***felt the need to include a pro-America photo in this story for viewing pleasure. Enjoy
A normal school week turned not South, but due East when I embarked on an unexpected journey into the Little Soviet Union… hidden in the heart of Pensacola, Florida.
An invite to the beach, birthday celebration, free food and a place to stay. Of course I’m all in. Free is usually my trigger word.
Piling in my friend Mark’s car, we were south bound to his adopted hometown… a short five hours of techno and uncomfortably close seating arrangements we had made it.
Up until this point I knew Mark, who I only referred to as “Russia”, was clearly from at some point in his life Russia. What I did not realize, was how Russian he was. Trust me, Russian in a personality type.
I open the door to a typical American house, but I am greeted by a deep voice, caked in a thick accent, of a man. Mark had a Romanian family who stayed in a makeshift house in his backyard.
“Hey you,” my burly voiced mystery foreigner said pointing at me, “You look like Jew.” (I have a nose which borders on the larger side of medium in my opinion). A serious look on his face, he repeats the phrase. “You. You look like Jew? Are you Jew?”
Well, I responded with the best I could muster, the man was intimidating. His hands were like oven mitts and he was built like an eastern European tank.
“Nope just a big nosed American.”
A smile cracked wide on his face, and his beer belly jumped with joy mixed with vodka. I had overcome my first hurdle, but my Red Scare continued.
Opening the door, I was bombarded by kak delas and hot tea.
I was surrounded by 25-30 Russians, none speaking English. And the man to my immediate right, I’m almost positive was in the Russian Mafia. Slicked back hair, an “affordable” suit, heavy cologne, and although he actually didn’t have one… I like to imagine he had a scar stretching across his face from a stint in a Siberian prison.
2 days later, I left with a headache and a new understanding of Russian culture… a lesson learned in a house behind a Piggly Wiggly near the sunny beaches of Florida. The world is a funny place for a ‘medium’ sized nose American boy…