Gut Rumbles

November 19, 2003


Reading this post stirred some old memories about the time I took a tour of a Russian Oceanographic Research ship that was docked down on River Street for about a week. I was friends with several people who worked at the Skidaway Island Institute at the time and they got me the tour.

We were supposed to stay together and be guided through the ship by some kind of Soviet Political Officer, but I deliberately dropped behind to explore on my own. I figured that the worst thing they could do to me if I were caught was to toss me into the Savannah River and I am a good swimmer.

I had traveled to Key West on the "Blue Fin," the Skidaway Institute's research boat. The Russian ship was nothing like the Blue Fin. All sorts of "Workers Unite!" and "Bless the Motherland" propaganda posters adorned the walls everywhere I looked. (The Blue Fin had Rigid Tool calenders for decoration.) The crew on board had been in Savannah for almost a week and had never set foot off the boat.

I was walking down a passageway when a Russian sailor stepped out of a small room and grabbed my arm. He didn't speak English, but he began gesticlating frantically in sign language. At first, I thought that he wanted to have sex with me. Then, I realized that he was trying to buy the Levi blue jeans I was wearing at the time. He offered me a really ugly pair of pants and a handful of Russian monopoly money for the swap.

I refused that deal, so he pointed at my shirt pocket. I had a pack of cigarettes there, so I offered him one. He took it and stuck it behind his ear. He then whipped out a pack of Russian cigarettes and made a very easily understood "I'll give you THIS for THAT" sign. I made that trade. I gave him a nearly-full pack of Marlboros for a pack of Russian cigarettes.

I got skunked on that deal. A Russian cigarette tastes like shit, as I discovered later. There's only about half a cigarette in one to begin with, and the rest is a cardboard filter/mouthpeice. The tobacco reminded me of an open pack of American smokes left on the dashboard of a pickup truck for three months of Southern summertime. It was ghastly.

I was retrieved shortly thereafter by someone who noticed me missing from the group. I was led to the bridge, where we drank vodka with the captain of the ship. Russians pour their vodka into something that resembles the small water glasses they serve you at a Waffle House and they damn near fill that thing to the top with straight, chilled vodka. You're supposed to make a toast and drink the whole glass down at once.

I did that twice and almost didn't make it off the boat. Got-Damn! Two of those will knock your dick in the dirt.

I'll drink vodka. But I'm not getting into a quaffing-contest with a Russian when I do.

Those people WILL drink themselves to death.


Hmmm, I wonder though Rob, how would a Russian fare in a Jack Daniel's drinking contest? ;-)

The Germans put my ass squarely under the table on more than one occasion when we were drinking German beer, but Lord, when the whiskey came out, they were toast.

Depends on what you're used to, I guess.

Fuck me if I'd ever drink three bottles of anything, though.

- D

Posted by: Donnie on November 19, 2003 05:34 PM

Oog. Drinking Vodka with Russians. I got suckered into that once, and I pray there are no surviving photographs.

Posted by: Mr. Lion on November 19, 2003 06:21 PM

Russians, great people.

I speak a little Russian, so when I went to a Russian restaurant around here in LA, I tried some out. The owner came out to greet me. His observation (in English): "Best wee to larn Raah-shun is to haf Raah-shun bouy-frand."

Posted by: Juliette on November 19, 2003 06:47 PM

My younger brother became a "linguist" for the USAF years ago. The stories that boy can tell, but never would. Top Secret clearance and all that. Takes it seriously to this day. Proud of him.

Wish I could say the same for the NRA. Check out my Blogspot for more on that.

Posted by: Will Coffman on November 19, 2003 06:57 PM

I was listening to Paul Harvey's newscast todaywhile honoring Mational Ammo Day at my loading press, he talked about a Russian vodka drinking contest. Six participants. The five also-rans were in intensive care with acute alcohol poisoning. The winner in the morgue. Sorry, no URL.

Posted by: Peter on November 19, 2003 08:34 PM

Well, look at the bright side, here.

At least the winner of that contest saves on embalming costs?

But if they cremate that sucker, he's gonna burn for a week.

Sloop New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Posted by: Jim on November 19, 2003 11:49 PM

Russian Standard Vodka is a fine, fine thing. I had, all my drinking life, thought that Stoly was top-shelf Vodka. How wrong can a man be? Just a couple of years ago I was in Korea for a conference and got friendly with a couple of Ruskie delegates. They were professors from St Petersburg U on their first trip out of the country. They'd brought with them a case of Russian Standard. All the bottles were unmarked. It looked like moonshine, smelled of deep springwater and tasted like my first sexual experience. It was flying with angels, yessiree.

The proper way to drink Russian Vodka (according to the profs) is to take each shot with a bite of bread or cheese. If these are unavailable, one is to snort deeply of one's own musk via the forearm. Sounds kinky, but it works.

Dobre Da!

Posted by: Seppo on November 20, 2003 01:32 AM

Heh, recent news story says the winner of a recent russian drinking context is dead and the several runner's up in the hospital and seriously injured


( Sorry no link, I'm sure google will find it)


Posted by: Fred on November 20, 2003 08:41 AM

My late daddy, American Ambassador to a small country, once did a "switch the glasses" toast with the Russian ambassador and -surprise!- it wasn't vodka but plain water.

The other amusing thing was that both my father and the Russian spoke Japanese so they could converse and the "political officer" had *no* idea what they were talking about.

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