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eXile Classic / May 8, 1997
By Mark Ames

Moscow Babylon

Almost two years ago, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Russia’s victory over the Nazis, I experienced the quintessential evening of Moscow Decadence. It began at around midnight in the parking lot of the Young Pioneer’s stadium. My friends, a mixture of Europeans and techno-Russians, spread the goods atop a mirror: an 8-ball of whiff cut into rails as long as asparagus stalks, 6 caps of X, and some diazapams to smoothe the ride.

Inside the club, you could tell us apart from the others: we had the largest eyes and the weirdest smiles… and we pounded the most water.

As the evening wore on, the doses were boosted. People drifted in and out of our circle. Then a group of us split off to go to a friend’s apartment, where, I was assured, I would witness “group sex.” The idea of “group sex” didn’t appeal to me-in fact, it embarrassed me-but I went along for the ride. I didn’t want to miss out-a sin in suburban mentality: the fear of “missing out.”

At Stas’ apartment, some of the guys based over the stovetop, little gray-white rushes of smoke shooting up from the tin foil. Then another round of caps were offered, although I threw in the towel. It was five thirty in the morning, and I had a meeting with my boss in two and a half hours. Also-I don’t know how else to say it-I was reaching a stage where I didn’t feel involved anymore. I was starting to make mental notes of the whole thing, trying to find relevance, preparing the column in advance. That’s always a bad sign.

Then the “group sex” began. Yulia, Tanya, and Svyeta, feeling the boost kick in, launched into an annoying techno-dyevushka dance (early morning TV aerobics step with a vacant expression) right there in the living room. The guys sat around, staring with jaws open, while Stas reassured me that the “group sex” leg of the program was just around the corner. With a lecherous grin, Stas crossed the room, dancing in rhythm, moving up close, rubbing Tanya’s ass, kissing her… they fell to the floor, real Wild Orchids-like… On the other side of the room, Yulia jiggled harder, then took Sveta onto the floor and started dry humping her. The European next to me got excited; he crawled next to the sapphites and started rubbing Yulia’s back as she humped Sveta. If only I had a camera, I thought, this would make some seriously good comedy… real Don Knotts/Jack Ritter meets Pia Zadora… I don’t know what it was-it just all seemed so fucking healthy. There was a strange, practiced, zombie-like quality to it all that, while interesting, certainly wasn’t erotic. Still, I stayed on, afraid that if I cut out, I’d offend someone. Finally, at around 7:30 in the morning, I slipped out, just in time to meet my boss for the Victory Day parade. At the time I was living on Kutuzovsky Prospekt, which served as the runway for the military parade: all kinds of APCs, tanks, howitzers, jeeps and so on were rolling under my window as the spell of the previous evening wore off, and I was forced to confront a few questions: a). Did 20 million Russians die so that their progeny could become wigged-out techno heads engaging in some kind of flat “group sex”; b). why didn’t I get excited?; and c). are these questions mere seratonin-soaked attempts to “get to the bottom of it” or to “see a pattern” where one doesn’t exist? The only answer I could come up with was that yes, indeed, 20 million Russians did lay their lives down exactly so that a few thousand kids, on the 50th anniversary of that tragic victory, could inhale imported drugs and engage in “group sex.” What the hell did they expect anyway? I got mean and nasty and as the seratonin washed away, and the rumble of tanks below my window kept me from much-needed sleep, and if my boss hadn’t come banging on my door at 8, I would have spent all morning brooding about the meaninglessness of war and life.

Okay, now here’s the twist. See, that was two long years ago. The winds only blew from west to east then. But I’ve been back to California, and I’ve seen something… so awful… could it be? “Chemical Brothers and Orb Headline the Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium!” “Techno Music Takes Youth By Storm!” “From ‘Ambient’ To ‘Jungle’: The San Jose Mercury Guide to Techno”… In the listings, you can choose your night out based on what kind of music you’re into: garage has about 10 listings in San Francisco; Progressive, House and Hardcore have a few, and so on. So it’s finally happened to America, only FIVE YEARS AFTER IT HIT RUSSIA: America has gone techno! What scares me the most is that I’m beginning to detect a trend of America following the lead of Russia in a lot of things. For example, in the film Fargo, the kidnappers offer the cop fifty dollars to forget about a registration violation. True, the cop refused, and wound up getting his head blown off… but still, it means Russification has reached the far north of Minnesota, not to mention popular culture, and it could only lead me to ask, what in God’s name is next? Group Sex? No-one thing I realized about Americans is that they stopped having sex-heterosexual sex, at least. You can see it in all the surveys they publish. Americans are fascinated with lesbians right now-they’ve gone bonkers over dykes, who are all over the TVs, movies, magazines-even my mother’s talking about them-it’s the closest thing we get to Group Sex, only it’s far cleaner, clean enough for the whole family. But conspicuous consumption-that one trait expats have sneered at most-is definitely in. Not only has the Next Generation gone techno and bribery, but they’re also into expensive cigars, golf and quirky cars that cost a lot. It may not be the Golden Palace, but it’s a step in that direction, and it makes me sort of glad that I’m heading back to the land where trends are set. Russia-the trendsetting nation of the late 90s. I can see the doubly ironic leads now: “The Times They are a Cha-a-a-ngin'” or “If Reagan was dead, he’d be turning in his grave knowing that America’s youth takes its cue from Russia’s.” Kind of makes you wonder who really won the Cold War after all, doesn’t it?

Not really.

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