(A tainted retelling of Franz Kafka’s Trial)
Here heralds the beginning of a beguiling week of wonders, of tearing around the nation on a series of misguided misadventures, joined by prodigious journalist and comrade, Tripvan Lavalamp.
Though this awkward mismatch of nouns is not the man’s real name, for the sake of not running him through the nefarious mud of his devilish deeds, or exposing the world to his criminal leanings (he said he was only taking them out to the woods for a picnic, and remains innocent until proven otherwise) we will let his rejoices be told under the T9 transcribing of his truthful moniker.
Getting on with it: Tripvan passed down through the clouds and screeched on to the dusty tarmac of Vilnius’ gravel excuse for an airport, sporting a head full of expectancies (and possibly paranoia painkillers) for what was to fall upon him, during his stint staying in this land of moose meat and minstrels.
If he’d known that within days he would be forced to cough bribes, be eyeballed by knifers and attacked by various bears (all of which comes later, later, later…) perhaps he would have double checked his itinerary.
But, somehow, I believe he would whirl through this rotten rotor all over again.
To slash this introduction short, to cut to the meat of it, it all began following an unfortunate idea- handed to us by a mousey brunette obviously filled by some malicious scorn to send us off on an unpassable mission-
-Us the brain damaged duo, tried to travel to the soils of the closed communist neighbour of Lithuania, Belarus.
Between the borders of Belarus, Lenin likenesses linger, monolithic block buildings line the horizons like dominos, and the currency is worth less than life in Libya. The whole show is run by some despotic neuroses case whose hand is on the buzzer, waiting to blare it against any intruder stepping foot inside who might blow his cover and show the whole world he’s just some nutjob named Martha who wears bikinis under his bathrobe.
Minsk is the capital city, and like a couple of deluded honeymooners, we thought we’d ramble out there for a jaunt to scope out the scenery. Easy done.
Problem was, this necessitated Visas. Which in turn necessitated patience. Which in turn necessitated for life to roll round and round through a series of hierarchical hurdles- obstacles which never lead anywhere- tumble drying us back to the end of a long queue which we were just at the head of an hour earlier.
Old wack-job McMartha wasn’t going open her country’s legs too easy, it appeared…her checkpoints needed coaxing, niggling, numbing.
We checked our chances. It was all a bizarre chaotic experience which nearly cost us our sanity, cost me fifteen bucks and probably cost us the opportunity of ever entering Belarusian airspace until the end of time.
Probably had we snuck in between her commie knees, and skipped around the joyous playgrounds of her innards for a day or two, we would never have escaped.
Probably it’s all for the better. But without further cryptic elaboration, here, by the embassy gates, our story starts.
Dressed down in thongs and summer duds, we travailed the streets toward the embassy like skipping on the breeze.
“No troubles man,” I assured Tripvan. “We’ll be in and out faster than a fornicating fifteen year old.”
Realising my error, I spun about, searching for some wood to knock on, but all too tardy. I had jinxed us.
We were approaching the gulag dressed down as an embassy, when we noticed what looked like a silent riot winding up the road.
“Are all these people trying to get in or stay out of Belarus?” we pondered.
Jabbering broken English to a Lithuanian copper, we managed to manifest ourselves as high-flying Western Pigs, and skipped the line for entry. We were in.
For the first time.
We sauntered through the door as if on a Sunday stroll. An unmanned metal detector bleeped at us, as we passed on in unnoticed.
And we weren’t the only ones; bedlam was taking place all around.
Soviet stooges were cramming through the detector, unnervingly setting the red cross lights blazing and beeping, and sparking images of pocketed uzis and grenades a-popping through our imaginations.
For a country which had experienced a suicide bomber attack on its main train station just weeks prior, you would think security would be relatively imperative…but at least the lack of checking seemed to make it all roll faster.
Faster and faster to the point of absolute rampaging anarchy- cougars in leopard spots were pushing passports in front of the jaded official’s weary fingers, cons were comparing prison tatts as their wives whited out records from application lines, winos dolled in garb stolen from the set of Schindler’s List bundled and shoved in all directions, and nobody had a clue what the hell was happening.
Tripvan and I took it as a laugh, found ourselves some visa application forms and jumped into filling out the particulars as bogus as could be believed.
Artist and sports writer.
Reason for entry?
Holidaying in Minsk (Tourism).
Accommodation during stay?
In a hotel.
