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Journey of the Americanist, STANISLAV KONDRASHOV

3 April 2024

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STANISLAVKONDRASHOVJourney of the AmericanistMoscowSoviet Writer1986Kondrashov S. P.К64                Journey of the Americanist. – M.: Soviet Writer, 1986.— 300 p.In his new artistic-documentary book, the renowned internationalist S. Kondrashov once again delves into the theme that has become central to him: we and the Americans, living in a world overshadowed by the threat of nuclear war. His protagonist, the Americanist, has devoted over twenty years to studying the USA. In our times, he embarks on a new journey to this country. Fresh impressions from travels and encounters with Americans—from an unemployed miner and a mid-level farmer to prominent businessmen and the President of the United States—are presented against the backdrop of reflections on our era, which commands nations to live in peace.     4702010200—287К—————————КБ—6—44—85                                ББК 84.P7      083(02)—86Stanislav Nikolaevich KondrashovJourney of the AmericanistM., Soviet Writer, 1986, 300 page.KB—6—44—85Artist David SHIMILISEditor E. S. MedvedevaArt Editor E. F. KapustinTechnical Editors G. V. Klimushkina, N. G. AleevaProofreaders T. V. Malyshova, L. N. MorozovaIB № 4986Set for typesetting on February 20, 1986. Approved for printing on July 8, 1986. Print run number A 03457. Format 84×108 1/32. Paper: standard, sheet No.1. Ordinary typeface. High-quality printing. Conditional printed sheets: 16.8. Educational and publishing sheets: 18.04. Print run: 100,000 copies. Order No.110. Price: 90 kopecks. Orders of Friendship of Peoples Publishing House "Soviet Writer," 121069, Moscow, Vorovskogo Street, 11. Tula Typography of the Union of Polygraph Industry under the State Committee of the USSR for Publishing Affairs, Printing, and Book Trade, 300600, Tula, Lenin Avenue, 109.                                                ⓒ Publishing house "Soviet Writer," 1986There are two kinds of journeys...A. Tvardovsky... the alien, boundless elements,striving to scoop up at least a drop.A. FetThis time the States began with Canada. Perhaps, the narrative should have started with Canada as well, but it only passed through the consciousness of our protagonist in transit, just as he transited along the edge of Montreal, from Mirabel Airport to Dorval Airport. Outside the shaded window of the shuttle bus, like on a wide cinema screen, colorful images unfolded of a beautiful late autumn in the Land of Maple Leaves. Along the road, single-story industrial buildings lay like large matchboxes, and on the road, cars silently and smoothly glided—all of them of foreign makes.The cinematic narrative was accompanied by a young voice behind, loud, not yet fully awakened on the ground, still overcoming the hum of the plane, clear and resonant. It was evident that the owner of the voice had crossed the ocean for the first time. Like a young child naming all passing objects from his stroller, excitedly discovering a new world, the voice owner marveled at the multitude of Japanese cars, guessed the purpose of the booths blocking the road, from which men and women in uniform reached out to the drivers, taking money or special coupons as payment for passage. He marveled at the smoothness and width of the highway and, again loudly and openly, commented on the imperfections of the homeland roads.Our hero half-eyed looked at the foreign land passing by the window, and half-attended as the strong, ironic voice of a young compatriot revealed what had long been discovered by him. He conserved his strength, experiencing fatigue from the long flight and the impatience of a person eager to reach his goal and unwilling to be distracted by anything along the way.That short and gray October day, which began for the bus passengers early in the morning at Sheremetyevo Airport, was already extinguished at home. However, here, on the eastern edge of another continent, lagging behind Moscow by eight hours, it still burned and lingered. Yet, evening and night were approaching here as well. He did not count on a direct flight to Washington but knew that in this part of the North American continent, the most populous Canadian city, Montreal, was in the transport orbit of the most populous American city, New York. He aimed to reach New York earlier and then proceed to Washington without an overnight stay—that was his goal. From there, he knew, shuttle flights (that's what they are called) operated every hour by the "Eastern" airline. However, his Aeroflot ticket had a Montreal–New York flight on the same "Eastern" airline, but it was late, scheduled for seven in the evening, threatening an overnight stay in New York. And on the bus, where a carefree fellow passenger behind him shared his discoveries aloud, our tired hero was anxiously dreaming of an earlier flight.When the bus pulled up to the glass doors of the airport terminal, he tried to be one of the first to retrieve his yellow old briefcase and a new, rough-black suitcase of Indian production with shiny metallic letters saying Classic V.I.P., which roughly translated into Russian meant Classic Item for Very Important Persons.The suitcase was heavy and wheeled—in the style of the era of long airport corridors, but its four wheels followed separately, in the briefcase. They had to be sought, pulled out, and attached. And besides, the owner of the wheeled Indian suitcase hesitated to look too modern.Without taking out or attaching the wheels, leaving his fellow travelers near a young Canadian speaking Russian, representing Aeroflot at Dorval Airport, he manually carried the suitcase and briefcase into the airport building through the open light doors. He quickly glanced with nervous eyes at the narrow space between the glass wall and the endless row of ticket counters with the trademark signs of various airlines, and they immediately surfaced in his memory, which now automatically reconstructed a once well-known but now erased reality that was no longer needed. He looked around for nickel-plated luggage carts. But there were none available. Then, leaving the luggage by the wall and occasionally looking back, he swiftly walked, almost ran through the long hall, searching for the needed cart in the side corridors.His intuition, acquired during many years of American living, had weakened due to infrequent trips abroad, and he was wasting precious time in vain. The ticket counter of the "Eastern" company was just ten steps from the doors, and there, without a cart, he could find out that its shuttle planes almost hourly operated between New York and Montreal. They could have changed his ticket to the desired, earlier flight, and he would have marveled once again at how quickly and effortlessly this trivial operation was performed. He would have immediately been relieved of his heavy suitcase there.Well, two charmingly courteous employees of "Eastern" changed his flight, and he truly marveled at the easy speed and agility with which they, as if even enjoying their work, performed their tasks. They even took care of their passenger in front of the young American customs officer, who was right there, behind their counter. The customs officer, seemingly infected with his haste, only asked about the amount of alcohol being carried, forgetting about meat products and thereby missing the most precious of the prohibited items—an indigenous boiled and smoked sausage. The customs officer didn't even demand to open the black suitcase. And everything seemed to be shaping up perfectly for our passenger, but, unfortunately, some moments were lost, and this loss did not take long to manifest. There were only fifteen minutes left before the departure of the plane; the baggage conveyor belt had stopped, and the worker placing suitcases and travel bags on it shrugged his shoulders: order is order, and he wouldn't violate it—the baggage reception was over.He had to check the baggage directly onto the plane. This option was suggested to him. All that was left was to run and push the unfortunate cart in the direction of the air gates, where passengers who had managed to do everything on time were already boarding the New York flight. And our hero ran, a tired, not-so-young man, in the eternal Russian hope for a miracle. He ran, pushing the awkward, three-wheeled cart in front of him, adjusting the suitcase that had slipped off it, holding the briefcase, and also a cellophane (we forgot to mention it) bag—wrapped in a pink paper towel, the bag contained, unable to fit in the suitcase and briefcase, three loaves of Moscow black bread, inexpensive but the most precious gift; when placed on the table of compatriots overseas, black bread acquires extraordinary value as a connection to the homeland. Glancing at the signs under the ceiling, through the corridors that seemed endless, past colorful stalls, he ran pushing the clumsy cart, maneuvering among the unhurried, casually dressed foreigners, opening the coat that suddenly became thick and heavy, and the first drops of sweat appeared on his forehead and trickled down his neck, and he felt sorry for himself. At the same time, he felt that with this suffering look of a latecomer, he could count on the sympathy and understanding of all these strangers, polite and decent-looking people.So he continued to run until he stumbled upon a barricade in a hall flooded with even artificial light. In the barricade, there were narrow passages guarded by men, mostly middle-aged, in dark blue uniform suits.It was an immigration checkpoint, which in the United States takes on the entry and exit control functions of border guards. The checkpoint was extended beyond the American territory, far into Canadian territory, essentially pushing back the border between the two countries as an act of expansion. It was both surprising and perhaps upsetting, but ultimately, it was their bilateral matter; let them sort it out themselves. Frankly, our hero had no time for criticism of another manifestation of American assertiveness at that moment. He swiftly pulled out his Soviet citizen's service passport from his jacket pocket and, on the go, presented it to the immigration inspector, relieving the cart of baggage at the barrier. Along with the passport, he presented his disheveled appearance, secretly hoping to infect the inspector with his impatience as a tired and latecomer.The slender man, around fifty years old, with a clean pale face and a neat side part in dark hair, meanwhile flipped through the passport of the young bearded man in jeans and a black sports jacket. He seemed to be one of those young foreign bearded men who, for some reason, don't stay at home. He looked up and glanced briefly at our hero. The hero expected but found no sympathy. His disheveled appearance made no impression on the inspector. The inspector made a short hand gesture and spoke a few words in English. The gesture seemed to push our compatriot back, and the words instructed him to wait behind the red line. He didn't immediately grasp the literal meaning of the command. There even seemed to be some innuendo in the red line for him. Then came another cautioning look, another short pushing gesture, the same words about the red line were repeated, and our hero slightly stepped back, kicking the suitcase with the briefcase. However, the inspector, not satisfied with this concession, persisted: "Wait behind the red line!" And then, looking down at his feet, our hero finally understood that there was no metaphorical meaning; there was a very real red line boldly and distinctly drawn on the floor. It was meant for waiting in line for the inspector without breathing excitement into his face.When the bearded guy picked up his light bag and moved on with the carefree gait of someone traveling without travel permits or even visas, the dry inspector efficiently and politely said, "Next, please." And our man approached his counter with his passport and luggage, wiping his face with a handkerchief, still perspiring from the effects of the long stay in the hermetically sealed airplane and even the difference in temperatures and humidity between two remote points on Earth's hemispheres.Inspector Hayes – the name was displayed on the metal strip attached to the jacket's breast pocket – perhaps he had seen it, but he didn't want to notice any of it. Sympathizing with a Soviet citizen, even one who was tired and in a hurry, was not part of his duties. Professionally rustling through the dense bluish-red pages of the passport, on which the letters USSR were visible through watermarks, finding the large intricate visa stamp placed at the American embassy in Moscow, and verifying its authenticity, Inspector Hayes pulled out from under his counter a non-immigrant entry form for the United States on a limited term. (For American immigration authorities, foreigners are divided into two main categories: immigrants who come to stay and become Americans, and non-immigrants who, after visiting America, return home.) In this country, our hero was always classified as a non-immigrant, and he was familiar with this form because over the years, he had to fill it out at least fifteen times in American airports. Other men and women in the immigration service uniform vaguely emerged in his consciousness as soon as he saw the gridded white sheet the size of a passport and the questions about the first, middle, and last name (which roughly corresponds to our full name), citizenship, gender, addresses in the country of permanent residence and in the USA, mode of transportation, place, and date of arrival in the USA, etc.The white sheet dashed hope for a miracle, indicating a delay for the flight. Nevertheless, he had to fill out the sheet under the bored but stoically calm gaze of Inspector Hayes. Making corrections here and there to the flaws in the excited handwriting with his ballpoint pen, the American clipped the sheet with a metal clip to the passport page entirely occupied by the comfortable American visa. Then, he stamped the shiny nickel machine on the form, slapped the top of the machine with his palm, and the familiar clear stamp "Admitted to the U.S." appeared on the form.Having obtained this admission and covering another two hundred meters of the corridor without the cart, our compatriot finally reached the required boarding gate. However, the gate was already closed, and behind the large glass panels, the New York plane receded from his sight, teasing with its unattainable proximity, smoothly moving away and turning its round transparent nose, in which the self-assured, somewhat flashy pilots were seated in their workstations, talking about something and joking, unaware of him.He had to wait for the next flight—the one that had been wisely arranged by the Aeroflot staff in Moscow. The flight was scheduled to depart in three hours. In the waiting room, our hero collapsed into a plastic chair of charcoal color. He threw his coat on the adjacent chair so that it covered the cellophane-wrapped package with three loaves of black bread (for some reason, he felt embarrassed about this simple gift prepared for his compatriots in front of foreigners). He placed his worn, but still foreign, briefcase by his feet. The suitcase, the cause of the delay, was immediately checked in and disappeared into the mysterious depths of the airport's service area. The waiting room, or accumulator (in the strange technical language that did not recognize the difference between people and inanimate objects), was empty. Transitioning from a state of bustling movement to an equally involuntary complete calm, the solitary transit passenger sat, still wiping his cooling forehead with a handkerchief. The accumulator gradually accumulated men and women with their travel belongings in hand. Outside, the expansive sky of the airfield anxiously swelled with the hues of sunset. The sunset reminded him of the years spent in New York. Their home was on the left bank of the Hudson, and almost every evening, on the opposite side of the river, a beautiful and poignant sunset flared up just as freely and openly—a biblical spectacle—a bridge from the vanished centuries to our day, aging and dying before our eyes to join the bygone time. He couldn't find his own words to describe such a sunset, and, feeling powerless in the face of the beauty of the world, he, out of long habit, borrowed words from the great Russian poets.The Montreal sunset reminded him of Blok: "...there it beckons with crimson fingers and needlessly agitates the summer residents over the dusty stations, the unattainable dawn...".However, now, stuck on the road, he was too agitated to revel in the sunset and the beauty of a poetic line. Let's leave him temporarily in a state of forced rest. Let him recover, getting used to the idea that he won't make it to Washington without an overnight stay. As for us, let's calmly and dispassionately figure out where and how he erred in his first steps abroad, despite all his declared experience. The mistakes are minor for now and quite forgivable, but they are annoying, especially since they could have been easily avoided. Was it necessary to hurry, make unnecessary movements, and generally get carried away, breaking away from fellow travelers who stuck together and believed in the wisdom of Aeroflot and its representatives, even foreign ones on the spot? Should he have rushed with the cart and luggage through the corridors, sweating in front of strangers and foreign people? And what foolish hopes did he have regarding Inspector Hayes?Certainly, he did not expect the representative of the U.S. immigration service to let him skip the line without a form, even if he was a Soviet citizen, albeit breathless and tardy. But, on the other hand, subconsciously, didn't he expect the inspector to be accommodating? There it is, an unspeakable folly: to be accommodating... So many years abroad, and he forgot almost the most important thing again. And the most important thing is not that the climate changes, homes, roads, cars, clothes, and people themselves change—everything changes, even the earthly hemisphere is different. The main thing is that you cross not only the state border but also the border of personal relations with each other, that you enter the realm of interstate relations, that is, not just between people but between states. No longer are you just on a Moscow or some other street, in your apartment, or even in an institution. You are not a person with another person, but merely a particle, an atom in a certain ether, in an atmosphere that is constantly being shaped and reshaped by two huge entities, two states. In his haste and excitement, our hero overlooked this, apparently, and Inspector Hayes remembered it, so he had to wipe the sweat in front of an American. Will he be accommodating? Oh, these eternal searches for exceptions to the rule: be, say, a brother, a person. But what kind of brother, Inspector Hayes? What kind of person? He is a function, behind his polished counter, the strictest and most unyielding function guarding the border of his state.Try to mentally put yourself in his place, on his side of that quite elegant counter, polished around the clock by the elbows of passing citizens from various countries. Try to look at this small episode through his eyes. What do you see? Not a rushing person with a persistent idea of flying from Moscow to Washington in one nature- and aviation-elongated day. The American official saw before him a meeting of Function with Function. He did not see a private, personal, self-representing foreigner from Spain or Japan; he saw a citizen from a country where, from his point of view—and from the perspective of those who lead him, who direct him—there are no private individuals traveling abroad.No matter from which angle you delve into the essence of the matter, there is no avoiding the conclusion: behind the red line, in the U.S. immigration hall, boldly extending its outpost into Canada, a meeting between two states—and two socio-political systems—occurred at the level of their individual representatives. The function operating under the name Hayes could not help but harbor suspicion toward any Soviet citizen, and the disheveled appearance of this particular citizen could rightfully be considered a staged act, that soft foundation on which a shot sparrow cannot be led.Have you, dear reader, ever found yourself in the situation of our traveler? If you have, the author hopes for your understanding. Indeed, haven't you, as well, reflected on the remarkable changes that take place with each of us in the United States of America? After all, Americans view each of us from a different perspective and therefore see each person differently. We are no longer the same as we are in the eyes of our compatriots back home who know us. In their American eyes, we are different. In your own country, after many years of life and work, you somehow established yourself, solidified, classified, and perhaps, this is the most significant and cherished interim result of your life. It certainly remains with you when you cross their border for an international assignment. Everything remains—and yet, everything disappears, as in their environment, you are, at the very least, a clean slate and more often not just an unknown but automatically a suspicious entity. No matter what you may think, how optimistic your hopes and reasoning may be, the world is indeed sharply and harshly divided along this line. At the border of two states in our era, another value system automatically comes into effect, leading to an instant automatic reassessment of the personality of everyone crossing that border.On the subject of instant transformations, reassessments, and the perpetual sense of the unfamiliar, we will revisit this theme directly or indirectly. Not only at the moment of crossing the border will it emerge, but now — isn't it time to introduce our hero and, by the way, endow him with a name? By profession, he is a journalist, and, to be honest, the author has much in common with him. Like the author, his character writes about the United States of America for his newspaper. Is it true that it's a strange way to make a living? Although the occupation has become quite familiar, the question of strangeness still occasionally crosses his mind. Nevertheless, predominantly for this occupation, he receives a salary and fees, which, to the extent of his abilities, provides for his family. Moreover, by writing about America, he realizes himself as an individual, which, you must agree, is even more peculiar. Especially strange when you consider that in recent years, he has been writing about America while living in Moscow. He peers into another life and politics from a distance, and attempts to capture this life on paper almost entirely consume his working hours and even encroach upon his free time, taking him away from the life close by that surrounds him on all sides, known as his own life.The narrow spaces of such a strange self-realization are known to the author no less than to his character because, frankly, the author is an "Amerikanist" himself. However, life cannot be changed late in the game, and a profession cannot be swapped. In yet another attempt to describe the strange profession, the author departs from his usual first-person narrative, introduces a third-person perspective, shares part of his biography, an American visa, an old portfolio, a new suitcase, and three loaves of black bread. He places his character on a shuttle bus running from one airport to another on the outskirts of Montreal, sending him for an initial encounter with Inspector Hayes.However, here arises a difficulty that should have been anticipated. Separating and distancing himself from the author, the character demands his own name. But the choice of a name, the author suddenly realized, is also a choice of genre: what does he himself want—mainly a documentary or a fictional narrative?In a fictional narrative, with characters like Ivanov, Petrov, Sidorov, the author would tread on unfamiliar ground of imagination. He would have to inhabit and populate it, inventing other characters, their circumstances, positions, and even fates. Needless to say, in such a case, enviable expanses of artistic creativity would unfold before him, whimsical opportunities to delve into life, higher forms of truth. Alas, the author — as a journalist — is not ready for such creative freedom. The profession has become nature, or nature has become the profession — it doesn't matter. What matters is that it clipped the wings of imagination, taught to hover and trained to hold on and grasp at facts, setting more modest tasks. Although this time the author separates himself from his own self, he is simultaneously afraid to let his character go too far. Let him remain close at hand, even in the third person, and even in his name, let there be a functional hint of the field that compels a person, even when at home, to describe current events abroad. What name should be suggested for him?By the way, the choice of a name — with a functional hint — turned out to be a challenging task. The author considered no fewer than a dozen options before finally settling on the simplest one — Amerikanist. Amerikanist?! Yes, Amerikanist! Without any allusions, straight to the point. And notice, dear reader, if you raised your eyebrows in surprise that this word is neither invented nor fabricated but taken from life, believe me, the author did not consult a dictionary in this case. It was taken from life, from the life that a small fraction of our compatriots lives. Amerikanists are our people who deal with Americans and America, both theorists and practitioners. And there is nothing surprising here: in our complex and troubled age, these professionals professionally scrutinize another superpower — and they cannot help but look, even though they sometimes feel nauseous from this long, tense scrutiny.And so, one of the Amerikanists, a journalist with considerable experience and a load of memories, the author sends on another trip to America.For over two decades, the Amerikanist has filled out the non-immigrant visa application more than a dozen times, as mentioned before, and an equal number of times, immigration inspectors have stamped "Admitted to the United States" in the lower right corner. In the language of our checkpoint, it sounds shorter and firmer — entry. On no fewer than a dozen occasions, in international airports in New York and Washington, as well as Montreal and once in Puerto Rico, the Amerikanist was admitted within the borders of the overseas state. However, if we consider his long past life as a foreign correspondent, it can be divided into three periods — Cairo, New York, and Washington. In each of these three posts (or substations), the Amerikanist worked as a correspondent for several years before — after a fifteen-year hiatus — resuming his life in Moscow.Whether abroad or at home, he did not keep a diary. The nature of newspaper work, which had become a way of life from morning till evening, until the late broadcast of television news, kept the Amerikanist captive in the stream of the world's latest events. Before sleep, he did not find the strength, after emerging from the stream onto the shore, to dry off and cool down, to sit down as an unhurried chronicler Nestor. Nevertheless, a kind of archive had accumulated. Like every writing person, over the years, he had grown with paper clutter. The lion's share of the clutter consisted of clippings from American newspapers.Less paper was left from the three-year Cairo period. Newspapers in Egypt, unlike American ones, were thin, the country was smaller and somewhat more local, and the information was much scarcer. The Amerikanist, who was almost becoming an Arabist at that time, younger and more restless, had not yet become entangled as a professional in the business of paper clutter and paper collecting.Clippings from the abundant New York period were thematically sorted into large yellow packages, once glossy but now faded and worn. The later Washington period was stored in open and better-preserved folders, also pleasantly glossy, of a light purple color. Once these folders looked even better on special holders in the drawers of metal office cabinets, and by pulling out the necessary drawer with an elegant rustle and click, the Amerikanist could instantly find any of them. But the cabinets remained in the Washington substation, and the folders, having moved to Moscow, lay haphazardly in bookcases made by publishing carpenters.He didn't even think about these packages and folders. In thousands of newspaper and magazine clippings, his thoughts and facts were underlined by his hand, which once seemed important and interesting to him, which concerned countless events in American life. He did not spare the gray matter of his brain for reflection and hurried newspaper reflection of these events. But now neither clippings, nor thoughts, nor events interested him almost at all, at least he had no time to return to them. As a journalist, he worked with today's news.Yet he still did not part with the paper clutter. A person feels sorry not only for the fruits but also for the traces of his labor. His hands did not reach this archive. And did not rise to throw it away.When, on occasion, for some work-related necessity, he reread his and others' old articles, he thought with a smirk that there is no more reliable way to become outdated than to abandon oneself day by day to the demands of the day and that, on the other hand, for all those running the newspaper way, nostril to nostril with time, the only way to escape from this vindictive truth is precisely to continue running and running without looking back.Among the pounds of paper clippings in the chaotic archive of the Amerikanist, there were only a few pounds of notebooks and notepads filled with his handwritten travel diaries. He usually brought them back from trips when his soul was filled with vivid impressions. He cherished these notes as bookish people cherish knowledge about life, acquired not only from books or newspapers but also firsthand. He was drawn to these notebooks and notepads, keeping them in a sacred place, rereading them, sometimes ironically smiling at himself, but sometimes suddenly feeling proud. In those moments, he felt the desire to summarize some literary achievements. Outside the newspaper.He was tormented by the fear typical of people over fifty. "I will leave this world," he thought, "without telling what no one will tell for you, for the sake of which, perhaps, you were born and lived your life just like this and not otherwise." In these notebooks and notepads, his own long-forgotten words, born on days of strong shocks when the ordinary course of time was tragically interrupted, and he buried his mother and father, unexpectedly departed friends, suddenly burned him. These were words about the bitterness of loss, and every time again about the fact that dear people left without expressing themselves. Inexpressiveness tormented him in those days and immediately after — their inexpressiveness and his own. Shaken, he seemed to listen and ponder their eternal silence, trying to understand it. There was a lesson and a reproach in the silence. But new days, new worries came rushing in, and the shock subsided. Until new losses forced him to think not about everyday life but about existence, about the mystery, meaning, and outcomes of life. From time to time, taking a break from his newspaper articles and essays, he tried to express himself, and among his papers were several attempts at an autobiographical narrative."Beyond the Frame" was one of such attempts. In a heavy steel frame on a steel table, a newspaper strip is being laid out. Everything that does not fit into the frame, what the newspaper does not need, is ruthlessly discarded as unnecessary, surplus metal, remaining beyond the frame. In his youth, there were no problems; everything fit into the frame. But now he took on a theme that never left the newspaper pages in the chronicle of world events and criminal incidents but in its secret, philosophical sense, always remained beyond the frame — the theme of life and death, or, as one modern writer aptly defined it, the theme of life-death. After fifty, even in peacetime, life becomes life-death, those who remain alive more and more often bury their peers, and together with them, they bury a part of their life, piece by piece, preparing for the inevitable."...I have been walking across this square for thirty years — to work, from work, and during work, as well as on weekends and holidays," he wrote, referring to the famous Moscow square where the impressive complex of his newspaper buildings was located. "How many of them have already left, old acquaintances who walked along this driveway and this square day by day, turned around the corner onto this street, and it seemed that we would meet here forever. But now there is no old stuffy cinema, no neighboring old, Famusovsky house, no beer bar and pharmacy across the square, no shashlik place that could be reached directly from the beer bar, which turned into a milk bar before its demise. And familiar faces have unrecognizably aged or walk along other streets and squares or have gone for years and years. Or disappeared forever. Yes, they died. And it's time for us to annoy the young with the saying: when we were young... When we were young, and the editorial office was located in a constructivist building made of gray concrete with round windows-illuminators on the top floor, we were boys at recess, and we were sometimes assigned the duties of a burial team — the deceased veterans, breathless, were brought by us to the conference hall on the sixth floor, and then, after the requiem, after the speeches that we did not listen to, on young and healthy shoulders, the coffin was lowered down to the bus, down the wide white marble staircase. On ordinary days, we jumped through three or four steps of this staircase, ran down in a leap, slid down the railings with elastic young buttocks in wrinkled, polished, single pants. We were cheerful and worked at night, and the newspaper came out in the dead of night, and in summer, it was already dawning, and after duty, German trophy curved BMWs drove us home..."About Apartments? The clarification of today. There wasn't even a corner in the first weeks of work at the editorial office. A graduate of a prestigious international institute was homeless in Moscow, spent nights in a dormitory on Stremyanny Pereulok, where he lived for three years—it was August, vacation time, the dormitory was empty, a familiar warden let in yesterday's student, but didn't provide bedding, so he slept on a bare mattress, dreaming of a new life, alone in a room on the second floor, where there were sixteen iron beds in two rows...So, we lived carefree and undemanding; they still didn't send us on foreign business trips, but we quickly became versatile handymen and connoisseurs of all countries. Strangely, it was precisely during that time that the genre of advanced articles came easily to us. The young feeling of immortality was in us when we carried the deceased veterans on our shoulders down from the top floor in black and red coffins. How quickly time flew by! Now another generation has been given the feeling of immortality. And a strange feeling pinches you on the same familiar square on a warm day in another spring when you rejoice in the sun and see a dense, smiling—and mostly young—crowd of Moscow sun worshippers. And in its midst, with only gray and grayish specks, a generation that is leaving, and you understand that you are a part of it, that we not only walk but also pass through this square. And he, bronze, eternal, standing thoughtfully above the crowd, beautifully said about this too: "Alas! On the life furrows of instant harvests, generations rise, ripen, and fall at the secret will of foresight; others follow them..."So began the story "Beyond the Frame," began only to be cut off on the fifth typed page. There wasn't enough enthusiasm, patience, time to continue. Newspaper won—shorter. Newspaper—later. Later, there were, of course, other short attempts to break out beyond the frame, but each was no longer than five to seven pages, each turned out no longer than a newspaper piece, revealing the short, intermittent breath of a journalist.However, inexpressiveness did not let go. The newspaper lives one day and with one day, and the more one-day things a journalist produces, the stronger his craving for eternal topics. But our hero didn't think this question through to the end. For what is eternity? A solemn empty word. And life and death are concrete, for each person. And if inexpressiveness torments you, try to tell about your life and your work, no matter how strange it may be—and stop hovering in the empires of life-death.The inexpressiveness that tormented the Amerikanist, if you think about it, had not a metaphysical but a business, professional character and was his unsaid statement about America.And while he waits for the next entry into New York at Dorval Airport in Montreal, let's rewind the film of his beginning journey back to Sheremetyevo and Moscow, to the preparations for the long road.How do Americanists manage trips to America? Easier than others. They have the right to refresh their impressions and knowledge of the country to which their attention and interest are devoted, a country where, together with presidents, sometimes dangerously, politics changes. What distinguished Amerikanist from ordinary mortals was a multiple-entry visa in the passport. To travel abroad, with a multiple-entry visa, he only needed the approval of the chief editor and the editorial board of the newspaper, instructions from the accounting department regarding the purchase of an airplane ticket and the issuance of travel allowances in foreign currency, and, of course, an American entry visa.When he was young, the editorial staff worked on the sixth floor of an old building, the round windows of which overlooked the famous square. Now the editorial office occupied six floors of a new building, with a long monotonous facade facing the famous street, and along the carpeted paths lining the corridors, amateur sprinters could easily run a hundred meters, finishing at the window with a beautiful view of the curly bronze top of the bronze poet, which in summer barely peeked out of lush greenery.The dark brown paneled office of the chief editor, facing away from the square, opened onto a narrow printing courtyard. An elderly man with a scrutinizing-authoritative look, strolling in its silence, listened to the proposal for a trip overseas and blessed the Amerikanist with a word and a gesture reserved for solemn occasions: "Go ahead!"And he began to act, first going up to the eighth floor, to the personnel department, for American questionnaires in Russian, available in a solid newspaper. These were questionnaires supporting a visa request. He filled out two copies with a typewriter and signed, as required by the U.S. Embassy, on two of his photos—from bottom to top along the edge of the left frontal side. The questionnaires, along with the photos and an accompanying letter, were sent to the Consular Department of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and from there—with another accompanying letter—to the U.S. Embassy on the noisy, rumbling Tchaikovsky Street.Like any Amerikanist, our hero with a special feeling passed by the absurd massive house of the fifties, near which were parked American diplomat cars, not in our way, diagonally stuck to the curb and perpetually dusty and dirty, which also betrayed something not ours, carelessly familiar, brotherly in relation to them; display cases with a perpetually smiling American president and the star-spangled flag were hanging, and vigilant police officers walked along two arches. Now, passing by, he also remembered his questionnaires and photos, which, it seemed to him, were being casually handled behind these yellow walls at that moment. What were they saying at the time? Something careless, disdainful. That's how it seemed to him.According to the consular rule governing the relations of the two countries, a response to a visa request should be received within three weeks. Only once did the Americans refuse him a visa, based on his own experience and the experience of his Amerikanist colleagues; he knew that before the end of the third week, approval, no matter how you strain, would not arrive. Gather patience, but be nervous and calmly wait.And, sitting in Moscow, he waited for the American visa and the trip to the United States of America.A simple case.But if we delve into the details in order to overcome the unspoken, even the simplest case had its background. There is nothing simple nowadays in our relations with the overseas power.The background—and the backstory—of the Amerikanist's trip was as follows. A correspondent from a well-known New York weekly, accredited in Moscow, fluent in Russian and characteristically assertive in an American way, behaved inappropriately when visiting a Soviet Central Asian republic bordering Afghanistan. During a visit to another Soviet republic, he once posed as a Soviet journalist, the deputy editor of a regional newspaper. The competent authorities did not like his behavior and information-gathering methods. The correspondent was expelled from the Soviet Union.A colleague of the Amerikanist, another Americanist working as a correspondent for the same Soviet newspaper in Washington, did not know the expelled American and did not attempt to pretend to be the deputy editor of a Louisiana or North Dakota newspaper during his trips to the United States. But is there a place for normal logic when relations between two states are abnormal? There was an exchange of moves on the chessboard of interstate relations. In retaliation for the expulsion of an American correspondent from Moscow, the colleague of the Amerikanist was denied accreditation in Washington.The colleague did not seek this storm and did not know that his fate had changed without his participation and against his will. At the time when the mentioned exchange took place on the chessboard, the colleague blissfully enjoyed his summer vacation amidst the heavenly and maritime azure somewhere in the approach to his native country, between Greece and Turkey or even Turkey and Romania, sailing on board a Soviet ship. This ship, with great difficulty and troubles, having raised the issue to a high interstate level, was allowed a one-time entry into the American port of Baltimore, not far from Washington, to pick up Soviet diplomats and other staff with families and luggage.No, there is nothing simple in our relations with Americans, and almost nothing personal, because it is not personalities that communicate but states. Even personalities communicate through states.The colleague was the chief and most active correspondent of the newspaper in the United States. His earned vacation was spoiled. His attempts to return to Washington for a few days to retrieve papers and belongings were unsuccessful—our state deemed it inappropriate to borrow from the American state.This small, unreported story unfolded in the summer, and meanwhile, autumn was gradually approaching along with, according to the political calendar, elections to the American Congress.No, these were not presidential elections, resounding loudly in all directions of domestic and foreign policy. These were modest interim elections in Congress, a purely American ritual that almost does not affect foreign policy and essentially cannot change anything in Soviet-American relations. But we are used to keeping an eye on it, and it is customary to cover it.That's when the Amerikanist emerged in the quiet of the editorial office and was sent off with a solemn, authoritative gesture: "Go ahead!"He suggested temporarily filling the gap, figuring out that we wouldn't have to borrow from the Americans in this case. In Moscow, a new representative of the New York weekly, quickly sent and approved by our authorities, was already sitting in place of the expelled one. And if we granted him a visa, they wouldn't be able to refuse ours. In the case of the colleague during the summer, it was an eye for an eye. In the fall, it turned into a tit-for-tat. The round principle of reciprocity, like the Earth, turned its sunny side.The Amerikanist's calculation proved correct—they did not refuse; they granted the visa. As he anticipated, at the last moment, in the last working hours of the last working day of the week. If it had taken longer, into Saturday and Sunday—non-working days—and he was scheduled to depart on Monday—Monday morning, as specified in the application. Upon receiving the passport sent from the U.S. Embassy, he scrutinized the visa. Handwritten under the visa stamp was the note: temporary replacement of the correspondent.So the state gears shifted, blocking the path for one correspondent and opening it for another.For them, the gears, it was an impersonal and, in any case, insignificant matter. But for our hero and his family, there was no event more important in those days. In his family, within the walls of his Moscow apartment, the Amerikanist was not an insignificant cog in the interstate relations; he was the main person, getting ready for an overseas trip, an event that was somewhat familiar but always extraordinary. His faithful life companion, a loving wife, endured the impending separation of a whole month and a half, washing, cleaning, ironing, neatly stacking shirts, laundry, and socks on the bed, asking her husband what and how much he was taking on the journey.On the journey! Once, it sounded with triumphant trumpet notes. How wonderful it is to shake oneself and, as if to shake the world—to see it anew, with new people and fresh, powerful impressions flashing before one's eyes. How wonderful not to stay in one place. Alas, the era of romance was left behind along with youth. The prose of travel arrangements surrounded the Amerikanist now, pressing harder the closer the departure hour approached. All these details: the old suitcase, bought on a whim there, overseas, had clearly served its time, battered in various baggage compartments during interethnic and intercontinental travels, and now a new one had to be found. A decent one!—that wouldn't be embarrassing to show off. The wristwatch, as fate would have it, had malfunctioned and also needed replacement. And himself, ashamed to admit it, he had worn out—all his decent suits were worn. And where to find a new one—for abroad? Where are you, youth without regard for others, the iron bed in the empty summer dormitory, and the blissful feeling of the infinity of life? Now he was considered a man of standing and had to live up to it. And to remember that the concept of appropriateness was different for us and in America, where he was flying again.When he went to the chief editor with his proposal, he thought of the glitch as a worker who was flying there to do his usual job—write reports for his newspaper. But he had to fly with all the notions of conformity and non-conformity, with all the insides and needs, not only as a worker but also as a father and husband, with the additional burdens of the head of the family, breadwinner, and supplier. Journalists, even our brothers-writers, curiously shy away from this despicable matter in depicting their travels to the bourgeois West. But tell me, colleagues, putting your hand on your heart, who has despised it not only on paper but in life? Let him cast the first stone at our hero. Tell me, who has not taken along a certain piece of paper, written in one way or another bold or, on the contrary, sweeping handwriting, similar to what Amerikanist's daughter and son handed him on the last evening before his departure? It was a compiled and approved summary of the family council, a list of priorities, specifying who gets what and in what size. At the top of the list was the magical word "jeans." Jeans were demanded by everyone except his wife, who never demanded or asked for anything. Jeans accompanied and haunted Amerikanist in all his business trips in recent years, ever since this all-powerful and long-lasting fashion rolled onto us through unknown paths. What to do? How to refuse the dear and close ones? How?—especially in this popular sector of consumer demand, where our domestic light industry, despite long-standing promises to improve, master, and establish, still lagged behind.Oh, the realm of a thousand little things! Oh, daily life, you weigh on the psyche and embarrass our people on their thorny path to comfort and fashion! High and low, funny and sad, all mixed up in the house and head of Amerikanist before the new parting with the native land.And here, in the kitchen, surrounded by family members, the last evening is flowing somewhat mundane and lost. Now, the final night before the separation is upon him. The suitcase, a worn-out Indian "classic" with wheels bought at GUM, is almost entirely packed by his weary wife, who is still diligently washing and ironing something! Shirts, underwear, socks, and the old, critically examined (no new one was found) suit, vodka, jars of grainy caviar, soap, and a washcloth, canned goods, and the forbidden to import into America (but where there's a will, there's a way!) sausage. Black bread will be bought in the morning at the local bakery. The briefcase is filled with books and papers. What else does Amerikanist need, who has already retired to his small room and firmly closed the door behind him.It is more challenging to pack the person for the journey than his suitcase or briefcase. What he lacks is peace of mind. An invisible storm of passions rages in his soul. When he went to the chief editor, he thought: it's about time! Now he understands: oh, how burdensome he has become! Burdensome... A prophetic expression was born long before people learned to ascend into the air. Oh, how difficult it is to make this yet another detachment from the land, not because he fears the plane, but because the land—his homeland—is dear. How burdensome it is to think now that he will have to settle again on foreign soil, restore all the forgotten reflexes of behavior in a foreign environment, where he will be a foreigner to everyone he meets, and for many, a suspicious red from the Soviet Union!The sounds in the kitchen have long been silent; his son blew his nose loudly before sleep, but he can't fall asleep. Even the cup of soothing tincture prepared by his wife according to some recipe from ancient Tibetan medicine doesn't work. He lies under the blanket on his bed, motionless like a corpse, and his spirit, his own spirit, trembles over him in the darkness. With every second of internal petrification, tense with its half-dream, he feels—I am leaving. What is he dreaming of in this lonely nocturnal hour? You will never guess. In his dream, already having completed the business trip, smoothly passed through it, and said goodbye to the foreign land, he—whole and unharmed—returns to Moscow. Soon after the airport and meeting with his relatives, he heads out of town, on the white empty winter road, to the dacha apartment provided by the editorial office. And there, after taking a sauna and having lunch with a friend, he sits in his dream at the table, looking out the window at the snow glistening dead white, at the sparse and cold winter sunset.And on the night before departure, the usual return from a regular business trip seems to him a pathetic return of the prodigal son. There was no such sleepless night before. He doesn't remember it. He was not heavy but light on his feet, and even in Moscow, he was only on vacation. And if there was a similar pre-departure torment then, there was no place or time to surrender to the accursed torment, and the last day unfolded differently. Young, cheerful friends would come, drink, eat, make noise, pronounce light toasts, and, slightly intoxicated, he would fall asleep, a slave of the body, forgetting about the soul and relying on the alarm clock. And when simple-hearted relatives or acquaintances, those Russians who neither travel nor live abroad, pitied him, saying, "How can you, poor thing, live there for whole long years and only visit home on vacation; it must be tough," Amerikanist explained, counting on his fingers, easily and habitually: only at the very beginning, the first month or two, it's hard, but then you get used to it, the second wind comes, and the second wind dries up, just like the third. You can't help it—work. This word—work—covered and explained everything, and compassionate acquaintances stopped their inquiries, as if they truly understood what the first and second winds were and the specifics of working away from home. And indeed, he did not deceive them; those breaths were there, and there was no such longing. Where did it come from?Lying in the darkness with closed eyes, free from all the details of the material world, he unusually felt his own soul, and at this special moment, the entire soul was filled and strained with a mystical, frightening elemental connection to the native land, the native environment, the people in which he was born and lived—and was lost, like a drop in the ocean. As the early departed, pure and melancholy poet said, "With each hut and cloud, with thunder ready to fall, I feel the most burning, the most mortal connection..." He was leaving his familiar and settled world and was already shivering in the cold drafts of international intersections, a reed in the wind of a fierce, nuclear age.The morning is wiser than the evening, freeing us from nightly anxieties and nightmares. The late October light disperses both darkness and melancholy. There is no place for them in motion. In the editorial black "Volga," with his wife and son on the back seat, Amerikanist is heading to Sheremetyevo. His wife always accompanies him on departures and welcomes him back. Everyone is silent, afraid of both ordinary and solemn words. He sits next to the driver and feels how they, silent behind him, are already moving away from him.At the airport, everything falls into place without queues, smoothly and efficiently. The son—how he has grown!—takes on the heavy suitcase, and the customs officer generously lets him pass to the ticket counter. Amerikanist bids farewell to his wife, and the son leans toward his father, offering his rosy cheek. Three loaves of bread manage to escape the baggage scales. The border guard with a youthful face under a green cap, sharp-eyed, compares the live face with the photo in the passport and, satisfied with the resemblance, stamps it with a "Departure." The Il-62 takes off almost on schedule, and five minutes later, the windows are filled with a festive azure sky above the clouds, with a dazzling sun unaware of how much it has been missed on the earth, covered by the heavy shroud of autumn.Moreover, among the fellow travelers flying across the ocean, there are nine of our scientists, and leading the delegation is Amerikanist's longtime friend, a former classmate and deputy director of the scientific institute where there are more Amerikanists than anywhere else. Now he is a doctor of science, almost a corresponding member, and his scientific degrees have not deprived him of vivacity of senses and intelligence. Everyone in his group—civilian, non-military people, except for a retired general with a strong bald head—all of them, however, deal with issues of war and peace and represent the most practically significant branch of Soviet American studies—military-political. They confidently navigate the bizarre realm of concepts and doctrines of the missile-nuclear age, such as "flexible response" and "mutual assured destruction," counterforce and preemptive strike, intercontinental and medium-range missiles, monoblocks, and separately targeted warheads, etc.Being a non-scientific practitioner, Amerikanist regards their knowledge with respect and a hint of skepticism, doubting the possibility of rationalizing the apocalypse. The scientists were flying to the United States at the invitation of their American colleagues: to meet and talk to each other in the jargon of the initiated, incomprehensible to an ordinary person who, without deceit, awaits simply a clear answer to his simple and main question: will it pass or not? They flew to probe the ground, get acquainted with new concepts and names—and keep this semi-official channel of dialogue and connection open when the official ones are closed. The most dangerous thing is not to hear or see the other side. Deafness and blindness fuel suspicions, and then, on the other side, not people, not rational beings with their life-saving instinct, are perceived, but fanatics and monsters ready for self-destruction to destroy the hated enemy.Nine sentinels of the missile-nuclear age were heading across the ocean, led by a lively and youthful man who remained for Amerikanist as Alik from the institute's classrooms and corridors of their shared youth.When the plane gained altitude and the surroundings were bathed in the sunlit azure, everything became quite pleasant. There was always a sense of calmness in the air. Are you familiar with the peculiar charms of fatalism, those hours of waiting and idleness on a plane flying predominantly over the ocean from one hemisphere to another? You are being transported, moreover — you are fed and watered, taken care of. It's like a brief return to childhood. There's nothing to worry about, and you could just fly and fly, trusting the parental care of the invisible pilots and the lovely stewardesses in their cabin, almost putting your own fate on autopilot. For ten hours — until Montreal with its layover and anxieties.The first time, not yet anticipating that he would become an Amerikanist, he arrived in the United States over twenty years ago. He traveled with connections — our Tu-104 to Paris and from there to New York on a Boeing 707 of the French airline Air France.By that time, Aeroflot had already established routes to Western European capitals, but as usual, the Americans lagged behind and were sluggish in their relations with us, delaying direct air communication. From Moscow to New York and back, there were stops, layovers, and even overnight stays in Paris, Brussels, London, Copenhagen, and Rome. However, no one complained. On the contrary, everyone was satisfied. Who wouldn't want to take another look at the gray stones of Europe's old lady? Moreover, air passengers were still relatively rare, esteemed, and lovingly cared for in those years — thanks to the airline, they were accommodated in a hotel with full board, and sometimes even given money for a taxi.Of course, Aeroflot aimed to earn foreign currency, and like any growing international airline, it broke into North America. Canadians were more prudent than Americans, more willing to cooperate. The exploration of North America by Aeroflot began with Canada. Already in early 1967, Amerikanist tried the new route from the Canadian end, non-stop from Montreal to Moscow. In the gigantic turbojet Tu-114, there were only seventeen passengers at that time; the aircraft, not yet brought up to world standards, rumbled and creaked, the temperature jumped in the cabins at night, but there were surprisingly coupe-like compartments with sofas on the sides and a table in the middle. Stretching out on one of these sofas, occasionally throwing off an extra blanket from the heat or covering himself with a second blanket from the cold, Amerikanist experienced the blissful state of a person who found himself at home, on native territory, not yet leaving North America.Eventually, even the Americans recognized Aeroflot — what could be done? Since 1968, our brand-new Il-62s began flying to New York, and American Boeing 707s to Moscow. Then the dawn of détente began. From 1972, Aeroflot's passenger planes were also seen in Washington. At that time, Amerikanist was already working as a correspondent in the American capital and often went with colleagues to John Foster Dulles International Airport. In this beautiful, deserted airport, named after the late Secretary of State, the architect of the strategy of "rolling back" communism, he met and saw off familiar and unfamiliar compatriots. In those years, there was no salvation from delegations arriving to implement more than forty Soviet-American agreements on exchange and cooperation in various fields, which seemed to weave a strong, unbreakable fabric of détente.Morfloht followed Aeroflot. On a beautiful June morning in 1973, on a boat of the U.S. Coast Guard, Amerikanist greeted the approach to the New York port of the "Mikhail Lermontov" and, in the fresh wind, climbed aboard through the shaky storm ramp. Gleaming with snow-white decks, the Soviet passenger ship, the first in the post-war decades, majestically entered the Hudson. The Leningrad — New York route was opened. Red fireboats, as usual, saluted with dazzling jets of water from their water cannons, and the forty-five-meter powerful bronze woman, the Statue of Liberty, with her torch illuminated the new guest of the harbor. Among the passengers was a sick man with a face bearing the stamp of a special fate and an unusual knowledge and vision of the world. Composer Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich, who could not stand air travel, arrived in New York by ship and took a train to Chicago, where an honorary doctorate awaited him at one of the local universities.Pull any thread, and a ball of memories unravels. But who is interested in them, except for those who observed all this from year to year and experienced hopes and disappointments together? The Americans closed the sea line Leningrad — New York a long time ago. Not only will you not find the "Mikhail Lermontov" on the Hudson anymore, but also the "Maxim Gorky," which worked for several years on cruises in the Caribbean Sea.Nothing is simple in our relations with Americans; everything comes down to politics, and in the early eighties, this truth again touched air travel between the two countries. President Carter, under the pretext of Afghanistan, closed New York for Aeroflot, and President Reagan, under the pretext of Poland, closed Washington. Delegations that frequently traveled across the ocean were almost gone, and more than forty Soviet-American agreements on exchange were almost nullified.It was as if the time machine had thrown us back, and the plane, like fifteen years ago, was heading to Montreal, not Washington, and passengers were waiting for layovers again. Although Amerikanist, not keeping pace with the time thrown back, still hoped, as it used to be, to reach the American capital from the Soviet capital in one day.They flew and flew—over the cloud-covered homeland, over the first snow on the mountains of Norwegian fjords, and another five hours over the Atlantic Ocean until the snowy expanse of Newfoundland below came into view.Land! The ocean with its icy waters, best left unthought, was overcome by the powerful effort of steadily humming jet engines. The bright yellow life jackets, coquettishly displayed by the stewardesses in their sky-high fashion show, thankfully wouldn't be needed with their whistles and flashlights to illuminate the abyss. The snowy expanse below was oddly calming.On the other hand, along with the view of the land below, earthly concerns returned. After airborne meditations, the hour of action arrived.Signal boards lit up, and in the smoothly descending, seemingly gliding plane, our traveler, having stashed disposable plastic slippers and a traditional set of postcards featuring Moscow views in the briefcase, distributed to the first-class passenger, rapidly approached the surface of another continent to meet and merge with himself, the person whom the author, deeming some explanations necessary, left yearning at Dorval Airport in Montreal, awaiting the New York plane.But he didn't miss it anymore. In a way, he had already begun to fulfill his professional duties. After a long period of remote observation and description of America from Moscow, he now eagerly engaged in fresh firsthand observations.The waiting area of the "Esteri" airline, with its coal-colored decor, comfortably stamped chairs, wide windows overlooking the airfield, and open exits to the long corridors of the airport, alongside other gathering places for different companies, was already filling up with passengers. And these were mostly, of course, U.S. citizens. Amerikanist unmistakably recognized them by the brightness and variety of their clothing, by their relaxed postures that, at first glance, seemed casual, and by their externally careless behavior, oblivious to others. A famous American writer once told Amerikanist that a trained eye would always distinguish an American, even by purely external signs, that an African American from America couldn't be mistaken for an African in Africa, that a Japanese American couldn't be hidden among Japanese in Japan, and even in Europe, even if you intentionally disguised an American, something elusive but characteristic would immediately give him away. This was a keen observation, and Amerikanist enjoyed honing his gaze, learning to distinguish Americans (fewer—American women) among other foreigners, even without hearing their specific speech, only by their posture, gait, and manners. Have you ever wondered that each person carries a unique national stamp, that even in his habits, in his external features, he reflects the historically developed traits of his people? The environment in which he lives.Three hours of waiting at Montreal Airport became another introduction to America for Amerikanist, an unintentional but not senseless prologue. With the excitement of a naturalist, he once again entered the world of Americans. Because he hadn't observed them for a long time, it was primarily the national traits, not individual ones, that caught his eye. And at the same time, for the same reason, almost every one of the first few dozen Americans was perceived by him as a type. Individualism is the strong characteristic feature of this nation. In the Dorval Airport, almost every American, in Amerikanist's fresh view, seemed to paint and mold themselves, wanting, unlike us, to stand out from the crowd, not to blend in with it.And he again thought about the drop and the sea, and about how extraordinarily dependent we all are on our surroundings. And among all the two hundred and seventy million in the entire Union, perhaps not a single one could be found who could look and behave just like any of these random Americans. Even for the ambitious, open-minded young people eager for everything foreign, it's beyond their ability to become drops in someone else's sea. Even our most talented and versatile actor can't achieve absolute resemblance by playing the role of any American.Here's a middle-aged man with a thick cigar in his mouth, casually dressed out of season, in a cream-colored jacket with shiny yellow buttons on all pockets and sand-colored trousers, revealing light yellow embroidered cowboy boots from underneath. What if he's not a typical provincial Southerner who somehow ended up in the Canadian North for a while?And there's a tall blond with a strong-willed face who opened a carpet bag, placed it on his left leg, neatly folded it, American-style, with his ankle on his knee, and nonchalantly, as if alone in his office, immersed himself in reading business papers—a type of relatively young businessman. There's something about him, something dubious in his confidence that doesn't quite fit the image of a successful businessman. Something suggests that the blond is currently stumbling on the ladder of success.A man with a reddish beard on a pale bloodless face, uncut hair protruding from under a black, solid, old-fashioned hat, a long-flowing black coat, a white shirt without a tie fastened to the top button. There's no need to guess; his affiliation to the group is indicated by clothing—an Orthodox Jew from the Hasidic sect, occupying the jewelry stores of the so-called "Diamond District" on 47th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in New York.In the corner, a mansion-like building with three young people, and the most heroic and picturesque of them—a powerful, broad-chested guy with a black beard. He pulled a thick sweater over his head, exposing the straps of his jumpsuit pants, and at the mini-bar by the entrance, which opened when passengers gathered, he bought cans of "Budweiser" beer and triangular sandwiches with cheese and ham, sealed in transparent cellophane. The type of a present-day student resembling a blue-collar worker.And so on.And there was also a freshly minted immigrant, just a U.S. citizenship candidate, a Latino by appearance, with a broad, somewhat naive face and glossy black hair. He sat in the corner on the edge of a chair, keeping to himself, a lost man who left his familiar environment, yet to acquire a new environment, a new face, and individuality. Will he acquire it? He was at the very beginning of a new, enticing, and frightening journey, glancing timidly at others, ready, at the first demand, to humbly acknowledge his inadequacy and yet dreaming of transforming himself and becoming like everyone else.And suddenly, into this assembly of transients, entered two elderly women from our collective farms. They arrived in Montreal on the same plane as Amerikanist, and he noticed them on the bus—you couldn't help but notice such unusual passengers on an international flight. Most likely from Ukraine, and they were probably flying somewhere near Chicago, to visit Slavic relatives settled along the edge of the American Great Lakes, invited by some relatives to visit America. They had big working hands, wind-beaten faces, and sturdy figures of toilers, people of the land. Not that they had ever seen foreign lands, and their own land, perhaps, was limited to the district center. Yet, on the international crossroads in the Montreal airport, they entered calmly, without shy glances at the motley company, and settled in the very center. Their plump winter coats, thick woolen scarves, and short boots on full calves may not have been trendy or even tasteful, but they behaved like people unaffected by fashion, believing that, in the end, there's no accounting for taste.However, it seems that Amerikanist forgot this folk wisdom, lost it, even while dealing with foreign affairs at home. An unexpected display of products from the domestic light industry confused him. A sting of shame—and a reproach of conscience. He wasn't ashamed of the collective farm women; he was ashamed of his, albeit involuntary, shame. Arriving with a Canadian girl, an Aeroflot employee, the two women didn't need his assistance. Nevertheless, his conscience rebuked him; he had to approach them, exchange a few words, and let all the people on the transit spot between the two overseas countries know that, yes, we are compatriots, people of the same land and nation.He approached other compatriots when, into the accumulation of travelers with their travel bags and portfolios, coats unbuttoned, entered with their youthful and ironic leader a scientific delegation that continued to strive for New York: a retired general with an impressive skull, a well-known sociologist with a goatee, and another, fat and smart, a kind of Pierre Bezukhov on the Borodino field of the nuclear era. And all, of course, were doctorate holders, and the youngest of the doctors, embarrassed by the early equality with the elders, and the publicist we already know…They entered assertively and in a group. Their strength was in their togetherness. They moved, holding onto each other, an impervious capsule of a small collective, brought to life by special circumstances of a foreign trip, in the spiritual shell of their micro-world. In New York, they were met by Americans, the host side. It was responsible for everything and was interested in leaving the best impression on the guests. The host side hoped for a reciprocal invitation to the Soviet Union and knew the meaning of reciprocity—an eye for an eye. Amerikanist envied this cohesiveness, the protective strength of the collective, moving in a foreign environment. He, a lone correspondent, had neither an American host nor a program of stay. He hoped for the help of colleagues in New York and Washington, but he had to take care of his own life, organize trips, and meet Americans himself. And he also had to work alone.In the early American years, he always traveled across America with other correspondents, and it was good—to speed along highways in a car, highways, from one established point in the route to another, with a companion behind the wheel and you by their side, checking the roadmap. Or vice versa: you at the wheel, and they—the navigators. How wonderful it is to feel, moving in a foreign environment, the elbow of a friend—in an airplane seat, in a train compartment; once, they both traveled across America by rail—from New York through Chicago to Seattle. In the evening, watch the evening news in the hotel together, exchange impressions of the day, and in the morning, a standard breakfast of eggs and coffee—and off on the road together. Wonderful! But then he started traveling and flying alone. The priority was still given to work. Travel companions took away time from what was gradually becoming a profession—the exploration of America and Americans. Friendly interaction reduced the road notes in notebooks. For the sake of the purity of an experience called one's own perception of the country and its people, he increasingly sacrificed the charms of friendly company, continuing, however, to envy those who moved as a collective....The sunset had long faded away. Only darkness and streetlights peered through the windows when suddenly, right up to the window, approached the tail of the long-awaited plane. Out of one door quickly emerged the tail of those who had arrived, and into the other door, just as quickly, retracted the tail of those who had been waiting. Amerikanist found himself in the atmosphere of flying America, in an airplane where the seats had not plain, as in our country, but colorful covers, where the tray table extended differently from the armrest of the chair, where the overhead luggage compartments closed differently— he tossed his coat and three loaves of bread in there.The plane taxied for takeoff. Standing in front of the closed cockpit with a microphone in hand, the confident steward, like a master of ceremonies, apologized for the delay just as he managed to sit in the reclining seat. The plane soared into the dark sky like a rocket, and with melodic chimes, the prohibitive signs instantly went out. Without a minute's delay, the steward and two stewardesses in colorful, homey smocks rushed to distribute refreshing and warming drinks and tiny packets of almonds. A radio baritone introduced itself as "your captain." From his working chair, the captain directly addressed the passengers, apologized again for the delay, warned of gusty winds with rain in the New York area, a little turbulence expected, and reassured that there was nevertheless no reason to worry.However, worry became necessary. Reconnecting, the captain's baritone reported that the situation, unfortunately, had worsened; planes were landing and taking off with delays, and New York dispatchers instructed to circle in the air thirty to forty miles from LaGuardia Airport for half an hour.The American sky welcomed them harshly. In its dark expanses, awaiting permission to land, carousels of wind-tossed planes circled. The lights in the passenger cabin went out. The engines roared louder and more strained, as if someone behind, grabbing the giant's tail with a powerful hand, was not letting the plane go. It shook violently.Finally, the captain announced that they were landing. Breaking through the milky-white darkness, they emerged. Beyond the fluttering tulle of torn clouds, the spectacle of New York's lights appeared, disappeared, and reappeared, and there it unfolded in its boundlessness, the illuminated, flickering night land, the pulsating lights of rushing cars on the highways. Amerikanist couldn't identify them—all closer and closer to the lights of houses, to cars on the roads, and the plane, buffeted by gusts of wind, swaying its wings, landed heavily on the water-soaked runway, where rain puddles splashed, and passengers swayed in their seats from the abrupt braking.Once calmed, Amerikanist explained to the publicist, who had just crossed the ocean for the first time: "Here is a vivid illustration of the American character, of that trait that one needs to know and take into account—a relaxed and, moreover, risky attitude toward situations that, in our view, are critical. They fit within their norm."Sometimes he was asked if he loved America. They asked, expecting an affirmative answer, and this expectation was somehow connected with what he wrote about America. But for him, it was a strange question he had never asked himself. He tried to describe the country, which work and life had tied him to, as he understood it, saw and felt, as accurately as possible, but what does love have to do with it? How can you love any country other than your own, native one, given from birth to death? Except for the one that, together with your mother, brought you into the world as you are? Its land holds the roots of your family tree; your ancestors looked at its sky and your descendants must look, and there's nothing sweeter than the native language. Different people can be loved, but different countries?Certainly, besides love for the mother, there is love for the woman who, igniting, illuminates life and, in its best moments, gives the rare supreme feeling of the fullness of being. But he had no such moments abroad, he did not experience the fullness of being there.If, however, Amerikanist were asked whether he respected the United States of America and the American people, he would answer: yes. Acknowledging that an unequivocal response here, from the professional point of view, is devoid of unnecessary emotionality, definitiveness, smoothing out some sharp edges. Another word would be more suitable—taking into account. America and Americans are a significant force that cannot be ignored.After the tension of the stormy landing, passengers had not yet risen from their seats, and the plane had not yet taxied to the Eastern Air Terminal, but for our Amerikanist, eagerly peering through the rain-washed window, the primary sensations of American, and above all, New York, had already revived—density and the thrust of movement. In stormy weather, planes were landing with headlights on, some planes were taking off, lining up one after another on the runway, blinking with navigation lights. Through the veil of rain, large signs of no less than a dozen airlines glowed orange. The passengers, hastily adapting to this pace, poured out of the plane into the bustle of the terminal, where familiar faces greeted each other, and strangers—strangers, holding cardboard sheets with names and surnames, where some American immediately moved towards our science, and Amerikanist saw Andrey, a young correspondent for Pravda, and realized that Andrey was meeting him specifically. Finding this anchor point, he felt like everyone else—a confidently careless part of that tense and chaotic movement he recognized in the air, in the lights shining behind the tulle curtains of clouds and rain, a movement that imperatively caught him on the ground.And LaGuardia, where they landed, is just the younger brother of John F. Kennedy International Airport. The air and ground carousels of the nearby giant aerocomplex were spinning not far away, about fifteen minutes by car...Across pedestrian crossings over the highway, where cars, taxis, and buses with arriving, departing, meeting, and seeing off people rushed, the young colleague, struggling, dragged Amerikanist's black suitcase to the parking lot. It was one of many parking lots where hundreds of cars stood under the canopy. They got into a correspondent's "Chrysler" piled with newspapers and magazines, paid at the parking exit, and immediately got lost in the tangle of intersections, interchanges, turns, and branches on the territory of LaGuardia Airport. There was still hope to catch the last "shuttle" to Washington right away, and wandering through the road thickets, they searched for the terminal from which the air "shuttles" depart. The rain with wind continued, and the warm vapor appeared on the windshield, as if silently and smoothly cleaned by the wipers, fluttering like eyelashes. When they found the right building, there were no cars or people. Only a black man in a shiny black raincoat and a uniform cap stood under the canopy at the roadside. He informed them that evening flights were canceled due to bad weather.Andrey, in a friendly manner, suggested staying overnight at his New York apartment.Getting out of the road intricacies of LaGuardia, they ended up on the wide Grand Central Parkway, which glistened in the evening light of lanterns and headlights, carrying four lanes of cars in both directions.Airports are located in Queens, one of the five New York City boroughs, and they were heading to Manhattan. Several bridges and a tunnel under the East River lead from Queens to Manhattan. Andrey offered the arriving one a choice, and he chose the Triboro, and when they found themselves on the humped back of the old bridge, through the rain curtain, an uneven line of Manhattan skyscrapers stood before them, twinkling in the night. A fantastic vision of a gloomy city under a gloomy sky.It was on the Triboro Bridge—on the Three-Borough Bridge, connecting Queens with the Bronx and Manhattan—that Amerikanist got used to and loved (this word will fit here too) meeting this city and saying to it in his mind: "Hello!" And the fantastic panorama, flickering before their eyes, disappeared because they turned right, down, and emerged at the toll booths where they collect a fee for crossing the bridge. They stopped near one of the booths in front of a red traffic light on a low pole, and Amerikanist remembered the movement in which Andrey habitually lowered the window in the car, and habitually handed dollar bills to the person in the booth, and was surprised to learn that it now costs one and a half dollars to enter Manhattan via the Triboro Bridge, not a quarter, as it was fifteen years ago. The red light of the traffic light was replaced by a permitting green one, they set off, and he thought that time goes slowly but inevitably, and that a lot of water has flowed down there, under the concrete coverings of the bridge, water of time and just dirty water from the Harlem River and the East River since he first entered New York via this bridge.He could not be indifferent to this city where he once lived for more than two thousand days.Now he was entering evening Manhattan by transit to stay overnight and fly to Washington in the morning. Friends with whom he once lived in this city had moved to Moscow, and for others, the course and flow of time had already ended. Andrey, who was behind the wheel, was at the age when they once started here, and he walked through life with a different generation. Smiling, respectful to the elder, he asked about Moscow news, and Amerikanist answered, while in his memory, those anxious night slides flashed, merging with reality, pictures of long-familiar places. Leaving the Triboro Bridge behind, they now rushed along the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, along the East River: it was like this on ordinary autumn evenings—poor lighting, few cars, and the same noise and rustle of them. They turned onto 97th Street and then onto York Avenue. Andrey lived on the East Side, where Pravdists settled since the seventies. And the correspondents of the newspaper where Amerikanist worked still remained faithful to the West Side area and the apartment he first rented twenty years ago. There, he would prefer to spend the night, immersing himself in memories, but Victor, a correspondent for his newspaper, was on vacation, somewhere in Belarus.Finally, the "Chrysler" dove into the underground garage and parked near the guard booth, where a lone night security guard, a black man, sat hunched over his garage accounting. Amerikanist scrutinized and even sniffed the New York underground parking lot, one of hundreds and thousands, where day and night blacks and Latinos take turns on duty, and where regular customers, mostly residents of the building above the parking lot, pay monthly (around two hundred dollars), while occasional visitors pay by the hour or day. The black man, without visible enthusiasm, detached himself from his calculations and approached Andrey, one of the regular customers, and Amerikanist immediately recalled the same typical roughness and unfriendliness of other New York blacks who earn their living in the gas-filled underground, serving affluent white people and their cars.Leaving the "Chrysler" in the care of the black man, they headed with their belongings to the underground entrance of the building, which was right there, in the garage. The door to the building was, of course, locked, and Andrey didn't bring the key, which every tenant was supposed to have. The locked underground door of the multi-story building testified to two opposing facets of New York life—widespread crime and equally widespread measures of protection and caution. By the way, internal telephone communication exists not only for convenience in New York buildings. The telephone was nearby. Andrey called Natasha, his wife.For about five minutes, they waited for Natasha—in the empty evening garage, facing the empty evening street. But these minutes were enough for Amerikanist to classify yet another familiar feeling—with a secret excitement—the chill of the all-American street, garage, parking, elevator evening alarm. The alarm immediately came to him at the locked door in the deserted underground. Stealthily and seemingly casually, he reached his right hand to his chest, checking something in the left pocket of his jacket. Let's reveal his secret. Pinned to the lapel, in the pocket of his gray tweed jacket, there rested a quite thick envelope with green dollar bills.Employees of our respected and venerable Vneshtorgbank, one would think, have to read and hear about the rampant crime overseas. But does the chill of American alarm before criminals and crime reach them in all its tangible coldness? Probably not. Otherwise, they would know that in our enlightened age overseas, people do not carry thick envelopes with cash. A person with cash is precious, easy prey for criminals who abound in the New World. To avoid such temptations, various credit cards, secure bank or traveler's checks have long been invented, usually supplied to our travelers. But this time, for some reason, Vneshtorgbank sent Amerikanist to the New World as a guinea pig with accountable cash. Moreover, he hurried to Washington because there, the end of inadvertent dangers awaited him, and he could get rid of the thick envelope in a well-known branch of Riggs National Bank on Connecticut Avenue, opening a so-called regular account and receiving an unnecessary checkbook instead of green bills, safe from robbers.And now, not having reached this goal, he stood with a young colleague at the locked door in the underground garage, covertly checking his pocket and, covertly, glancing around—just in case some thug or junkie, some crazy, American "teapot," emerges from behind these columns, from behind these cars parked for the night. Who knows what drives people crazy in this city?However, it was just one alarm. No one attacked the state money of Amerikanist at that moment, no criminal appeared nearby. Perhaps only because even the wild imagination of a criminal does not allow for the fact that in our time in America, money is still transported in such a risky, Old Testament way.The locked door opened. Charming Natasha radiated youth and domestic comfort. They safely went up in the elevator, picking up on the first floor a tousled but perfectly decent American lad; no attack happened to them, and in the corridor, as they walked to the apartment door (colored in black, a typical New York touch that immediately surfaced for Amerikanist). And soon the three of them were sitting at the table, having dinner and chatting animatedly, although Amerikanist desperately wanted to sleep (after all, it was already seven in the morning in Moscow), while also glancing at the television screen, which provided them with fresh—and safe—crime chronicles.The word was the same — television. However, the appearance and technical capabilities of this television were somewhat different — it was controlled by a small handheld remote control device, and in addition to a dozen regular channels, it also had a set-top box where channels were designated not by numbers, but by letters, and there, it seemed, all the letters of the English alphabet were present.The lowered blinds on the windows separated Andrey and Natasha's apartment-office from the narrow well-like courtyard formed by the walls of neighboring high-rise buildings. By partially opening them, you could see how in the courtyard-well, through other lowered blinds, the large windows of other apartments dimly lit up. These perpetually closed windows seemed to have stopped fulfilling their original role as windows to the world. However, the residents, who had stopped looking at each other through windows, isolating themselves from one another, now had another shared window through which they looked at the world—a vibrant, lively, and fast window of their televisions.The late news was being broadcast. Andrey and Natasha knew all the anchors, day after day flowing in the stream of New York and American life, its fresh events. This, essentially, was Andrey's job—to flow, observe, choose, and describe for our readers. It was so familiar to Amerikanist. Once upon a time, he was in this American stream, but he had long since left it, and our stream now carried him, and the streams were so different that the lively television ladies and gentlemen on the first evening seemed funny and lightweight to him, their crazy tongue-twisters born out of the fabulous cost of television time bought for commercial advertising, their fluffy voluminous hairstyles, their obvious self-love, bright, flashy clothes, and manners in which he saw not an attractive casualness but laxity through a cold and wary gaze.In the first few hours, while condemning, he harshly measured American life with the severe standards of our ascetic life.He glanced not only at the screen but also at his young and cheerful compatriots, surrounded on all sides by a foreign life, and he felt anxious for them because he looked at them from his age, from his experience, with the eyes that, he thought, they would eventually use to look at the generation following them. They had not yet experienced the feeling that now never left him—the feeling of the conventionality of our foreign life. It appeared during his second, Washington, stay in America and sharply made itself felt during his current brief visits abroad. It was the feeling of lost time. Foreign, overseas life is the life that cannot be real for you. But you don't realize it immediately. While he was mesmerized, floating in the stream of someone else's life, his own real life was also drifting away somewhere, drifting away with his friends and loved ones, together with the environment that was all the more precious, together with the dear notions, views, and concepts of the fifties and sixties. Initially, he did not think about it and did not suspect it. And when he returned, when he realized it, he desperately searched for where everything had drifted. In vain. Now, the closest friend who was seemingly given like a brother for life only called Amerikanist to find out where his new friend had disappeared to—found in those years when Amerikanist was in America. There was only one way to regain what was lost—don't lose anything, keep floating together all the time. The house you once left remained in the time that passed, and when it was leaving, you were in a different place and therefore did not leave with the departed time. And you had to endure the sharpened sense of loneliness and only save yourself from it with compatriots of the same fate, with internationalists.That's what he could have said to his young comrades as the elder among them, who took him in New York. But he didn't say anything like that. To all his time. And there are life lessons that only mature age can provide, which the young need to be wary of. After all, they were in a different, happy age. In that time that only knows itself. They had enough for everything; they knew how to work and have fun; their friends were young and full of life. Natasha and Andrey, sparkling with eyes, told how splendidly they celebrated the thirtieth birthday of a Soviet New Yorker the day before.On the soft, thick, pleasantly springy carpet covering the floor of the bright first-floor hall, Amerikanist walked into the rental office of Irene House. The multi-story building was named after Irene, the first wife of its original owner. The renting office, or "renting office" as they called it, was where those who wanted to rent an apartment in Irene House went. Amerikanist had once started living here with his family, but this time he came for a different reason. In the entryway, in the narrow space between two desks, he almost collided with his old acquaintance, the house manager Mrs. Leacock, a businesswoman of that age when it was no longer customary to talk about a woman's age. Mrs. Leacock wore a perfectly tailored pink suit that had nothing left to emphasize or hide.Mrs. Leacock, almost bumping into Amerikanist, stopped and instantly recognized the man from Moscow. Like other people from Moscow, he faithfully paid the rent every month and lived in Irene House for five years with his wife and son—a beautiful and well-maintained seventeen-story building with several hundred two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, which in America are called two-bedroom and three-bedroom, respectively; air conditioning, cooled in the summer and heated in the winter; huge, floor-to-ceiling sliding windows in the living rooms, mostly overlooking the idyllically peaceful Somerset neighborhood; and also, three floors of paid underground parking, two pools, and tennis courts on the roof.They greeted each other, putting on smiles of old acquaintances delighted with the reunion, and Mrs. Leacock's smile turned out better because she constantly lived in a land of functional smiles."How are you feeling? How is your wife?" Mrs. Leacock preempted Amerikanist, smiling again and shaking her carefully arranged flaxen-colored hair slightly.Amerikanist replied that he was okay, and his wife was all right."And how are your children?" Mrs. Leacock continued her inquiries, apparently interested in the affairs of Amerikanist's son, who lived with them in Irene House, and his daughter, who, as a high school student and later a college student, did not live with them but visited during holidays. He replied that the children were also fine, exchanging pleasantries without going into details, and he did not mention the serious unexpected illness of his eldest daughter, especially since she did not come to Washington. It would be impolite to take the time of such a busy person as Mrs. Leacock.Several times, they repeated the popular phrase "all right" in questioning and affirmative tones.While waiting for the end of the ritual conversation, another employee of the rental office, Mrs. Bernstein, a plump and elderly lady with a tired and somewhat sad smile—who used to hand out checks for the rent at the beginning of each month—stood next to them, ready to proceed to Apartment 1208. Mrs. Bernstein apparently had her own question for the house manager.Another visitor entered, greeted everyone, and stood next to Mrs. Leacock. The unplanned American-Soviet exchange of pleasantries, taking place in the narrow space between the desks, physically stopped some business that Mrs. Leacock had to deal with her colleagues and clients. Amerikanist noticed signs of impatience in her cold-bright, slightly convex eyes, and he himself had no desire to prolong the empty conversation.But the repeatedly uttered incantation "all right" did not accurately reflect the state of affairs in the small circle of Soviet people who once lived in Irene House and were known to Mrs. Leacock. In this circle, there was a void, an irreparable loss had occurred.The Soviet pioneer of Irene House was Boris Stroelnikov. After two or three years of living in Moscow, he returned to work in America, not in New York, but in Washington—now with the first strands of gray in his curls, older, more handsome, more popular, and shyer than other Soviet correspondents. His youthful frontline years, his poor youth, which he liked to talk about as an outsider, joyfully and sadly, were receding further and further away. He learned to appreciate comfort, loved Yulia and the children, and found Irene House on the outskirts of Washington, shining in it in anticipation of 1968 when the new building was not yet fully occupied, and there were no other high-rises nearby on Willard Avenue and Friendship Heights. Irene House then loomed over the one-story idyll of Somerset, shading its nearest houses from the sun and seemingly casting a shadow on their future.Yulia and the children had not yet arrived, and Boris lived alone. After the cheerful New Year's Eve celebration of 1968, so distant now, Amerikanist, at Boris's invitation, spent the night in his empty and not yet inhabited apartment. On the first morning of January, he woke up to forever remember the ringing silence and the white virgin snow outside the window. The cooing of the stream flowing below moved him to tears—hardened by six years of living in New York, he had forgotten to think that there was another, calm, quiet, and cozy America.Later, he himself lived in Irene with his family for five years, but the first encounter remained in his memory as fresh, distinct, not merging with the numerous subsequent impressions. Boris worked nearby; they were from rival newspapers, but got along well. Countless times they sat at the table together and traveled together. And although their friendship had its shades, periods of cooling, and distances, this house slightly off Wisconsin Avenue, half a kilometer beyond the city limits of Washington, forever remained associated with memories of Boris. While exchanging kind words with Mrs. Leacock, Amerikanist understood that he would alter the memory of his late friend and the first Soviet resident of Irene House if he did not inform her that an optimistic "all right" would no longer be applicable to Boris. So, he said that Mr. Stroelnikov—do you remember him?