through green house glass

It wasn’t too long ago that the president arrived to V-town with her entourage. Some plain clothed security guards, a police escort. From the lip of the sewer across from Rohelise Maja I awaited her entry. This is my favorite sewer in Viljandi because of its most ungodly awful rot smell. “They’re supposed to fix it in the next few years, because the sewer and the street stuff run together,” says Enn the proprietor. “But whaddya gonna do? That’s life.” Enn says if it’s still ripe by summer they’ll put an easy chair out there for me. “Get a good whiff.” Ooooooh … that putrid funky pungent stink stank stunk of Estonia, up in your nostrils. So Kersti arrived, never saw her sneak in. In through the back door, I guess. I only glimpsed her through the dark window glass, leaning over her goat cheese salad or whatever. The telling bangs and mop of hair. She went ice skating the night before, down on the lake, or so they said. The children of Viljandi were whispering. “The president is ice skating, the president is ice skating …” I was happy with my glimpse and that’s all. Not a message to relay. Tell you the truth, I was invited to my share of Independence Day Galas in the Ilves era, but never went, somewhat out of shyness, mostly because my partner refused to go. She dreaded the annual edition of Kroonika, the garish cutthroat tabloid, where they take down the best and worst attired. Hirmus! Who could blame her? If I had gone though, they wouldn’t have let me in anyway, because I would have worn traditional Calabrian attire, the daring clothes of briganti, which includes a musket and cutlass … 

the ireland of russia

I confess my ignorance of 20th century British political history. I knew the name Anthony Eden, I knew he had been prime minister, I knew he was a SIR Anthony Eden (naturally), but I did not recall that he was Churchill’s foreign secretary during the majority of the Second World War, and I did not realize he urged Churchill to recognize Soviet control over the Baltic countries, which Churchill opposed. The unfortunately named Lord Beaverbrook was even more adamant about recognizing the Soviet takeover, referring to the Baltics as the “Ireland of Russia” — an apt comparison, but one that most would see as strengthening their bid to retain full independence, rather than accommodating their subservience to an ancient imperial master. Those were the days of map rooms and sitting rooms and sitting in the map rooms looking at maps. The Aegean Islands! The Ljubljana Gap! The Ireland of Russia! It was supposed to be history. Now it’s back.

from here on out, etc.

Some ocean of big vulnerability these days. The whole Atlantic in my chest. New beginnings, new something. People’s dissatisfaction rising. Rising within themselves, with their world. It’s always been that way. Nothing’s ever been satisfying. Tinkering with Eastern Philosophies. But can we Westerners ever truly understand? For so long we have lived within the Christian prism. Even the Godless ones. The way we intuit, the things that motivate us. There are regional idiosyncrasies. The distance, the space between. Does every Estonian come wrapped up in plastic or ice. Something does not happen here that happens elsewhere. I’m used to a loud kitchen, a lot of big voices and big forces. A force of nature. “You’re a force of nature,” a woman tells me. Sounds nice. Stacking the firewood. Lighting it up. R. is afraid to sauna. He’s too English, too cultured for local tastes. He thinks that a bunch of naked men sweating in a hot room is “gay.” “What do you think I am going to do with you in there?” I ask him. “Look at you, you’re all hairy and … male. I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” “You are going to sweat in there,” says R., pacing the floor like a distressed cavalier. “I’m not because I won’t be joining you.”