Getting around the crime and punishment theme park
Harry Potter World is the opiate of the masses. While your bourgeois friends are drowning the realities of economic inequality in a stein of butter beer, you prefer to spend your summer vacation fully facing the vicissitudes of The System. Forget amusement. You want to be disappointed.
So you took a left somewhere around Orlando and headed for the real thing. Crime and Punishment Land: The St. Petersburgh Experience. And now you’re here, at the park. But where to start? Yesterdayland? Siberian Adventure? With this handy walking guide, you’ll never be out of the loop!
First things first. Head straight to Oksana Pinchpenny’s Bargain Basement, where you can pick up a tattered overcoat for a steal. While you’re there, throw down a few roubles for a souvenir ax--in case at any point in your visit you are seized by apoplectic rage at the numbing violence of class stratification. Vow to return here to seek vengeance re: the same.
You’re lookin’ good! Now strut your stuff down Desolation Alley, where there are lots of things to eat, just not in this economy! Watch through grimy windows as oligarchs on a bus detour from Harry Potter World eat cauldron cakes and chocolate-covered frogs. Drool. Eat sawdust. Hunch over and keep pacing.
In fact, pace right over to Slum Mcshevsky’s Sparsely-Appointed Garret, where you can truly experience the plight of the urban poor. Lines are long, but worth the wait. Take your turn tossing and turning in the sweat-soaked sheets, wondering how you will make rent and how exactly you will kill Ms. Pinchpenny and if, after all, there is a moral code adequate for these changing times you live in.
Enough thinking, and more drinking! Head to the nearest tavern, where, for a few more roubles, you can throw back beers diluted with the soured milk of human kindness. Make sure to cash in your coupon for One Free Lengthy Diatribe About the Moral State of Russia in the Twilight of the Tsars, or any other ideas about human despair and nihilism you’ve been wanting to share with your fellow park-goers. Have another beer. Develop a fever that will stay with you the rest of your trip. Contemplate whether this is a commentary on lack of universal healthcare, or simply the burning of the human mind in the face of unbeatable economic odds.
Go to several more taverns. Wonder why your fever is getting worse. Faint. While being resuscitated in one of the booths, overhear Ms. Pinchpenny’s niece exclaim loudly that her aunt will be home alone that night. Sharpen you souvenir ax, slip into the shadows, and head straight to Bargain Basement, where you can engage in the park’s first ever virtual reality simulation, Eat the Rich. Make a fool out of yourself fiddling with the headset straps, and accidentally “kill” the park employee playing PinchPenny, as well as her niece, who was just returning from her smoke break when she heard the ruckus.
Flee. Faint. Repeat.
Whatever you do, don’t let your guilt-delirium keep you from riding the St. Petersburg Express, less of a roller coaster and more of a carriage ride around a simulacra of slums. This ride is safe for all ages but not all temperaments: you will run over a close friend, at which point the ride will stop, and you will have to carry the victim (a low-paid park employee) home to his miserable family, knowing that even with the money his daughter pulls in with prostitution, it will not be enough to pay for his funeral.
To assuage your guilt, buy the mourning family some soup at Ba-Bortsch-Ka, one of the park’s most popular “food” kiosks. Keep pacing. Act neurotic and evasive. Simultaneously seek out trouble by asking for a photo with one of the many park characters dressed in large foam police officer suits. While posing, ask, out of the side of your mouth, if the cops think you are capable of killing an old woman with your ax, and if you were to do it, how they think you’d do it (see also If I Did It: The OJ Simpson Laser Light Show, run by our subsidiary). When they start wigging out, wig out back. Faint as a distraction.
Head to the old-timey Russian post office to see if your middle-class family has sent you some money for the rest of your day at the park. Find they have not, but that your sister is running around with an employee from the park’s faded-glory boy band, The Government Functionaries. Vow to destroy her marriage.
The sun is setting, but it’s okay! You are almost to Siberian Adventure, the most distant of the park’s fun centers, which you thought you might skip until you heard about the crazy-short lines. And is it just you, or has that foam cop character been following you for the last few hours? Is this about the VR bungle earlier? Speed up your pace, wracked by guilt but sure you can explain yourself.
Do just that (explain yourself) to a sympathetic purveyor of rustic seed-breads nearby. With the help of this wise woman--whose backstory and personal grit you find heart-wrenching--you confess to a turnstile agent: Times being what the are, you killed the pawnbroker and her niece over at the Bargain Basement VR show. Venture that, while this was a wrong move, you are still hoping that it will invert the bourgeois paradigm and bring justice to a people benighted by years of serfdom. Make a distended speech about how, if it does not, it can only be blamed on the dislocating effects of rapid urbanization, and will also really harsh your park vibe.
Accept a mandatory behind-the-scenes “tour” at Siberian Adventure, learning how the park itself is actually made and the value of a hard day’s work, etc. Also, fainting. Ultimately reconcile your disgust with the cruelty of human existence with the fact that you are really, really into the rustic seed-bread vendor. When your tour is over, meet her in the parking lot and, face flushed with the camaraderie of the human spirit in epic battle with structural forces, vow to return again soon.
Send a postcard to one of your Harry Potter friends. Write “wish you were here,” taking some small satisfaction with the knowledge that wouldn’t last a minute.