The Truth About Gary
In the intro to this blog, I promised to reveal why Gary Matoso, the photographer for the original Russian Chronicles, didn't come along this time. Gary was the driving force behind that project -- he came up with the idea, raised the money and then brought me on board when another writer dropped out for personal reasons.
So, why isn't he here? See if you can guess:
A. We're still not speaking after one too many vodka-fueled arguments on the road in 1995.
B. He's in prison.
C. Shhh... He doesn't know I'm doing this "Ten Years Later" thing.
D. His business commitments in Paris precluded him from coming.
Yes, it's boring old "D" -- Gary was unable to come this time around because a couple of big work projects conflicted with the trip dates. Despite the fact that we did indeed have a few vodka-fueled arguments on the road in '95, we both really hoped he could make the trip. He and I have remained good friends and see each other periodically, mostly whenever I'm in Paris, where he lives with his wife Chantal and daughters Louise and Stella.
In the years following the Russian Chronicles, Gary worked on other Web projects. He traveled to Bosnia, Africa and Central Asia to produce "Witness," a series of online documentaries about refugee issues, for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. More recently, he produced "Too Much Time", an online documentary for Amnesty International about women in prisons around the world.
Gary is the founder of Netfeatures, an online production company that develops and produces Web-based projects. He's still shooting photographs, for both commercial and editorial clients. Finally, on a personal note, he's also learning to play the guitar -- and I hope he won't mind if I reveal that he recently asked me to teach him the chords to "Dancing Queen." Rock on, Gary! Wish you were here to enjoy a shot of vodka with David and me now.
We've gotten several emails from people wondering what we're eating, and how good or bad it is. Two and a half weeks into the trip, we've pretty much run the gamut. In Vladivostok, we were fed to bursting by our host, Marina, with the full food pyramid of butter-drenched starches: Potatoes, noodles, pelmeny, bread. "Eat! Eat!" she barked, pushing dishes at us as we meekly complied.
In Khabarovsk, we were also well fed by our hosts, Yulia and her parents, though mercifully they didn't insist that we eat triple our normal caloric intake. Yulia's mother Irina made traditional dishes such as plov (rice pilaf) and blini (pancakes). In Birobidzhan, we've been on our own, eating deep-fried schnitzel at tiny greasy spoon cafes, loading up on sausage, cheese, almonds and dried apricots at the local market, and eating "Flippy" cereal for breakfast -- a Cap'n Crunch-esque treat in the shape of little dolphins. Mmm. Almost like home.
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