(circa 1996)

Before You Go:

– read The Master y Margarita by Bulgakov
– read The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky
– read the poetry of Marina Tsvetaeva, Mayakovsky, and Pushkin
– read Lenin’s Tomb, Resurrection and all the articles you can find by David Remnick
– read Soviet Women: Walking the Tightrope by Francine du Plessix Gray
– memorize at least one poem in Russian
– check out every Tarkovsky film in your local video store
– practice drinking vodka straight

While You’re There:

– roast naked in a banya (the one near the 1905 Street Metro is great)
– get invited to an all-night dinner party
– uncork a bottle of Soviet Champagne at midnight in Red Square, just as the Kremlin bells begin to chime
– commune with the spirit of Vladimir Visotsky at the Taganka Theater
– befriend a babushka
– have a picnic at the Kolomenskoe Summer Residence
– eat khachpuri (the Georgian version of quesadillas)
– get invited to someone’s dacha for a weekend
– grill shashlik in a forest
– ice skate in Gorky Park

Don’t Forget To Visit:

– Lenin’s Tomb
– Mayakovsky’s Museum
– The Tretyakovskaya Galereya
– the fallen communist graveyard behind the Central House of Artists
– Patriarch’s Pond on Malaya Bronnaya
– Moscow State University
– cemeteries, especially the ones at Novodevichi Monastery and by the 1905 Street Metro

You’ll Know You’re Catching On When You:

– can slam half a dozen shots of vodka in a row without puking
– prefer dried, salted fish to peanuts with your beer
– make out in the escalator of the Metro
– wear a mini-skirt and high heels in the middle of a blizzard
– wear a cocktail dress to a rock concert, the zoo, the park, the forest
– fall asleep on the Circle Line of the Metro and don’t awaken for hours
– eat ice cream sandwiches in the dead of winter
– hitchhike without a second thought
– make home-brew in your bathtub
– hook your arm around your friend’s as you stroll down the street
– carry plastic bags everywhere you go, in case stores don’t have any
– consider a five-mile walk a leisurely stroll
– bring caviar, vodka, and a big box of chocolates to dinner parties
– pack hard boiled eggs, cucumbers, and tomatoes when you travel by train
– decorate the tiles of your bathroom with stickers
– own an orange polka-dotted teapot and an electric tea kettle
– bring a bottle of vodka and a carton of cigarettes to the negotiating table
– have a krisha, or Mafiya protection
– resolutely declare that Russian language and literature is superior to any other culture’s in the world