—had passed away. Understanding that Mrs. Leacock had business to attend to and needed to wrap up, with an apologetic glance at Mrs. Bernstein and the unfamiliar visitor, he hurriedly explained that a few years after returning from the United States, Boris went abroad again, to England. And that one day, returning by train to London after a short business trip to Moscow, he experienced a heart attack—he couldn't remember the word "infarction" in English. He could have explained that Boris was taken off the train at the railway station in the Belarusian city of Orsha, but Mrs. Leacock had not heard of Orsha, and it would be foolish to burden her with such details."Oh, yes," Mrs. Leacock responded with polite sympathy. "Thank God it happened so quickly—a gentle death.""No, not quickly; he was ill for several weeks," Amerikanist tried to clarify, again out of respect for the memory of the deceased, and at this moment, he tried to imagine how Boris died—essentially alone, on the road, far from Moscow and friends (where were they?!). But Mrs. Leacock did not need these details.So who was Boris to her? Just a tenant, faithfully like all Russians, paying his monthly rent and annually giving her Russian souvenirs—jars of caviar that made Americans ecstatic. And who, tell me, could he be for her? Couldn't some person in Moscow, a familiar face who knows nothing about his name or fate, just as coldly and politely greet the news of Boris's death? Yes, they could. Nevertheless, the meeting with Mrs. Leacock reinforced Amerikanist's thought about the conditionality of our foreign life, even one as many years long as Boris's. "No, we didn't let our roots into their hearts," he thought. "And they—into ours. All our contacts—from beginning to end—are functional. Even living nearby, we don't penetrate each other, and if that's the case, it's easy to drift apart and become bitter toward each other. And it's easier not to need each other."He came to the rental office with one practical purpose and long yellow sheets of typographically printed forms. These forms with financial data about the tenant, about people willing to vouch for him, about his bank account were usually filled out when renting an apartment. They simultaneously served as a contract signed by the tenant and the homeowner. Amerikanist didn't understand why these forms were sent to him twice after he, upon reaching Washington, temporarily settled in Irene House, in the vacant apartment number 1208. He had no intention of renting it again. It had already been rented by his colleague, who stayed in Moscow after the incident with the correspondent from the New York weekly, and the contract was still valid. But after the second reminder, Amerikanist went to Mrs. Leacock's headquarters—with unfilled forms and no desire to commit to any obligations. However, there was no need for obligations. They willingly allowed him to stay in the apartment for a month and a half, only asking him to specify in the form when he planned to move out. They explained to him why this formality was necessary in modern times: what if a tenant, not informing the staff of Irene House about his intentions in the form, moved out after the lease term, leaving them in the dark about where he was, why he wasn't showing up. Now, they added, a photo of the tenant should be attached to the form for possible identification. What kind of identification?! Oh, that's what. Recently, a lonely old woman died in one of the apartments, and without her photo, Mrs. Leacock's people couldn't immediately identify the deceased.The innovations in the forms reinforced the old conclusion: in America, there are no problems with registration, yes, there is no registration itself, but there are their own problems related to human loneliness, separation, and loss. It was a deep night and silence, and in the room where he still sat at the desk, reading his sheets and scribbling something on them, the only sound was the annoying, inexplicable buzzing of the fluorescent desk lamp. From time to time, unable to stand it, he tried to swat the buzzing like an annoying fly and hit the heavy base of the lamp with his fist. The sound stopped, but then resumed again. Finally, the trill of the expected phone call sharply and strongly cut through the night silence.He quickly grabbed the receiver, as he always did, fearing that the late-night call might wake the tenants in the adjacent apartment, although he had never heard anyone there beyond the wall. The operator's voice from the international telephone station somewhere near New York pronounced his last name in English, stressing a different syllable, making it sound foreign and ceremonious. She informed him that Moscow was calling. Muffled sounds of intercontinental radio waves, distant rustling, and hum could be heard in the background, creating a powerful and mysterious atmosphere, and on this potent, mystical backdrop, a bright voice of a Moscow telephone operator rang out. Her voice lacked the professional tone of the American, but she pronounced his last name in Russian and mentioned that the call was from the newspaper. Concluding the relay of female voices, a stenographer named Olya, sitting behind the tightly closed, heavy door of one of the phone booths on the third floor of the native newspaper building, called him by his first and middle names. "What are we going to do today?" she asked. He replied, and pushing the sheets closer, he began to dictate the prepared correspondence, pronouncing not only words but also commas, periods, and other punctuation marks, spelling them out to avoid confusion, providing names and titles. At the same time, he was pleased to see that his old skill had not disappeared. Simultaneously, he felt an old sense of awkwardness because the text he was transmitting could not interest Olya. It had no real connection to the life she lived, the household news and gossips she would discuss with other stenographers once the morning rush hour passed, and correspondents and special correspondents submitted their materials, leaving a free moment.Meanwhile, this text had a direct relationship to his trip, justifying his journey across the ocean. All other impressions were extraneous, incidental, non-obligatory, and, moreover, unnecessary for the newspaper.He was transmitting his first correspondence about the upcoming elections. The newly arrived person is greeted by Washington still in the warmth of autumn and, as always, amidst the chaos of news, he dictated. Everything is mixed up, causing waves of panic and horror. Across the country, FBI agents are catching and unable to catch new types of maniacs, even of an unknown variety here, who are poisoning medicines and products laid out on the open tables of stores. On the television screen, in a prison robe, automotive tycoon John de Lorin—spelling it out—Dmitriy, Elena, separately Leonid, Olga, Ruslan, Ivan, Nikolay—de Lorin, yesterday known as the embodiment of American entrepreneurship and success, is today a criminal accused of selling a record batch of drugs.Like autumn leaves on the sidewalks, sensations fly through the pages of newspapers and on television news. Everything is mixed up, and everything is in a hurry, in the frenzied local pace.That's how he began, enticing the reader with details and immediately cutting them off and saving space, knowing that it's time to move on to pure politics.... But in this kaleidoscope, where the private and public, the mundane and the political are whimsically mixed, one event attracts general attention. On Tuesday, November 2, the so-called midterm elections will take place. According to the U.S. Constitution, they occur in the interval between presidential elections. Two years have passed since the conservative Republican Ronald Reagan was elected president. And exactly two years remain until the next presidential elections. Meanwhile, all four hundred and thirty-five members of the U.S. House of Representatives, thirty-three out of a hundred senators, and thirty-six out of fifty state governors are being elected.Thus, no one is currently challenging the White House. But attention is once again drawn to the inhabitant and politics of the White House. The midterm elections are the interim results of the presidency. Depending on how the electorate judges them, the further development of events will largely depend, and whether the president will run for a second term in 1984...As the reader undoubtedly guessed, the Americanist, having spent the night in New York, safely made his way to Washington and had already been living there for several days. He managed to get rid of the unaccounted-for cash by opening a regular account at the Riggs National Bank on Wisconsin Avenue, a ten-minute walk from the Irene House. The thick envelope in the left pocket of his jacket ceased to cause him cardiac distress. Loaves of black bread were distributed to the Washington Muscovites and accepted with gratitude. Caviar jars and vodka still remained for gifts to Americans.The Americanist was met at the airport, brought to Irene, taken to the bank, and was friendly taken care of by Sasha, the second Washington correspondent for his newspaper, a gifted and active journalist who lived with his wife and two sons also in Irene. The Americanist spent his evenings with old close friends—Kolya and Rita, who lived nearby, in the house of Elizabeth—Elizabeth House. Kolya was one of those who made a success in America, and he had, perhaps, no less than a dozen and a half years of correspondent life in this country. He had been a correspondent in New York three times, and to Washington, he was brought by that sequence of correspondents that began with the late Boris. In Moscow, the Americanist lived in the same house as Kolya, but in Washington, their communication was more intense—also because a solitary envoy needed Kolya's assistance and, even more, Rita's.But most of his time was spent on fresh American newspapers and magazines. He immersed himself in them, soaked up the news and atmosphere, and immediately transmitted his first correspondence—the elections were just around the corner.Among the newspaper clippings and a pile of fresh magazines lay on his writing desk, and a large notebook called a university one, as indicated on the cover, eight by ten inches. He had taken it out in the plane, recording his stratospheric meditations.The notebook was old. He opened it now with a special feeling, also because on the first page, his teenage son, who had not yet abandoned drawing, left a strange pencil drawing: swirling columns of two tornadoes connecting the sky and the sea, some meticulously drawn eye impassively looking from above, either a whale or a bathyscaphe appearing from the depths as a rounded hump, and old-fashioned pocket watches in the very center of the drawing. Arabic numerals on the dial showed ten minutes to five, and the boy named his drawing "Countdown to Eternity."In the university notebook, different records coexisted. Sometimes he seemed to advise himself on what to write:"Write about the returning sensations, like blind fingers, trying to feel the past. You see it and don't see it. And in this apartment, where he lived with his wife and son, and where they are unlikely to ever return, unlikely to come back even for a while, behind this dining table where they once sat together, you get scared—as if they don't exist at all."In the living room, there were now new antique-style sofas and armchairs, adorned with rather expressive Georgian graphics on the walls. A new addition was the color television, bearing witness to the rapidly growing demands of the television age. However, in the study, everything remained the same, and the Americanist settled behind his large and comfortable writing desk, pushing aside the heavy brown armchair with a high reclining back that he had also purchased once, and pulling forward another, light and more comfortable one. The old metal cabinets with pull-out drawers were still there, but he didn't touch them—they now stored newspaper and magazine clippings collected by a colleague over five years of his Washington work. Out of some superstition, he left the chair by the office door untouched, on which, neatly folded, lay worn work jeans, awaiting the return of the owner who stayed in Moscow.He slept on the old bed, which had its own story—they bought it for next to nothing eleven years ago from a lonely millionaire who occupied a luxurious apartment in Irene House with splendid carpets, silk wallpaper, and expensive mirrors. This rich apartment on the fourth floor of Irene became the first apartment for the Americanist in Washington, arousing envy among other correspondents and their wives, but the humid emanations of large, beautiful trees peering into the window made it stifling during the hot Washington summer. Born and raised in the Russian provinces, they, even in America, maintained a fondness for fresh air and did not hide from trees with closed windows, in the artificial coolness of air conditioning. Health comes first. The Americanist's wife did not give up this creed for the sake of luxury. After experiencing the first Washington summer, they renegotiated the lease and moved to the twelfth floor, above the humid-breathing trees, bidding farewell to the environment of the sweet life among carpets and mirrors to the delight of some English couple who inherited the old apartment. The millionaire's bed moved with them, and temporarily returning to Irene, the Americanist slept on this American bed, fully admitting that he might never have such a magnificent double mattress in his life.Or maybe he didn't sleep, even on the most splendid mattress, and lying in the dark, he listened to the silence. The silence ceased to be ringing, as it was that first time in Boris's apartment. True, at night, there was the sleepy murmuring of the brook outside the window, but it was constantly interrupted by other, unromantic night sounds—screeching of car brakes, the wail of police sirens occasionally coming from Wisconsin Avenue and River Road.New attractive masses of residential buildings rose around. Mostly condominiums. Apartments in them cost tens of thousands of dollars, and they were bought by single elderly people who parted ways with grown-up children and wanted to avoid the hassle and extra expenses associated with maintaining their own homes. With age, those who could free themselves from the burden of various cares.At seven in the morning, the sound of a muffled slap echoed: a paperboy, pushing his stroller along the long corridor, dropped a hefty issue of The Washington Post at the door. It was a peculiar cue. The Americanist, alone in the apartment, approached the door barefoot, carefully opening it, inserting his bare hand into the corridor, pulling in a thick stack of newspaper paper. The inch-high headlines on the front page shattered the peace and quiet of the morning.Where and with whom was our hero when, having quickly had half a grapefruit, scrambled eggs, and "Meyer" sausages (one hundred percent beef!) for breakfast, he dropped a Lipton tea bag into a mug with hot water and headed to the study instead of with a fresh newspaper? He was, as befitting a newspaper correspondent, with the events of the day and their protagonists.Meanwhile, life was unfolding outside his office window at its natural pace, spreading its lush carpet in the beautiful warm autumn. Somerset seemed to be drowning in the colorful autumn forest. Detaching himself from newspapers and magazines, from the brown expanse of his writing desk, the Americanist saw outside the window not the political, imperial, ambitious America that shouts to the world but a completely different America—calm and cozy, amidst autumn pastoral.Suddenly, one day, a strong wind blew, driving clouds across the high-cooled sky. Then the rains came. The lush multicolored carpet of autumn emerged. Through the sparsely leaved branches outside the window, cottages, predominantly made of white faux stone and with gray shingled roofs, appeared, moved closer. They were familiar, but, peering into them, he had to admit: familiar only in appearance. He had visited few of them during his Washington years, and only from a distance. While enjoying walking around Somerset during the day and evening, he observed how the residents of the houses came and went in their cars, walked their dogs, mowed lawns with brightly colored buzzing machines, or in the fall, like now, gathered fallen leaves in black polyethylene bags.He more guessed than knew how their everyday existence went, only assumed that, even if briefly immerse yourself in another life, you will discover the abyss of its dissimilarity to ours—different pace, work and leisure, relationships between people, different concepts, standards, requirements, laws, taxes, family budgets, and family quarrels, a different attitude towards property, real estate, a different incomprehensible to us practical knowledge about stocks in various funds and corporations, loans, dividends, bank accounts, etc., etc. Like everywhere, people were born and died here, raised children, suffered, and rejoiced, but all this happened differently, and behind the steps of neat cozy houses, where a television screen faintly flickered in the depths of the rooms when viewed from the street, passions of individualists and owners raged, intensified by something inherent in human nature but softened by the structure of our society, and intensified by theirs."What's the price of the pound of local trouble?" the Americanist asked himself. And he could answer fairly accurately because local trouble was also different. He could answer no worse than any other American because he knew their country. Yet, he was only an observer, not a participant in someone else's life, did not experience it on his own skin, and therefore, the possibilities of his penetration into it were objectively and subjectively limited. To penetrate into another life, you have to live it.Unable to find his own definitions, he habitually turned to poetry. He was drawn to the image created by Afanasy Fet—a sharp-winged swallow over the darkening pond. "Soaring, it began to circle, and it was frightening, fearing that the smooth surface might not be seized by the element of a foreign, thunderous wing..." Then came the key lines. "Am I not, like a meager vessel, daring to embark on a forbidden path, striving to scoop up at least a drop of the alien, beyond-the-limit element?"Am I not... The poet was tormented by the mystery and beauty of the world, the impossibility of fully understanding, expressing, and thereby recreating it. The journalist had utilitarian tasks. But Fet's line was filled almost literally with meaning for him—"daring to embark on a forbidden path, striving to scoop up at least a drop of the alien, beyond-the-limit element."Drops of the alien element, as before, were scooped from everyday life and politics. In the nearest supermarket of the "Giant" company, he walked on foot since in the first days he did not yet have the necessary documents allowing the use of the post's car. Returning from the supermarket, in American fashion—with a company's double paper bag— in America, they do not use string bags or reusable bags. At the exit, the cashier skillfully and tightly packed his bachelor ration: cans of "Campbell" soups, packages of large "first-class" eggs and "Meyer" sausages, grapefruits, Lipton tea, and "Domino" sugar, branded cardboard with milk, sealed in polyethylene, pre-sliced, stale and tasteless bread. Prices had skyrocketed, but the concept of scarcity still did not exist. Except, of course, for the persistent scarcity of green dollar bills; many millions continued to suffer from it.As for the element of politics, he didn't scoop up drops but handfuls of it from newspapers, magazines, on the TV screen, and in personal meetings with American colleagues.As a private individual, he visited "Giant," strolled in the evenings through the deserted Somerset and along Wisconsin Avenue, went to Elizabeth House, where at the table of Kolya and Rita, who remained faithful to Russian customs, there was always potatoes, herring, and what usually accompanies them. His everyday life abroad existed only for him and, to some extent, for his family, with whom, sparing words, he sometimes spoke dryly on the phone and for whom he longed fervently at other times.And he, living in Irene, acted as a public figure, writing for millions of readers of his newspaper. In their eyes, he was a man for everyone, devoid of individual traits, a cog in the big mechanism of the common cause called the coverage and exposure of American life and politics.In his role as a public figure, a journalist, he used to meet with public figures—Americans, primarily journalists, preferring well-known, smart, and knowledgeable ones whose opinion mattered, helped assess the political situation, and, moreover, supported the Americanist's self-respect. He didn't want to eat in vain the foreign bread from the "Giant" supermarket.A man from the midst of the common people, from the bearish Nizhny Novgorod corner, the Americanist did not part with the mentality of his ancestors. Even expressing with the flying line of Fet, he understood heavily and ponderously. In a business trip, all the time belonged to the editorial office and had to be devoted to work. Conscience immediately took over him when things turned out differently. But it's impossible to give work all twenty-four hours—even abroad. Work, work! Damn it, a person should not only work but also live with taste. There was no skill to live—neither at home nor abroad. Understanding himself, listening to himself—this occupation also came with years—he heard, as it were, a distant, persistent echo coming from unknown serfs.In secret, the Americanist envied those who could live easily and carry the burden of duty effortlessly. And these qualities he noted in his American interlocutors.In Georgetown, the old respectable district of Washington, an elderly African American taxi driver took him. In the words of the taxi driver, in his impossible pronunciation, the element splashed, from which even drops are not given by strangers. When the Americanist tried to express for himself in the anemic newspaper language the words of the African American, it turned out that in the upcoming elections, the African American will not vote, as he considers them a waste of time, that he does not like the president's economic innovations, and he places his hopes on the Democrats who, God willing, will strengthen their positions in Congress and fix everything.The Americanist descended on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and P Street to walk on foot. He loved Georgetown and shared Americans' attraction to old, outwardly unimpressive houses, which they know how to live in, combining all the shining, sterile modern conveniences with the patriarchal comfort of small windows with curtains and tall, plump grandmother's beds under canopies. Expensive houses pretended to be modest, and walking on the carpet of yellow autumn leaves on the brick sidewalks of the old Georgetown street, amid which even long-unused tram tracks were preserved, he thought that it's probably good to live and work in some little nook, looking with windows into the quiet backyard, where magnolia and "dogwood tree," or, in our terms, cornelian cherry, bloom in spring.One of the houses belonged to the widely known columnist Joe K., whose "column" appeared in hundreds of American newspapers. His articles, when translated into Russian, often found their way into the TASS newspaper, which the Americanist read daily in his office. He knew Joe personally, but it was through his work that he knew him much better.The owner greeted him at the door. From the tiny hallway adorned with paintings by his artist wife, they passed through the living room on the first floor, furnished with old furniture, to the basement. There was a kitchen and an unpretentious dining room. Daylight filtered into the basement through a window near the ceiling.Unlike journalists on the staff of newspapers and magazines, Joe worked from home, and it was at home that he arranged his business lunches, where food received less attention than conversation. Nevertheless, a middle-aged woman of Latin American descent named Aurora appeared from the kitchen. She served beef stroganoff with rice and mushrooms, along with celery and carrots sliced into elongated pieces. Joe offered the guest a glass of white wine.He was nearing sixty, but he took care of himself, resisting the effects of aging. Lean, dark-haired, with a light step and graceful gestures of small hands, he spoke much like he wrote his concise and intelligent articles. Starting a sentence, he would rhetorically lift his right hand with a split green celery stick, aiming it at the thick, spicy sauce, and finishing it by lowering the celery, dipping and sending it into his mouth. Sitting across from the seemingly frail host, dressed in a light dark suit, the guest felt burdened by his bulkiness, the weight of a winter tweed jacket, and the awkwardness of his English, on which, moreover, he had not yet managed to become fluent. Oh, it's better to be the host, welcoming a guest at home, and let him speak your native language better. But the Americanist could not speak as gracefully and eat as gracefully as Joe.The combined circulation of newspapers carrying Joe's work numbered in the millions. His output was in high demand, and the publishing company distributing his articles under contract undoubtedly paid him a six-figure sum each year. Joe was among the top five most prominent American columnists and had been working at a hectic pace for over a decade, delivering two equally sized (no more than three pages) articles per week.With all his nervous endings, he was connected to the complex political organism of Washington, where people and institutions interacted and clashed, formulating decisions affecting different states, cities, electoral districts, the entire country, and the whole world. This was because the political elite of Washington somehow saw America at the center of the world and did not cease in its attempts to impose American-style development on the world.Insiders and outsiders constantly swap places in this city. Each president appoints his people to key positions; yesterday's outsiders become today's insiders. Moreover, after elections, the composition of senators and congressmen is always more or less refreshed. To stay on the crest of success, Joe had to consistently remain an insider, seamlessly fitting into any changing situation, adapting to any new political configuration (with the same ease his hands raised and lowered with a piece of celery), establishing connections with new people at the helm of power, and prudently not losing ties with yesterday's caliphs — who knows, maybe their time will come again tomorrow? Insightfulness of mind or skill of the pen matter little. The position of such a journalist depends on the quality of the information sources available to him, on his proximity to primary sources. In his commentaries, Joe did not disclose his sources — the rule of confidentiality was sacredly observed — but, judging by everything, there were many of them — in the White House, on Capitol Hill, in the State Department, the Pentagon, among political groups and figures acting behind the scenes, etc., etc.In the harsh world of politics, with its moves, maneuvers, and intrigues, a special character, talent, and calling are required to balance on the tightrope without faltering, endure nervous overloads with an unruffled expression, maintaining grace and nonchalance. Seemingly just a recluse in the solitude of his Georgetown residence, merely a free-lance writer endowed with the gift of quickly encapsulating his interesting and timely thoughts and observations into three pages — no more, Joe artistically swam in this element, which had long become familiar to him and from which the Americanist dreamed of drawing only drops. He had his own diplomacy and waged his wars, concluding truces, executing his secret deals of exchange and trade in influence. He was a participant, not just an observer. And, unlike Soviet correspondents, who in Washington could not help but be alien bodies and objects of mistrust and suspicion, Joe, as an insider, undoubtedly received his main information not from newspapers (he supplied it to newspapers himself) but from firsthand sources. He knew more than he offered to the reader and, despite the external flamboyant freedom of judgments, sensed and knew the limits of the possible. When necessary, he stepped on the throat of his own song and reputation, muffling his critical attitude towards the Ronald Reagan administration, dosing scorn with praise — a frontal attack would lead to a rupture of relations with the current authorities, to disconnection from information sources and life support, to a decline in demand for the product offered by Joe, and eventually to a reconsideration of the contract.Six-figure sums are not paid to even well-known columnists for their beautiful eyes or even words.But let's return to the cozy basement, where the light of an autumn day seeps in from the street, and where two colleagues of the same profession sit, called by the same name both here and there, but understood and practiced differently. What did they talk about over the meal prepared by Aurora, the maid who silently awaited orders in the kitchen? Just a ritual of communication. Not without some benefit for both sides, though. Gazing at the guest from Moscow and not ruling out a hidden motive in his visit (nothing is accidental in visits from "these Soviets"), Joe didn't say anything that he hadn't already written, published, or was about to publish. However, the confidential tone of his words seemingly revealed the true America with all the secret springs of its politics to his Soviet interlocutor. In exchange, he expected at least a tiny bit of new information from Moscow. The guest was grateful to the host for the sober assessment of the situation—sober, in his view, partly because it largely supported his own assessment based on newspapers. In the spirit of exchange, unintentionally imitating Joe's casually confidential intonation, the Americanist shared some Moscow news, some obvious facts. And Joe was pleased. With his nervous connections to Washington, not Moscow, some of the Moscow "two plus two" indeed contained an element of novelty for him—they provided an opportunity to cross-check his own information, assessments, and assumptions.In the upcoming elections, Joe, like many of his colleagues, like recent public opinion polls, predicted gains for the Democrats and some losses for the Republicans—the president's party. He advised the Americanist to take a closer look at some winning Democrats from a curious angle: was there support from the leadership of the AFT-CIO trade union? Such support is an indicator of a high degree of anti-Soviet sentiment, Joe noted, and with this advice, not without hidden sarcasm, reminded his interlocutor that union leaders, the leaders of the organized part of the American working class, would outdo anyone in terms of anti-communism. Joe's sarcasm was unnecessary. Highlighting this elementary truth, he discovered his own gap, an underestimation of our knowledge about America.Intermediate elections have no direct relation to foreign policy, Joe pointed out. The main factor that determines public sentiment is not foreign policy concerns but the tough economic situation. The country is in a deep depression. But Reagan gets away with it. "By some miracle," Joe noted with irritation and secret admiration. The miracle is partially explained by the fact that the Democrats, the president's rivals, have no alternative that would lure voters to their side. And something like a miracle—Reagan is lucky. In politics, not everything can be explained by logical categories. Joe regretted that Reagan was lucky and, nevertheless, resigned himself to this luck. Whether he regretted it or not, the fact could not be undone. Reagan is lucky in the sense, Joe developed his thought, that no one is putting noticeable pressure on him. There is plenty of discontent in the country, but there is no organized opposition. The same in foreign policy, he said. Look for yourself. In West Germany, now under the leadership of Kohl and the conservatives, they are following Reagan's path. In France, socialist Mitterand, but relations with him are not bad at all. With Beijing? Yes, there is some conflict over Taiwan, but it doesn't change the essence of the matter, and there is no real pressure from Beijing. The Soviet Union remains. Relations are extremely poor, but so far, nothing is evident that would force Reagan to change his tough course immediately, especially since Western European allies support him on the Euro missiles issue. Joe continued to unfold this solitaire, simultaneously moving from sliced celery and carrots to galettes with triangles of soft and tender brie cheese, already ordering black coffee for himself and milk for his guest from Aurora.Meanwhile, the guest decided to feel out Joe's reaction to one of his favorite critical thoughts. America, with its rapidly changing presidents who reject treaties (like the INF), developed after prolonged American-Soviet efforts by their predecessors, with its policy of militant imperial extremism, disturbs and feverishly affects the entire international life, the Americanist unfolded his thought. America becomes a kind of anomaly, disrupting that necessary sequence and continuity in the development of the global situation without which the situation cannot become normal. And under Reagan, this trait of American behavior has worsened. You, as if you don't consider yourself part of the world, but it's one for all, a shared world, the guest complained, habitually addressing Joe with "you" as he associated the columnist with official America, to which the observer was critically inclined. On the contrary, the whole world considers America its appendix, its continuation, and this self-confident, persistently deluded imperial egocentrism will not lead to anything good, it costs the whole world dearly, and, God forbid, it will cost even more. In his accusatory fervor, the Americanist wanted to find the support of a knowledgeable, intelligent American, seeking with him a common ground of logic and common sense.And Joe, putting a piece of brie on his galette into his mouth, responded that he was ready to agree with this thought, with this criticism. True! But Reagan gets away with it, he added pragmatically, as someone who values facts more than abstract truths. He gets away with it, and that's why the president continues to behave in the same provocative manner. Moralizing and appeals to logic, Joe hinted, rarely sway anyone or achieve much in international relations. Because there is also the concept of power, and until it encounters proper resistance, it adheres to its own logic—the logic of power—and derives it from itself.They drank coffee and wrapped things up. The Americamist mentioned that he would like to meet typical Reagan supporters, feel them, understand their mentality, their motives. What drives their anti-Soviet sentiment? Fear? Hatred?Joe ruled out fear. Joe did not subscribe to the simplistic philosophy of Reagan supporters, but he found it offensive to assume that his fellow countrymen, the contemporary Caesars, supermen, the powerful of the world, could feel fear—something associated with the weak and dispossessed. No, Joe saw in Reagan supporters' attitude towards the Soviet Union and everything Soviet not fear but rather uncompromising hostility."It all boils down to something very simple," he emphasized—private initiative, the system of private property.So, the Washington pragmatist suddenly added distinctly Marxist hues to the impressionist canvas of his analysis. The newly rich, first-generation California millionaires, had made their way to wealth, success, and power thanks to American capitalism, the American system of private property, and they feel nothing but hostility towards a society that rejects this system. This was Joe's answer, who himself was almost a millionaire or already one. He distanced himself from these people who had taken over Washington, marking them as not part of the old power structure, the "Eastern establishment" that traditionally ruled the United States. They lack a broad perspective, a quality more or less typical of experienced individuals from the East Coast, and they have no tolerance, a trait of hereditary rich.Reagan's administration, with its conservatism, Joe summed up, would go down in history as another American experiment. As another, if you will, ailment that had to be overcome.He put the empty cup on the table, glanced at his interlocutor, and beyond him at the pouring light near the ceiling, indicating that the business lunch had come to an end, and his workday—with various concerns and duties—was far from over. And he wiped his lips with a napkin in a gesture that could mean nothing or, in which the Americamist could read the following: "I'm not the last person here, either, I'm also from the ruling elite, and you see—I'm sitting here talking to you, and although I'll never agree with your lifestyle, I advocate the beginning of reason, for tolerance, or, in your terms, peaceful coexistence. In the world, there is no absolute good or absolute evil, and since everything is relative, we must adapt to each other, understand each other, and talk to each other, which I am doing by inviting you to my home."The guest stood up from the table, thanked the host, bid him farewell, and went out into the street on a warm and sunny day. The day conquered, the day ruled, uniting people rather than dividing them. There could be no two opinions about it: the day was beautiful.In the city bus, he traveled along Wisconsin Avenue, heading back to Chevy Chase, and the typical landscape of American urban highways stretched by—stores, restaurants, gas stations, theaters, branches of banks, and insurance companies. Familiar places again. But here, he rarely walked on foot and even less often took the bus, all behind the wheel of a Chevrolet, then an Oldsmobile, and behind the wheel, you couldn't look closely and turn around to get a better view. All five and a half Washington years seemed to have flashed by the car window, and he sat behind the wheel all this time, and this urban landscape along Wisconsin Avenue was poorly printed in memory and did not evoke a strong response.The bus was quite full, and he got a seat at the back. African American, he thought. Two decades ago, in the southern United States, only the back seats were designated for African Americans on buses, and Martin Luther King challenged the long-standing segregation system with bus boycotts and other mass nonviolent actions. American newspapers were full of reports about these actions when he first arrived in New York. A young, white girl with a lovely clean profile was sitting nearby on the bus's side sofa. She wasn't even born when, in Christmas 1961, renting a car in Chattanooga, they traveled through the states of Tennessee and Alabama together with Volodya, the TASS correspondent. In small towns, they approached bus stations and saw what had already passed into oblivion—only African Americans boarded intercity buses through the rear door of Greyhound buses (with an image of a greyhound racing on duralumin sides), and the doors of restrooms and water fountains at bus and airport terminals were still labeled: "For whites" and "For colored."The day was beautiful, the conversation with Joe seemed to go well, and the girl on the side seat delighted the eyes with the freshness and charm of youth. Under the sunlight, a golden fuzz shone on her upper lip and cheek, and nearby, leaning, stood a young, beardless, and obviously infatuated guy. First love. What is it, first love, American style? On this beautiful warm autumn day, the answer was as clear as the infatuation on the shy guy's face. First love? Like ours. Different for everyone. And yet similar for all...When the bus stopped, a green light flashed above the door, and passengers entered and exited. For each other, they were just people, but for the Americamist, they were Americans. In the bus, with an African American sitting in the back seat, he couldn't escape the familiar feeling of being an outsider. The city bus was also a drop of a foreign, otherworldly element. It drew from it. And from the bus, one could also start reasoning on the topic that had always occupied his mind—us and them.This bus had a smoother and more powerful ride than ours, and the seats in the cabin were more comfortable, the doors closed tightly and softly, providing a better view from the windows. But the fare was not five kopecks; it was seventy-five cents, the price of a cigarette pack, which immediately brought the Americamist to the next question: what is more important—a more comfortable bus or a lower fare? The question is not so simple. It's customary to reason about the asymmetry in the nuclear arsenals of the two countries—they have more submarine-launched missiles, we have more ground-based ones, and so on. But "asymmetry" permeates other manifestations of different systems and other aspects of life. Ideally, a more comfortable bus and a lower fare are important, but it's easy to say; the challenge is in realizing it in life. And, of course—how important are these passing stores, stocked with goods? And gas stations with spacious driveways and excellent service? And magnificent houses like the Iron House with a three-story underground garage and sky-high swimming pools.How to adopt this service, this quality, so that apartments are cheap like ours or earnings are high like in America—and, most importantly, without the inherent flaws of capitalism, without rat races where the strong thrive and the weak perish? Hooray for abundance of goods, but down with consumer debauchery, which disfigures and empties people in those cruel competitions of life where the greedy and the evil come out as winners.On the other hand, he thought, how many times has it been said and repeated: socialism can only be defeated by the power of example. Not the power of weapons, but the power of example—that's our path, in line with our great ideal and the interests of the working people. The effective power of example is important, and the conversation can be returned to the same bus: which American can we win over to our side with our bus—even for a five-kopeck ticket—if it is worse in quality and excessively crowded?Allow me, the reader might say, why barge in with the well-worn talk about our shortcomings and unfinished business—why lure and tempt them? Let them live as they please. You are right, reader. But everything is connected in this world, divided by the chasm of two systems. Everything is connected even when we don't want this connection and disown it. Our shortcomings and unfinished business, our lag in the world of things, the flaws of our everyday life, generate, on the other side, a psychology of superiority, which, in turn, works for our enemies and provides them with arguments against us.A simple but fundamental Marxist idea was expressed by Joe, a non-Marxist earning his six-figure income for skillfully defending modern capitalism: Reagan supporters harbor hostility and organic dislike toward us because we reject their holy of holies—the system of private initiative and private ownership of the means of production. Do we sometimes forget that their animosity and irreconcilability sprout from this original seed? They hate us because, with our revolution, we rejected their way of life on our soil and with our existence, which they can do nothing about, threatening their own way of life. Their class hatred becomes squared when combined with ignorance, the most reliable armor that shields them from the complexities of the world.The seed from which the psychology of ownership sprouted gave rise to a well-known slogan that, in its extreme form, expresses both animosity and even a willingness to endure the torments of a thermonuclear apocalypse: "better dead than red." It's better to be dead than be a communist.Moving away from the bus, let's continue. If the power of example in a particular area doesn't work for us, it works against us. If we lag behind in the world of shops, goods, and everyday life, our adversaries, in the realm of international relations, are unwilling to recognize us as equals. We consider the Soviet-American military balance, strategic parity, as a historical achievement of recent years. However, American ultra-conservatives see it as their temporary defeat, an injustice that needs to be rectified. Essentially, through new rounds of the arms race, they hope to achieve two goals: restore America's superiority in nuclear matters and economically wear us down.The historical way out is known, simple, and extremely challenging: work, work, and work again. Better than them. Keep our powder dry. Win rounds of material and spiritual competition between socialism and capitalism. For the prosperity of our people and as an example to the world. Not with the power of weapons but with the power of example...This is roughly what the Americamist was thinking, once again tackling the eternal theme: us and them—while progressing in the comfortable American bus from Georgetown to Chevy Chase. At the same time, he didn't forget to glance at the young girl with the infatuated guy and mentally transported himself back to his youth, to his first dazzling love in a distant factory town in the early post-war years. How he eagerly anticipated those dates, and no one in the whole world was more beautiful than his girl. He couldn't yet imagine how long life would be and how capriciously fate would arrange its affairs.As a typical Reaganite, Joe recommended Charles Wick, a personal friend of the president and the director of the U.S. Information Agency, the supreme authority of "Voice of America," and over a hundred American propaganda centers across the globe. There couldn't be a better candidate—the chief official mouthpiece.With Mr. Wick, Joe had a close connection and promised to arrange something for the Americanist. However, the story took an unexpected turn. Initially, Wick was not in Washington. When he returned and was finally reached, his voice on the phone bubbled with non-official emotions. Mr. Wick immediately launched a counter-propaganda attack, accusing the Americanist of preventing American correspondents in Moscow from obtaining access to Soviet officials. It seemed that he misunderstood something and mixed things up. The Americanist was not aware of this accreditation, and he was concerned about the opposite problem—high-ranking American officials were not willing to meet Soviet journalists in Washington. He expressed this concern over the phone in response to the heated conversation from the other end."And am I not a high-ranking official?" Mr. Wick exclaimed."Quite the opposite," reassured the Americanist, a friend of the president. "I'm requesting a meeting precisely because you are a very important person."The phone drama didn't end there. Wick immediately threatened to find out right away what kind of "red" person was seeking a meeting with him. It seemed like a rough joke, but it turned out to be an unceremonious revelation. Without hanging up, Wick actually started to inquire about something from someone through some selectors in the U.S. government communication system. Was he digging up information in the depths of the FBI? It would probably be a stroke of luck—what journalist wouldn't want to get acquainted with their invisible curator from the Federal Bureau of Investigation? But no, Wick connected the Americanist with another important person, an assistant to the deputy secretary of state, Bart, who dealt with relations with the Soviet Union. Mr. Bart's voice expressed bewilderment: why on earth was he suddenly taken away from his work and, against his will, included by an unexpected character in some comedy? He didn't say it out loud, but perhaps, among other things, the president's buddy had the right to be impudent. Aloud, Bart replied that, from the State Department's point of view, there were no objections to the meeting.And so, on the appointed day and time, the Americanist appeared at the impressively standard building on Pennsylvania Avenue, just steps away from the White House, causing approximately the commotion that an unexpected breakthrough of the enemy into securely guarded territory would cause. In the waiting room, where he sat on a sofa, flipping through glossy propaganda magazines while awaiting a call to Mr. Wick, curious clerks seemed to casually glance at him one after another. Such heightened attention might have flattered his ego, but he never received the expected call from Wick, the chief of Reagan's propaganda. After about ten minutes, one of the clerks approached him with a sheepish look and informed him that, unfortunately, Mr. Wick was busy on Capitol Hill, which they tried but couldn't timely inform the guest about.The Americanist left somewhat disgruntled but not losing hope, expecting the promised meeting on another day and time. However, it wasn't meant to be. That same evening, at six o'clock, right after the Washington workday had ended, an assistant to Mr. Wick called him and conveyed that the meeting would not take place. At all. It was canceled. Such a thing had never happened in the Americanist's experience. Without apologies or explanations. Shut out at the gate.Perhaps, after requesting a detailed character reference, Mr. Wick simply changed his mind. Perhaps, the chief Washington propagandist, taking advantage of the opportunity, decided to settle some of his scores, express some dissatisfaction, send a certain "signal to Moscow," exaggerate the importance of the journalist, not knowing that such signals in Moscow don't go through. Or was he afraid of facing a Soviet journalist? Did he decide to offend or hurt on his own accord?Either way, the refusal to meet seemed to have more significance than the meeting itself.To hate is not to see. These words are juxtaposed in sound and echo in meaning. Not seeing makes it easier to hate. Not seeing and not knowing. Why not admit that Mr. Wick kept his hatred pure and guarded it, not subjecting it to the test of meetings with those who were hated from a distance, firmly and sacredly? Seeing makes it harder to hate.Not having seen Mr. Wick, the offended Americanist readily developed a strong dislike for him. Now he believed the most unfavorable descriptions, everything that created an image of a brash, self-assured, and ignorant Texan, derived from newspapers and stories. A typical nouveau riche who made millions on vulgar show business with a touch of, as they say, porn. A hedonist and a lover of the good life. A narcissist. He takes a personal hairdresser on trips and changes outfits several times a day. Ignorant to the point of legend. American fortune, like a vulgar burlesque girl, suddenly turned to him, and there you have it—the chief official mouthpiece of America.This is a love that cannot be artificially cultivated, while hatred can be bred like entire plantations.Looking back on his early years in the United States, he thought that our relations were easier and simpler then. He understood that this assessment had a subjective moment: a young man who came for the first time, took everything as it was, and had nothing to compare it with. Since then, on his memory, the two countries went through a period of hopes, followed by a period of disappointments. Back then, in the early sixties, the ice of the "Cold War" was solid as usual, there was less writing about arms control, our correspondents in New York and Washington covered the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement, and the struggle of American blacks for equality more, and the nuclear mountains were not the same as the low Carpathians compared to the Himalayas in the early eighties. There were not a million accumulated Hiroshimas then—no such fierceness and desperation. And he, at his level, didn't feel it.Now, it seemed that something had spoiled even in the obligingness and correctness of Americans, in their manner of communicating with Soviet people. As a correspondent, he knew some well-trodden paths and used them, making his work easier, but now he discovered that they had overgrown.One such former path led the Americanist to the corner of Fourteenth and F Streets, to the famous National Press Building, a thirteen-story massive building with a restaurant and bar on the top floor. Historically, Washington bureaus of many American newspapers, as well as newspapers and information agencies from dozens of countries around the world interested in U.S. politics, were located there. TASS correspondents rented several rooms there. Now they moved to another floor, and the place looked like a fortified bastion. In any case, the entrance door to the TASS bureau, one of many in the long common corridor, was now always locked, and in response to someone's knock, an invisible eye behind an impermeable glowing peephole peered intently at the visitor, determining by appearance—friend or foe and, if not a friend, then with what intentions.Our newspaper correspondents, lone wolves, always worked in apartments rented in American residential buildings and were safe there. However, TASS, having a dozen or more employees, maintained a bureau in the business center of the city, and since then it increased the risk, the physical danger. The Washington TASS door was firmly locked more than ten years ago. In the first pushes of the newly born and developing détente, activists from the Jewish Defense League started these new times, carrying out attacks on TASS, Aeroflot, and other Soviet institutions in New York and Washington. Authorities did not prosecute or punish them, the attacks continued—and it was necessary to defend with door barricades. Now TASS complained about the needles and spikes of official institutions. Part of their work included attending and covering press conferences and briefings at the White House, the State Department, and the Congress. But this activity ceased to be routine and completely safe; somewhere they were mistreated, sometimes not allowed, and their credentials and passes were sometimes questioned, although they were properly accredited at Washington centers of power and had the necessary passes with colored photographs.In the labyrinthine corridors of the National Press Building, among other things, was the Foreign Press Center, one of the branches of that sprawling tree called the U.S. Information Agency, headed, as we already know, by Charles Wick, a personal friend of the president and a personal enemy of the Americanist, who rudely showed him how times had changed.In theory, the center was supposed to assist foreign correspondents in Washington and, if possible, guide their work in the desired direction for the authorities. Turning our man into their stream, of course, did not succeed, but he sometimes resorted to the center's assistance.In New York, in a similar center dealing with foreign correspondents and located not far from the UN headquarters, Bill Striker used to command. Originally from Austria, turned American diplomat, he cherished a grateful memory of wartime and was always ready to help. Before each new trip to the United States, the Americanist would sometimes stock up on useful official paperwork from him, which, reminding him of mandates from our revolutionary years, solemnly addressed "to whom it may concern"—to everyone... everyone... everyone... Bill Striker informed everyone that the bearer of the mandate is a Soviet correspondent and a Soviet citizen (be vigilant!), but still requested assistance in carrying out journalistic duties. The usefulness of Striker's paper was tested dozens of times, and warm feelings for the man who signed it remained for a lifetime.In Washington in the early seventies, the Americanist met a short and chubby Mr. Baba, an American of Latin American descent, who at that time was sitting in the National Press Building, heading the Foreign Press Center long before the era of Charles Wick. Mr. Baba's assistance was sought less frequently. The mandate itself was a discharge then, in those years, for many Americans had some business or interest in the Soviet Union. However, the Americanist occasionally visited the Foreign Press Center, and its staff were always characterized by proper professionalism and a willingness to help foreigners writing about the United States.Following the old paths, he came to the same building but to new rooms with new furniture, and from the unfamiliar bearded Tom Swenson, he learned that both Striker and Baba were retired. The relatively young bearded man represented a new generation, which stored in its memory not the years of the big—and hot—war when we were together, but the years when we were apart in the "Cold War." Coldness emanated from him personally, and he was surprised, not pleased, by the appearance of a Soviet journalist on his departmental territory. With obvious incomprehension, he listened to the Americanist's story about the good old times when Bill Striker issued a mandate "to everyone... everyone... everyone" and additionally helped with phone calls to voluntary organizations receiving foreign guests in different cities. Tom Swenson did not experience those old times, almost heretical and at least soft. Mandates for Soviet correspondents? Oh no, vigilance was on the agenda. No program for San Francisco and Los Angeles was prepared for the Americanist. He intended to observe conservatives in their native California thickets, but the Foreign Press Center brushed him off with empty promises and phone numbers that went unanswered. The new America, closed in its antipathy and hatred, avoided communication with the "Reds."Nevertheless, Sasha managed to secure an appointment with one Reaganite from the State Department, and together they went for a meeting with a thirty-year-old, handsome, and amiable American. This individual made them feel his creed: what is good for his America is good for the whole world. In his America, his own brother was renowned as one of the Pentagon bosses, with a reputation as a hawk and an extensive program to restore past undisputed American dominance on the seas and oceans. The thirty-year-old himself worked in the government's Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (as its press advisor, to be precise).He received them in his office, gleaming with the cleanliness and health of a young man from a wealthy family. He willingly smiled with a soft smile, revealing large, remarkably white and healthy teeth. The smile, a sign of a courteous person, was almost apologetic. Looking at the smile, it seemed that he had not yet toughened and embittered in ideological battles, that he didn't want to offend the two Soviet journalists personally, and that he had nothing against them. However, for the sake of politeness, he didn't want to compromise either.He then delivered the unvarnished truth—the American conservative truth of the early 1980s. Although it wasn't significantly different from the conservative truth of previous years, the press advisor blamed us for persistently seeking global dominance. He forgot that his president threatened to throw socialism onto the ash heap of history but remembered our statements that the days of capitalism were numbered. From this, he drew the same conclusion: Bolsheviks want global dominance.He also presented the old list: the "revolution" of 1956 in Hungary, the "Berlin Wall" of 1961, the "occupation" of Czechoslovakia in 1968, adding Afghanistan and martial law in Poland. In his interpretation, the events looked extremely simplified: there was no political struggle in these countries and around them, no intrigues, plots, and attacks by counter-revolutionary elements incited by his America. There was only one ominous hand of Moscow. As a fresh example, he took Nicaragua: yes, Somoza didn't adorn the "free world," and we, to our shame, supported him, he reasoned, but can one tolerate the Sandinista revolution's evolution away from democracy (as it is conceived in his America)? With radicals dominating, moderates being sidelined from the helm of power, and so on. Again, the good-looking young man with an apologetic smile didn't say a word about his Yankee imperialism, demonstrating its character and the right of the strong, not enshrined in international law, to not tolerate revolutionary Nicaragua and any other Central American country that is inconvenient and disobedient, arming, training, and inciting counter-revolutionaries—Somoza's men operating in Honduras, increasing moral-political and military pressure on the Sandinistas, piling obstacles in the way of their revolution, forcing them to take measures of self-defense, sometimes harsh and tough.What is good for his America cannot be bad for the Nicaraguans—this was the source from which he drew his conviction. Moreover, considering their much lower standard of living, American order would be even better and more beneficial for the Nicaraguans than for the Americans.No, this young man was not a revelation. Before the Americanist sat a person with the mindset of those who once waded into the Vietnamese quagmire, sending thousands, and in the end, up to half a million soldiers there and didn't know how to get out. A familiar type of American imperialist-idealist in a hurry to bestow goodness on the entire world. Bestow, that's the word. The young man was offended by the assumption that he and people like him want to impose the American way of life on anyone. Of course, he had proof at hand: look, they come to us—by boat, from Vietnam, Mexicans secretly crossing the Rio Grande for work, from Europe, Asia, Africa—they all strive for America to become Americans and live like Americans. That's it: what is good for America is good for the whole world. And can't such America take care of any corner of the world itself, declare it vital for its interests—after all, its interests can never contradict the interests of the people or peoples inhabiting that corner, but, on the contrary, express their most far-sighted and highest form.And since all the intentions of the United States are altruistic, and all actions are noble and permeated with concern for peace, freedom, and democracy, its ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads, whether ground or sea-based, intercontinental or medium-range, cannot pose a threat to the Soviet Union. Strategic bombers, three times the number of Soviet ones, are harmless outdated slowpokes. It's even funny to talk about them, especially for you with your excellent anti-aircraft defense... That's what the press advisor of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was talking about.But even he had nothing to cover when the question of the inconsistency of American foreign policy arose. Each new occupant of the White House imagines himself as a god, recreating the world, and as a result, from their side, the building of American-Soviet relations is not constructed floor by floor but is demolished by successive presidents because each one starts by dismantling what has already been built. And if they build later, they start from scratch, from the foundation."Soviet-American relations?" Strobe asked again. "Terrible—and unfortunately, for a long time. In present-day Washington, whether you like it or not, there is genuine hostility towards the Soviet Union."Strobe was a diplomatic correspondent for a popular socio-political weekly. He hadn't yet made it into the top five American observers, but who knows, maybe he would, once he shed his current almost scholarly approach and started writing shorter, sharper, and more malicious pieces. Nevertheless, he had achieved much, working vigorously and, in true American fashion, rushing through life.The Americanist had met him about ten years ago when, with a sensational publication, Strobe immediately announced himself as a promising Sovietologist. Later, he immersed himself in the topic of U.S.