diary of a feline flaneur 

To Russia, with love pt. 3

Rocky I was dining at a hot
To Russia, with love pt. 3 Rocky I was dining at a hot dog stand the next morning when Sharikov suddenly appeared. “What are you doing today, Poligraph Poligraphovich?” I inquired. “Nothing, Rocky Rockovich. What the hell is there for an old pensioned-off Soviet satire-dog to do? Storm the Winter Palace?” “Dear fellow,” I said, “I have an idea: Why don’t you accompany me to St. Petersburg? It’ll be of no cost to you.” “Rocky Rockovich, you’re a true comrade! Of course I’ll go!” On the bus to the airport I turned to Sharikov and asked, “What happened to you anyway? You were a true dog of the Revolution and then you soured on it all. What gives?” “Ah, it’s the same old story, Rocky Rockovich: In the late 1920s I was denounced for deviations of all imaginable variations. Finally, the big one: Trotskyist! I was sentenced to the gulag under Article 58 of the Soviet Penal Code and spent many, many years at Kolyma. Only my friendship with Varlam Shalamov kept me going. What a guy! I was released in the late 1950s. I returned to Moscow only to find that my wife and beloved daughter Ninel had vanished. I had a hard time getting a job because of my past. So I took the only job I could get: boatman. On the Volga River.” “You were a Volga boatman?” I asked. “Yes, Rocky Rockovich, I was a Volga boatman.” “Sharikov,” I laughed, “where I come from there used to be a rock and roll band called The Vulgar Boatmen. Get it?” “No, I do not.”* “Ah well. Anyway, here we are at the airport.” We bought our tickets and headed out to the plane. I looked at it with alarm — an old Soviet turbo-prop. I turned to Sharikov and said, “Poligraph Poligraphovich, let us travel by train instead. This plane is marked Aeroflot but I dare say it is aero-not!” He looked at me blankly. * See my essay “Puns in Translation: A Problem” in my book Night Thoughts. —Rocky

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