September 16, 2005

Cruisin' with the Russian navy

True sailors, these Russian navy men were spending a few hours of their leave on the water, on a scenic boat trip up the Moscow River, centerpiece of Moscow's bid for the 2012 Olympics. I'd boarded the cruise a few stops earlier, and when I first saw these guys standing on the pier, raw and rough, knocking back beer and vodka at 11 a.m. and shouting songs that all ended in “HURRAH! HURRAH! HURRAH!” I thought, Just watch. With my luck, they’ll come to the upper deck and sit next to me.

Sit next to, in front of and behind me they did, and it was, indeed, my luck. I now have Russian email pals. Their designated spokesman, a young, muscled guy with blond spikes and an anchor tattoo, broke the ice by offering me a hit from his beer bottle and asking me where I was from.


“New York?”

Nyet. Boston.” His eyes lit up, and he asked, “Near Canada?” I drew a map in the air, located Canada and Florida, and placed Boston accordingly. The sailors grinned and toasted me. They were very interested that I’d come to their country not on business, but as a tourist, and were intrigued to learn that I was spending the day just walking – and floating – around Moscow. The blond-spiked spokesman asked, “Moscow, good? Russia, good? Russian people, good?”

Da, da and da,” I said with a smile.

The whole contingent, in their blue and white-striped tank tops and broad hats with patent leather visors and black ribbons down the back, laughed, nodded their heads, and threw down another toast.