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привет, я - американец

(Translation: Hello, I'm an American)

An acquaintence of mine threw together a short-notice cocktail party last night so people could meet his foreign guest.

He is the Interior Minister of a former Soviet republic, and I'll call him Jacob.

You see, I don't want to give away too many secrets about the man. I wouldn't want former KGB agents coming after him. Or me.

The party started out like any other - lots of small talk and meeting the different people as everyone arrived. I got cornered early by the host's real estate agent, who introduced herself by saying, "Hi, I'm Jane Doe. I sold them this house." Now I realize when you're in a line of work such as that it's important to make contacts everywhere you go. But I also know what's appropriate for a social situation and you'd think, at her advanced age, she would as well. But apparently not, because I could not get away from her and her neighborhood name-dropping for ALMOST AN HOUR.

And that was just because the food was served.

As is typical of these parties, the men took their plates and congregated in the living room, while the women all sat around the table in the kitchen. I ate in there as well, but once I'd finished my dinner, I'd had enough conversation about everyone's twins (apparently, they all had them) and anyway, I had come there not to visit with a bunch of stay-at-home moms but to engage in conversation with a foreign dignitary. So I grabbed my wine glass, walked into the living room, and plopped myself down on a sofa between two men.

One guy, who'd been talking, stopped, then said, "I guess I'll finish the rest of this story later." Apparently he was telling an off-color story that he wasn't comfortable finishing in front of a woman, but I did not apologize or feel guilty. I simply turned to Jacob and asked, "So, how is it that you were able to come in possession of your KGB files anyway?"

And we talked for at least two hours about Putin and Bush and civil rights vs. security and the death penalty and oligarchs and theocracies and god I can't even remember what else. It was the most fascinating evening I've spent in ages.

I took a photo of him on my cell phone. I would post it here, but then I'd have to kill you.