Thursday, 24 may 1984 Moscow
Kostya, having been told that I am moving to Whattabore, wants to know whether I am married. I told him I got divorced six days ago. Kostya lights up: "It is good to be free in Sweden, yes?"
Wolfgang and I are subsisting on a diet of black caviar and Georgian champagne. Wolfgang keeps saying ecsatatically "You know what this lunch would cost in the Russian Tea Room? It would cost a hundred and forty dollars, that's what it would cost!"
Wolfgang is dreaming of getting a joint appointment: half year Moscow State University, half year Livermore. It would keep his CIA men busy. We are also supposed to buy a bust of Lenin for his office. I have taken him to a special department store, where one can buy medals, decoration ribbons and similar gear. For a few ruh-bles one could start looking a little bit like Marshal Ustinov. Our contacts say that a Hero of Socialist Labor medal could be gotten on the black market. Orden of Lenin, however, would be difficult to acquire; there are fewer of them, and they are solid gold.
A gaggle of physicists discusses women. S.P. Strinck: "I like them all, regardless of legs." S.P. has an interesting hair style; the hair grows up from sides and is pasted to the top of the skull.
Scott is in a quandary. He has two tickets to the Bolshoi Ballet, and he wants to fuck. The problem is Professor Porcogrande. "Me, I know culture." Here he comes. "We are going to the circus tomorrow" he says, concupiscently pleased with himself. Scott heaves a sigh of relief.
The curtain goes up, and up in the mists Maya Plisetskaya flaps her hands in a manner of seagull's wings. Scott and I glance worriedly at each other: "This is a ballet fit for Professor Porcogrande." I glance to my left, and I see Ludmila. Scott, too, has spotted her, and has forgotten both the seagull and Porcogrande. Phosphorescent with desire, he is scanning backwards through his memory banks. Nothing remotely like Ludmila all the way back to Stillwater, Oklahoma. Ludmila has a beautiful elongated face, with Slavic cheekbones, long thin nose, large blue eyes, fine lips. Could be the star of War and Peace, or Love and Death. At the intermission she walks away from us, tall, thin (yes, thin! The Sphericity Conjecture refuted), a perfect Checkov heroine. We are hot on her tail - I lose Scott in a miasma of spherical thighs - only to find him chatting up the mother in German. "Das ewig weiblische sieht uns hinan, etc., etc.". "Ludmila seems to breathe nothing but Russian" he whispers to me, thwarted. Ha! I am rolling out my best Russian, Ludmila is all smiles, and it's all wrapped up. I cannot believe my good stars - the most beautiful wo. since Kansas City, and all mine. I already see us speeding in a black Volga to her parents' dacha, for a champagne and caviar weekend together. Porcogrande, eat your heart out!
The curtain goes up again, and I wait impatiently for the intromission. On the stage - no, that is impossible! - Wolfgang is shuffling Plisetskaya around, trying to fit her in with the other furniture. (Ludmila's mother noted with pride that Plisetskaya is fifty-nine). It is unmistakably Wolfgang: that flowing hair, that wild look, that overbearing emotion, that unmistakable grace. That's how he spends his evenings, claiming all the while that he is having interesting discussions with Khorbatovs, Lifshitzes and the like!
Wolfgang drags a dead seagull around the stage (ah! that's why the ballet is called "Seagull"!"), and it is the end. Ludmila is smiling at me over her shoulder. She is being dragged away! The lights have not gone on yet, but the mother has a firm hold on Ludmila's biceps, and is navigating her toward the exit. There is no moment to lose. While they are still throwing flowers at Plisetskaya, Scott and I are jumping over the chairs, and we intercept them in the lobby. Mother takes a firmer grip, looks me straight into the eye, says very clearly "Do-svi-danya!" and - and they are gone! Vanished into Biblioteka Imena Lenina subway station! I am crushed. Scott, you laggard, what did you do? You were supposed to work on the mother!
We look in a daze at a Membermobile (a Politbureau member chauffered black Volga) pulling away, with a blonde outstretched diagonally across the back seat, and an officer cap in the rear window.
Wolfgang has established a reliable method for gauging the relative importance of Russian scientists. Zheldovich, a hero of socialist labor, can get a paper xeroxed in five minutes. Lihshitz - half an hour. Sinai - several days. Kostya - forget it.
Today, I am omitting caviar from my dinner - I dine champagne, only. The television is full of Marshall Ustinov's bemedaled chest, and endless rows of smiling komsomolets in military uniforms. At nine o'clock a rocket launcher arrives at the square in front of the hotel, and fireworks celebrating the trillionth congress of the Komsomol start. With split second precision they go up and explode simultaneously over some twenty different Moscow squares. It is as cheerful as the third world war. I go to bed and sink into nightmares.
