Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Miércoles musings


  • ComKev wrote about other cultures recently - I think the Russians in particular - not understanding folks with happy-go-lucky attitudes, such as may be found in the U. S. of A.  
  • I think that's true for people whose lives have been filled with toil and trouble - irrational exuberance doesn't always translate well.
  • Nonetheless, the Russians are not humorless - it just depends on the setting, as I can attest.  Sometime in 1974, a Soviet Jewish family emigrating (Aliyah) to Israel visited us at our home outside Wien.  I don't think they spent the night with us, but Mom made a big dinner.  As I recall, it was the patriarch (an engineer), his sister, and the man's college-age daughter - there may have been a fourth person.  We were given to understand that the man and his wife had divorced, and she remained in Russia - not out of discord - but as a means for the others to emigrate from the USSR.
  • Anyway, near the end of dinner, the daughter asked if she could let our toy poodle lick her plate.  Wanting to be gracious hosts, Mom of course said yes.  
  • Once the plate was licked clean, the girl picked the plate up from the floor, and got herself a fresh serving of mashed potatoes and gravy...on the same plate.  Naturally, we took this all in stride, though later we thought it was quite funny.
  • After dinner, a guitar emerged (I don't know if it was mine or one they'd brought) and our guests taught us some Russian folk songs (sort of), with much laughter and merriment.
  • While we didn't stay in touch with the family, I heard years later that they'd spent just a nominal time in Israel - apparently the real goal was to move to the US, but that wouldn't have been kosher (OK, pun intended) on the emigration request.  I think the father, who'd been maybe a professor in the USSR, went to work for GE.
  • The second USSR story is from late February or early March 1975.  I was on a class trip, and we were in Leningrad/St. Petersburg.  My friend Marcus and I had wandered into the hotel bar, where a band was playing some sloppy Fab Four covers - these guys were not exactly Me and My Monkey, but they meant well.  Being from Texas (OK, technically from the heartland by way of the Lone Star State), I was wearing boots and a bolo tie.  Before long, the long tables started filling up, and many Soviet sailors and their wives or friend-girls came and sat next to us.
  • Our new friends were quite interested that we were from Texas (from somewhere a Russian-English pronouncing dictionary was produced), and bought us many rounds of rosé wine or pink vodka.  I don't remember if we voluntarily called it an evening or if one of the school chaperones advised us curfew had passed, but before bidding спокойной ночи to our new comrades, in our most diplomatic teen way, we politely kissed the girls, and in an act worthy of a Kissinger-Gromyko (Connor/Brezhnev?) exchange, I gifted them with my sterling silver horse image bolo tie (it was either from Penney's or Leonard Bros.).
  • So, yeah, RWR said "Tear down this wall!", but now you know what really softened up the Soviet view of the West.
  • If I had an enclosed and heated golf cart or Mule type vehicle with clear side curtains - I could just drive around (not on the roads where I'd get run over, of course) in this surreal sleet fog...so awesome!
  • I had a lot of material I was going to use tonight, but oldest son and I have been constantly texting back and forth - he, trying to convince me I need a hot 2-stroke motocross bike, and I, trying to explain that I worked out most of that tomfoolery about 40 years ago (though I wouldn't be averse to a trail-capable 4-stroker, a la KLR or Versys).  I told him the thought of listening to one of those d--- buzzy chainsaw motorbikes makes my head hurt.
  • Good night, y'all...

2 comments:

el chupacabra said...

So YOU saved the world from the Red Menace!?

Whoa.

I bet one of those Russkies still occasionally drags the bolo out and says, I was in this bar once....

The Donald said...

Well, I can't say with certainty that I saved the world from MAD, but Magic 8 Ball doesn't deny the possibility...

Looking back at some of the things from that trip, I wonder how the heck we managed to get back to Vienna. On one of the days in St. Petersburg, Marcus and I had gotten a tour of the city from a Ministry (don't remember which) level official in his private car (Lada), which had to have its distributor dried out 2 or 3 times that morning. We were late getting back to the hotel and missed the tour-bus taking our group to the opera.

Somehow, we got a taxi, which had a couple of other passengers aboard, and in what seemed like an eternity (it was after dark when we left the hotel), we actually arrived at the opera house. How we communicated to the driver where we needed to go, I haven't the foggiest. Of course, we were able to return to the hotel on the bus.