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Nov 16, 2012

Yes, you can go home again

Strange things are brought back from trips home. I am not sure if Thomas Wolfe’s truism, you can't go home again, is really true. He implied that as we change, we can go home physically, but there is no way to return to the earlier state of being. One of my friends says nostalgia is about time, not place. Yes, OK, but it is only true if you think the point of going home is to go back into a happier state. I think past is a wild territory, full of treasures and dangers. It is an adventure, not a search for the paradise lost.

For example, I just realized this week that I really like dark, cold, snowy nights – not in any kind of a metaphorical or nostalgic sense. No, I just physically enjoy the cold on my face, and the squeaking dry snow of snow under my boots, and the peculiar sensation of gasping for air in the wind. Our minds are weird, weird machines. We can override the basic physiological distinction between pain and pleasure. We can learn to hate what must feel pleasant to others and love what should feel like discomfort. Old pains are new pleasures. I enjoyed the smell of cheap gasoline leaking through badly tuned engine of an old truck. Why? Because I remember riding in the cab of one of those trucks as a child, over an endless white road in the Siberian country side. Don’t remember why and with whom, but the smell brings me there. You are wrong, Thomas Wolfe, I still can find my Siberia; not all of it, but enough to know it’s there.

Moscow too has changed much. It became a sophisticated worldly metropolis, rivaling Paris, Berlin, and London. It is a city of $10 lattes and free WiFi in every café, of expensive cars stuck in traffic jams, and well-dressed multilingual crowds. And then suddenly a glimpse of subway tile teleports me somewhere else in an instant. From within the stranger’s face, familiar features emerge, of a much simpler city where we lived in the late 80-s. And I begin to recognize my Muscovites – their peculiar gait, their fast talk with certain vowels swallowed, and others unduly stretched. They talk to themselves on earpieces, but these are the same people.

I saw my father’s grave, found my old rasp, my mother’s wardrobe, talked to my teacher Nelli Petrovna; still sharp and curious. It is all still there, all of it. To find it, I just need to go home once in a while, and look.


  1. Anonymous10:17 AM

    Sounds like quite a nostaglic (and enjoyable/memorable) trip. Good for you and your family -- you deserve it. Reminds me of my yearly visits back to my old stomping grounds: Brooklyn and Queens New York -- aaaah! the smells, sights, the crowds, not all of them friendly -- so many New Yorkers have no time -- elbowing past you, sending "nasty" looks to those that they pass, and in short have no time for pleasantries -- maybe I do not miss New York as much as I think.

    Thanks for the memories ---- Ben Lombardo

  2. Thanks for this... I really enjoy reading your blog, Sasha, and appreciate how you frame your world in ways that makes me reconsider my own. Welcome back.