12.10.2016

ROADLOG: POST-KOMMUNIST MANIFESTO BLUES



ROADLOG: POST-KOMMUNIST MANIFESTO BLUES

12/1/16
Eastern Europe is such a trip.
We played Slovenia and Hungary
And now are in Belgrade, Serbia.
The people here are amazing.
Tough.
Lean.
Intense.
They’re used to going without the luxuries.
But they are full of soul and heart.
And humor.
We didn’t meet any whiney snobs
In Eastern Europe.
They don’t have time for that bullshit.
They’re just trying to get on with it.
The post-communist transition
Is still ongoing
And will be for a long time.
You see a McDonalds here
And mini-mall there.
But everywhere
You see the shadows of the old communist world
And it is fascinating.
Drab grey institutional structures,
Cold and merciless,
Stoic and immovable.
All around are the sad
Scattershot apartment block towers
That people lived in
And still live in.
The sides of each like some schizophrenic
Cyrillic tapestry of clothes lines, wind-whipped laundry,
Stripped paint, ragged curtains,
Skeletal windows,
And the omnipresent window AC unit
Which is everywhere.
There are window units mounted
To anything that does not move:
Banks, skyscrapers, tower blocks,
Kabob stands, vulcanizing shops,
And Subotica shacks.
Like post-millennial barnacles,
They are not going anywhere.
The natives call them “kilmas.”
You speed through the city,
Jostling for position,
Past bombed out buildings,
Pockmarked, crumbling,
And gouged with the last kiss
Of NATO missiles.
Many of the bombed out buildings
Are still there,
Either as a reminder
Or because they haven’t the funds
To tear them down.
Or the property
Has not been sold to the highest bidder.
The country towns are equally fascinating.
On the drive to Kladova,
Which sits on the banks of the Danube River
Right across from Romania,
We blow down tiny two-lane road,
Barely wide enough to fit two cars.
We dodge cratered potholes,
And whip through country villages,
Where we pass two cows
Walking down the middle
Of the two-lane road through town.
Just heading up the road,
Opposite direction as us,
With no masters,
Like a couple hoodlums,
Not paying anyone any mind.
Cyrillic alphabet signs call out the destinations.
At one point our GPS loses the signal
And we are left to find our way
Without the benefit of technology.
A dozen miles up the road,
We’re shuttling down a dirt road
Through ancient Serbian countryside.
We come to a one-lane bridge
Over a creek.
A farmer stands on the other side
And signals for us to come across.
“It’s OK.”
The bridge looks very sketchy
And old.
We’re not sure if it’ll support the weight
Of the tour van.
Half the crew votes no on the crossing.
The other half wants to go for it.
We turn around and backtrack,
And locate an alternative route
Through the brush and over the creek.
Slavs.
Yugos.
Kopornica wastelands.
Later than night,
After the gig,
While walking the darkened streets
Of Kavado,
We pass a pack of stray Serbian dogs.,
Wandering the alleyways.
I stop to pet one of them.
Another bites the leg of Alek’s,
Our booking agent and host,
Who brought us here.
We keep moving,
Through the biting cold.
So cold.
It’s a cold wrapped in cinderblocks
And bomb shelters.
“Does anyone in Serbia miss old days of
Communism?” I ask.
“Fuck no!” they answer.
“It’s all shit. All the communists
Are gone.”
Apparently, the only two things
Communism is good for:
Health care
And cheap vacations.
No one here misses communism.
At all.
Communism is not pretty.
The remnants of it
Are just like you would imagine:
Cold, grey, austere.
I would invite anyone
That imagines him or herself a communist
To visit a former communist country.
And look around.
Talk to the people.
Beyond all the Kilmas
And Cyrillic confusion.
There are the people.
And this heartfelt desire
To catch up with the modern world,
And whatever it may bring.
Good, bad, whatever.
Just like those two cows,
They just want to get on with it.

No comments: