Where We Chill Out with Some New Russian Mobster Friends
I remember trying to picture myself with multiple palaces at my disposal like Anastasia. She had a palace for every season but (according to Danielle Steel, that renowned historian) her favorite was the family’s Summer Palace, Tsarkoe Selo. Now, I didn’t have a clue how to even say that but I just knew that I wanted to go there one day. One day when I was no longer petrified of Russians.
So, obviously, it’s time to go see my Summer Palace, right? Before Russia starts getting too westernized and loses all its’ “russian-ness”. Oh, ho, ho, there’s no chance of that happening any time soon! First of all, Americans still have to get a visa to travel to Russia which is giant pain in the buttocks. After you’ve taken care of that issue you are given another slip of paper on the airplane. You have to write down exactly where you will be every day that you are in Mother Russia. You will be expected to keep this with you on your person at all times and hand it over to anybody who asks. (We were asked twice. Once, I couldn’t find mine which caused quite a stir and pictures of gulags in Siberia began running through my head.)
Speaking of the plane, here is a rule of thumb: if the passengers all clap when the plane lands, that is the signal that you are arriving in a not-quite-fully-developed nation. They are clapping because they have arrived ALIVE and that can never be good. If you go, don’t be discouraged by the drive from the St. Petersburg airport into the city center. It’s kind of. . .grim. It didn’t help that, in spite of the fact that it was the middle of summer, the people were wearing coats and boots because it was only 50 degrees F outside.
Late the next afternoon, we stopped back in for apertifs and that was when we noticed something very strange. One of the big guys from the night before was back. I just thought, OK, he’s a regular. But this afternoon, he was with, well, there is no nice way to put it really, he was being entertained by two ladies of the evening. (Technically, in this case, I guess I would have to call them ladies of the afternoon.) And his bodyguard. Oh, excuse me. ONE of his bodyguards. His OTHER bodyguard was still standing inside the front door of the restaurant where I had mistaken him for the maître d’hotel. But that couldn’t be right, could it, since the REAL maître d’hotel was actually standing right there next to me showing me to my seat?
Mr. Big: No shit, Sherlock. Did you think those two chicks were that guy’s daughters?
Me: Well, actually, yes, initially. But the two guys with guns in the vestibule who won’t stop staring at us are what really tipped me off.
Mr. Big: This guy sitting next to me with the phone is quite scary.
Me: I know. Isn’t this fabulous? Quick, order another drink. And man up and order vodka this time, would you? You can’t sit in a mob bar and drink pink wine. Puh-leeze.
Taleon Imperial Hotel The Mob bar is, of course, nowhere to be found on the internet. Just go out of the hotel, turn right and go about three doors down. If you have to go through two sets of bullet-proof glass doors, you are in the right place. Tell them Trailing Spouse said “hey”.