#38 | April 23 - May 6, 1998  smlogo.gif

Moscow Babylon

In This Issue
Feature Story
Press Review
Death Porn
Kino Korner
Moscow Babylon


by Mark Ames

The Tugboat and the Tuba

The theme of this column is, "If you can't make fun of yourself, then make fun of someone else." So hold on to your sides, folks, 'cuz the Comedy Mobile is about to take you on a magical ride that you've only dreamed about...

Last week, Taibbi and I appeared on a Russian television show, "Pro Eto." It was a mistake. We knew it in advance. We were even warned by Limonov, of all people not to do it-but the chance for some cheap, E-Z publicity was just too tempting.

The whole thing came about because of an article I'd published in Ptyutch comparing American women to Russian women. It was exactly the kind of piece that helped endear me further to the distaff segment of the local American population. It's all part of this healing, can't-we-all-just-get-along thing that we at the eXile are starting to promote.

The point of the Ptyutch article was that American women cannot compete in the new barrier-free global market, not even at a heavy discount, and that's one of the bitter lessons we're all learning here-a lesson so terrible that, had American men known in advance during the Cold War what we were defending, we might have had a Night of the Long Knives, women dragged out of their homes in their Victoria Secrets lingerie and college sweatshirts, and nailed to garage doors, a bloodbath stretching from suburb to suburb in a spontaneous uprising that would take generations to recover from.

It was one thing semi-anonymously publishing that piece, but entirely another going on Russian television and defending it. Against no less than "Tugboat" Jean MacKenzie. It's been proven by numerous studies that merely appearing alongside Tugboat Jean ensures at best a Korean War-style "costly stalemate," but usually ends in humiliating defeat, a sort of Somalia peacekeeping mission humiliation, charred soldiers dragged through the dusty streets from the back of an '79 Toyota pick-up.

I felt a lot like those soldiers, except that those lucky bastards were dead, whereas I had it ten times worse: I was alive. I was alive, tied to the back of Tugboat's ass, and dragged through the dusty, bitter ghost town of her mind, and I still have scars to prove it...

The first thing you may be wondering is what Tugboat looks like. I always wondered myself, and lemme tell ya, she looked a lot better in the imagined world than in the yikes!-she's-sittin'-right-fuckin'-next-to-me! world. Think Cesar Romero meets the rear bumper of a Peterbilt by way of Jennifer Gould, and you'll start to get the idea...

I know this is sounding mean, but stick with me a moment-it gets worse. See, I've never really been interested in going after Tugboat, just because I figured that she was such a huge, obvious target that it wouldn't be good reading. Sort of like going after born-again Christians: you want to aim a little higher, if only because you want to sound original and clever yourself. But I watched her in action on that show the other week-I saw her literally lie, lies I'm sure she believed at the time.

For example, she told the cameras that her columns aren't meant to be believed, because in truth she's a sexually successful woman with nothing to complain about; the columns, she told us, are mere in-character stunts, and she's not at all the doormat/menopausal bourgeois that she's been selling us for the last five years.

Sort of like the stories she told a reporter who came out to Moscow a few weeks back to do an article on the eXile. He interviewed Tugboat about us, and she apparently told him, "Mark Ames shouldn't be writing for a newspaper-he should be sleeping under a bridge in New York." That sort of made me proud, and I have to admit, if things do go bad here, I just may take Tugboat up on her suggestion. Unfortunately for Tugboat, she fucked up her ethos with him. She told the reporter that a controversial article I had once written for the Moscow Times only caused a flood of angry letters not because of the subject I wrote about, but because my writing style was so poor that the local community was outraged.

I busted Tugboat by showing to the reporter copies of those letters to the editor. See, Tugboat will do anything and say anything to try to de-legitimize the eXile. Our very existence is an argument against everything she believes in. Tugboat isn't the only person who told this reporter stories. Another American named Alexis told the reporter that she'd once worked at the Moscow News and rejected article after article of mine, another bizarre lie.

I don't understand why these women think it's supposed to hurt if you've been rejected. Most romantic writer bios I've read start off with said writer's long list of rejections from the mainstream world, whether Time Magazine's rejection of Hunter Thompson or the fact that 36 publishers turned down Limonov's first novel before it was accepted.

I'm proud of all the rejections I've racked up in Moscow, but really, the list isn't that impressive: the Moscow Times, the Moscow Tribune (when I came into their offices three years back with an article I'd written, they were so terrified that paranoid editor/owner Anthony Louis wouldn't even see me)... The big bomb that a few eXile detractors are waiting to drop on the world is that Carol J. "Ironhead" Williams rejected me for a job back when I started working for Living Here.

I didn't begrudge Ironhead at the time-I thought she was reasonable for not choosing me as her personal researcher, since my organization skills are wanting, and she even told me that she would probably take a woman. It wasn't until Abram Kalashnikov showed me her lead last year about the streets of Moscow, whose "potholes can swallow a chassis whole," that I realized what an utter moron she is, but that was two years after Ironhead bounced me. For some reason, as I said, the local eXile-haters think that by revealing to the world my rejection slips-real and imagined-I will somehow be "outed" and destroyed. Destroyed, yes. I firmly believe in that part of the story. But not because the mainstream once rejected me. Rather, because the mainstream will overpower Taibbi and me by sheer numbers, like the Chinese pouring over the Yalu River...

Which brings me back to Tugboat. Look, I know that in the end, this piece is futile, a mere slave revolt that's bound to be brutally repressed and forgotten about. It doesn't matter if Tugboat lies about me or about herself. She's going to win in the end anyway, that much is fact. Because no matter what, in the end, the Tugboats of the world always win. And that to me is scary: the tireless, patient victory of banality.

Worst of all was that goddamn tuba soundtrack that started following me the minute Tugboat appeared. You may know what I'm talking about. Some call it "bad karma," but I tend to look at things very literally. In this case, I heard a wacky, poorly-played tuba soundtrack start up the minute the producers told me that Tugboat was coming on the show. And that tuba soundtrack has been mocking me ever since.

For all our troubles, for being dragged through Tugboat's dusty streets, Taibbi and I were compensated with a free week-long trip to Egypt, courtesy of Pro Eto's sponsors, Day Tours. Last Monday, we took our certificates that Day Tours handed to us on the show and went to their offices at the Peking Hotel to convert them. When we met the concierge in the lobby to ask where Day Tours was located, he laughed and explained that Day Tours had just been shut down. "Shut down? Did they move? Do you know where to find them?" we asked. The old sovok grinned, lifted his eyes, then broke the bad news: Day Tour's director had been arrested. No trip to Egypt. No compensation. No nutin'. Taibbi and I shook our heads and headed out to Mayakovsky Square and took a seat at the base of the great poet's statue. As the tuba soundtrack started to FADE IN, I thought to myself, yep, Tugboat's winning all right. I'm not sure what the answer to it all is, but I sure hope that Mayakovsky's answer-busting a cap in your temple-isn't the only option open to us doomed-folk.

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