cards, etc. The walk should have taken around 10-15 minutes, but because I was drunk and disoriented I took a wrong turn down a dark alley. It seemed like the whole thing was staged with almost every street lamp out and rows of conspicuous cars lined up with black tint. I passed a building with a jungle gym and three dudes in black clothing sitting on top. They seemed to be murmuring something. No sooner had I passed them when I heard loud footsteps behind me. I peeked over my shoulder and noticed all three running full speed in my direction. I was wise enough to carry a Spiderco blade with me and quickly opened it in my vest pocket in anticipation of an attack.

I kept walking slowly and didn't show any sign of panic. Panic is the worst thing you can do to yourself. If an enemy detects fear in you they will pursue you down even harder and take advantage of your weakness. As soon as they caught up with me they began punching me from all sides. One of them sprayed an entire can of mace all over my face and torso. My adrenaline began pumping fast and I received a surge of energy. I felt no pain from their blows nor did the mace have any effect on me. One of them was able to pull my camera bag away from me.

At this point my fight or flight mechanism kicked in. I decided to stay my ground and fight all three of them to the death. They stole everything I had in that bag. I had nothing else to lose and I was enraged. I beckoned them to attack me and revealed my blade. One of them lunged forward and I thrust my blade into his abdomen. At this point all three of them panicked and decided to split up and run in different directions. This was where they screwed up. I immediately gave chase after the guy with my bag wearing only sandals. Not only was I drunk, had a full stomach from eating a large meal, and had mace all over myself, but I was also wearing sandals. However they were a good pair because they were made of durable leather with secure straps. There was no way they were going to fall off me feet. I continued pursuing the assailant with wild frenzy. He ran in the direction of Chistie Prudi, which is kind of like a park with a long trail with building and streets on either side. We both hopped the fence (it was only waist height or less) and continued bolting down the path. I was gaining on him and showed no signs of fatigue. At this point I bellowed at him to drop my bag or I would kill him. As I was almost about to grab him he broke and decided that my bag wasn't worth losing his life. He dropped it to the ground and kept running. I stopped chasing him and picked up my bag.

I went to find a bench to sit down because by this point my adrenaline was wearing off and the burning sensation of the mace was kicking in. My nose was running and I had tears in my eyes from its effect. Earlier I had ran past a pair of dudes and their girls. The girls were scared away by the terrifying event and the dudes did nothing to aid me when I asked them to intercept the robber before he passed them. I sat down on a bench and the two bystanders approached me. They were upset I scared their dates away. Oh boy I thought to myself not another fight.

I could've care less what they thought and I was prepared to be attacked again. This time by them. They probably would have succeeded where the other three robbers failed because I was momentarily blind at this stage. They continued to antagonize me by attempting to probe into my bag while I was holding it. They wanted to see what was inside that was so important. I told them to back away and clenched my blade with a firm grip so they could see. After the entire ordeal had ended and I was back home I noticed I was missing my cellphone. I was pissed because I had like 100 numbers of cute girls stored inside of it. I am not sure where I lost it. It may have been snatched when I initially got jumped, while I was chasing the dude, or by the probing hands of the pseudo-bystanders who were as keen to rob me as the three thugs before them.

Either way let this be a lesson to you in your adventures and escapades while in Moscow or anyplace in Russia for that matter. Always be prepared for the worst, never show fear, and fight back like a madman.
If you are interested in this topic or others and want to browse the forum you can find it here: Way to Russia Talk Lounge

Monday, August 20, 2007

Initial arrival

When you first arrive in Japan there is a feeling
reminiscent of a scene from Black Rain when Michael
Douglas looks out of the window and at the industrial
landscape of Japan. After you land and collect your
belongings from the baggage terminal you must make
your way to a procession at the passport screening
booths where you will be interrogated by Japanese
customs officials. There is no emotion in their eyes as
they proceed to ask you a series of questions including
silly ones like, "Where do you plan to go sightseeing?"
or "Will you be working here ilegally?" Unless you're
an idiot and answered YES to the second question you won't make it past this point.

After you are approved to officially enter the
non-restricted part of the airport you are free
to exchange currency, purchase souvenirs and
snacks from the vending machine, and enjoy a
smoke outside. Depending on where you're
headed there are buses, taxis, and trains
ready to carry you to your next destination.
Trains run from Narita International Aiport, in Chiba, Japan to Tokyo.
There are several types of trains, but the faster and more convenient
train is known as the Narita Express. Its aisles, seats, and windows are
extremelywide and enhance comfort levels. Be ready to dish out $20-40
for a standard cabin depending on destination. The "green" cabins are
considered first-class and are even more spacious and godly. Prices
will probably be around $50-60 USD.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Uncanny signs in Tokyo

I decided to post a few snapshots of signs I took
on my last trip to Japan (日本).

The place: Tōkyō (東京)
Below are several city districts I visited.

Harajuku (原宿)

Deep inside Shinjuku (新宿) is a place called
Kabukicho (歌舞伎町). Also known as
"Tokyo's largest red-light district".

Notice this last image that says Skin Head. Look closely now.
You'll see three black males from Nigeria sitting right next
to it. Perhaps they're just as clueless to the meaning as the
Japanese? I don't know. Either way I took my chances
by taking a photo while they were preoccupied and unaware.