Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/jrufusco/public_html/wordpress/wp-settings.php on line 472

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/jrufusco/public_html/wordpress/wp-settings.php on line 487

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/jrufusco/public_html/wordpress/wp-settings.php on line 494

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/jrufusco/public_html/wordpress/wp-settings.php on line 530

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/jrufusco/public_html/wordpress/wp-includes/cache.php on line 103

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/jrufusco/public_html/wordpress/wp-includes/query.php on line 21

Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/jrufusco/public_html/wordpress/wp-includes/theme.php on line 623
WHITE ON WHITE: a film noir — “GROßE ROTE TOMATE” Eve Sussman
rufus corporation

“GROßE ROTE TOMATE”

In the mid 1980’s when the imagination of Berlin without the wall was just that, John Powers attempted to cross Checkpoint Charlie dressed as a big, red tomato. His “Grosse rote Tomate” performance was a light on the idiocy of it all and the German penchant for classification, couched in an argument of qualities. The tomato confounded the border guards who could not see fit to let it pass, in spite of it being in possession of a US passport. He was too big for the pedestrian walkway, and lacking four wheels and an engine, did not qualify as an automobile.

Waiting outside the whitewashed concrete wall of the forbidden town of Baikonur, that houses 5000 keepers of the Cosmodrome, the diamond pattern of the wall began to take on a quality of pearly gates. I imagined John there in his gigantic tomato costume trying to cajole the guards and talk his way through those gates. I could only envision a flattened, splattered tomato.

These people were intimidating. And they had our passports. (the fantastic power imbued in this silly symbolic little book)

Hours go by. The car is hot and cramped. Jeff cracks the door.

My NYC instinct snaps, “don’t touch the ground!”.

“Don’t step from the vehicle, sir” does not need to be stated in a common language. Any of NY’s finest would of taken the cracking of the door as an incentive. Jeff closes the door softly.

Claudia is still a smoker. A beautiful Portuguese woman jonesing for a cigarette is too much for our hosts – or captors, neither they nor us are sure – to bear. East of New York nicotine is like music, a shared language. They offer her a smoke and a chance to get out of the car. The cigarette is magic. Nothing like fucking tobacco. We are pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock. The sun has gone down and the gloating 22 year old with our passports has removed the mirrors from in front of his eyes. These guys clearly don’t have a clue what to do with us. They cannot let us in and they cannot let us go. Luckily there are more cigarettes and the shy scratching of dead earth that people resort to when at a loss for words.

A civilian appears. A plain clothes guy. Pale, skinny and awkward, he does not harbor the xenophobic attitude of his uniformed compatriots. He seems perfectly friendly as if he’s coming to welcome his foreign guests, as if we had an invitation, as if he was expecting us. Anatoli speaks nine words of English: Yes, No, maybe, go, come, now, tomorrow, police, FSB. He’s nice. He smiles a lot. He wishes he spoke more English. We wish we spoke Russian.

Through the nine words and sign language we understand Anatoli will drive us back to the train station in Turitam, the Kazakh town that surrounds the little piece of Russia, where we disembarked four hours earlier. We have failed at our mission to see a rocket, but are relieved that the hours of limbo seem to have reached an end. We throw our packs in the trunk and pile into his black Ford [made in St. Petersburg]. Anatoli takes our passports.

He starts the engine and drives in an ark that looks like its heading to the main road. He has the wheel hard to the left as if testing the turning radius. The car makes a perfect semi-circle in the dirt. We are no longer heading in the direction of the train station. He hits the gas and we pass through the gates. Anatoli has driven us into the forbidden city.

We are inside Baikonur.

by Eve Sussman