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The Big Sig
No Chicken Served on Chicken Friday
Where I lived before, finding one’s bearings was simple: to the West was The Zone (well, a place populated by civies, a bunch of countries, an ocean and then hash merchants). To the North was a huge flat smear of machine shops and fields of Tulips ending in Denmark, and to the East, so the rumor went, was Poland under martial law. Overnight by Duty Train due South there was civilization: dancehalls that never closed and, for at least two weeks during the 1980s, the Salad days of American eightball and hardcore punk.
Returning by car required you (and each member of your entourage) to have official Movement Orders. These were in English, French and Russian and in blue ink. German was not included because they were not a part of the Yalta and Potsdam Agreements, which helped determine the future of Europe after the Cold War. A trip to Berlin required planning. If you were unfortunate enough to have British friends traveling with you, they had to get British orders.
Where I live now, breathing fresh air means leaving behind a booming metropolis of 3.5 million to negotiate a lonely latticework of poorly-paved roads and dead apple orchards, all of which will take one eventually to one’s destination, though none of which actually offer any indication of same (signs are terribly polite but few and far between. Consulting Google Maps is the surest way to get lost).
Cold grey mornings remind me of the post-apocalyptic survival movie The Road. Returning from one village for example, a sign points right and says Lizky, 5 km. Straightforward enough, but, ей, подожди, секундочку, you see what you have to do is turn right, go ten feet, do a U-turn, cross back over the road you just left, and go five kilometers in the opposite direction towards the Cherkasy border, Polovetske and the mighty Ros River.
It’s not entirely outside the arena of the possible that I’ll figure this out someday.