-Soviet negotiations on nuclear arms limitation and reduction—an essential subject for years and decades—something, as disarmament jokes, could even be passed down as an inheritance.The last time the Americanist saw Strobe was in the Moscow restaurant "Prague." His weekly had chartered a large plane specifically to send several dozen big business tycoons, leaders of prominent American corporations and banks, on a round-the-world tour. It was beneficial for both the businessmen and the magazine—advertising and connections. It was, as Strobe put it, a type of journey: breakfast in Kuwait, lunch in Cairo, dinner in Warsaw. Lightning-fast, suitable for extremely busy people. They couldn't bypass Moscow, and in the Moscow restaurant, where the American organizers of the tour hosted a dinner in honor of their arrival, inviting Soviet business people, the lean and quick Strobe in a crumpled velvet suit for travel assisted the distinguished travelers.The Washington office of the weekly was strategically located five minutes' walk from the White House. Strobe's office was small and modest, with photos of world leaders and celebrities pinned to the walls with buttons. All of them with the office owner—a memory, and again, advertising and evidence that the journalist doesn't waste time, having traveled around the world.Strobe studied at Yale University, then on a special scholarship in England, at Oxford. The subject of this current arms specialist was Russian literature, the poetry of Tyutchev and Mayakovsky. His thesis was on Mayakovsky's early works, and once, as a Moscow student of the Philology Department or Literary Institute, he recited "Cloud in Trousers" by heart.Now it's forgotten. Like many Americans and Britons spoiled by the prevalence of their native language, Strobe lost his Russian.They were sitting in the Hawaiian-Polynesian restaurant "Capitol" in the exotic twilight of the basement of the Capitol Hilton Hotel and talking not about poetry but politics. "Relations are terrible," Strobe repeated, but we must keep hope. And Reagan won't dare to irreversibly spoil them. It would undermine his reputation and, therefore, his political future. Regardless of who he is, any American president wants an honorable place in history, and you won't achieve that by bringing relations with another nuclear power to a dangerous edge.The diplomatic correspondent often visited the Soviet Union, was acquainted with some of our responsible officials in the international arena, and valued these connections. Like Joe, he needed good sources of information, on which, to some extent, depended his weight and influence in his own magazine. In the reports and essays he published after trips to Moscow, he wanted to create a lively, dynamic, and sharp picture of Soviet political life. It didn't always work. And now, counting on the understanding of a professional, he complained to the Americanist that his Soviet interlocutors tell him, an American, roughly the same things, and this unanimity doesn't help the liveliness of his Moscow impressions. He lacks interesting details and specifics about the formation of Soviet foreign policy and Soviet life in general, which, he claimed, harms not only him but us as well, as it makes his magazine production stale.In Washington, on Sixteenth Street, there lives and works a unique individual who, among the temporary or permanent residents of the American capital, almost keenly feels the unstable and capricious curve of Soviet-American relations. This person is not an American but a Soviet person—Anatoly Fyodorovich . He works as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the USSR to the USA. For over two decades. Uninterrupted. And he lives in the embassy ___________The description pertains to November 1982. In March 1986, at the XXVII Party Congress, A. F. Dobrynin was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. (Author's note.)mansion on Sixteenth Street, a stone's throw from the White House, where he has been multiple times for various reasons.Anatoly Fyodorovich Dobrynin presented his credentials to the President of the United States in 1962. The president at that time was John F. Kennedy. The youngest president in the history of the United States wasn't even fifty years old (he never lived to see that milestone), and the Soviet ambassador had just crossed forty. For a long time now, the ambassador has been traveling around Washington in a black Cadillac with a memorable diplomatic number—1. Now he's the doyen, the eldest by seniority among the ambassadors of approximately one hundred and fifty countries accredited in the American capital. When they celebrated Anatoly Fyodorovich's twenty-year anniversary of diplomatic work, they delved into the extensive archives of the Foreign Ministry out of curiosity. They found that they didn't have any similar cases for decades of Soviet and the entire history of Russian diplomacy, except for one case dating back to the eighteenth century.A Muscovite who became a Washington old-timer represented our country to six U.S. presidents and dealt with seven Secretaries of State, half a dozen National Security Advisors, and numerous other American ministers, senators, congressmen, industrialists, bankers, cultural figures, and so on.The Americaphile journalist occasionally envied the ambassador, to whom the richest and most unique material flowed effortlessly, slipping through his fingers without reaching the ordinary reader, the general public. Oh, if the ambassador had the leisure—and the desire and opportunity—to write books, memoirs! What a vivid and dramatic portrayal of the current history could be created, filled with elements of hidden and overt drama, the attraction and repulsion of two social systems and national psychologies, all against the unprecedented backdrop of the nuclear age, in dramatic situations born of it. Characters and personalities, witty remarks that contain both humor and the intensity of historical moments, scenes, scenes, clashes of two decades, including those balancing on the edge, such as in October 1962, during the Kennedy days of the Cuban Missile Crisis.One must be a person of exceptional strength to channel and withstand the high-voltage tension of international life for all these years. A towering stature and a legendary surname alone wouldn't cut it here.For a long time, the Americaphile observed the ambassador from his journalistic vantage point, during the ups and downs of Soviet-American relations, and knew that, externally simple and democratic, he was a diplomat to the core. He extracted from his treasure trove of knowledge, experience, and thoughts only what he wished to share. And his lively and insightful pen was dedicated to that unique genre of literature with the narrowest readership—the genre of coded telegrams, closed diplomatic dispatches.Anatoly Fedorovich almost never gave interviews for print. Instead, he printed the seal of diplomatic silence on his lips. He belonged to the state, not himself, this man of the state.The ambassador made time for the Americaphile, and the latter entered through the double solid door of the windowless office, where everything was arranged to eliminate the slightest possibility of eavesdropping or spying. In any political weather, whether during rises or falls, American intelligence agencies never ceased to sharpen their electronic vision and amplify electronic hearing. Fortunately, the embassy mansion was in the center of Washington, surrounded on all sides by American houses whose owners were unlikely to resist, refusing patriotic services to the FBI.In his office, the ambassador was usually either behind a tall lectern made to his height, where he perused American newspapers, or behind his desk. This time he was seated at the desk, writing something. In the end, the work of the entering man and the man sitting at the desk was similar in some way; both were Soviet Americaphiles. Both kept an eye on the state of affairs on the American scene, although the Americaphile was a newspaper correspondent, a loner, and along with the ambassador, two of his deputies, advisers-envoys, advisers, first, second, and third secretaries, attachés, and finally, young interns who had just graduated from the Institute of International Relations, were working on state affairs. They were still boys on the run, but who knows, perhaps with ambitious dreams of an ambassadorial chair in the distant future, when the time of their generation comes. Both were writers, these two Americaphiles, and they wrote in one way or another about their American observations. They wrote, true, to different addresses, and the ambassador's telegrams were read by those who did not always have time for newspaper correspondence. But as a writing person, the journalist was in a more advantageous position than the ambassador, who was constantly torn away from his desk and pen by urgent and diverse duties of a leader. And visitors. Sometimes even those from whom, apparently, there was no direct benefit to the cause.But the ambassador interrupted his writing, raised from the table a large, slightly pale and tired face of a man who spent long hours within four walls, and greeted the Americaphile as an old acquaintance, with whom, in the same city of a foreign country, they had experienced and reflected on different times. And he asked his first question: What's new? Information—food for both diplomats and journalists, and the visiting Muscovite quickly realized, with a touch of professional envy, that the ambassador, a Washington old-timer, knew better about affairs at home, in the state spheres, than he did.Across the street from the Soviet embassy stands a six-story building. Informed individuals claim that on the attic or top floor, there is a round-the-clock FBI observation post. From there, and not only from there, simple and electronic eyes and ears are directed towards the Soviet embassy, observing who enters and exits, and everything else.When the Americaphile stopped at the iron-grated gate in the embassy's iron-grated fence, an invisible force seemed to fixate its gaze on the back of his head. He physically felt exposed, as if he were transparent. At this spot, next to the copper old embassy sign in Russian and English, this sensation always arose, although he could never verify its accuracy. A passing American man on the sidewalk glanced at him with instant surprise—a look that Americans always had when they saw someone about to enter the Soviet embassy. A black-suited special service police officer, guarding official institutions and foreign embassies in Washington, continued his unhurried patrol as if nothing had happened, strolling along the iron fence.The Americaphile attempted to turn the handle on the iron gate, but it wouldn't yield, and the door wouldn't open. Suddenly, from seemingly nowhere, a young male Russian voice said, "Press the button and identify yourself!" He understood that security measures had intensified during his absence. After spotting the button and microphone attached to the iron gate frame, he named his last name and position. "Open up!" commanded the invisible voice when he provided the information, accompanied by a sharp buzzing sound. This time, the handle and iron door yielded to his touch.Now, having walked a dozen steps through a tiny courtyard with a semblance of a lawn and a few birches that shyly adapted to foreign soil, he approached the door to the main building. It was also closed. Again, he grasped the handle, and another buzzer sounded. The heavy door slowly and ponderously opened. Just beyond the door, he saw a wall, or rather a floor-to-ceiling mirror divided into small squares. In this mirror, he saw himself and another door. This second door, without a buzzer, opened without delay, leading to the familiar embassy vestibule. He didn't have time to fully examine the new room, which appeared in his absence between the first door and the mirrored wall, where a duty diplomat sat, dealing with foreign visitors.At the far end of the familiar vestibule, where he found himself after passing through the gate and two doors, to the left of the staircase covered in red carpet and curving up to the reception rooms on the second floor, there was no longer a duty commander of the 1960s or early 1970s, dressed in ordinary civilian clothes. Instead, a young and fit border guard corporal stood at the ready behind a large chest-high semi-circular counter. The counter, as the Americaphile observed when he approached and handed his passport for inspection, was technically well-equipped and, presumably, fortified like a bastion. Walls were no obstacle to the sharp, all-seeing gaze of the border guard. On a dozen small internal television screens, the iron gate in the embassy fence, the entrance to the annex with the offices of press and cultural advisers, and other areas crucial for surveillance—front, rear, and side walls of the building—flickered before him. It was this young man in uniform who saw him standing at the gate, asking, pressing buttons, remotely controlling the doors. And the mirror at the entrance held a secret—now, finding himself on the other side, the Americaphile saw not a mirror but what seemed to be a transparent wall, and through it, those who entered the door after him, appearing as if in a regular mirror.In the 1960s, he recalled, there was no iron fence, and, of course, none of the other security measures—remote-controlled doors, magic mirrors, internal television. There wasn't even a police officer guarding the embassy. However, thinking was different then. Strangely enough, they almost never feared terrorist acts, explosions, armed provocations. One night in the mid-1960s, there was a loud bang: someone threw an explosive wrapped in a newspaper at the front corner of the embassy mansion. The office of the counselor-envoy suffered damage: glass shattered, furniture was askew. Those were unbelievably carefree times when the deputy ambassador's office was located on the ground floor and faced the street. Like any other house on Sixteenth Street, the embassy was not enclosed by anything except for a narrow lawn.Then waves of terrorism, both left-wing and right-wing, swept across the world. Planes were hijacked and exploded, parcels with plastic bombs were sent by mail, and they began to kidnap and kill generals and ministers, and even seize embassies.A significant portion of the Soviet colony in Washington now lived in an isolated, guarded complex—in residential buildings recently constructed near Georgetown, belonging to the embassy, in a nice quiet area a bit away from Wisconsin Avenue. Negotiations about this new extensive territory, like almost all negotiations with Americans, were lengthy and challenging but concluded with an agreement involving a peculiar exchange— the U.S. Embassy in Moscow also received a large plot of land not far from its current location, at the rear of a high-rise building on Revolution Square. Reciprocity was meticulously synchronized in time, and although the new building of our embassy in Washington already stands on the complex's territory, moving into it can only happen simultaneously with the relocation of Americans to their new embassy in Moscow. However, the residential part of the complex was already inhabited, and daily life in the Moscow yards spontaneously emerged—with children playing in sandboxes and moms gathering together to chat about shopping and news.Our life in the midst of the American capital is strictly confined territorially. At the entrance to the complex, there is a barrier controlled remotely by the on-duty border guard sitting in a high concrete bastion.Washington and all of America lie on the other side of the barrier.To avoid provocations and various unpleasant incidents, women are not allowed to leave the complex alone. Even for a carton of milk or a box of aspirin.Unlike the preoccupied ambassador, the group of fellow scientists with whom Amerikanist hastily parted ways at LaGuardia Airport in New York was lively and carefree, as business travelers often are—successful, having completed their tasks, done what was required, and, before returning to Moscow, earned the right to rest and indulge in foreign pleasures. They visited a friendly diplomat, a gray-haired and handsome man. The diplomat's energetic and attractive wife, after arranging the table with cold and hot snacks, treated the guests. With plates and glasses in hand, the company gathered in a semicircle around the television screen. It was election day, or rather, the evening of election day, and TV commentators were rapidly covering the progress and initial results.By eight in the evening, the first actual vote counts had already come in from the polling stations. Based on these, electronic forecasts were made. Commentators, seemingly hopping from state to state and city to city on large maps and diagrams, referred to computers as they predicted the outcomes, declaring winners among senators, congressmen, governors, and mayors one after another.For Amerikanist, a welcomed guest of the friendly couple, these were the ninth American elections, and with unexpected nostalgia, he noted to himself that his most respected, truly legendary CBS news anchor, Walter Cronkite, had given way to the assertive Dan Rather, which took some getting used to. With pleasure, he explained incomprehensible terms of television jargon to Moscow scientists and envied once again their cheerful collective spirit and the fact that, having accomplished their mission, they were returning home. For him, this hectic election night was the very task he had come to Washington for, not just a curious and exotic spectacle.He left earlier than others and walked back to his place, the Irene House. On Willard Avenue, as usual at this hour, it was dark and deserted, but the lights were on in the tall, large houses; residents were watching the fascinating and mad ritual of American democracy on their televisions.Alone, he stayed up late in front of the television, jotting down figures and facts from ongoing reports in his notebook. The next morning, he supplemented them with information from newspapers, which, however, had not yet provided complete results. He sat by the television again, nervously drinking tea. The day passed in solitary work, and outside the window, evening turned into night. Contrary to the agreement, Moscow did not call him at two o'clock. He dozed off, fearing in his half-sleep that Moscow might not call at all, that they had forgotten about him, and that his efforts would go to waste. But at four o'clock, the phone rang.The sound quality was good, and he quickly dictated his correspondence. Then he connected with the editor of the department and reported that he had sent, as agreed, about six pages on the election results. He asked Zina, the stenographer, about the weather in Moscow and hung up.So, the interim elections came and went, and he covered them, and the assessments and predictions of his initial pre-election correspondence were generally justified. Now he could be satisfied with himself, experiencing the relief of a worker who has completed urgent, pressing work. He wanted to shake himself up and relax in a friendly circle, but it was night, the apartment was empty, and the only company was the late-night TV programs.He didn't fall asleep right away. He lay in the darkness, recalling lines from his correspondence, which, written on scraps of paper, remained on the table in his office, and by that time, were on the editor's desk in Moscow, heading into typesetting. By the time he, Amerikanist, woke up alone in the house overlooking Dacha Somerset, it would have been reproduced in millions of copies and spread throughout his vast native land, which, unfortunately, he had traveled less than America. Meanwhile, this was business correspondence, and its words revealed little to the mind and heart of the reader.Last Tuesday, Americans experienced yet another election day and another evening and night in front of their television screens, where the teams of the three major television networks fought for viewers' attention as fiercely as the candidates of the two parties fought for the votes of the electorate—this is how he began his correspondence. Moreover, it was another battle of computers, played out according to the rules of the American political circus, with its dizzying speeds. Television network computers outpaced the computers connected to the polling stations, trying to determine the results when one-tenth of the voters had not yet cast their votes. By the way, two out of every three Americans preferred to abstain from voting altogether, apparently finding no sense in it. Reportedly, only thirty-nine percent of eligible voters participated in the elections. Surprising? No. A common and familiar fact, though the computers overlooked it, and local observers mentioned it in passing.Now they are busy with something else—turning the arithmetic of the results into the algebra of assessments and forecasts. First, about the arithmetic. The Republicans, the party of the president, lost twenty-six seats in the House of Representatives. In the new congress, they will have one hundred sixty-six seats (instead of the current one hundred ninety-two). The Democrats strengthened their position in the House, securing two hundred sixty-eight seats. While the entire House of Representatives was up for election, the fate of thirty-three out of one hundred Senate seats was decided. The party breakdown remained the same: fifty-four Republicans versus forty-six Democrats. Governors were also elected in thirty-six out of fifty states. In addition to their existing seats, the Democrats won seven more. Now they govern in thirty-six states, while the Republicans govern in fourteen.Moving on to assessments and forecasts, Amerikanist continued, here they primarily discuss the losses of Republicans in the House of Representatives. President Reagan, putting on a brave face in the face of adversity, stated yesterday that he is "very pleased with the results" and that this is exactly what he expected, considering the loss of seventeen to twenty-seven seats acceptable. House Speaker Democrat Thomas O'Neill, however, had a different opinion. "This is a devastating defeat for the president," he said. Most observers also speak of the Republicans' defeat and specifically Reagan's, but do not consider it devastating. In their opinion, the voter merely sent a "warning signal" to the president: he is concerned about the consequences of "Reaganomics," such as unprecedentedly high unemployment, ongoing economic downturn, and cuts to social programs."Keep it up!" defended Ronald Reagan, advocating for his economic program and loyal followers. The voter did not heed the call, rolling over many "Reagan robots" (as ultra-conservatives who entered Congress in 1980 on Reagan's victorious wave are called here). Two years ago, having secured a majority in the Senate, Republicans dreamed of having a majority in the House of Representatives as well, becoming the undisputed majority party, that is, swapping places with the Democrats, who have long dominated Capitol Hill. The dream was associated with the era of conservatism embodied by Reagan. However, things turned out differently. This probably means that the surge of Reagan-type conservatism has waned. Such a conclusion, however, should be made cautiously, with reservations. The Democrats are disorganized; otherwise, the defeat of conservative Republicans would have been more significant. The fact that Republicans spent five to six times more money on voter outreach than Democrats also played a role.Elected positions, to put it mildly, have never been a right or privilege for the poor in America. But never before has there been such open competition among millionaires. Time is money, especially time on television, bought for political advertising. And where to get it? Not a question for some candidates. A certain Lewis Lehrman, an extravagant gentleman who appeared before voters in nothing but wide red suspenders without a jacket, personally contributed eight million dollars, running as a Republican for governor of the state of New York. However, even for this amount, the voter did not buy Lehrman's conservative views.Is it going to continue like this? Meanwhile, Americans are demanding a course correction. This is the main result of the elections. Democratic leaders such as Edward Kennedy, who has been re-elected to the Senate, Senator John Glenn, and former Vice President Walter Mondale, are now talking about the need for "changes in economic policy."The Reagan administration can no longer count on new easy victories for the "conservative revolution" on Capitol Hill. There is already talk of possible clashes on two issues—social security and military spending. The new Congress, it seems, will be less accommodating, insisting on maintaining programs for those in need and reducing the gigantic tribute to the Pentagon. However, administration representatives assert that when it comes to expanding military spending, it will remain faithful to the slogan "Keep it up!"Before the elections, which the Americanist wrote about in the summary newspaper, and after the elections, before they were forgotten— and they were forgotten very quickly— candidates, commentators, all kinds of politicians, and observers (and least of all the voters themselves) probably said and wrote trillions of redundant words. The Americanist read and heard only a tiny part of them, but it turned out to be more than enough to assess the situation. His assessments echoed those of well-known American commentators, mostly of a liberal orientation. Liberals, being critics of Reagan, were more encouraging— and better suited for quotes.In an editorial article, an influential newspaper with a liberal hue expressed its joy: "Liberal— this word has ceased to be derogatory... Now watch the pendulum carefully— it has swung toward the center. Many moderate and conservative Republicans suffered defeat from their more liberal opponents, but it is harder to find those who lost to more conservative opponents. Attacks on liberals have become the pastime of losers."Such opinions were spread immediately after the elections, while the average American and political observers had not forgotten them due to new events.What did this swing of the pendulum, this movement of the voter toward the political center mean from the perspective that interests us not abstractly but practically in American elections— from the perspective of our relations with this state and, accordingly, the prospects for peace and war? Quite simply— nothing. At least, not in the immediate future. It was necessary to take a closer look at the activities of the renewed Congress and the tactics of the Reagan administration, to see how it would decipher the "signals" from the voter and how it would translate them into the language of actions...One detail, unrelated to these reflections and assumptions, especially struck the Americanist with its hidden irony and as a vivid illustration of the fickleness and pragmatism prevailing in American political life. In the South, in the state of Alabama, George Wallace was elected governor for the fourth time. In his time, George Wallace was a notorious symbol of American racism. In 1963, in Birmingham, this Alabama governor set police officers with German Shepherds and firefighters with water cannons on blacks who had achieved the desegregation of cafeterias and restaurants. Incriminating photographs circulated in all American and world newspapers at the time. In 1972, George Wallace attempted to run for the White House as an independent candidate, appealing to the racist views of the American commoner, and at a pre-election rally in Laurel, near Washington, he was seriously wounded by a semi-mad youth who decided to become famous in this purely American scandalous way. Wallace dropped out of the race, was paralyzed waist down, but being a determined person, he retained the will to live and continue his career. And now, already elderly, in a wheelchair, he was again elected governor of the state of Alabama. But the sensation was not in this, but in the fact that he was elected with the help of African American votes. Newspapers wrote that it was George Wallace who embodied the "last great dream" of Martin Luther King— the dream of an electoral coalition of white and black poor people.They were implacable opponents— the great advocate of equality and the living symbol of racial segregation. And here, a dozen and a half years after King's assassination, African Americans gave their votes to Wallace. Truly, everything flows, and everything changes— and the American pragmatist goes from being a racist to a defender and guardian of underprivileged African Americans, if only such a transformation gives him the strength to stay on the surface of success."America is easy to be amazed and outraged— in leisure, cooling down from the excitement of the elections," the Americanist noted in his notebook. "Its pragmatism, its rationality can surpass any fantasy, and here's an example from today's 'New York Times.' The newspaper reports that a new method of basing intercontinental ballistic missiles, MX, is proposed— the so-called 'dense pack' or 'compact packaging.' The 'missile field,' the area where it is planned to deploy the missiles, is given the shape not of a triangular trapezoid, as recommended earlier, but a rectangle eight miles long and one mile wide. According to this plan, the 100 MX missiles in their underground silos will be quite close to each other, like cigarettes in a pack. In the event of a nuclear attack aimed at destroying this 'missile field,' the enemy's missiles will inevitably explode so close to each other that 'missile fratricide' will occur, meaning that the explosions of the first attacking missiles will destroy the missiles that follow them.Quite an expression— 'missile fratricide'?And immediately another piece of news," the Americanist wrote in his notebook, "which shows that Americans are not at all bothered or constrained by a kind of public rejection of traditional notions of good and evil if it helps make money. The automobile magnate John de Lorean, this latest embodiment of the American Dream of money and fame, arrested for drug trafficking and just released on bail of ten million dollars, is being offered to sell the rights to create a film about his life. In case of agreement, millions are promised. It's not about good or evil but about luck or failure. De Lorean became a legendary figure because his story is the story of a fantastic success who realized the dream of millions and— crashed like an American Icarus, flying dangerously close to the American sun— the dollar. Such a melodrama, make it tearful, and crowds will flock to it."The iron lattice gate in the middle of the iron lattice fence, and the iron gates on the sides for entering and exiting vehicles, as well as the front door to the embassy building, were wide open. The building itself shone brighter than all the lights in the early twilight of the deserted street after the end of the workday. Smartly dressed ladies arm in arm with well-dressed gentlemen entered through the open doors into the bright festive lobby, and they had the appearance of guests ready to have a good and enjoyable time. In the lobby, on the left, light coat racks were set up; after handing over their coats and jackets, guests joined the long line starting near the staircase under the red carpet. The queue extended to the second floor, leading to the main embassy reception hall, nicknamed the Golden Hall because of its gilded ornamental decorations. There, welcoming the guests, stood the smiling ambassador, and next to him were the military attachés of the embassy, in the full dress uniform of three branches of the armed forces, adorned with orders and medals on their chests.The security ensign, as always, was in his place, behind the semicircular structure in the lobby. However, on this evening of open doors, he went unnoticed, and security was taken care of by employees stationed at the entrance. They were polite and attentive, but their faces retained the expression typical of people who, as part of their duty, have to work even on holidays. Guests' invitations, sent on behalf of the ambassador, were discreetly checked.It was the most important reception of the year at the embassy, on the occasion of our national holiday— the anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Solemn words embossed in golden English letters were printed on the ambassador's invitations. Most of the attending ladies and gentlemen, living in the capital of another country and another world, did not share the ideas of the communist transformation of the land. They came to the Soviet embassy, having accepted the invitation, not to celebrate the anniversary of the great revolution, which radically changed Russia and gave a powerful impetus to the development of world history, but to congratulate the ambassador and other representatives of the great power on their national holiday, acknowledging its place in the world and the importance of maintaining normal relations with it.Many of the guests were foreigners in Washington, heads or employees of embassies of other countries. Many of the American guests had various business ties with our country, some practical interests. In the arrival of some Americans, there was, as it were, a challenge to their government or some apology to Soviet diplomats for its behavior and unwillingness to understand that in this small world, even being on different continents and political poles, we still live side by side and, therefore, must behave more sociable and prudent. Finally, there were among the guests, although in small numbers, staunch friends of the Soviet Union, American communists, leaders of progressive and anti-war organizations—mostly because these organizations operate in New York and are invited to the November reception by the Soviet mission to the UN.The line ascending the staircase had not yet dissipated, and in the three halls of the second floor, it was already crowded around the tables with snacks and near the bars in the corners, where American bartenders hired for the evening skillfully wielded glasses, bottles, and buckets of ice, along with our assistants, replenishing the supplies of soft drinks and spirits, primarily Russian vodka. Surprisingly, a considerable number of people had gathered. To squeeze through to an old acquaintance, with whom you had last met a few years ago at a similar reception, one had to use the tried-and-true techniques of a passenger in a Moscow trolleybus during rush hour.As usual, there were society reporters and photographers at the reception. At their insistence, the ambassador posed in the Golden Hall, standing next to the largest table in front of the masterpiece of the embassy's chefs— artificial roses made from vegetables. Later, this original still life disappeared into the stomachs of the guests, but even earlier, the famous Russian caviar disappeared. The halls resounded with a unified hum— laughter, conversation, the clinking of forks, and the tinkling of ice cubes in the glasses mixed together. From the crowd of people, military attachés from various countries stood out the most with their national uniforms, medal bars, and light blue plastic stripes on their chests, which the American authorities provided them for identification.As in any such gathering, everyone was united by an interest in high-ranking individuals, somehow famous or at least looking original. There were almost no high-ranking officials among the Americans. On the recommendation of the State Department, they boycotted the Soviet reception. Political weather registrars noted the ambiguous absence of ministers, senators, and presidential aides.There was an elderly, talkative, and cheerful American who seemed to appear out of nowhere, navigating his way in a wheelchair through the remarkably dense crowd with such skill and ease as if there were no unusually packed gathering. The cheerful man in the wheelchair immediately gained admirers and assistants among the embassy women, who marveled at this American trait—his lack of inhibition about his physical disability and the general attention given to his wheelchair.There was another less noticeable original, an American professor resembling a young Gorky and cultivating this resemblance. A resident of New York, he became fascinated with the works of the Russian writer, marveling at how Gorky's bohemians roamed the inhabitants of the New York underworld, and he became a propagandist for Gorky, a reciter.There was a Soviet film actor who had arrived in the United States, usually playing celebrated heroes and statesmen. Embassy staff surrounded him, eager not to miss the opportunity to take a memorable photo with the celebrity. Also passing through was a young Soviet actress, her name pronounced as if everyone knew it, while the Americanist heard it for the first time, concluding that this star rose on the cinema screen when he lived abroad and observed different stars.In the crowd, there was also a former prominent senator, a liberal Democrat. Distinguished by his common sense and broad approach to U.S.-Soviet relations, he stood out from many colleagues and, at one time, held promise as the chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee. However, before the last elections in his state, a conservative ninth wave rolled over him. The liberal, fearing to drown, suddenly led a noisy campaign on Capitol Hill to withdraw the non-existent "Soviet brigade" from Cuba. But this did not save him. The small provincial state, famous for the type of potatoes served with American steaks, exchanged its enlightened liberal for a hawkish conservative. Still youthful, tall, and prominent, with a picturesque hairstyle of beautifully graying hair and an unnaturally straight, corseted posture, the former senator now stood in the crowd at the reception, throwing his head back and extending his hand for a greeting, as if this pose made it easier to endure political nonexistence.In the idle hum and cheerful hustle and bustle, significant work was underway to establish and maintain acquaintances, exchange opinions, verify and cross-verify, and gather political information...When the reception hours specified in the invitations expired, the guests had not yet dispersed, and the crowd slowly dwindled. Having done a great deal of diplomatic reception work, our people, as usual, wanted to remain alone to celebrate their holiday among themselves on a small piece of their territory, where they lived their lives surrounded by the life of others, increasingly expressing hostility. As a hint to the lingering guests, the lights in the hall began to be dimmed—they waited for all outsiders to leave, and the ambassador, among his own, would toast his native land and people...As the Americanist—being one of the last—left the embassy, the iron gate was locked again, and a lone police officer shivered in the brisk wind. Cars parked on the side of the road glinted coldly in the light of street lamps. Sixteenth Street was quiet and empty again. The autumn wind gusts came intermittently.The next day, the main Washington newspaper featured a photo in the society column, showing the smiling Soviet ambassador alongside the smiling French ambassador. The French ambassador's wife stood nearby, also smiling. The reporter wrote about the influx of guests and how high-profile figures responded to the Soviet invitations with regrets, regrets, and more regrets, meaning a refusal to attend. The repeated word was highlighted in the headline."The grand halls adorned with gilded leaves were filled with a crowd indulging with gusto," the reporter wrote. "Two huge tables groaned under the weight of caviar, meat pies, salads, sausages, and intricate Russian appetizers. And, of course, Russian vodka. 'I heard,' whispered one guest to another, making her way to the table, 'that the caviar gets snapped up right away, and they don't bring any more.'""And it was indeed snapped up right away, and no more was brought," concluded the report. Reading it was enough to understand how coldly both the reporter and the editorial staff viewed the Soviet reception.The most important indicator of a correspondent's work is the harvest of information and impressions collected every day. The time of the Americanist in America belonged entirely to the editorial office, and low yields depressed him.He knew that the best way to condense time and make it productive was through movement, travel. You had to pass time through space.Yes, he had become heavy to bear, and he was ready to agree with a thought, unexpected for his time, expressed by a respected writer: travel is not an occupation for a serious person. Serious people wrote mainly about what they knew and saw around them, in their native places. But an internationalist and his profession did not allow him to stay in one place.The American embassy in Moscow demanded his anticipated route, and he included San Francisco, Los Angeles, Charleston, and New York in the questionnaire.With New York, he couldn't avoid even if he wanted to when flying to the United States from Europe.San Francisco, as the Americanist convinced himself, was the sweetest and most charming of American cities. And there was a focal point—Soviet Consulate.Los Angeles was growing rapidly and year by year subtly took away the role of the main gateway to the United States from New York and the new multilingual Babylon, and, along with it, the new Jerusalem—the homeland of new American religions and airs. Moreover, two out of seven presidents of the second half of the 20th century emerged from the vicinity of Los Angeles—Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.Now, what about Charleston? Only the unknown capital of the small state of West Virginia. The Americanist was drawn to familiar places. He had been to Charleston and maintained friendly relations with a local publisher. The publisher was willing to help without expecting reciprocity. And the state of West Virginia became an example of American backwater for the Americanist, with people from the land and underground, miners. There, he wanted to feel the pulse of ordinary life, away from big politics and its sharp but still superficial journalistic reflections.Although, on the other hand, couldn't he just as successfully feel this pulse, for example, within ten blocks of the Soviet embassy, on Fourteenth Street, where clusters of young, unshaven black men with red eyes crowded around smelly cheap bars, casting gloomy glances at passing cars with white people, rejected right there? And at Lafayette Square, on the approaching Thanksgiving Day, hungry and homeless people would stand in line for a free piece of turkey from the kitchens of charitable organizations, muttering words not of gratitude but of curses to society and the person living and working just across the road in the idyllic White House, which looked so unpretentiously simple through the rare lattice of the fence.After all, could he not anatomize Time, Place, and the American Nation by taking just one person and his life or just a few people, which, in fact, is what serious people do, neglecting travel? But our journalist, along with his colleagues, preferred the method of extensive processing. And the road called him.Now, it was no longer the American embassy in Moscow, but the Soviet Department of the State Department that suggested he specify more precisely: where, when, and by what means of transportation? And after the consular section of the Soviet embassy sent the necessary notification to the State Department, they requested additionally: on which flight of which airline? It was a novelty, another strictness.And right after the holidays, a colleague drove the Americanist to Dulles Airport. It was November, but still a southern evening. The sunset glowed evenly in the clear sky. Against its backdrop, the silhouette of the control tower resembled an Olympic torch. The airport's roof resembled a wing and, with a favorable wind, seemed capable of soaring into the sky along with the planes.Among other passengers, the Americanist first boarded a special bus, the body of which would rise or lower to the required height when approaching the airport or the aircraft hatch. The bus dropped them off inside the belly of a wide-bodied airliner of Trans World Airlines, abbreviated as TWA.In the hermetically sealed belly, they ascended on giant wings into the sky, chasing the sun from east to west, extending the fading day. However, during the approximately four-thousand-kilometer journey, they never caught up with the sun; it raced to the Pacific Ocean to herald a new day there, and they were covered by twilight and darkness. Behind the double-pane window, a night devoid of national features stood, indistinguishable from stratospheric night in any other country.Among the new giant aircraft, the DC-10 ranks second in prevalence on American airlines after the Boeing 747. While the French and the British were working on the Concorde, and we were working on the Tu-144, American aviators did not focus on supersonic speed but on greater capacity, winning by creating wide-bodied airships. They took into account essential factors such as fuel efficiency and the psychology of the passenger, who could still do without supersonic speed.The Americanist had flown on the DC-10 before, but he was again struck by the dimensions of this machine. The ceiling was as high as in a pre-war apartment, and each row accommodated nine seats—five in the center and two on each side. After the usual cramped conditions of airplanes, this space seemed excessive, wastefully disappearing. Moreover, there were few passengers, and the Americanist chose a good seat by the window, placing his briefcase on the adjacent empty seat.The cross-country flight lasted five hours, and to pass the time, after dinner in the cabin, they dimmed the lights, unfolded a small screen, and immediately filled it with characters from an empty comedy film.The Americanist ignored the movie and didn't even pay attention to the passengers. He had spent two weeks in the States and had stopped absorbing impressions and classifying Americans as eagerly as he did in the first hours of the Montreal prologue at Dorval Airport. In addition, day and night, from east to west and from west to east, he had previously made such flights over the North American continent, and it seemed that he had already described everything: fast stewardesses in home aprons, passengers, empty comedies that had been spinning in the air over America for twenty years. The theme had been worked out. Unprofessional, purely human curiosity had dulled with years, giving way to focused interest. He now noticed only what was suitable for business, for work. Work had narrowed him, deprived him of the natural acuity of people who didn't write for the newspaper.During the flight, he found himself an occupation related to work. In his briefcase was the latest issue of the Boston monthly "The Atlantic." Typical correspondent's food consists of newspapers and weeklies. There's usually no time for American monthlies, where fiction coexists with political reports and essays. The Atlantic magazine had turned 125, as indicated by the anniversary digits on the bluish-silvery cover. But it wasn't the venerable date that prompted the Americanist to buy the fresh issue at the airport kiosk. He remembered that someone from his Washington acquaintances strongly recommended an interesting article in this particular issue. He opened the magazine and found the recommended article.The article belonged to a certain Thomas Powers and was titled "Choosing a Strategy for the Third World War." The grim businesslike tone of the headline initially led to suspicions of something dry and inedible, scientific and detached from both the mind and the heart. As the Americanist delved into the article, he realized he was mistaken. No, the unfamiliar Thomas Powers did not belong to the insensitive pseudo-Olympians among political professors who enjoy endowing ordinary mortals with their lofty wisdom. Unveiling the horrific realities of our days, which people push away to avoid poisoning their lives, the article drew with the magic of terrible truth, breathed with hidden passion.Certainly, it was not the Slavic passion, openly and excitedly expressing itself, but the Anglo-Saxon, concealed, burning like dry ice. Passion disguised itself as mere journalistic thoroughness—information from first-hand sources, military and civilian generals, nuclear planners, and strategists, descriptions of presidential secret memoranda and directives, a multitude of facts. Literary images and emotional details were rare and sparing, but along with the facts, they worked well towards the author's intent, which was to paint a picture of the inertial course of a blind and monstrous war machine that, as if disobeying human will, had gone beyond the control of its creators and inexorably moved towards the nuclear abyss.Such revelations with nuclear mushroom clouds grew on the anniversary pages of "The Atlantic" magazine—who could have foreseen them one hundred and twenty-five years ago?The chilling reading drew him in, and, pausing from the article, looking around, the Americanist perceived the subdued roar of engines, the flickering on the screen of human figures, houses, trees, cars, and the faces of his fellow passengers in a different, not in the ordinary, but almost in a philosophical, historical sense, as they stretched toward the screen.They happened to be together in a flying metal vessel to cross an entire continent in a few hours in the dark icy sky. Each of these Americans carried within them their own history, beginning with the history of their ancestors, and together these stories formed part of the history of their nation. The movement from east to west, the conquest and exploration of the new continent, took not hours, but centuries. Great efforts conquered it, great courage—and great cruelty, of which people are capable in their pursuit of wealth, satisfaction, and happiness, in the consciousness of their right and superiority, exterminating other people who stood in their way. And now the continent was conquered, and below, under the wings of the plane, each minute of their high-speed movement left behind not only dozens of kilometers of plains and mountains, farms or cities, but also unimaginable, indescribable clusters, layers, and knots of the lives of millions of people in the great, rich, and diverse country. The movement of history continued, and those yeast on which this new, bold, adventurous people rose, those characters who asserted themselves in the pioneer wagons moving westward, were now evident in those who professionally did not rule out a third world—nuclear—war and chose a strategy corresponding to the national psychology for it.In the early post-war years, nuclear weapons were counted only in units and were extremely bulky and inconvenient for transportation. The first American hydrogen bomb, narrated by Thomas Powers, had a diameter of over one and a half meters, a length of seven and a half meters, and weighed twenty-one tons. The bomber needed an enlarged bomb bay, an extended runway, and reinforced engines to take it on board and lift it into the air. The early models of intercontinental ballistic missiles were not characterized by precision; they landed miles away from the target. Therefore, the lack of precision was compensated by the monstrous megatonnage of their single warheads. Now, this is the archaeology of a rapidly advancing nuclear era, primitive awkward attempts at the science of mass destruction. In today's nuclear warheads—with their modern design and the dominance of a peculiar taste—oh yes, taste is inherent in the construction of weapons of mass death. An elegant conical warhead, just above the waist of a person, with a coal-black surface and a rounded polished tip. So small that three or four of them would easily fit, let's say, in the trunk of a station wagon. But each one conceals twenty-three Hiroshimas! The MX missile, the new Pentagon favorite, carries ten such warheads each, and their individual targeting accuracy is such that in the other hemisphere at a distance of approximately ten thousand kilometers, they hit not just a city and not just a street in that city, chosen as a target, but the specific house on the specific side of that street (which, however, does not make it easier—with twenty-three Hiroshimas—for neighboring streets and houses).The United States has tens of thousands of nuclear warheads. Nuclear deterrence, meaning the presence of such an arsenal of nuclear weapons that would deter the enemy and prevent the possibility of war, is still considered the foundation of American strategy in words, noted Thomas Powers, but now it is saturated with practical preparation for nuclear war. American generals, admittedly, spare the pride and vanity of American scientists and political strategists who invent new military doctrines. But in practice, the decisive word belongs not to politicians and doctrines but to generals and, above all, to new systems of nuclear weapons. New and devilishly sophisticated missiles and warheads are invented—cannot help but be invented!—and new and new military doctrines are devised—cannot help but be devised!—for them, increasingly based on the possibility and acceptability of nuclear war. This wheel cannot be uncoupled and stopped, and it rolls toward the nuclear abyss.The subtext of Thomas Powers was one of despair, a cry of the soul. Each of the heroes of his essay, a general and a politician, was reasonable and rational; each in his place was only doing his job—conscientiously, skillfully, and professionally. Together, in the aggregate of their work, they created the end of the world. That's what his soul cried out in despair—and in the subtext. The creators of the apocalypse—this would be a suitable and quite businesslike headline for his investigative article.As an example, he cited the transformation of former President Jimmy Carter. In January 1977, Jimmy Carter moved into the White House with the somewhat naive and, at the same time, sincere intention to stop the alarming course of the war machine, to halt the buildup, and, moreover, to achieve a reduction in nuclear arsenals. At the first meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top five American generals and admirals, the new president told them that, in his view, the United States could make do with just two hundred units of nuclear weapons, which would be sufficient for a retaliatory strike in the event of a nuclear attack by the other side. Thus, he proclaimed himself a supporter of minimal deterrence.After hearing the statement of the new commander-in-chief, the Chiefs of Staff were left speechless. The president's words struck people who served the sword, not the plow. The new approach, among other things, made them unnecessary individuals. To give up thousands and thousands of units of nuclear weapons and settle for just two hundred? To offer such a proposal to the highest military ranks, as Powers sarcastically compared, was like suggesting to the largest bankers to close banks and distribute their fortunes to the poor in the name of the triumph of justice.Can a president be re-educated? In such cases, it can and should be done. And so began the re-education—and self-education—of Jimmy Carter. The habits of the former engineer and his love for details helped. Details tired his predecessor Richard Nixon, even details of nuclear scenarios, where the course and outcome of various nuclear conflict scenarios were presented with maximum precision. Such developments bored President Nixon, and no matter how much they persuaded him, he never stayed until the end at top-secret meetings in the White House, where the Unified Unified Operational Plan was thoroughly examined. This plan outlined the main and auxiliary targets for any strategic payload in the American nuclear arsenal. Jimmy Carter, with his background as a naval engineer-submariner, wanted to know everything. Upon his instructions, special drills were conducted for the emergency evacuation of the president in the event of a nuclear war. He wanted to know everything: how to behave, what would be his duties as the commander-in-chief in this extraordinary situation?Once, his national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, acting as the president, suddenly declared a state of emergency and demanded immediate evacuation from the White House. Panic and complete chaos ensued. Secret service agents caught off guard almost shot at the presidential helicopter landing on the White House lawn, the evacuation team performed poorly, and the whole operation took an unacceptably long time.The president drew all the necessary conclusions from this incident. He diligently rehearsed the role of himself in the event of a nuclear war, studying all the scenarios. Wake him up at any time of the night, and he instantly oriented himself in the situation, maintained complete clarity, reacted appropriately to everything, knew how the voice on the other end of the special phone would sound, and so on.All these characteristics of the meticulous and detail-oriented engineer contributed to a shift in President Carter's defense policy—towards practical planning for nuclear war. Carter initially thought of reducing nuclear arsenals, but things went differently during his tenure. The first report on the state of American strategic forces prepared under him assumed that there were more of them than needed. The report was rejected by Defense Secretary Harold Brown. Instead, a report on the policy of choosing strategic targets appeared, suggesting that the quantity and high accuracy of modern nuclear weapons required the development of plans for their "selective" and "limited" use. As a result, the emphasis was placed on what would practically be needed to conduct a nuclear war, based on its acceptability and feasibility. The third and final report justified the need for new huge expenditures on weapons and communication means required to wage a nuclear war for several months or even years.These were the transformations, as described by Thomas Powers, that occurred with Jimmy Carter. He started with the dream of limiting and reducing nuclear weapons. But by the end of his presidency, after navigating through the missile-nuclear mazes, he emerged as an advocate of "limited" nuclear war and essentially increased the danger of catastrophe.Ronald Reagan came not to reduce but to build up armaments. From the very beginning. And the details that fascinated and corrupted his predecessor were unnecessary and optional for him.Thomas Powers reported that in December 1947, almost the sole atomic target for Americans was Moscow. Eight bombs were intended for it. Within a couple of years, the "Dropshot" plan envisioned the use of three hundred bombs against two hundred targets in a hundred industrial and urban areas of the Soviet Union. An ancient history! In 1974, Pentagon planners outlined twenty-five thousand targets on Soviet territory for nuclear strikes. By 1980, it was forty thousand! "Now everything is included in this list," wrote Powers. And the list "is still growing."Looking into the future, the worst of all possible outcomes, Powers concluded his study: "Strategic planners do not attempt to predict with precision what the world will look like after a nuclear war. There are too many variables. But, based on the task of planning the distant future, they agree that both sides will, to some extent, 'recover' their forces, and that the most likely outcome of a global nuclear war will be preparations for a second global nuclear war. Therefore, if we reason practically, a global nuclear war by no means ends the nuclear threat. And if the pre-war and post-war worlds are similar in any way, it is more likely that this threat of war will persist."The Americanist emerged from the article, closed the commemorative magazine with a silver-blue cover, and put it in the briefcase—useful. The cursed century, poisoning today with nightmares of the future!Passengers were still watching a romantic comedy. The Americanist took out a notebook from his briefcase and wrote: "Didn't watch the movie, read Thomas Powers' article in 'The Atlantic.' Calm and terrifying. One of the key points—new types of weapons dictate a new military strategy. It is precisely precision weapons that make nuclear war conceivable and bring it closer. What's next? Powers doesn't attempt to answer the question, which is beyond his abilities (and whose abilities is it within?). According to American cabinet strategists, preparation for the second nuclear war will begin after the first nuclear war. Military-political technocrats and hawks not only think about the unthinkable, but they also want to flirt with the unthinkable, namely—rationalize nuclear war,—the Americanist wrote.—This is the direction their thinking is heading. The common people's ordinary approach: nuclear war is darkness, a precipice that humanity must finally stop, into which one should not deepen in any way. Here is where salvation is—stop the movement of thought at the fatal juncture, working on inventing increasingly horrific instruments of death. Enough! We've worked enough! Beyond that is the abyss, where future generations will perish or not be born. But this approach of ordinary people, non-professionals, nuclear strategists reject—as naive, dilettante, childish. Their thinking, even here, at the last line, does not stop. No, we must master and inhabit this darkness, learn to see through it without flinching in the face of catastrophe. Darkness will stay with us, the darkness will not hide—in this lies their chilling and inhuman realism.The practical American,—the Americanist continued,—will cease to be a practical American if he does not dissect, does not break down the pitch-black darkness into its component parts. In doing so, he may find that the darkness is even scarier than he thought, but it will be a mastered, inhabited darkness, darkness with landmarks. That's why an American general is preparing for nuclear war, thereby bringing it closer. And ours? What should we do if the American is getting ready?"The plane still headed for San Francisco, and the passengers killed time by looking at the glowing screen above the seat backs. On the screen, Hollywood-transformed images of their homeland flickered below in the darkness, with its ubiquitous cars and smooth roads, neatly trimmed green lawns, picturesque trees in front of cozy houses with white shutters, and smiling women and men.Unbeknownst to the American fellow travelers, there was a Russian sitting by the window, quietly passing the time in a different way.Memory took him back to the recent past, already veiled in the fog of oblivion, and he navigated through the mist, trying to reconstruct the details. No, not a dream. It happened. It was an early, chilly morning. On the water. Around mid-May.For the impending event, the editorial staff spared a special correspondent, and he flew to Washington, where Aeroflot still operated, and where Amerikanist was still a correspondent. The correspondent took the special correspondent to Boston, the site of the event, without incidents, bypassing New York, covering over six hundred kilometers. Only towards the end, near Boston, did they get stopped by a highway patrol officer for speeding. But the officer let them go without a fine and with a blessing when Amerikanist approached him with a repentant look and shrugged, explaining that yes, he was guilty of speeding, but there was a need to hurry, you know... You couldn't win over an American cop with pity, but this one, under Boston, understood. He knew that an event was expected the next day, that there was no excuse for haste, but he showed mercy.They spent the night in an old seamen's hotel for foreign sailors and other budget-conscious travelers. There were phones in the rooms, but they connected in an old-fashioned way, through the operator sitting downstairs at the entrance, behind an antique switchboard. She, essentially, constituted the entire visible staff. She registered and settled the guests, and Amerikanist was afraid that in this run-down hotel, where foreign sailors stayed and foreign correspondents never did, the inexperienced telephone operator might not understand or might mix everything up when a call from Moscow suddenly rang. After all, they came specifically to cover the upcoming event.Early in the morning, dressed a bit warmer, in the same car with the Soviet naval attaché, who had also arrived in Boston, they headed from the hotel to a special dock. Now he couldn't remember where that dock was. Most likely, it was on the territory of the local detachment of the U.S. Coast Guard. There was definitely a Coast Guard cutter with all its identification marks that other vessels had to respect. And in the rare company of American border guards and the Soviet naval attaché, they set off into the harbor and into the ocean, shivering from the fresh wind and cold spray, and nervous about the extraordinary encounter that awaited them....What a pity he didn't record the details right away. There was nothing among his papers about this trip to Boston. Nothing remained except for the brief dancing lines in his reporter's notebook and two tiny notes in the newspaper, under which there were their two signatures....So, on the cutter, they set out into the ocean, and when the skyscrapers of Boston turned into ghostly, misty visions far behind, and the morning ghosts rose ahead, the silhouettes of two warships also appeared. Merging with the leaden ripple of the water, two Soviet destroyers awaited them from the night. This was an extraordinary event: not just another civilian visit (they changed each other endlessly at that time), but a naval visit to the United States. Of course, it was prepared for a long time and not without difficulties. But it happened. According to an interstate agreement, Soviet destroyers came to the port of Boston just on the day when two American military ships visited Leningrad. May 1975. Still a thaw, although in the counterattacks of its enemies, the secret joy of the victors glimmered. In the spirit of the thaw, by agreement reached in more prosperous days and which was now inconvenient to cancel, there was an exchange of naval visits, the first and only ones in the post-war years.And now they climbed the gangway onto the flagship destroyer, and here they were on the command bridge, surrounded by the faces of the Northern Fleet officers, their caps adorned with crabs, their dress uniforms and their questions, their excitement – a long crossing behind them, but ahead – the most important part. And the ships began to move, an American boat went alongside, burying itself in the waves, and the skyscrapers approached and grew, no longer misty ghosts but shining metal and glass in the sun.Our counter-admiral, in command of the crossing, refused the services of harbor tugs, surprising the Americans, and immediately impressed them with his skillful mooring.A ceremony of greeting. Salutes of nations. Admirals' salutes.On the right side of the same pier, hidden behind a cargo hold, stood the giant cruiser "Albany," the flagship of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet. The cruiser specifically came to Boston to meet and, as it were, balance the two Soviet destroyers. When the commander of the Atlantic Fleet approached the flagship destroyer in his black official "Chevrolet," a red carpet covered the ceremonial gangway, the ship's crew's brass band played a welcoming march, and the Soviet admiral reported to the higher-ranking American admiral through an interpreter. Then the two admirals exchanged a manly handshake and, it seemed, even smiled at each other, retreating into the commanding cabin, accompanied by senior officers. At the door, an excited messenger waited, clumsily holding a tray with foggy glasses of cold vodka.Our admiral had a typical, one might say, common Russian face, and it looked disarmingly simple under the wide-brimmed hat of a cap adorned with gold embroidery.The Soviet ambassador arrived from Washington. He accompanied the admiral during his visits to Boston, causing the admiral to feel lost and embarrassed, as the ambassador outranked him. On the first day, they made courtesy visits to the governor of Massachusetts and the mayor of Boston. Reporters, both American and Soviet, followed in their footsteps. The governor graciously expressed satisfaction that Boston was the first American port visited by Soviet military ships. The mayor playfully suggested that the admiral take a stroll through the streets of Boston and talk to the residents to personally verify their friendliness.Press conferences were inevitable, and about fifty reporters crowded into the cramped Spartan cabin of the "Boiky." The news spread across America. In the evening news program on the ABC channel, a well-known commentator exclaimed, "The Russians have come!" During the "Cold War" years, the exclamation "the Russians are coming!" sounded like an alarm, a cry for help. "The Russians have come!" repeated the renowned commentator. And he added, "They've come with joy and noise."...And all of this, gazing into the mist of days gone by, remembered the Americanist. But all this, dear reader, is just a necessary prelude to one episode, or a scene, a picture.Excursions were arranged for our sailors in the city, and for the townspeople, open days on Soviet ships. And the people of Boston, simple and not so simple, curious and friendly, rushed to see what Russians had come and on what they had come, to take photos with them, browse through and take away Soviet brochures and booklets. The crowd rushed in unison, and in this whirl, in the human throng on board the "Boiky," he suddenly saw a very young sailor, dressed in his uniform with a striped sailor's vest and a hat with ribbons, standing with an equally young and simple American girl. How did they find each other? How did they get acquainted without knowing the language? What attracted them? Who can say? But they stood together, close, tight, if not pressed, then at least leaning against each other and holding hands, looking at each other with loving eyes, shy in front of other people, and yet, as if floating above them, as if soaring above their interest, question, curiosity.One or another person carried them towards this pair in the human crush, and he was about to collide with them, and perhaps, like some elementary particle, split them, shatter this new, incomprehensible, suddenly formed atom—and suddenly, looking and understanding, how this person stopped as if rooted, resisted and opposed the pressure of the crowd, did not want to be an elementary particle, splitting the sailor and the girl. The human whirl weakened near the lovers...This scene could not fit into a short newspaper note, but the Americanist, as a precaution, kept it in his memory for a long time. Then it faded away—no longer needed. And now he struggled to extract it from oblivion, from the thickening fog, and imagined, supplemented by imagination, their open, defenseless, pure faces washed by the young attraction and the expression on the faces of people who became witnesses of this sudden and doomed love. Romeo and Juliet in the drama of the relationship between two nations and two states. They were lonely and helpless in the private affair of their love. Their case was not foreseen in the program of military-naval exchanges. Not a person came to a person, but a fleet to a fleet, a state to a state...And he immediately remembered another episode from those May days, which also surfaced like a dream.There, in Boston, he kept his "Oldsmobile" in a paid parking lot not far from the hotel. One morning they came to take the car and go to the port, to the "Boiky" and "Zhguchy." And just then a car rolled into the parking lot, and from it came an elderly but well-preserved gentleman. After parking his car in line with others, greeting the on-duty African American, the gentleman went about his business with the gait of a sporty man. And, watching him go, the attendant, in a somewhat elevated tone, asked, "Do you guys know who this person is?" And, proud that he knows, that this is just the case when it is not a sin for him, a Negro earning pennies in some miserable parking lot, to boast, he said that this is a big man, that this is Colonel Paul Tibbets, the same one who... You know? Heard about Hiroshima? Thunder out of the blue. And the sky was indeed clear, and under it, like everyone else, a man with an ordinary briefcase in his right hand, called a case, walked, an elderly man with a straight and still strong back, a lawyer or a businessman, resembling other prosperous gentlemen of his age. Meanwhile, he carried not in his case, but in his head, the only story in the world. That same Colonel Paul Tibbets, who commanded the special 509th Air Group of the US Air Force and dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945...Paul Tibbets, the embodiment of history, emerged suddenly whole and unharmed in a May Boston morning, just as a man who parked his car in the parking lot and, waving his briefcase, disappeared around the corner in the waterfront area, which was located as if between the past and the future, where there were still dark and gloomy old brick houses in some places, and in other places, they were demolished and turned into wastelands—parking lots, to later build modern buildings of stainless steel and polished, reflecting both the earth and sky, mirror glass. The chief executor of Hiroshima passed by, heading to his office, the Negro explained that he works nearby and always leaves his car here. He passed and disappeared—and was forgotten. He left no trace even in the green notebook of the Americanist, where, in a dancing scrawl, words about the Soviet counter-admiral and the American vice-admiral, the governor of Massachusetts, and the mayor of Boston, and someone else's statement were inscribed: "Sailors are typical tourists." A journalist must catch such moments on the fly. Catch up, stop, extract at least a couple of words. Only one thing can excuse the Americanist—in those years the theme of the nuclear threat seemed to have evaporated. Don't believe it? Flip through newspaper archives.But Hiroshima is one of those events that do not obey time and the law of historical distance. In the seventies, it moved away. In the eighties, it approached. No, this shadow did not disappear around the nearest corner. Stretched monstrously, the shadow of Hiroshima covered the entire globe.In the face of the threat of universal non-existence, the meaning of the past and present loses its significance—history and culture, feats and achievements, love and tenderness, and the endless succession of generations fading into the darkness of centuries. For only then does it all retain meaning when there is a future. And death makes sense if there is life after us. But what, you may ask, is the meaning of this procession through the centuries and millennia, called history, if the final, ultimate point is the self-destruction of humanity?The Americanist again lacked his own words; again, he turned to the help of the most passionate and truthful force of his native language—its great poetry. But the classics lived in another time. They were concerned with eternal questions of life and death, but these were questions of the life and death of an individual, not of humanity. The wise did not deal with what in our days disturbs even fools.However, Tyutchev helped him. They say he wrote these lines at a meeting of the censorship department. He forgot, left the sheet on the table. But someone picked them up, published them a quarter of a century later, after the poet's death."No matter how heavy the final hour, that incomprehensible agony of mortal suffering, but for the soul, it is even more painful to watch as all the best memories in it die away..."Agony of mortal suffering.Not just one person. The entire humanity....The final hour, that incomprehensible agony of mortal suffering...Like many of his colleagues, the Americanist had acquired a new folder in his chaotic dossier and christened it with a word that had become popular—Apocalypse. Apocalyptic revelations expressed in special military-political terms of the nuclear age were now ubiquitous in newspaper pages.In the new folder, there were opinions from politicians and political scientists, diplomats, military personnel, nuclear physicists, doctors, educators, and fellow journalists. And—writers. Writers had long ceased to be the rulers of thoughts, ceding this role to entertainment idols and television celebrities, but true writers continued to sense the world more acutely than others and better express the universal truth of mortal suffering that had gripped humanity. The Americanist would have tried to prove this by extracting a few quotes from his dossier.For example, here is a rather long excerpt from an Italian:"Dear friend, I find myself in Hiroshima, and here is the latest news for you: I am no longer an individual, not an Italian, not a European—I am merely one of the representatives of a biological species, and, moreover, a species that, apparently, faces extinction in the near future.I must say that suddenly discovering that you are primarily a representative of a species is unpleasant. This sensation had been forgotten, erased by millions of years of human history. It's a leap back into prehistoric times, moreover, into some distant geological epoch. And here's another reason why the discovery is quite unpleasant: I found out that I am a representative of the species because this species is facing annihilation. The thing is that when I, as an individual, a writer, an Italian, a European, and so on, used to think about death, I ceased to be an individual and felt like just a representative of the species, and as such, immortal, because the species would never die... But no one could foresee that at a certain moment, not this or that nation, but an entire species could be threatened with complete destruction; that nature itself, seemingly eternal, could be doomed to premature death; that the very existence of humanity could be interrupted by premature, terrible, and absurd destruction.It is always sad to refute wisdom because wisdom is a way of thinking that is beyond time; it is the finite result of all human experience. But when applied to the atomic bomb, wisdom makes no sense, as the atomic bomb is precisely designed to destroy this seemingly immortal species. What immortality are we talking about! It's good if we, the human race, live at least another twenty years, at least until the year 2000!...In the end, there will be no nature, no God, only a scorched and blackened stone destined to forever rotate in the emptiness of cosmic space; a dead and inert stone, similar to the Moon we have now seen firsthand. Yes, a stone on which civilizations, cultures, and nations have succeeded each other for centuries, whose history is about to end in atomic flames. And for reasons that cannot be considered anything but monstrously disproportionate and random.When I realized that nuclear death threatened us, I felt amazement before experiencing horror and fear. How, I said to myself, so much effort over thousands of years—and suddenly, an instantaneous, blinding flash, a monstrous roar, and then there will be nothing!"Or here is one from a West German:"No, it is not the wrath of the gods that threatens us. It is not John the Theologian painting dark pictures predicting universal doom, nor the prophecies of sorcerers serving as our oracle. With objectivity befitting our time, columns of numbers are presented to us, summing up mortality from hunger, statistical data characterizing the rise of poverty, tables compiling ecological catastrophes—madness as the result of calculations, an apocalypse as the outcome of accounting. One can dispute only the digits after the decimal point, but the conclusion is irrefutable: the destruction of man by man has begun...Contrary to reason, predation intensifies, environmental pollution is shamefully justified, and the potential for destruction has long surpassed the threshold of madness, continuing to grow beyond calculation. And the pitiful fear we experience will soon, perhaps, cease to be expressed in words and turn into silent horror, facing the void—facing the impending nothingness where any sounds lose their meaning.... However banal it may sound, life goes on. People want to make new discoveries, invent and improve inventions, write more and more new books. I will write too because I cannot do otherwise, because I am unable to give up creativity, writing. Nevertheless, in the book I want to write now, I won't be able to pretend any longer that I am confident in the reality of the future. I will have to write about saying goodbye to everything that is damaged, saying goodbye to the wounded nature, to our reason, which created everything in the world, and today can turn all that exists into nothing."From a Russian Soviet poet:"I walked among the blue pines, photographing their faces like a victim before being killed, as a murderer photographs his prey.Russian forests stood, their bodies trembling slightly. They stared into my eyes, like a person facing execution.The oaks gazed at the sunset. Neither Michelangelo nor Phidias could create them more beautifully. No one will see them anymore.'Halt, killer of men!' cried those who were alive. In a moment, nuclear explosions will destroy them all.'Halt, executioner of beasts and birds, evolved monkey! You are destroying the genius meaning of nature in vain.'And I couldn't find You amid the absurd space, and I couldn't find myself, couldn't find, no matter how hard I tried.I understood that there will be no more years, no twenty-first century, that time is now nonexistent. It is cut off mid-sentence..."Will there be a future? That was the question. Writers from the Americana's dossier heard the hoofbeats of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. However, in another folder of his dossier, there was an optimistic forecast from a well-known futurist. He had no doubt that the future would come. Americana wasn't comforted by his optimism because the futurist promised a future after a nuclear war. He did not believe that a nuclear war could be avoided. Yet, at the same time, he did not believe that nuclear war would end humanity. He was confident that, as a biological species, we would survive it. Like the military planners in Thomas Powers' article, the futurist did not even rule out a second nuclear war, contemplating the interval between two nuclear wars.Americana remembered this American well. He was not a shadow or a dream. The round, puffy face with a white beard, like that of a ship captain, and the furrowed forehead still vividly stood before his eyes, even though more than two years had passed since their last meeting. Moreover, Americana also came across the futurist's face in the printed pages. People lined up to him, like to a fashionable clairvoyant, always eager to learn about the future. This queue consisted of journalists because, unlike clairvoyants, he predicted not personal but general futures. Finally, Americana's own notes on their last meeting were quite extensive—twenty pages typed.They conducted interviews together with Gennady and, upon returning to Moscow, struggled to translate it into Russian, tormenting both themselves and the tape recorder. Over the years, the futurist developed the bad habit of muttering unintelligibly to himself: let them figure it out if they want. And those who approached the source of his wisdom had to work hard to decipher it. But it was worth the effort. Rare was the human specimen with extraordinary intelligence, exploring possibilities of the future with daring fearlessness and nonchalance.Taking that last interview, Americana pondered in various ways whether it could be adapted for the newspaper. He even came up with a catchy headline—A Conversation with the Humanist. But these musings remained just that. Too much had to be cut to fit the Humanist into the newspaper Procrustean bed. And to preserve the flavor of his words and evaluations, one had to be generous with space, quoting liberally to better convey the impression of a great mind and eerie candor. Take, for example, this excerpt from their conversation:"...And secondly, strategic nuclear war is very cheap. It doesn't require huge amounts of money...— So, means of mutual mass destruction are cheap? And are getting cheaper and cheaper?That's the problem, that's the temptation.— So, a cheap path to the other world, from here to eternity...— No, that's simply not true that there are possibilities for mass suicide, for the wholesale destruction of humanity.— Do you believe that humanity can survive a nuclear war?— Yes, unless there are some unforeseen consequences of using nuclear weapons. If you take the usual estimates, then, without a doubt, we can survive such a war. Without a doubt...— But even if someone survives, how can humanity mentally endure, having gone through this act of madness, lunacy?— Because it survived before. Take the history of Jamestown and Plymouth Rock, the first two English colonies in North America. Both lost half their population in the first year—due to diseases and famine. But they survived and continued to grow, and look at the country we have now. And such cases happened more than once in the history of humanity.— But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about how human beings can withstand so much self-inflicted evil.— My answer is that they can. And they have proven it more than once. They adapt. It's just that the current young generation has not experienced anything like this. It has been sheltered from everything. It didn't know the Second World War...— Did Americans know that war at all?...— I've already said that Americans are spoiled by being rich and powerful, and therefore, even when they do foolish things, they are used to not paying for them. But keep in mind that, in general, these are religious people who will endure everything... Yes, we are very spoiled. But, you know, we have such a saying: the tree of freedom must be watered with the blood of each new generation. So, we are spoiled because we have stopped believing in it. We got used to living without suffering. But how many generations were there that saw the history of humanity in a completely different way? Cities were besieged and destroyed, barbarians attacked from land and sea. And civilization survived. And all this was normal. Do you really think that from now on everything has changed, that the tragedies and dramas of history are over, and people should just live better and better? I'm sorry, but this is a crazy idea..."Scrolling through this excerpt from the tape recording, Americana heard the lively and somewhat embarrassed voice of his friend, who defended himself with irony— "a cheap path to the other world, from here to eternity," his own protests: how can humanity survive under these mountains of self-inflicted evil? Irony and protests bounced off the portly man like peas off a wall. He turned the concept of optimism upside down because his optimism was monstrous. It was staggering: everyone survived and will survive, even a thermonuclear war.And proof? The fate of the first two English colonies on American soil. Two or three hundred people from the 16th century, the cold, hunger, attacks, and even disease— and the instantaneous destruction of centuries-old centers of civilization, the death of hundreds of millions of people. How can one balance these things? Or is he hopelessly "spoiled," like his compatriots, having stayed across the ocean in the last world war? They don't know the price of an ounce of ordinary trouble; they can't imagine the trouble of a nuclear kind. A match will ignite, and their praised tree of freedom will burn, and it will no longer need any sacrifices.Arguments emerged after the fact, and Americana realized that he had not come to terms with this man.The portly professor with a gray skipper's beard was called Herman Kahn. For many, this name will ring a bell or at least evoke something. He was the founder and director of the Hudson Institute, a brain center of the conservative persuasion, a so-called strategic thinker, a prolific author of sensational apocalyptic and futurological books, a consultant to the White House, the Pentagon, several other governments, and numerous American and foreign corporations. A new type of philosopher-practitioner, he, along with his students and colleagues, actively offered intellectual goods in various practical fields on the capitalist market of demand.The phrase of the century belongs to Herman Kahn—thinking about the unthinkable—giving the title to one of his books and defining his main calling, the passion of his life. To an ordinary mortal, only one conceivable option seems to exist in the event of a nuclear catastrophe, one course of action long recommended by enthusiasts of black humor: wrapped in a white shroud, without panic, without hindering others, crawl towards the cemetery in the final act of self-service. And Herman Kahn, thinking about the unthinkable, easily sent humanity into an unthinkable war—and granted life and prosperity to the survivors, provided there were no unforeseen consequences, consequences he had not yet worked out…A "crazy idea" for him was a world without wars, and doesn't this one statement alone mean that Herman Kahn boldly swapped reason and madness? But arguing with him was difficult. It was necessary to appeal more to conscience, to common sense, to experience. For the bloody experience of world history was on the side of the futurist. What will prevail—experience or dream? Because on the side of those who, like Americana, rejected these thoughts about the unthinkable, there was only a great and indestructible dream of an ideal arrangement of human society and interstate relations. The dream was reinforced by the immense power of his country and its socialist allies, who set themselves the historical goal of a world where wars would disappear, and social justice would reign. But for the socialist community, as another, opposite charge, the capitalist world opposed, and the charges, if taken in terms of military, not political expression, were nuclear, and their touch threatened an apocalyptic flash. The dream of the ideal existed—on a practical level—as a dream of stable peaceful coexistence of two systems. Herman Kahn excluded it not only because of political and ideological differences but even due to the biological nature of man. For humanity to realize its great dream of a war-free world, it would have to change its historical and biological nature, the nature of its mind, consciousness, its inexhaustible genius in inventing instruments of enmity and death. Herman Kahn did not entertain such a possibility.Their last meeting occurred when Americana arrived in New York during the hot summer of the pre-election battles between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. He contacted the Hudson Institute, finding the phone number in an old notebook. Herman Kahn agreed to meet, and the next day, his secretary sent detailed instructions by mail on how to get to the small town of Croton-on-Hudson, miles north of New York.August in New York resembled a giant sauna, unfortunately devoid of purely bathhouse pleasures. The trip, among other things, enticed with the prospect of moving from the urban hell to the countryside. And so, with Gennady, an old friend since their institute days, who had risen to a high position in our information and propaganda service, they set off along the Hudson, glistening in the sun. After half an hour, passing through the Bronx and Riverdale, they immersed themselves in the curly-green goodness of provincial America, seemingly unaware of its stifling, sweaty, rumbling neighbor.In an hour, they reached their destination. Along lush, sun-shaded alleys of winding streets and alleys, they climbed a hill, where on level emerald lawns, amid old gnarled trees, stood stone buildings in the "Tudor" style. In the early 20th century, there was a sanatorium for alcoholics from wealthy families, and at its end, certified enthusiasts predicting the future century settled here.Concrete slabs of the footpath, leading from the car park to the two-story, sharp-roofed house, disappeared into the grass. Nature froze in sweet midday languor. And the friends, weary of New York summer, sighed in unison, and Gennady said, "It's here that they hatch their cannibalistic schemes..."The Hudson Institute—a classified institution providing secret and top-secret services to the government and the private sector—retained a homely comfort in the old building. In the reception area, a cozy housekeeper offered them armchairs near the grandfather clock, and through an internal phone, informed someone that two Russian reporters had arrived. A few minutes later, a large, pleasant-looking young woman in a red blouse and sand-colored skirt came out to them. Her name was Maureen. They climbed to the second floor via a creaky wooden staircase and, through the sunlit gallery, entered the director's book-lined office.Herman Kahn rose from behind the desk in a simple shirt with an open collar, as thick as twelve years ago when Americana met him in New York. The face had aged and softened, and behind the thick glasses, small sharp eyes seemed to peer from a distance.Without wasting time, he invited the guests to ask any questions that interested them. He was as candid as ever, both in judgments and sincerity, which endeared him, making it easier to perceive his revelations.The first question the friends asked was of a general nature—what he thought about Americans and America in the current world. Herman Kahn began not with the details of the already past 1980 election struggle, which occupied newspapers and TV screens in those days but with general reflections on the well-being and moods of the nation."For the past fifteen years in the United States, there has been a movement towards traditional values," he began. "You know, every year the Gallup Institute asks Americans: who do you admire the most? And publishes a list of the top ten people who received the most votes. The first on the list is always the President of the United States. Even if he does a lousy job, they still admire him—it's the president. But second or third, for about a decade now, they've been naming the preacher-evangelist Billy Graham. And no one used to hold second place two years in a row. What's going on? It's a revival of religion, faith in the Bible. Did you think they were turning away from the church? No, they are returning to it. And to the real church that believes in the Bible, not the liberal church preaching welfare programs. Many of these Americans don't vote in elections, but from the government's point of view, they are very good people: they pay taxes when needed, serve in the army, and take their country seriously. The Americans you, Soviets, meet here are usually atheists. But don't forget that this is a minority, that the United States is perhaps the most religious country in the world. If you don't understand this, you won't understand much about the current United States. We are returning to traditional values."The number of adherents to fundamentalist traditional religions, to which I include myself, even though I don't attend church, has increased by about a quarter, Herman Kap developed his thought, bridging the gap from religion to politics, from religious conservatism to political conservatism. "The role and influence of the so-called new conservatives, to which I also belong, are growing. Serious people listen to us, and now we are winning in all debates. Don't confuse new conservatives with the right. The latter are dogmatists, while new conservatives, for the most part, emerged from the left, although personally, I have never belonged to the left. About a third of neoconservatives are Jews, and in this group, they are probably the most active. New conservatives are the fastest-growing group of intellectuals in the United States, and they set the tone in all discussions—on defense, economy, politics, and so on. Can they come out on top? Yes, of course, if they find a president who can lead and strengthen this movement. Essentially, such attempts have been made since the sixties. At first, they saw their president in Nixon. However, in his first term, it was hard to distinguish him from Kennedy. They even called him John Fitzgerald Nixon. In his second term, Nixon could probably have lived up to the conservatives' hopes, but then the Watergate scandal happened. Nixon resigned. Ford came, and from a conservative point of view, he also seemed like a suitable person. But one day Ford happened to say that there was nothing wrong with smoking marijuana, and his wife publicly justified extramarital relations. There you have the classic American couple! Of course, there was nothing special in their words, but to hear such things from the president and his wife—dismissed! Carter emphasized his deep religiosity, and besides, he is a businessman, farmer, engineer, and a naval officer. What else? The most suitable, plain president from the point of view of the average American! But Carter's presidency showed that he also does not meet this dream of a truly American president. And here comes Reagan—our last hope. I'm for Reagan. I don't trust Carter. I don't trust Reagan either, but less than Carter..."Kap chuckled.The year came when the neoconservatives placed their bet on Reagan against Carter—and won. However, let's not interrupt Herman Kap. Let him elaborate further. Let's continue his reflections on Americans, their upbringing, and the peculiarities of their patriotism. Despite their sketchiness, they are useful for understanding the ongoing processes in America and, in any case, suggest the idea that to understand America, one must use an American yardstick. Let's listen to Kap in a literal tape recording:"Our biggest problem is that we are an incredibly rich country with colossal technological development. We make mistakes and don't pay for them. Western Europe pays for its mistakes, but we don't. Paradoxically, it would be better for us if we paid for our mistakes. We are too rich and too strong. And we fear nothing. It's just terrible...He chuckled abruptly, expressing both outrage and admiration for the fact that his country does not pay for anything."Take our education system. What do we teach children in our liberal schools? That business robs natural resources, pollutes the environment, causes people to get lung cancer, profits from the exploitation of natural wealth—in short, that the whole system is corrupt. For such a school, we should probably pay. It seems that after graduating from it, these people would say: why bother with this stupid system? But that doesn't happen. They calmly go into business and work conscientiously there; they serve well in the army and, in general, have a patriotic mindset. How long can we avoid paying for all this? Ten years? Twenty? Perhaps. Just not fifty.Our social system is fundamentally harsh, and our people are tough, growing up that way from childhood in their families. I have lectured at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia University. I also conducted seminars for graduate students, with sixty people in each. And sometimes I would ask them: 'How many of you have at least three rifles or pistols in your families?' How many do you think answered positively? Twenty people, a third of them. I then asked: 'Who among you received a small-caliber rifle as a gift from your parents at the age of twelve?' It turned out all twenty did. By the age of fourteen, almost all of them had hunting rifles. And if a child has a rifle, from which, by the way, one can kill a person, he is no longer a child. In our small settlements, teenagers learn how to handle weapons for two years. During this time, they will also learn to build a fire, set up a tent, and generally survive in the wilderness. It matures a young man. If I had to choose, I would prefer a person who grew up with a weapon. He is more reliable and disciplined.But we forgot about the remaining forty students. I asked them: 'Remember, have you ever had to wait for more than a year for the fulfillment of any reasonable desire of yours?' If you demand a bicycle at six, it's unreasonable. If you want to go to Paris at twenty-two, it's reasonable; at eighteen, it's not. If you ask for a car at eighteen or nineteen, it's reasonable; at thirteen, it's not." And imagine, my students couldn't remember what they would be willing to wait for more than a year. Twice a year—on Christmas and Thanksgiving—in the United States, there is a real gift frenzy. Children are spoiled. They don't grasp the most important lesson in life—that life itself is not gracious, not generous. But somehow it doesn't ruin the children. They grow up generally fine. By the way, wealthy people raise their children differently. If everyone could get to the DuPonts' or Rockefellers' birthday parties—as I managed to—you would see that there are not many children's toys there, and they are all durable toys. The rich are very afraid of spoiling their children..."The idea expressed by Kap, that Americans are not accustomed to paying for anything, seemed significant, central even (not individual Americans, of course, not groups of the underprivileged, but the nation with imperial aspirations). It explained much in the behavior of the United States on the world stage, the more risk-taking attitude of the ruling class towards the possibility of war, even with the icy detachment with which Herman Kai contemplated nuclear war and life after it. Yes, they are not accustomed to paying. Yes, the rooster did not crow for them. Spoiled children of history. And war has always been the most convincing proof: others in Europe, in Asia, paid, and they mostly won. In the Second World War, they suffered human casualties fifty times less than we did. Fifty times! Meanwhile, sorrow, suffering, and losses multiply the national experience in a geometric progression, ingrained in national memory. On the contrary, the Second World War in America ended the economic depression, provided a rare period of full employment, and brought a pristine America onto the post-war stage with dreams of the "American century," with claims of being the world's master, asserting its rights among European and Asian ruins. Of the living generations of Americans, only one fully experienced misfortune and hardship—those who survived the severe economic crisis of the late twenties and early thirties.In assessing the prospects of American-Soviet relations, Herman Kahn showed sobriety and foresight, and his cautious forecasts, unfortunately, came true. Even in 1980, he foresaw new rounds of the arms race ahead, advocated for them, and believed that Ronald Reagan was the best figure to preside in Washington under such circumstances."When Carter increases military spending, he does it for cosmetic reasons, yielding to political pressure," Kahn remarked. "And Reagan believes in superiority. And our country can achieve what it truly wants. If I were Reagan, I would do two things—and I hope he will. First, I wouldn't be as conciliatory towards the Soviet Union as Carter. Somewhere, we have to draw the line. Secondly, Reagan should tell you: we are going to increase our armed forces very rapidly, but it is not a threat to you.""Whether you like it or not, American armed forces will be greatly increased," Kahn prophesied. "We no longer want to worry. From 1948 to 1970, we had a tremendous advantage. In 1965, for example, it was fantastic: we could destroy your ground nuclear forces without even destroying your cities. Now we want a little superiority. And we are going to impose it on you. We have the money, we have the technology. It may take five to ten years regardless of what you do in the Soviet Union," he threatened. Reagan wants to achieve this—either because he is very clever or because he is foolish. I don't know. Ultimately, I'm not so worried about it. It's much more dangerous to disengage. Run so run. That's what we're trying to achieve..."The famous futurist Herman Kahn died in 1983 at the age of sixty-one, as an ordinary mortal, from heart disease. In the end, he even seemed to have softened in his predictions, no longer frightening with the inevitability of nuclear war. His last book, published during his lifetime, was called "The Coming Boom." He promised prosperity for "industrial democracies" until the end of our century, economic growth, and a slowdown in population growth.Speaking about himself to a journalist, he said: "I will die in 2001, no earlier. I must know how my predictions came true, and I will be very displeased if I leave before the deadline.But sometimes it's harder to predict one's fate than the fate of the world. Perhaps it was obesity that betrayed Herman Kahn, or perhaps too lavish spending of intellectual energy, which he did not spare while fulfilling his contracts with governments and corporations.A fragment of this energy survived on the cassette tape in the Americana's archive. The last words in the recording were:"I am not advocating for war. I am just saying that we don't trust each other, that we cannot rely on the rationality of your judgments and assessments. Let me give you an example. Three years ago, I led a group of strategic consultants, consisting of twenty people, sixteen of whom held very conservative views, like Pipes, Litvak, and so on. I presented to them a scenario: by the end of the 1980s, the Soviet Union will have the capability to strike the United States and annihilate approximately one hundred million Americans. We will retaliate, but with our surviving strategic forces, we will only destroy five million of them. As a result, the Soviet Union will be able to rebuild its cities quite quickly, while Americans will have to relocate to Western Europe, Japan, Brazil. After describing this hypothetical situation, I privately, one by one, polled the meeting participants. I asked them the same question: who among you thinks that Soviet leaders, knowing that such a favorable opportunity will disappear by the end of the 1980s, will decide to use it to launch such a strike? Not a single participant entertained the idea that the Soviet Union might seize such an opportunity. These were people with very conservative views. None of them assumed that the Soviet Union would engage in such a conflict, even if the odds were ten to one in its favor. Not a single one! I revealed the outcome of this closed survey in an open plenary session, and they were embarrassed. I asked, 'Perhaps now you would like to change your opinion?' Only one person took up this offer, and he was a nuclear physicist, not an expert in Russian affairs. Then I asked those present a second question: 'How many of you, in that case, think we can rely on the rationality of the Soviet leadership?' Absolutely not, under no circumstances, it's madness, madness! — that was the unanimous response. And in that, our attitude toward you was expressed. Yet, in my view, your government is more reasonable, more cautious than ours. But I trust neither my government nor yours. He laughed for the last time with his husky, rapid laugh and suddenly concluded with unexpected pathos: We live in a very tough world. Imagine, I can't sleep at night. As a person who only studies all these problems and gives advice, I am not responsible for the decisions made. And yet, I can't sleep.''And how does the president, who makes decisions, sleep?' they asked him. 