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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Why Hello There, Comrade

I used to hang out with Russians.

Growing up, I had an impression of Russians gleaned entirely from the news strips shown in Social Studies during the 70s, wherein squat women in unattractive coats and scarves stood in mile-long lines hoping for shoes.

The kind of shoe, the size of the shoe? Unimportant. Once they had the shoe they’d worry about what to do with it.

Soviet Russia’s shortages were no joke. But my belief that all Russians were squat people in scarves certainly was.

Now, personally, I consider myself reasonably attractive. I’m not heavy, but not skinny; I fix my hair, even if “fixing” it just means brushing it; and I never leave the house without my lipstick.

Call me old-fashioned, but there’s nothing a little lipstick won’t cure.

Headcold? You’ll look better with a little lip.

Heartache? Maybe a little lip color will make you feel better.

Just running to the store to pick up cigarettes? Hey – maybe a little lipstick, huh? You never know who you’ll run into…

The Russians in my life at that time were all met through the people I hired several jobs back to clean an office building, and to a man were physically fit, attractive, and elegant.

And that’s the other thing a little lipstick can do for you – convince beautiful immigrants that they should include you in the festivities.

And so it came to pass that I was invited to join in a celebration. A party of 16 people met at a local Russian restaurant for a couples’ 10th wedding anniversary. I was the only native-born American at the table.

Have you partied with the Russians? They leave their worries at the door. The men wear suits, the women wear dresses, and everything is pleasantries and vodka. The table is laden with the pickles, potato salad, marinated and smoked herring, hardboiled eggs, cold cuts and brown bread consumed between shots.

There will be dinner much later.

The first toast is to the women at the table.

The second is to the men.

The third one is open.

We have just finished the third toast when I am tapped on the shoulder.

I turn to see a handsome man in a suit.

He hold his hand out, says something in Russian which I am willing to bet translates as Would you care to dance?
I push my chair away from the table and smilingly hold my hand out, and he guides me on to the dance floor.

The band, consisting of drums, accordion, saxophone, and violin, plays music I don’t recognize; but he is a good dancer, and arm around my waist, we move among the other couples.

He is talking. I imagine that he is talking about the band, about the restaurant, about the beautiful evening. There are no questions, just him talking; and abuzz with vodka and the ease of being paired with a good dancer, I smile.

At the end of the song, he guides me back to my seat, and for the first time, asks me a question.

“I’m sorry,” I say, sitting down. “I don’t speak Russian.”

His mouth drops open, and then he recovers and closes it. He smiles, lifts my hand, and kisses it.

And I rejoin my table.



Was there a point to this post? Not really. I just wanted to relive that night. 

21 comments:

joeh said...

My wife works at a dance studio owned by a Russian, a National Ball room champion...damn is he good looking I almost joined the other team.

After years of learning to hate those commie bastards I have changed my opinion.

And you were not exaggerating about the vodka!

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
I was so in love with Russia and it's folks I even learned the language. Bit rusty now of course - lots of places and peoples and tongues have come in between.

That's tongues as in words spoken, not the kissing of hands or anything else.

That was a pretty hot moment you shared there; glad you did!! YAM xx

Joanne Noragon said...

Slivovitz--my beautiful sister-in-law introduced my to Serbian culture. Her Czech step-father always pressed a tumbler of slivovitz on us. Best to decline in order to drive away.

fishducky said...

Вы говорите по-русски, мой друг? That's "Do you speak Russian, my friend?" (Neither do I!!)

Perpetua said...

And why not, Pearl? Memories like that are too good to remember only once.:-)

sage said...

Two summers ago I had a blast in Russia, taking the train from Beijing to St. Petersburg. And yes, there were lots of parties. At the time, I was reading Ian Frazier's "Travels in Siberia" (I reviewed it in my blog) and remember his line about how, during the Cold War, the Russian women we say were the wives of leaders and they all looked like Brezhnev in drag (that is until Gorbachev came on the scene with his beautiful wife). Frazier was (as was I) pleasantly surprised by the beauty of Russian women. I don't think I've ever seen as many high heels as I did in Moscow.

Geo. said...

Daughter spent time studying and working in Moscow and developed a high regard for the populace, but couldn't explain why they have the creepiest children's playgrounds in the world.

jenny_o said...

I agree with Perpetua: the memory - and the post, too! - is a keeper.

Ian Lidster said...

Your Russian party sounds very much like a Ukrainian party. And the damn things go on for days. Oh, and about lipstick -- I like me a woman who wears lipstick -- is that it makes a pretty mouth seem even more kissable and it tastes neat on the receiving end.

Elephant's Child said...

Oooh. A compliment like that should be cherished - and revisited often. You almost tempt me to try the lipstick caper again. Almost.

vanilla said...

Ah, a night to remember!

Rose L said...

Ah, that feeling of flirting, walking on the edge, almost feeling like an affair will start....yea, I would relive the moment as well.

Linda O'Connell said...

I can imagine you gliding across the floor in his arms...hang onto that memory. I also believe a little lipstick is all you need for what ails you.

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

I don't speak Russian either.......
just saying........next yes a bit of lippy will make a woman feel better

River said...

I learned they lined up for a loaf of bread or a roll of toilet paper. In pictures that I saw all the women wore big heavy boots, like army boots.
Sounds like they really know how to party though.

Jenny Woolf said...

Ah glad you hadn't drunk so much vodka that you told him BEFORE the lovely dance :)

Indigo Roth said...

Of course there was a point! A beautiful lady (that'd be you, honey) is swept off her feet by a handsome man and delighted by his romantic exoticism. I bet he had great hair, too. Other than mild jealousy, I love it!

jeanie said...

I went to a Russian wedding once - there wasn't a point, but plenty of vodka!!

Daisy said...

I'd want to relive it too. Sounds lovely. :)

Diane Tolley said...

Why, oh why can't I have a handsome, dark and romantic Russian Whispering sweet nothings into my ear that I have absolutely no way of translating. Sigh.

Pat Tillett said...

That was great! There was a point to it though. The point is...
Communication between men and women is overrated.