Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Back to Club Mafia this weekend....as it had been an entire month since we'd celebrated anything. Timur and his wife joined us to toast to her upcoming business trip (komanderovka in Russian; isn't that the coolest-sounding word ever?) and the completion of D's first week here in Kharkov. Our previous evening at this restaurant was on a Friday and the place was deserted apart from us and the mafia tables. This time it was a Sunday evening, and business was booming. According to Timur, this is why Monday is such a difficult workday for everyone :P

We spent a long evening together...partially because we wanted to and partially because of the service. Either food would arrive just as a bottle of vodka was finished, hence forcing the order of a new bottle, or the food would end while vodka was left, making us start the process over again. I swear they do it on purpose.

Like earlier posts stated, sausage is mega-popular here. There are constant lines underground in the metro to buy locally-produced sausage. People brave the weather and make late night trips to the sausage kiosk down the street for a snack. As a tribute to this devotion, one of our orders included an artfully-sliced tray of different kinds of sausage, among which I discovered the Meat Gum. The Meat Gum is a delicious variety of sausage. You can recognize the Meat Gum by its bright red coloring and large amounts of white embedded fat blobs. In fat, there are so many pieces of fat in this meat, that you can chew on a slice of it for about 15 minutes, just like a regular piece of gum. Except regular gum isn't meat-flavored, haha. I freakin' love this sausage.

Another food excerpt: one of my dinner companions mentioned a work-party where the food quickly vanished and the only things left were candy, mayonnaise, and alcohol....so the candy and mayo became the next course!

Anyways, back to the club. I noticed right away the "No Smoking" sign on the espresso machine...and the criminal element table next to it, puffing away like there was no tomorrow. Maybe there's only no smoking allowed while you're standing at the coffee machine? D hates this, the ever-present cigarette smog in practically any place you go. At the coffee shop, there's a smoking section and a non-smoking section, but do you think the smoke stays corralled in the smoking section? It's like peeing in a swimming pool! I'm used to the smoke by now. For me, the biggest drawback (lungs be damned) is that by the end of an evening the smoke is thoroughly entrenched in clothes and hair, yet another black mark toward my brilliant idea of bringing dry-clean only clothes to Ukraine.

At the beginning of the evening, the DJ was spinning Pitbull. Usually Pitbull gets on my nerves, but this time I was like "English! Spanish accents! Spanish! Yeah!" My poor brain must be desperate for the English I took for granted back in the US (although 70's disco music is still very popular and loved here, it doesn't cure homesickness like hip hop does, as I didn't exist at all in the 70s). Then the music switched to something slower and more local. This music unfortunately shared a similar beat to Xmas music...slow and steady.... and was often sung by Oscar the Grouch. At one point the DJ put on something even more sorrowful and manly, and the criminal element got all upset and whistled angrily at the DJ. He immediately put on a Russian pop tune with heavy base. The criminal element were appeased and settled back down in a haze of cigarette smoke and leather jackets. These guys were awesome- they kept things going laate into the night. The restaurant kept trying to close down- they'd turn off the disco lights and music, turn on the bright regular overhead lights, the DJ would pointedly put his coat on and start heading towards the door, and the criminal element would somehow charm the staff into another 20 minutes of disco club before going through the whole closing-down routine again. It reminded me of being in KJ's in Alaska one night with a visiting band of Hell's Angels from CA.... Anyways, the criminal element never danced or interacted with others...they just sat there and looked cool and smacked each other on the back, kissed each other on the cheek, shook hands and stood up to make toasts all evening.

One more drinking tradition learned: to get a wish granted, blow in an empty bottle and immediately seal the top with your hand. One of our toasts was to me being completely and flawlessly fluent in Russian after New Years- keep your fingers crossed for me!

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