'They say he sleeps well...'"The pleasant secretary, Ms. Morin, radiating health and contentment like a happy woman, escorted them back from the boss's office to the exit of the institute. They stepped out into August, which warmly embraced everything and everyone—the grass, the trees, the old house built for godly alcoholics, and themselves as they walked toward their car, and their car, heated by the sun. Seating themselves on the heated seats, they immediately turned on the air conditioner and headed towards the steaming New York, engaging in a conversation with a person whose cruel thoughts couldn't find a way into the world of goodness, truth, beauty, into the flourishing heat of August with its hymns of life.Carter slept well. And Reagan doesn't complain of insomnia. However, it turns out that Herman Kahn suffered at night, shortening his life with thoughts of the unthinkable.From the notebook of the Americanist:"San Francisco. Hyatt Regency Hotel.Last night, Slava Ch. met me at the airport. He is now a correspondent for TASS in San Francisco, and for the second time this year, I find myself here, enjoying the hospitality of Slava and Valya, his wife. Slava is from our Americanist circle, but younger. We met about ten years ago in Washington. Now, people of our age, having completed their American wanderings, live in Moscow, but he still wanders and has moved here to the Pacific coast. For me, on a business trip, acquaintances from past years are like saving anchors.As we drove into the city from the airport, I scanned for familiar signs, and suddenly, among the green road signs, there it was—the exit to Cow Palace. It instantly came to mind. In the summer of sixty-four, Cow Palace (formerly an agricultural fairground) hosted the national convention of the Republican Party, which nominated Barry Goldwater, an Arizona senator, as their presidential candidate. Conservatives were already eager for power within the Republican Party and the White House. They took control of the Republican Party, but the November test turned out to be unsuccessful for them. Reagan, then just an actor, made his political debut at the San Francisco convention. His speech to the Goldwater supporters was well-received. Now, this speech is considered a turning point in Ronald Reagan's life and the starting point of his political career. Wealthy ultraconservatives calculated that the actor had the talent to attract voters and made a long-term bet on him. From Cow Palace, Reagan's path first led to Sacramento, the residence of the Governor of California, and then to the White House. Now there are no Goldwater supporters; there are Reaganites.I didn't show foresight; I didn't notice Reagan or his speech at the time, even though I covered the convention at Cow Palace. One excuse—I considered him just an entertainer, a "fiery orator" brought in for entertainment.I'm staying at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where many curious onlookers still peer in from the street. The hotel is a new extravagant concept in hotel construction, and the term was coined here in San Francisco. (Or was it in Atlanta?) The idea caught on. By the way, our International Trade Center in Moscow is a scaled-down and more modest example of the same style. The hotel's main hall is truly breathtaking and makes you tilt your head—there's no conventional ceiling; the multilevel hall, surrounded by open galleries, extends to the roof. The space below is tastefully organized with cafeterias, restaurants, and various shops. The elevators are exposed and, with stylish glass panels, rise and fall along the plane of the wall.The room costs $120 per day. Not in my budget, but thanks to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, of which I am a guest member, it comes down to $50, almost fitting into the budget.Still, it doesn't feel right. This bold architectural design, this excessive comfort appears— and is—unnecessary, an unaffordable luxury in our eyes. The theme of "not in our plate" accompanies us everywhere in America and, I think, awaits its artistic embodiment by a new Zoshchenko or Ilf and Petrov.The room in this hotel is like a peek into another world where you wouldn't want to live anyway. Hence the impression of formality and unnaturalness. Why do I need this spacious bed where you can lie down in any direction, the finest bed linen, a bedside table that doubles as a real remote control, requiring no less than a technical education to operate—adjusting the night lamp, an electronic alarm clock, multichannel radio, and remote control for the TV, and something else, you can't even guess. And in the bathroom, there's a fancy, exotic, transparent soap, like honeycomb, and a set of cleverly packaged shampoos in tiny pink bottles, a dozen fluffy large and small towels, a sunken-in bathtub, and a massive, state-of-the-art showerhead with unfamiliar adjustments that can scald you with boiling water or drench you with icy water if you're not careful. And to top it all off, instead of a regular key, you get a flat rectangle made of polished cardboard. It has perforations—like punch cards. You insert it into the narrow slot of the door, where the electronic miracle lock is hidden...A balcony of the room is separated from the adjacent one by a solid concrete partition. On the balcony are three lightweight chairs; with some imagination, you can already feel like you're in a country house. But for this, you need to close your eyes. Because to the right, tiers of the Aztec pyramid descend from the hotel's gray floors. And opposite, about two hundred meters away, a wide and tall building stares at the hotel with all its illuminated windows. It has thirty-eight floors. Whose? Which corporation? Even here, in San Francisco, not in New York, such questions are no longer asked when the building has only thirty-eight floors. The hotel is located in the business district of San Francisco, and there are countless other mini-skyscrapers around. They are impressive, beautiful, you can't say anything against them. Not just matchboxes stacked one on top of the other. But even they kill each other with close proximity. Where are you, the former charming, low-rise San Francisco?"In the morning, I met with Larry Thomas, the press secretary of the giant construction corporation Bechtel, in one of the buildings on Wall Street.Bechtel currently has more enthusiastic and envious heads than the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The corporation gained fame through two individuals who emerged from its ranks—Secretary of State George Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. The former held the position of president at Bechtel, while the latter served as the chief legal counsel.Larry Thomas assures that neither Bechtel Sr. nor Bechtel Jr., the owners of the corporation, lifted a finger to secure the Reagan administration with two key ministers. After all, as he reminded, Bechtel recruited them from Washington, where both had previously held positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations. Shultz, for example, caught Bechtel Sr.'s eye during Nixon's time when he was the Secretary of Labor. By 1974, the corporation had a substantial amount of cash, and it was actively looking for investment opportunities. There were also disagreements with union members. It was then that Bechtel Sr. came up with the fortunate idea of offering Shultz, who had just left Nixon's cabinet, the position of the corporation's president. Shultz moved to California but maintained all his Washington connections, not to mention the wealth of experience as a former Secretary of Labor, Secretary of the Treasury, and Director of the Office of Management and Budget.Larry, however, didn't refer to him as "Shultz." Among themselves, it's customary to use the familiar, familial terms. Shultz is simply George. Bechtel Sr. is just Steve. Caspar Weinberger is even shorter—Cap.Cap also came to Bechtel from the government—and went back to the government.The departure of George and Cap, Larry said, was a loss for the corporation.— After all, every major corporation has pre-prepared plans for emergencies—such as the death of one of its leaders. The departure was quite sudden.George and Cap are unlikely to return to Bechtel after Washington.— Both of them have earned a lot during their years at Bechtel.The corporation is known for its colossal construction projects in Arab countries, particularly billion-dollar contracts with Saudi Arabia, where it is building an entire new city. It does not engage in business operations with Israel to avoid jeopardizing its Arab business, as Arab countries boycott Western corporations operating in Israel. Despite political pressure from the pro-Israel lobby in the USA due to its extensive business in the Middle East, the corporation, according to Larry Thomas, considers both Israel and Saudi Arabia as friends.After the meeting at Bechtel, Slava picked me up at the hotel, and we drove around the city and towards the ocean. Familiar street names flashed by, where I had been once and which, alas, I only remembered by their names. We swung up and down on the swings of the famous San Francisco hills, and at each summit, before I could fully enjoy the beautiful wide view, the car, plunging down, would roll downhill. A curtain of rain hung over the ocean, and gray waves ran to the shore with viscous rubbery lashes. We passed through Golden Gate Park with its perpetual greenery, along Haight Street and Ashbury Street, which looked like abandoned sets on an empty stage—on this stage, in the late sixties, crowds of hippies and rebellious students were in turmoil. The "youth revolution" has passed and vanished. In the eternal ebb and flow of this country, which encourages and perplexes us foreigners, in its changing fashions and breezes, these adjacent streets are now infamous—known as the haunts of homosexuals. Who hasn't taken a liking to San Francisco? In broad daylight, sweet men and boys in tight jeans and short jackets strolled along the sidewalks.On Gary Street, you can't miss the yellow, dotted onion domes of the famous cathedral. They awkwardly rise above American houses on an American street, cluttered with American cars. The ranks of immigrants from the Soviet Union have grown in recent years, and they say that Gary Street is already called Garybasovskaya.Well, how can you not look at the famous Golden Gate Bridge? We are not allowed on the bridge itself—on the other side of the strait is off-limits to Soviets. Just admire it from the shore. This powerful creation of human hands rises above the watery expanse with bright red steel trusses. The bridge still attracts the unfortunate ones who decided to end their lives; recently, they recorded another round number—seven hundredth suicide...On the same day, there was a meeting at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. I was elevated to the status of a guest of the chamber by its executive director, Harry O. He also conducted the meeting between the Soviet guest and San Francisco businessmen. The Chamber of Commerce is located in one of the buildings on California Street, the main thoroughfare of the city's financial district. Dignified individuals attended, sitting in massive leather chairs and engaging in, from an outsider's perspective, substantial conversation. Each of them is well-known in the city, each involved in significant business. However, an old truth became apparent immediately: they know very little about us, about our country. Much less than we know about them. One participant in the discussion, the president of a major insurance company, a tall, gray-haired man with a dry and strong face, disarmingly admitted his ignorance. "We don't know, and therefore we are afraid," was the essence of his brief speech. So find out then! The trouble, however, is that even if they do find out, it will mostly be from those who only want to increase fears and concerns.One of the attendees was something of an international relations professional, a professor leading the local council on international relations. He was dismayed by what he called the lack of a "creative approach" in U.S.-Soviet arms control negotiations. There was a former mayor of San Francisco, who had met with many prominent international figures. But even he did not display erudition and somewhat naively and randomly suggested that the main obstacle in negotiations is the issue of verification and inspection: he asked why one couldn't use cameras when flying over Soviet territory, as if he himself wanted to become an inspector and verifier. The smartest questions came from a businessman with a Serbian surname—the president of the Chamber of Commerce of San Jose, located south of San Francisco, a rapidly developing center of the electronics industry.On my part, I asked the opinion of those present on a specific issue: do the current leaders in Washington hope, by unleashing an unprecedented arms race, to economically exhaust the Soviet Union, so to speak, force it to burst at the seams? The president of the Chamber of Commerce answered something like this: if anyone in Washington has such intentions, they will not be able to realize them because the American people are impatient and will not support a policy of record military expenditures for a long time...Harry was pleased with the meeting.Americans, too, like to put checkmarks, and now he can add one more—an symposium on U.S.-Soviet relations with the participation of prominent representatives of the business community in San Francisco and a specially invited Soviet Americanist.Unfortunately, other meetings that Harry promised to arrange did not take place. In the Bank of America and Crocker Bank, they were canceled at the last minute. "Damn it," Harry exclaimed, "this is not how things are done in this country." And the current American businessmen did not resemble the previous ones. The consulate also says that in the current climate, Americans are not interested in establishing and maintaining contacts with Soviet people. After each meeting with the Soviets, they are visited and interrogated by FBI agents. Hence the typical reaction: "Why bother with this hassle."Yes, Harry was an indispensable assistant and guide in places where others could not help or conduct their own, busy people. After all, no one in the consulate is obliged to help a newspaper correspondent unless he is a relative, a brother, or a visiting chief. And Harry helped the Americanist draw from the realm that was foreign, beyond reach. He himself was a part of that realm but a part of a special one.He was about sixty years old, of average height, and walked confidently and upright. His wide, pale face maintained a stern expression as he discussed business matters, characteristically shaking his long gray hair. Sometimes, especially in conversations with Soviet people, a sentimental and somewhat guilty expression would appear on Harry's face. Immediately, it would change to a firm and confident look as he shook his straight gray hair, which remained only on the back of his head, saying, "I will do it, I will help...""I want our people to live like human beings," Harry said this amusing phrase in Russian, sitting across from the Americanist at the desk of the executive director of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.When Harry spoke about "our people," he meant specifically "our people," not the American people. However, the Americanist never heard Harry say "your people" when talking to Americans. This strange duality spoke of an unusual fate. At one time, he was a Soviet citizen, and by the circumstances, he became an American citizen. Yet, he did not want to sever ties with his homeland; on the contrary, he strengthened them with all his might. The turn in his life that made him an American seemed to redeem and justify, in the eyes of Soviet people, the role he willingly took on—a role of a living and tiny bridge between two nations, woven into one human destiny.In his childhood, he was known as Garrik, an Armenian boy in Baku. He later fought in the war, was captured by the Germans, and eventually found himself in the American occupation zone, then in America itself. The times were heroic and harsh, and he reasoned that his homeland, now that he was a former prisoner of war, was unlikely to welcome him with flowers and hugs. Nearly forty years had passed since Garrik's transformation into a U.S. citizen. It turned out that two-thirds of his life had been spent across the ocean, yet his roots remained in his native land—with his mother, an old Bolshevik whom he occasionally invited to stay with him and who always longed for home while in San Francisco, and with his brother, a People's Artist and the leader of a popular ensemble. His childhood and youth, which increasingly visited him in the twilight of his days.In America, Garrik made his way and succeeded. He started from scratch, sweeping the streets without a single American penny. Armenian brothers helped him; life in exile taught them unity and mutual assistance from generation to generation. They also brought with them their own abilities, perseverance, and resilience. In the end, he became a salesman in a jewelry store and, like many of his compatriots, ventured into the business sector—leading to his current position in the city's chamber of commerce, where he lived his second, American life.Who would doubt that Garrik possessed a business and commercial vein? Starting from nothing, he went through fire and water before reaching the point of recognition in a foreign city. If, in addition to being a businessman, he also possessed literary talent, his stories about how he carved his path in San Francisco, about the internal workings of American life, about the hidden aspects that outsiders like us do not see, would perhaps be priceless. But he was not a literary figure; he was an entrepreneur among entrepreneurs, with a special grip and skill, knowing how to deal with different people and when and where to, for example, buy a house—and sell it to a large construction corporation a year or two later, which happened to be clearing the area for a multimillion-dollar project. And from this resale—just from the resale—he could pocket, let's say, a million dollars. Yes, a million! In our eyes, it may be speculation, but in theirs, it's legitimate real estate trading, a talent for making money, and it is valued above all other talents. It's a way of life, a success without which a person cannot establish themselves. Garrik established himself in America—with a prestigious job, sufficient capital for the remainder of his days, a country house, a loving Russian wife, and two sons who chose creative paths: the elder as a sculptor, the younger as a musician (his father bought him a cooperative apartment in New York and helps him with foreign tours, sometimes together with Soviet musicians).Garrik also established himself in relations with Soviet people. If it weren't for Garrik—the successful businessman, there would be no Garrik—the lively bridge, energetic and tireless, a voluntary helper to Soviet collectives, delegations, and individual workers who came for a short or longer period to San Francisco. For the Soviet consulate, he was the most active local activist, not shrinking or hiding even in severe frosts and, without losing hope, working for the sake of bringing warmer days closer.The Americanist and Garrik were just casual acquaintances—they had met once at the Irene House and had mutual friends. And if we focus on sheer utility, what benefit did Garrik gain from the Americanist? At best, there would be a mention in the newspaper about the meeting at the Chamber of Commerce, and whether it would reach San Francisco, let alone be mentioned in the Soviet newspaper—was uncertain. But Garrik looked after the Americanist as a friend and a close person who needed an understanding soul far from home. True to his funny motto, "I want our people to live like human beings," Garrik turned him into a guest of the Chamber of Commerce and arranged a discounted stay in a fashionable hotel. Although the Americanist might have felt out of place, at least he looked like a respectable person. The "Hyatt-Regency" was the best calling card he could present to the citizens of glorious San Francisco, with whom he wished to meet.In the evening, they had dinner with Garrik at the World Trade Club, where prominent businessmen were members. They sat at a table by the window, and outside, the harbor lay in darkness, where trading ships under the flags of all nations never forgot their way.Warming up and relaxing, Garrik indulged in the manner of drinking and eating that he seemed to revive each time during his trips to the Soviet Union or when meeting Soviet people in San Francisco.In doing so, loudly and distinctly, in his Americanized Russian, he developed his favorite topic in the presence of compatriots: how to improve Soviet-American relations? The Americanist listened attentively to Garrik and nodded in agreement, although he saw that this experienced man was naive as a child in the field of international relations.In Harry's words, the password sounded like the name Christopher. He pronounced it in American style, emphasizing the first syllable. Christopher (Khristofor) was an American of Greek descent, a former mayor of San Francisco. Christopher still enjoyed fame and influence in the city, and in the perpetual power struggle among various groups of San Francisco's elite, it seemed that Harry, an Armenian, belonged to Christopher's group. From Harry's words, it emerged that he believed in Christopher's power and thought that it extended far beyond the city on the bay. This belief constituted the essence of an ambitious project that Harry passionately explained to the Americanist. The plan was to create a representative trade and economic delegation led by Christopher, including the president of the Bank of America and other prominent representatives of California business. The goal was to secure the approval of Secretary of State Schultz and President Reagan, both Californians, and to travel to Moscow with broad powers for high-level meetings and discussions. Here it was, the most suitable and truly miraculous lever. Grab hold of it, and everything will fall into place.The experienced Harry clearly did not understand how cumbersome and heavy the world he wanted to correct and straighten out with Christopher from San Francisco was. As a practical, business-minded individual, and moreover, an Eastern, Caucasian man, he did not know or recognize intricate theories, doctrines, or concepts. In his mind, everything boiled down to people and personal connections, even in the complex relations between two gigantic powers representing two socio-economic systems and two perspectives on the development of world history. In essence, his creed was that everything could be settled through the right person in the right place. And at the table in the World Trade Club, the magical word "Christopher" continued to fly out of his heated mouth. With emphasis on the first syllable. And from neighboring tables, respectable elderly people, businessmen who had come to dine with their wives, friends, and children in their club, looked over at them. In Harry's peculiar Russian-accented speech, they only understood the English word "Christopher." The eccentric Armenian, playing with the Russians, brought in another guest and once again got excited, perhaps fueled by a drink. This was roughly what they thought. Russia and relations with it, despite their importance, did not occupy a significant place in the lives of these people, and they would probably be surprised to learn in what dramatically global context Harry was invoking the name of the former mayor.It was already late in the evening when they ascended Nob Hill in a small, new-model Cadillac, where, next to the Mark Hopkins and Fairmont hotels, the nightlife was open only to the wealthy. Leaving the car in the care of an African-American valet, they entered the basement bar, Alexis. In the dimly lit space, the bar with bottles glowed faintly, there were no visitors except for a young couple sitting quietly in a distant corner. A bearded young man at the piano played something familiar from the pre-war childhood years. A full-figured woman in a black silk dress, unlike a regular waitress, brought a high glass of whiskey with ice and soda. The Americanist kept himself in check, not allowing himself to relax, while Harry, weighed down by what he had drunk and unexpectedly darkened by the conversation, sat back on his favorite subject.He was back on his favorite topic. According to his calculations, the delegation led by Christopher was supposed to go late spring or summer, and he himself was flying to Moscow in a few days with another delegation—the American-Soviet Trade and Economic Council. He was nervous about the trip, unsure if he would be accepted.The Americanist suddenly realized that despite Harry's confident demeanor in San Francisco, returning to his homeland with a U.S. passport was challenging for him. In San Francisco, Harry was an assistant, guide, and friend to visiting Soviet people. In Moscow, for those who did not know him or his story, he was incomprehensible and even suspicious—an American with an Armenian name and knowledge of the Russian language. In San Francisco, he spoke of "our people" as if he had not ceased to be a part of them. But in Moscow, at Sheremetyevo Airport, he could not say "we" when facing a Soviet border guard or customs officer.Before each trip, a sense of homelessness and duality tormented him. And now, slightly inebriated in the dimness of the basement bar on Nob Hill, Harry told the Americanist a story that haunted him and wouldn't leave his mind—the story of how he was once searched at Moscow customs.He and his wife were returning to the United States after another trip to the Soviet Union. It happened at Sheremetyevo Airport; his wife had already cleared customs, but he was suddenly detained, asked to go to a service room, where they informed him that they needed to subject him to an additional and more thorough inspection, a search. He was surprised, offended, and humiliated, asking on what grounds and what they suspected him of. They told him that the basis was that he visited the Soviet Union too frequently, and therefore, not without reason. At least, that's how he remembered the customs officer's words, and they shook him to the core because these words seemed to deprive him of the right to make such trips, even though his American passport undoubtedly had the corresponding Soviet visa issued by the consulate in San Francisco...Now, before the new trip, his wife was advising Harry, "Why do you need all this? Especially in such cold weather? You could just stay at our dacha..."Oh, what a walk it was! Once energized, Harry didn't want to stop. Taking his guest along, he entered a Russian establishment. The brick corner house on Pacific Avenue was silent in the night. However, when the young, shivering African-American valet and guard opened the door for them, loud, disorderly sounds of restaurant revelry echoed from the second floor. Amidst tobacco smoke, people buzzed, fueled by wine and music. The tables in the hall were unusual, long, and about a dozen men and women sat at each, as if forming an artel. A short woman of Armenian appearance, smiling, hurried toward Harry. They greeted each other with kisses and jokes, like old acquaintances. The middle-aged Armenian woman was the owner of the Russian establishment. Smiling and habitually shaking her long gray hair at the nape, Harry introduced the Americanist to her with a familial tone, as if he was confident that a guest from Moscow could not fail to evoke warm feelings. All three understood, however, that a guest from Moscow could not be part of their circle, and in the words and gaze of the hostess, the Americanist felt nothing more than courtesy, appreciating it as a correctly defined distance: passionate, kind feelings would have been insincere.Slightly squeezing into the company, they found a place at one of the long tables. The Americanist looked around, getting accustomed to the unfamiliar place. In the Russian establishment owned by the Armenian woman, the lively night crowd spoke more English, although many with an accent.This establishment attracted people who had left Russia or the Soviet Union at different times and retained a nostalgic memory of Russian entertainment. Accordionists and violinists battled the restaurant noise. Harry recommended them as former Odessites. The main figure in the duo was accordionist Boris. Half-sitting on a high stool, he not only played but also sang into a microphone attached to his accordion through a curved metal tube. Boris had a rough, wide-mouthed, and expressive face, and he sang well, with soul, enunciating Russian song lyrics very clearly. With this clear pronunciation, he aimed to help his listeners, living in a different linguistic environment, better understand and feel the old, distant beautiful songs."Oh, snowfall, Semyon, keep falling, Semen," sang Boris, transforming the lively Semenovna from a Russian song. The Americanist liked Boris's style; listening to his singing, he, too, succumbed to a nostalgic mood, but the awkward feeling of being in such a Russian establishment did not fade; on the contrary, it intensified. Only Harry, sitting next to him, provided a reliable left flank, and while glancing around, he caught looks filled with confusion, questioning, and cold curiosity.However, he found one genuinely friendly gaze. The man sitting across the table in shaded reflective glasses started speaking Russian with him. He turned out to be a professor from Berkeley and briefly told his story. He was born in Harbin, where his parents ended up, leaving Russia after the revolution. He later moved from the Far East to the Far West, the American one. Recently, by the way, he visited Harbin, even found the house where he was born, and entered the room where he lived; four Chinese people occupied it now. In the restaurant noise, it was pleasant for the professor to speak about his childhood in Russian, and other people at the table listened attentively to his Russian speech. He had traveled to the Soviet Union three times, and he kept his Russian language in excellent condition also because he considered himself a person of Russian culture. Maintaining the Russian language, keeping it active, cost him considerable effort: neither his wife nor daughter spoke Russian, and among colleagues, only very few did."Along the street, the snowstorm sweeps," Boris sang in the meantime, and from his large mouth, it flew out deliciously, beautifully, and expressively: "You wait, wait, my beauty, let me gaze upon joy, on youuu…"He masterfully handled the Russian language with all its melodic nuances, but he also sang well because he sang like a foreigner. He had distanced himself from this song long ago, changed it, and now, realizing what he had lost, he returned to it, feeling its beauty anew, and this precisely added a special sadness, liveliness, and charm to his performance.Soon, the Americanist began to nudge Harry. It was getting later, and in this Russian establishment, the oppressive feeling of being a stranger wouldn't let him go. There was something deeply false about his restaurant seat with these people. He couldn't play the role of a carefree person enjoying himself in San Francisco under the songs of the Russian people with fellow countrymen, second or first-generation Americans. The native songs were not native to them, and they had exchanged their native language for another, all of which didn't unite but separated him from them.The door slammed heavily, the restaurant hubbub ceased, and only the African-American valet, the Swiss guard, and the chilly-jacketed security guard remained with them on Pacific Avenue at night.It was warm. Through the open balcony door, the dark sky was visible. The balcony, resembling a tribune, protruded from the steeply descending wall. From there, a breathtaking panorama of the city unfolded, running along the waves of the hills next to the ocean waves. Below, the main street, Market Street, slanted towards the bay, ablaze with advertising lights, street lamps, and car headlights. At the foot lay City Hall, built in the style of administrative neoclassicism. Municipal buildings and green squares surrounded it on all sides. But the gaze beckoned further. In the evening glow of lights, breaking off at the dark edge of the water, the long, luminous dash of the Bay Bridge began—a bridge across the bay. On the shore, new skyscrapers of banks and corporations huddled together, as if gathering for a decisive advance on the old, cozy, low-rise San Francisco.A large part of the building was dedicated to apartments, and two-thirds to various offices. Slava and Valya had been living on the twenty-ninth floor for four years. In the morning, he went to his office in the same building, connecting via teletype to the new TASS building near Nikitskiye Gates in Moscow, where his colleagues, friends, and comrades worked. He received instructions, assignments, and information releases from them, which they distributed worldwide. From the Pacific coast of America, he typed, punched, and telexed messages to Tverskaya Boulevard, near Nikitskiye Gates, about San Francisco, California, and all-American events.Slava was nearby, working as a correspondent in the same building, while Valya languished in the apartment with dizzying views. The beautiful city lay at Valya's feet. Many would envy and dream of visiting, but when it's not just a dream but a life that has lasted four years, what use is it lying at the feet of a beautiful city? How many doors are there that will open in a friendly way, and windows where you can knock in your own way? The same story with different variations—Andrey and Natasha in New York, Kolya and Rita, or Sasha and Tamara in Washington, and Slava and Valya in San Francisco, even further from home, fewer of our people, and fellow countrymen rarely visit. But, on the other hand, this strange life didn't start yesterday, and there was time not only for longing but also to get used to it, to get involved in it and make it your way of life. And Valya got used to her high nest, where American-style security was ensured by locked doors and special guards, and residents were even given special keys and passes to access the part of the huge building where apartments, not offices, were located.The American city, buzzing below in the evening, was temporarily forgotten by three Muscovites, reminiscing about past days and common acquaintances. Meanwhile, on the low table where they sat in armchairs, among plates and glasses, there was a sheet of text in English. Slava brought it from his office, tearing it from the continuous stream coming from the small, light teletype, filled with messages from the UPI American news agency. The UPI Moscow correspondent reported that, for reasons not yet announced, the television broadcast of the concert in honor of Police Day and the hockey match had been suddenly canceled in the Soviet capital. Instead, the correspondent reported, Beethoven and other classical music were being broadcast. Television announcers appeared in dark ties. The correspondent cautiously reported that there were rumors of the possible demise of one of the highest officials. Similar reports were also transmitted by other foreign correspondents, and two Soviet journalists, meeting in San Francisco, speculated about what it could mean. After dinner, as they descended to the garage, they peeked into Slava's office. The teletypes were silent, and there were no new explanations or clarifications. Slava drove the car onto the deserted Market Street at night and took the guest to the hotel....He was still dozing, and it was dark outside when a sudden phone call jolted him from bed. The transparent green numbers on the electronic bedside table showed seven in the morning. He recognized Slava's voice. The businesslike tone in his voice indicated that Slava had been up for a long time.— Didn't wake you up? — And, without waiting for an answer, he said: — It's Brezhnev.Jumping up, the Americanist turned on the television. The television was awake, and on all channels, it was processing the gigantic news. In Washington and New York, where the broadcasts were originating, it was already eleven in the morning. ABC showed a recorded video of President Reagan. The president spoke to elderly but sprightly Americans with medals on their chests, greeting them on Veterans Day. In his greeting, he informed the veterans that he had sent condolences to Moscow on the occasion of the Soviet leader's death. ABC also hosted a special program—a voiceover by former President Ford, responding to a correspondent, footage with former President Carter, whom reporters found, and a video recording of a conversation with former Secretary of State Kissinger—half a year ago, he was extensively interviewed about what would happen to U.S.-Soviet relations if... Television footage from three years ago transported viewers to Vienna, where the leaders of the two countries signed a treaty on the limitation of strategic arms—SALT II. After signing the treaty at a solemn ceremony and congratulating each other, they suddenly reached out to each other and, experiencing a fleeting confusion, kissed. The kiss was unplanned and touching. A minute-long impulse. An unplanned sentimental episode in history. At that time, with a stroke of the pen, they crowned the immense multi-year work on both sides. The American president did not bring it to an end—the signed treaty was never ratified by the U.S. Senate.Television comments were respectful and already calm in tone, as the initial shock caused by the sudden news had passed. Speculations about the future were rife, and both government officials and journalists unanimously assumed continuity and stability in Soviet foreign policy...The Americanist shortened his stay in San Francisco by two days, changing his ticket from Sunday to Friday. When mourning days are declared in your country, it's not appropriate to conduct business as usual, especially abroad. Besides, obstacles were encountered in his affairs. He wanted to visit the university town of Palo Alto, a few dozen miles from San Francisco, where the archconservative Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace was located. He was still seeking a face-to-face meeting with Reagan supporters, particularly with theorists who supplied anti-communism. However, the State Department did not approve the trip to Palo Alto.He headed to the Soviet consulate. The flag over the Green Street building was lowered, and black ribbons hung next to the red fabric on the flagpole. Inside, in the first-floor hall, the consul, dressed in a dark suit, supervised the installation of a mourning portrait and awaited American visitors. A condolence book lay on the table in front of the portrait.The news from Moscow coincided with the American holiday—Veterans Day. Official institutions in San Francisco were closed, and there were fewer cars on the streets and roads than usual. A gloomy morning gradually cleared up. Would he make it to the funeral in Moscow? Although the Americanist's thoughts were at home, sitting with them within the four walls of the "Hyatt Regency" room made no sense. He walked along the bay towards the famous Fisherman's Wharf district. There, among restaurants and souvenir shops, the usual festive crowd reigned, permeated with the raw smell of the sea—shrimp, crabs, oysters, lobsters, and various fish were sold, displayed on countertops with pieces of crushed ice. He noted changes that confirmed that San Francisco residents and merchants retained the ability to settle into their city, tastefully build new things, and adapt the old to changing times and needs. It turns out that from the old brick buildings of the chocolate factory in the Fisherman's Wharf area, an elegantly decorated shopping passage with galleries, walkways, and numerous stalls could be created. Another trading row emerged on the old pier, appropriately named Pier 39. It became popular among the citizens, who strolled there with their children, examined the old museum ship, and looked at the new yachts. The shops were filled with souvenirs to remember a visit to the beloved San Francisco.When the Americanist returned to the hotel, the TV screen continued to process the sensational news from Moscow. It was not yet announced that Vice President Bush would lead the American delegation to Moscow, so speculation arose about whether the American president would fly to the funeral of the Soviet president. Most commentators believed that he should, for reasons of diplomatic courtesy and state policy. This trip should be used to acquaint himself with the new Soviet leadership, to demonstrate respect for another nuclear power at a moment reminding of the transience of life and the mortal fate of even the greatest people, and to symbolically express a desire to live in peace with it.Now the Americanist did not leave his room and did not take his eyes off the TV screen. He knew that on such days, the newspaper does not expect material from its own correspondents or from a special one, that all coverage of the event will be purely official and protocol, nevertheless, he kept his vigil at the TV screen, and a swarm of thoughts hovered in his head—thoughts about the past years, the future of his homeland, and Soviet-American relations.Around midnight, a special hour-and-a-half program started again on ABC. Former presidents—Nixon, Ford, Carter—appeared again, meeting with the deceased Soviet leader, former secretaries of state Kissinger and Haig, and well-known experts from the New York Council on Foreign Relations. All of them, in one way or another, defended the foundations of American foreign policy. On this special day, they avoided anti-Soviet attacks, maintained a calm and thoughtful, respectful tone. In various words, all participants in the program spoke about the importance of understanding and respecting mutual interests at a time when people at the helm of another great power are changing.When the Americanist fell asleep at one in the morning, the program was still ongoing.In the morning, Slava drove him to the airport, and he took off from San Francisco. By evening, he was in Washington. Just a day later, on a Sunday morning, he arrived at the embassy with other Soviet correspondents. President Reagan was scheduled to pay a condolence visit, and the correspondents were invited to witness it.This time, the grand door of the embassy and the metal gates through which the presidential limousine was to approach the door were open. There was an atmosphere of tense anticipation and heightened attention to every detail, typical before the appearance of an extremely important figure.The President, who lived and worked three blocks away from the Soviet embassy, had never been there before, just as he had never been to the Soviet Union. A mourning portrait was placed in a room on the second floor, next to the Golden Hall, which was closed. The correspondents were told that just before the president's arrival, they would be ushered to the second floor. From there, standing close to the columns opposite the room with the mourning portrait, they would be able to observe the ceremony, which held significant symbolic importance. Assembled on the first floor, in the press department's room, the correspondents awaited the signal.Ambassador quickly walked past them through the corridor, wearing a mourning band on the sleeve of his dark jacket, as energetic and friendly as always. Judging by the fact that he was coming from his office towards the vestibule, the moment was approaching.However, the correspondents never received an invitation to the second floor. Whether the ambassador changed his mind or the American secret service didn't want extra witnesses, American reporters did not accompany Reagan, while the Soviet ones found themselves locked in the corridor on the first floor. In vain, they tugged at the door, trying to open it; from the other side, it was held firmly with an iron hand. Only two were invited to the second floor – television and TASS correspondents, for the visuals and the official report.The others waited for their return and the account. The two eyewitnesses returned quickly, bursting into the room, excited and disappointed. The TASS reporter immediately started correcting his pre-prepared version, the so-called draft. He had to strike out the minute of mourning silence. There was no minute. The eyewitnesses shared details with their colleagues that didn't find a place in the brief TASS message sent to Moscow. They recounted that the President was not in black but in a regular brown suit, without his wife, who was also inexplicably expected. He ascended to the second floor accompanied by the ambassador and his guards, sat in the red armchair placed in front of the mourning portrait, and made his concise entry in the condolences book. Stepping into the Soviet embassy for the first time, the president looked around. Here, eyewitness accounts differed. One said the president glanced around merely out of curiosity. Another insisted – out of fear…In the embassy building, Americophile once observed another U.S. president. In June 1973, during his official visit, the Soviet leader hosted a luncheon in honor of the American head of state. The luncheon took place at the embassy. In the Golden Hall, round tables were set up, gathering the cream of official Washington. Press representatives, not allowed into the hall, crowded the staircase landing. Americophile, suppressing the awkwardness for the sake of professional curiosity, along with Vitaliy, who was a New York correspondent at that time, managed to approach the opening door to the hall. Peeking in, he saw not only the round tables with senators and ministers and their wives but also the main table with the key figures, to the left, under a large mirror in a gilded frame.The grand hall had never shone as it did that evening. It had been regilded and redecorated by craftsmen specially sent from Moscow before the state visit. Due to the rental of gilded chairs for the official lunch, a small mishap occurred – the paint hadn't completely dried, and two or three senators left the hall after lunch with gold stripes on their backs.So, with Vitaliy, they peered into the hall from the door, and our guard, standing right there, said to them with significance, "I'm counting on you, guys!" With these words, their presence was legitimized, and Americophile could observe the exchange of speeches behind the main table, how our state spoke with their state, and the words spoken with great optimism. They were particularly memorable because of the fantastically optimistic tone he heard with his own ears, rather than just reading it in press releases and newspapers."We are optimists," he heard, "and believe that the course of events and understanding of specific interests will lead to the conclusion that the future of our relations lies in the path of mutually beneficial development for the benefit of the current and future generations of people.""We are convinced that, relying on growing mutual trust, we can steadily move forward. We advocate that the further development of our relations takes on a maximally stable, moreover, irreversible character…"History has its own ideas about time and the speed of its movement, and for an ordinary person immersed in the midst of current events, it is not always easy to accurately assess what is fast and what is slow from a historical perspective. Were nine years, which had passed since those optimistic words were spoken in this building, a lot or a little?When the iron door was released, and they stepped out of the corridor into the vestibule, neither there nor beyond the embassy gates was any trace of the arriving and quickly disappearing presidential motorcade. Sixteenth Street was clear, all the way to Lafayette Square, where the White House gleamed white, and to the right, towards the monument of some green-bronze equestrian general. In its official part, Washington seemed to have died down on a Sunday – no people, no cars, no parking restrictions on the roadside.Together with his companion, Americophile turned right and then right again onto M Street and Fifteenth Street. Fifteenth Street was also deserted on a Sunday, visible in both directions, like a forest clearing. Retrieving their car from the parking lot, they headed towards Constitution Avenue, which, they knew, should not be empty on this sunny and cold-windy day.Gaining cosmic speeds, people began to repeat that the Earth is small. Is it really small – around the globe in an hour and a half?! But for whom and for what is our planet Earth small? For cosmonauts, even in their special nostalgia, gazing at the blue-white beauty from the black abyss of space, it was not small at all. Moreover, Americophile, by the nature and character of his work, constantly felt not the smallness but the vastness and diversity of the Earth.And on that Sunday in November, the Earth, among other things, accommodated mourning in Moscow and a parade in Washington. It was an American parade – a procession of civilians with military interjections, mostly veterans. This American parade moved along Constitution Avenue, a parade that had been prepared with great effort, loudly and advertisedly – a parade of Vietnam War veterans. The war was receding into the past, but in America, they could not reconcile with the memory of it. This was because the war ended in a disgraceful defeat for that chauvinistic America, which throughout the conflict repeated its favorite slogan that America wins all its wars. The unpopularity of the war, which divided the nation, also extended to its participants – American soldiers who had done a cruel, bloody, dirty job. And after the war, having retreated from a foreign country, Americans continued to fight among themselves, interpreting the lessons of Vietnam differently. In scholarly terms, this hangover was called the Vietnam Syndrome. Avoiding new Vietnams, new armed interventions abroad – or continuing the same imperialistic practice, but without hesitations, and winning in new Vietnams, not losing. Answers changed depending on the prevailing public sentiments, or more precisely, who was more successful in creating and directing them. Coming to power, the new administration quietly began preparing the country for the possibility of new Vietnams and at the same time urged to forget the quarrels and strife of the war period and not to regret the patriotic oil on the clean and good guys, who returned from the cursed jungles still very young veterans. Whoever you were, an American, and whatever you did in those years, from now on, your patriotic duty is to honor and glorify these guys.That's what the parade meant, and the two Soviet Americophiles, who once observed and experienced the course of a distant war in America and wrote a lot about it in their newspapers, could not help but come to Constitution Avenue on that day.The parade was conceived as an epilogue, but it lacked grandeur and, therefore, a sense of completion. In motley groups, raising the standards of their states, Vietnam veterans of the thirty-year-old age moved in disarray along the pavement. Their spotted, venomously green jackets and similarly crumpled military hats with narrow brims recalled television scenes from the wartime period—soldiers dressed similarly but not against the backdrop of Washington's ministerial buildings, but against the backdrop of straw huts and low slant-eyed people, shielding themselves from the scorching sun with conical straw hats. Those soldiers who appeared alive on the television screen, and who had yet to become either dead or veterans, held M-16 rifles in their hands, not star-striped flags. In the television scenes of those years, they didn't march but roamed through those villages, warily looking around and gesturing with their rifles from side to side. Sometimes, as they looked around, they feverishly lifted wounded comrades on stretchers into medical helicopters. Now, on Constitution Avenue, those same wounded were being pushed in wheelchairs, waving star-striped flags. Yet, it didn't make things easier for them; the war stayed with them, in their maimed bodies, in their shattered destinies.No, it's still not easy to cope with the legacy of that war, thought Americophile, watching the Vietnam veterans. It's not easy for those who were there. And so, the most solid and confident participants in the parade looked like gray-haired men not in venomously green jackets but in black blazer jackets. They didn't experience Vietnam and memories of jungles, napalm, and straw huts. The gray-haired ones were veterans of other wars, after which one could still maintain respect for oneself and one's military past.Thundering, brass-shining military orchestras occasionally interspersed the disorderly and not very crowded procession, boosting the spirits of parade participants and the crowd of onlookers standing on the sidewalks. The crowd responded with applause, but the claps sounded weak, and the crowd itself was not dense and sparing in patriotic displays. No, what happened was too fresh; it was not yet time to look at this war through the lens of sentimentality and sweet falsehood.The parade participants marched from the White Dome of the Capitol toward the Lincoln Memorial, where the monument to those fallen in the Vietnam War had been unveiled the day before. A cold gusty wind blew, fluttering the flags, carrying away the coppery sounds of marches. In this wind, behind the spectators' backs, two guys unfolded a white canvas of a banner. The wind interfered with them, but when they managed to do it, when the canvas smoothed out and billowed like a sailing ship, our two Americophiles read the words that pleased them: "Stop turning the past inside out for the sake of a future third world war! Enough of chauvinism from us!!!"A few days later, Americophile was inspecting the new monument, which had been widely written about. It found an honorable place next to the Lincoln Memorial, in the same area where monuments to Jefferson and the first of American presidents, George Washington, were erected. However, they didn't erect a Vietnam monument, but rather, it was buried or hidden. Without such a conspicuous landmark nearby, like the majestic Lincoln Memorial, it might not have been found. This new Washington monument resembled a giant trench, shaped like a wide-open letter V, which in this case could only mean Vietnam, not victory. The inner side of the trench, its two long walls spread out like the letter V, was lined with magnificent black marble slabs imported from India. By some extraordinarily precise electronic method (as reported in free booklets available to anyone interested), the marble slabs were inscribed with the names and surnames of all Americans who died or went missing in Vietnam. The mournful list started in 1959 and proceeded chronologically to 1975, the last year of the war and losses. It included more than fifty-eight thousand people.Narrow concrete paths ran along the marble walls. On them, stopping and scrutinizing the names, curious Americans walked. The monument set a somber tone. Aiming at the marble slabs, some visitors engaged in photography. A familiar surname? A loved one? These were strange pictures for memory.From Independence Avenue, which ran very close, the Vietnam monument was not visible, hidden in the ground, like the people who came to see it. But nearby, clearly visible, in a tall, white, Greek mausoleum, Lincoln with curly hair and a sharply sculpted forehead rose, placing his thin hands on the arms of the chair. Broad steps led to him. From the height of marble Lincoln, there was a view of the rectangular pond, reflecting autumn trees with remnants of leaves, and beyond to the gigantic gray obelisk dedicated to George Washington. Further, behind the buildings of the Smithsonian Institution's museum complex, piercing the sky-blue opening, the white dome of the Capitol hovered.Why does the action in our narrative, devoid of romance, so often take place in the evening or at night? The reader has repeatedly observed: due to the time difference with Moscow—eight hours in Washington and a whole eleven in San Francisco.In America, Americophile continued to live on Moscow time. And to stay awake at night when Moscow was waking up.And there was another lonely night in Irene House and sleepy Somerset outside the window. He fell asleep at one in the morning without undressing. And immediately woke up, fearing to oversleep, lying there, listening to the silence. Around two in the morning, he got up, lit a lamp by the sofa in the living room, and, to avoid disturbing the general silence, woke up the large television box standing on the floor. The screen instantly came to life, and amid the sleeping Washington suburb, as if in a dream, appeared stern November streets, the yellow building of the "Moscow" hotel, the gray building of the Council of Ministers, and the House of Unions with its columns. A large portrait hung on the facade of the House of Unions in a black frame.It was ten in the morning in Moscow, two in the morning in Washington. By the ordinary miracle of our time, thanks to communication satellites drifting alone in cosmic darkness, he found himself in a familiar stretch of the old, transformed and renamed Okhotny Ryad. The street, cleared of people and usual traffic, was prepared for a solemn funeral procession. Until five o'clock, he sat alone in front of the quietly working television.ABC television, seeking primacy in political news and reports, provided live coverage from Moscow that American night, and Americophile, sitting by the television, at the same moment as millions of compatriots, saw everything they saw—the last watch of the honor guard at the elevated coffin, generals carrying red pillows with orders, a slow march behind an armored personnel carrier carrying the coffin on a gun carriage, Red Square filled with patiently waiting motionless people, the Kremlin towers and walls—and increasingly frequent and close-up shots of the Mausoleum...None of the Soviet workers slept during these night hours—neither in the embassy, nor in the complex, nor in the apartments scattered around Washington and its suburbs. But during this unusual time, an attentive audience was composed not only of Soviet people. Forgetting about sleep, Sovietologists from American government and private services—and intelligence agencies—were watching the "changing of the guard" in Moscow.Thus, slowly and tediously, sometimes accelerated by electric discharges of events, the American life of a Moscow journalist unfolded, set for exactly one and a half months of a business trip—from the airplane prologue to the airplane epilogue. He remained concerned about obtaining the maximum amount of information per unit of time, was busy with meetings with Americans, faithfully consumed his portion of newspapers and magazines, and thought about correspondence that would justify his shortened trip to San Francisco due to an extraordinary event. There was also the concern about having a roof over his head.Here, it might be appropriate to remind the reader that our hero arrived in the United States only as a person temporarily replacing the permanent correspondent of his newspaper. The permanent correspondent could not return to Washington after one American journalist was expelled from Moscow for unreasonably expanding the scope of his activities. In Irene House, the colleague left an archive and other belongings, and his wife, with the appropriate permission, flew to pick up what was left. Yielding the place to the lady, Americophile, not without regret, parted with the apartment in Irene House, where he somehow arranged bachelor life and learned to defend himself from the initially oppressive memories.Not far from Irene House was the Holiday Inn hotel, one of hundreds scattered across North America, and also the South and other continents. Americophile had many years of positive experience with Holiday Inn in different places. The acquaintance had to be interrupted at some point after the prices in these hotels rose above the amount allocated in the estimate. However, sometimes there were mitigating circumstances of a seasonal nature.It was late autumn, and the Holiday Inn on Wisconsin Avenue was half empty. The young duty clerk, accommodating the foreigner, promised to reduce the price to fifty-nine dollars per night. Yes, don't be surprised—that's a moderate price. He immediately submitted his application for a discounted room to the computer at his disposal, but there was no agreement on the greenish flickering screen. Whether guarding the interests of the company or expressing the computer's rights, it did not comply with Americophile. However, the young guy didn't get scared; he assured the Muscovite that the room at the promised price would be there—with or without the computer's consent. A young African American bellhop in a brown uniform escorted Americophile to the tenth floor and showed him a room that faced not the noisy avenue but the quiet opposite side.Three hours later, returning with his suitcase and the required deposit, Americophile found another duty clerk. His computer also rebelled against the reduced price, but this young man was not afraid either, although he had to issue a handwritten receipt to the guest, and the pen, noticed by Americophile, did not behave well for the young man already living in the electronic age.On Saturday, there was only one duty clerk in the entire hotel—answering phone calls, issuing keys, settling with guests, and monitoring four displays.So, leaving Irene House, Americophile moved to a hotel where it was quiet and convenient, lacking only his own little kitchen, this unnecessary support for a business traveler. Now, in the window frame, instead of Somerset's trees and cottages, one could see neighboring multi-story houses, a fountain, and Friendship Heights Square, where he used to enjoy walking while living in Irene House, some Maryland bank, and Elizabeth House, where Kolya and Rita, Soviet veterans in America, continued to welcome him. From the window, about three hundred meters away, even a corner of Irene House was visible. Familiar houses and views, the proximity of friends, made life easier.Americophile got newspapers downstairs, in the hotel, or at the nearest pharmacy. He didn't part with the car of his absent colleague, the heavy cherry-colored Bonneville, and now kept it not in Irene House's underground garage but under his window in the open parking lot. Every day began with a morning look out the window—was the car intact?William Brockett, a forty-year-old lawyer from San Francisco, is a co-owner of the law firm "Coker and Brockett." The firm is located on Montgomery Street, in a two-story red-brick building, still quite sturdy but morally aged by the proximity of gleaming new skyscrapers on California Street in the financial district. The reader may ask: what business does a Soviet journalist have with an American lawyer when visiting the United States? What common cause do we, the reader, have now with American lawyers, doctors, nuclear physicists? With those who add the word "concerned" to the name of their profession. Concerned about the threat of nuclear war.And while we have not yet reached Bill Brockett on the second floor of the red-brick mansion, I will provide just one example...But here the reader may ask another question: how did Amerikanist, who had just moved to the Holiday Inn in Washington, end up in San Francisco again? It's a simple newspaper trick, reader. He sent correspondence from Washington about his impressions of San Francisco. After the days of mourning, he supposed, the newspaper would return to its usual topics and would need regular materials. Despite cutting down his days and meetings in San Francisco, he did not return empty-handed. After moving to the hotel, he provided the editorial team with his new phone number, and they called him again, this time at night, and he was now reporting from San Francisco....I will give just one example of why they are so concerned," he continued. "The New York publishing house 'Random House' has just released a book with a mysterious title — 'As Long as There's a Shovel.' Its author, Robert Sheer, while heading the Washington bureau of the 'Los Angeles Times,' had numerous conversations with high-ranking representatives of the Reagan administration. They were candid with him. Sheer had the opportunity to convince himself that the current administration is playing more than any previous one with the idea of the possibility and 'survivability' of nuclear war. A certain T. K. Jones, assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense for strategic nuclear forces, friendly explained to Sheer what should be done in case of a nuclear conflict: 'Dig a hole, cover it with a couple of doors, and throw a meter-thick layer of dirt on top... The earth will save you... If you have enough shovels, anyone can handle it.'It sounds like a joke, but these are the verbatim words of Mr. Jones. And, apparently, his genuine philosophy. If surviving a nuclear war is as easy as pie, why not start one?That's why San Francisco lawyer Bill Brocket is among the concerned. Tall, with a high forehead and a boyish, clean smile, he jokes, 'Lawyers are known for their eloquence. We can't allow our gift to go to waste.'Two years ago, in Boston, Massachusetts, on the Atlantic coast of the USA, an organization of lawyers opposed to the threat of nuclear war was created. It became national. Brocket heads its San Francisco branch, which has about four hundred members. Its task is to educate people about the realities of the nuclear age. Meetings, gatherings, symposiums... Bill Brocket and his colleagues want to convince Americans that even with an abundance of shovels, you can't escape nuclear warheads.In recent months, the California public has launched a broad movement to freeze the nuclear arsenals of the USA and the USSR. They collected signatures to put this proposal on a referendum for the state's residents. They collected more than enough. It didn't stop with California. During the November 2nd elections in nine states and thirty counties and cities, a proposal for nuclear freezing was voted on. I remind you that it was supported by the majority of voters in eight out of nine states and almost all counties and cities.According to press estimates, out of eighteen million voters who expressed their opinion on this issue, 10.8 million approved the principle of freezing nuclear arsenals. A significant majority, considering that an American was going against the policy of his government on this issue. But this is not a national referendum; it does not have binding force for the authorities. According to the terms of the vote in California, the governor of the state will inform the president that the majority of Californians have spoken in favor of freezing the nuclear arsenals of the two powers. But the White House already knows about it, and the results of the vote have made no impression on it whatsoever. Even after suffering political damage in the recent elections, the White House has no intention of "one iota," as the official representative stated, of reducing the military expenditures planned at 1.6 trillion dollars for the next five years...It's been half a month since the elections, and Amerikanist returned to them, highlighting a topic he couldn't thoroughly cover in the general analysis of the results — the theme of the anti-war movement and the unfolding struggle for the freezing of nuclear arsenals. This theme was topical, justified, and propagandistically advantageous. There was a keen interest in the new American social movement from our side. However, there were illusions that needed to be cautioned against.The son of a retired admiral, a former naval officer, and now a lawyer concerned about the threat of nuclear war, Bill Brocket, feared being labeled unpatriotic due to his association with the "reds." On the eve of their meeting, having agreed to it, he warned over the phone that he would record their upcoming conversation on a tape recorder. He called the Americanist at the hotel, and this phone warning seemed to be directed to two addresses at once. When they sat in the office, the tape recorder was conspicuously placed on the table, and the door was demonstratively wide open. The conversation was in plain view. Bill Brocket did not want to take risks: "Yes, I accept the 'red,' all of you witnessed that I have no secrets with him."The shadow of suspicion did not leave his boyish face. Meanwhile, the guest, asking questions and jotting down answers (old-fashioned style in a notebook), managed to think with sadness that the girl downstairs at the entrance, who brought him a cup of coffee while he was waiting for the lawyer, somehow resembled his younger daughter—equally ready to help strangers and equally shy and angular. How vulnerable these pure, unprotected beings of youth and inexperience are in the face of life's cruel and indifferent pressure! How to preserve and protect them?The latest words of Bill Brocket, recorded by the Americanist, did not make it into the report from San Francisco."Be patient—that's my appeal to the Soviet public," said the lawyer with emotion. "Be patient and know that Americans are genuinely concerned about the threat of nuclear war. Perhaps there won't be positive changes under this administration, but another one will come—and it will take into account the mood of our people..."And this was not the first call for patience that he had heard from good and concerned people in America.The Congress, dissolved before the elections, had not yet resumed its work, and the new one was scheduled to convene only in January. Senators and congressmen, re-elected, first-time elected, or not elected but not completing their term, had not yet returned from their cities and voyages or from trips around the world."His bet is in the city...""He hasn't returned yet...""He promised to be back in a week."Such answers were heard by the Americanist from press secretaries and assistants over the phone. Those few who were in the city cited busyness. He found that even the embassy staff, with their rich connections on Capitol Hill, could not help him. Espionage had returned to Capitol Hill, and someone did not want to meet with the "red" for the same reasons as Charles Week—considerations of ideological incompatibility.Journalists were more willing to make contact. The Americanist met with the head of the Washington bureau of a influential newspaper—a tall, young blond with a soft smile and charming manners. He used to be a correspondent in Moscow, and his softness, smile, and charm came in handy. Upon his return, he wrote such a book that the way to Moscow was closed to him for a long time, but the way up in his own newspaper was open.The Washington bureau had many highly qualified political reporters known throughout political America. Like diligent bees, they daily gathered and transferred to the newspaper pages a honeyed information from the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and Capitol Hill. The bureau conducted the orchestra, giving freedom to soloists and finding time to write their own detailed materials. He was a journalist of a liberal orientation, not quite to the liking in today's conservative Washington, but he did not lose hope. Like any liberal, his hopes quickly died and revived just as quickly.His latest hope was associated with the special envoy of the new Secretary of State, George Shultz. The Secretary of State, he impressed upon the Americanist, possessed unobtrusive, thoroughly convincing persuasiveness and could positively influence the president. Along with Shultz, in the direction of restraint and moderation, they influenced the president and some of his closest aides. Schultz's manner, praised the Americanist, was to gradually and deeply delve into a particular problem, develop his own solution, and gradually convince Reagan of his correctness. The Secretary of State had not yet had time to delve into the complex issue of arms control, but when he did, he would get there, take the reins into his own hands, expect changes for the better—a broader and healthier approach from the American side, reassured the Americanist by his knowledgeable and courteous interlocutor. In Congress, too, there was hope. There, the majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives restrained Reagan, and the position of some moderate senators, serious and influential people. The battle for the military budget lies ahead, and it will grow, no doubt, but not at the pace the administration would like.The bureau spoke of restraining Reagan as if it were a common task of two journalists—an American and a Soviet. And in his analysis, there was not only the hope of a liberal but also a drop of reality. It remained to be seen whether these drops would accumulate and multiply or, hitting the reality of the near future, would shatter into pieces.The Americanist's interlocutors also included two well-known columnists from the largest Washington newspaper. One of them, young, handsome, and perhaps too confident, said that Reagan would not be re-elected for a second term because Nancy, his wife, wanted a return to a peaceful private life, and in general, the presidential job turned out to be more troublesome than Ronnie imagined; the military budget proposed by the administration might not pass, Congress is seriously intent on reducing it, it is not excluded that they will cut the project to create intercontinental MX missiles, and the president is unlikely to be able to shake the issue of arms control.The judgments of the self-assured young man, who enjoyed great weight in his newspaper and some weight in Washington society, also sounded reasonable in some respects.The second observer, older in age, with a mournful expression on his face, spoke very sincerely, stating that we do not understand each other, and we do not want to understand persistently and desperately. We see intrigues, conspiracies, and devilish plans even where there is actually only chance, a combination of unrelated and unconnected actions. He chose the theme of the triumph of misunderstanding for his book. While working on the book, he spent some time in Moscow on an academic mission.Clouds covered the land. When they thinned, the land appeared through their white fleeting curls, a gloomy land, a mountainous region with the peaks of autumnal forests staring into the sky. The Appalachians floated beneath the airplane's wing.He usually drove to where he was flying now, starting from Washington—first west on Route 50, running along the gentle waves of hills past whitewashed buildings of large Virginia farms. Then, at the intersection with Route 81, he turned south, catching a sidelong glance of the faintly lilac haze of the Blue Ridge on the left. After that, he headed west again, the old Route 60 twisting and turning, adapting to the folds of the Appalachian mountains, while the new Route 64 boldly challenged the mountains, cutting through them—a deserted, straight, high-speed highway that, like a river, effortlessly carried both light cars and heavy roaring trucks on its hump, while on its banks, set back and subdued, cleanly trimmed by builders, safe tiers rose to the stony cliffs.This time, the Americologist dreamt of a road trip, wanting to recount and reminisce about these American miles after a six-year hiatus and enjoy the spirit of cheerful companionship that once enticed him on his travels for two or three. Unfortunately, his old friends and colleagues, who were pulling the correspondent's load in America for the third or even fourth time, found the ascent heavy. Initially, the idea of taking a ride in West Virginia to reflect the misfortunes of this troubled mining region in the newspaper and on the screen intrigued both of them. Then, both had second thoughts, citing business, and one Americologist did not dare—he had grown accustomed to American cars and roads, and the round trip would cover no less than fifteen hundred kilometers.And now he was not driving but flying to Charleston, the capital of West Virginia. This was not a flight on a wide-bodied giant across the entire continent. Piedmont Airlines was as little known outside the United States as the city of Charleston, where he was headed. Its plane did not depart from the spacious international airport in Dallas, under Washington, but from the National Airport, squeezed right into the suburban outskirts on the right bank of the Potomac. This had long provoked protests and complaints from residents, sometimes leading to accidents, but, in general, did not prevent this busy airport from daily releasing and receiving hundreds of planes, many more than its more modern and beautiful rival.The flight to Charleston took less than an hour. Next to him sat a chubby African American Madonna in jeans, and the baby with black bulging eyes and a head of sparse curly hair screamed as if cut from Washington to Charleston. The mother could not pacify him, and she did not try too hard. The passengers seemed not to hear the roar, allowing the Americologist to reinforce two long-held conclusions with another example: firstly, Americans do not have the habit of interfering in other people's affairs; secondly, the black Madonna with the crying baby traveled in an invisible capsule of alienation from whites. One thing he could not understand, accustomed to deciphering American mysteries: what was a black woman doing in Charleston, a city one hundred percent white? And he was right—she had nothing to do in Charleston. Charleston was her first stop. The plane would then go to Chicago, where a third of the population was black, soon to become every second, and where even the mayor recently became black.As the plane descended, the low, autumnally unfriendly mountains stretched endlessly, and, as if finding no smoother place in this land, the plane landed on a cut-off mountaintop. While it taxied, slowing down, to the modest airport building, old pot-bellied, spotted, paratrooper-like planes of the National Guard flashed by on the side.The airport was no larger than what was due to a city with a population of sixty-four thousand people. The accordion-like gangway immediately aimed its nozzle at the hatch of the arriving plane, and entering the building with other passengers, the Americologist immediately saw the sign "Hertz," the most famous of the companies renting cars. By paying, he could take a car right at the airport and drive anywhere, even to the other end of America, because there are Hertz branches everywhere, and each of them will accept the car rented by you from Hertz. However, being a Soviet citizen, he was not allowed to use this convenience. Although, blessed be the memory, two or three times he still resorted to the services of Hertz and its competitor Avis in his early American years, when the ban had not yet been lifted. Then, in 1963, by a special explanation from the State Department, Soviet citizens working in America were deprived of this kind of American service, again in strict observance of the principle of reciprocity, which in this case implied the existence of a Soviet equivalent of Hertz for Americans working in the Soviet Union.The Americologist looked at the Hertz sign with a Platonic gaze and walked out of the airport building to the yellow taxis and shuttles, which in America are called limousine services. He had permission for the limousine service and taxi.The taxi rolled down the mountain into the sun-drenched valley, leaving the clouds in the mountains. In the valley flowed the Kanawha River, which let's rename in Russian—Kanava: what will the river become if its banks have been occupied by industry since the last century? Over the old rumbling iron bridge, they crossed to the other side of this fairly wide and full-flowing Kanava. On the other side was the main part of the old industrial city, the capital of the small state of West Virginia (population about two million), which chose a stone in the center and figures of a farmer and a miner on the sides for its coat of arms. At the bottom of the coat of arms was the corresponding Latin motto: "Mountaineers Are Always Free."The Americologist noticed the multi-story building of the Charleston "Holiday Inn," where he had stayed a couple of times before, and next to it, a twenty-story building, the main bank of Charleston. Vaguely remembering, as they drove by, the main shopping street with large stores and shop windows.Meanwhile, the taxi driver took him further, to where, off the beaten path, among construction sites and steel skeletons of future buildings, a brand-new hotel building belonging to the Marriott corporation rose. In recent years, this corporation had aggressively entered the profitable hotel business, elbowing competitors like "Holiday Inn" and enticing with increased prestige and comfort those mobile American businessmen who spare no expense and enjoy putting on a show—mostly at the expense of their companies, for whose business they travel and in whose interests they must—and are obliged to—appear as well-off and affluent as possible. Can everyone afford and be willing to shell out seventy or eighty dollars from their own pockets to spend a night in a hotel in a small provincial town?!Hotels, inns—a recurring element in many of our contemporary journeys, including the travels of the Americologist. The hotel in modest Charleston was just as imposing as the fashionable and eccentric Hyatt Regency in San Francisco, returning him to the recurring motif—not in his comfort zone.Whether he was Hecuba or to him Hecuba, foreign extravagance and obsession with prestige disturbed the Americologist, especially since, while caring about the prestige of his newspaper and his country, even in provincial Charleston, he had to adhere to American notions of prestige, although internally he rebelled, regretting the budgeted dollars. By the way, regarding prestige. Prestige existed in the Russian language before, and prestigiosity appeared quite recently and, according to the observations of the Americologist, came from across the ocean as the Russian equivalent of the English "status symbol."Estimates approved by the Ministry of Finance in Moscow for the expenses of Soviet citizens sent to the United States were increasing, especially in recent years, but they did not keep pace with American realities, which were changing even faster, with American inflation, which they called galloping. From this dissonance, from this private truth, our hero's troubles began in every American city as soon as he reached the next hotel. And we cannot dismiss this as a minor annoyance without changing the main truth about the dialectical interrelation of things. Yes, yes, don't laugh! In our world, where everything is dialectically intertwined, the estimate of expenses provided for the hotel repeatedly led the Americologist to the main theme of the material, financial, political, psychological, moral—and what else?