Part IV: Back in the Stan Again


I run into Don and we head out after meeting another guy. We decide to check out the Star Club, which is owned by the same guy that owns FM. Sure, I’m up for something different. FM is closed tonight, and every single person you would expect to find there is at Star Club instead. It was a more disco type environment though, so it was minorly different. I wasn’t terribly impressed.

I went home with a waitress
the way I always do…
How was I to know
she was with the Russians, too?

I’m trying to split time between clubs now, since FM is getting old, and of course Cher works at Istanbul. We didn’t go there the first night, because it was closed, too. For some reason certain clubs closed early that night, and we didn’t get to the hotel from the airport until after 11 PM anyway. Istanbul is more laid back and more comfy, with great big couches everywhere. They also have black lights all over the place, which is great for realizing exactly how much fuzz and crap you have all over your shirt.

Don and I run into a few militia guys on Broadway the next day. It starts off with just one brave one, who wants to make sure we have all our papers, because he’s our buddy and he’s looking out for us. We’ve got that, so he wants to make sure we are registered. Of course we don’t need to do that. Nope. He switches tactics and starts babbling something about drinking. He starts miming a bottle of something. We stand there in utter confusion, and he moves towards a shop at the side. I start walking off, and tell Don it’s time to go. He is still standing there, not yet fully grasping the situation. He wants us to buy him and the boys a bottle of vodka. I tell Don it’s time to abandon this guy, and keep moving. Sometimes you wonder if everyone in this country is out to get something from you. Crying or Very sad

On another trip out from the hotel, we run into a beggar kid. He is quite persistent, whining about how “hungrod” he is, and he has no money, only 100 soum. That’s about 10 cents. Eventually he gives up. He catches us on the way back though. I ask him how much money he has. He shows me the 100 soum note. I tell him to give it to me. He does. I am shocked. I explain to him how if he wants money from me, the very last thing he should do is tell me he has money, much less hand it to me. As much as I consider it would be a great object lesson to keep his money, I just can’t do it. Silly me.

Another strange occurrence happens out on the street. We are walking along, and a guy paces us, then makes a quick motion, and picks up something on the street. We aren’t paying attention to him and keep going. He catches up to us with a roll of $20 bills or something, asking if it’s ours. Of course it isn’t. Do you think somebody dropped it? We don’t know (or care.) He goes on about how lucky a day it is for him, and for some reason wants to split his new-found fortune with us. We’re not real interested, and just being polite enough not to tell him to piss off. He walks with us seemingly forever, and another guy comes up from behind asking if anyone saw his money roll, which he had marked so he’d recognize it. SCAM SCAM SCAM! We don’t know shit. He gets a little grabby and narrowly avoids becoming a wet smear on the pavement before we leave. It seems like a crappy scam to me, I mean you’d have to whip out money and wave it in front of his face so he could grab it and run. I suppose if you were dumb enough to split the “bounty” with his lucky partner, you’d be in a different spot. Maybe good blackmail there.

Later that night it’s FM time. All the girls are going nuts to see us, all wanting us to buy them drinks. It’s so much pushier than usual, I guess they are getting too used to us and trying to take too much advantage. Fishnet girl comes up to me and is giddy happy to see me. It’s a bit over the top. I think she is drunk. Later she stops by and gives me a sob story about how her mom had come down from Moscow to buy her an apartment. Her phone had been shut off. Ergo, her mom could not get in touch with her. So she turned around and flew back to Moscow. Since she hadn’t paid her phone bill, it was all her fault. Oops. She’s very drunk at this point. I notice at this point ChickDude is trying to be engaged in meaningful conversation with Don, who has an almost horrified expression on his face. ChickDude is nice enough, but from the neck up looks like an ugly man. It’s a shame, but there it is.

I look around the club wondering what the hell is going on. Everyone here has gone crazy and sappy. ChickDude is at our table, sobbing and looking pitiful, hard luck stories abound, buy me a drink…WTF? Turns out ChickDude propositioned Don and he had to let her down. Poor guy, I think he tried to be nice about it. I’ve had about enough of this bullshit. No more FM. I know everyone wants to make a buck, but when it edges over to simple mooching you have to draw the line. At least provide value. Sometimes I feel like this country exists to draw out money from me. Everybody wants to have their hands in the pocket.

Now of course that’s not actually true. But as a rich American you do stand out as a target for those kinds of people. There are quite a few who aren’t like that at all. If you don’t want to trust, there are ample items to fuel your paranoia.

Speaking of paranoia, or at least misunderstandings, I had an interesting conversation with Cher. Turns out she was married and had a kid. She wanted to be honest with me. Now the tricky part was that she had actually been married, but had gotten divorced. A small nuance of the language had me spooked about that for a while, but later during the conversation I caught on. Whew! We had a good time together. I was actually somewhat glad she didn’t speak any English, it made me try harder. Too soon though, my time was up and it was back to the grind.

Addendum to this: Cher and I wrote daily for a while, but I realized that I simply did not have feelings for her. She was very nice, and we got on well, but something was just missing. I saw the difference between having that spark with someone, and not, and had to end things. She was really low maintenance and it would have been easy to fake it for convenience of having someone available whenever I was up there, but I just didn’t want to use her that way. Over the course of time, the boss would end up eliminating Leave Without Pay trips (the entity formerly known as MWR) entirely. Given that you can no longer take extra days in Tashkent, and losing the break between actual R&Rs, we have no time up there anymore anyways. Of course we are also restricted to the hotel at this point, so it’s even worse. So ends another trip report…

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