by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Magadan map

Децла (Detsl) - "Вечеринка у Децла (Party at Detsl's)".

Natasha and I climbed into Andrei's big black 4x4. We decided to leave the dog at home. She took the passenger seat and I was in the back, leaning against the backpacks. Andrei got in after us. Hes is a barrel-chested Magadan native, shaved almost bald, bulging at the shoulders. He wears a tight black T, camo pants. Tasha - my interpreter - has shades, a dayglo hoodie, giant raver sneakers. I am a timid Canadian writer. Andrei says something in Russian. "Let's go?" Tasha asks. "Let's go," I say.

A hard rock cover of Cat Stevens' "Wild World" is playing.

As soon as we roar out of the junkyard and onto the freeway I notice very clearly that I do not have a seatbelt. The windshield has a crack in it; every Magadan windshield seems to have a crack in it. Andrei has a black and white GPS, a DVD player mounted above the dash. He does have a seatbelt but he is not wearing it. He never wears it. For the next five hours, the No Seatbelt alarm pings in the dash behind the wheel. It is almost soothing. It is almost, almost soothing.

We are on the Magadan oblast federal road to Yakutsk. The name looks more elegant in cyrillic: Якyтск. We are not actually headed to Yakutsk because Yakutsk is 1,200 miles away. This is just our route to the mine at Dneprovsky, a former gulag, where we will be camping tonight. The road is pitted and lumpen, but paved. We pass Magadan's crumbling tenements and soaring radio towers, pass the immobile fairground and the doleful Mask of Sorrow. Now Andrei is really gunning it. The city pours away behind us and there are just acres and acres of thick forest on rolling hills, pines on cascading slopes. A bundle of reindeer bristles swings where fuzzy dice might swing. This is a souvenir from the town of Omyron. It says so, in beading. Also Omyron's lowest recorded temperature: -72°C (-96°F). As I admire the doodad I realize that although it swings where fuzzy dice might swing, it is not swinging from under the rearview mirror. That is because there is no rearview mirror. Andrei pushes a button on his USB flashdrive and the Russian dance music gets louder.

So we're driving through the taiga. I check, just to make sure: "We're driving through the taiga, right?" Natasha checks with Andrei. He nods. This seems to be a stupid question. Dandelions skirt the side of the road, in places, like we are skimming down a suburban off-ramp. In other spots, the asphalt turns to dirt - we have to raise the windows to keep from being choked with dust. Gigantic trucks thunder past us, their dust-clouds like the trails of comets. The SUV has very good suspension. I am hanging on for dear life to the car's interior handles. We climb a hill and now emerge into new landscape: from the initial raking hills we are in some kind of plateau valley, ringed with mountains. Atka passes in a blur: a concrete hammer and sickle, apartment blocks, what could be a lake but which is instead a large slab of ragged white ice. It is June. The car's bass booms. "This is Black Lake," Natasha says, pointing through a break in the trees. There are no birds or fish at Black Lake. When I ask why, Andrei replies: "Nobody knows." He has a five-year-old son, he tells us. He wants to give him a motorcycle.


Elsewhere: Matrix Magazine and Pop Montreal are once again presenting LitPop, a one-of-a-kind literary contest. Submit poetry or short fiction for the chance to snag round-trip airfare to what is arguably the best music festival on the continent, plus a VIP pass, accommodation, and publication in Matrix. This year's judges are Ken Babstock and Melanie Little and it's all a stunner of a deal, a grand opportunity, a thing you should do. Anyone in the USA or Canada is eligible. Deadline is July 1.

Posted by Sean at June 18, 2012 3:09 AM


Posted by ru at June 18, 2012 7:33 AM

Great post! Great story!

Posted by Sam at June 18, 2012 9:20 AM

Agree with Sam, this was a wonderful read.

Posted by Kevin at June 19, 2012 8:17 AM

A long way away still, but watch for Lake Baikal. Remote, icy and beautiful, just the way I like 'em.

Posted by Dave at June 22, 2012 11:00 PM

Beautiful, beautiful writing.

Posted by jen at June 23, 2012 11:06 AM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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Back to the World
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Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
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Words and Music
Petites planétes
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Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
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Awesome Tapes from Africa
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Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
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radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
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Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
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Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
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My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
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blue skies turn black
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