—incompatibility between us and the Americans. If a cosmic comparison is permissible for two states living such different lives, like two unified docking nodes, they move along different orbits and courses, and every time, no matter what, from the hotel fee to interstate agreements, the problem is how to dock?A young clerk, provincially proud that he worked in the newest and trendiest hotel in Charleston, was arranging a sixty-five-dollar room, trying to determine by the surname, clothes, and suitcase of the new guest what kind of bird brought him. The Americologist did not like the clerk, the modernist sophistication of the hotel's main entrance, or the dimly lit lobby.The room at the Marriott hotel was booked by an old acquaintance of the Americologist, Charleston publisher Ned Chilton. Now, standing in front of the beefy clerk, the Americologist mentally lamented: he couldn't even connect with a good acquaintance. Although, he understood upon reflection, Ned could not have acted differently. Is it not the duty of a true Charleston patriot to not hit the dirt in front of a citizen of a rival state? And is it Ned's fault if he did not question whether the Ministry of Finance in Moscow is keeping up with American realities? He himself was accustomed to traveling on his own dollars, from the newspaper of which he was the owner.They met ten years ago when the Americologist, deciding to look at the upcoming American elections through the lens of the countryside, found himself in Charleston for the first time and paid a courtesy visit to the "Charleston Gazette." Ned Chilton was surprised and intrigued by the unexpected guest. Ned was affable and teasing, though narrow-minded, he was an avid tennis player and a fan of scuba diving. While the Americologist did not engage in tennis or diving, the Charleston publisher attracted him with his lively and friendly teasing, liberal views, and criticism of the ongoing American war in Vietnam.Ned volunteered to help the Americologist and assigned one of his reporters. Together, under the October rain, in the autumn Appalachian gloom, they traveled to the surrounding mining towns—trailing Jay Rockefeller's campaign caravan, the senior of the fourth-generation famous billionaire dynasty. He was not yet over thirty then and was making his first attempt to become the governor of West Virginia, where he had recently relocated and where he was still a stranger, a newcomer. They rolled him over at first. The Americologist wrote an essay about Charleston and about publisher Ned Chilton, who criticized the Vietnam War, Rockefeller's transplantation into the political soil of West Virginia, and the struggling mining towns devastated by the mechanization of coal mining and the decline in demand for it.Coal... Coal... Coal... Jay... Jay... Jay... These two words echoed through the Americologist's essay, interspersed with images of the Appalachian autumn. Jay Rockefeller became the governor of West Virginia in the next election—the transplantation was successful, and millions flowed into the state. And the demand for coal temporarily returned during the years of catastrophic oil price hikes, which, however, did not bring jobs back to the miners who had left their homeland in despair.And Ned Chilton became a good acquaintance of the Americologist.Their relationship couldn't be called a friendship—by a broad Russian measure. It lacked intimacy, the Russian desire to confess, to bare one's soul, and if necessary, according to the old expression, to lay down one's life for one's friends. We wouldn't call these relationships a friendship also because in Ned's eyes, the Americologist still saw a question, some doubt or a shadow of doubt. Ned could not completely rid himself of suspicion: was this journalist his friend or someone else? And was there some hidden motive in his attachment to their city and state, so far from international paths?They saw each other rarely, the last time six years ago. Then, in the summer, during student vacations, the Americologist's daughter, who was studying journalism in Moscow, came to Washington, and he, after consulting with Ned, sent her to Charleston to gain life experience and practice in an American provincial newspaper. It was still possible back then—a break. For several days, Tanyushka lived in the Chiltons' house on the other high bank of the Kanawha River, met his wife Betsy and adopted daughter, toured Charleston with Chilton's reporters, who took her to the municipality, court, local prison, and gave her the first interview for the "Charleston Gazette," accompanied by a photo portrait—a lovely shy girl. Tanyushka was nineteen. It took many persuasions to send her off to Charleston—she was embarrassed, afraid, hesitant. But she passed the test and behaved tactfully and dignified in the frighteningly unfamiliar environment. And when the Americologist, with his wife and son, came to pick her up, she gladly dropped the unfamiliar burden of responsibility and hid under her parents' wings, showing that children are in no hurry to grow up and prefer to remain children, as long as they can with the help of adults.Ned always helped the Americologist and in this sense was a true friend. They did not maintain written or telephone communication, and times had changed for the worse, but Ned Chilton responded as if nothing had happened when the Americologist called him from Washington and informed him that he was again temporarily in the States and that, in order to resume his acquaintance with American rural life, he would like to visit Charleston. Ned arranged a program of meetings for him in Charleston, ensuring, as he put it, a cross-section, that is, a cross-section of local society, meetings with the mayor, in the Chamber of Commerce (business circles), and at the AFL-CIO office (organized labor), a visit to the university and the state supreme court, as well as an inspection of mining towns. But this time, too, Ned Chilton did not arrange a meeting with Jay Rockefeller, who was serving his second term as governor and occasionally cast meaningful glances towards the White House in Washington. Rockefeller IV avoided meeting with the Soviet journalist with the persistence of a superstitious person afraid of bad luck.The first scheduled meeting, an hour after arrival, was with the mayor of Charleston. And so, the Americanist, not fully discerning the pristine, like a virgin's attire, Marriott hotel room, strode along the muddy highway, still wet from the recent rain, towards the city center. He grumbled about the hospitable Ned, who had placed him – to avoid getting his face dirty – in a brand-new hotel on the outskirts. Provincial, thoroughly motorized America had long outgrown sidewalks – considering them unnecessary. And he walked along the highway on foot, clearly out of place, visible to everyone. Charleston residents passing by in their cars stared in surprise at the eccentric and stranger walking on the roadside that belonged to their cars.The office in the old building of Charleston City Hall had phones on a dark walnut desk and a smaller one behind it. A thick red carpet. Heavy chairs and sofas. The star-striped flag on a special stand in the corner. A typical office of an American official, and the Americanist, who had been there with another mayor, struggled to remember if everything remained in its place. Yes, it all seemed to be the same as before. But the photo of the mayor with Jimmy Carter, smiling too widely and showing white teeth, couldn't have been there – at that time, Carter had yet to become president (and ex-president). The doors, open to the secretary's and assistants' rooms, making the mayor's office seem like a thoroughfare, were probably there, but it was unlikely that the black cap with the Charleston police emblem hung on the wall – departing from this place, every departing mayor took with him all the souvenirs given to him, even the chair he sat in. The cap was a gift to the current mayor.That mayor's name was Hutchinson, and they, if memory served, sat right here – he on the sofa, and the mayor in the chair. The current mayor offered the chair, settled on the stool opposite, jacketless, ballpoint pens peeking from the pocket of a white shirt with a red tie, all attention and slightly wary of the guest – what was on his mind? What wind blew him to Charleston? And again, the doors to adjacent rooms were open – no secrets. Days of open doors.The former mayor, during the years of the Americanist's absence in Charleston, had been to Congress, left from there, and entered private business. The current one had been a member of the city council for eight years, the city treasurer for five, and had been in the current position for two and a half years. He had a plain face and the most common name imaginable – John Smith.The mayor is not the most important person in an American city, where private business generally rules independently of municipal authorities. But certainly not the least important. Under the mayor's leadership are the police, private schools, and public services, and he must reconcile the interests of different population groups or secretly serve mafias and clans, pretending to democratically serve everyone.John Smith, resorting to figures and facts, tried to paint a picture of the city for the foreigner, where the population had recently decreased by ten percent. But the county, Greater Charleston, has been growing all these years, with about three hundred thousand people. Economically, it thrives mainly due to the development of the chemical industry in the Kanawha River Valley. Unemployment in Greater Charleston is lower than the national or state average in West Virginia. The city, serving the thriving county, is experiencing a construction boom. Since the guest stayed at the Marriott hotel, he must have noticed this. Next to the hotel, a local coliseum (project cost twenty-two million dollars) is being built for concerts and sports events. An exhibition hall is set up in the former Municipal Center, and, in addition, a large shopping center is being built on the outskirts, where the main city stores will open their branches. A new private hospital, new administrative buildings housing insurance companies, various financial institutions, doctors, lawyers, and so on.Charleston is in very good shape, said the mayor, and the influx of private capital means an influx of taxes into the city treasury. As for the activities of the municipality itself, over eight hundred city officials, the mayor proudly noted, maintain public services at a satisfactory level.By party affiliation, the mayor was a Democrat in a city where the Democratic Party traditionally garnered the majority of votes, and in a state where the governor was also a Democrat, and where the majority traditionally voted for Democrats in presidential and congressional elections. This added a certain partisan color to his conversation with the Soviet journalist. The mayor did not approve of the Republicans ruling in Washington and complained that the government did little to help Charleston, and moreover, under Reagan, this aid was cut compared to previous administrations. And on the mayor's wall hung not the current Republican president, but the former Democratic president.The Americanist was professionally overloaded with figures and facts and, as he wrote, grew bored. Facts interested him only when they sparked a new thought or feeling. But the figures and facts of John Smith only evoked a flat thought that in an economically troubled state, the main city could prosper economically.They shifted to international affairs. The mayor joked that there's no position for a foreign minister in the municipality. Still, he spoke wisely and engagingly. The mayor's international experience was limited to military service in the Far East, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. He didn't elaborate on the lessons he learned from those distant years. However, his statements were dominated by straightforward and, thankfully, unshakable common sense."To engage in hostilities, shooting is not necessary," the former soldier expressed his concern about the strange and dangerous situation in which they are neither at war nor living in peace."If you want, peace is tranquility," he clarified his concept of peace.Common sense guided the mayor of Charleston that relations between the two superpowers should be strengthened, and their leaders should strive for personal contacts and mutual understanding.Now they were talking about life, about what binds them and what is important to discuss when meeting each other. They found agreement. Smith wanted both superpowers to focus more on the "affairs of their people," i.e., domestic matters."Too much money is being spent by both you and us because both of us are too preoccupied with our relationship," he chose such a diplomatic formulation to criticize the arms race. Later, he directly stated that he didn't agree with the military programs of the American president in everything. Are they necessary? Wouldn't it be better to strengthen contacts and find areas of common interest? The military expenditures of the two powers are structured based on what Jones, that is, the neighbor and potential adversary, has. In the end, "we continue to move in the wrong direction."And having nuclear weapons creates entirely different "conditions of the game." The mayor summed up his reasoning with President Johnson's favorite expression, which was often quoted in the newspapers at one time: "Let's get together and put our heads together."John Smith is like our Ivan Kuznetsov. A man with a common name spoke with the voice of the people. Common sense is indelible, just like the two instincts of humans - the instinct of self-preservation and the instinct of procreation. Where, in which spheres, and at what heights is this unpretentious - and wise! - common sense lost, the ability to disregard the secondary for the sake of the main?The Americanist was drawn to the American hinterlands to see the life of the people, to touch, in American terms, the roots of the grass. He was drawn to the province - and to simplicity. And he had long found a professional explanation for this attraction. There, in the provinces, the structure of society is built from the same bricks, but devoid of the embellishments and decorations of the capital, it is better suited for observation and description. There, you see the main thing better, the essence. He thought this even in the years of his first correspondences in Cairo, occasionally traveling to villages or towns in the Nile Delta. This persisted in America, although over the years he came to understand that simplicity is a complex concept and that there is not only the simplicity of common sense but also the simplicity of mental laziness and underdevelopment and just foolishness, and that there is even cruel simplicity - and stupidity - of bourbons, and that true high simplicity is as rare and precious as wisdom.Over the years, he came to understand something else: he was drawn to the provinces because he himself came from there. It was a call of childhood, of ancestors, a return to the origins. If you will, a provincial complex. That was his place, where, it seemed to him, a simple, integral, and healthy life remained, and even in his trips to the American hinterlands, there was a trace of the impulse of a prodigal son who, returning after wandering in big cities, kneels at the parental threshold.In the tension of his foreign and predominantly service existence, the Americanist did not feel free even in such an involuntary matter as choosing memories. Another life was insidiously and powerfully imposing another order of the soul. He took with him on his business trip several volumes of his favorite poets. But the verses that he recited at home all day did not come to mind across the ocean. The books lay untouched in his briefcase. He again fell captive to the changed internal rhythm, and this rhythm, regardless of his will, was imposed by another land. Each land creates its own poetry, genuine verses seem to stand out by themselves from its air and cannot, with the degree of freedom needed for poetry, be transferred to the different atmosphere of another land and exist there.The same applied to memories. And yet, some memories were quite fresh and somewhat relevant because they also related to the province. In late autumn, the Americanist traveled around America, and at the end of the summer, in August of the same year, he went for a few days to a Russian province, to his homeland. Frankly, he had not been there longer than in Charleston or New York, Washington, San Francisco, Panama City, Caracas, Havana, Paris, Bonn, Hamburg, Stockholm, Cairo, Beirut, Amman, etc. He had not been there for ten years, since his eldest daughter, living in Moscow without her parents, surprised them with the news of her intention to get married, and he flew from Washington, acquiring a new, striking quality of a father of a married daughter, decided to partake in the places of his fatherhood. It was a troubled summer of forest fires, with smoke and ash reaching Moscow, and in his homeland, near the city with a funny - for outsiders - name, black, burned, still smoking forests stood.At that time, ten years ago, he came to Kulebaki not from Moscow but from Gorky - as always. The two cities were inseparably connected by childhood years. His parents moved from Kulebaki to Gorky when he was three years old, and his brother was half as old. The imprint of the consciousness formed in childhood. The road to Kulebaki always started from Gorky and was the first road for a child traveling with his mother by water to Murom, or by train to the Navashino station, or by car on a bumpy cobblestone road, longer than any in his prewar childhood world. And more than thirty years after moving to Moscow, he could not imagine any other road home than the one that started in Gorky.Without looking at the map, he could say that the city of Ithaca is approximately two hundred kilometers northwest of New York, but ask him in which direction from Moscow his native Kulebaki lies, and he would have trouble answering. Childhood is not sought on a geographical map. Homeland is not a settlement but a sacred place.But did he have the right to utter these two words with a clear heart - a sacred place? The Americanist, along with his sister and brother, did not visit even the parental grave in Gorky for many years, leaving it in the care of a distant relative. And he did not go there from the Kursk station but to Simferopol or Kislovodsk. From Moscow airports, he knew the international one in Sheremetyevo the best. And only in the sixth decade of his life did he discover that there was a direct road home from Moscow.From Kazansky Station to childhood was only seven hours. And the ticket to childhood cost only six fifty. Passenger train No. 662 Moscow - Sergach was composed of general and coupe cars, only three - coupe, and not a single - soft or sleeping car of direct communication, which used to be called international. Old cars and rough conductors landed our internationalist, evoking echoes of distant years in his soul and reminding him of the modesty of his native places. With his wife, he merged into the crowd of passengers laden with bags and trunks with products from Moscow, and a simple thought struck him: he realized that in old dusty cars, his fellow countrymen were traveling home, who, unlike him, had never detached from their native soil anywhere and at any time.They set out at the very beginning of a still long August evening. The curtains on the open windows of the carriage billowed from the wind, the wheels clattered through the forests and swamps under the vast, low, sunset-gilded pine sky. As darkness fell, there was an empty platform in Murom, and the iron bridge over the Oka River resounded, and precisely at midnight, they disembarked in Navashino — and the name also echoed in his soul. Here and then, in childhood, trains going further would stop for a few minutes, and he and his brother, small, nestled among trunks and bundles, were awakened in the middle of the night, dressed, hurried, lowered into the darkness and damp chill from the high steps of pre-war carriages, where the scent of sleepers, coal, hissing locomotive steam prevailed, and sharp and mournful hoots of maneuvering cuckoos instilled anxiety and longing. The narrow-gauge railway departing from Navashino connected Kulebaki with the wide world and the Kazan Railway. The terminal station of the narrow-gauge railway was called Mordovshchiki — and this, too, was a word from childhood, and at the wooden station building, he and his mother waited for the morning work train to Kulebaki, catching the scents and sounds of nocturnal railway life, half-dreaming about soft beddings, fluffy pancakes, and raspberry with milk in his grandmother's house.That was how it was. However, the last time, in August, though with a shared train, he came to his homeland as a distinguished guest. They were met by the chairman of the city executive committee, the mayor of Kulebaki, in a black "Volga," and, without having time to examine the new concrete building of the Navashino station, on the deserted asphalt road, which the low, thickly golden moon glanced askance at, they rushed to their native city, tearing through bushes with their headlights on the outskirts and breathing the mysterious freshness of the native forests.That first night, he did not recognize his city, where he hadn't been in ten years. They were accommodated in the dormitory of the metallurgical plant, or rather, in the factory hotel, which occupied part of the dormitory building. (They wanted to accommodate them in the guest cottage at the plant management, but other internationalists lived there — two English consulting engineers.)He did not recognize his city the next morning when he woke up. The new residential area they found themselves in did not differ from other residential areas in other cities. Laundry was drying on balconies, flower beds were arranged under the windows, and young mothers with strollers walked between five-story panel buildings. The wife of the Americanist, tuned in after her husband's stories to log houses, was surprised by the view of the new quarters, over which the spirit of yesterday's construction sites and the day before yesterday's vacant lots still hovered.They were taken care of by Alexander Mikhailovich Khlopkov, the chairman of the city executive committee. He was lean and sturdy, dark-haired, with wrinkles on his hollowed cheeks and black slanting eyes. With irony turned toward his own person, inherent in lively, intelligent, and charming Russian people of his kind, Alexander Mikhailovich gave himself two nicknames: the City Chief — according to his official position — and the Shard of Genghis Khan — according to his appearance. In him, there was a sense of inherent intelligence, both innate and developed by life experience, rather than early acquisition of academic knowledge. Behind the City Chief, who was by no means like Gogol's character, stood the universities of life. He started as a craftsman, an electrician, was a shift supervisor, and then the head of a workshop. His factory tenure counted twenty-three years when he was nominated for the chairman of the city executive committee, and he served in this position without change for nineteen years.The Americanist grew fond of the City Chief — his intelligence, irony, and hidden sadness. If they had met earlier, they probably would have become friends, and he would have called Alexander Mikhailovich "Sanya."Alexander Mikhailovich knew everything and everyone in the town, where almost fifty thousand people lived. He could recite all the numbers and percentages about the housing stock—both public and private (as half of the residents still lived in private houses), about gas, water supply and sewage, schools, kindergartens, healthcare institutions, stores, and the square meters of their trading areas, about canteens and cafes, and, of course, about industrial enterprises—the radio component factory, the metal structures plant, the sewing factory, and the dairy plant, as well as the printing house, woodworking shop, oil depot, and two gas stations, not to mention the metallurgical plant.Actually, it all began with this plant, which smelted iron from swamp ores, back in the last century. Without the plant, the former village would not have become a small industrial town. Without this plant, both our hero's grandfathers would not have come here from nearby villages, and his mother and father would not have met and married, and the reader would have been spared the description of the Americanist's journey, which suddenly led us to his homeland, in the forested and marshy Russian region.But, on the other hand, let's agree, we have a clear and hidden yearning for the unusual and unexpected, and here you have it—an Americanist from Kulebaki. The smart and industrious City Chief was not devoid of the common Russian weakness for various kinds of exotic things. With his charm and humor, his soft persistence, he lured our internationalist back to his native land. Kulebaki celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. Alexander Mikhailovich, raising modest celebrations, scoured the vast country to find fellow townspeople who could be proudly presented not only to the world but at least to the neighboring rival towns, Vyksa and Murom. There was a general of the army, though already deceased, a renowned colonel, an artist, a composer, a polar explorer... And among them, enriching the collection, was a journalist who had worked for a long time in overseas lands and whose face occasionally appeared on the all-Union television screen. As the brochure released for the city's fiftieth anniversary mentioned, the Americanist's paternal grandfather was a well-known revolutionary in Kulebaki, and his father was one of the first leaders of the Kulebaki Komsomol organization.No matter how you tell it, one thing becomes clear: the Americanist ended up in Kulebaki as an honorary guest through his grandfather—and through America. They didn't invite his younger brother, although he had also achieved something in his non-exotic profession as a geologist.And in his black Volga, the Head of the City showed the Americanist the sights and achievements, driving him and his wife to Veletma, where there was the large Batashovskiy pond (named after the first owner of the local metallurgical plants), and to Gremyachevo, where a plant for the production of building materials had been recently built. They visited the renovated People's House, which also housed the city museum, and in the museum, among other exhibits, hung a vague, blurry portrait of his grandfather, taken from a small photograph. Standing on the green banks of the Tesh River, Alexander Mikhaylovich told the Americanist a local legend, handed down through generations—that the Americans supposedly offered to clean this fast and cold river, meandering through picturesque groves, and even pay three million dollars to lift and take away the centuries-old oak logs that had settled in it, layer by layer. What is more in this legend - the lingering Russian boastfulness about the wealth lying underfoot and everyone too busy to bend down, or self-criticism and admiration for the business acumen of those who, even from across the ocean, are willing to bend down and lift?The town was small. All ends in it were short. In five minutes, it was already the outskirts, an empty road, pale blue sky over flat land, birches and spruces on the sides, and rugged pines on sandy ridges with their spreading branches and sun-gilded bark.The Americanist did everything expected of a distinguished fellow countryman; he explored the city and its surroundings, addressed the local party committee, but beyond these official activities, there was also a personal side to his visit. He came for a meeting with his childhood. In the official black car, now without the discreet Alexander Mikhaylovich, he went with his wife to one of the outlying, largely untouched by the last decades, streets of Kulebaki—Krisapova Street. There, people still walked and drove, sinking their feet and wheels into the sand. Wooden houses with gardens and old, no longer needed haylofts and cowsheds extended into the sand. In one of these houses lived Aunt Manya, his late mother's older sister, the last living thread connecting him to Kulebaki.His heart beat differently when he saw this old house, when the noise of the frozen car subsided, revealing the face of Andrei Ivanovich in the window of the veranda. It became embarrassing when he hesitated for a moment near the wooden fence, forgetting how to open the gate. And both old men, like little children, tumbled off the veranda steps into their nephew's outstretched arms, faintly sighing and reaching out to kiss, their bodies frail and wrinkled, devoid of the juice and color of life. Hugging them gently, he felt their weightless, feeble flesh.The five-room house was cornered, facing the street and the alley where, in spring, to the joy of children, a stream ran. The other half once belonged to his maternal grandfather and grandmother. It was on that side that they stayed, three or four grandchildren, coming for school holidays from Gorky and Ivanovo—another sister of his mother, Nyura, lived in Ivanovo. They slept together on a quilt laid out on the floor, and hanging from the ceiling was a wooden wind chime with spread wings, and in the corner, above the lit lamp, the faces of saints glowed in the iconostasis led by St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. The great-grandfather of the Americanist on the maternal side was Nicholas, and his father was also Nicholas. However, the grandmother respected and feared her "party" son-in-law and made lazy-eyed Zhenya, Nyura's son, pray to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. When Zhenya didn't listen, she put him on his knees in front of the open cellar in the kitchen, threatening to put him there, in the darkness and dampness, among jars of milk and barrels of cucumbers and cabbage and the unpleasant, slippery tadpoles...The first wartime years took both grandfathers and both grandmothers at once (they were barely over sixty), as if burying them under the avalanche of shared sorrow, privations, and calamities. Trips to Kulebaki for summer vacations ceased, and after the war, other unrelated people bought their grandfather's half. They changed, and now a young working couple, helping the old people, lived there. Aunt Manya had no children of her own. Vera, the only daughter of Andrei Ivanovich from his first, long-deceased wife, settled with her family in the Urals. The old people—both were over eighty—lived out their days alone, and Andrei Ivanovich dreamed of dying on the same day as Maria Mikhaylovna. A pitiful dream of helpless old age.Meeting with a nephew who traveled through exotic overseas lands was also a long-standing dream, regularly communicated to him by Andrei Ivanovich in his congratulatory postcards, never forgetting to mention how weak they had become—thank God for the young neighbors' help; they can't even make it to the store anymore. And now, the nephew, without warning, dropped in like snow on their heads.After calming down and catching his breath, having a small shot of vodka and tasting the rich peasant soup from the Russian oven, they both went to the cemetery to the family graves on the metal hills topped with crosses. There were no names on the pyramids, and Aunt Manya, sitting on a bench inside the fence, muttered, explaining: "This is Mom. And this is Dad and the deceased. This is my mother-in-law. And here, Nyura took my place, and here they'll put me..." She referred to her first husband as the deceased, and Nyura, who took her place beside her deceased parents, was her sister.Andrei Ivanovich sat in silence, taking off his old white cap. Aunt Manya lamented, informing the dead of her intentions and that she was gathering herself but still not ready to join them. Andrei Ivanovich, once a handsome, kind, and active man, a good worker and community leader, a war veteran, sat crying like a little child. The honorable guest of Kulebaki was also bewildered by this turn of events, ran for the "Volga" left at the gate, but the car couldn't maneuver through the narrow cemetery alleys.When the fainting spell passed, Aunt Manya, regaining consciousness, lay on the grave mound on her side. They helped her up to the car, took her home, laid her down, called a doctor who administered an injection...Leaving the car to his wife, the Americanist walked to the hotel through the entire city. He tested himself: would he find the way to the house where his other grandfather and grandmother lived, on his father's side, without any hints. They rarely went there for visits. On weekends, he and his brother were bathed, combed, dressed in short identical pants with suspenders and sailor shirts, and in this neat attire, they were walked on foot to the other grandfather and grandmother, across the entire city. At that time, he didn't know of a greater distance. And now he walked as if by touch along the forgotten road of childhood: along Truda Street, almost to the factory gates, where they used to roll out unbearably red and hot bricks on platforms, and down along the factory fence to the warm water technical pond emitting smoke, and through the park, where there was also a pond with a mound in the middle... My, everything here was so small. As if since then, he kept growing and growing, while his city kept shrinking. Beyond the park, past the narrow-gauge railway, the street he never walked all the way through because his grandfather's house was at its beginning... Is it this one? — he now asked himself. Will he really not recognize it? He summoned intuition and instinct to help his memory. This one? Or that one? There was no clear signal. He returned to the narrow-gauge railway and walked those few dozen steps again, and something faintly emerged from the distant past, and he was finally sure: yes, this one, the first one behind the railway track, a single-story wooden house divided into two halves with two picket fences — and these steps, this far-right door. For forty years, different unfamiliar people lived there — such a long time! He decided not to disturb them with his memories.His grandfather, by nature, was a true proletarian. The owner's instinct was entirely absent in him, and even in the city, where almost everyone owned their homes at that time, he lived with his grandmother in a state-provided apartment. But they did have a cow—back then, everyone had cows. In the state-provided apartment, the windows were larger than in the other grandfather's izba, the ceilings were higher, there was white Dutch tile on the Dutch oven, and—a bath. Yes, it seems there was even a bath.Grandfather Petr Vasilievich was respected by all, and the apartment provided by the factory testified to the recognition of his merits. But the future Americanist was frightened by his grandfather's gloomy silence and glass eye. The glass eye was inserted after a metal shaving got into his real eye. Grandfather's hands trembled—ever since he was cruelly beaten and dragged on an arc behind a Cossack horse in 1905; during that first revolution, he participated in the raid on the apartment of a police officer, trying to free arrested comrades, while the young metalworker revolutionaries, in turn, were breaking the Cossack squadron.Grandfather Petr Vasilievich came to the metallurgical plant at the end of the previous century as a fourteen-year-old apprentice fitter. After the October Revolution, he worked as a foreman in the blooming mill shop. He was an excellent craftsman, and, moreover, a self-made inventor. For inventions related to tire production, and for participation in revolutionary activities, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee bestowed upon him the title of Hero of Labor. Yes, there was such a title in the early thirties, and the corresponding certificate—a large sheet adorned with images of factory pipes and the first bulky wheeled tractors, bearing the handwritten signature of M.I. Kalinin—now hung in the Moscow apartment above the Americanist's bed as a faded family relic.Several photographs have also been preserved. However, when recalling the image of his grandfather, the Americanist somehow always saw him in one pose not captured by photographs—silently sitting on a bent Vienna chair. Having lived almost to grandfatherly years, he now wanted to decipher his grandfather's silence, and one day it occurred to him that it was essentially the pose of Dostoevsky in the famous portrait by Perov—leg over leg, hands clasped on the knee to steady their tremors, which never stopped after the Cossack arc, and a narrow face though without a beard, also immersed in an unresolved thought. Grandfather was silent because he disliked chatterboxes and empty talk; this quality was inherited by the Americanist's father. But what was he thinking so intensely about? Sometimes it seemed that the answer would be tantamount to deciphering the genetic code, his own, family.Grandfather thought less about the future Americanist and his brother, the future geologist, than about his other grandson, the red-haired and freckled braggart and fantasist Vovka, who constantly lived in their house. They were the children of the elder son, and Vovka, the red-haired one, was the son of the middle son. The middle son, whom the grandfather could be proud of—he was the first in their family to receive a higher education, became an engineer, and a party worker at one of the Leningrad plants. In the late thirties, when many lives were abruptly and unexpectedly breaking, Mikhail was arrested as an "enemy of the people." Grandfather did not believe this accusation. Grandfather himself was the people, and his son could not be an enemy of the people. Mikhail's wife was also arrested, and Vovka was left alone. Grandfather and grandmother took him in, in Kulebaki. And perhaps this thought tormented the silent grandfather: the boy will be lost... And the thought of the fate of Mikhail and his daughter-in-law and the general thought: what is happening?..What is a simple person? Grandfather was a simple—and not simple—worker, a simple—and not simple!—person. So, he lived a simple life of ordinary people in the depths of Russia. And his son, becoming an engineer and a party worker, went beyond the circle of simple life—and look what came of it. Perhaps, the grandfather thought about it, sitting in the pose of Dostoevsky, with trembling palms joined on his knees, gazing unsmilingly at his little clueless grandchildren.Misfortune came—open the gates. Later, the grandfather was struck by the sudden death of his younger son, the most prominent and handsome in the family. He served as a submariner in the Far East, nurturing the youthful romanticism of his admiring cap-wearing and wide-breeched nephews, and the command's notice stated briefly and unclearly—death from freezing. When personal grief was added to the immense shock of war, Grandfather Petr Vasilievich and Grandmother Anna Alexeevna descended into an unnamed grave. He never knew that his middle son died exactly a year before Victory Day, which was reported approximately twelve years later when he was posthumously rehabilitated, that the rehabilitated daughter-in-law returned from imprisonment alive and found her already grown-up, red-haired son, who retained the orphan's unsettledness throughout his life. The three children of his elder son, however, were sheltered under the parental wing from the storms of life, destructive for an immature age...The Americanist was taken on a tour of the metallurgical plant, where they showed him the fifteen-ton steam hammer in the tire shop. The hammer was 105 years old, but it worked vigorously, like a young one. It effortlessly and silently rose in the roar of the shop, and, taking aim, struck heavily and firmly on the hot, thick ingot, fed from the heating furnace. With each blow of the hammer, the ground resounded with a deep rumble, and the workers would instinctively crouch along with the onlookers. The head of the tire shop mentioned that he could hear the rumble at home, living two kilometers away from the plant.The head was young and educated. "Your grandfather worked on this hammer," he said to the Americanist, who was both embarrassed and honored.The Americanist was inspecting the plant with the party committee secretary, Alexander Mikhailovich, and his wife. They stood about fifteen meters away from the hammer, while two workers, with face shields pulled down to shield from the heat, manipulated the fiery, infernal ingot with their tongs, presenting it to the hammer. The workers wore black, oily, and smoked clothes. Both of the Americanist's grandfathers—Petr Vasilievich and Mikhail Nikolaevich—had once been in their place. And now, the Americanist stood as an honored guest on the sidelines, feeling a mix of excitement and embarrassment at having the hammer demonstrated for him. Moving on to the rolling mill shop, the Americanist lingered and approached one of the workers. The worker was not young. He had already lifted his face shield and removed his gloves and initially looked puzzled at the outstretched hand of a stranger. The worker's hand turned out to be unexpectedly limp.The Americanist couldn't resist this gesture. He didn't say anything to the worker, remembering his grandfather's and father's aversion to empty talk. Yet through the handshake, he wanted to somehow connect with his grandfather—almost half a century later—and let him know that the grandson remembers him and did not pass by his distant successor at this century-old hammer…As a surprise and wonder, they showed the factory greenhouse where palms, tropical vines, and bushes with succulent fleshy leaves grew in the humid mist. The palms reached a height of fifteen meters, and to avoid restricting their growth, the greenhouse had glass walls and a glass ceiling. The metalworkers from Kulebaki, in their eternal love of Northern children for the hot South, did not hesitate to incur expenses for these palms.It was there, not near the hammer, that their photograph was taken—in the greenhouse, by the thick mossy trunk of a palm tree, amid exotic bushes and vines.Their prolonged and lyrical digression came to an end. Too bad. The author and his character, the Americanist, bidding farewell to childhood once again (and hopefully not for the last time), did not want to leave the small house of his modest homeland, nor the larger house of the Motherland, and travel again to a distant foreign soil. Home and walls help—both the earth and the sky. And one's own people.The author could have stayed in his native land and slowly described how, on a gloomy morning with light rain, a black "Volga" with a rear curtain left Kulebaki, carrying the Americanist and his wife to Moscow. How, with wet leaves drooping, the familiar forests bid him farewell, and the pontoon bridge across the Oka near Murom echoed heavily; how, on the other, right bank, Vladimir's villages with their palisades rolled along the road, receding backward, and other no less familiar forests with pine and birch stood nearby. Right there, not far from his fifty-year-old city, the Americanist happened to pass through ancient, glorious places in Russian history—Suzdal with the beauty of empty white churches and communal cells behind the red walls of the Spaso-Evfimyevsky Monastery, Vladimir with its magnificent Assumption Cathedral and the melodious Italian speech of dark-haired tourists coming out of "Ikaruses"—a service was being held in the cathedral, old women in scarves crowded, and the Americanist, accustomed to scrutinizing Catholic churches abroad, not Orthodox ones, saw in this worship our special simplicity and habit of communal life, all standing, not on Catholic benches, all together, in fear before God, not in contractual, rationalistic relations with Him.The author could have described in more detail the tall and handsome driver Valentin, who was embarrassed by the unusual fellow countryman, and even more embarrassed was Nadya, his wife; in the car, they only spoke to each other, which could seem impolite, but actually revealed the extreme shyness of two young provincials who were traveling to the capital for the first time with city dwellers. (How Valentin worried, merging into the multilane traffic on the Enthusiast Highway!) Observing the young couple from Kulebaki, the Americanist realized that he himself had almost outgrown his provincial complex...What can be said: it is easier to draw handfuls from one's native element than from a foreign one—pitiful drops. Although, on the other hand, the more drawing, the more writing, thorough connoisseurs, and critical critics, and a tougher, more severe demand. It is easier to draw, but harder to write—and be responsible for what is written. We have managed to say something about the professional troubles and hardships of an internationalist writing from abroad and about the foreign land. Isn't it time, for balance, to mention its advantages and privileges? For what he wrote about America, the Americanist answered in full only before the judgment of other Americanists—and before his conscience. Only they, knowing the subject and having been in the same shoes as him, and only conscience (shame turned inward), could truly and sternly judge how sincerely it was written, how much it corresponded to the truth or erred against it. The internationalist writes about a life that is unknown to the vast majority of his readers, and they are also trusting, generous, tolerant, and eager for exoticism (let's not forget this long-standing weakness of ours). What if some scoundrel finds an opportunity to take advantage of this reader's trust, stemming from insufficient knowledge, suddenly flatters (for he is a scoundrel to flatter) the temptations of cheap popularity and easy rewards? Will there always be someone to point at the scoundrel, a knowledgeable person who also possesses the qualities of Andersen's brave little match-seller, who, pointing a finger at the scoundrel, will exclaim in front of all honest people, "The king is naked!"The internationalist is trusted implicitly, and in this lies his enviable security, the measure of his responsibility, and the privilege not possessed by those writing about their own country. Because from one's native environment, from one's life, not only the writer draws but all of us, without exception. Living is, whether you want it or not, drawing from life. Sometimes more than the soul requests and is ready to endure.At the beginning of our narrative, introducing the Americanist, we mentioned that he was tormented—increasingly by bouts of unspoken thoughts. Not everything fit into the newspaper, into articles and comments on current international affairs. He attempted to express himself, stepping beyond the steel newspaper frame. These attempts were unsuccessful. The profession became a way of life and life itself. He was perceived as a journalist writing on international topics. Or, in the best case, as a title complaint—publicist. Journalist or publicist, does it really matter, as long as you tell about the time and about yourself, bypassing the essential in both time and yourself—your own country?And now, in the order of the first, though belated, experience, we gave the Americanist an outlet—released him from Charleston, West Virginia, to Kulebaki, Gorky Oblast. There he took a breather from the grim realities of the nuclear age. Old Aunt Manya spent her last days awaiting her death and a grave next to her deceased parents; visions of universal non-existence did not trouble her. Alexander Mikhailovich, the mayor of Kulebaki, did not interview the Americanist about war, peace, and Soviet-American relations—on these pressing topics, the mayor questioned the journalist more than the journalist questioned the mayor. Now, having given the Americanist a chance to catch his breath, we will send him again from the overgrown oak groves of the Techa, flowing into the Oka, which, in turn, flows into the Volga, to the shores of the industrial Kanava, flowing into the Ohio River, which, in turn, flows into the Mississippi.Reclining in his chair with his feet comfortably on the table, Ned Chilton, the publisher of the "Charleston Gazette," was talking on the phone. Seeing the Americanist entering his office, he didn't remove his feet from the table but gestured with his free hand, inviting him to sit. The Americanist sat on the sofa on the opposite wall, observing the publisher and his workspace. Ned had aged and looked like an elderly teenager, with completely gray, boyishly short-cut hair and a wrinkled yet boyish oval face. Slim and wiry, dressed in a thick sweater that hugged his chest. He continued talking, making apologetic gestures to convey that the conversation couldn't be postponed.When the Americanist contacted him a month ago from Washington, Ned had said he was ready to meet and assist but suggested coming in early November because he would be flying to Fiji for a vacation at the end of the month, planning to indulge in underwater swimming. Escaping the chilly West Virginian winter to the other side of the world, to hell with everything, more precisely, to paradise, for just a couple of weeks. Now, on the phone, he was discussing the details of the trip in his abrupt and business-like ironic manner.Among the new items in the office, the Americanist noticed a vase on the windowsill shaped like a large brandy glass, filled with meticulously small iridescent seashells. A new hobby. The shells reminded him of deserted beaches, warm white sand sinking into ankles as you walk barefoot, waves lazily rolling onto the shore, the sun hanging in the azure sky above the boundless ocean. For the Americanist, these were just scenes from American movies where children of the super-industrial country are increasingly returned to the pristine lap of nature. For Ned Chilton, the shells in the vase were a reminder of the best days of his current, already not-so-young life, which would return if only one knew how to set aside all other matters for them."They live splendidly, billionaires," the Americanist flattered his Charleston friend when he paused the conversation, and they exchanged handshakes."I'm not a billionaire, although I wouldn't mind becoming one," Ned retorted."In that case, millionaires live splendidly," the Americanist conceded."And I'll be a millionaire only if I sell my shares in the newspaper," Ned clarified again, and it turned out that not only billionaires fly from the United States to Fiji to escape winter.In the "Charleston Gazette," he was both the publisher and the editor-in-chief, and he co-owned it with his aunt, who, as they said, had more shares than he did.Thus, with banter between friends, they met again after a six-year hiatus. Ned's wife and daughter were vacationing in Florida. The Americanist, satisfying Ned's curiosity, shared about his wife, daughter, and grown-up son who had embarrassed the Chilton girl during their last visit to Charleston, earning the nickname "woman-hater" from Ned. After brief inquiries, they turned to business, and the deputy editor-in-chief, Doug Marsh, a not-so-young man with a square head, a large forehead, and dry humor, was summoned to the office. They discussed the schedule of events prepared for the Americanist, and unexpectedly, a snag arose, sparking a not-too-serious, temperament-filled dispute."Tomorrow, for lunch, you, Stan, will meet Rabbi Kohler," Ned announced, elongating the pronunciation of "Stan" as he referred to the Americanist."But, Ned, I didn't request a meeting with the rabbi," Stan replied."Stan, upon learning of your visit, Rabbi Kohler expressed a desire to meet you.""But you know, I came here as a reporter to ask questions, and, believe me, I have no questions for Rabbi Kohler.""Don't get worked up, Stan. Rabbi Kohler has questions for you. Something about the situation of Jews in the Soviet Union. Will you refuse him this kindness?""Excuse me, Ned, but I have no intention of meeting with any rabbi over lunch. I came to see Charleston and West Virginia, and if Rabbi Kohler wants to ask questions, let him ask Begin, Sharon, and Shamir: what have they done to Lebanon? Why did they bomb Beirut? What made them let killers into Sabra and Shatila? And, by the way, where was Rabbi Kohler when children and elderly people in Lebanon were killed by ball bombs made in America?"The Americanist was boiling. Some wanted to exploit his presence in Charleston for their own purposes. The rabbi was willing to meet him to tick a box somewhere in his reports to his people and, perhaps, publish an anti-Soviet article with both overt and covert meanings in Chilton's newspaper. He was being invited to play this game. The absurdity was heightened by the fact that this was just Charleston, not New York, Los Angeles, or Miami Beach, where no politician or publisher could raise their voice against Zionist organizations. However, was it really absurd? It meant that they knew where to apply pressure, what to threaten with, and how to constantly stay in the spotlight. They probably influenced Chilton as well, and now he was taking precautions against potential accusations of being "soft" on the "reds.""Stan, but you yourself said you want to see a cross-section of society.""But I didn't ask for this, Ned. You know how many problems there are in this damned world, and they haven't bypassed West Virginia either."Don Marsh diplomatically kept silent during the dispute between the host and the guest, although the guest found support even in his silence. However, Ned, not wanting to spoil relations with the rabbi, stuck to his line until the end."Stan, this is impossible. Rabbi Kohler is a pleasant and WORTHY man. You'll see. He canceled lunch with his friends just to meet with a Soviet journalist. Think about the position you're putting me in. If you refuse, I'll have to broadcast it all over America.""Ned, don't put me on the spot. No, and again, no..."The incident was closed, and Chilton didn't revisit it. Instead of lunch with the rabbi, the program included a visit to Charleston University and lunch with its president. The university was located on the other side of the river, right across from the state governor's residence. It was tiny, with only two and a half thousand students. A private institution, with an annual tuition fee of five thousand dollars. Relatively wealthy, with a budget of around ten million dollars per year (in addition to tuition fees from students and donations from alumni). A tiny university, but entirely American, with imperial aspirations—foreign branches in Rome, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro. Each branch had around a hundred students studying and interning. Every year, the board of trustees, wealthy and respected patrons of the university, held one of its meetings abroad, in one of the branches.The university president turned out to be a tall, youthful man. His appearance resembled more that of a spoiled playboy than that of a serious scholar or administrator. He chuckled as he talked about the overseas branches and how the trustees loved to hold their meetings in three famous capitals. The Americanist never quite understood the underlying tone of his jokes—whether it was pride (do you have such universities?) or mocking humility (we're so small and modest that we want to show off at least a bit). Like his counterparts in larger universities, the president's main responsibility was to find and ensure a regular and sufficient influx of funds, which increased every year.They sat for lunch in a separate room of the university cafeteria and discussed American Catholic bishops, who were extensively covered in the newspapers at that time. They were developing a pastoral letter to their multi-million-member flock condemning the immorality and godlessness of nuclear weapons and calling for the freezing of nuclear arsenals. With his characteristic chuckles, the university president claimed that the issue of freezing nuclear arsenals didn't concern or excite an average person on the street. His deputy, casually called Sally, and Doug Marsh, accompanying the Americanist, disagreed and argued with him."Jay Rockefeller proves that inheriting money is easier than brains," quipped a columnist from the "Charleston Daily" newspaper. This aphorism seemed to unsettle even the speaker himself with its audacity and subtle anti-Americanism. Regardless of one's attitude towards the wealthy heir, casting a shadow on substantial wealth was not considered very American.In the same building, sharing a printing press, coexisted newspapers of two political shades – the more liberal Chilton-owned paper and the more conservative "Charleston Daily." Their cohabitation was dictated by commercial considerations, providing cost savings. It transcended political disagreements since it determined the main thing – the profitability or loss of both newspapers, their survival.Now, Ned Chilton shared with his conservative neighbors and the guest from Moscow, fostering good neighborly relations, and perhaps, like Bill Brockett from San Francisco, demonstrating that he had no secrets with the "reds."Two editorial offices were located on the same floor, and right next to Chilton's office was the office of the competing newspaper's editor-in-chief. There, the Americanist was talking to Mr. Cheshire, the editor-in-chief of the "Charleston Daily," and a young columnist whom he had invited for support and, perhaps, as a witness, taking precautions, as the new "witch hunt" made even the hunters cautious.The conversation revealed a dislike for the governor with the most capitalist name, and it was explained very simply. Unlike other Rockefellers, the West Virginian was a Republican by party affiliation and, moreover, had a liberal reputation and the biography of a man who had walked the picket lines. In the mid-sixties, interrupting a diplomatic career that he had begun with an orientation toward Japan at the State Department, Jay Rockefeller suddenly went to the disaster-stricken coal state as a participant in Johnson's declared "war on poverty." It was a time of active youth involvement in public life – anti-war protests, the struggle for racial equality. The "war on poverty" directed this energy through the channels monitored by official Washington. Jay Rockefeller lived and worked for several months in the epicenter of coal miner poverty – the town of Emmons, fifteen miles from Charleston.Once, the Americanist visited Emmons, inquiring about how the fourth-generation Rockefeller attempted to benefit the people personally and found no traces of his victory over poverty. The town was still dying, with no jobs; many had left for other places, but those who remained, rejected by society and broken by life, preserved a fond memory of the young, compassionate billionaire.The editor-in-chief of the "Charleston Daily" had worked for a time on the staff of ultra-conservative Senator Jesse Helms. In his eyes, the current governor Jay Rockefeller was "pink," and this old dislike gave birth to a deadly – and accurate – aphorism: inheriting money is easier than brains.As for the people, both liberals and conservatives spoke on their behalf with a certain pathos when the people themselves remained silent. The original inhabitants here in West Virginia lived secluded and provincially, the Americanist heard familiar characteristics again. Hillbillies, hill people – that's what they called these people who acquired a reputation as recluses and had no intention of descending from their hills. Their language, believe it or not, retained archaic words, almost Shakespearean in nature. But they were a proud and very patriotic people, assured both conservatives. During World War II, West Virginia provided almost the highest percentage of recruits in the country; coal miners, exempted from the draft, were offered a reserve, but they refused privileges and went to the army to fight."They just thought that battles were safer than working underground," added Mr. Cheshire, lightening the pathos of his praise for the patriotism of his fellow countrymen.Now, in the mines, there is "fantastic technology," the process of preparing mine workings and coal extraction is fully mechanized, and a miner who follows the rules of interaction with machines is completely safe. Miners, the Americanist was told, earn up to a hundred dollars or more per day if they work...If... The main dangers awaited miners not underground but on the surface. The unemployment rate in West Virginia was fourteen percent, one of the highest in the country. However, this average level did not convey the scale of the public distress that had enveloped the relatively prosperous Charleston. Coal became a topic of discussion when oil difficulties arose. However, hope for West Virginia miners was short-lived. The situation with oil stabilized, the energy balance leveled off, and demand for coal sharply plummeted again. Moreover, in the inland regions of West Virginia, there were no seaports that would provide access to the world beyond American borders, through which coal could be conveniently and economically exported overseas to Western Europe, where there was demand for it. And now, more powerful and efficient machines than ever were pushing miners out from underground....The worst situation was in the southern part of the state. Unemployment among miners there reached eighty percent. Oil corporations, immeasurably richer and more predatory, acquired coal corporations and coal deposits and deliberately reduced production, "sitting on the coal" like dogs on hay, until they squeezed the last penny from oil...The fantastic unemployment figure — eighty percent — and dreadful suspicions regarding oil corporations, the Americanist heard in another conversation, this time with union officials.For another conversation, he came to Broad Street, in a new building nestled near a towering road interchange supported by sturdy concrete pillars. The major highway, running to other states, entered Charleston here and, for other motorists, promptly left it. Only people accustomed to living in noise and tumult could choose such an inconspicuous place for their headquarters. However, land there was probably cheaper. In the new brown building, the West Virginian branch of the largest American professional association AFT — CWA was located.In the central Washington headquarters of AFT — CWA, ardent anti-Soviet and anti-communist sentiments prevailed. Heading to Charleston's Broad Street, the Americanist prepared for a fight. But instead of a verbal altercation, a friendly conversation unfolded in the chairman's office, where two wooden, lacquered gavels lay on the desk, and various union banners adorned the walls. The chairman himself was absent, replaced by the secretary-treasurer and leaders of local unions of builders and steelworkers, as well as the director of research and publications.The Americanist was observing the Charleston union members with interest. They were a bit stocky, physically strong people with a broad build. Neat suits, polished shoes, white shirts, ties, and glasses in thin metal frames; yet in their wide, porous faces, bearing the marks of labor, in their heavy hands and forced postures, the previous day's workers were still discernible. They had the right to speak on behalf of the people living in working settlements beyond Charleston and, with expertise, could judge their needs and well-being.The crisis did not only affect the coal industry. Among builders, the Americanist learned, approximately sixty percent were unemployed (again, a fantastic figure!), as the record-high interest rates on loans in banks forced a sharp cutback in construction. The decline also extended to the steel industry, which supplied products for builders, and in the past year and a half, the number of organized union workers, members of AFT — CWA, in West Virginia dropped from seventy-two thousand to sixty thousand, weakening the labor movement and its ability to resist entrepreneurs. People who lost their jobs receive benefits for twenty-nine weeks; it can be extended for a total of about twenty more weeks — and what's next? Humiliating handouts through the welfare program? There are more cases of suicides; people increasingly seek and find solace in the bottle. Families break apart under the burden of deprivation, despair, the provider's authority disappears, ceasing to unite family members. Moreover, unemployed breadwinners see their last obligation to the family in leaving it; in their absence, the family becomes eligible for additional assistance.The consequences of unemployment are horrifying. But...But everyone suffers individually, with themselves and their families. There is no observed mass organized protest. Union officials talked about this and were surprised.They defended Ronald Reagan in front of the Soviet correspondent. From their point of view, Reagan proved to be a foreign and hostile president — for the wealthy, wielding the axe of ruthless economy on programs aiding the unemployed and other categories of those in need, which were hard-won achievements of the labor movement and progressive America.But not everyone criticized Reagan from the other side of the class barricade for being too lenient and not wielding his axe cruelly enough. This point of view was presented to the Americanist by an influential representative from the other side — the chairman of the Charleston Chamber of Commerce, defending the interests of local businesses. For example, he did not conceal his dissatisfaction with Reagan not raising the retirement age from the current sixty-five years to seventy. Americans are living longer and longer — and that's fine. John Chapman himself was still in strong middle age, full of health and energy; he generally had nothing against increasing the life expectancy of his compatriots. What bothered him, and even outraged him, was the fact that social security, this American pension, was now extended to almost everyone who reached sixty-five. And they all live for another ten, fifteen, or even twenty years, each receiving five to six hundred dollars monthly from the treasury, plus half of that amount for the wife, even if she did not work. An excessive burden for the federal budget — for the taxpayer who funds it with their dollars.But overall, from the side where Mr. Chapman stood, things were going well. He personally appeared in Charleston eight years ago, coming from Chicago, where he came across a job vacancy at the Charleston Chamber of Commerce. He decided to try his luck and came here "for an interview." He was interviewed, checked — and hired. He settled in well and came to love the local life, which attracted him with its calm pace. No one presses you on the bumper here, he said, and the Americanist marveled at the new expression: in an extremely motorized country, people step on each other's rear bumper, not just their heels. People on highways are polite, John Chapman emphasized again. Families are large and uphold old traditions of close ties between generations and respect from the younger to the older. Yes, miners are in distress, but in this county, only one in twenty workers is employed in the coal industry. There are even more people in medical institutions. The chemical industry, the mainstay in the Greater Charleston area, did not undergo fluctuations in economic conditions. Over the past few years, eighteen thousand jobs have been added to the county. For additional income, more and more women leave their household chores, seek — and find — jobs. Visit the restaurants, the stores — aren't there plenty of customers and buyers there? And so on.Everyone the Americanist met had their own place in Charleston and their own point of view. Their own work — or the absence of it. And a life where everyone stretches their legs according to their own cloth.In his thick university notebook, the Americanist, reflecting on his impressions of Charleston and recalling his trip to Kulebaki, jotted down the thought that he often approached but could never express satisfactorily because he never managed to articulate it adequately:"Kulebaki and Charleston are products and images of two social systems and two civilizations. They have different appearances, different levels and architecture, sidewalks and cars, economic orientations. Different mayors, although both are smart and experienced in their own ways... One, to move urban affairs, relied on funds during the plant reconstruction, and the other — on private construction, attracting private capital... In the hometown, people are calmer and, of course, confident in tomorrow; if they fear anything, it's wars, not unemployment. Life is less dynamic than in Charleston, but will you rejoice in this dynamism if it throws you overboard during the next turmoil, which the laws of capitalist competition are constantly 'organizing'? We are somewhat alike, very different in many ways, living different lives at the same time, distant from each other."Another version of this thought, influenced by immediate impressions, was preserved in the same notebook:"In these years of our intense debates and increased suspicion, when you come here for a few weeks and barely get through this time, longing for your family and homeland, approaching with a clear-eyed colleague from TASS to his temporary residence in a Washington suburb, and in the crimson November sunset, scrutinizing their cars on their highways, and the road signs, outlines and signs of buildings and houses, for the thousandth time, you think about what you've long explained to yourself rationally but still can't fully comprehend: why this strange life in a foreign country among strangers? For the sake of some notes in the newspaper? Why do they need us? We — them? But we cannot help but scrutinize each other — not just out of curiosity, as in the times of Goncharov's 'Frigate Pallas,' not just as idle travelers. People of the nuclear age, we cannot establish a common life — and we cannot do without each other..."A later version of the same thought emerged in the notebook upon returning to Moscow:"Here is one of the most incredible sensations, not American, but domestic. In the uninhabited wilderness of the Gorny Altai, Old Believers-hermits, the Lykovs, were discovered. Vasily Peskov wrote about them in detail and expressively. In their homespun clothes, with staffs and bags, old Karp Lykov and his daughter Agafya stood in photographs next to the geologists who found them, and we marveled together: the coexistence of the 20th and 18th centuries. Can you call the Lykovs our contemporaries? A case from the category of 'obvious — incredible.' And this case, just right for a corresponding television program, was interpreted approximately in this spirit by Professor S.P. Kapitsa and V.M. Peskov, examining photographs with TV viewers. But don't other distances within the obvious limits of our century, inside it, fall into the same category that one would not think of measuring in centuries and considering incredible? We say that the Lykovs do not understand modern people. But what about the lack of understanding between modern people? We have no doubt that Americans are our contemporaries, people of the 20th century, not the 18th. And yet, in a way, they are farther from us than Karp and Agafya Lykov. Is it about homespun fabric? Something much more incredible: the multitude, the capacity, the boundless capacity of the 20th century..."In essence, a simple thought struggled within its dialectically interconnected opposites, slipping from under the pen: we are different, yet we are all human, all children and particles of one family of humanity.Don Marsh drove the Americanist to his meetings in Charleston, and for the countryside trip, reporter Steve was assigned to him. They were pleasant people, and it was easy and straightforward with them. The house did not belong to the Charleston elite but was, so to speak, part of the community. Steve was an ordinary provincial journalist, a hardworking reporter, who had spent thirty years at the "Charleston Gazette." When the conversation turned to Ned Chilton, both, leaving aside the usual newspaper banter, spoke of him respectfully and cautiously. Ned was their boss, the owner, and opinions about the boss were kept to themselves. In the silence and cautious answers, there was a sense: wealthy, can afford a lot.Life had treated Steve, a skinny, hunchbacked man, roughly, but he still loved his work and enjoyed his reporting trips and writings. He had never traveled abroad, never even been to Canada, just planned to go there — to fish. He knew West Virginia like the back of his hand, and his car seemed to merge with him — a common trait of Americans born motorists. A bachelor, he lived with his mother about a hundred kilometers from Charleston and commuted to and from work every day. In his words, one could feel a man who cared about nature, hunting, and fishing, about outdoor activities. Thanksgiving was approaching, the main holiday of late autumn, and with it, the deer hunting season — the most popular in the Appalachians. From Steve, the Americanist learned that in West Virginia, with a population of two million, there are approximately half a million deer, and a hunting license for locals costs three times less than for visitors.But they did not go hunting from Charleston on the road leading east.On the slopes of low hills, the overcast sky scratched by the branches of bare trees. Due to the mountains, low sky, and the approaching darkness, even outside the city, there was no sense of spaciousness. The valley felt cramped due to the highways, the railway where heavy freight trains rumbled, and the worker settlements with gray houses, where even advertising signs were somewhat gray and faded. They turned off the highway onto a dirt road, running along the mountain slope until it reached a dead end. There, they left the car, walked to the building of the cleaning plant, and observed as shiny black pieces of coal cascaded from brightly yellow large dump trucks onto the conveyor belt, which fed them into open wagons.The Americanist absorbed these images and details. He could never bring himself to use a camera, even though photos would have been invaluable for subsequent descriptions. His professional method consisted only of memorizing and jotting down the necessary details in a few words in his notebook. A journalist needs an overall picture, which involved office meetings with executives, with analysts who think in numbers and general categories. It was good if a couple of sharp, vivid phrases remained from them. An inspection of the place was also mandatory — it allows the newspaper reader to vividly see where the action is taking place. And, finally, it would be good to place a specific person in the picture, without numbers and general reasoning, in a specific life situation — as a live illustration. Like in movies. Long shot. Close-up. And tracking — the camera moves the person's face closer to the viewer...He lacked that close-up, an interview on the street — with a person from the street. Preferably unemployed. Although Ned Chilton's newspaper did not resemble the Americanist's, experienced reporter Steve understood him. But where to find the right person? In small villages, people drove by them in cars, there was no one on the streets, and there were, in essence, no streets, just houses along the road. But you can't knock on the door. Cafeterias adorned with Coca-Cola signs, which had taken over these places, or grocery stores — food markets, remained.Steve pulled up to a food market on the way to the old mining town of Cabin Creek. By American standards, it was a small grocery store, but it had a parking lot for customer cars. The parking lot, which could accommodate several dozen cars, was empty. There were only three or four old jalopies, as if written off from more prosperous places, in the parking lot. In one of them were people — two children and a woman in the back seat and a young bearded man in the front. Another bearded man, coming out of the food market and carrying a paper bag with groceries, got into this car. Steve gave the Americanist a questioning look and, receiving an approving nod, approached the guy. A shot in the dark. These were passers-by, and their words about life in West Virginia could not matter. Judging by the license plate, which the interview hunters did not notice right away, these people and their words would have been useful in Pennsylvania.No more people were in the parking lot, and the Americanist and Steve headed towards the entrance to the store. At that moment, an elderly man in a khaki shirt and khaki cotton pants came out of the store, but for some reason, he did not inspire the two reporters, and they let him go without talking to him.Their free search was a common practice among journalists and television people worldwide and, in essence, absurd. To run into an unknown person, extract a few words from him about his life or opinion on a particular event, and immediately part ways with him, transmitting his words to a newspaper he will never read. What prevails here — traditional newspaper realism, requiring specific names and situations, or, on the contrary, surrealism in the style of the genius Salvador Dali? On the other hand, can one demand more from the instantly created newspaper and its journalist-creator than they can give in their place and under the circumstances they propose? And the sensible realist reader takes what is given, understanding the limits of the newspaper and by no means necessarily considering it a complete and reliable reflection of the complex world. If anyone has illusions, it is most likely the journalist himself, engrossed in his Sisyphean work. He lives (and cannot help but live) under the illusion that the newspaper is an entire world and that he, as its creator, stands at its center.Neither Steve nor the Americanist indulged in self-flagellation when they entered the food market to find a West Virginian who, caught off guard, would candidly tell them about life in this God-forsaken land. Like in any American self-service store, there were shelves with a fairly wide, mandatory selection of products. Shoppers, they observed by peeking between the shelves, were almost nonexistent.The cashier could have helped, provided summary data: are there many people? What do they take — steaks, ground meat, or sometimes even canned dog food? How did unemployment affect the purchasing power of the county? But the cashier, typing on the cash register keys, packing groceries into paper bags, was absorbed in her work.After careful consideration, they approached a young couple with a little boy. The three-year-old boy wiggled his legs, sitting in the shopping cart pushed by his father, a lanky guy with a sickly face covered in reddish stubble. When they approached, the guy stopped the cart and looked at them with bewildered albino-like white and red eyes. Steve introduced the reporter from Moscow, from Russia. The naive and disheveled worker did not catch the hidden humor of the situation: a reporter from Russia traveled thousands and thousands of miles to reach a roadside food market near Cabin Creek and ask him a few questions. The wife, a pale, unremarkable woman in a jacket and pants, also didn't quite understand what was happening but moved closer, ready to help her husband. Only the boy didn't care. He enjoyed rolling in the shopping cart, grabbing onto its nickel-plated weaving, and continued to chatter with his legs, looking up from the bottom at his stopped father and the two strangers who approached him."Yes, a miner," replied the ailing guy. "Yes, from around here. How are you? Don't you know?"And together with his wife, almost word for word, they reported that he had been unemployed for four months. And that he had just been hired — for two months. Those four months of fear and confusion still lingered with them, and they were already peering two months ahead, afraid of the future.The guy's gaze was awkwardly troubled, and in it, the Americanist read: why pry into it? What good does it do me to answer your questions? Wouldn't it be better if you told me what will happen next?But he could not answer what would happen next with this young man, his wife, and son, happily kicking his legs in the cart, and he stopped the questioning. He, the journalist, stocked up on the necessary details. And then it was not about professionalism but purely human. In a human way, he did not want, and had no right to, probe into someone else's wounds. And the skinny