The Northville Review
an online literary journal
Inside Joke, Explained: It’s Not Russia, It’s Us

Danny Collier

Each tiny errand took hours. We couldn’t find a microbus with squeeze room for two, we were distracted by the radioactive caves, our tram stopped for a corpse, we were detained by the police for going to the sauna without a passport. That was Vladivostok.

The police in Ust-Barguzin wanted us to translate their Chilton’s auto repair book. We told the airline cashier in Ulan Ude to get on the dick so we had to take the train. In Moscow, we agreed to meet at the Tverskaya McDonald’s, then stood each other up because there are two McDonald’s on the former Lenin Street. We agreed to always meet at the socialist realist statue of a farmer jerking off a factory worker. That helped, but it still took forever to do anything in Russia.

After returning the same steak three times in Amsterdam, after a forced march across a frozen lake in the company of Germans, after a day-long urban hike to a closed-for-the-holidays bar in Brussels, we started to get suspicious. Back home, we agreed to meet at the Starbucks on Connecticut Avenue.

We did this several times.

About the author

Danny Collier earned an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University. He created the ongoing project An Abbreviated Family Dictionary ( and helps out a friend's unpublished poetry manuscript by maintaining its twitter feed (@unpubd_poetry). His writing has appeared in places such as Everyday Genius and Kill Author.