I want to start right out by telling you all I have never felt the need to use prostitutes for anything at all, and that I was NOT making eyes at the red haired woman in the cafe on Arbat Street in Moscow a few years back. But she may have misunderstood a lingering glance in her direction while I ate a cheeseburger with my translator friend, Olga, with whom I quickly bonded and treated like a sister. Really! She was fluent in seven languages and intended to make Chinese her eighth.
I was in Moscow on the eve of Barack Obama’s first presidential victory lecturing to a collection of academicians about American politics, which I well knew after more than three decades as a reporter all over the place. I was invited to this event because of a guy I knew at Northwestern who had been in Soviet military intelligence when I lived in Moscow from 1977 to 1979. He was one of their spooks in some African hellhole.
Don’t get all excited about that. I wasn’t an actual spy. But I was very curious, and that has stayed with me for many years. I didn’t get to meet this particular military spook until many years later at Northwestern, where we had a jolly evening of drinking vodka, eating a roast turkey the size of a Volkswagen and joking with the poets and interesting characters who surrounded him.
So he arranged for me to travel to Moscow at the expense of Vladimir Putin’s political organization to address this conference. They would pay me $2,000 for my thoughts and house me in a small but comfortable hotel downtown. It had brown water, just like the brown water in our apartment when we lived there. I felt so at home because of that.
Going back to Moscow was great and horrible at the same time. It was winter, so it was almost always dark and snowy. And cold. I took advantage of the trip to walk everywhere I remembered from the old days. That was not a good idea. In the 1970s, you could not walk down a street without having a security person tail you. The sense was nothing bad would happen while the local spooks were watching.
Not so this last visit. The most troubling thing I noticed was that there were needles in the gutter. I don’t know what they were shooting, but they were shooting a lot of it. Plenty of troubling looking young people in the streets, too. It was a little scary. Olga told me to behave and stay off of dark side streets and I would be okay.
It wasn’t long before I learned she had never had a cheeseburger in her life, and I moved quickly to remedy that by taking her to Hard Rock. We grabbed a car (which is literally what you did, grab someone who wanted to give you a ride for a couple of bucks) and went to the restaurant.
I was surprised at how nice it was. It had a conventional menu and lots of tourists eating their burgers all around me. And that red haired woman at the bar, too. Pretty lovely. I was thinking she was a hostess or something. I put her out of my mind. Then it came time to pee.
I excused myself and left Olga to guard the food while I looked for the men’s room. I didn’t see it happening, but when I got up the red haired woman got up, too, and followed me to the men’s room. Right into the men’s room, as a matter of fact.
The usual solicitation took place while I was peeing. I gave her a heartfelt response. “Can’t you see I am peeing here!” or something like that. She smiled and proceeded. I told her I wasn’t interested, that I was perpetually happy and well cared for in so many ways by my wife of roughly 30 years at that point.
When I left the bathroom, she was still outside with a little collection of friends, among them some goon-ish guys. Scary.
All of this is the long way to getting to not much of a punch line. I have no doubt at all about the fact that there were plenty of prostitutes in Moscow who would love to make some money performing in some way for Donald Trump. Golden showers included.
The longer the Mueller investigation goes on, the more interesting this all becomes.
The cheeseburger was fine. Hello to Olga.