Sunday, October 24, 2004

Greetings From (Y)Ekaterinburg!

Greetings from (Y)Ekaterinburg! I believe I have found the most delightful city in the world. Into their cozy and capacious underground I have sunk a local heel, and I now count myself among one of the many regulars at my chosen haunt, the marvelous fin-de-siècle Restaurant Troekurov. No sooner do I pop into the bar than Ivan prepares my morning coffee and herring toast; no sooner do I dart out for the early paper than Raguli has it folded and waiting with my ten kopecks’ change resting on top. It is a city which gets to know you, and for that I have searched far and wide. Certainly one can get into a routine in Manhattan or London, and the mongers know your tastes, but never has the transaction seemed so satisfying for both sides of the stall. That is one quality of the Slavic character to which I have always been endeared: conversation first, money second, if at all. You can buy twenty pounds of pork loin from your Chelsea butcher, but there is always the faint suspicion that as soon as you trundle out the door the clerks are sniding it up over the style of your hat or the size of your ass. Not so here. I have taken drink and dinner with the florist, the mayor, a guitarist, and all manner in between. Like the Swede and the Mexican, the Slav is wholly without snobbery and socioeconomic pretense. An open eye and listening ear takes one in, and vice versa. Whereas the chance meeting of two morning tradesmen on a Houston bus might result in a grunt and the sullen consumption of a frosted pastry, Ekaterinburgers would embrace the opportunity to check in with another striver, and quite possibly might spend the after-work hour together at a local discussing politics and sports over Ziewicz (Zubrowka if it’s cold). If one dropped in on the other at Christmas, how much richer the table for their presence.

Do not worry: in all this I have not lost sight of the gem Ekaterina, and I do think of her daily. Indeed, it is difficult to go a week without seeing her name or photo in one of the dailies. Given my progress with the language and customs, I estimate that the date of our coalescence may mark within the month. I see in the Kvarlovsk that she will play a set of exposition matches at home in the coming week...perhaps I will sluice the popcorn salesman for insights as to the locale of their post-game repasts.