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I sit on the ninth floor of Guta bank, tea and confectionery is brought to me upon arrival and then I sit and ponder as I gaze through the window which looks over the three railway stations, with their demented and various architecture, and the vast Stalinist pomposity of the vampire-like hotel Leningrad, brooding as ever over the seething, seedy world of Komsomolskaya square.
In the distance odd chimneys…I nearly wrote that they spew or belch their filth into the sky, but common collocations lead me astray, for here, now on this clear cold late winter’s day they seem to bequeath the smoke to a grateful sky: it’s beautiful.
Down below, as you approach ground level, this pristine beauty fades amidst the pornography stalls and the forest of loudspeakers blaring out details of lottery tickets and cheap excursions or the constant blast of bad pop music and the tired and dubious looking passengers issuing from the three great stations. (Here is where all the belching occurs.) All of this washes away the detached sense of grandeur that I feel from up here on high.
There is, though, another, less clinically removed beauty down in the square.
When my mood is good it catches me; a sense, almost of rapture at the teeming Darwinian activity: The sense of the ways in which these thousands of people are intimately connected to untold thousands of others whom I do not see. (the rapture is Wordsworthian, he seems to have claimed rapture as his own, at least for me. But the truer essence, the brutality, the indifference of it and the resulting beauty are pure Ted Hughes)
Here, on the ninth floor of a bankers’ feudal empire, I can rise a little, enough to see it clearly. And does he see it, Yuri Nikolayevich, the awkward and bearded banker who owns this reality. I walked to the eighth floor with him the other day and he told me about man management Russian style: “they are good if you stand behind them with a gun”. As we walked and he talked I watched people ducking behind doors or lowering their heads to focus intently on whatever bit of paper lay on their desks: the king is abroad.
I’m pretty sure that he doesn't get to see too much of the pornographic, pop-music filled loudspeaker square down there. Or that if his brooding, serene and planet sized intellect should fall momentarily on those unfortunate teeming masses, then it is with the detached eye of an entomologist, or more likely a pest control expert sizing up a particularly nasty job.
And so I tell myself that he loses, that all of his power is too detached, too pristine, too fucking vast to allow him any real joy in the swarm of things. He remains trapped in a sterile world of oafish bodyguards wearing purple suits with too many buttons and too wide lapels who help him with his rich man’ s toys. He can't go out and have a drink with friends, nor meet strangers and chat on the street. He can’ t take his girl out dancing on a whim, or even get it up probably. Fuck him eh? What does he have? Nothing but inestimable power and untold riches, whereas I get to see unwashed Uzbekistanis buyingvideos of gymslip virgin teens in the bodybuilders boudoir.