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Chao Mama

I flew to Moscow and thought it would just be a couple of months to renew my passport and get a couple of visas. I spent almost a year there, instead. Plus, some more time in Saint Petersburg. My father died. I anticipated this event even before I left California. We weren’t close, even less so in a later stage of his illness. I returned to Saint Petersburg for my mother, not out of pure love and connection but a sense of responsibility. I hate that feeling. It goes against my beliefs, yet I keep following the script sometimes. Perhaps it was the last time. She says I saved her with what I did. I feel that I had betrayed myself. Feign. The final point in the “hero’s journey,” refusal to return home? But what is home?

I rented a suite at the design hotel by Saint Isaac’s Cathedral. One night crushing a sofa, I looked up at the grey wall of my living room. The letters between two white lion figures said, “Chao Mama.” A few months later, sitting on the same couch, I read the scary news about the war. After Moscow welcomed me back with a pleasant surprise from the modern infrastructure, abundant contemporary art, and sophisticated movement culture. Plenty of yoga studios and excellent food. Progressive mass-transit system New Yorkers could only dream about. Saint-Pete, on the contrary… It is as if it crumbled in the past decade with no plan to recover. They built some fancy-looking roads, bridges, and a new “Dubai-style” neighbourhood to the West. And, of course, the rubbish of Gazprom Tower, allegedly the tallest building in Europe. Technically empty because of the pandemic, it is rumoured to rapidly sink into the Gulf of Finland.

When most of the world associates modern Russia with Moscow, I connect the crippled nuclear holocaust Empire with Saint Petersburg and consider it the birthplace of the OG Russian propaganda. The faux city installed on top of a swamp only to make a point. That Russian Tsar has the balls, and resources, to deliver that. So that “Russians” are to be respected in the West, perhaps even as equals. I despise the word “respect,” nothing good may come with or out of it. And I definitely can’t picture a healthy person or a worthy nation to demand it, particularly with implements of war. I grew up in that cold grey city at a time when the street gangsters were admired and exalted into high fliers. I later lied to myself that there is one ‘bad Putin’ and 145 million kind, loving, peaceful Russians. It shouldn’t be that hard to clear out the one, but the “big putin” is to linger in the form of an archetype.

← Santa Cruz

← The Journey

linked mentions for "Chao Mama":
  1. Santa Cruz

    When my OC lease was up, I grabbed a yoga mat and a pair of climbing shoes, loaded the rest of my things into a storage unit, and left my car at the

  2. journey

    overly personal autobio piece of six thousand words and no picture, this introspective project took years to complete, yet like a mythical journey, it's unfinished