It was only after I returned from a trip to Vladivostok at that end of February that I my structured existence fell apart. The babushka had left to visit her granddaughter in Samara and with her went my equilibrium. Part of the problem was that I had rediscovered sex and substance abuse during my trip to Vladivostok, after three months of living as a monk. And, with the babushka gone, I had nobody to keep me in check. So, for the next two weeks, right up to my expulsion, I went native with a vengeance. My guides were a bunch of petty criminals that I had known since my arrival; all it took was to start drinking with them to be reduced to their level.
Before I get into the gory details, though, I should elaborate on my problems with the FSB. During most of this period, my apartment resembled an unlicensed drug store that could have earned me 5 years in the zone. I was perpetually wasted and occasionally corrupting minors, while my friends processed the noxious khimka almost daily in the kitchen. In the midst of this sea of illegality, the FSB nailed me for... trying to register at OVIR.
Location, location, location: a bird's eye view of Tynda in it's prime, 1987
My initial Tynda registration was set to expire in early March. I had already lived there for three months and figured it would be a simple procedure. OVIR's FSB agent, a grotesquely fat man in his late 20s hyperconscious of just how little depends on him, had other plans for me. Apparently, he had been to visit the babushka several times in search of me while I was away in Vladivostok.
Now that I had come to him, he summoned me to his office and, with the simian look of a border guard at a crossing unused to foreigners, he slowly flipped through the pages of my passport. At first, he seemed more interested in grilling me about my stay in Italy, where I had received my visa, than telling me what was wrong. The fat fuck was particularly interested in what Italians eat. Finally, he got to the point: if I wanted to stay any longer, I needed to produce my journalist's accreditation. It was a red herring - he just wanted me out, but I didn't have it with me.
After trying to reason with him that I had never had any problems registering anywhere in Russia - even until recently in Tynda - I finally settled for one week's registration, during which time I said I'd have our secretary send the accreditation. That plan bombed when she didn't know what I was talking about.
By this point, I was delusional enough to decide to just lay low after my registration ended. I had a hostage's mentality; after four months in Tynda I had grown attached to my tormentors. Leaving without a climax just didn't seem right. I even developed a network of hideouts - without any sense of just how ridiculous my plan must have seemed - before an unpleasant encounter a few days later reminded me of just how small Tynda is.
The following Saturday, while I was hanging out at Tranzit, considered Tynda's most "progressive" club because they play the occasional Beastie Boys song, the FSB agent stumbled in. He had clearly been drinking for a long time, his skin blotched red in that way bloated-fat people get. Initially, I saw it as an opportunity to reach an agreement po-chelovechesky, forgetting the cardinal rule about small-fry operatives: the less authority they have, the more eager they are to flaunt it.
I tried being friendly, even drinking a shot with him and his wobbling friend, but to no avail. He eventually told me that he was hassling me because he had read everything I had written about Tynda on our site, and that he wasn't pleased with what he had seen. It didn't make sense at first; did this slug really think he could persecute me? Was I the victim of some clumsy attempt at an FSB crackdown? He had a working knowledge of about seven English words, so how did he even know what I had written?