LEXX: Convention: The Heretics Ball (Moscow, May 1999)
Moscow, Russian Federation. May 1999
(sorry about the picture quality – scanner is naff!)
I’d been simply dying to visit Moscow since completing a school project on Russia at the age of 12. It seemed to me to hold all the mystery, danger and intrigue of even the most tacky of novels. And yet, in the end, it would be the friends that I met on the Internet that would provide me with the motivation to finally visit. One in particular is the lovely Katya (know to most people in the #lexx chatroom as NewKate), a fellow web nutter, whose LEXX review site is one of the biggest on the internet, and whose virtual charm and beauty had captivated me from the very first time we exchanged electrons.
I set off on Saturday the 1st of May. The plane trip was uneventful except for the echo of warnings I’d received from family and friends (and some Russians) about the safety of a westerner travelling alone during the ‘west/east’ conflict caused by the Kosovo crisis. Yet, during my whole stay in Moscow, Kosovo was only mentioned once. The Russians that I met were friendly, courteous and most of them were a lot of fun too. I had a GREAT time!
When I finally arrived at Sheremetyevo Airport (Moscow has four airports), I was met by my good internet buddy Vladimir a fellow Sci Fi fanatic who had kindly arranged transport for me. After a short wait, we drove to my hotel, The Hotel Ministry of Defense (there’s nothing like feeling safe in a strange country huh?).
On the way we stopped to look at a view of the city from the Moscow University Building, It was about a mile away in this picture, but it’s austere magnificence was captivating (and a little overpowering). The view in the opposite direction however was breathtaking. Moscow can best be described as a sprawling metropolis with it’s own unique style and architecture. You may think for instance, that the skyline is quite modest and un-intimidating and at first glance it is. But then you realise that the buildings in the distance are all at least twenty stories high. You don’t seem to get skyscrapers concentrated in one particular place, they are all around, everything seems to be done on a large scale, alleyways the size of British Motorways, the largest underground in the world, the monstrous abundance of towering statues and austere monuments. Moscow, I think, was built to be impressive – and it doesn’t disappoint.
The hotel was really cool. It was built as a hotel for visiting military personnel and officers of the Ministry of Defense. My first impression was of a slightly run down but well cared for building run by people who took pride in their work but were possibly a little under-resourced. It had a couple of hundred rooms but it seemed deserted – During my whole stay there I only noticed one or two other guests. It also used the Moscow central heating system – most of the hot water in the city is controlled by one network of heating pipes. Unfortunately the hotel was really cold! Moscow had a very warm April and certain hateful and pretty powerful geezer had decided to turn the heating off! Everywhere in Moscow experienced an unusual cold spell without the aid of central heating.
The geezer by the Volvo is Alex the driver I hired to take me to meet NewKate. He’s a fairly amenable bloke and we chatted about various things before he suddenly asked what my feelings were about Kosovo. Alarm bells started ringing and I tried to act dumb about the whole thing. To be honest, I was minutes away from meeting Katie and not very interested in talking about the war. Alex was most certainly a Serbian sympathiser. I ignored him except for the odd comment that I was against any country that broke the Geneva Convention. He continued his argument all the way to the airport and even to the arrival lounge. Then, to the twittering of an insignificant taxi driver, I saw her.
Saturday was spent chatting with NewKate and exploring the local area. The hotel was situated in the South West part of the city under the domineering shadow of the University building.
On the Sunday we met up with Lamia, she had collaborated with NewKate on producing reviews of LEXX episodes for NewKate’s LEXX site. They are good friends and yet they had never met. It was a real pleasure to meet her and her friend Paulina. We went to a place called the Arbat, which is a famous old street in Moscow but as far as I was concerned, was famous for having the first Macdonald’s in Russia. we all had a McDonalds beef burger 😉 I know, but I couldn’t resist seeing if a Russian Macdonald’s would be different from any other (and there was central heating!). Unfortunately is was just as bad as anywhere else, but the place was warm and the food was hot… or warm at least.
Later Lamia suggested that we have a ‘beer on the roof’. People are allowed to drink in public but only in places that are not crowded. I thought she was joking – it was cold and windy and there was no way I was going to drink cold beer in on top of a windy roof! I managed to persuade the girls to return to the hotel for a beer and a cosy chat. We escorted them back to the tube station a few hours later.
Friday was the day of the Heretics Ball, a mini LEXX Convention that NewKate and I had organised for Russian LEXX fans. Paul Donovan (one of the writers, producers and directors of the show) had kindly given me some LEXX merchandise to pass out.
We had arranged to meet with one such LEXX fan that had taken the night train from St. Petersburg. We met opposite Lenin’s tomb before we headed off to the Vermel (Splarka always thought it a hoot that the pub we would meet in was also the name of one of the planets that the LEXX had blown up!).
We gradually joined by Gerda (one of the Moscow Squishes), Mike, Victoria, Vladimir, Ana, Mustafa, Daniel, Leonoid and his girlfriend. As is usual at LEXXian get-togethers, we all got on really well. I was even made an honorary Squishy by Gerda and received a clay pendant which I proudly wore.
This is a picture of Maria, Gerda and Katie in front of a LEXX poster that we hung on the wall. We had our own little corner of the Vermel where all things LEXX were discussed. Maria for instance is NOT a Heretic!! She insists on still supporting the Divine Order and insists of greeting everyone with an, “I Worship His Shadow.”
We paused for a respectful toast to the chief LEXXian Splarka who had inspired many of us with his LEXX web site and perseverance developing the #lexx chatroom. He was sorely missed.
As the alcohol flowed we conversations degenerated into topics such as women/blokes, web sites and then, even worse, Pistachio Nut Shell art! Kai’s handy wrist gadget and the LEXX logo were produced and there was much debate on the figures of Kai and Xev. The girls were particularly unimpressed by the fact that there were only Xev posters.
It was great to meet everyone and I think a good evening was had by all. Towards the end of the night….. well, actually I can’t remember much after demonstrating to Mike and Vladimir how to mix Tequila Slammers.
NewKate made some notes about the trip for me. She said that I was drunk! Ha, just tired that’s all!
And so ended the Moscow Heretic’s Ball.
A couple of days later, I left Moscow from Sheremetyevo Airport, I couldn’t help think that the Moscow I had always dreamed of had been completely the opposite from what I had expected. There was no dark mystery or the cold impersonality and there wasn’t the usual subtle arrogance to westerners that I’d come to expect when traveling in other Easter European countries. Perhaps my stay in Moscow had been so enjoyable because I enjoyed the protected of a beautiful 5’ Siberian girl, or perhaps meeting NewKate had made me see things through rose coloured spectacles.
Moscow is COOL!
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This LEXXcon review is © 1999 – 2019 Tony Fawl.
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