Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Posting from an underground shopping mall right next to the Kremlin (how things have changed here!). After a night's stopover in Helsinki I arrived in Moscow, am playing every night here. First night was in Le Club, the #1 jazz club. It was a Monday night so a small but appreciative crowd. One young Russian pianist had heard me play in a regional Russian town in 1995 and he had a pirate cassette of the concert which he seemed to know backwards. Last night I played at the Residence of the Australian Ambassador, a very well-received performance. Tonight is a dinner-show in my hotel Marriott Tsverkaya. On the way here I had a strange experience. Only a few hundred metres from the Kremlin a man walking in front of me dropped a plastic pouch containing a thick wad of $US100 bills, probably several thousand dollars. I called out to him but a man beside me scooped it up, placed it in his pocket and tried to hush me, offering to split the proceeds. Naturally I didn't want to participate and kept calling the guy who eventually turned and came up to us. He didn't speak English and my "accomplice" spoke to him in Russian, clearly he told the guy I had his money as I was accosted and he demanded I empty my pockets and open my bag. Fortunately I was only carrying roubles. I kept telling the guy to hand over the money, told him to do the right thing, pointing to God in the sky to indicate a higher morality. He kept saying "I need money, please". I kept using body language to tell the victim that this other guy had his money not me and finally he knew the game was up and handed it over with a whimper of weary resignation. The victim looked at him in disgust, took his money and left. Usually people carrying large amounts of US dollars in Moscow are gangsters so I guess I may have returned ill-gotten gains, but it felt right.
UPDATE: Have just found out that the above scenario is a well-known scam in Moscow, which I haven't encountered despite the fact that this is my 6th visit here. The two guys would have been a team. Had I taken the hook and through greed got involved in splitting the proceeds, I would have been challenged by the guy who dropped it and outed. Then they threaten to call the police. Nobody wants to go to jail in a foreign land so they are then in a position to extort all your money from you in return for not reporting you. The so-called wad of money would have had a real bill at the top and bottom only and in between plain paper. Clever. Glad I wasn't in the slightest bit tempted! However, I did think I was really doing a good turn and helping somebody and have now lost the comcomitant warm inner glow associated with such acts. Drat.


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