Friday, April 27, 2007

Viktor's bike shop...

Continuing on today is a story of my first meeting my partners for the intended bike shop. I have been reprinting letters from March, April and May 2002 to go along with the upcoming five-year-anniversary of my Polish "being had" episode.

Wed, 10 Apr 2002 00:32:28 -0700 (PDT)
Three of the boys from the bike school in Pinsk
I ate breakfast at Tatyana's house this morning and I think her kitchen is the only place in the world where they yell at me kuishette, kuishette (eat, eat!). Really, it is a bit like heaven. What I want to do is to rent an apartment in Pinsk. This is very, very cheap; cheaper then you can imagine, though what I need is for Tatyana to rent it under her name. This is all cool, and I can pay for like a year without pain. This will take some of the pressure off the family, because they are all five of them living in there together (warm, but, like, you know!). Anyway, I had a bike thing yesterday. I wrote a letter to a friend in New York about it and I'll copy it here. The italics are your translation for stuff that was in New York:

You know life is funny sometimes. Yesterday, just after I sent off your e-mail, I went out on my daily bike ride. There are some good routs you know, but the one I was telling you about is the equivalent of riding up 9W (The highway all the road biker use in New York City: it goes over the George Washington Bridge and up into New Jersey for about 50 miles or so.); This Pinsk ride is long and straight and it is the only one the roadie malchics (boys) like to use because there are kilometer signs along the way so they can measure their distance. So, this is where I am going today, and off down this road I go. I was not even out of town, just sort of at the edge of Pinsk, and I run into two kids on their antiquated rides. They see me and start waving their arms at me telling me to follow them. So, I go with them thinking this is a new rout, but where they are taking me is to this door on the side of the last “proletarian heights” apartment building in Pinsk. The door opens, and you know what we got? We got a bike shop. And not only that, we got a road shop!! And not only that, and I am not kidding, we got a VICTOR’S BIKE SHOP!!! (Victor's was the shop that was right across thee street from my place in New York City and the main guy here in this hole-in-the-wall is also named Viktor.) Wow! I guess Victor must translate! Well you know, Viktor of course is glad to meet me, being an American and a biker (and probably his only paying customer,) and so they drag me inside to check out my Schwinn monstrosity and to show me all of the circa 1904 metal shop tools they have. I swear my bike started to shiver looking at some of the implements that might actually touch her. But despite the conditions and the age of the tools, it is a bike shop, and after some problems with language we seemed to get along fine.

Well, actually we seem to get along too fine because of course this meeting of east and west requires a celebration. And also of course we must drag out the “Blue Eyed” vodka….

So, Victor wants to drink but I want to ride, so I tell victor that we should drink to health (Do Zdoroviya) but also we should do this to only one glass of this turpentine (odeen, nyet dva!- one, not two!). We drink to this but also of course, we forget immediately.

So three glasses of this tank fuel later (we finished the bottle), I finally convince Viktor that I am really going to go out on this ride and that I will bring in my bike tomorrow and have the rear wheel repacked. The streets here are horrible and I have developed a knock.

By the way, trying to get the idea through to Viktor where the problem is was hard because the word Bol or ball, as in ball bearing is not correct, though it is for football. So you can’t just say bad balls, or even plochiya yaitzo which is bad eggs; this garners a laugh because it also means bad testicles, but is still wrong.
Now that I am thinking about it, I think I’ll do the work myself. All things considered, it might be a better choice to bring a bottle for Victor to gnaw on while I am working.

Finally I am out the door and off I go on my little thirty miler with an amazing directness to my pace. For some reason, I find that I don’t actually get “drunk” with vodka, but more like I get hyper serious, and harder. I don’t know why, maybe it is just some Russian heritage thing. But, in any case, off I go, me and two kids.

Now, these kids are good velocipedists. “Machina!” They yell. I told you, they are good bikers. This means that a car is coming. They would yell “viboinya!” or pothole, but there are so many they would never be able to say anything else!

So anyway, up 9W we go, and the vodka is kicking in and I am playing Eddy Merckx, trying to impress the kids with my best stroke and really pressing hard. But vodka dreams are still only dreams and the frightening reality of my speed doesn’t hurt anything but the kids’ feelings, because really, a fat old drunk on a home-made track bike ain’t really gonna set any records. I know they are holding back on me out of consideration but we make the ride anyway, and we all finish together in good communist fashion. These kids really have legs by the way and as we finished, my droogs are wondering why I seem to need a heart attack so badly.

Anyway, that’s the story. Well, except that Tatyana hates drunks and was unimpressed by my cuteness after the ride. We got into a fight (try doing the “no, let me explain…” game in a language where you only have a couple of hundred words,) and I slept alone. Ain’t vodka grand? Oh, and the word is “shar”…ball bearing is shar…just so you’d know.

Stal realno, (steel is real!)