Professor Porcogrande makes no bones about it: "I do not like public transportation, and I won't take it." Kolya has finally dredged up a yellow Volga station wagon, commensurate to Professor Porcogrande's rank. Upon arrival of the vehicle, Professor Porcogrande is overcome with childlike joy, and he, his wife and Professor von Weissecker are whisked off to the Institute of Crystalography, where they wait the next half hour for us pawns to join them.
Today is the Polyakov day. Any conceivable two dimensional conformal model is being solved exactly. A brazen Armenian in the first row asks a stupid question: "To what physical systems do these exact solutions apply?" Loud laughter.
Wolfgang keeps bedazzling babushkas. This is the second babushka who wants Wolfgang to marry a nice Russian girl. "I have worked for 53 years, and now your president wants to kill me. Why? This is a beautiful city, this is a good country. Don't you listen to radio? He is threatening us with atom bombs!"
We wished we knew why Wolfgang's president wants to bomb her off the face of this earth.
Wolfgang remembers a nice restaurant on the Kalininsky Prospekt. We are immediately seated, and black caviar, red caviar, sturgeon and assorted meats appear magically on the table. I am starting to feel uneasy: "Excuse me, would it be possible to have a look at the menu?" Oh, the menu? Of course. I have a look: this will put us back some thirty thousand ruh-bles. The procession starts. First the waiter - would we like to change some dollars? No, thanks. Two for one? No, no thanks. Next is a young man who can get us caviar at half price. Then somebody unintelligible who purports to be Israeli, wants ?. The bill comes to the forty two thousand ruh-bles: both caviars are counted twice. (Soviet physicists earn some 250 ruh-bles a month). I object - we get twice as much caviar for less ruh-bles at the Acadamy Hotel (oh, yes, we know our caviar). The waiter explains that this is the top class restaurant.
However, Wolfgang has a way with Soviet waiters. He lays forty two ruh-bles on the table, looks at the waiter firmly and says: "Well, if that is the case, we will have to take the bill with us." The waiter wavers for a moment, then answers "We do not want any trouble", returns ten ruh-bles, and crumples the bill in his hand.
Wolfgang dazes still another bevy of Russian speaking Russian mathematicians with his compact way of expressing himself in English. Every fifteen minutes or so Sinai gets up and translates into Russian: "He is still talking." We leave them stunned, and Kostya speeds us off in what should have been Professor Porcogrande's Volga (eat your heart out, Professor Porcogrande) to the Kremlin's Palace of Congresses. Madam Butterfly is seventy and perfectly spherical, but sings beautifully. Pinkerton, the putz, drops her for an Aeroflot stewardes. The Aeroflotess is of the exemplary Soviet build: granite shoulders, and cylindrical the rest of the way to the ground. Seeing this, Madame Babushka hari-kiris herself, and rolls forward, though retaining the same height - her face is now in front, at about waistline level.
Wolfgang and I are overtaken and separately whizzed off to distant parts of Moscow by two muscovite maidens: 1.) Eighteen year old Natasha; 2.) Nineteen year old Kira. The age factor has now reached two. We do not count each other's gray hairs any longer.
Wolfgang does it again. Answering the question starting with "Your determinant...", he forgets to answer "The beautiful exact determinant of Sonoffvitch...". So much for contracts with doctor Faust. Doctor Faust is now a center of boundless adulation.
We proceed to a party with thirty seven physicists, Sasha Polyakov, and one beautiful woman, hitherto referred to as Lena. Wolfgang very much taken by her. Wolfgang: "She has beautiful eyes." I: "Yes, she has two eyes." and so on. We promptly kidnap her ("She doesn't speak English" observes Wolfgang, thwarted), and drag her through subways across entire Moscow to Kostya's apartment. There Wolfgang turns his back to her and spends the evening explaining DOE and Army contracts in great detail to puzzled Russian intellectuals. Lena bites her nails while Wolfgang makes statements like "University is business. US is a bad country. My president is a prick." At two we taxi her across Moscow again.
Few fast impressions: This subway, too, has girls with walkmen. The city has ravens instead of pigeons. There are many men with identical black business briefcases, even Kostya has one of those. Vastly fewer books are being read in subways than only two years ago. All apartments are in total chaos. My maiden subjects me to acrobatic dancing to mindless disco, this circumventing intromission. She is made out of rubber, but my bones are creaking. God, have we become old!... Wants me to make five children with her. Has a wonderful movie-making mother who seems to be my age. What am I doing here? Everybody is paranoid about telephone taps, especially our maidens. Every day we walk by a semicircle of horrendous Stalin period buildings, which turn out to be the setting for Solzhenitsin's "First Circle". Lena has told Wolfgang about her Volga factory job; the diet is only vodka and bread, many children born deformed. The country is covered with places like that, where nobody is allowed to come.
At the airport, Professor Porcogrande is the first in the passport control queue, and I am last. This will be set straight at the heaven's doors. The plane takes off, and the professor claps in still another attack of childish joy. Is there a chauffeured black Volga waiting for him at the Acron airport?