What hits you next is just how generous your friends become, once they know you are to be called friend. If you’ve been vetted, known, seen—well then you are an ally and you have an ally. The structure of values is not abstract or saturated through the civic fabric but embedded directly in a network of relations. These are my people, this is me, this is who I can trust, this is who I avoid. Tribes swimming in a dissociative sea.
I remember one particular moment, in the South, sitting in a hazy backyard in white plastic chairs. His father is the chief of police. He is a judge in Krasnodar. He owns the only American burger restaurant in town. He got some Kobe steaks from a friend of a friend but could not sell them—it is unclear whether the beef actually came from Japan. Across the river a massive fire is slowly burning, a thick column of smoke filling the air before fading off into wisps, black tendrils reaching out along the evening breeze.
In the South, life is generous and hard and easy all at the same time. The fields stretch out in industrial rectangles, too large, segregated by perfect wind-breaking lines of birches and pines. Overgrown cottages, root cellars, abandoned and choked by creeping scrub, falling back to the earth surrounded by greening barley and wheat.