Tanya, the eXile's babe sales manager, and I were in St. Petersburg last weekend to scout out the possibility of opening a new eXile there. We learned a few things along the way.
The first thing we noticed about St. Petersburg wasn't the facelift that the city supposedly got for its 300th birthday. As far as I could tell, only a few buildings here and there were either scaffolded or repainted, hardly a difference from what I saw last August.
Nope. It was the girls. "The girls here in Piter are beautiful," Tanya observed as we sat at a sidewalk cafe on Nevsky Prospekt.
And she was right: St. Petersburg's dyevs look so much prettier, sexier, and, well, thinner than Moscow's as they walk the streets.
I put the question to Tanya: "Why is it that Moscow girls seem to have become uglier and fatter lately? Are they becoming Americanized? Is it the diet?"
To me it made no sense: when it comes to being a chick magnet for the fabled eleven time zones, Moscow is like Los Angeles and New York combined, attracting both the star-seeking and the money-grubbing. In other words, the cream of the female crop, in a country where the bar is already raised high. So why would St. Petersburg's girls look so objectively better than Moscow's?
"Do you ever look into the cars in Moscow?" Tanya asked me with a small hint of contempt.
"You know I take the metro," I said.
"That's why you don't see all the beautiful girls in Moscow. They all drive cars now. They've all hitched up with rich men, or they work, or whatever. Any girl who's beautiful has a car. The rest take the metro."
No wonder the ratios on the metro escalator have been changing. Whereas a few years ago, a ride on the escalator was like a combination beauty contest/wedding market, today, as the girls get uglier, they also look at you less, and if they do, usually it's with a measure of contempt. The reason, I realize, is the same reason why all losers and trash despise each other: no one wants to be a member of a club that would accept them. And they don't want a fellow member of that foot-dragging poverty club staring at them either.
But if all of Moscow's beautiful girls are driving cars, then that means they're doomed to come down with serious cases of America-Ass. I don't care what anyone says: Moscow's girls have become fatter and uglier, and Petersburg's were hotter.
There were other surprises as well. First of all, St. Petersburg is not nearly as overbooked as claimed, only overpriced. We had no problem getting trains into and out of the Second City, even managing to arrage our return train right on the platform just minutes before leaving. Apparently there were no hotel rooms, which isn't a surprise (there are hardly any hotels at all there), but the apartment rentals were ridiculously overpriced.
Also, while I didn't see much of the ballyhooed remodeling that was promised (most of the earmarked federal funds were stolen, as we all know), I did notice that all the storefront property which had lain empty or unused right up till last fall was now full of...stores! One local expat bar owner told me the reason was a change in the local administration.
"For years the Planning Commission refused to allow any stores on the storefront levels. They put up every obstacle possible. They were all corrupt bureaucrats. Then suddenly about 9 months ago everything changed. They must have gotten orders. Now they let everybody and their grandmother have any first-floor store they wanted. There are probably too many now. Everyone's taking out credit, but after the summer, a lot of these stores will go bankrupt. Still, it's nice to see."
Indeed, the city is full of tiny stores, quirky restaurants and cafes, bars, and shops just selling shit. It makes you think that St. Petersburg may finally have a chance.
I asked our potential local business partner, who runs a leading sex shop/peep show, if the mini-revival had to do with Putin's naming of Valentina Matvienko as the new presidential envoy and likely successor to St. Petersburg governor and corrupt bastard Vladimir Yakovlev.