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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why Hello There, Comrade

A repost, as I recover from a weekend with Mary.  Stay tuned for stories on the state of airline security, men who absolutely MUST play pool with you, parking lot hos, and curbside meat distribution.

What a strange and wonderful world we live in.

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. 


Anonymous said...

I'm now wondering what kind of line he was feeding you as he danced you around the floor and what the question was.

joeh said...

My wife works for a Russian Dance studio. The owner is a three time USA ballroom champion,tall very good looking and if i was a gay man...sexy. Their parties are very much as you describe.

Lots of Vodka and cigarettes. Their accent thick. Mrs. Cranky can understand them without a problem, I think she can even figure out when they are speaking Russian. To me, every time they say something I want to ask, "Have you seen Moose and Squirrel?"

vanilla said...

Good. Good times should be oft recalled.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
and счастливым танцовщица... that's 'happy dancer' to you, who does not speak Russian... YAM xx

ThreeOldKeys said...

Everyone is rewriting fairy tales these days. What a great start to an alternate Cinderella.

And all those sturdy women are in line to try on the glass slipper.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Some dear friends of mine are Russian. They know how to party and have a good time. They are also elegant dancers. if you have ever watched DWTS, you will notice that most of the handsome and beautiful dancers are Russian. None of them have ever worn a babushka.

How nice that you had that moment.

Shoshanah Lee Marohn said...

Awwww. That's beautiful.

Anonymous said...


jenny_o said...

That memory is worth more than fine shoes that fit perfectly, more than all the excellent food you can eat, more than gold. And it's yours, Pearl, all yours. Lucky you!

Jono said...

How come I never got to have fantasy evenings like that? Oh, yeah. I live in the middle of the boreal forest.

Jacquelineand.... said...

Many moons ago, long ago but not nearly far enough away, my job involved dealing with an amazing diversity of people.

I was trying to assist a largish group of Russian men when the obvious leader of the group walked over to speak with me; we resolved the problem quickly and without fuss. The man was nearly a foot and a half taller than I, so he stooped over to say farewell. When he did, his jacket fell away on one side and revealed a sizeable handgun... To my very great relief he said "Is nice you no say 'huh' 'huh' all the time, you are very polite; I am polite too so I will share some of my good Russian chocolate with you. Is much better than American crap."

He was right, it was better than American crap...

Your Russian memory is WAY better than mine!

Catalyst/Taylor said...

That was a great night, Pearl. I have been part of a few of those multi-cultural evenings but no one ever kissed my hand.

River said...

A night worth remembering for sure.

Diane Tolley said...

Mmmmm . . .