Friday, February 14, 2014

I ♥ Heart ♥ the Ruskies

♫ ding-a-ling-a-ling 

There it was again -- that bell. Or was it? In my dreary state, I can't tell if I'm dreaming that I'm hearing a bell ringing or if it's real. I pause to listen. Nothing. I turn to my other side, fluff the pillow, and drift off to fitful sleep.

♫ ding-a-ling-a-ling 

Startled, I sit up and quickly look behind me to confirm that I wasn't dreaming. A solitary reading lamp was pushing back the cabin's inky darkness, illuminating a small brass bell above the row of economy seats. The bell was connected to the hand of a fellow passenger, a Russian, sharing the same Singapore-Moscow flight with me and hundreds of others. 

He lowered the bell, raised his glass and called out, "Budem Zdorovy!"

In the dim light, three other Russians raised their glasses ceremoniously towards him.

"Budem!" they replied, tossed down their duty-free Vodka and clinked their glasses together in unison.

It was 3 AM somewhere and the Russians were getting drunk at 39,000 feet above Eurasia.

I recognized the ring leader. Several hours earlier, he was the same passenger arguing with the the gate attendant over a six pack of beer he was attempting to carry-on. 

When the gate attendant refused to let him board with the six-pack, the Russian shrugged his shoulders, popped a beer from the yoke, cracked it open and began to chug the first of six right then and there.

I collected my boarding pass and preceded to board, smugly thinking that the TSA would be tackling him shortly thereafter and transporting him to a small airport jail. I was fairly certain that was the last I would see of him.

But there he was, sitting a dozen rows behind me, ringing that damn little bell again for another round of shots for his comrades.

♫ ding-a-ling-a-ling 

I heart the Ruskies.


Things have changed a lot since the end of the Cold War.

When I was a kid, they were not simply Russians; they were Soviet-Russians, the CCCP, our evil arch enemy. 

We hated them.

They hated us.

Oh the Cold War. I remember Afghanistan 1.0, or when the Soviets nearly went broke trying to take it. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go watch Rambo III.

President Carter's solution to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan: boycott the Moscow Summer Games (1980). 

Not to be outdone, Leonid Brezhnev's Soviets followed suit four years later and boycotted the Summer Games of Los Angeles (1984). 

My friends and I picked up on this rivalry in our street hockey games. That, and the improbable Miracle on Ice and the on-going USA-USSR feud had us creating the "Manly Cup". The Manly was an annual street hockey tournament played on a pitch of asphalt between a concession stand/maintenance shed and St. Gerard Majella's school building. One year, I made up a Soviet jersey for the Manly Cup, complete with a hammer and sickle beneath my translated name "МЕРФИ" in big block letters. My Mom was aghast at the sight of that jersey. It was as if I was declaring myself the son of Satan or something.


Things are a lot better now. Despite the controversies: corruption, homophobia, and a half-pipe that was reportedly "garbage", the games are on and we're there. And who knows, if we're lucky, we'll get to see a rematch of the Miracle on Ice. To this I heartily say Budem, which roughly translated means, "yeah pretty good"

Happy Friday. Thanks for reading.

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