hunchbacked Steve, although sent to help the Russian reporter, also did not want to probe into the wounds of his fellow countryman in front of a person from another country and another world.On the evening before the Americanist's departure from Charleston, Ned hosted a reception in his honor at a private club situated on a hill in a secluded part of the city. Yes, there is such an expression - to throw a party, which means to organize a reception or celebration in his honor.In Charleston, as in any self-respecting American city, there was a private club, and its members were not reporters like Steve, but prominent affluent citizens who paid annual dues. Together with Ned, the Americanist had already visited this club once on a summer Saturday when it was lively, crowded, festive, everyone knew each other and exchanged greetings. The veranda offered a beautiful view of green meadows, golf courses, and nearby mountains. Now, on a November evening, the spacious building with halls, lounges, a bar, and a restaurant seemed empty, surrounded by darkness outside the windows.However, Ned Chilton did everything to liven up the club and brighten the last evening. For the Moscow guest, he invited about a dozen of his friends and acquaintances. To start, there was a bar with a bartender and a full range of drinks, including, of course, "Stolichnaya" vodka, shrimp, sausages, cheese, and other snacks. (Without sparing expenses, Ned even ordered Russian caviar from New York, but flaws in American service caused it not to be delivered on time.) Then, downstairs in a separate room, he treated his guests to a delicious dinner, also including a Russian dish — cold borscht — adapted to American taste. After dinner, it was back to the bar for "after-dinner" drinks, brandies, and liqueurs.But the main treat from generous Ned was the cream of Charleston society. And for them, the cream, rarer than cold borscht, was a man from Moscow.Ned himself, in a black furry blazer with a yachtsman's emblem on the breast pocket, deliberately kept a low profile, giving the spotlight to the honored guest. The Americanist stood among the gathering, and Charlestonians, one after another, approached him to greet, introduce themselves, and talk. Each one began with a question about how a man from Moscow happened to end up in Charleston."I worked as a correspondent in New York and Washington, and now I've come to the States for a while and decided to visit Charleston, where I've been several times," explained the Americanist to each person.Before him stood a thirty-year-old young man with a soft, inviting smile under dark, thick mustaches — a lawyer who had just been elected to Congress from one of the West Virginian electoral districts, representing the Democratic Party. He was already packing his bags to move to Washington by January, and now, even through a Muscovite, once a resident of Washington, he tried to imagine what his new life as a congressman in the capital would be like."I worked as a correspondent in New York and Washington..."Even black people were found in Charleston. Here was one of them, tall and handsome, with gray in his black hair, getting acquainted with the Americanist — the president of the college in West Virginia, with four thousand students, twenty percent of whom were African American. The college was established in the late fifties during the struggle against racial segregation. Its current president, originally from Texas, worked in Atlanta, Georgia, and finally made his way to Charleston."I worked as a correspondent..."Ned, particularly emphasizing his close friend, introduced the Americanist to a broad-shouldered giant with a beautiful wife, coyly turning her face to showcase her sharp nose and beautiful teeth in a joyful smile. Ned mentioned that next summer, two couples, including him, would like to travel "by Siberian Express" across the entire Soviet Union. "It's the world's longest overland route, isn't it? How many days does it take? And how do you recommend, Steve, where is the best place to start — from Moscow and go to Nakhodka or board in Nakhodka and move from east to west?" The travel plan also included Western Europe and Japan, but they hadn't decided where to start yet."I worked..."A man with a mustache, a pipe, and a shrewd squint of his furry eyes held the position of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of West Virginia and immediately engaged in a debate about the concepts of an "open" and "closed" society.In addition, there was the familiar president of Charleston University, an old wise lawyer named Ned, whom the Americanist had met before, Don Marsh with his charming intelligent wife, and others. Of course, there were no union workers or the unemployed from the food market in Cabin Creek. Rabbi Kohler was also absent.Thus, thanks to Ned, the Americanist expanded his understanding of the cross-section of Charleston society. Fueled by drinks at the bar, the society moved to a separate room with a dining table for lunch, where Ned, not a fan of long speeches, spoke only a few words about the desirability of decent relations between Americans and Russians. He proposed a toast, saying these two words in Russian and explaining their meaning to the other guests. The Americanist responded with a toast of his own. They seated him between the beautiful wife of a giant and the suede-light-lilac wife of an industrialist. The former displayed her beautiful teeth in a smile, while the latter, fortified by drinks like her husband, shared her impressions of Moscow: people are warm but, for some reason, reluctant to talk to foreigners. The Supreme Court Justice, sitting across the table, echoed the talkative lady's theme of an "open" and "closed" society...In the morning, it was raining. The concierge called a taxi upon request. The city turned gray from the rain, cars with Charleston residents rushing to work got wet in the rain, the river emitted a damp mist under the rain, and, gazing at this scene through the fogged-up car window, the Americanist bid farewell to Charleston. The inclement weather did not prevent the scheduled flight from arriving on time, disembarking and boarding passengers, and taking off from the smooth crest of the mountain. From that vantage point, Charleston unfolded in the valley, immediately veiled by flying wisps of clouds. The golden-domed Capitol of the state legislature, where the state assembly convenes, emerged, along with the red-brick residence of Governor Jay Rockefeller, who had spent another eight million dollars on his reelection. The view also included the autumnal, gloomy Kanawha River, which flows into the Ohio River and eventually into the Mississippi, much like how Charleston flows into the state of West Virginia and beyond—into the United States of America.In the hourglass, the sand that measures the passage of time diminishes uniformly, at a constant rate. But have you ever noticed that the less sand remains in the inverted glass cone, the more swiftly it spirals into nothingness, being drawn into the vortex? It seems that not only the sand flows faster, but time itself spirals into a whirlpool when only a small amount remains at the bottom. The same happens with life itself and the segments into which we, like portions of sand in an hourglass, divide our lives. Sometimes these segments are called overseas assignments.The Americanist was still concerned about what new material to send to the newspaper, which demanded nothing and seemed to have forgotten his existence. He was still working on correspondence, portraying people with benevolent and austere faces, dressed in black, as positive characters—Catholic bishops. They gathered at the Statler Hilton hotel in Washington, just steps away from the Soviet embassy, to discuss another version of their anathema against nuclear weapons. New debates flared up about the pace of military budget growth (no one opposed its growth in principle). In Congress, inspired by the results of the midterm elections, the voices of critics of the administration sounded bolder. The Americanist wanted to blend these voices with the voice of the Catholic bishops, write and send another correspondence to Moscow about the rise of the anti-war movement.Meanwhile, he calculated that he had already entered the last quarter of his one-and-a-half-month assignment. These were the remaining days, and, like sand at the bottom of an hourglass, they flowed faster, spiraling into a vortex. The departure date, set in the airline ticket from the beginning and also in the temporary residence permit issued by Inspector Hayes at Dorval Airport in Montreal, was Thursday of the week that would begin in a week, about to start.Ahead was still New York, the giant city, but in the consciousness counting the days, it seemed only a springboard for the jump home. The feeling of liberation grew light and joyful. In this mood, bidding farewell to the embassy and the Muscovites in Washington, who generously bestowed their hospitality and friendly participation, on a cloudy, rainy, yet beautiful late November noon, the Americanist left the Holiday Inn hotel and, on a Sunday, damp and deserted Wisconsin Avenue, set off for New York.Actually, it was only an hour's flight from Washington National Airport to New York, and the aircraft of Eastern Airlines, disregarding the bad weather, dutifully shuttled between the two cities that day. However, he preferred another option—by car. Let's not forget that America is primarily about roads and cars, and our hero, although called a traveler, this time did not truly experience either. For six years, he hadn't seen those familiar highways between Washington and New York. And he wanted to feel that concrete and land under the wheels and on both sides of the wheels over its approximately four-hundred-kilometer stretch.Dozens of times, behind the wheel, he covered all these American miles on beltways, freeways, highways, turnpikes, and other expressways. Now, as a passenger, and moreover, one unaccustomed to the steering wheel, he was taken by a Muscovite working in New York, who had come to Washington for a few days.Lively and cheerful, a talented person who keenly felt and expressed the tragicomedy of our foreign life, Volodya was in America on his third long business trip— a Soviet citizen in the position of an international official, holding a directorial position in the UN Secretariat. In many respects, Volodya was a more knowledgeable Americanist than our Americanist and undoubtedly a more charming and witty storyteller and conversationalist. In general, if we ask the question about Americanists, it should be noted that one of them is chosen as the hero of our narrative for one simple reason—only his journey could be traced by the author from beginning to end, which, thankfully, is not far away. The author apologizes to the reader for mentioning friends and comrades of the Americanist briefly and, in his defense, can say the following: each of them, experienced individuals, has their own story about America, but no one, except the Americanist, gave the author the authority to tell the story on their behalf. The author is responsible for his own—briefly speaking, that is the principle the author follows, not encroaching on the copyrights of other Americanists and apologizing to the reader for not describing our people in America in detail...So, on that gloomy November Sunday, the Americanist was extremely glad to see again the seemingly stern athlete with the skull of a thinker and his faithful friend Maya, and to sit behind them on the seat of the small Plymouth, slightly crowding two young compatriots who worked under Volodya's leadership at the UN and were experiencing America for the first time; they were still under the impression of their acquaintance with the capital.From Washington to New York, it's approximately a five-hour drive if you strictly adhere to the speed limit, avoiding unpleasant encounters with traffic police. This limit allowed a maximum speed of only fifty-five miles, or eighty-eight kilometers per hour—motorists were restrained in the early seventies when it was deemed that these speeds, generally meager for American cars and roads, efficiently saved fuel and sharply reduced the number of accidents and casualties. The roads between Washington and New York are not the best in America, worn out by intensive use, but they are still high-quality American roads, with a median strip and at least two lanes in each direction. On such roads, a daredevil can easily reach New York in four hours, if suddenly there is no police "Ford" or "Chrysler" with a siren on the roof, and its occupant does not wave imperatively, ordering to pull over, stop, present a driver's license, and receive a formal notice of a court summons to pay a fine (which can be done without appearing in person, sending a check or money order to the court's address).Volodya planned to reach New York by dusk, around five in the evening. With this intention, driving his Plymouth sharply and confidently, he emerged onto the Washington Beltway, then at the right place, following the instructions of towering green signs over the road, he turned onto the powerful Federal 95, added to the old Baltimore highway, and merged into the rushing automotive herd, splashing water.The rain was pouring and pouring. They sped along, raising a watery dust in the water trails of other cars, wiping the front windshield, enlightening inexperienced compatriots, chatting about this and that, and, of course, not taking their eyes off the road. The route was well known. Up ahead was the long tunnel under the Chesapeake Bay in the Baltimore area, and before that—the first toll, for passage through the tunnel. The second toll on the Maryland highway named after John F. Kennedy, then at the steep high bridge over the Delaware River, and further, the longest stretch of the journey, also a toll expressway-turnpike of the state of New Jersey, and after that, beyond Newark, New York itself was in line, where you emerge from underground, from the three-kilometer Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson.Their schedule went awry on the first leg, on the approach to the tunnel under the Baltimore harbor. The familiar path was blocked. A warning electric arrow on the road sign, formed by the flashing light bulbs running to its tip, indicated the detour direction.Now they couldn't get out of the traffic jams. Shiny metal humps of colorful and mismatched cars were in close proximity to each other, blocking the road, seemingly all the way to New York. They lost at least an hour at just the Baltimore tunnel, which couldn't process the endless thousands of cars in time, sucking them in and spitting them out with its three huge quadrangular funnels.It didn't get better after that. The rain didn't stop, here and there fog settled on the road. A line in front of the Delaware Bridge and another at the toll booths at the entrance to the New Jersey Turnpike, and the longest line where this turnpike merged with a similar one from the state of Philadelphia, adding thousands more cars.Sunday, as always, cleared the road of freight traffic, intimidatingly large trucks with wagon-like trailers. But this was no ordinary Sunday. Rain, fog—and hundreds of thousands of people were returning home, to work after a four-day Thanksgiving holiday, when traditionally, while feasting on turkey at the festive table, they celebrate the family hearth and the first survivors among the pilgrims who landed on American soil. Babylonian congestion reigned on the roads, and license plates of various colors testified to the affiliation of motorists to at least a dozen states in the Northwest and Midwest, New England, and the South.Within five hours, by the estimated arrival time in New York, the passengers of our Plymouth had barely covered half the distance and were forced to stop and have a snack at a roadside cafeteria, in front of which hundreds of cars were parked, and all the seats at the dining tables and counters were occupied, with newcomers waiting in line.It was already dark, and the rain continued to fall in the beams of car headlights as they passed the branching highways in the Newark area. But directly before New York, another obstacle awaited them—an emergency traffic light with its flashing closed the road to the Lincoln Tunnel, which could not accommodate the stream of cars rushing into Manhattan, and directed the traffic to bypass the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson. New York was very close; the evening glow of its lights was already seeping through to the right beyond the rain curtain, but they had to comply, and the tired Volodya, staring intently into the darkness and further sinking his head into square shoulders, drove the Plymouth north, away from the city and its alluring glow.He had poor visibility in the darkness. This became apparent in quite dramatic circumstances. At a routine intersection, hesitating in his decision, Volodya failed to notice a low and narrow concrete barrier emerging from the asphalt. When he realized it, it was already too late. The car, at speed, collided with the barrier, which ended up between its wheels. Metal ominously screeched against the concrete beneath the passengers' feet. The barrier was widening, and the car continued to move, risking being torn apart, with only a few centimeters separating fragile human bodies from the grip of metal and concrete. Fortunately, without losing composure, Volodya sharply applied the brakes and halted the car. The life-and-death encounter lasted a moment. From a distance, only the first exclamations were heard. The men were restrained in their choice of words, but the women maintained composure. The grinding noise ceased.The Plymouth sat on the median barrier, its wheels lifted off the ground. On the right and left, cars rushed toward the George Washington Bridge, to New York, to Manhattan, dazzling them with their headlights, spraying water as if nothing had happened. Attempts to manually lift the car off the barrier and roll it back were unsuccessful. They found themselves in the midst of swift, merciless, and indifferent traffic. Metallic bodies, capable of crushing a human body effortlessly, were heading straight toward them, staring their headlights through the rain as if to better and more ruthlessly illuminate the helpless figures of people. Only in the last moment, in the last tens of meters, the cars swerved to the left or right, maintaining the same indifferent speed, and sped past, followed by others.Rain, darkness, the rustling of tires, swiftly passing metallic monsters. And no phone to call for emergency assistance, not even a way to cross the road.The image of this cruel, indifferent movement first emerged in the early years of Amerikanist's stay in America. It was associated with the image of a dog hit on the highway. No one will stop to remove the carcass, and not everyone has the time to go around it. Each person crushes the unfortunate, already lifeless creature. Everyone presses it into the highway with the wheels of their car—and speeds past, perhaps flinching and horrified. And now the body is flattened as if a steamroller had been run over it back and forth, and it is no longer possible to tell whose body it is—whether it's a dog's or a deer's—and there's just a spot on the concrete highway, just a shadow of a humiliated being, and as you fly over it, you briefly wonder: what number are you in line, a hurried and, in general, indifferent participant in this destruction?Rescue came faster than they had anticipated. In less than half an hour, it arrived in the form of an agile orange tow truck adorned with blood-red warning lights on all sides. The truck, shielded by lights from oncoming cars, pulled up next to the "Plymouth." A worker, a seasoned professional—his appearance immediately reassured them; for such trivial accidents, a play of imagination, he had dealt with at least a dozen on this damn Sunday. In America, they appreciate precision in business operations. There was no evasiveness or hesitation: "How much, boss?" The rescuer named the price, not yet starting the job: fifty dollars. And—the money upfront.In a quarter of an hour, using the winch, the mechanic lifted the "Plymouth" off the treacherous barrier. Maneuvering amidst the oncoming traffic with its red lights flashing, he positioned it on the road, replaced the flat tire with a spare one. Shielding them, he allowed Volodya to gain speed and merge into the general flow. With a wave goodbye, he stayed on duty on the highway.They entered Manhattan at ten in the evening. Something out of the ordinary had to happen, thought the Americanist now. In this city, the extraordinary became ordinary. Everything happened, and anything could be expected. Volodya, Maya, two companions just beginning to explore America, and the Americanist himself, reflecting on what had happened, saw it as if on a stage—under the rain and amid the two streams of fire-spreading cars. It was cruel and spectacular. The captivating cruel spectacle that characterized New York.Volodya dropped him off near the "Esplanade" hotel on West End Avenue between Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth Streets.People are slaves to habits that reveal their past. The Americanist's former New York home, Schwab House, neighbored the "Esplanade," and when coming to New York, he always tried to stay there. It was an old hotel with two-room suites and kitchens, mainly rented by families or frail old men and women. The inconvenience was the lack of direct phones—calls were made through the downstairs switchboard, which wasn't always manned. But this inconvenience was more than compensated for by the proximity to the newsroom, where Victor, a longtime good friend, now worked.Pushing the revolving door, he entered the Esplanade's lobby. Shushanna, an old acquaintance, was at the front desk, immediately recognizing him. She had gained weight but spoke English better now. New York is a transient courtyard. Every third, and maybe even second, inhabitant came from somewhere else, not from the depths of the continent behind it but from the east or south, from across the ocean. Shushanna came from Israel, and the hotel owner was from there too. Downstairs, in the hall, meetings of old and young Orthodox Jews were sometimes held, easily identifiable by the patches of fur caps on the backs of their heads.Victor had timely booked a room for him, and the Americanist confirmed that even in this old hotel, prices had tripled in the last ten years, at a minimum.After unpacking and freshening up, he called Victor and headed to Schwab House. At the entrance to the building, two doormen were shaking what seemed to be a little dog, lifting it by the hind legs. The little dog whimpered plaintively. The doormen greeted the Americanist as if he were a regular resident, as if they had seen him just a few hours ago. Even new doormen and elevator operators let him in without questions, as if an invisible magical seal of Schwab House's former resident still lingered on him. While continuing to hold the whimpering dog upside down, the doormen, in their own way, explained that it had swallowed a ball, and they wanted to shake it out.Where else, in which city, will you immediately encounter a little dog that swallowed a ball and people who are shaking it out in such a strange way?In the familiar apartment on the eighth floor, he and Victor were talking about Moscow and American news. Raya was setting the table for dinner. On the large TV screen, left by Vitaliy and standing in the same corner by the window, pictures and short energetic reports about recent crimes and various other incidents flickered. Outside, sirens of police and fire trucks wailed, rushing to their emergencies, promising new sensations for the TV screen. New York lived its usual bustling life.The Americaphile took pleasure in reviving his New York habits. After a late dinner, he headed to the corner of Seventy-Second Street and Broadway for a fresh copy of "The New York Times." The rain had stopped, and it was damp and chilly. The wet gray pavement tiles glistened familiarly under the streetlights. On the corner, he noticed a telephone booth with a hinged door that had to be struck with a fist or a boot to open. Two dark blue metal boxes, waist-high and with convex roofs, stood by the curb: one for general mail and the other exclusively for New York. Everything was in its place, cast-iron hydrant pedestals, a large wire trash basket, a post with metal signs indicating West End Avenue and Seventy-Third Street, and a traffic light where the words "Don't Walk" brightly flashed in red and "Walk" in green. At this late hour, no one crossed the street near the Schwab House, and the fiery letters shone for him alone.West End Avenue was about two hundred meters away from Broadway, where the nightlife was still active. They could reach it by taking Seventy-Third Street. It was well-lit with evening lights and had always been safe on this stretch—at least, in the six years of evening walks there, nothing had ever happened to him. However, it was still considered a side street, and on its right side stood old small houses with dangerous semi-basement exits where Puerto Ricans lived. He decided not to tempt fate; jokes with New York could be risky, and times had not changed for the better. He chose another path and quickly strode down West End Avenue: one block down to Seventy-Second, and then along Seventy-Second past the corner supermarket, a small bookstore, a new ladies' dress salon, an old funeral home, and so on—towards Broadway. The deli store (now called "deli") was still open late at night, where he used to buy sunflower seeds thinking they would help him quit smoking. On the other side of Seventy-Second, the vegetable store was still operating at the intersection with Broadway, and near the entrance to the old subway station, an old newsstand, as always, peeked out from behind a pile of freshly delivered newspapers on the counter. Broadway never slept; cars were driving by, regulars sat in illuminated bars, late pedestrians strolled along the sidewalks, and the muffled rumbling of subway trains could be heard from underground.At night, he had a dream. Silent men in business suits slipped through a door that silently opened before his eyes and took charge of his hotel room. Although he was plainly visible, they behaved as if they did not see him. In the dream, he struggled to say something to them, to protest, to convey that it was against the rules to enter his room in his presence. At the same time, he understood in the dream that protesting was dangerous, that by identifying himself, he would make them decide what to do with him. It was as if he would give them a reason and the right to remove him. In the dream, he had no doubt that the silent men were, of course, FBI agents, and the hotel room was his room at the "Esplanade." In this way, it was somehow an inevitable part of his return to New York—as if nowhere else but in New York such a nightmare could appear on the very first night.In the morning, slightly lifting the vertical American curtain made of dense paper and bending down, he looked out the window—a typical New York well formed by the walls of closely standing multi-story, smoke-stained brick buildings. In his window on the fourteenth floor, the curtains of the windows opposite, pulled up, stared blindly. The short day was unfolding—rustling of tires, car honks, the same shrill, as at night, wailing of sirens, and the indistinct voices of people rose to the heavens somewhere beyond the walls of this silent well, and there was a continuous hum, trembling, puffing, sighs, and exhalations of the city. The walls of the well were uneven in height. Above the rooftops, clouds hung in the sky, and in the narrow gap between the Hudson piers, the Hudson tempted with piercingly cold autumn space and will.Various feelings were evoked in him by this city. There was only no indifference. New York elicited an attitude towards it as towards a living being. Understanding it was as difficult as understanding life.In a benevolent mood, like a person settled in a familiar place before returning home, the Americaphile went down to the street and, before going to Victor's, decided to take a stroll around Schwab House. Typically New York, that is, extraordinary, did not keep him waiting. Turning from Riverside Drive onto Seventy-Third Street, he came face to face with a half-beast half-man. Of gigantic stature. With a face covered in soot or coal, he clearly slept on dirty sheets and had not had time to take care of himself in the morning. Inflamed eyes stared wild and gloomy at the Americaphile. The gaze excluded any contact with other homo sapiens. It felt like contacts had long been disrupted and even torn, and the creature with gloomy-muscled eyes no longer insisted on its belonging to the higher biological species. With the shuffling and dilapidated gait of a gorilla, in wide, broken moonwalker boots, the tramp walked towards the Hudson, where his place in the city jungle, his lair, might be.Rejected. A living corpse. At the bottom. Definitions and images from the classics, familiar from school desks, come to life on the streets of New York. Picturesque. Theatrical-cruel. No, nothing invented by the greats. All this exists and, therefore, was. All of it is drawn from life. This gloomy man rose against life— or broke under its weight? Or rose—and broke?Similar or different fates are hidden behind each of them under this common, beating word "loser," a loser? Yes, life knows no mercy; life is a cruel struggle, and on the streets of New York, it directly shows the final (and finished) products of this struggle.New York always struck the Americaphile with its starkness, all-encompassing nature, and the coexistence of everything and everyone. Perhaps, nowhere else does a person feel so unpretentious, so lost, so free, and so abandoned, and for the same reason—here, nobody cares about him.Once, late in the evening, he was returning to the "Esplanade" via Seventy-Second Street. In a small restaurant called "Copper Pit" with glass walls extending onto the sidewalk, candlelight glimmered warmly on starched, crisp tablecloths. A bit further, on the side of the wide sidewalk closer to the curb, a pile of polyethylene, glistening black bags filled with garbage occupied half the space—a sign that the city garbage collectors were on strike again. Leaning against the bags was a fairly decent single mattress—someone in this building, apparently, was updating furniture, throwing the old one directly onto the street. He took a few more steps, bypassing the heap of garbage bags, and behind their barricade, he noticed an inconspicuous discarded couch. On the couch was an elderly woman asleep. This was the comfort of the homeless—in the middle of the street, next to the inviting glow of candles flickering on the tables of the restaurant. Each to their own. Without a pillow, lying in a quite natural position, legs slightly hanging off the couch, the woman slept trustingly, clasping her purse to her chest.The Americaphile froze at a distance, as if an invisible string fenced off, not allowing him to cross, the living space of this homeless woman under the dark and starless sky, which no one looks up at in New York, under the raspberry festive garlands already strung across the street in anticipation of a cheerful Christmas. What a scene! Everything is close, and how fantastically everything comes together. This couch was probably placed on the sidewalk just a few hours ago. And they seemed to be waiting for each other and immediately found each other—an unwanted discarded item and an unwanted discarded person...Oh, if only the eye possessed the property of modern miracle cameras and could capture everything it saw, showing it to others as photographs. The woman on the couch was preserved in a few lines on a sheet of paper. But what would others say about these lines, recorded in a thick notebook? How to introduce those who have never been there to the tragicomic, sadly majestic, and cruel spectacle of New York?A sheet of paper wouldn't be enough; a screen is needed. It's not about describing, it's about shining, visibly showing this city—its New York.But how to teach the cameraman to see and capture the New York street with your eyes, your brain, which has been working on understanding New York for a long time and in its own way? Americaphile was used to fighting alone with a sheet of paper. There was no experience of collective creativity, especially in the unfamiliar art of cinematography.However, who among the writers has not experienced the temptations of television these days? A colleague and old friend of Americaphile, who had made about a dozen films about America, convinced him to give it a try. Attempt it—no torture. Pots are not burned by the gods. Isn't this wisdom about the pots that gods don't burn the foundation of the conveyor and "mass culture"?And so the time came to reveal one secret in Americaphile's journey, which he had hidden even from his editorial office; this time he went to America not only as a correspondent for his newspaper but also as a novice documentary filmmaker. They kindly agreed to indulge his attempt. Employees of our television in New York received relevant instructions from their Moscow leadership. He was allowed to spend some amount of film and effort on his attempt—not to the detriment of the direct duties of the young film operator and the young energetic TV correspondent.They met, got acquainted, and worked out a plan in the New York apartment of the cinematographer Zhene and his wife Ira, in a house not far from Columbus Circle. Ira, a capable documentary director, helped Americaphile with friendly advice. Zhene loved his job, fearlessly went out into the streets of another city—and another world—and boldly filmed scenes of its life. Even in his posture, one could discern a physically strong person who, in any circumstances, without flinching, held his substantial production tool in his hands. Andrei, a correspondent for GosTeleRadio in New York, drove well and knew the city; he was ready to take them, conduct interviews, and help in every way.The young people were eager for action; the worm of expressiveness also gnawed at them. They dreamed of a picture that would remain, not disappear like the latest news along with their television stories. Americaphile, for the first time, stepped onto the vast stage of New York not with a notebook but with a cameraman.It was not easy to overcome oneself and debut on such a stage. The unfortunate woman sleeping trustingly on the discarded couch was discovered at night, when the film cameras and Zhene were not around. The sullen half-beast half-man in broken red-blue synthetic boots also disappeared unoccupied. Feather and consciousness lacked the visual vividness of a film camera, but it captured a broader natural flow of life. From the images of New York, when it appeared on its streets next to Zhene, there were dazzles in the eyes, and he wanted both this and that. Not everything can be captured, strict selection, sorting, and organization of chaos were required. At a minimum, experience was needed; at a maximum, the special talent of a person who, undeterred, creates in the midst of a street crowd."You must clearly decide what you want. Point with your finger—this, this, and this..."So, delicately but insistently, his young assistants told him. But the street is not a writing desk, concentration did not come, and he hesitated where to point his finger, and already understood that pointing was easier than shooting. The frames of their future film passed, flickered, disappeared in the stream of street life, which did not recognize second and third takes. Luck, only seemingly light-winged, could be—as at the writing desk—only the result of extreme work tension. And here there was a lack of time—both his own, as the last days of the business trip were passing, and someone else's, because he didn't feel entitled to dispose of it. Moreover, they needed not just days but daylight ones—since they were the shortest on the border between November and December and often rainy and gloomy.And then at the beginning, there was a word, and the word was a script. In the evenings at the "Esplanade," Americaphile worked hastily on the outlines of the script, trying to move the matter forward with words.The roaring hum and roar of planes landing and taking off every minute. Impressive angles of buildings of different airlines at John F. Kennedy International Airport, buses and taxis grabbing passengers, insane road carousels inside the airport, immediately creating an image of intense movement, and green and blue road signs pointing towards, and finally, the exit to the Grand Central Parkway and again a powerful picture of movement: four clear rows of cars in one direction, four in the other. Noise and rustle—and simultaneously the concentrated working silence of the highway. Voices of radio presenters breaking into the car radio, rushing, as if fast voices of announcers and from there, from the car radio, having no direct relation to the road but linked to it, lively, jerky music. Like a metronome, it beats the rhythm and pace of New York traffic and New York itself.This is the main task of entering the film—to create a visual and auditory representation of movement. Physically, everything seems together, but mentally, each is on their own, in the metallic micro-world of the car, separated from the rest. An image of an unusually detached, self-sufficient, homemade, rigid speed conveying the alienation of people.From the Triboro Bridge, the world's only skyscraper silhouette of Manhattan emerges and immediately disappears, as if sinking, fleetingly! Swiftly! Like the iconic symbol of New York. Like its symbol.And all this without an author's text, only to the music.Also without text, to the music, is the procession of the grand New York, one after another, its great skyscrapers. Only architecture. Ideally without people. Silent, gigantic, shining in the sun, washed by rain, the fruits of human labor. Old and new, shorter and taller. The famous silhouette of the Empire State Building. The hundred-story twin towers of the World Trade Center. The concrete cliffs of the thirties in the Rockefeller Center. The Chase Manhattan Bank building in downtown. "General Motors" on Fifth Avenue. "Gulf and Western." The New York Hilton Hotel. The old respectable Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Sixth Avenue, lined with mini-skyscrapers of forty to fifty floors. And so on.Suddenly, after the parade, the grandeur, the multicolored—old black-and-white frames from Chaplin's film "City Lights." The scene of unveiling the monument. They pull off the cover—under it on the pedestal, a sleeping tramp. He was the first to adapt the monument to the great man for his needs. He scratches his leg, still asleep and unaware that a solemn crowd has gathered in front of the monument. It's funny. A policeman chases him, he runs away from him. Funny. Again color frames, again today. And in it, the monument long opened, forgotten, and invisible, like all New York monuments. The monument to the great Dante. The stern face of the poet. From the past, he looks at us, lowering his gaze to the sidewalk. What does he see? At his feet on a bench—a woman-tramp. In real life. With a polyethylene bag containing all her belongings. No, she's not funny at all. Lonely. One of many. The policeman sees her, but they are both tired of each other and don't chase after each other.After the skyscraper parade, after the scene from Chaplin's film and the tramp near the bronze Dante—a common, unremarkable Manhattan street on the West Side. Not famous, just ordinary houses. Ordinary crowd, ordinary pavement, ordinary flow of cars. As an image, as a semblance, as a reflection of ordinary New York.A quiet splash of water. The rustle of wind in bare branches. A wide river. Desolate waterfront. Deserted. In the frame—the filmmaker. Walking in sync."This is the left bank of the Hudson River. Over there, on the right bank, is the state of New Jersey. And here is the outskirts of the city, the city called—New York.A quiet spot, isn't it? Isn't this what they say—haven for poets, dreamers, lovers? During the season, fishermen gather by this fence, trying their luck. Throughout the year, running enthusiasts come to this small stadium. There are many of them in New York.And why is this green police car here? Why? The patrol is inspecting its area and came here just in case. As a warning: we see, we're here. After all, this is New York.And why did we come here? Why did I choose this place to start my story about New York?Where does a foreign country begin? At the airport, if you're here for one or two weeks. And from the home where you lived, if you lived abroad for several years. Here, two hundred meters away, beyond the Henry Hudson Parkway, there is one house. I lived there once for six years, working as a correspondent for my newspaper in New York. In this area, I adapted to this foreign, repelling, yet enticing city.And this place by the river is also filled with memories for me. Back then, there were fewer runners and tramps. And my children and the children of other Soviet correspondents, who lived in the same building, were small, thinking that on these swings (frames of a playground with swings) they could fly up to the sky.Now they have grown up, live in Moscow, and have their own children who swing on Moscow swings.However, the fate of an international journalist still brings me to this city, which has become familiar but has not become my own.Here it is, this seventeen-story red-brick building occupying a whole block. Here are those windows on the eighth floor, from which I watched the Hudson and the white light for six years. Now a colleague, another correspondent from my newspaper, lives there. He reads thick American newspapers, watches multi-channel and almost round-the-clock television. Learns and reflects this country, America. And in front of his windows flows a big river. And in the evenings, beautiful eternal sunsets glow beyond the river.They built Schwab House shortly after the war, and it was said that at one time it was considered almost the largest residential building in New York—six hundred and something apartments. Now, like an old man, it grows, one might say, into the ground, inconspicuous in the row of others, yielding primacy to the youth, to the flashy and expensive multi-storey residences of thirty, forty, or more floors that rose on other avenues and streets.But when I land in New York, I am magnetically drawn to this old house by the river.The power of memories? Yes. And the power of the unspoken. From here, from Schwab House, I wrote about the general—events, phenomena, problems. And the personal languished under the lid—and now it bursts out. How to make someone else feel this city if they haven't been here and probably won't be? I think, only like this—through myself and my personal experience...They filmed the sync on the Hudson, choosing a sunny day. The young TV producers had never lived in Schwab House, and this place meant nothing to them. The Americanist, in his time, often walked along the waterfront to Seventy-Ninth Street, to the boathouse. By summer, dozens of white yachts, motorized, with masts and sails, would gather at the station. Some yacht owners even lived on the water in winter.Andrey drove almost to the very shore in his car, passing through the arch under the highway. There was no passage there, but, seeing television equipment and press credentials, two policemen in a green patrol car let them through. Andrey was setting up synchronous sound recording. Evgeny was filming, hoisting the movie camera to his shoulder. A microphone was attached to the Americanist's jacket, and he stood, staring into the seemingly bottomless and unresponsive pupil of the lens, and at the sheet of paper he held in his outstretched hand, on which he had written his text in large letters. The TV viewer doesn't like when someone reads from a sheet, and they shouldn't see the paper; for them, the words should appear as if spontaneously, extemporaneously.Oh, this is an entire art that the naive TV viewer doesn't suspect—delivering a prepared text as if it were impromptu, but in reality, it's from a hidden sheet. But the Americanist's debut was too late. He lacked theatricality and a smile, and, irritated, he grew gloomier with each new take. A broad, short figure. A thick, immobile face. And the wind plays not with a romantic mane but with sparse graying hair. Oop seemed to look at himself from the outside. A dismal spectacle. He felt it from the glances of an American couple strolling along the waterfront. He didn't match their ideas of TV presenters.Nevertheless, the art was great, commitments were made back in Moscow, and he didn't interrupt the experiment sanctioned from above. It's important to get into the swing of things, he consoled himself. If the first pancake is lumpy, they don't take the skillet off the fire, and they don't overturn the pot with the dough into the sink. Any new business instills new hopes, and he liked waiting for Evgeny and Andrey in the "Esplanade" hotel in the mornings, rejoicing in the sun and lamenting the rain together, and working and traveling around New York with them, feeling the energy and curiosity of their generation. They continued shooting whenever the weather allowed.They filmed the ordinary Broadway in the Seventies area, where residents had aged, and houses had worn down. The theatrical advertisements on Seventh Avenue, the loud and vulgar Forty-Second Street, a Greek selling Greek pastries, an Indian knife sharpener with his old-fashioned tool, drunks with blue faces on Bowery—captured with a hidden camera. They covered bohemians and students in Greenwich Village, a traffic jam on Sixth Avenue (Eugene partially leaned out of the car to authentically and naturally capture this ordinary New York scene), healthy builders in their helmets, overalls, and sturdy boots, black boys and girls near Martin Luther King School, where there was a monument to the great American with bronze words expressing his belief that humanity would not descend into the nuclear hellish arms race...They filmed homeless people lying on benches, steps of stairs, and directly on the sidewalks—during the day!—in the part of the West Side that the Americanist knew well. They captured jogging enthusiasts skillfully maneuvering through the street crowd, lanky black guys with some kind of articulated dance, extracting any rhythms from any two pieces of metal before the mesmerized pedestrians. There were also sedan chair carriers in formal frock coats and top hats, resembling statues atop the black old carriages in Central Park. And unceremonious taxi virtuosos, as well as other virtuosos—truck drivers maneuvering trailer cars into narrow gaps in warehouses on narrow side streets. And peculiar, weathered Chinese old men at street stalls with similarly peculiar weathered roots in Chinatown. And the flea market on Orchard Street, nicknamed Yashkin Street by our people. And the zoo in Central Park, where adults and children, with absent smiles, seem to exchange glances with polar bears and lions, with walruses in a round pool. They avoid looking at humans directly, and only gorillas and orangutans glide past two-legged creatures on the other side of the cage with their dimly shining eyes, in which a faint and strange semblance of reason flickers. And, of course, sturdy, ruddy policemen in winter dark blue busbies—from their boots to the forage cap, brass insignia on the broad chest, a thick belt pulled over the buttocks by the weight of a Colt in an open holster, bundles of keys and handcuffs, and a baton, mechanically rotated in the hand, and the overseer's gaze in the zoo.And the Sunday, sunny crowd, brimming with the joy of life, on the broad ceremonial steps of the famous treasure trove of art—the Metropolitan Museum...He wanted to present a gallery of expressive living portraits of New Yorkers, release them all on the screen, and take his time, allowing the viewer to scrutinize their faces and, if possible, delve into their lives.The higher the skyscrapers of New York, the more gigantic the bridges across its rivers, bays, and straits, the smaller becomes the figure of the person who built them. However, no modern gigantomania can negate the wise truth of the ancients: man is the measure of all things. What is his, the human's, essence? How does he forge his happiness? Together with others or against others? And what does he forge?In the plans was also the prospect of the wealthy—Fifth Avenue with its deserted sidewalks and uniformed doormen in the entrances. But what can these closed-in urban fortresses of wealth say? The times of ostentatious luxury ended with kings and feudal lords. If wealth reveals itself, it does so in secluded places, in country estates; in the city, it disguises itself and hides to avoid taunting the people. For the Americanist, New York was the New York of colorful streets, the flood of people, the plebeians.When evening fell and the shootings stopped, he walked the streets with a notepad, jotting down observations that could be useful for the film. Or he sat in his room in front of the television. One of the tasks was to show New York in two contrasting tempos. To interrupt the street with its chaos and natural dishevelment with the display of news and advertisements—self-satisfied television men and women who, by their very appearance—and only by appearance—claim special, familiar relationships with life, destiny, and even history. Two tempos—natural, somewhat gloomy street tempo, and carefree, jaunty, cynically casual tempo reflected in life on the TV screen. As accompaniment, as an indicator of the tempo—scrolling electronic lines of round-the-clock news on the TV screen. And these same lines—as an interruption, as a transition from the private and personal to the general or impersonal.Memories are magical glasses through which you look into the past. Everyone has their own eyes and their own glasses tailored to the eyes of a lived life. One person, through the magical glasses of their memories, sees their past with extraordinary clarity, while another would see nothing in them because in their memories—there is their life, and they look at it through their own set of magical glasses. There are memories of wars and revolutions, destruction and hunger, seismic-scale shocks, and the overall extreme tension of eras that are experienced by an entire generation, deeply engraved in consciousness, forming a collective, historical memory. In this memory lies the experience of the people and society, acquired at the cost of heroic efforts and great sacrifices. Jointly lived experiences nourish the sense of national unity and influence the behavior and interaction of people even in their everyday lives.In terms of memories, and sometimes common memory, an internationalist who has lived abroad for a long time is a special and somewhat deprived person. They cannot share the memories of their foreign years with their own people because their people lived at home, not abroad, and did not experience what happened abroad. And they cannot fully share their memories with a foreign people among whom they lived because they were not a part of that people, and accordingly, they looked at what happened to them through the eyes of an outsider, even if an objective and benevolent one.The Americanist wanted to show New York as he saw it to his compatriots who hadn't seen it. But how could he convey his memories, moreover, life lessons learned from this city, through television images? And who needs these lessons? Americans? Unlikely, because they are just the experiences of an outsider. His own people? Do they need lessons taken from someone else's life? In the end, what is it? Lost time? Sometimes it seemed to him that way—lost time that complicated his entire life, some foreign detours instead of his own paths. Yet, at times, he did not consider this time lost. On the contrary, he lived there for six years in his early forties, at a time when youth meets early maturity. Write off those years?People part with their youth reluctantly and usually belatedly. The Americanist left New York at around the age of forty, still feeling young and vehemently denying the city that had harshly embittered him. Then strange things began to happen. The further he distanced himself from that period of his life, the more closely he examined it. It was perhaps a nostalgia for the departed youth. Along with it, it seemed to him that he left the best years of his life in that foreign city, or at least the most fulfilling ones. That's why he was excited to see the skyscraper silhouette of Manhattan at night when he found himself in America and transited through New York at the beginning of our narrative.Back in those New York years, he got into the rhythm of work and worked a lot, but without losing his youthful recklessness and the ability to have fun in a friendly circle. He didn't take himself too seriously, and that, for a while, helped him live. His friends among Soviet correspondents were full of life and youthful selfless interest in it.During his time in the American city on the Hudson, the Americanist achieved, so to speak, several personal records. First, he wrote a record number of articles for his newspaper, not shying away from small notes because he didn't take himself too seriously and was as healthy as a bull. He went to bed no earlier than two or three in the morning, a practice dictated by work since he dictated his essays over the phone or sent them via telegraph late at night. Second, during that time, he spent a record amount of his life attending meetings, both daytime and nighttime, in councils (primarily in the Security Council), committees, and subcommittees of the United Nations, never succumbing to sleep. Third, he read and perused a record amount, for himself, of tons of newspapers, magazines, press releases, and teletype sheets (but not books, as journalists often lack time for them). Fourth, he attended a record number of rallies and demonstrations, as well as visits to editorial offices, universities, Salvation Army shelters for the homeless, and advertising agencies that dazzled with the brilliance of the "society of abundance." He also spent a record amount of time watching television, back when it was still black and white, focusing on the latest news (especially in the evening, primarily on CBS with anchor Walter Cronkite, who has now retired — and entered history), while turning away from comedies, detective films, and entertainment shows due to a lack of time (a regrettable gap in his knowledge of America later on).By the way, about time again. Time was always in short supply. The Americanist never had time to comprehend what was happening to him. He didn't notice how he became a professional journalist—and an Americanist—in New York. However, in New York, he lacked time for New York. But do we have time in Moscow for Moscow? And is it possible to embrace the boundless?In New York, he knew little about Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens but wandered extensively through Manhattan. He knew a lot there: the Upper West Side around Seventieth Street, Broadway from Eighty-Sixth to Forty-Second, Central Park, Midtown, Battery Park, and the southern tip of the island, 125th Street in Harlem, the road to Kennedy Airport, and the Bayville village by the bay, where he twice rented a summer house with his family. He knew all the newspaper kiosks on his stretch of Broadway and various odd characters, like the lady with a dog who walked her dog in such a way that the leash in her hand was always taut, helping to conceal the prosthesis on her left leg. He knew vendors, waiters, bartenders, and ordinary residents, even passersby who, remaining strangers, walked through his life for six years, just as he walked through theirs.In the underground garages of New Babylon, black America and Africa dwelled, starting their expansion of black workers across the ocean; in stalls, pizzerias, and other eateries, Asia and Southern Europe; among deliverymen, messengers, and couriers, the Caribbean and South America; in corporations, banks, and hotels, Western Europe. In the complex process of communication among the diverse millions, everything was not just shared but also intermingled. Even in gastronomic tastes, the whole world was present. The Americanist, experiencing the diversity of international menus for the first time, sometimes visited dozens and hundreds of restaurants and eateries of Italian, Chinese, French, Polynesian, Russian, German, Armenian, etc., cuisines. And American cuisine—with thick, juicy slices of steak and green salads. As a professional interest, he even visited Salvation Army kitchens, where the unfortunate ones dined, their eyes seeing, but their palate not discerning the gastronomic delights of New York.Even at home in Schwab House, he was separated from his family by the round-the-clock correspondent duty. At any moment, he could leave, any day—depart, following the so-called note formalities, meaning informing Americans about his upcoming travels at least two days in advance. Ruthless in his youth, he didn't understand how hard his absences were for his wife. But she knew how to love, wait, endure, forgive, rejoice in her husband's joys, and not separate him from work and friends. She warmly welcomed guests, took her daughter to school and to the square in front of the house (children were not allowed to walk alone), and one night he took her to the other end of Manhattan. Four days later, he brought her back with a son—a rosy-cheeked, chubby baby who twitched in his sleep and clenched his fists when the piercing wail of police and fire sirens invaded his crib from the street. How could he find the way to childhood? Not everyone takes the Moscow–Sergach passenger train from Kazansky Station every evening. When they returned from Washington after the second business trip, the boy was eleven. Eight of those years were spent in America—more than half of his childhood. What would he remember, what does he remember now?Youth does not pose such questions. And life does not always rush to answer, but it never forgets.The foreign world turned out to be more complex than the preconceived ideas about it. Cruelty and alienation coexisted with power and dynamism. The multitude and diversity of everything—objects, people, temperaments, careers, destinies—were striking. The amplitudes of human passions, virtues, and vices were broader and more unexpected than previously imagined. The pros and cons of the social and economic structure dialectically interwove, intertwined, and changed depending on circumstances and dosage, determined by the class struggle, social strata, and individual personalities. Depending on the dosage, even snake venom possesses either lethal or healing properties.The term "computer" wasn't yet commonplace, but there, electronics was widely integrated into daily life, the chains in stores were still relatively stable and low, and new skyscrapers were growing like mushrooms on Sixth Avenue. "Beautifully decaying" is a banal expression that the Americanist heard from Moscow residents astonished by New York and occasionally used himself, revealing internal embarrassment: it wasn't easy to neatly categorize American life. "Workers of capitalist fields," joked one of the Americanist's New York friends, and in this unexpected phrase, there was not only mockery of a newspaper cliché turned upside down but also the legitimate desire of a citizen of his homeland to see the world and life soberly: the ability of Americans to work struck, perhaps, the most. They worked hard—in the fields and factories, in their offices, sparing no effort, and were simply not tolerated by the ruthless mechanism of competition.Neither the Americanist nor his colleagues could escape the heat treatment and tempering by New York. In the 1960s, the American decade of "storm and stress," they learned about class struggle and racial conflicts in a developed capitalist country not only from newspapers and books but also from life itself—a life that was tumultuous, rich in complexities and surprises. In a society of individualists, where personality is elevated above the collective and the state, Americans fought not only individually for their place in the sun but also together against the evils of the Vietnam War and racial inequality, in the name of brotherhood, solidarity, and justice. Before their eyes, a living American history unfolded, where both the masses and leaders played their roles, where there were heroes, selfless individuals proving that even one person in the field can lead thousands. They had to witness the development of the largest social movements of that time in everyday dynamics, as well as the fleeting nature of the "youth revolution," on the anarchic flank of which, stirring the consciousness of the average citizen, the "counterculture" of the hippies quickly blossomed and faded.It seemed that radical changes were indeed unavoidable, as the forces of social protest were diverse and energetic. However, in the face of trials that shook it, American society demonstrated a peculiar resilience, and the ruling class (an ambiguous concept) showed its art of decisively repelling dangerous attacks, separating radicals from moderates, smoothing sharp edges, expanding the limits of what was permissible (to the extent of tempting protesters with the permissiveness of the porn industry and the "sexual revolution"). Different factions of the ruling class and the two ruling parties, adapting and maneuvering, proved that they could adjust, take into account new trends, not shy away from problems, and act, sometimes yielding, sometimes resisting, relying on the expectation that the ferment would settle—there would be struggles and reevaluations, and people would come to their senses—that the attempts of rebels to turn America upside down would be countered by the law-abiding majority. That radicals would get stuck in the bourgeois realm of the "middle class," adhering to the main American religion—the religion of material well-being and success (without understanding this bet on the "middle class," we won't comprehend the resilience of the American system).Time cannot be put on autopilot. The future doesn't like it when people of the present day treat it carelessly. It's not enough to declare that the future belongs to us. In the name of the communist idea, one must work better than them, so that with our achievements, the entire structure of our life, and, most importantly, our person in solidarity with other people, we surpass their material achievements and their individual, separated by the instinct of ownership from other people. One must fearlessly face the changing life, look truth in the eye, and accurately assess where your country stands relative to other countries and other peoples. To these truths, simple and obvious, learned back in college, the Americanist returned during his years in New York, reinforcing them with the practice of observing another's life. Well, they were acquired long before him. The wise say that the essence of truth cannot be separated from the process of comprehending it. And one who hasn't acquired it through their own toil, the work of their consciousness, possesses not the truth but mere banality.In New York, he felt like a particle, affiliated with broad categories of politics. The term "fighter of the ideological front" would have been somewhat pathetic, and it suited him perfectly at that time. He was already beginning to understand the enveloping power of everyday life, determining the existence and worldview of the masses. However, at that time, he, in his carefree youth, was not burdened by the routine of life. He returned home without furniture and his own car, without fur coats and a summer cottage (words that had just entered common usage), with savings that were not enough for the major repairs needed for the run-down apartment he inherited. There, in New York, working for his newspaper, he exposed acquisitiveness in another world and believed that such exposure was incompatible with personal acquisitiveness. Apparently, he inherited from his proletarian grandfather the innate aversion to the early socialism, when there was a sacred hatred for the despised yellow metal and the dream of putting it to use in the decoration of public restrooms...In New York, there was an abundance of everything, and he returned from there with a multitude of impressions and a dream of putting them into a book, into books. The unspoken overwhelmed him, and he felt that this personal circumstance, namely the abundance of impressions accumulated across the ocean by one of the fighters on the ideological front, should be of public interest, should be taken into account in our overall ideological economy. But creating a book or books required more than just impressions; it required time.He knew that American correspondents returning from Moscow, as part of capitalist benevolence—and concern for their common ideological fund—received scholarships from various foundations and universities, providing them with a year and a half to two years of free time. Summing up their experiences in the form of books, they could return to their newspapers, and some of them ended up as authors of sensational bestsellers, working for the mill of their propaganda. How great it would be for us—in order to strengthen our ideological economy. Alas, when working on a non-newspaper reflection of their many years of impressions, Amerikanist and others like him could count on, at best, a month of creative leave with the goodwill of the chief editor, who was willing to overlook the stringent requirements of financial discipline. In our planned economy, considering all kinds of resources, the main resource—human personality—was not always taken into account. The journalist's book did not fall under socialist forms of ownership. It fell into the category of subsidiary economy, which could only be pursued during non-working hours, akin to a private greenhouse, from which the early cucumbers and strawberries are taken to the collective farm market."Creative mind mastered it—killed it," wrote Blok once about the artist's exploration of the material of life, the poet, the writer. Amerikanist never mastered the theme of New York, never "killed" it, and it continued to live and agitate his consciousness. He remained indebted to this city. And the desire to repay the debt arose every time he found himself there.They shot the second synchrony in Central Park. The low December sun had not yet risen above the fashionable hotels and residential buildings on the southern edge of the park, casting long shadows from them. A large lawn, where our TV crew arrived with their equipment, was fenced off by a temporary fence. The grass, scorched during the hot summer and trampled by baseball enthusiasts and pedestrians, was being restored. The guard let them onto the abundantly watered, resting meadow after checking their press credentials.They chose a dry elevation and prepared for shooting. Everything was done quickly, with jokes, but then the camera in Zhenya's hands looked at Amerikanist again without jokes, with its cold, gleaming eye. And again, he tried to appease it, forcing his face to smile."This is the large lawn of New York's Central Park. It's called Sheep Meadow, although the locals probably won't remember when sheep last grazed here. Perhaps at the beginning of the last century. There, to the north, unseen from here, are the Negro quarters—Harlem. On the right, to the east—Fifth Avenue, where the rich live. On the southern edge of the park—also not poor houses and hotels.From all sides, the city with its underworld and heavenly floors. With hymns to human labor and curses of human greed. With mysteries and passions of someone else's life—it's not easy to decipher and reveal them. When you look at it, standing on this lawn, Pushkin's words come to mind: 'There, people in heaps behind the fence, don't breathe the morning coolness, nor the spring scent of meadows; they are ashamed of love, they chase away thoughts, trade their will, bow their heads in front of idols, and beg for money and chains...'And here—a lawn and a whole park, called Central. How did it miraculously survive, large and untouched, why was it spared in a city where other square meters of land cost tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars?Probably because a person cannot live without nature and poetry. In the city, he turns wild, and here he tames a squirrel, and they are not afraid of people right in the heart of New York. Squirrels are safer here than people. At least, they don't leave from here with the onset of darkness.Right now, it's deserted here. But there are days—and opi remember them for a long time—when people fill this spacious, free lawn to the brim..."According to Amerikanist's plan, this was the final sync, followed by the conclusion of the film. The portrait gallery of New Yorkers shown in the middle of the film turned into a human sea. Newsreel footage from recent days was used. Half a million-strong anti-war demonstration was splashed on the screen—on the occasion of the opening of the special session of the UN on disarmament. A powerful human procession with banners and slogans flowed through the rivers of streets and merged into the sea of Central Park. On Sheep Meadow, the same one where they did their sync, a grand rally was taking place. Over the sea of heads, banners fluttered, saying "No to the madness of the arms race! No to the threat of nuclear war!"These shots were accompanied by the text:— You wouldn't recognize the meadow where you just saw me alone. We showed you a different—and divided—New York, vulgar and cruel spectacles on Broadway, and here different people are gathering, united by a common noble cause. During my years in New York, many thousands of Americans came here to demand civil rights for blacks, to protest against the Vietnam War. Many beautiful people adorned this nation. Here, I had the chance to hear the fiery speeches of such a great American as Martin Luther King and such a famous and noble pediatrician as Benjamin Spock.This meadow did not suspect at that time that people coming here to relax would not leave it alone with their concerns, that they would come in even greater numbers and for a more important occasion. Opi were tired of the arms race, of the fear of war, of the monstrous thermonuclear bomb.It wasn't sheep but people who gathered on Sheep Meadow. They didn't want to be sacrificial lambs, didn't believe in the wisdom of leaders who piled mountains of armaments to the sky. They wanted to live themselves and continue to live in their children and grandchildren, forging link by link an endless chain of humanity.And this desire unites them with the sheep.The medieval English poet John Donne has lines that the American Ernest Hemingway used as an epigraph to one of his novels. "No man is an island. Every man is a piece of the continent," wrote John Donne. "And never ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee."In our rocket-nuclear age, even continents have ceased to be islands, isolated and invulnerable. We and the Americans are very far from each other, but connected by one responsibility—for the future of humanity...Embrace each other, millions! This was roughly the final message. However, Amerikanist was afraid that excessive pathos would disrupt the tonality of his film. It should not end with pathos, but with a meaningful ellipsis, a tightening note, a distance that would include both the call of the future and the echo of the past. To show at the end the Sunday empty New York, freed from movement and noise, revealed in its streets, beautiful and sad. To have the screen crossed thoughtfully by rare cars, to have an elegiac siren heard somewhere in the distance, which on weekdays will wake up both the living and the dead. And for the Hudson River embankment to appear again:—the wind was sweeping autumn leaves on the stairs and rocking empty children's swings...The last grains of sand were rapidly melting at the bottom of the hourglass, spiraling into a funnel.No spiritual energy was spent on preparations for the return journey. Victor selflessly bore the cross of a specific New York hospitality that extended to all acquaintances from the homeland—and even to acquaintances of acquaintances. He spared no time for his colleague and, as a final touch, drove him across the George Washington Bridge to the shopping centers on the other side of the river in the state of New Jersey. In this state, unlike New York, there is no high tax on sold goods, so one can spend the allocated dollars more effectively. The recurring routine ending of each trip. In the tradition of mutual assistance, Rai also bore her cross, as did Amerikanist's wife when they lived in New York, like all our women living there now. Following Rai's directions, Victor would turn to one shopping center or another, park the car in a parking lot the size of a stadium. Amerikanist would pull out the existing list compiled by each delegate, and kind-hearted Rai, studying it and matching needs with possibilities, calculated how to more fully satisfy the requests and orders of Amerikanist's loved ones. Oh, the ugly, contemptible prose of life! How to bypass it for our diplomats, journalists, and even economists and trade workers sent abroad?!Everything was seen through the prism of the imminent return home.One Saturday evening, Amerikanist found himself on Broadway around the Seventieth Street, an area that felt almost like home, especially on Broadway itself. The evening was unusually warm for early December, and a dense crowd flowed along the sidewalks, slowing down at intersections and by shop windows, near street musicians, religious preachers, and sly young people playing three-card monte on an overturned tin barrel.He came to Broadway to one of the massive old theaters to see the new movie "Alien," which had stirred sensational interest among adult and child audiences alike. Film critics called it a masterpiece. A flying saucer landed in the woods near a small American town. The residents discovered it, and the authorities and police decided to capture it. The aliens had to abort their expedition and leave in a hurry, but one of them got lost and stayed on Earth—a ugly and touching creature with the head of an intelligent reptile, a short torso, and long glowing fingers that had the magical ability to relieve pain. Under the skin of the large lizard, the alien's heart glowed, swelling with red light and flickering, seemingly, with each beat. Children found and hid the frightened creature from adult people, who were ready, as always, to fulfill their cruel duty to eradicate anything foreign and alien, especially extraterrestrial. The children saw and loved the alien with a child's soul, not yet knowing the adult prohibitions, warming him with childlike affection for all living things. The children called him E.T. (two letters from the English word "extraterrestrial").A cute, sentimental, heart-wrenching film, and in the crowded Broadway cinema, both children and adults, munching on cornflakes from liter-sized polyethylene cups, laughed, were amused, and almost cried. The ending was happy. The children managed to save their E.T. from the "government people," and he safely left Earth because the aliens, not leaving a comrade in trouble, came back for him. E.T. flew back to his home, and the only English word he learned to pronounce with a plaintive and poignant tone during his days on Earth was "home."Home... Going home... A poignant nostalgia for home—and for the unity of all living beings—was felt in this film about an extraterrestrial creature. According to Amerikanist, it didn't quite reach the level of a masterpiece, but the colossal success of the film indicated that some secret chord had been struck among pragmatic yet sentimental Americans. It's hard for the alien on that land without which, outside of which, we cannot live. Every living creature longs for home. And if you love your home and your country, you must respect the love of other people (and even extraterrestrials) for their home, their country, their planet. In such intelligent and discerning love for one's own lies the pledge of planetary and interplanetary brotherhood. Essentially, this film preached "new thinking," which Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell called for shortly after the advent of nuclear weapons and which can only grow out of "old" humanistic thinking.That's how Amerikanist understood "E.T.," and in his soul, waiting for the rendezvous with home, the pitiful and demanding cries of "home!" uttered by the creature with intelligent bulging eyes and a glowing heart resonated. And the eve of departure arrived. There was one day and one night left, and the next noon, Victor would take Amerikanist to LaGuardia Airport, and New York's homes, roads, and residents would pass by for a final farewell.Around ten in the morning, Amerikanist sat on the couch in the "Esplanade" hotel room, and in front of him on the coffee table was the fresh issue of "The New York Times," and the television by the wall was quietly glowing—on one of the channels (this wasn't there before), round-the-clock teletype texts of the latest news were running on the screen—in the city, the country, the world—and on the New York Stock Exchange. Our hero was engaged in his routine morning work, reviewing and sometimes underlining the places in the thick, approximately a hundred-page newspaper lying in front of him that might be useful for his subsequent work and for his newspaper. In addition to a ballpoint pen in his hands, he had a safety razor. With this tool, he cut out the most interesting messages, in his opinion, from the newspaper, preparing material for his Moscow archive.From each business trip, newspaper and magazine clippings were taken home as documents of another stretch of time spent in America. Considering the past experience of useless storage of paper trash, he imposed strict self-limitations: newspaper clippings were minimized, and from magazines and even books, he mercilessly tore out individual pages or chapters, discarding everything else. But even after strict culling, there usually accumulated about fifty pounds of paper, which—he flew home by plane!—he took home and there subjected to decisive and irrevocable oblivion, although each time during the business trip, it seemed that without new clippings, it was impossible to work or even live. The soul of a journalist is enchanted and captivated by the present day. It enchants and captivates so much that each time a journalist forgets that tomorrow today will become yesterday, that is, unnecessary for the newspaper.Did his one-and-a-half-month business trip justify itself? This thought continued to disturb him, although the editorial office made no demands and expressed no grievances. His latest correspondence, written in the intervals between television shoots and pre-departure chores, was somewhat raw. Over the phone, he asked the department editor to delay it further, partly because events were unfolding. The House of Representatives rejected the "dense pack" or "compact basing" method for MX intercontinental missiles, based on the concept of "missile fratricide," and denied appropriations for the creation of these missiles until a different, more efficient method was devised. This indicated resistance in Congress to the developers of nuclear death with their monstrous fantasies.The vote in the House elicited many reactions, upsetting conservatives and pleasing liberals, and it added another half-pound to the weight of the newspaper clippings prepared by Amerikanist for his journey. In one way or another, it was good news, giving rise to another modest hope. From a political point of view, it concluded Amerikanist's business trip, and on the morning before departure, he sat in front of the newspaper with a safety razor in hand, preparing the freshest clippings for the road. In the corner, the television screen reflected the vast world.The lines of teletype news silently scrolled and disappeared, making way for other lines about different news. And suddenly, a short message burst in, stating that in the capital city of Washington, right at these fleeing moments along with the teletype lines, an interesting and unprecedented event was unfolding. More specifically: an unknown man is threatening to explode the national monument—a obelisk dedicated to George Washington—and may actually do so.Amerikanist was startled by this news and pushed the newspaper away. Meanwhile, new lines were running on the television screen—in continuation of the disappeared ones. So, more concrete and detailed: somehow, an unknown man drove a van to the base of the monument, jumped out of it, and with no police in sight, declared his threat and that he had a thousand pounds of dynamite in the closed van as evidence that he was not joking. The offender took morning tourists—visitors to the monument—as hostages. He insisted that he wouldn't spare himself or the national shrine if his demands weren't met.Demands... Demands... Demands... Everyone demands something—increasingly with the help of dynamite. But this newfound saboteur wasn't demanding millions or freedom for terrorist comrades. He demanded what millions of Americans and many elected officials there, under the Capitol dome, which was apparently clearly visible from the base of the obelisk at that moment, were engaged in—national debates on the threat of nuclear war, as well as the prohibition of nuclear weapons... Otherwise... With a thousand pounds of dynamite, he threatened the national monument. Dynamite against thermonuclear! The wedge—by the wedge. Purely American.The lines about the new sensation in Washington disappeared from the television screen. Others, calmer messages appeared, but they no longer were read, perceived as an interlude in the unfinished story with dynamite near the Washington monument. They provided time to come to one's senses and think.Each in its own way goes mad—not only a person but also an era. The poor fellow went crazy in a country where the president demanded—and achieved—superarmaments, military strategists sought common sense in "missile fratricide," and where dynamite was always at hand, just like television operators to broadcast the world about their madness.The deranged era and the deranged individual saw each other in the mirror of a new sensation. Not by thought, but rather by a sense, a hunch, this crossed the mind of our Amerikanist, and he regretted that the latest news had not yet been cast into print and that he did not have a videocassette recorder to cut it from the television screen.The towering, 270-foot granite obelisk in Washington, our people dubbed the Pencil. On the generously allocated, unobstructed territory, it indeed protrudes like a slightly tapering pencil, sharpened at the top. At the top, there's an observation deck, and no other point in Washington provides such a view of the city and its Virginian surroundings from a bird's-eye perspective. An elevator ascends to the observation deck—for a fee—and those interested can count the eight hundred and ninety-eight steps on foot (America loves an accurate count). However, more steps are usually descended, reading explanations along the way about which state's building materials were used in the construction of the monument. The Pencil is open to visitors every day except Christmas, starting at nine in the morning. The criminal with his dynamite appeared right at the beginning.The event returned to the television screen in the "Esplanade" hotel room. The police, as now silently emerging lines reported, were taking measures. They were armed with sniper rifles and prudent restraint. They sealed off the incident area, closed public access, but kept themselves at a distance, as the man, refusing to identify himself, circled near his van with a remote control device in hand and threatened to detonate explosives if the slightest danger to him arose. He also continued to insist on his demand…The sensation was unfolding. The lines of the initial report repeated for those who had just tuned in to the television screen, and they were enriched with new details, new actions. The most imaginative, insane, and talented playwright and director named Life once again performed in his favorite genre of documentary and simultaneously fantastical realism, which Gabriel Garcia Marquez could not have dreamed of.The granite obelisk is a kind of geographical navel of the American capital. If a straight line is drawn from the Lincoln Memorial to the Congress building on Capitol Hill and another straight line from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial, then the intersection of these lines is where the protruding Pencil is located. In any case, that was the plan a hundred and fifty years ago when the first monument project appeared, but during construction, which was completed a hundred years ago, the Pencil was slightly shifted because the intersection point turned out to be on unstable, marshy ground. "First in days of war, first in days of peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen"—this is the pathos about George Washington. From the monument of the first to the residence of the last, the current president, is within arm's reach. And the dynamiter, by intuition or calculation, fantastically accurately chose the place from where fragments of the monument to the first president could be thrown at the White House, the residence of the last.The stunning event overshadowed all others and was already going undefeated. American life often burst into his memory with unexpected characters in an unexpected place, and Amerikanist understood that, essentially, it was now writing an unexpected ending to his journey from his point of view. And if the news is number one, then there must already be cameras somewhere. Special mobile television crews must already be on-site. And switching channels, Amerikanist immediately stumbled upon the picture. They were broadcasting it live from the scene.Ah, this is what it looks like, the lone man captured by the TV near the giant monument. There he is, the madman, still nameless, bursting onto the stage, and from ocean to ocean in the television audience called America, millions of people were already sitting, scrutinizing and deciphering the man who, before their eyes, face to face, was going against the nuclear superpower. It was his moment, a starry one, and perhaps the last. But if he had a portable TV in his hands instead of a remote control device, he would have seen that the camera observed him without any reverence, impassively and coldly, like some experimental creature. It looked at him as if with the cold and keen eye of a god, who, from his peaks, observes another moment of human tragicomedy.Yes, he was alone at the mighty base of the towering obelisk, and the camera wanted to, but couldn't capture both of them at once—the little man and the entire gigantic monument. And when the camera took the monument in full height, the man disappeared, vanished—that's what he had aimed for. Then the man reappeared in the frame, alone with the gray wall of the base and his white, medical-looking van. He was strangely dressed—in a blue jumpsuit and a helmet with a lowered visor. And this motorcyclist's attire made one think of astronauts in their space suits. But his gait was different, not the gait of an astronaut walking with a briefcase in hand and in the eyes of the whole world to the bus that would take him to the cosmodrome, to the rocket, and to glory. The dynamiter's walk, strolling back and forth near his van, was brisk and funny, the walk of a not-so-young, unremarkable, non-athletic man who nevertheless wanted to look strong and confident. In his hands, there was indeed some gadget with an antenna, and he held the device at some distance from his chest, as if wary of it.He wanted to make an impression, but his appearance betrayed stiffness and tension, and despite the menacing gesture, the announced threat of a thousand pounds of explosives, the impression was pitiful. He seemed to be a late television debutant. Only for his debut, this man chose a fantastic place where retakes were ruled out, and it could well become a frontal location for him.On the side of the white van with dynamite, a short inscription outlined the noblest goal of the unknown: "Task number one - to ban nuclear weapons." The disparity between the historical scale of the task and the lone little man in a blue jumpsuit was even more striking than between him and the monument.In the meantime, the action continued to unfold. Reports came in: he released nine hostages without waiting for an official response to his demand. It was reported that the assumption about a second person, an accomplice, turned out to be incorrect. It was reported that the President and participants in the breakfast he hosted at the White House had been moved from the room where window panes could shatter in case of an explosion to another, safer room. The President's wife was advised to stay away from the rooms in the southern part of the White House. Officially, the White House did not respond to the threat to the monument, considering the incident within the jurisdiction of the police.Engaging more people and institutions, the event spread like ripples in water. Employees of the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture, located nearby the Pencil, were evacuated. The National Museum of American History was closed to visitors. