Gosh, having artists for friends can sometimes be somewhat perplexing and not a little bemusing. They go to the strangest of places, as can be attested by my last day in Riga, which was crowned by a few artsy openings, a photography exhibition by Andrejs Grants, complete with wine, members of the press and pretentious art groupies, and the other ones which were…Well, it’s easier to describe them with a link. There were three exhibitions opening, and they at least looked like something very contemporary, modern in a very retro way and utterly, mind numbingly soulless. There was also a piece of performance art being performed twice, but, judging from the description read later, we were lucky to have just missed it those both times. Oh, to say a few words about the Andrejs Grants photography exhibition. It was old school B&W photography, tons of portraits with no artistic distinction, and a few actually interesting landscape/situational works that none the less lacked punch and originality, at least to my untrained & burned out consumer whore eyes.
Alex & I also managed to squeeze in a visit to the Riga History & Shipping Museum, and it was a fine, fine museum, but we, being interested in things maritime, would have wished for it to be more “Shipping” and less “Riga History”. As it were it was mostly town history with a small hall of ship models and paraphernalia thrown in to justify the mention in museum’s title. Interesting thing, by the way, there was a sudden swimming pool craze in eastern block cargo shipbuilding after the 70s. Every model of a cargo ship above a certain size suddenly sported a swimming pool in the most incongruous of locations. We found that sort of interesting, at any rate, but I suppose it does pale somewhat in telling. Not something to talk about at parties, one would think.
I also managed to fit in a sort of a “Riga Nightlife Experience”, despite my advanced age and general decrepitude, not to mention general malaise and fever acquired in lieu of a souvenir in Germany. I just left the Cinema Museum where Alex had his China expedition presentation, and, as it was only around ten pm and Alex had a wife and child in tow and had to go home, decided to take a stroll around the old town and find myself a cozy, moderately priced bar. I walked past café Leningrad, a place right next to the Naughty Squirrel Hostel I was staying at, but deemed it too close to the hostel to count and decided to find something more “exotic”. I walked around the old town for a while, but didn’t find anything that would have suited my mood at the time, just some posh soulless places, some titty bars equally soulless and probably even more expensive, and some outright dumps with a funeral parlor atmosphere despite rock-bottom prices. Dispirited and cold I walked back to the hostel, but as I neared the Naughty Squirrel I once again passed Café Leningrad, but this time there was a live band playing right in the middle of a small crowd (they didn’t have a stage), and it sounded absolutely right. Just right for my mood and the mood of the evening, the feel of the bar and the cut of the crowd, the time of the year and the weather outside. Plus the singer had a great voice, the band’s live performance was splendid nor did it hurt that she was easy on the eyes, even though quite obviously a player for the other team, her butch girlfriend supplying background vocals and guitar. The band’s name was simply Liz Clark, some chick from Denver, Colorado, that now lives in Ireland with her girlfriend during the summer and tours Europe with her band, and the ever-vigilant girlfriend, during the winter. I liked the band so much I even bought their CD, complete with an autograph that will no doubt make it worth a dozen or more euros on an on-line auction in a decade or two.
But that was that. The whole extent of my Riga experience. This morning I woke up at 6:20am, collected my dirty clothes from the various shadowy corners of the room, and stalked off towards the bus station, through chilly morning mist and crowds of bleary eyed drunks on their noisy, sometimes belligerent way to various hostels. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep at the hostel. It seemed at times that the whole place was one huge, thumping sub-woofer populated by obscenely drunk Anglo-Saxons who walked into closed doors, wrestled nosily just behind the wall and enlivened the bathrooms with their technicolor yawns. I did get some sleep on the way to Tallinn on a deluxe bus, a magic bus with a first-class lounge with wifi and tables at the back. I did take advantage of the wifi for a while, but mainly just took advantage of the table as a surface to rest my head against and as a convenient place for my drool to collect in large, pretty puddles. Now I am sitting at the fore bar on board the Tallink Star ferry, as it clangs, screeches and shudders at over 25 knots through the broken ice sheets of The Gulf of Finland towards Helsinki, once again enjoying that staple of Baltic experience, free wifi, and drinking overpriced Finnish beer. Oh, and do pardon me for the somewhat worse-than-usual quality of the photos, and their relative sparsity. I now take most of the pictures with my smudgy phone camera, and after that there’s still the pain of getting them onto the aged netbook, which in turn adds an extra layer of difficulty with its ponderous editing & posting speeds. But yes, tis time to go home.