I’ve written about my trip to the Soviet Union before. It was, for me, a highly transformational experience. It was the first time I’d ever travelled outside of North America, it was the furthest I’d ever been from my family, it was a to a part of the world where I didn’t speak the language or understand the culture, and I was given freedoms from supervision that … well, luckily I never got in any real trouble.
By 1989, I’d flown many times. I’d flown to Saskatchewan to visit with my mom’s family, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia on family trips, Florida on a few occasions to visit with my grandmother and her sister and go to Disney World. I had yet to fly over an ocean, nor cross any more than two time zones. (Technically not true, I went three time zones to Victoria, BC when I was a wee babe, but I have zero memory of that and I probably slept the entire time anyway, so I’m not counting it.)
Going to the Soviet Union put me eight hours over the Atlantic, arriving in Helsinki for a lengthy stopover before going into Moscow. Some 20 hours of transit from the time I entered Pearson International in Malton (identifiable as “YYZ” on your luggage tags) before I walked about in Moscow. I had never travelled so far for so long.
Before leaving, I had made the effort to compile some music to listen to. I had my ghettoblaster, my dad’s record player, and a couple of cords to connect them. All I needed to do was find some songs to put on tape so I’d have enough listening material to go along. (I also had a new copy of Prince’s Batman soundtrack, which I played repeatedly, and would trade way while in Leningrad.)
While riffling through a record collection in the basement, skipping past the rather large set of classical albums, I found a near-mint condition copy of December’s Children (And Everybody’s) [by] The Rolling Stones. It still had the plastic wrap on the record sleeve, though the plastic had been opened. When asked whose record it was, both of my parents steadfastly denied it was them. I still suspect it was my mom’s.
Until that point, I had heard (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction on the radio countless times (thank you, Top 40 rock stations) and I knew Jumpin’ Jack Flash thanks to CHCH TV’s Hilarious House of Frightenstein, so I was familiar with The Rolling Stones. The timing of me finding December’s Children and my impending flight to the Soviet Union is, now, bizarrely fortuitous and weirdly coincidental, because of the first song on Side B: Get Off My Cloud.
Although I didn’t relate to the majority of the lyrics (that and between the low-quality audio recording’s distortion combined with Jagger’s voice, I couldn’t understand most of it), I locked onto the lines “Hey, you, get off of my cloud / Don’t hang around ‘cause two’s a crowd”.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was becoming an introvert, something that wasn’t really clear to me until years later. Something about telling people “this is my space, bugger off!” stuck with me, gave me a kind of confidence. Add to that the fact that there’s clouds in the sky that I was about to fly through, and the song got regular play on my headphones for years to come.