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, park police responsible for order in national parks and the preservation of national monuments, as well as the Washington, D.C. police, formed a special group to handle the situation.However, the culprit refused to make any contact with authorities, and the police did not want him to become overly nervous. Save the nerves of the madman with explosives!Finally, a voluntary intermediary was found, to whom the dynamiter entrusted himself—a reporter from the Associated Press. He took on the task of assisting the public and, at the same time, zealously promoting his agency. Now the reporter appeared on the television screen, cautiously ascending the hill toward the monument, lifting the tails of his jacket and spreading his arms, showing the absence of weapons and hidden intentions. The unknown man paused his nervous pacing… The distance between them narrowed... They spoke about something, standing a few steps apart…Then the reporter descended from the hill. And immediately through his agency, he disseminated the message of the man who, as the reporter expressed it, took the national monument hostage. The message was short and suffered from clichés."The blame lies with the President and the press," the reporter faithfully reproduced the words of the dynamiter. "They pretend that there is no threat of nuclear destruction hanging over us, they refuse to provide true information about the dangerous, uncontrollable situation in which the world finds itself."Although he criticized the press, words stronger and more eloquent were printed in newspapers every day. What does he hope to achieve? Persuade the President? Rally the nation against him? Does he really believe that one act, no matter how dramatic, will open the eyes of the blind and unite the divided? Does he think that everything will change after his sacrifice in front of everyone or even from the sacrifice of the national monument?Watching the unfolding events, the Americanist tried to understand the logic of madness.On the other hand, he reasoned, does it really matter what words are spoken? All words have been spoken long ago. Only actions restore lost power to words. How do you ensure your word? What are you willing to pay for it?For the prominent figures, words, even the emptiest or false ones, reach millions of others—they are already backed by their fame or power. But for the unknown and insignificant person, if he wants to be heard, there might be only one chance in life and one single payment—his only life. And this small, unknown person, choosing a fantastic frontal location in the very center of Washington, was laying his head on the block so that millions could hear him for the only time in his life, to momentarily drown out the voices of the powerful, authoritative, greedy, and aggressive. With his act of madness, he appealed to the common sense of his fellow countrymen.This act could also be understood in this way. And the Americanist, sitting alone in his room in front of the television, also thought about it.In the case of the biblical forefather Abraham, God demanded a terrible sacrifice—his only and beloved son, Isaac. Abraham obeyed God and rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, chopped wood for the sacrificial fire, and, with Isaac, went to the place designated by God to offer his son as a sacrifice, thus proving his faith in God and his fear of Him. Isaac sensed something was wrong. As they ascended the mountain, he asked his father: here is the fire and wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering? Abraham replied: God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering. They reached the appointed place, and Abraham set up the altar. He bound his son and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. When Abraham took the knife to slaughter his son, Isaac, according to the Bible, did not utter a word. He was silent, like a sacrificial lamb. God stayed Abraham's hand and spared Isaac, testing the strength of Abraham's faith.But what faith does the nuclear devil, possessing tens of thousands of pre-prepared megatons, expect from us? What kind of faith and fear? Will we remain silent, like the biblical Isaac, under his raised knife?The little man groaned on behalf of those as voiceless as him. He cursed both God and the devil, modern Caesars, and sacrificed himself on the hill to avert the holocaust of life on Earth.This interpretation was given to his action.He burst onto the scene with a high tragic note, halting the hustle of the pre-departure day for the Americanist. A moving, appearing, and disappearing color picture for everyone on the matte-shining glass screen. And there, on the hill, two hundred and fifty miles from Manhattan, not a picture but a living and terribly lonely man in the agony of mortal suffering. Television proximity is deceptive, television solidarity is ephemeral. Which of those sympathizing and empathizing through the TV would want to stand next to him, in the crosshairs of police rifles?...The dynamiter's incognito was deciphered by the license plate of the van from the state of Florida. Besides, the police were already receiving phone calls from those who recognized their friend, neighbor—in the blue jumpsuit, white van, brisk walk. Now, voices and lines from the television screen provided the initial data, depriving the hero of the day of anonymity.Norman Meyer. Sixty-six years old. From the city of Miami, Florida. Owner of a pension, already retired from business due to age, financially well-off, with some capital. They sought an explanation for his dramatic act on a national scale. Alone... Childless... Harmless... Never been to a mental hospital, not associated with anarchism, left or right radicalism... A normal life of an American bourgeois. A citizen. And around him—southern sun, palm trees, and the sea. A resort paradise—and money for a carefree old age. What else? In Miami, there are plenty of such people. No mysteries. And suddenly this grand gesture with dynamite.The visions of nuclear mushrooms did not let Norman Meyer live and rejoice. A private entrepreneur, believing in private initiative, waged his anti-nuclear struggle alone—walking with placards and placing paid advertisements in newspapers to ban nuclear weapons, just as he had previously placed paid ads for his pension in the same newspapers. In recent days, he occasionally visited Washington and picketed alone with a sign along the White House fence. No one noticed him or heard him. There were many like him. And now he found his sacrificial place and his way to make his voice heard.However, the White House continued to arrogantly remain silent. The police, without giving up trying to dissuade and reason with the madman, did not utter a word about fulfilling his demands....In the dramas that life spontaneously stages, there are dead-end situations when the characters, having said their words, drag on and hesitate with action, and the audience loses interest in the meantime. A lull occurred on the hill at the monument.Meanwhile, other fictional characters of other events of the day crowded at the television platforms and demanded attention to themselves. And daytime viewers, unlike evening ones, were busy people, and each of them was called somewhere even in those moments when the fate of the national monument hung by a hair. On his last day, the Americanist also could not endlessly sit in front of the television. Leaving the hotel, he merged with the crowd on the streets, ran through nearby shops and pharmacies, fulfilling the requests of acquaintances for pipe tobacco and new half-dollar coins with John F. Kennedy's profile, door upholstery rivets, nail clippers, soy sauce, the latest numismatic yearbook, and so on.Another short December day was running out, the last day in the life of Norman Meyer, an American citizen and resident of Miami.There was no dynamite in his van.He came up with the dynamite, knowing in advance that without it, he wouldn't last five minutes, but who would hear his voice, except the nearest police officer?He came up with the dynamite, but he hadn't thought through the scenario of his threat to explode the Washington Monument to the end. He seized the stage in front of everyone's eyes and had to hold it. He couldn't turn off the TV and go about his business, hoping to catch up on what happened next in the evening broadcasts. Darkness was approaching, and his surroundings shrank to the mercilessly illuminated platform. Extreme exertion was required, and he was tired from a long walk under the barrels of rifles and TV cameras, and there was nothing around to give him new strength. The people for whom he undertook his risky action were silent. At least their connection with him was one-sided, and he did not know what invisible and perhaps truly nationwide debates took place in the souls of his fellow countrymen who saw him on their TV screens and pondered his actions. After all, he was sixty-six, retirement age, he hadn't eaten or drunk all day, and he could hardly endure by the granite pedestal even through the night—what could it add?And so, Norman Meyer climbed into the darkness on the seat of the van and, without warning his pursuers, rolled down Fifteenth Street.The eager police, not hesitating, opened fire. From their point of view, the madman was driving a thousand pounds of explosives into the city.The van swerved and overturned.They awaited an explosion, but it didn't happen.The police officers cautiously approached the overturned van. Their bullets hit not only the wheels. In the cabin, they found the lifeless body of Norman Meyer.And late in the evening, when the workday had ended not only on the East Coast but also on the West Coast of the United States, viewers were shown the finale. They saw the overturned van, stretchers in the hands of paramedics, and something on the stretchers covered from above with a white sheet. Commentators explained that this was the body of the deceased Norman Meyer. In the evening darkness, illuminated by television lights, the stretchers disappeared into the depths of the "ambulance." Roaring its siren, the vehicle immediately set off and sped away. Then Norman Meyer, who had just been taken to one of the city morgues, was resurrected in video recordings on TV screens—strutting with his lively and even more pitiful and funny gait, he once again began to stroll by the monument under the final explanations of the TV commentators.Now they were showing the chief of the park police live. He conducted an impromptu press conference, justifying the actions of his subordinates who had fired without warning. When he tried to explain the motives of the deceased, the Americanist thought that the police chief was taking on a task too heavy for his mind and imagination. Just as Norman Meyer had taken on another overwhelming task himself.The little man ran out onto the Plaza of History with a cry of despair and curses—and crashed into the insensitive iron machinery of the state. A similar drama was described in eternal verses a hundred and fifty years ago. There was a little man and there was a monument—the Bronze Horseman. And there was the pitiful rebellion of the little man—and the pursuit, the punishment.And across the empty square,He runs and hears behind him—As if the rumble of thunder—The heavy, resonant poundingOn the shaken pavement...And the same, in essence, the finale:...They found my madman,And immediately buried his cold corpseFor God's sake.The swift return journey began. Americannist was heading not from LaGuardia Airport, but to LaGuardia Airport, and he squeezed not a bottle of vodka, but a fresh copy of "The New York Times" with the story of Norman Meyer, transitioning from the front page to the twenty-fifth. On the Triboro Bridge, he didn't encounter, but bid farewell to the skyscrapers of Manhattan, which remained behind him with clear silhouettes in the warm and sunny December day. He sat not on a Montreal-bound plane going to New York, but on a New York-bound plane going to Montreal—and in the opposite direction, the still snowless land of New England slid beneath the wing. But as they approached Montreal, he saw the sturdy white snow sparkling in the sun and rejoiced in it, like a message from home.In Montreal, they took him from Dorval Airport to Mirabel Airport, where he was not supposed to say goodbye but to meet our plane. The passengers on the bus were unfamiliar to him, but he perceived them as fellow travelers from Moscow, who had scattered each to their own business on the North American continent a month and a half ago and now gathered again for a common cause—returning home, all together, including the man in a cassock who had kept to himself; the priest was also on an international mission, directed to one of the two Russian Orthodox churches in North America that is subordinate to the Moscow Patriarch.There was no farewell, however, with Immigration Inspector Hayes and American customs officials on the return journey: as a man leaving the USA, Americannist did not interest American authorities, and only a clerk from Air Canada checked his passport, issuing a ticket to New York, and tore off the non-immigrant form on which Inspector Hayes stamped at the beginning of the journey—"Admitted to the USA" (for the forty-five already expired days).They flew to America following the sun, extending the October day. Now the December sun had passed over Montreal to the west, and, settling in the Ilyushin-62, which had come from Moscow, they flew eastward, towards the sun of the coming day, shortening the long winter night.Our plane, our pilots and flight attendants, our glowing displays, Aeroflot scents, food and drinks, towels and napkins—although not world-class in everything, in these first hours, Americannist decidedly found no grounds for criticism of Aeroflot. After a month and a half of wandering around, the discharge, in a sense, reigned in the joyful return journey. Inner tension gave way to relaxation, and even the passage of time seemed to slow down in the Moscow life of Americannist, who returned from America. And in the hourglass, meditations did not occur almost at all on the way home, and this journey left no traces in his travel diary. Discharge, in a way intercontinental, prevailed in the joyful return journey. Inner tension gave way to relaxation, and even the passage of time seemed to slow down in the Moscow life of Americannist, who returned from America.Familiar faces peeking out from behind the barrier of the customs zone at Sheremetyevo Airport, the editorial driver, the recognition of the snow-covered outskirts of Moscow, a familiar house and courtyard, an elevator, a door—and a meeting within the walls of his apartment. It's good to arrive from a business trip on Friday. He had a good sleep, and he adjusted the biological clock of his body to the Moscow day and night outside the window. He went to the editorial dacha in Pakhra, and after a sauna, relaxing, sat with a friend at the table, and white snow lay on the ground, and bare birches speckled the snow with their trunks, it was cold and expansively spacious, and he again experienced the sweet power of his native nature and an inexplicable desire to dissolve in it.The close ones were close again, not dear iconic images of memory but people in their everyday lives—and he could no longer tell them how much he missed being far away, and his feelings seemed to have hidden—until the next parting.Every morning, he commuted to work. The editorial office had long become a second home, and on the first working day upon his return, he would enter the familiar building with a certain awkwardness and restraint, as if afraid that no one would recognize him, fearing that everyone had forgotten about him. In the long corridors, almost everyone was on familiar terms. Some expressed surprise: "Haven't seen you in a while. What's going on?" From this, he concluded that even his colleagues didn't read the newspaper attentively. Others would ask, "So, how was it in America?" — and didn't expect an answer. He had written about America in the newspaper for so long that his responses seemed implicit, lacking interest. When he was young and not yet an Americannist, people would inquire more thoroughly.It was a home, not a foreign land, and at home, he was a well-known figure, navigating life among his aging generation. His friends were among the all-knowing people who had stopped bothering their heads with details, and the younger colleagues, gaining experience and strength, with their still unsatisfied curiosity, hesitated to question him.What else? His correspondence on Catholic bishops and anti-war sentiments in Congress, transmitted from New York, was published. Nothing more was demanded of him, no final pieces. Only the accounting department requested a financial report, and he compiled and submitted it along with the remaining government dollars. When Americannist was home in Moscow, his work mainly involved reading current materials and writing about current political events related to the relations between the two countries. After the initial adjustment days, he delved into this familiar Moscow work, especially as the relations were more feverish than usual; Americans were deploying intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Western Europe, and an intense ideological and political battle was unfolding around this issue. The freshness of impressions from the last trip gradually faded away. While strolling through his hometown, he no longer engaged in the involuntary game of imagination, superimposing Moscow streets on those of New York or Washington. However, the feeling of dissatisfaction and the same damned outspokenness persisted. Again, he thought that he hadn't said the main thing. He didn't even know what that main thing was, but he understood that it should reveal itself in the process of work if he tried to describe his trip more fully and candidly, which meant understanding and reliving it anew. In such work, he believed, there would be a real justification for his journey. However, immersed in the fluidity of editorial work, Americannist increasingly neglected to pull out and open the thick notebook with his new American notes, and he didn't find time even to type up this source material on the typewriter to see and feel it better. Would everything that so infected and charged him there, all that intense mental work, be in vain, as it had often happened, and only four correspondences with their dense, almost encrypted, purely political, current content would remain of this trip? They had already disappeared into the bound volumes of newspapers — forever. Would this lifelong paradox prevail again — there was no time to tell about time and about oneself? Meanwhile, significant events were taking place in the country and in the newspaper. The chief editor, who had blessed Americannist for the trip, retired: "Act!" The old chief returned to the newspaper as the new chief, jokingly referred to as the "twice chief." He did a lot to inspire the team, print more sharp problem materials, and make efforts to boost the newspaper, which was losing subscribers. He knew how to extract and put to work the creative potential of every person and worker. The newspaper improved, demanding more time and effort. Six months passed. Americannist finally typed up his American notes on the typewriter, but he didn't make any progress beyond that. He was already consoling himself with the Oblomovian dream — to postpone the venture until tomorrow, after yet another trip.You may wonder what happened to his television film about New York. This venture stalled right from the beginning, and our debutant lost the desire to push it further. Admittedly, one television executive reacted quite sympathetically to his script. He had once lived in New York himself and felt that the author had the right to his own perspective and approach to the subject. However, another television executive, who hadn't lived in New York but was directly responsible for TV film production, raised objections. He didn't know New York, but he did know what was required from a film about New York. He advised Americannist to see New York through the eyes of others— the eyes of the creators of previous films. Such advice didn't inspire any strength or desire. Replicating would be both senseless and uninteresting. A young and energetic woman, attached to the film as a director, got excited about Americannist's idea. However, she also lacked her own vision of New York, and, of course, no one intended to send her there just for an extracurricular film. Thus, this television project with a prologue on the Hudson River bank and an epilogue on the Sunday streets of New York was abandoned. Time slipped away like sand between the fingers.But one beautiful July morning, by some touch of providence, a traveler appeared to Americannist.He was a middle-aged American, of average height, stout, with a small beard on a round, broad face and blue, clear, attentive eyes. Americannist offered him one of the two Finnish chairs in the corner of his office, and he took the other. They engaged in lively conversation, occasionally with gestures, for about an hour and a half. After escorting the traveler to the door, our hero bid farewell to him in the editorial corridor.Why call him a traveler? Our own wanderers and travelers have been translated, and foreign ones don't wander across state borders. The American didn't come from the street; he was a well-known journalist and writer, visiting Moscow as a guest of the Novosti Press Agency, and Americannist received him upon the agency's request. So why call him a traveler?The word arose primarily from the appearance of the American. On a hot Moscow day, he was casually and lightly dressed—summer cotton pants, a shirt without a tie, and a canvas bag slung over his shoulder. It was this canvas bag, this semblance of a satchel on the foreigner, with whom a certain degree of formality was inevitable, that led Americannist to the Russian word suggesting not four walls and a ceiling with a certain diplomatic air on the newspaper-magazine level but rather free skies over open spaces, the curly fringe of a forest, paintings like those of Nesterov, or verses like those of Blok: "No, I am setting forth uninvited, and let the earth be light to me..."Not a foreigner, but a certain foreigner.But the external comparison with a Russian traveler stopped there. From his bag, the guest pulled out not a crust of bread and a piece of salted pork in a rag but two large yellow American envelopes of thick paper. From the envelopes, he extracted folded sheets of paper, and from his jacket pocket, a black, thick pen, one of those we used to call "everlasting" until they were supplanted by short-lived ballpoints.And there, where the external comparison with the traveler ended, the secret and anxious comparison began.The American came to Moscow to work on a book about strategic nuclear weapons—the very ones we are preparing for each other in that fateful event. He had studied the problem from the American side, but one side was not enough on the chosen subject. So, for two weeks, he came to see us and talk to us. Did the ancient philosophers foresee that this connection would emerge: weapon systems—politics—the meaning of existence? Between these three links, only three, there is no gap, and one could put an equals sign between them. A super-dense compression of everything. It has never been like this, although the Bomb has hung over us for forty years.And a new traveler brought a blue-eyed, bearded American with a canvas bag to Moscow. Like other travelers.Americannist liked him. He possessed naturalness and intelligence, sincerity and that attractive boldness when a writing person, rejecting so-called solidity, is unafraid to ask seemingly naive, childlike questions, answers to which seemingly adult, solid people already know. He wanted to understand us and our attitude toward Americans. From his questions, Americannist felt that one very childlike and very wise question emerged: what are we (meaning us, them, and all of humanity) as people, and what awaits us, such people, in the future, given the presence of such weapons and such an international situation, and what should we do? And you, sitting across, what kind of person are you? Can we, on our common ship Earth, navigate between the Scylla and Charybdis of our fear and animosity in a world where we can all sink together if we don't learn to save ourselves together?This traveler came to our country because he saw in us fellow travelers, and he could not separate his fate from ours. A common fate—and a universal human one. Americannist came to this conclusion when, bidding farewell to the American and thinking about how to write about this encounter and this American, he sought the hidden psychological layer beneath the surface of their conversation. Sentimental notes came to him easily and joyfully, as everything does that is written without hesitation and from the heart."The world is small," he wrote about the meeting with the American traveler and companion. "The world is small... An unknown and wise ancestor boldly juxtaposed these two words back when his familiar world was enclosed by the dark thickets of forests on the horizon, and the unfamiliar extended who knows where, hiding the darkness of wonders. Indeed, the world is small," chuckled old acquaintances who happened to meet a dozen versts from home. "Indeed, the world is small..." Try saying the same thing, good-naturedly laughing, about a ballistic missile that can, in just half an hour, deliver hundreds of thousands of inevitable deaths from one continent to another, packed into three or ten nuclear warheads with individual—and precise—targeting?""The world is small... The meeting struck Amerikanist also because he knew this American remotely. His name was Thomas Powers. In this small world, roughly in the middle of our documentary narrative, where the characters, like travelers, appear and disappear, Amerikanist encountered Thomas Powers in the stratospheric pitch-black sky between Washington and San Francisco. Remember the anniversary issue of the monthly magazine 'The Atlantic,' with its bluish-silvery cover — in it, there was an article 'Choosing a Strategy for the Third World War'? It captivated Amerikanist and made him forget about the comedy film offered on that transcontinental evening to the passengers of the wide-fuselage DC-10. He brought that magazine to Moscow in its entirety and kept it close at hand, not losing it in his archive. And now, they met — in person. And Amerikanist, with renewed vigor and without delays, wanted to tell about this strange world, small and tragically torn, in which we are all travelers, and we are all companions.""But another four months passed before he approached the chief editor with a request to grant him time to write. He said he could no longer postpone it, feeling like an unfulfilled cow. The comparison amused the chief, but he delved into the request and approved the leave. 'Go and work — what's the fuss about?' he said, even offering to publish excerpts from what would be written in the newspaper. Amerikanist left his office elated — and concerned. Now he had the time, and it was a time of trial."On the very first evening, settling into a writer's retreat cell outside Moscow, he began his work and outlined his task on a sheet of paper:"What you left unsaid—both this and that. Perhaps the reflections during the flight. Or Inspector Hayes—where their boundary is locked. Typification of all things American, especially upon entering their atmosphere. Your New York, entered at night.But that's not the main thing left unsaid. You exist there in two extreme states, stretched, if not crucified, between them. Your private, personal—life, fate, melancholy, nostalgia. And just as intensely—your sense of the collective at the intersection of two countries in one nuclear age. The private individual and the public individual, through whom time is intricately filtered. This is what is left unsaid, and this is why you torment yourself with unexpressed feelings, constantly traveling there, although burdened and increasingly realizing the arbitrariness of your life there.This central thought, this explanation of your torment, suddenly comes to you on a frosty evening, with a high moon and sparks in the snow, when, sitting alone at the writing desk, you embark on another attempt to settle your accounts with your impressions..."1983-1984God is my witness, that on the high magnification, in the sparks on the snow, and in the thought of time that had become dear to him, whimsically filtered through a person, the author intended to put a period in his description of the Americanist's journey. Or three periods, imagining them as traces leading into the distance, made by typographical marks, a hint that life continues, and the documentary narrative about it should be cut off somewhere. But time passed, and the author realized that with his three dots, he had posed a riddle that the reader would hardly attempt to solve. The author forgot about what he himself had been reminding throughout his narrative, namely, the specifics of the life and work of his hero as one of our Americanists. Even the most insightful reader would hardly guess how this specific life continued and where the traces of the three symbolic dots led. And one more circumstance pushed towards writing either a continuation or an epilogue. While the manuscript lay somewhere in the publisher's cupboard among other stationery folders with ribbons, the Americanist, at the behest of his newspaper, undertook another journey to America, coinciding with yet another election.The new trip was shorter, only two and a half weeks, and the elections were more important, not intermediate, but presidential. And in the White House, the voter left the same person whom he hadn't favored much two years ago. Didn't this fact by itself demand some kind of postscript?With its fantastic authenticity, life inspires us to experiment in the genre of documentary prose. What can be more authentic and important than life itself? Moreover, it relieves the documentarian of the heavy work of imagination, which exhausts the fellow artist, from the need to tie up loose ends because it takes on this difficult task. But in return, once the fellow has tied up the ends, it's easier to put a period and do without an afterword. He won't be called to account for new twists and turns that life throws, continuing to create, as if nothing happened, even when the document sheet is finished. That's why the documentarian's rightful place is not in a book that is long in the making and publishing, but in a newspaper, where what is written in the morning is printed in the evening, and by tomorrow, it may already be forgotten. And if it's forgotten, then they won't call him to account, neither for responsibility nor for judgment.All true, but on a frosty and lunar November evening, on which we finished our narration, the Americanist, tearing himself away from the newspaper, disconnecting from the fleeting stream of newspaper life, immersed himself in a state of creative bliss. "Enough!" he said to himself, decisively discarding new impressions for the sake of returning to the old ones, from the aging American notebook, immersing himself in them again.The month-long meditation did not take place on the plane, hanging over the ocean, but in the room of the Writers' House, without frills, but with all the conveniences, on the third floor of a four-story panel tower, standing away from the central building, resembling a nobleman's palace, and yellow mansions with columns, in the guise of which pre-war notions of a haven for muses were preserved. Double doors, covered with brown leather, preserved the silence. November and December days were short but clear, frosty, and strong. A mighty split oak-beauty on the way to the dining room, with the weaving of black bare branches, shaded almost Spanish blue sky. Lively birds sat on the interlacing of the open window, looking at the tenant with quick bead-like eyes, pecking at crumbs of white bread, and when the tenant came out, leaving their amendments on the sheets of his paper. And, blessing the therapy of work, the Americanist sat down at the table right after breakfast, stood up before lunch, and, crunching with crisp snow on a walk in the enchanted winter forest, after lunch, took up the matter again, and the shadows from the lanterns fell on the snow, and the birds fell silent, settling somewhere to rest.The subject he was working on was gloomy, apocalyptic, and the mood born of early winter and advancing work was light and cheerful.In the dining room, the Americanist sat next to a lover of ski trips from the Litipstitute and a Udmurt poet. An intelligent and modest poet, who came to Moscow with his shy wife, shared frontline memories and the special anxieties of a person who, by nature, does not know how to get along with translators and promote his poems to the all-union reader. His imagination lived in the forested native Udmurtia, an employee of the Lit Institute translated from Latvian, the Americanist made his way through the description of arriving in New York or views of the Washington suburb of Somerset, and the images of these different worlds hovered over the dining table in the corner near the door, over vegetarian shchi and meatballs with vermicelli.Politically charged days, of course, raised questions about America, and the interlocutors of the Americanist, with their distance knowledge, sometimes revealed annoying gaps in his personal but strictly politicized knowledge. Non-specialists, they looked to the root and sought there what concerned us. It was the questions of the straightforward Valya that were most memorable to him. Her husband was taken away by a cheerful, smoky, drunk life of a gasman. She raised her schoolboy son alone, although she still lived with her ex-husband in the same apartment, which they couldn't exchange. Like a strong peasant woman, she sawed the neck with the edge of her palm, swollen from diligent American studies, and at the same time, having listened to the latest news on the radio and television, she questioned, complained, and expressed indignation: "Why are you silent? Tell me something. Will there be a war or not? And what do they want anyway? Surely everything is in crystals, in gold, they go to restaurants. What else do they need?.." She fell silent, catching her breath, and easily linked her personal with the global, universal: "I've been thinking of doing repairs next year. But what if there is a war — what's the use of it then, this repair?! We have a military unit nearby. When they start their thing there, I close the little window so as not to hear. Surely, I think, it has begun?!"And in moments of Valya's straightforward revelations, in the warmly heated medical office, outside the window of which stood trees in the snow and a frosty day sparkled with its diamond brilliance, the Americanist again convinced himself: yes, the world is small...So, a month of vacation passed, and on the table, a stack of paper filled with writing slowly grew. He looked at it, satisfyingly counting the filled sheets but afraid to delve into the text, so as not to disturb himself with the imperfections of what was done. Returning to Moscow and typing the manuscript, he read it and saw that the text was even worse than he expected. A typical unfinished work. And it's awkward to ask for an extension of vacation because there is nothing to settle with the newspaper for its generosity.Leaving the construction site, where he worked so enthusiastically and joyfully, the Americanist returned to newspaper work with its alternation of emergencies and pauses. That winter, the state of Soviet-American relations was most often defined by the phrase, "Worse than ever in the post-war period." In the race of arms and diplomacy, arms were leading more than ever. The Americans, with a position blocking an agreement, succeeded in disrupting negotiations in Geneva on medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe and strategic arms. For the first time in many years, representatives of the two states interrupted their dialogue, and weapons were arriving, with the first "Pershing-2" already being deployed on combat positions in West Germany. A new term, previously known only to specialists, flashed in newspapers—flight time. The flight time for American nuclear missiles to reach their targets on Soviet territory was now six to eight, not thirty to forty minutes. The capture of tiny Grenada intensified the warlike chauvinism of Americans. The battleship "New Jersey" loomed off the coast of Lebanon, firing one-and-a-half-ton shells towards mountain villages near Beirut. Where else and when else would this provocatively imperialistic policy strike?A leap year arrived, the year of presidential elections in America, but even through the pre-election noise of peace-loving phrases, the rumble of a fist demonstrating American power could be heard. The heat of ideological battles was growing, and it would be shameful to lag behind colleagues who actively spoke out in the newspaper. For a couple of months, the Americanist completely abandoned his unfinished work.However, time threatened the building erected from the bricks of transient facts, and then he had to divide himself between the newspaper and the manuscript. The book was again a secret offspring, and in fragments, he transformed the first draft into the second, and the second into the third. When he got the third version from the typewriter, it still wasn't right. He sat at home in the mornings, and family members disconnected the phone and tiptoed around, and the spring day resoundingly arrived outside the window, the voices of birds and children were heard from the yard, and from the adjacent highway, the rumble of trucks and panel vans was increasingly loud and harsh. Arriving at work, he saw that the April sun was gathering more and more of its young admirers on the famous square, where the bronze poet, raising his hand with a hat behind his back and tilting his head, contemplatively gazed at yet another generation bustling around his pedestal.Only the youth forgot everything, listening to the victorious anthems of spring. Adults, briefly enjoying the sunshine, continued to live the prose of their everyday lives. Young men and women, arranging a meeting at the famous square, didn't know that in the nearby, externally unshakably calm newspaper building, a disturbed human hive was buzzing. The chief editor, who managed to uplift the team and move the newspaper forward, was taken upstairs. Without his authoritative hand, the newspaper seemed to drift aimlessly. They lived in anticipation of a new chief and new changes, with speculations, assumptions, and rumors wandering through the long corridors from office to office. Uncertain days. Sharp transitions.They bid farewell to the chief. In the round conference hall, nicknamed "the puck," filling all the chairs and seats, standing against the walls and blocking the doors, employees crowded. The chief was excited by the gathering, attention, and the hidden excitement of the people. Words appropriate to the occasion were spoken in a respectful and playful tone, not without the newspaper's humor. But there was an air of another, different farewell hanging over the gathering, scheduled for the next day—a sudden death of the most prominent and widely recognized newspaper staff member, Anatoly A., whom everyone simply called Tolya, even though he was over sixty.The next day, in another room, long and low, a coffin covered in red stood in the place where the presidium table usually stands at meetings, actually on the same table where the presidium sits. Newspaper staff, friends, acquaintances, admirers came to bid a fond and ironically smiling farewell to the master, who achieved rare authenticity and truthfulness in his exemplary analytical essays. Just a few days ago, he strolled with a soft cat-like gait along the long corridors, playfully and condescendingly addressing someone from the younger staff, praising, adding a textbook line that always circulates in such situations: "...and blessed as he descended into the grave..."The mystery of life and death. Or life-death. The master died suddenly and absurdly—although does the last word apply to what is irreversible? Joyfully embracing the blue April, he went on Friday to relax at the editorial dacha, and on Saturday, they took him to Moscow as a dead man. In the fresh delightful evening, he walked along the alley on the high riverbank, the sun still hung over the slowly awakening fields, telling his companion that his eldest son sent a letter from Ethiopia, proudly answering his father's question about the bread they eat there—it's their own, father. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, his heart squeezed—and the pain did not let go. They called an ambulance. The doctor suggested a local hospital, but Muscovites fear it. Neither Tolya nor Galya, his wife, understood the fatality of what was happening. Towards morning, he died—reanimation was late.The morning was Saturday, the best edition of the week was being made in the editorial office, and the news from Pakhra spread instantly. The newspaper's nature—the mournful news—immediately became another material for it, and Tolya's friend, another well-known essayist, taking his personal file from the personnel department and books from his library, wrote an obituary for the issue.The dead body was taken from Pakhra during the day, but the Saturday sauna was never canceled. In the cramped space of lovers, there were more people than ever, and afterwards, they held a kind of wake—on a radiant April day, no one wanted to be alone, the elemental force of spring and life resisted the victory of death. Life-death.A few days later, in the same long and low hall on the second floor, in the same place as the presidium, there stood a coffin, and in it, with a covered head exhausted by surgeries, lay Leonid S., a correspondent of the newspaper in a Western European country. Trouble doesn't come alone, but life has its momentum. An hour after the requiem—in the chief's office on the third floor, a new chief editor was presented to the staff. The new one was relatively young and unfamiliar; people looked at him with a restrained and testing gaze. He was nervous and said precise, necessary words, paying tribute to the newspaper's traditions, its team, and his predecessor. With the new chief, a new chapter in their work at the newspaper, and perhaps in their lives, began for those gathered.The widow of the late Tolya recounted that in his last night, struggling, he repeated: "Maeta... Maeta..." Not understanding what was happening, the master uttered this precise word on his deathbed and left it to his colleagues as a testament, as a final discovery, a guess, a solution.For a long time, the Americanist was impressed by this magnetic word—it fit into various situations and his life that year. Maeta... His journey concluded in a country hospital, where he was admitted with a duodenal ulcer, and where he finally finished his unfinished work. One July day, between a pill and an injection, he put three dots after words about the high moon and frosty sparks in the snow. All is well as long as work goes well and gives meaning to life. The Americanist was treated. Two copies of his work ended up in publishing folders with ribbons, and the third—in the editorial office of a thick magazine. The magazine agreed only to an abbreviated version. And in August, at the Zheleznovodsk sanatorium, he engaged in a new "maeta," a self-destructive maeta, three times a day joining thousands of other Slavophiles, i.e., lovers of Slavic water, and briskly, circling around, girding Mount Iron...When he returned, new American elections were imminent.Entering this second round, the author refers the reader back to the beginning of the narrative, where the typical procedure for preparing for a foreign trip was described: the consent of the chief editor, the resolution of the editorial board, filling out American questionnaires, and applying for a U.S. visa.In the air, the inevitability of Ronald Reagan's re-election and the resumption of Soviet-American arms control negotiations loomed. After a long hiatus, our foreign minister met with their president again, who now often told Americans that— in his second term—improving relations between the two states would be his main task. Hope was once again born, vague and perhaps fleeting, expressing itself in small positive signs, including the fact that the Americanist obtained his U.S. visa this time a few days before departure, not on the very last day.And again, there was a spontaneous adjustment of the soul before the departure from the homeland and loved ones.And again, the Americanist futilely tried to save himself from this great and unproductive expenditure of mental energy, mentally leaping over the eighteen days of the business trip to that Friday when the return "Il-62," leaving the night ocean behind and meeting the late dawn over the Norwegian fjords, would land with a jet whistling over the snow-covered birch groves and touch the wheels to the familiar Sheremetyevo concrete.Now, with this trip far behind him, he recalls it with a pleasant feeling. The work went smoothly, contacts with people were harmonious, and hopes, without which one cannot live, lingered in the air. If the author had described this new journey in more detail, his book might have turned out to be more optimistic.Preparing for the trip in Moscow, the Americanist sought help from his long-time and good acquaintances in Soviet foreign trade organizations. They responded friendly. Telex inquiries were sent to New York, and clear answers came back: several prominent businessmen and well-known lawyers, associated with big business and government circles, agreed to talk to the Soviet journalist. He flew to New York with a schedule of meetings with "interesting gentlemen" for each day and hour, as one of our most experienced foreign trade specialists, not without business admiration, called his partners across the ocean. And none of them canceled the appointed meetings. All of them displayed American courtesy at its best, as renowned.The morning after arriving, together with his colleague and friend Victor Alexandrovich, he got down to work. Near the famous hotel on Park Avenue, he smoothly merged into the bustling crowd of Americans and American women (in jackets with broad padded shoulders—according to the revived old fashion), as if there had not been a two-year break in his New York observations. The warm sunny weather at the end of October helped, and, of course, the feeling that he was not wasting the sparingly given time.The businessman they were heading to for their first scheduled meeting lived in the small town of Dictator, Illinois, where the headquarters of his corporation was located. However, his business and pleasures often brought him to New York, and he kept a permanent apartment in the famous hotel. He was a major grain trader, dealing in grain with us, and therefore, naturally, advocated the expansion of trade relations.Moreover, Duane Andreas, chairman of the board of Archer Daniels Midland (abbreviated as ADM), shortly before that, was elected co-chairman of the American-Soviet Trade and Economic Council, within which business people of our two countries maintain contacts. In the hotel tower, they were met downstairs by an elderly gentleman who introduced himself as the director of communications for the mentioned council. From the luxury suite on the forty-second floor, an impressive view of the East River, the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and the towering skyscrapers, seemingly becoming brothers in height and moving closer to each other, opened up. The rest of the concrete-and-stone chaos remained below, at the foot of the chosen ones. In this perfectly clean high nest, furnished with light antique furniture, a small, nimble, energetic man with a sunburned face, age pigment spots on his prominent forehead, and a shirt with an open collar that made him look younger, also—and rightfully—considered himself chosen. With him was a translator, whose services were not needed—a beautiful green-eyed young woman named Marina, a former Leningrader, a former Soviet citizen.Seating the guests and looking them over with a cheerful and shrewd gaze, Mr. Andreas shared his predictions about the near future. He had no doubts about Reagan's re-election, expressed cautious optimism about U.S.-Soviet relations but foresaw no major shifts in the trade of the two countries until the obstacle of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, linking the granting of most-favored-nation status (exemption from excessive customs tariffs) to Soviet goods with guarantees of "freedom of emigration" for Jews from the Soviet Union, was removed. He made sound judgments about some springs of American policy, not so hidden, and revealed some quite obvious secrets. He joked: "In some ways, our country is like a circus. If you want to succeed, juggle like a circus rider, on the backs of two horses—business and politics. Without politics and the support of politicians in big business, you won't get far."Into politics, he said, he was introduced by Hubert Humphrey, now deceased, once a very influential Democratic senator who once held the vice presidency. Since those early days, the multimillionaire grain trader had not forgotten to strengthen his political base, juggling in politics on two horses, relying on people from two parties—Democratic and Republican, not breaking with liberals, and establishing relations with conservatives, up to the far right.Thus, the lessons of Americanism were renewed in the new acquaintance. In an hour and a half, our friends, having enjoyed the sunny noon on the way, were already sitting in a darkened conference room on the thirty-second floor of another building on Park Avenue, talking to another prominent businessman and president of a major corporation, another "interesting uncle." James Giffey, a sturdy young man with a round boyish face and a fringe expertly laid on his forehead, was one of the activists of U.S.-Soviet trade. He was seasoned by trials, devoid of illusions, and yet retained faith in future times, although his hopes had become much more modest than those ten to twelve years ago. He had been to the Soviet Union dozens of times, said he knew us better than any of the employees of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, if only because they did not have his opportunities for contacts with Soviet officials. He shared a cherished thought: how useful it would be if Soviet leaders occasionally made working familiarization trips to the United States, and Americans of their rank—to the Soviet Union. Without knowledge and understanding, and without understanding—trust...The old principle of maximum information per unit of time was adhered to by the Americanist this time. In New York, he expanded his acquaintance with the high world of big business. And indeed, in his meetings with businessmen, he and Victor almost never descended below the thirtieth floor.Certainly, there was one suburban exception—a three-story building situated amidst lawns and meadows near a lake, with a sculptural representation of a grizzly bear emerging from it. Over two hundred thousand people work for the PepsiCo corporation, making it the tenth largest employer in the United States. It is led by a man who recently started introducing us to Pepsi-Cola, having obtained the right to sell "Stolichnaya" vodka in the American market in exchange. Donald Kendall, who was once a co-chairman of the American-Soviet Trade and Economic Council, is also a staunch supporter of good relations between the two countries. However, he remains puzzled by why, when it comes to contracts related to the food industry, he cannot deal directly with the ministries associated with this industry in our country and must take a circuitous route through the Ministry of Foreign Trade.On the other hand, business, among other things, requires patience and waiting. Therefore, even the fact that the sale of Russian vodka in the American market fell by half or almost two-thirds twice or thrice due to acute but short-lived crises in American-Soviet relations did not deter Donald Kendall from trading with us. American chauvinists satisfied their peculiar thirst for hatred through such boycotts.He sent a large black limousine with a black chauffeur to transport two Soviet journalists to the town of Purchase, north of New York, where the headquarters of PepsiCo is comfortably situated away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Tall, strong, with bushy eyebrows, a red bald spot in his gray curls, and a swollen, pale face, Kendall, like other businessmen, spoke not about political theories and military doctrines but mainly about the personality of the American president, drawing cautious forecasts from it. Treating guests to lunch in the executive dining room, he speculated on how beneficial and important it would be to organize Reagan's trip to the Soviet Union. Perhaps he would change his opinion, reduce his distrust when he sees what wonderful and hospitable people the Russians are? However, Kendall seemed to favor another trip to the Soviet Union, already coordinated and scheduled—for his seventeen-year-old son. The private school the boy attended, a kind of incubator for future leaders, had its summer vacation trip financed by Kendall Sr. They were supposed to see with their own eyes the people and cities of another nuclear power. The boy was a late child, and it was evident that the distinguished father loved and pitied him tenderly. Despite all his connections and capital, Kendall Sr. felt a parental complex of guilt and helplessness, worrying about his son's fate and the fate of the world he would live in when Kendall Sr. was gone.In New York, there were also meetings with professional politicians and political observers. On the eve of the elections and the inevitable re-election of the president, they were even more reserved and cautious in their assessments of the future than pragmatic businessmen.The editor of the most influential foreign policy journal, before moving to New York, had worked in the inner circles of the White House for a long time. He declared himself a supporter of Reagan but immediately expressed the hope that his victory in the elections would not be too overwhelming—otherwise, the president might interpret the mandate of his re-elected elector too freely.New Yorker Marshall Shulman, who had been in Washington for a while, served as the chief Soviet affairs specialist in the State Department during the Carter presidency and Secretary of State Vance. Under Reagan, he returned to New York and academic activities, heading the Harriman Institute for the Study of the Soviet Union at Columbia University.By the way, here is another American paradox: never has so much been said about the "Soviet threat" as in recent years, and never has there been so much lack of knowledge about the country from which, as they claimed, the threat emanated. The study of the Soviet Union, according to common opinion, deteriorated, and the number of young people entering this field decreased, which did not bother some wealthy and thoughtful Americans. Averell Harriman, the wartime ambassador in Moscow, and his wife Pamela allocated five million dollars to Columbia University, after which the Russian Institute there was renamed the Harriman Institute. Marshall Shulman, becoming its director, pledged to raise a total of eighteen million, and the goal was already close. In a conversation with the Americanist, he shared his joy: over the course of a year, the number of young people enrolled in the study program almost doubled—to eighty people.As a liberal democrat, Shulman did not even share the cautious optimism of other interlocutors."Uncertainty?" he asked when the Americanist tried to sum up his conversations in New York. "No, I would say that we are facing a continuation of difficult times. It is important not to let the relations deteriorate even further. Efforts should be directed towards safely surviving tough times and then moving on to building better relations."Having gone through the disappointments of the past period, people were afraid to make mistakes. If things couldn't get worse, they must get better—usually, this was the limit of their self-consolation....In his meetings with Americans, the Americanist never posed the seemingly simple question that Valya, the masseuse, asked as she worked on his neck in the radiance of a frosty sunny day—the question that most people, considering it the main and almost sole question in our relations with the United States, ask: "What do they want—war or peace?" He was confident that experienced and wise professionals he encountered on the thirtieth and fortieth floors of New York and later on lower, politically more important floors in Washington, as well as ordinary Americans only connected to politics through TV screens and newspapers, all of them (or almost all) wanted not to fight but to live in peace with us—under Reagan, just like under Carter, and even earlier under Ford or Nixon, Johnson or Kennedy—during the presidencies he observed and expanded his experience as an Americanist. However, our world is not only small but also complex. In this complex world, the simple question "war or peace?" transformed into another question: "Certainly peace, but on what terms?" And there was no simple answer to this question...After six days in New York, Viktor drove the Americanist to LaGuardia Airport, from where he flew to Washington. Two days remained until the elections, and he wanted to observe them in the political capital of America. But more on that later. For now, let's mention that even on this visit, he did not bypass the sturdy gray mansion behind an iron fence on Sixteenth Street and the meeting with the Soviet ambassador, Anatoly Fyodorovich Dobrynin. The ambassador worked in the same tightly sealed-off office, which embassy wits dubbed the bunker. He was in a good mood and warmly welcomed the Americanist. The ambassador did not rule out that President Reagan was sincere when publicly expressing a desire to improve relations with the Soviet Union. But the question remained—on what terms?From the New York entries in the Americanist's diary: "In the evening, I flew in from Montreal, and the next morning—stunning news that Victor excitedly shared with me before I even entered their apartment— the assassination of Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards. The news was being covered on television screens, with reports from Delhi, and television hosts—ladies and gentlemen—instantly becoming experts on India, pushing even the final pre-election maneuvers of Republicans Reagan and Bush and their opponents Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro, Democratic presidential and vice-presidential candidates, into the background.I remembered Sasha Ter-Grigoryan, how, returning from Delhi, he persistently pursued the theme of inter-community strife in India, an uncommon topic in our 'conflict-free' coverage of Indian life. How is he? How did he receive the news of Indira's murder in his hospital room on the nineteenth floor of the oncology center in Kashirka, with the draft of his book on India on the hospital table?...Last night, with Volodya O., we watched the musical "42nd Street" at the Majestic Theatre on Forty-Fourth Street. Volodya bought the tickets at Times Square, at the consolidated "ticket center," where unsold tickets are sold at half price before the start of the show. We got them for twenty-two dollars each. The musical somehow reinforced my long-held idea about the national American hobby—mechanically having fun to music and rhythm. Not long before my departure to New York, I watched in Moscow one of our plays, good—and heavy, about the post-war fate of women. Everything was correct, everything was true, but, my God, how the desire to show suffering and suffer over suffering stands out. How to prepare for new suffering. That's our Russian trait.The theater tickets were issued and distributed by computer. One of the strong impressions of this new trip was the rapid process of computerization of American life. A mini-computer, as calculated, is already in every tenth family, called family computers. Connected to the telephone, equipped with the corresponding attachment, it, among other things, handles financial transactions with the bank, spreading some cashless dealings. Volodya, a doc in the library section, says that traditional catalogs have been eliminated in American libraries, transitioning to electronic ones, on computers. The central electronic catalog, located somewhere in the state of Ohio, memorizes the acquisitions of all libraries connected to it, whose book collections are, in turn, entered into computers. The library computer at the University of California in Los Angeles has about six hundred outlets, while the lagging library of the UN headquarters has only a few dozen.On the streets near banks, in stores, airports—everywhere, you see displays of bank computers. They 'communicate' with customers and issue money orders or cash if the customer enters their code, and, of course, by electronic means, checks their account in the bank.The concept of 'computer' and 'pre-computer' is fading for students. The latter is becoming extinct like a dinosaur, but again, with electronic speed. Children easily, as if playing a game, master computer technology, and banks sometimes attract them as 'intuitive' programmers...Today, well-known TV commentator Bill Moyers spoke in the morning on the CBS channel. The election campaign has ended, and the problems have still not been discussed—the starting point of the commentary. Among them is the issue of federal budget deficits. Neither Reagan nor the Democrat Mondale has a real plan to rid the nation of this deficit, now amounting to around two hundred billion dollars a year, and the national debt approaching two trillion dollars. Congress and all of us, Moyers lamented, tolerate and do nothing. Meanwhile, our children will pay for today's life not within means: for every dollar borrowed by the government, they will have to pay twenty-eight. The average taxpayer is already paying about a thousand dollars a year to cover interest on the national debt. What kind of people are we, Moyers asked, if we live recklessly beyond our means, and our children will have to pay for our extravagance?"Americans have long been accustomed to living on credit as individuals. Now the nation, the country, its government, in a certain sense, also live on credit, enduring staggering deficits and attracting huge amounts of money from abroad by paying high interest rates. The powerful American economy acts as a magnet for global capital. Prices for local, Manhattan real estate continue to skyrocket, partly because the wealthy from everywhere buy the most luxurious apartments here—in advance!—for hundreds of thousands, for millions of dollars. Arab sheikhs in the most fashionable neighborhoods, on Fifth Avenue, on Park Avenue, on Madison. Money flows here from everywhere, especially from places where money is abundant and where there is a scent of nationalization or radical changes. The old image of the citadel of global capitalism has taken on a literal meaning in the brand-new shining skyscrapers of Manhattan, populated by the financial elite from all corners of the world. If the world is divided into the wealthy and the non-wealthy, then the former seem to believe that the island between the Hudson and the East River will stand under all circumstances, shelter and protect them from the pressure and judgment of the non-wealthy. Rich people of all countries, unite under the protection of America!...True to habit, as well as considerations of convenience, the Americanist, upon arriving in Washington, stayed in the familiar suburb of Chevy Chase, close to his Washington friends and colleagues. The familiar Holiday Inn Hotel was on the fifth floor. The view from the window overlooked a familiar square with a fountain and benches. At the end of the short, sloping street formed by five new huge houses—Irwin House, where five years of his life remained and somewhere disappeared.He certainly visited Irwin House. The carpet in the corridor on the twelfth floor had worn out, the nameplates of tenants had been updated at the doors, on the old, wooden elevator cladding, there were additional scratches from children's knives—how to distinguish those that, perhaps, were left by his lively son at that time?—and old Jim, dear Jim, still stood guard in the lobby of the front entrance, a Gogolian little man in an American way, with a gentle smile of porcelain dentures, with submissive courtesy to the residents—he always had a kind word ready for the children of Soviet tenants, and during a period of relaxation, having once gone with a tour group to the Soviet Union, he sent postcards to Irwin House with views of Moscow and words about the warmth of the Russian people...In this area, nostalgia always lay in wait for the Americanist, but this time its attacks were not as strong. Perhaps because he had already overcome it in the pages stored in editorial folders with ribbons, awaiting their moment. Or maybe because, once again, old friends were nearby—Nikolai Demyanovich and Tanya, with whom he had settled into New York in bygone years and who now knew how to dispel nostalgia in the evenings.Besides, there was no time left for nostalgia. He was fully engrossed in his operational correspondent work—in fresh newspapers and magazines, in television broadcasts on all channels—all covering the same thing: the election results.For them, the elections meant a celebration, and in early November of every even year, this issue of the incompatibility of national calendars came to the fore again. The elections fell on November 6th, and as a result, two festive days turned into working ones: he was preparing a comprehensive material for his newspaper.The embassy staff went to their country house, about seventy miles from Washington. There, on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay, was their own vast territory, silence, autumn azure, sunlight glinting on the water, fields resting from labor, and bare permeable forests where deer occasionally flashed between the trunks. There was their holiday, their rest in the midst of America. Meanwhile, the holiday-deprived special correspondent sat in the hotel for two days. Again, a pile of clippings and notes, drafts. By the window, on an unstable, round, non-working table, was a typewriter. He typed to see the text clearly. His newspaper did not plan to dedicate dozens of pages to the American elections, like The Washington Post or The New York Times. He needed to limit himself, to choose only the main aspects from the multitude. What would they be? He did not find them right away and did not formulate them immediately. Ronald Reagan and the average American—this was what he eventually settled on. How and where did they meet and seal their renewed alliance?The Americanist is no novice in his field, but the trembling before a blank sheet of paper, before a task that cannot be postponed and must be completed within a tight deadline, has not left him. With each of his articles, he takes an exam. And although the examiners are not as strict, he does not know each time whether he will pass. And on this evening, he is more anxious than usual, and the exam itself, it seems to him, is more difficult than the ones he is holding now in Moscow—no wonder he flew for three-quarters of the globe.The fresh, vivid, strong impressions of the past few days surround him from all sides. The same transit Montreal, the beginning of a new continent and a new count of time. Then the Czechoslovak plane and the evening anthill of John F. Kennedy Airport, lights, planes, buildings, Victor coming out from the crowd of waiting outside the customs zone doors, and the waft of moist—New York—wind into the window of the Oldsmobile, the rhythmic pounding of the old Queensboro Bridge under the wheels, the familiar smell of the Hudson, deepening beyond the windows of Schwab House... And a series of meetings, impressions, pictures, a made-up smile and the tiny lacquered nails of a rich old man; the barking, abrupt laughter of the actor playing the great Mozart in a new wonderful film; the television screen onto which scenes of public unrest in Delhi after the murder of Indira Gandhi spilled; glass skyscrapers and their distinguished inhabitants who made a career and a fortune, seemingly elevated above their inaudible, silently flowing life far below; and again, homeless old women carrying their random, lightly drawn plastic bags with pathetic belongings; a black chauffeur in a shiny limousine driving them out of the city and telling, almost cheerfully, how he traded houses in Harlem and went bankrupt himself; the spacious gym at the PepsiCo headquarters, peculiar apparatus and equipment, a young African-American woman with strong thighs striding widely on the moving, tilted treadmill, simulating an ascent up a mountain; the lively agility and mechanical motor fun of the Broadway musical, as if conveying the spirit of American life...A kaleidoscope in the consciousness of the Americanist—people, offices, gestures, faces, words, streets, houses, crowds, shop windows, doors, and the Sunday, cheaper than the ordinary ones, plane from New York to Washington, and Nikolai Demyanovich, who moved from the office on Pushkin Square to an office on F Street, hurrying with his swaying gait, smiling, towards him; Sasha with his grown son; the laughter of African American spectators who came to see a film about the adventures of a black officer; and the November reception at the embassy, a festive and idle crowd, more high-ranking State Department officials than two years ago, fragments of conversations with meaningful hints; observer Joe, equally elegant and punctuated, smoothly moving along the table with treats, following an informed White House official, snacking and gathering information on the go, and beyond the embassy walls—election day for the American president and Congress...Diverse. Chaotic. Variegated. Now, secluding himself within the walls of his room, the Americanist strains his brain to rise above the unruliness of his impressions, to reconcile imagination with logic, to disregard the particular for the sake of the general, and to send a concise political analysis to the newspaper. The man, overwhelmed by spontaneous, fresh images of the world, battles with a professional analyst within him. However, the fight is uneven, and the outcome is known in advance: the professional will triumph once again. For it is a professional, not a free-spirited artist, who was sent as a special correspondent to Washington.And again, a phone call around two in the morning. Once more, complete silence surrounds him; the hotel sleeps, and the Americanist hesitates to wake his fellow guests. He jumps off the square "king-sized" bed and, grabbing the prepared sheets, tiptoes barefoot to the bathroom where – time is money! – a telephone is embedded in the wall. He picks up the receiver, encountering the clear voice of an American operator, and later a Moscow operator, with excellent audibility across ten thousand versts. Now, he transfers his words to the notepad of the editorial stenographer in a building that burdens the well-known Moscow square with its monotonous mass, currently empty and quiet, ten thousand versts away. Few pedestrians, each one visible, stroll on the sleepy morning of the third – and last – day of the celebration.Judging by the stenographer's voice, the Americanist senses that both the newsroom and the newspaper are vacant; even the holiday cannot spare the staff. The duty officers are on watch, and immediately a request from the deputy chief editor arrives: will there be material? Hurry up. Patch through to the room."Well, shall we work?" he hears a friendly female voice.And he begins to dictate, surrendering the initial lines to a semblance of a picture where the reader should guess but undoubtedly won't guess that Washington evening on election day. They rode in two cars, first to the hotel where the Democrats gathered and then to the hotel where the Republicans celebrated their victory. The Democrats had half-empty halls and forced cheerfulness that couldn't conceal the gloom. To reach the Republicans, they crisscrossed a dozen streets in the dark, searching for parking, barely squeezing their cars onto the curb in some sleepy corner. They walked a long way to the winners' celebration, quickly leaving – strangers amid the crowd and mechanical merriment of self-satisfied bourgeoisie from the "Reagan country."In the cool moonlit evening of the past Tuesday, two places in Washington differed significantly in the mood of the people gathered there, so he began. In the halls of the "Capitol Hilton" hotel, subdued supporters of Walter Mondale didn't know how to handle the rather difficult task – with an impassive face, mark the devastating defeat of their man and the failure of their efforts to propel him into the White House. Meanwhile, at the even more expensive "Shoreham" hotel, corridors and halls were packed with thousands of Reagan supporters, and the popping of champagne corks was accompanied by triumphant shouts of "Four more years!"Yes, they achieved their goal. The American voter, giving Ronald Reagan fifty-two million (or fifty-nine percent) of the votes, secured his second and final term in the White House. By midnight, appearing on the television screens, Walter Mondale (who received thirty-six million, or forty-one percent, of the votes) congratulated the winner and, as is customary in such cases, called on the nation to respect the elected president.American elections, he dictated, are always accompanied by extreme excitement, primarily on television. This time it lasted a whole year and reached its climax on election day evening when the tongue-twisting of announcers and commentators was constantly interrupted by two magical words – forecasts and computers. However, the desired excitement was absent. Predictions made almost since the end of the previous year had finally come true – Reagan's inevitable victory.To win the White House as a presidential candidate in long-term races, one needs a lot of money as fuel, open support from one's party, and the blessing of influential people working behind the scenes, along with, of course, the votes of the electorate. From the outset of Reagan's campaign, he had dollars and essentially monopolistic positions in the Republican Party, as well as the support of big business. Additionally, he skillfully used the White House podium to appear in American homes through the television screen. This fact, not always apparent from a distance, cannot be dismissed...The Americanist emphasized the last phrase in his voice, as if hoping that this emphasis would be conveyed to the reader....In general, he continued, no American political figure in the television era has possessed and continues to possess the ability to communicate with the masses and turn them to his belief as the current president. The image of a "strong leader," the pioneer of "new patriotism," which made America "feel good," was skillfully projected into the consciousness of the average American from the television screen.Nevertheless, the main network through which Ronald Reagan caught the bulk of voters was not in this television magic. Two years ago, even with record unemployment and deep economic downturn, the "great manipulator" would have faced disappointment and defeat in the elections...With this phrase, he was, in a way, explaining to the reader why everything happened the way it did, although in his correspondence sent from Washington two years ago, he assessed the results of the midterm elections as a blow to Reaganism....And now, since the beginning of the electoral struggle, knowledgeable people have been unanimous in the opinion that the president's reelection is guaranteed if favorable economic conditions persist on the day of the elections: increased production, inflation tamed from its frantic gallop, and decreasing unemployment.As someone who has covered six campaigns for the election of the American president from the scene in one way or another over the past twenty years, I have often noted that the United States is oriented towards the outside world through its foreign policy and is perceived by other nations through foreign policy......However, when you find yourself in this country, you are convinced anew that Americans are egocentrically immersed in their internal, primarily economic, life, and that foreign policy and the external world are pushed to the background in their consciousness. Exceptions are periods of war accompanied by significant American losses and international crises fraught with nuclear catastrophe. But even now, in years of increased nuclear danger, which is precisely linked to the policy of the current president, the average American entered the voting booth not with the question, pressed like a gun to the chest: war or peace?He emphasized this question as well, as it was crucial in explaining to the reader who automatically assumed that Reagan meant war. Americans, he indicated to this reader, held a different opinion, and they were not voting for war....No, for many, this question was not as acute; they were more concerned about their wallets, economic prosperity, or adversity," continued the Americanist. "Moreover, the election results indicate that the average American believed Ronald Reagan, who repeatedly assured that he considered peace and disarmament the top priorities of his second term in the White House and would do everything possible for good relations with the Soviet Union.In brief notes, there is no space for a detailed analysis of the election results. Leaving the opportunity to return to these topics later, I would like to reflect a bit on who the average American is, who gave victory to Reagan, and what his political face looks like today.The average American, or in local political terminology, the "middle class," the "political center," is an ambiguous, variable, and capricious entity. To find today's average American, one must look for him in the majority that brings the next winner to the White House. This majority itself is mobile and politically shifts the center to the left or right.For example, in 1964, the average American gave victory to a Democrat of the same seismic scale as now, Lyndon Johnson, blocking the path for the then leader of American conservatives, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, who is considered a precursor to Reagan. Goldwater suffered defeat because he advocated cutting social assistance programs, wanted to limit state regulation of private entrepreneurship, and threatened to put blacks, who were actively seeking civil rights, in their place. A significant part of the "middle class," the average Americans, sided then with the disenfranchised layers of society, with blacks and ethnic minorities, with the poor living below the official poverty line, as well as with unions traditionally supporting the Democratic Party.Against this background of recent history, let's turn to the reasons for Walter Mondale's defeat. One of them, which condemned him in the eyes of today's average American, is that Mondale had the reputation of an old-fashioned liberal seeking the votes of union members, racial and ethnic minorities, and acting as their defender. Nine-tenths of blacks, as surveys show, voted for Mondale, and this helps explain why he lacked votes among the rising "middle class." Times have changed...Here the voice of the man dictating his opus across the nocturnal ocean to his sole listener rose like that of an orator who, speaking before a large and eager audience, moves to the key moment in his speech......Times have changed. In this segment of American history, the average American has ceased to be a political ally of the disenfranchised and now considers them dependents and freeloaders living on his tax dollars. The new-style average American supports Reagan's conservative philosophy, seeking to reduce government expenditures, not military ones—they are growing—but on social needs (although the president extracts a promise not to touch the program of social security pensions that affects tens of millions of people). The broad conservative shift is the decisive reason for the president's success, reintroducing into American life the selfishly cruel "virtues" of American capitalism, deeming the safety net of social benefits unnecessary.The election campaign was declared a record in duration, but there was never enough time for a serious discussion of internal and external problems. This also testifies to the imprint left on the presidential race by the personality of Ronald Reagan, who earned the title of "great at begging." In this sense, the current president and the average American, tired of the complexities of our world, have also found common ground, especially valuing simple, albeit deceptive, answers to the troubling questions of our days.The elections took place amid the frenzy of the "new patriotism," developed the Americanist's thought. In this patriotism, it is not difficult to discern a revenge for the humiliation in the Vietnam War, for the reduction of American influence in the world, for the moral and political crises of the sixties and seventies. Above all and better than anyone else—this "new patriotism" is covered with a thick layer of old chauvinism. The "new patriot" is ready to applaud the audacious seizure of Grenada but at the same time reconciles with the withdrawal of the U.S. Marine Corps from Beirut as soon as more than two hundred American soldiers die in a terrorist explosion. He is not against a demonstration of American military muscle but insists that it be without American losses. He supports the policy of "peace through strength" but does not want this strength to lead to the threat of nuclear war. By the way, Mondale's pre-election behavior testified quite well to these sentiments. In a futile attempt to win over such a voter, he sang no fewer hymns to American military might than Reagan did.Here are just a few strokes to the portrait of the average American—and, by extension, a few reasons explaining the victory of the conservative Reagan over Mondale, who failed to shed his now unpopular image of an old-fashioned liberal. They found each other, the current U.S. president and the current average American...If it were up to the Americanist, he would highlight this key phrase in bold in the newspaper....However, it is not superfluous to add that the president's popularity extends beyond the popularity of his party, his policies, and even his philosophy. The election results in Congress testify to this. Republicans, although maintaining a majority in the Senate, lost two seats, and in the House of Representatives, they remained in the minority, with their gains being half of what they had hoped for.It's hard to say how long the artificially heated optimism and "politics of joy" will last, but sober observers of American life, whom one has to encounter these days, predict that the return of unpleasant facts to the earth from the clouds of exaggerated hopes will have to happen fairly soon, and possibly without a parachute. One prominent economist from Wall Street called the current situation a "fool's paradise," believing that those who think tomorrow will never come are in for a rude awakening.He recalled an elderly man with a bow tie and a sagacious expression on his slightly pudgy face. The man was afraid of catching a cold and sat in a curtained, insulated office. His assessments reflected both concern and resignation in the face of circumstances: circumstances, even those blatantly foolish, remain stronger than us....He was referring to astronomical deficits in the federal