- Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)

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Amsterdam, October 12, 2001
Our little family has started taking Dutch lessons in
the buurt huis around the corner from where we live.
We rotate the care of Roosje so that there's a different
combination of three of us on any given Thursday night.
Our class, going clockwise from one end of the
U-shaped table to the other, consists, tonight anyway,
of a girl from Germany; and one from Spain. Then
there's a babe from Sweden, who's actually genetically
Korean; her husband, who's shorter than you would
expect; a very African guy from Togo; a Bay Ay Bee Ee
from Russia, more about her later; a perfectly normal
American songwriter; his equally strange daughter; an
American lady who wears motorcycle boots and answers
to Peppermint Patty; a lady from Thailand that I'm
pretty sure is a transsexual; and at center stage, our
teacher: a very nearsighted little old lady looking
consequently very like an owl, whose English is so bad
that we're all going to be forced to learn Dutch just
to understand what she's going on about. Maybe that's
the plan. It seems to be working.
I am docked at the second corner of the U. Floating
off to my starboard side is the Russian babe,
Svetlana, quietly radiating vulnerability. Temple of
Venus stuff.
Looking at Svetlana a guy can immediately see what the
Battle of Stalingrad was all about. Svetlana tells me
that she is from Volgograd, which used to be
Stalingrad. I already knew that, but now it is more
than somewhat fascinating.
I imagine me and Svetlana bundled under bear furs in
our troika setting off across the taiga to our dacha
in the forest. Like a vodka martini, I am shaken and
very definitely stirred.
In addition to the fact that her legs take up
approximately 75 per cent of her height, which is
about five ten, and that melon farming holds a sudden
new appeal to me, Svetlana has one of the finest
personal energy fields it has been my pleasure as a
practicing Buddhist to encounter.
Our little section of the U fairly hums with repressed
sexual energy.
I fire a shot across her bow. She leans into my
territory, showing cornflower-blue eyes, a turned-up
nose, teeth just misaligned enough to be perfect.
Realizing probably that I can't catch my breath she
initiates the conversation: "Were you able to buy the
book?" When Svetlana speaks, I can smell the cedars
and the pines on the evening updrafts up the slope of
the Urals to Volgograd. I can hear the evensongs of
the Caspian Thrush on the growing velvet night of the
Don River.
I know that being cool is absolutely essential here,
so I nod my head vigorously, making suave little
strangling sounds.
The lesson begins...
We're walking back from Dutch class, Patty says, Hey
what's the story with little Svetlana there?
I say Wow man I thought it was just me. Was that cool
or what?
Patty says, Yeah I thought she was going to climb in
your nostril there. Your nose was open wide enough that
she could have too, I noticed.
Yeah, them ole juices flowin make a ole white man feel
good, says I.
Yeah and you're such a NASTY ole white man, too, she
How how how how, I reply. Learning a foreign language
has never been so appealing.