A good few infinites later our parchments parading as forms were finished and we bumbled our Australian arses to the front of the only line where the counteress knew a skerrick of our language.
At first, she seemed to be on our side.
A grim giggle, she was ours. Visas coming up.
Suddenly, her voice grew hostile.
“Which hotel you stay in?”
“Ahh, it says there. A Hotel.”
This minx from Minsk was not in control of her vocal regulator as her voice-box began to fluctuate rapidly.
“YOU MUST LEAVE, AND BRING PAPER WHICH SHOWS YOU ARE RESERVED IN A HOTEL. OTHERWISE, NO TOURIST VISA.”
Right. The Trial begins.
Back on the broken footpaths, the pair began to formulate.
“We can do this. We just find a computer, book into the dingiest hostel possible, print out the reso and presto.”
Presto was not so simple. Running treadmills in a shopping centre like mad cats, we eventually managed to purloin a printer from a perturbed media-shop owner, who I am sure to this day has been skimming leisurely through my debit card account which I think I left on his desktop.
Already shaky by now, we ventured back into the heat, still blinded by the sweaty optimism we would be ‘Holidaying in Minsk’ by sundown.
Back to the chaos. Surrounded by a corridor filled with pistol packin’ commies, how could we know it was to be us cast out for villainy in minutes?
We crept diligently back to the desk of our rabid wench. Her hair was cropped in a short, sixties bob, with spirals acting as sideburns. A white Grace Jones with predatory peepers. Over-boiling.
We waited for a stocky cougar to finish flirting her dyke arse back into visa-town, growing increasingly impatient and doubtful.
Finally, history flash-forwarding, World War 1, World War 2, then now, we had reached the front of the line, handing over our registration gently so as not to upset the fragile balance of our bitch.
She looked it over. And over. And over. Then she shot us the glance.
“Where are your names?”
“No, it’s only our reservation number. That’s all they put on the print-out,” I protested weakly, truthfully. “We’ve already paid a down deposit.”
Goodbye down deposit.
“I NEED YOUR NAMES, OTHERWISE, NO TOURIST VISA!”
She was percolating. And I pushed it.
“Hey lady, please, we’ve already gone to so much trouble to get this reservation.”
”I NEED NAMES!”
It felt reminiscent of a KGB interrogation.
Then, it tumbled out of my tongue like an internal A-bomb. It was all over.
“Ah, you’re crazy!” I told her straight up.
She shook like a Ren and Stimpy cartoon, close-ups of purple veins pulsing out of her neck.
“I’M CRAZY?? I’M CRAZY?? NO TOURIST VISA FOR YOU!!”
She slammed her booth shut.
Shit. The honeymoon was doubled over.
Tripvan tried to ask for one last chance, when a big bear of a previously non-existent guard (where was he for the pistol packers?) grizzled on over mumbling unfathomable threats in Russian to usher us out of the embassy.
A final nail was hammered in when a tiny, caged bird-like creature, wearing a pink blouse and shadowy brow, was told to come out of her connecting booth and speak;
“when embassy in bad behaviour is, must out go you must.” Then she disappeared back behind a doorway, as if out of a subconscious scene from a David Lynch film.
“What? I don’t understand.” I continued to billet us, but the Bear continued bidding us outside…then another A-bomb slapped from my hatch.
“Ah, fuck you all.”
Tripvan shot a startled glare at me. I gulped heavy.
The bear guard lowered his head, as if computing. It appeared he knew at least one English word. He began to shiver.
“Fuck you? FAAAAK YOU?”
His shoulders humped, his neck crested, his fists balled. We were on the verge of being obliterated by a KGB monster.
He marched us out to the street, uranium texturing his face in fury.
We waved apologies and assurances as he began spieling to a policeman.
We scooted on out of there as fast as our thongs would carry us.
“Shit man.” We looked at each other, shook up and bleary hearted.
“Maybe we should try the Russian embassy to go to Kaliningrad?”
If we’d followed through with this secondary debacle, rather than immediately hitting the nearest bar and exploding into laughter, I can logically infer that we would have been blotted from the face of the earth. Down into the ditch with the cleaver, is how ends The Trial.
Instead, like all rampaging tornados, this was just the beginning of its warpath. Like the mad Don Quixote told his (even madder) squire Sancho, "If last night Fortune shut the door which we were looking for, and deceived us [...], it is now opening wide to us another, better, and more certain adventure," and off they rode into the burning sunlight, doomed to their insanity and guided into the palms of the world.