budget, primarily generated by military expenditures. Deficits are increasingly being financed by money flowing into the citadel of world capitalism from abroad. Experts are plagued by nightmares: what will happen to the American economy when, one fine day, hundreds of billions of dollars are suddenly withdrawn by foreign depositors, losing the opportunity to clip coupons with high interest rates in the event of an economic downturn?How long have they found each other, President Reagan and the average American? As the experience of the past decades shows, impressive victories can be short-lived. After the triumph of 1964, Lyndon Johnson refused to run for a second term in 1968, bogged down in the quagmire of the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon was elected to a second term in 1972 by an overwhelming majority, but two years later, he resigned disgracefully due to the Watergate scandal.In short, much depends on how the winner decides to use his victory. In the American tradition, often invoked today, a president elected to a second term cares about his place in history. There are proven ways to stay in the grateful memory of descendants and contemporaries. Perhaps that's why President Reagan, in his post-election statements, revived the theme of peace and arms limitation. Here, any sincere and concrete steps will be met with reciprocal moves from the Soviet side. It is likely that they will find approval among the overwhelming majority of Americans.So, even before the elections, there was essentially certainty about who would occupy the White House for another four years. However, in another sense, uncertainty remains after the elections: how will the American president handle his victory, whether he will fulfill his promises of peace and prosperity to the American people?The Americanist ended with a question mark. Let's wait and see. That's the best forecast. You can't go wrong with that.He was connected to the deputy chief. The deputy chief asked straight away, "How many?" The Americanist replied, "Seven."Although he felt that it was actually nine pages. The deputy chief said, "Doesn't matter about the length, we'll manage."The Americanist hung up, gathered the sheets lying on the sink, and parted ways with the tiled whiteness of the bathroom. He was excited and, without lighting a fire, stood by the window. Down the street towards Irin House, a lone car moved away, its rear lights glowing like rubies. In the dark masses of houses, only two or three windows were lit, their light shouting in the night about someone's joy or sorrow, an extraordinary event, an untimely affair, or simply insomnia. Suddenly, the phone rang again. A colleague from Irin House called, asking what he had discussed with the deputy chief. The colleague's voice was anxious. He had been woken up in the middle of the night with a call from Moscow demanding some explanations. In Irin House, where the journalistic life was intertwined with the Moscow newspaper through a telephone umbilical cord, familiar yet somehow unfamiliar to the Americanist, because the work was the same, but the people doing it were different.On a sunny and piercingly cold morning in Washington in November, they strolled along the sidewalk on Seventeenth Street opposite the heavy and simultaneously fanciful old administrative building. If you looked from Pennsylvania Avenue, the building adjoined the White House on the right. In this building with dark gray rococo curls, some of the president's aides worked, as well as the staff serving them.Black-suited FBI special unit guards, checking the list, let in two Soviet visitors when a middle-aged lady came out to them. They went upstairs and, through a wide echoing corridor, with large high doors leading to it, forever strengthened in iron (as the lady reported), first entered a service "vestibule" of the American type, and then into the office of a stocky short man about fifty years old. He was a professional diplomat, had worked for many years at the American Embassy in Moscow and in the central apparatus of the State Department, and knew the Soviet Union well—according to the standards of American diplomatic service. Now, not only territorially but also due to his duties, he had come closer to the White House, entered the apparatus of the U.S. National Security Council, and reported on Soviet affairs directly to the president.The diplomat's predecessor in this important position with regular access to the president was a notorious anti-Soviet professor. He used his special proximity for self-promotion and incendiary speeches, for wide publicity of concepts suggesting that dealing with the Russians was impossible. Apparently, he whispered the same words into the president's ear as he trumpeted to the world. After toiling in this way for about two years, the professor returned to academic groves, and the public quickly forgot about the noisy anti-Soviet.Or maybe they got rid of him because it was time for diplomats, to whom language was given, among other things, to know how to keep it between their teeth.In any case, the unpretentious short man did not rush to spread his political philosophy in newspapers or on television. But he received two Soviet journalists in his office, overlooking green lawns and the White House through the windows, and kindly informed them that he regularly, twice a week, sees the president, sometimes spends an hour with him, and occasionally even two. What does he report on? How does the president react to his reports, and what questions does he ask about a country that is not important at all for his America and where he has never been? The American did not touch on these questions, and they understood that it would be simply indecent to inquire about them.Nervously shrugging his shoulders, the official figure for a long time and energetically developed one theme—that the president is absolutely serious about improving relations with the Soviet Union. Contrary to persistent rumors about his carelessness and dislike for details, he takes this crucial issue seriously and thoroughly, in detail, and that his administration is ready for new negotiations with the Soviet Union, where all arms limitation issues would be discussed. But these must be— an essential condition! — confidential negotiations, so as not to tie each other's hands with public disclosure of positions, not to narrow the field for maneuver and compromise, not to force the partner into a hasty and unequivocal answer—yes or no. Another motive in the responsible person's reasoning was that the relations between the two states are not so bad, that the rigidity of recent years is better than vague illusions of détente, as each side precisely knows where the other stands and therefore shows more "nuclear restraint."The responsible figure preferred to speak rather than listen, which was fair given that journalists had come to listen. However, two of them, without violating the rules of courtesy and yet offering resistance, managed to stake out our view and argue with the American. They argued that it was not the "Soviet threat" that undermined détente but American exceptionalism translated into the arena of international politics—an dangerous inclination for supremacy, disregard for various commitments taken, and even signed but not ratified treaties. They did not see eye to eye in assessing the situation in hotspots around the world, particularly regarding Nicaragua, because the official close to the president outright rejected the right of this small country to self-defense against the machinations of the North American colossus. Contrary to any logic except for the Superman-like imperialistic logic, he only saw and defended the colossus's right to self-defense against a midget.Nevertheless, they parted with smiles and handshakes. Still nervously shrugging his shoulders, as if discarding an annoying burden, the American, already in the doorway of his office, reassured them once again about the peaceful intentions of the president and his administration. He emphasized that the main thing was to hurry with agreements on reducing nuclear weapon levels, remembering that everything happening now was just the blossoms, and the berries were yet to come. The real danger would arise in about fifteen to twenty years if nuclear weapons spread worldwide, and other states, with irresponsible leaders, did not show the same "nuclear restraint" as the United States and the Soviet Union.Wherever he could, the Americanist walked in Washington, following the old trails, believing that through old acquaintances, one could better gauge the changes in the atmosphere and moods. This was not always successful. Violating the golden rule of timely appointments, he called the well-known commentator Joe too late. Tireless Joe was flying to Seoul, and his time before departure was scheduled to the minute. They met in the crowd of a solemn reception at the embassy, and Joe, like a shadow, slipped between guests and tables with snacks. The Americanist had to acquaint himself with his views only through the newspaper, where Joe's "columns" were still printed with iron regularity, and he, along with other journalists, impressed upon the president that the two main problems on his agenda were the limping foreign policy and astronomical budget deficits.During the hectic short business trip, the Americanist also failed to contact another acquaintance—an amiable bureau chief of a influential New York newspaper in Washington. But, glancing at his notes from two years ago, he was surprised to find that the charming chief's forecast from back then was perhaps coming true—Secretary of State George Shultz was gaining strength in the Washington hierarchy, and his voice in shaping policies on arms control and negotiations with the Soviet Union sounded more weighty.During his last visit to Washington, the Americanist futilely sought conversations with typical Reagan conservatives and, as an exception, remembered a discussion with the only and probably not the most typical one—a young, flourishing scion of a well-known political family. Outwardly soft and delicate but internally resolute and arrogantly argued that what is good for his America cannot but be good for the whole world.The young man also retained memories of their meeting and debate, and willingly welcomed the Americanist into his office in the State Department building, where he was one of the official press advisers.The exposition of their conversation needs a brief introduction.Literally the day after the November presidential elections, some provocateurs from the Washington bureaucratic depths fed the press so-called raw intelligence data and inflated an incredible scandal: a Soviet ship allegedly delivered "MiG-21" combat aircraft to Nicaragua, which, they claimed, posed a mortal threat to neighboring Central American states and even the United States itself, as they were supposedly capable of carrying nuclear weapons if necessary. The ship was indeed there, but there were no planes, and thus no threat. However, this is the provocative nature of raw intelligence data: we do not bear responsibility for lies because the data is raw. It's pure deception. But between the appearance of the deception in the press and the official acknowledgment by the Pentagon and the White House that it was a deception, hysteria and hostility toward the Sandinistas intensified. The new suspicion sought to strangle the faint hope for a turn for the better in relations with the Soviet Union, fostered by post-election presidential statements.And so, because of Nicaragua, just like two years ago, the Americanist collided with a young and beautiful idealist—imperialist."You don't have a single proven fact, and yet you deliberately inflated the scandal," accused the Americanist, habitually using the plural form, including the sitting American in the ranks of political malefactors.And the latter, although not assuming direct responsibility, did not want to break the unwritten rule of solidarity before a Soviet guest and initially, it seemed, was not embarrassed by it. He believed obvious lies if they came from his side more than obvious truths if the truth belonged to the other side. And this morality perpetuated the cursed question because trust between the parties was fundamentally excluded. A deadlock. A complete deadlock.And suddenly, as if sensing the mortal danger of such a moral and psychological impasse, the American stepped back. Some crack appeared in the patriotic ring of solidarity, some personal sincerity penetrated his reasoning. He admitted (and even seemed to complain) that within the administration, there was a struggle between different groups and approaches—ideological and pragmatic, irreconcilably rigid and reasonably moderate. Reasonable people found it difficult to resist intentional, provocative information leaks orchestrated by hardliners who supported a tough line. How not to get bogged down in such situations when dealing with outsiders against one's own?So, asked the Americanist straightforwardly once again, does it mean that deliberate provocateurs and political mischief-makers can always take you—people who consider themselves rational—hostage to your collective group suspicion, hostility, and hatred? And his interlocutor suddenly agreed: yes, that's how it is! Understand this, put yourself in our position, show tolerance, distinguish the official, more restrained position from the statements and actions of those individuals and groups who would like even more discord, disagreements, enmity, and irreconcilability between the two countries. He even referred to some laws that essentially cater to provocateurs, do not allow bringing to light and punishing those who engage in leaks of false, incendiary information.His words sounded sincere. And again, the same cursed question of the divided era: to believe or not to believe him? To believe in his sincerity, or, following the same logic by which he himself fundamentally excluded trust in Moscow's or Managua's words, to see deception, pretense, yet another mask of falsehood in his justifications?One of the American's brothers was a high-ranking Pentagon official, successfully advocating for the expansion of the U.S. Navy, while the other held a prominent position in the State Department, and the family as a whole had a reputation in politics as hawks. The conclusion of the conversation required a joke, and the Americanist chose one that was not very successful: so which of you three brothers is more dovish and which is more hawkish? The American clarified: there are four of them, but the fourth is not in public service, and all four borrowed their views from their father, a former naval officer. He defended the brother who was vigorously strengthening the power of the naval fleet, saying that he was a hawk only in the matter of conventional naval armaments, and he supported arms control limitations."But still, admit it, your family has a hawkish reputation?" insisted the guest and heard hidden offense—and wounded pride—in the American's response."Perhaps it does, but we are civilized people..."He escorted the Americanist down the corridor and to the entrance, asking about the Moscow weather and in which season of the year it's most pleasant to visit the Soviet capital, where he had never been before.Two years ago, during his last visit to Washington, the Americanist met Strobe from a well-known political weekly.At that time, the Americanist noted in his notebook that Strobe was not yet among the top American observers, but perhaps he would be over time, having learned to write more critically and concisely. Strobe began writing longer, not shorter, published a book, and before the elections gained wide recognition as the first political journalist of the season, which the Americanist learned about in Moscow. For many Americans involved in politics, Strobe's book became a desk manual on negotiations for nuclear arms limitation, on their current rather dismal state. It was used against Reagan by the Democrat Mondale during his televised debates with the president. Various notable people reviewed it, and it was hastily translated into Western European languages. Fame, as well as misfortune, does not go alone. Signs of recognition and success showered Strobe. They decided to promote him to a higher position and made him the head of the Washington bureau, the most important one in the New York weekly, with two dozen staff members. The bestseller was sold in all reputable bookstores in New York, Washington, and other cities. Ahead, as usual, was a cheaper and more mass-market edition in paperback and inclusion in the list of books recommended to readers by consultants (and owners) of the popular "Book of the Month" club.Strobe, round by round and almost day by day, described the course of U.S.-Soviet negotiations on intermediate-range nuclear weapons and strategic arms. His extensive connections and reliable sources of information helped him take on the role of a modern political chronicler. Despite its apparent objectivity, Strobe did not hide his critical attitude toward the administration's strategy and tactics. The content of the book led the reader to the conclusion that the negotiations were doomed to failure from the beginning due to the position of the American side. He substantiated the conclusion so thoroughly that even those who would like to refute it did not dare. And readers, acquainting themselves with Strobe's book, could see that the tragic anxieties of our days are incapable of displacing the petty and pathetic in human nature, and intrigues of careerists do not cease even when faced with the threat of universal destruction, non-existence. The universal question: to be or not to be—to humanity?! But, on the one hand, the president, Strobe argued, did not delve into the details of the negotiations and did not strive seriously for a reasonable compromise. On the other hand, the "war of two Richards"—Assistant Secretary of State Richard Burt and Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle. The two officials—ambitious rivals vying with each other—played the leading role in shaping the American line in the negotiations, and they fought each other, alas, only to undermine the agreement.New York publishers did not lag behind, releasing Strobe's chronicle in the midst of the pre-election struggle. They hit the bullseye, right in the center of the discussion about dangerous discord and strife within the administration and its possible priorities in the future...The downtown office of the Strobian weekly had managed to move from Sixteenth Street to a stylish building on the bustling Connecticut Avenue. The new building shone not only with its glass exterior but also with its walls. Downstairs were spaces open to everyone on alternating levels, with strips of escalators, winter gardens and greenhouses, shops, restaurants, and cafeterias; above were business offices. Part of one of the upper floors was occupied by the Washington bureau, headed by Strobe.When a young and fashionable African-American receptionist called him, announcing the arrival of the guest, he came out to meet him from the inner rooms, equally slender and light. A soft, dense package from a photo negative box protruded from under his arm, and in the package, prepared as a gift, was a thick bestseller with a rocket on the dust jacket, another thin book, and a thick collection where Strobe's pen contributed a significant article. "This year, as you can see, I have a rich harvest," he said to his Moscow acquaintance playfully, but not without pride. And the Americanist asked for copies of reviews for the popular book. Strobe, he decided, deserved favorable mention in our press.Oh no, do not be mistaken, Strobe did not share Soviet positions and certainly did not defend them—what journalist from the major American press would you find doing so?—but he subjected the positions of official Washington to a thorough and critical analysis.The high collar of the beige turtleneck covered his thin, long neck, and in a similar turtleneck, leaning not against a rocket but against a tree, he was pictured in a photo placed on the back cover of the dust jacket. The Americanist noted to himself the striking photographic resemblance between two seemingly distant individuals: the businesslike, meticulous chronicler of nuclear realities and the translucent figure, like his poems and the early departed Vologda poet Nikolay Rubtsov—the same slender face on a delicate neck stem, a narrow high dome of the forehead, a scarf wrapped around the neck, and even the forest as if the same in the background.They exited the building, crossed Connecticut Avenue in the bustling crowd of clerks pouring out of all corners for lunch hour. Stroeb walked slightly ahead, pointing the way, dressed with deliberate nonchalance—in a khaki-colored raincoat and a light hat of the same color with narrow brims. Without wasting time, he explained that he voted against Reagan and for Mondale in the elections, but—what can you do?—Reagan is irresistible for the average American, a phenomenon of a monarch-like president. It's interesting, how do you and your colleagues explain this phenomenon to the Soviet reader?Although he voted for the loser in the elections, his mood, casual attire, brisk pace, and equally fast words, mentioning that after lunch, he's flying straight to Minneapolis, to Mondale's territory, to meet with readers of his book—all indicated that the element of great success is carrying him, uplifting and giving him new strength.This same element led him into a small restaurant where waiters and patrons joyfully greeted him—even if briefly touching fame—and where, oh, it seems, he has signed his book more than once, right there in plain view of everyone, sitting in his favorite spot with other guests.Certainly, reliable sources of information are important, and the more you take from them, the better, but above all, Stroeb was a persistent worker who didn't waste time. While working on the book and continuing to work for the magazine, he would get up at three in the morning, brew two mugs of strong coffee, and, without any discounts during the day, perform the duties of a diplomatic correspondent."Stroeb, you've achieved a lot for your thirty-eight.""Because I started early..."He started early and from a young age took on significant tasks. And he enjoyed the support of influential mentors, who were not indifferent to the care of political successors.They hadn't seen each other for two years, but it was easy for them together, not only because success helped Stroeb get along with people. They effortlessly navigated from one topic to another, knowing where their views intersected, where they disagreed, and how to jokingly bypass zones of discord. The profession shaped both of them in its own way, baked them in the crucible of journalism, but the composition of the test and the baking were different—not only due to the properties of characters or the peculiarities of life paths but also because of fundamental differences in social systems and national psychologies, somehow refracted in each person. And when Stroeb, generously from the peaks of his success, asked his colleague what he was writing about, the Americanist replied that he was working on a book about his previous trip to the United States, which was still far from the shelves of bookstores. He casually mentioned that it briefly describes the meeting with him, Stroeb. Intrigued, Stroeb asked, "What's the book about?" "What? You can't explain it in two words. About the journey of the Americanist." Unable to resist, he quoted a line from Afanasy Fet: "... striving to draw even a drop of the alien, transcendental element."In turn, he asked, "What's next for Stroeb?" They had already left the restaurant; it was a warm November day, and the streets were bustling with people. Continuing to immerse himself in the blissful waters of success, Stroeb jokingly regretted that he lacks a poetic leitmotif, and that's why he's writing just a continuation of his book, perhaps without jokes: "Even Deadlier Gambits"...Two days later, when Stroeb returned from Minneapolis, the Americanist dropped by his house. The house stood on a quiet, low-rise street, lush green in the summer, among other private homes. All the houses were connected with each other by walls, each had its own entrance from the street, three or four steps to its door, and a small courtyard behind, known as the backyard.It was a Sunday, Stroeb's wife and two sons were absent, and he himself was working on the third-floor attic, accessible by a steep staircase. The small office was filled with shelves of books and adorned with photographs of the owner with various world celebrities. An electronic word processor took the place of a regular writing desk. Stroeb explained that this gadget cost him fourteen thousand dollars but more than justified itself—fantastically convenient and useful once you got used to it, and getting used to it was easy, much easier than getting unaccustomed to it. Using the word processor, he wrote his rocket-nuclear chronicle, gradually accumulating rough material, entering the acquired information into electronic memory every evening, supplementing and summarizing it as new information came in.The fantastic office device was versatile. By connecting it to the telephone, Stroeb could instantly transmit the text of his latest article to the New York headquarters of the weekly magazine and equally promptly receive any material from there—and from everywhere—on the display screen. In theory, the word processor could be directly connected to the printing machines in the printing house, located hundreds and thousands of kilometers away. In such cases, it eliminates the need for so many intermediate links, providing such savings that some publishing houses, such as the well-known "Macmillan," already offer these word processors for free to the most famous authors, former presidents, and ministers, on the condition that they agree to enter the electronic age, working on their books about the past.The American with the refined features of the Vologda poet sat down at the electronic wonder machine. On the screen glowed a draft of the speech he was preparing for the day when he would be ceremoniously inaugurated as the head of the Washington bureau. He silently tapped the keys, and the text on the screen slightly scrolled down, making room for a new headline: "Glad to welcome my Soviet colleague to my home." He pressed something else, and the text on the screen expanded, providing space for a welcome line in the middle. Then he touched his word processor, and the greeting disappeared from the screen.Eighteen days— not a month and a half, it was time to start the return journey, beginning in New York, the springboard for the double jump home—via Montreal to Moscow. However, dividing his narrative about the new trip of the Americanist between the two capitals of the United States—financial New York and political Washington, we forgot about his deep-rooted childhood attraction to the hinterland, which he tried to satisfy every time he found himself in the overseas state. Between Washington, with its post-election political excitement, and New York, where the final hours of his business trip were winding down like sand in the hourglass, he managed to fit a day and a half in the city of Decatur (ninety thousand inhabitants), the center of a farming district peacefully lying in the state of Illinois, about an hour and a half's drive from bustling Chicago, where we, by the way, still haven't visited with our character, traveling not so much through cities as through years and people, from person to person.Decatur... This name had once flashed in our story— in connection with the name of Duane Andreas, a slender and energetic man with pigment spots on his tanned prominent forehead, the head of the grain corporation "Archer Daniels Midland" (ADM), and the co-chairman of the American-Soviet Trade and Economic Council (ASTEC). The Americanist met him in New York on the forty-second floor of the celebrity hotel, where he kept a permanent suite. But Andreas's main economic base and his corporation were located precisely in the backwater of Decatur, a visit to which was included in the Americanist's plans back in Moscow as he prepared for the trip. *Oh, the powerful business circles—both Soviet and American! Despite sharp changes in the political weather, they maintain a certain level of contacts for current affairs and in anticipation of a more favorable future. Assisting a journalist with his modest tasks is not a problem for them at all.Passing on his vague desire to visit some American hinterland, the Americanist relayed it to a good acquaintance back in New York, who now represented the Soviet side as the senior vice president in the Moscow office of ASTEC. The obliging Boris Petrovich, from his seemingly Americanized office located on the Moscow embankment of Taras Shevchenko, immediately sent a telex (a message transmitted by telex) to New York.The response telex in English translated the Americanist's vague wish onto clear business tracks. It read:"Dear Boris, we would be delighted to arrange a trip to Decatur for your journalist friend, where he can meet with local farmers, with producer organizations like the American Soybean Association and the National Corn Growers Association, and visit farms, grain elevators, and processing plants. If he wishes, we will also organize meetings with agricultural specialists from newspapers, radio, and television. Of course, we will send our plane to pick him up in Decatur and return him to Washington or New York afterward. If you agree, the necessary preparations will be made by Mr. Barker from ADM, and you can contact him directly or through your New York office. Best regards. Duane Andreas, Chairman of the Board, ADM. Decatur, Illinois, USA, telex 25-0121."Thus, through his acquaintances in Soviet business circles, our traveler temporarily became a guest in the world of major American business, which, in his case, was represented by a corporation with turnover in the hundreds of millions of dollars, having several food production plants, selling thirty million tons of grain and soybeans annually, mainly in the domestic market but also engaging in international operations, including recently selling one and a half million tons of grain to Soviet foreign trade organizations (and another million tons through its branch in Hamburg).Vain is the man. The plane they would specially send for him to Washington had already captured the imagination of the Americanist in Moscow, and he kept pulling out the telex paper, reading the text to friends and acquaintances.In life, everything worked as precisely as promised. Preparations were made through New York and Mr. Barker in Decatur, and on the appointed day and hour, a black limousine, rented by ADM people from one of the Washington car rental firms, pulled up to the Holiday Inn on Wisconsin Avenue. After picking up the Americanist and his colleague Victor Alexandrovich, who had flown in from New York, the limousine, softly rustling with thick tires, slowly and solemnly delivered them to the National Airport. There, in a special building designated for servicing corporate and private planes, in an empty lounge, a brief pilot in a dark-blue uniform was already waiting, sipping coffee. The glimpses of gray in his hair reassuringly flashed as an indication of the number of flight hours accumulated and the necessary professional experience. Only high-class professionals—no amateurism in aviation serving corporations and wealthy individuals. The third welcomed guest of ADM was the Soviet representative in the world of American business, Yuri Vladimirovich L., also a senior vice president of ASTEC, working in New York. He was relatively young, with an attractive dimple on his chin, calm, and modern in a good sense."Ready?" asked the pilot. "Ready."A small jet with two jet engines, arriving from Decatur, was also ready right by the building. The extendable ramp with four steps touched the aerodrome concrete. Without tickets and flight attendants, with two pilots whose backs were visible from the cabin, the eight-passenger plane, bouncing lightly as if not seriously picking up speed, quickly and seemingly playfully took off, pierced through the layer of low clouds, and shone in the sunlight. It was of French make, a "Falcon-20," and in terms of speed, it was not inferior to jetliner planes. In the United States, there were more than a hundred thousand private and corporate planes. ADM had three of them: two for the domestic travels of the corporation's leadership, and on the third, larger and more powerful, with three turbines, the tireless Mr. Andreas made his frequent overseas voyages, only to London and Paris preferring to fly from New York on the scheduled, supersonic "Concorde."During conversations, coffee, and drinks from the mini-bar, a necessity for any such business aircraft, they spent an hour and a half in the sunny glow beneath continuous layers of clouds before, breaking through the clouds, they saw beneath them the overcast flat land, long cultivated, fertile prairies slightly south of the Great Lakes.The land lay wide and desolate due to the absence of giant human crowds; it did not scrape the sky with a palisade of skyscrapers. Only farmhouses and structures stood apart from each other amid harvested fields, and in the sparse light of a November day, metallic poppies of silo towers and water pump spheres glistened in some places.The small airport, where the plane landed in a masterly manner, was also deserted. They were driven to the city in a van with soft seats and a sliding door along the hull. Everything around breathed cold and forebodings of snow.From an unfamiliar name in the telex message, Mr. Barker materialized into Dick Barker, a provincial gentleman of middle age, a vice president of ADM, in charge of external relations.They arrived on a Sunday. The city center seemed completely deserted. In the Decatur Club building, where they were accommodated in guest rooms by ADM, the offices on the ground floor were also closed for the weekend.The guest rooms were lined with thick carpets; the taps of the sink and bathtub gleamed with old-fashioned copper, which had become a new sign of class and luxury. The elevator to the fourth floor only ascended with a special key, excluding access for outsiders. But the hosts considered even this measure for ensuring the peace and safety of their rare guests insufficient. In the corridor on the fourth floor, a guy in a yellow leather jacket sat, and beneath the jacket, from time to time, someone's abrupt voice reminded of a walkie-talkie device and surely concealed a silent firearm.When they went downstairs for a walk, the guy accompanied them, acting in accordance with received instructions, although a half-hour walk revealed that no one and nothing threatened three Russians in the empty and standardly boring center of a small town, blown by the cold wind.He turned out to be a city policeman, earning extra money at ADM in his free time. His "walkie-talkie" was connected to the corporation's security service. The corporation's operator answered when guests picked up the phone in their rooms, and a promotional souvenir, also from ADM, a cardboard box filled with cellophane bags of ersatz nuts, ersatz candies, and ersatz cookies made from soybeans, stood in each room.Alongside another grain firm, "Staley," ADM was the largest employer in Decatur and surrounded its guests with care and its own omnipresence. Only the television in Decatur was not from ADM but from three all-American television corporations—ABC, CBS, and NBC, which also kept local residents at home on Sunday evenings.They had dinner at the deserted Country Club. Dick Barker, tearing himself away from Sunday TV shows, invited one of his colleagues, in charge of grain sales at ADM, and three middle-class farmers, also tied to the corporation by business ties. Two of the farmers were father and son. The son was already twenty-nine, and as it turned out, he himself was the father of three boys. The company occupied a separate room, where a blonde girl and a dark-haired guy, doubling as waiters, diligently and clumsily served them. The onion soup was called French, the steak was called New York, but the cuisine was uncomplicatedly Decatur-style, and the conversations at the Country Club were rural, farmer-like.Farmers are not diplomats, and the presence of foreigners did not prevent them from complaining about life, primarily about low purchase prices. In supermarkets, food prices have doubled or tripled over the past decade, but three farmers sitting at the table were concerned about another part of the economic picture. The prices at which they sold their grain and livestock to wholesale intermediaries were oppressive, if not ruinously low.The three sturdy middle-class men were from those American families that rely on their own labor, and competition laws are pushing them off the land. They achieve unprecedented labor productivity on this land, record yields, but the higher the yield, the lower the purchase prices, the harder each dollar of compensation for high-productivity work becomes. And yet, this work by its very nature requires maximum mechanization, new and more efficient equipment, and obtaining it requires loans from a bank. The machinery is getting more expensive, and the interest on loans is getting higher. If you don't keep up with others in the constant tension of competition, if you don't acquire even more modern equipment for even higher productivity—give up, get out of business, sell your farm, and look for a place in the city, where, with age, all family farmers somehow move, as working on the land becomes physically and mentally unbearable.Lifting their heads from the nursemaid—earth, these wonderful owners see a hostile world around them, which, it seems to them, has united to deprive them of the deserved fruits of their labor. And the three at the table in the Decatur Country Club were also full of suspicions.They believed that food prices were deliberately kept at such a level by big business so that the average American spent no more than fifteen to seventeen percent of their budget on food, leaving more money for a color TV or the latest model of a car, some personal computer, a video system, fashionable clothes—what temptations of a developed consumer society?They looked at the workers with envy. Each of those sitting at the table had their own stories about these, in their view, lucky people. One, with a sense of a person deprived of life, told about a relative who worked for twenty years at the Caterpillar company, producing agricultural machinery, retired at the age of fifty-seven, and receives almost as much as he earned, and they also pay his medical bills. Another complained about unions. The union of workers producing agricultural equipment and the automobile workers' union were demanding higher wages, and entrepreneurs were compensating for their losses by raising prices for agricultural machinery and trucks. Again, it turned out that the farmers were the ones suffering.To the left of the Americanist sat the farmer's son, a handsome young man in a light suede jacket. He looked more like a graduate of a provincial college than a farmer. Farm work did not bend him to the ground, did not flatten him; his hands were callus-free, although he claimed to toil from dawn to dusk. The young man talked about his trip to the state of Kansas, marveling at the considerably larger farms there compared to those in Illinois. Farmers like him had not two, but four or five tractors and twice as much other equipment. Collaborating with his father, the young man earned about one-third of their total income—thirty-five thousand dollars a year. After the season, he planned to go on vacation with his wife, undecided whether to go to Miami or Bermuda. These plans for a trip to fashionable resorts, seemingly contradicting the complaints at the table, apparently reflected the dual nature of farm life in Illinois.Meanwhile, the father of the young farmer complained not only about prices but also about presidents. He criticized Nixon and Carter because each of them, at some point in his presidency, imposed an embargo on the sale of grain to the Soviet Union. And as for Reagan, although he lifted the embargo, he showed complete indifference to the fate of the farmers.On the first morning in Decatur, hastily washing and dressing, the Americanist dashed out of his room into the corridor. His appearance did not catch the new sturdy guard off guard. No, sitting at a table placed on the landing, the guard was not sleeping alone and inactive; he vigilantly accompanied the suddenly appearing Russian.Instead of eight in the morning, the Americanist rushed out at seven, overlooking the time difference with Washington.With nothing else to do, he decided to take a stroll around the morning city. The guard didn't let him go alone and tagged along. At the beginning of the new workweek, Decatur was in no hurry to wake up. Cars on the streets were scarce, and there were no pedestrians at all. The big red sun, barely detached from the horizon, peeked out in the east through the openings of the streets. The full transparent moon was still standing in the zenith amid the clear sky. The dawning day promised to be cold and clear.A standard American city—concrete walls and flat roofs, sidewalks, fire hydrants, signs, red brick of old warehouses, the dull gray stone of a Protestant church. Another, essentially random, city was on his way, and the Americanist suddenly caught himself thinking that he wasn't interested here. He pondered this and felt embarrassed about his own snobbery, especially since one of Decatur's residents, guarding the guest, walked next to him with an expectant step, like a vigilant policeman. Tired of extensive superficial acquaintance with someone else's life? In general, of someone else's life? Of a profession that accumulates such fatigue? He remembered an old film by the Italian Antonioni, "The Passenger." The reporter, who accidentally got hold of the documents of a deceased person, suddenly, by some internal command, begins to live his life. This life is not the life of a reporter-observer but the life of a participant in various affairs, unclear, mysterious, and dangerous. The film convincingly conveyed the feeling of professional fatigue, homelessness, even despair. The reporter, who took on someone else's life and fate, was killed in the end in a hotel room somewhere in the depths of Africa, on the edge of an oasis, which, like a mirage, emerged among the sands. And he was ready for death; he reconciled with it, and it was so well conveyed in the film—the oblique rays of the southern sun setting among the sands, their red light flooding the hotel room, and the homeless man who had traveled so many roads and now lay on the bed, tiredly waiting for the last minutes of his life, which never became stable...A fleeting surge in consciousness.But it was morning in Decatur. And in life, one wanted to believe, it was not yet evening. And the brawny guard was not disposed to philosophize. He silently walked alongside.For the first time, a person from Russia is seen—and there is no curiosity. However, as the Americanist noticed long ago, most people are either uncurious or consider it impolite and tactless to ask questions to strangers. Other people's lives are not their business. But for the correspondent, it is a job, the main job. Out of habit, he started questioning the guard. While serving in the police, he also worked part-time at E-D-M. The Americanist learned that after twenty years of work in the local police, one can retire at the age of fifty—with half the salary. And if you stay after twenty years, for each additional year of service, they will add two percent to your pension. The guard mentioned that he planned to retire at the age of fifty-two, having worked in the police for thirty years, and that his pension would then be equal to seventy percent of his salary."Is it good?" the father asked. Remembering yesterday's complaints from the farmers, the Americanist agreed: it was good.The day, as promised in the morning, was clear and cold. After having breakfast at the "Ambassador" hotel, where everyone knew Dick Barkett, and where he apologized to the guests for the sluggishness of provincial service, they settled into a comfortable van with shaded greenish windows. They traversed solid, quite urban, farm roads running along gleaming black soil fields, embarking on swift excursions in the surroundings of Decatur.They were awaited everywhere—on the elevator, where one lone operator managed all the unloading of cars and the rumbling of grain from behind a control panel, and at the pig farm, where the owner, along with his wife and a swineherd, cultivated corn and soybeans on six hundred and fifty acres to feed a thousand pigs. Every Tuesday, like clockwork, they sent twelve to fifteen pigs to the slaughter, having reached the required weight.They drove through the small town of Blue Mound, merged with the rural district, where there were eight churches for every thousand law-abiding residents, the dry law was strictly observed, and most of the inhabitants had German roots. There, they discovered that Dick Barkett was a transformed German, Burkhardt, and the transformation occurred not with him but with his distant ancestor during the American Civil War of the 1860s.After these excursions back to Decatur, they inspected part of the vast ADM complex— an automated corn syrup production plant and a large, humid greenhouse where twenty thousand bunches of lettuce were grown hydroponically and sent to the market every day.Next to the complex was the main office building of ADM, and there Dick Barkett, with a reverence commonly referred to as devout, hushing his voice and almost tiptoeing, showed the guests an empty shrine—Dwayne Andreas' office. Above the vacant chair and desk hung the spirit of the Boss, the Master, the Thunderer. The office was furnished with provincial refinement, as if highlighting it from the surrounding simplicity, even with coquetry. Behind its windows, the factory buildings stood in all their unadorned work nakedness. On the office wall hung a painting, conventionally stylized, allegorical in meaning—five barefoot boys in short pants with uncombed heads. The allegory pertained to the five Andreas brothers. Their childhood was barefoot, poor, in an Amish family—members of a religious sect primarily living in Pennsylvania villages, rejecting electricity, plumbing, radio, television, and other attributes of technological civilization. From there, the five brothers began to march, breaking with the past and, nevertheless, sentimentally cherishing it in memories. One of them has already passed away; three are in control of ADM, and the chief—chairman of the board, the boss.Dick Barkett did not leave the guests all day, and he was anxious all day. He was a widower with three adult daughters. One of them was expecting a child. The due dates predicted by the doctor had passed.Unable to endure it, he took the guests to his farm. Strictly speaking, it wasn't a farm that provided a living, but a country house—old, spacious, wooden, in the middle of a plot of about fifteen acres with a small bare November grove and a cooling pond.He led the guests into the house, and they saw what had always been before his fatherly eyes: a young, embarrassed woman with a large belly and a pale face. Her face expressed anticipation and guilt for the elapsed due dates, still not giving birth and making her husband, who was at work, and her father worry. She sat at the table, and by her side was a telephone to immediately call her husband and the doctor. She looked shyly at the unexpected guests, constantly glancing inward, listening to what was audible only to her—the secret life she carried in her womb that, for some reason, delayed announcing its arrival with the first cry into the world...And it also imprinted in the Americanist's memory. A neat, white house—like a toy or an exhibition exhibit, seemingly dropped from above by some magical invisible hand onto a spacious, flat, and also meticulously cultivated land. Not a speck of mud, not a single rut, or a forgotten, overgrown pit, or a track pressed into the ground by heavy machinery, or abandoned rusty iron. No fences, hedges, picket fences. An open-to-all-winds-and-views house of cards and a utility yard, neatly sprinkled with gravel. And also, resembling an exhibition exhibit, a tall barn where tractors, trucks, and combines stood—in cleanliness and order. And a similarly pristine and neat, round tin tower, a storage facility for selected corn grain; when you climb the metal ladder to the top of the tower and take it in your hand, it flows weightlessly between your fingers like amber.But it was not an exhibition pavilion; it was the family farm of Uncle and Nephew Gulik, who worked three thousand acres of land, their own and leased, across the road. Perhaps it was a kind of model farm—after all, they wouldn't show foreigners a rundown farm, would they? However, the Guliks clearly did not know how or did not want to boast about their work, considering it quite ordinary. And peasant superstition kept them from bragging.On their land, within their walls, the hosts felt a kind of helplessness in front of the guests. For the first time in reality, they saw Russians, whom they were constantly frightened of and who, at the same time, bought grain from them. For the first time in their lives, they gave something like an interview to journalists (did they know these sophisticated words—interview and journalists?). And unfamiliar people from an unfamiliar country puzzled the uncle and nephew with their non-farmer English and persistent questions about yields and productivity. For them, the two American farmers, the main thing was not the harvest, even if record-breaking, not the number of bushels per acre of land, but the cost of the product, the ratio in dollars between the invested and earned. The most important thing was to stay at least at four percent profit on invested capital, because even the exemplary farm constantly faced the threat of bankruptcy, not allowing one to relax and forcing them to run and run in the ruthless race of competition, ensuring that a bushel of grain did not cost a cent more to you than to your neighbor. And how do you achieve that when more and more neighbors are becoming not family farms but industrial farms, grain corporations? Competition has already driven many from the land. "Ninety percent of them would be willing to go back to the land... It's in their blood... It's priceless," repeated the elder Gulik.The uncle's name was Richard, and the nephew's name was Herbert. Their roots in this land around Decatur went deep into a hundred and fifty years, through five generations. There was one farm, cultivating one piece of land, but they lived in two houses—uncle with his childless wife, and the nephew, to show rare visitors, brought his two pretty high school daughters into his uncle's house.And here, in the living room of the neat white house, from whose windows the nursemaid-earth could be seen on all sides, two businessmen—American and Soviet—awkwardly settled, two journalists and two farmers, already having stopped feeling like hosts and therefore knowing how to accommodate guests. From the adjacent room, Richard Gulik's wife and Herbert's two daughters peeked out.It was like a home interview, it occurred to the Americanist. In big cities, and even in small ones, work is separated from home, from family. But here, both home and work were nearby, together—what a discovery he suddenly made in the living room of a farmer's house, accustomed to conversations in cities, in the offices of officials, businessmen, and journalists. Here, it was the farmer's wife who treated guests with a cup of coffee and homemade cookies, not a secretary. Here, when you lose your job, you lose your home too because all of this together is called your farm, your land. Here are your roots, and if they pull you out of here, then for sure—with the roots.Richard Gulik sat on a chair in the middle of the room for some reason—in his own home, as if under interrogation, forgetting to take off the red cap with a long visor. From time to time, he glanced, as if seeking help, at Dick Barkett. Herbert, the nephew, was sturdy and lanky, over two meters tall. He wore a work jacket, heavy yellow boots, and the same red farmer's cap on his head, and his posture was also awkwardly constrained.In the wind-beaten faces of the uncle and nephew, in their long hands and clumsy strong bodies, decades of labor were evident—years when a person, in a biblical sense, earns his bread with the sweat of his face, seeing it as his duty to his loved ones and his destiny on earth. And this sweat did not cease to roll, given that, in addition to two pairs of their own hands, there were tractors, combines, trucks, and other equipment, amounting, as the elder one reported, to no less than half a million dollars. Asking such workers, cultivators of the land, people of the earth, whether they want peace with us would be ridiculous! The answer was on their faces, in their hands: of course!And from the adjacent room, two young girls peeked out—fair, fluffy, blood with milk, blooming rural beauties, quite suitable for the role of cover girls, meaning those girls placed on the covers of perfectly respectable illustrated magazines. Their cheeks were glowing with youth, healthy outdoor life, and shyness; their eyes sparkled with curiosity.But something else, something that seemed to hinder them from believing their eyes, seeing for the first time seemingly normal, peaceful, and even occasionally smiling people from distant Russia, was discernible in their expressions and eyes. What was peeking through in their fresh, lovely faces, something that distorted and clouded their open trust and friendliness, typical of youth, that time when a person is like a clean slate on which life has not yet had a chance to write its warnings, doubts, suspicions, and fears? What was it?Ah, a familiar veil, a familiar tone. The adults had already written something on the clean slate during social studies and political literacy classes at school, and, of course, the television screen had also worked its magic. Despite the natural trust of youth, suspicions, bias, and prejudices of a divided world and era seeped through in the expressions of their faces, and the two girls didn't know what to believe—prejudices or their first personal experience.They flew to New York on an ADM plane, along with Dwayne Andreas. He had arrived from somewhere the previous evening and was now leaving Dickitor again, heading to Paris for business. He was fresh, active, and, as usual, sarcastic. He took the host's place in the right corner of the sofa, located at the back of the passenger cabin, to have the radio telephone handset, tucked into the lining, at his disposal, and during the two-hour flight, he spoke five times with New York, Dickitor, and someone else. Since early morning, he had been provided with fresh New York newspapers and shared them with fellow travelers, choosing the most business-oriented and useful one—"Journal of Commerce." He informed them that this newspaper was delivered to him in Dickitor by the private postal agency "Federal Express," and each issue cost twenty-five dollars. "The most expensive newspaper in the world," he remarked with a smirk, a man who doesn't throw money away, even when paying nine thousand dollars a year just for a newspaper.They approached New York from the ocean, landed at Kennedy Airport, taxied to the private aviation building, where a summoned airport bus was already waiting. Andreas descended the ramp, the pilot handed the owner a coat and a flat case, and he gave a handful of green bills as a tip to the bus driver. After bidding farewell to his fellow travelers, the small, wiry man departed to the airport terminal of Air France. In an hour and a half, he would take off for Paris on the supersonic Concorde and arrive there late in the evening. He was flying there for two days of negotiations with the French Minister of Trade. According to his story on the way, the French government pays good subsidies to its farmers for growing sugar. Thanks to this, sugar production in France has risen significantly in recent years, and the French, dumping it at low prices, are dominating the world market."We'll have to threaten the minister," Andreas joked. "If they don't address this issue, we'll unleash the U.S. government on them."Contrary to expectations, the consideration of three points, evolving into another story of the Americanist's journey, dragged on. Sitting down to write, the author, without haste, succumbs to the rhythm of work, which involuntarily follows the rhythm of the life he is describing. Take, for example, the details that the author does not want to overlook, although the reader may consider them unnecessary. These details can easily be shortened when describing our familiar life; the reader will fill them in with their own knowledge and imagination. But how do you briefly describe impressions of someone else's life, where even familiar objects are named and look different? And what about people? How can you skip details if the unspoken is what drives your pen?Nevertheless, the author omits many impressions from the new journey of the Americanist, not intending to write another book. He just has to tell about the meeting with Thomas Powers, the same American journalist with a canvas bag, who once again led our traveler to the thought that the world is small. Our divided and separated world, where all of us are travelers and companions, and where, in a fateful sense, we are all connected by one fate, like a little string. Wasn't this meeting in the end helpful in creating the emotional critical mass without which there would be no article by the Americanist about the small world and perhaps no book about his journey?After publishing his sentimental notes about the small world, the Americanist secretly hoped for a response from there, from across the ocean, from the person he described meeting. His notes were not a confession, but there was undoubtedly sincerity in them, a sincere attempt to reach out to the bearded American with a bag, to one of the concerned Americans. And there was also, if you look more soberly and academically, some experience: will he understand this impulse? In the sentimental—and subjective—notes, a question of an objective nature was embedded: the possibility of understanding between two people, two journalists from different worlds. Will a big article dedicated to the meeting with him, published with good intentions in a well-known Soviet newspaper, reach him in America? Do they hear us? Do they read? Are they capable of contact? Not empty questions, because without contact, there is no understanding, and without understanding, do not expect anything good ahead.Soon after returning from the Writers' House, where he blissfully created the first draft of his book, in the hectic hours of the pre-New Year's Eve, when old time accelerates as if a completely new one will begin tomorrow, the Americanist suddenly received a congratulatory postcard from Sasha, his colleague from Washington. In the same envelope was a magazine clipping, thirty pages long, with a new large article by Thomas Powers, in which he described his impressions of his Moscow meetings.The Americanist hastily flipped through the article and made sure: his experiment failed! The American did not read or hear the newspaper outpourings of the Americanist.It was a sensitive blow not only to his self-esteem but also to his hope. They talk about contacts with extraterrestrial civilizations. But are there any among earthly ones? He was well aware of the insignificance and particularity of his experience, but at the same time, he ruled out the randomness of the result obtained. Is the world so small? Do we find each other? And if such a troubled American does not hear you at such a dangerous time, then what kind of trouble is really waiting? These questions could not be forgotten even in the countryside, amid the soul-healing white fields, on that night when, on the frozen bank of the Pakhra River, together with Yegor, Igor, and Victor, with wives and friends, they stormed the New Year, grilling shish kebabs over a bonfire.From afar, in the flickering firelight, the men in winter jackets and knit hats created silhouettes of medieval warriors. And up close, visions of a nuclear auto-da-fé suddenly crept into their heads. When another box, brought from the dump in the backyard, flew into the bonfire, its wooden planks flashed and melted like the horrifying frames from the sensational American TV film about nuclear war, "The Day After." In those frames, transferring the action to the city of Lawrence, Kansas, human ribs also instantly lit up, shining through evaporating skin, to become part of the charred skeleton in an imperceptible fraction of a second and then disappear without a trace.The sky above the joyous people was silent and solemn....Constellations loomed excessively in the cold pit of January.Then the Americanist carefully and unhurriedly read Thomas Powers' publication "Why?" and had to, overcoming his resentment, admit that it was a serious journalistic investigation, honest and daring. The American dug like a mole into ancient history—back to Pericles and Aristotle—and into the most recent, trying to understand why a nuclear war might arise, whether there are reasons that can justify it. He found no rational reasons—in a world divided by the gap between two systems, neither will win, and both will lose due to a nuclear catastrophe. But, he persuaded the reader, warriors were never subject to logic and common sense and did not start because there were rational grounds for them, but because there was fear and suspicion between the warring parties, and armies and weapons were ready for war. "The problem is not in the evil intentions of one side or another," he wrote, "but in our satisfaction with the state of hostility, in our readiness to go the wrong way, in our reliance on the threat of annihilation to save ourselves from annihilation."Thomas Powers wrote in his article that his previous publications had aroused public interest and that he often refuses to speak in different audiences when invited. After each such appearance, questions usually follow, primarily about types of nuclear weapons—how they look, how they work, is it true that they are so precise that they can hit a football field on the other side of the globe? Yes, it's true. And in such speeches, he wrote, he answers the other questions as best as he can. And gradually, the audience disperses.But one person remains.He waits until everyone leaves, this last person with the last question.They approach fortune-tellers, like gypsies, seemingly just for the sake of laughter, seemingly without any superstition, but with a tremor of the soul, to ask the most coveted question: how much time do I have left to live? Fortune-tellers distinguish such people from a mile away, Thomas Powers wrote, and he, too, learned to immediately recognize his last listener with his last question. The person waited for everyone to leave to be one-on-one, without concealment, to receive a confidential and reliable answer."And will there be war?" this person asks. But there is no definite answer, and the person hears from the journalist: "I don't know..."After some time, the Americanist received a letter in the editorial mail from Thomas Powers himself, along with a photocopy of his article, requesting feedback. No, the American did not forget about their summer meeting, the anxious undertone of their conversation, and their attempt to break through to each other by the shortest route—from heart to heart.The Americanist briefly replied to his acquaintance that his article was powerful and, unfortunately, bleak. He also sent him two of his newspaper articles. The first, in sentimental notes that never reached the American, contained familiar reflections. The second article was about impressions from Thomas Powers' new publication. People like him, the Americanist wrote, understand that we cannot reform or transform each other through nuclear weapons. We must strive to increase the number of understanding individuals, and turn that understanding into a tool for preserving and strengthening peace.A kind of personal and extremely irregular correspondence was established between them. Two or three months later, a reply came from the small, mountainous, and wooded state of Vermont, where the American lived with his wife and three daughters. He wrote that he took a long time to respond because he was looking for a translator who would translate the two articles of the Americanist not with an approximate, but an accurate language. He reported that he had now read both articles in a complete translation and found it interesting to see himself through the eyes of a Russian, observing a traveler of the nuclear age with a hessian bag. He also mentioned that he was now engaged in the topic of nuclear winter. He further wrote that he demands his book publishers to produce them on paper that does not yellow or age over time—then his grandchildren and great-grandchildren can learn about the issues that concerned them in their days without hindrance.Regarding the use of particularly durable, long-lasting paper, the Americanist thought: a bit of snobbery, flaunting one's wealth. But at least it was comforting that his acquaintance, despite his gloomy premonitions, hoped to live long enough to see grandchildren and great-grandchildren and, moreover, believed that our books might be of interest to them.About a year and a half after their first meeting in Moscow, they met again in person when the Americanist came for the presidential elections in New York. It was on the friendly grounds of the Schwab House, at Victor and Rai's. Powers specifically flew in from Vermont, as the distance was not considerable.In the mind of the Americanist, this meeting was one of the key moments of his new journey, as it expanded both the journalistic and human meaning of the trip. However, it turned out to be too brief, squeezed in between two other meetings that day—with the chief editor of an influential magazine and the chief editor of an equally influential newspaper.The Americanist recognized and yet did not recognize the American, with whom he felt a strange, necessary, and yet precarious connection. He seemed simpler and somewhat more accidental than his intelligent, deep compositions. He appeared to have lost weight, and his beard seemed less bushy than described by the Americanist, while his blue, probing eyes casually glanced at the three Russians and their non-American life in America.As it turned out, Powers himself was originally from New York, where his father and brother still lived. He moved to Vermont because it was cheaper to live there, work was better in the quiet, and there was an opportunity to acquire his own house.Victor told him about Schwab House, where Soviet correspondents had been taking turns in an apartment on the eighth floor for more than twenty years. They planned to turn the red-brick Schwab House into a cooperative home. The owners initiated this operation to escape the law that prevented them from arbitrarily raising rent for tenants and earning as much money as possible. Residents were offered to buy apartments or leave the house by a certain deadline. For a three-room apartment where the Americanist spent his New York years with his family, Victor had to pay two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Fantastic! But, of course, it would pay off in about ten years; otherwise, Victor's successors would still have to rent a new apartment somewhere else in Manhattan—for two or three thousand dollars a month! Try to calculate. However, the editorial accounting did not look so far ahead and did not plan for such long-term savings.Thomas Powers spoke about how, on the open market, such an apartment with a luxurious view of the Hudson would cost four hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Madness! He explained this madness by the fact that over the past two decades, six to seven hundred thousand "blue-collar workers" have left Manhattan, and in their place, "white-collar workers," people of free professions, settled—they want to live at the "upper-middle-class" level and precisely in prestigious Manhattan, paying crazy money for prestige.But the American did not write about insane prices and crazy money in the latest issue of his magazine. As a new business card, he handed the Americanist a new article about nuclear winter.Are you familiar with this theory, reader? Scientists, both Russian and American, have identified another potential consequence of nuclear war, which, in short, will be that due to multiple nuclear explosions, sunlight will be blocked from reaching the Earth's surface, causing a sharp drop in temperature everywhere on the globe. Nuclear winter will set in. Surviving creatures and plants from the catastrophe will freeze to death in eternal winter, even in the tropics, and be doomed to a cold and hungry death. And with this new scientifically predicted total horror in our paradoxical age, some new hopes for reducing the nuclear threat are associated because the suicidal nature of a nuclear conflict becomes even more credibly insane.Over conversation and lunch, they spent two friendly hours at Schwab House. The American impressed Victor, who had experienced the war as a young signalman, seen various aspects of life, and understood people. He left with a souvenir—a jar of grainy caviar. Later, he sent a letter from Vermont, thanking Rai and Victor for their hospitality and jokingly mentioning that his children, who had never seen Russian caviar, thankfully mistake it for cockroach eggs, allowing him to enjoy the famous delicacy alone.Upon his return to Moscow in mid-November, the Americanist also received a letter from Thomas Powers. From the letter, he learned that winter had already arrived in Vermont. Fortunately, the Vermonter had prudently stocked up on firewood for this ordinary winter, buying seven large bundles and neatly arranging them in the cellar of his house, forming a woodpile four feet high, four feet wide, and fifty-six feet long."By spring, every log will fly out through the chimney," he wrote. "By spring, I'll be almost halfway through my new book."The Americanist tried to imagine what this Vermont house looked like and how, on a sunny, frosty day, the smoke rose beautifully into the sky from the red-brick chimney. He envisioned his American acquaintance, whom he would like to consider a friend, writing his book about the insane nuclear winter, dreaming of the arrival of an ordinary spring—and a time of reason.March-April 1985They walked through Lafayette Square, where modern homeless wanderers with vacant stares, sitting on benches or lounging on the grass, coexisted with the greenish bronze hero of the late 18th century on a moldy bronze horse, holding a triangular hat in a welcoming gesture. They crossed Pennsylvania Avenue at the zebra crossing, where, dividing it lengthwise, two lines of monolithic, knee-high concrete pillars stretched— a new precaution by the Secret Service, a barrier to suicide terrorists who might think of rushing in a heavy truck, smashing the iron fence, and, ignoring the integrity of perfectly manicured lawns, rushing with a load of explosives towards the white-columned portico of the White House.Even from the square, before stepping onto the zebra crossing, they saw on the other side half a dozen cameramen and guessed that they were waiting for them. They increased their pace, determination, and momentum and approached the checkpoint booth, reaching it with swift and even more determined steps. The cameramen, extending almost silent lines of their domestically produced weapons, recoiled in front of them. The latch on the iron grid gate clicked, letting four of them through. Two guards carefully checked them against some list, using both Soviet passports and made one of them turn back. After handing over the massive key to room number in the Madison Hotel, they went through the sensitive gate that detected metal on clothing and under clothing. When this barrier was behind them, and the four moved forward with even more rapid and determined steps, chest to chest, keeping pace and even seemingly trying to outpace each other, the right of the two lanes leading to the west wing of the White House was blocked by another noisy, bustling, shoving, living barricade of about fifty television journalists. Several voices almost chorused from it: "What questions will you ask?" And the correspondent known for his persistence from ABC shouted alone, with a mocking tone in his voice: "Will you ask him about the 'evil empire'?" The excitement grew with the awareness that they had become celebrities for an hour. But they walked without slowing down, without answering American colleagues, just smiling silently. The living barricade, clattering, shuffling, pushing, let them come close and stepped back, retreated, scattered at a distance from the entrance to the west wing, where it was supposed to disappear, and the door easily let in a lone ceremonial Marine—a Marine in a formal dark blue uniform, short haircut under a white hat, chest wheel above a white belt, long legs in dark blue neatly ironed trousers slightly curved from the elastic force and from special parade precision, and black, lacquered, heavy boots with thick noiseless soles.Inside, there was no daylight. Not far from the entrance sat a forgettable secretary behind the table, but of grenadier height, and a massive African-American Swiss guard in a light brown surcoat, who took their coats, hanging them in a tiny dressing room, the size of which indicated that visitors are rarely here in large groups, and that important people arriving here in warm limousines even in winter go without outerwear in the southern city of Washington.They waited near a large oval conference table in the twilight Roosevelt Room, where on the walls hung portraits of two Roosevelt presidents—Franklin Delano, known to us from the wartime alliance, and Theodore, who presided at the beginning of the century, was one of the heralds and first practitioners of American imperialism, and became famous, among other things, for the often mentioned even now saying: "Speak softly, and carry a big stick." In the Roosevelt Room, the early Roosevelt dominated the late Roosevelt in the number of painted canvases and in the life-size bronze embodiments; besides, they learned that he was, it turns out, a laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize—not for a big stick, probably, but for the ability to speak softly.When the signal, not immediately heard by them, sounded, indicating that visitors could be admitted, the Americans, assigned to the four Soviet journalists, rushed to the right, but the door opened from the opposite side. After the dimly lit Roosevelt Room, they were hit in the eyes by the dazzling light of television lamps directed at the wall of the Oval Room, where the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, stood, and they moved into this light, one after another, approaching the president, who extended his hand with a kind expression on his face. They also, each to the best of their ability, smiled in response to the television cameras, although they could not immediately figure out how to turn around to look their best on the television screens in the evening news broadcasts. In the Oval Room, it was crowded not only with television and press photographers, allowed for a few minutes, but also with officials. Important and even very important by themselves, officials became there less important and, it seemed, almost unimportant in the presence of the president, and the four of them could hardly consider them in these first dazzling moments.Later, at the president's invitation, they sat in pairs on two facing home-style soft sofas, separated by a light polished foldable table. The president settled into a semi-reclining chair with a high back, crossing his legs and raising his hands, fingers intertwined, to chest level. Behind him was an unlit fireplace with copper fittings polished to a shine. The walls of the office were light, with paintings on the walls—more of a manor-like landscape type than battle scenes. It somehow seemed impolite to divert one's gaze from the man in the semi-reclining chair to examine the other main part of the office, where a small, also home-style desk stood, and behind it, an armchair and on the sides of the desk, in special stands, the national flag and the presidential standard.Once seated, they remained silent for a minute because the filming continued, and the president squinted habitually, even closing his eyes, without changing his posture. Wrinkles on the neck and pigment spots on the back of the crossed hands revealed the age of seventy-four-year-old Ronald Reagan, but he sat without slouching, very upright, holding his small head high, on which thick, black, and young-looking hair glinted. The expression on his face was either friendly-restrained or friendly-firm. He was dressed smartly and stylishly, from loafers with a buckle to a red tie in a diagonal dark blue stripe. Watching him, always ready for shooting and appearing in public on the main stages of political life, so organically theatrical, Americ-anist suddenly remembered his sister, who in such cases, seeing people no less significant but just as freshly dressed, used to say: "Like from a gift box..."Yes, and he was in the Oval Room of the White House, a character in our documentary narrative, to whom—didn't we warn you about it?—there was no way to keep up with the movement of life with its fantastic realism. And he was there, the Americ-anist, making another voyage across the ocean at the border of October and November (again, this ever-present late autumn season on our pages!) in the company of old colleagues and acquaintances—Gennady, Vsevolod, and Henry, and this time they received a visa from the American Embassy in Moscow in just three weeks, and on the next day, under the visa, there was a handwritten note explaining the purpose of the trip: "To interview Mr. Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America."The eldest in their small temporary group was Gennady, an old friend with whom Americ-anist had taken the last joint interview, remember, with Herman Kap.They were flying to Washington on a connecting flight—via Montreal and New York, but everywhere they were met by colleagues who quickly transferred them from one airport to another. The eldest, in his light yellow coat and without any carry-on luggage, always accompanying our compatriots, walked ahead quickly, confidently, and very confidently, as if he had to fly to another continent to interview the leader of another nuclear power at least once a month and knew exactly how it was done, having no doubt about success.According to the official schedule of the White House, they spent only forty-two minutes in the Oval Room, not having time to ask even a third of the prepared questions during this time, only the second in history, an interview of Soviet journalists with the American president. Forty-two minutes, and Americ-anist felt behind him the held breath of the assembled male American guild in the room, the entire presidential cohort, which seemed to be watching the stage from the audience, and heard how the man in the semi-reclining chair, endowed with supreme power, sitting in front of them, crossing his fingers under which a tiny microphone was attached to the right lapel of his jacket, talked about the need for peace and good relations between the two countries. He said what one would like to hear from him, and then he said not quite the same—or not at all what the Americ-anist, on the international pages of his newspaper, was used to printing...This interview, which the White House sought, was a stroke in a large picture, one of the episodes in extensive preparations for the meeting of the top leaders of the two states, the first in over six years of dangerously deteriorating relations. Not two weeks had passed since the interview when Americ-anist, returning from Washington to Moscow, went to Geneva as a special correspondent and became one of the witnesses to the meeting, observed by the whole world.He found himself in Geneva amidst a multilingual crowd of over three thousand representatives of the world press, who had noisily settled into the somewhat gloomy exterior but comfortable interior of the International Press Center building for several days. However, as a Soviet journalist, he was more fortunate than many of his Western and Eastern colleagues. Unlike them, he witnessed the first moment of the initial meeting between Soviet and American leaders in the three-story gray stone villa "Fleur d'Eau," built over a hundred years ago by French Protestant bankers in the Geneva suburb of Versoix and temporarily leased by the American government.It was a cold, gray November morning, with low clouds covering the sky. About a hundred and fifty meters from the villa, Lake Geneva, hiding all its celebrated beauty, rippled with leaden waves. A cold wind blew from the lake, piercing reporters to the bone, seemingly avoiding the bodyguards from both countries who had taken control of the meeting place in advance.Thirty of the most privileged journalists waited on the right wing of the staircase leading to the tall glass door of the villa, behind a metal railing where their bodyguards had pushed them. On the other side of the gravel-paved driveway, on a specially constructed wooden platform, another contingent of a hundred or so press warriors shivered and waved in the freezing wind. All of them wore blue passes on their coats and jackets, and all the transient guests at this villa, who came and went, were identified by these passes. The mighty plane tree—with its bare, thick trunk, lacking a blue pass—was a local resident. Branches stretched in all directions in front of the house, serving as a natural witness. The remnants of shriveled yellow leaves trembled on its bare branches. A gentle slope led to the lakeshore, sparsely dotted with furry coniferous trees whose branches hung like those of our willows. On the shore, in front of the cold rippling water, the wind snapped two pieces of red Swiss flags with white crosses on flagpoles, and from time to time, as if on maneuvers, amusing figures of Swiss soldiers ran along the edge of the shore, reminding of the active participation of the small neutral country in the meeting of the leaders of two nuclear giants.Such was the prepared scene, and representatives of the media were supposed to, with lightning-fast written messages and, most importantly, instant television footage, inform the world about the start of the meeting. Exactly at ten in the morning—a soft crunch of gravel under the heavy machine's tires, and it slowly rolled out from behind the corner of the villa, large, black, shiny, with the Soviet flag, and stopped in front of the stairs. Reagan, waiting for his guest behind the main door of the villa, came out and began to descend the stairs. The door of the Soviet limousine opened, a person in a gray coat and hat appeared—M. S. Gorbachev—and, smiling restrainedly, taking off his hat, took a few steps towards the American, and they met— the meeting took place! They were not introduced to each other, they recognized each other, and exchanged handshakes, two of the most well-known contemporaries, and together went up the stairs, and everything was very simple, unexpectedly simple, as any two people could greet each other, a special, saturated silence, the chirping and clicking of technology, the tense breath of witnesses—chroniclers of the modern era betrayed the importance of those seconds and hours that followed seconds...Providing this verbal sketch of the Geneva meeting, the author, in the manner of old artists, would like to briefly depict, behind the metal forbidden railing on the left at the base of the stairs, amidst the excited journalist colleagues, stretching their eyes and lenses toward the two leaders, a man with a notepad in hand, middle-aged, with a frozen face and a fur hat pulled down over his head, indicating the presence of the Americ-anist at this remarkable event. But our age does not settle for the techniques of old masters. Our age demands not only new thinking but also new imagination, and now, having sketched his verbal outline, the author would like to step away from the villa "Fleur d'Eau" and seemingly rise above it, and now not only the two most well-known contemporaries standing side by side are visible, and not only clusters of witness-reporters under the vigilant eyes of bodyguards recording this meeting, but also the November barren lawns and bare trees are visible, and the famous lake, lying like a lead hollow between snow-capped mountains, and higher and higher, all less lake and mountains, the outlines of seas and continents have already appeared, and higher still, higher still— and......the abyss of stars has opened, full; there is no number to the stars, and there is no bottom to the abyss...And we see the white-blue, fairy-tale beautiful, crystal-fragile globe. We observe this new land from the height of a new sky, from the abyss that has no bottom, from the cosmos that has now opened a new chasm of dangers and disagreements, because there, on the other side, even space wishes to populate itself with weapons in case of impending wars...But this is already the subject of new journeys and books that will be written by one or another Americ-anist, although our own does not want to completely set aside the pen, especially since a new dialogue between the two countries has begun, and after the agreement reached on the resumption of direct Aeroflot flights, flying to America becomes easier again.December 1985

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Articles
Journey of the Americanist
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In his new artistic-documentary book, the renowned internationalist S. Kondrashov once again delves into the theme that has become central to him: we and the Americans, living in a world overshadowed by the threat of nuclear war. His protagonist, the Americanist, has devoted over twenty years to studying the USA. In our times, he embarks on a new journey to this country. Fresh impressions from travels and encounters with Americans—from an unemployed miner and a mid-level farmer to prominent businessmen and the President of the United States—are presented against the backdrop of reflections on our era, which commands nations to live in peace.The author of the book is Stanislav Kondrashov.