Thursday, July 8, 2010


The Russians are in custody.

Don't be scared.

You can let your child leave the house again. Even send them back to school. 

The bad guys are behind titanium bars.

We got 'em.

What were these evil superspies doing, I hear you ask?

What an inane question.

They were spying, people. That's not cool. Actually, they're pleading guilty to "conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent." That is so, way uncool. Don't these Ruskies know anything? Any actor who's played a KGB villain in a James Bond movie can tell you that if you want to act as a foreign agent- in fact, if you're not ready to play the part but are still only just in the conspiring stage (leafing through the dailies, practicing in front of the mirror, putting on a feeble Soviet brogue in restaurants), you have to register. Guys, come on. Get with it.

But let's say for argument's sake that these strapping fellows are actually spies. That they meant to do us morally upright US citizens (and residents, in my case) harm. I guess that's possible. Well, then guys... you still have to let us know! Please, by all means, be an agent, be foreign, but goddamn it, fess up!

Here's how it's supposed to go. It's not complicated. Work with me here. You board the Aeroflot airbus at Domodedovo, cyanide pills and microscopic camera safely stored where the sun rarely shines, and we're not talking Siberia. A quick hop across Europe and the Atlantic, involving the standard spy-on-a-plane fare:

  • 29 vodkas on the rocks, with no drunkenness or subsequent hangover thanks to a special pill designed by the Russian equivalent of Q. His name is Ӛ. Nice guy from what I hear.
  • The mandatory faceless sex with a steward in the bathroom. No orgasm, though- she accidentally hit the flush lever. You know that flush in the airplane bathroom. It sounds like the end of the world. Farewell, erection.
  • Having settled back into your seat in coach (it hasn't been the same since the KGB disbanded- the new Foreign Intelligence Service doesn't even have half & half in the office fridge), the friendly, morbidly obese American tourist forces you to casually snap his neck and pull his Minnesota Twins baseball cap down over his face after talking too much hockey and saying you bear an uncanny resemblance to Howie Mandell.
  • After sneaking into business class to avoid the soggy gases now escaping from the Minnesota Twin's doughy, decomposing corpse, you recline in your seat to enjoy the assorted Latest Hits! movies available on every Aeroflot flight.
  • Having been thoroughly moved by The Bridges of Madison County, thrilled by Mission Impossible 2 and amused by the latest, pathetic actor playing James Bond (you make a mental note to Google this Pierce Brosnan guy when you land), you recline in your seat and fall into a deep sleep.
  • A loud commotion back in coach wakes you with a start. As the flight crew races past, you hear something about the smell of death and horrific, noxious gases. Breakfast has just been served.
The rest of the flight proceeds uneventfully, aside from finishing things up with the steward, sans flush. She gives you her number and tells you to meet her in the hotel bar. You smile, say your goodbye and silently wish for a time when gay spies didn't have to keep up appearances. Not that it would help during a flight- male, gay flight stewards don't come along every day.

So here is the moment of truth. You have landed. You have disembarked. Now you are waiting in line at customs. As you near the front, you see your man: buzz cut above a chiselled jaw and thick, military neck. Photos of he and his marine core sweetheart on the desk. American flag lapel. Mikhail Gorbachev dart board on the glass partition behind him. A Minnesota Twins coffee cup next to him.   Damn.

But wait. You're not going to lie. You're going to follow the Pentagon's rules; play by the book, for Marx's sake.  You're going to tell the truth this time, and do something never before attempted in the entire history of US-Russian espionage, something that will create sudden, irreversible change in how things are done:

You're going to register.

You're next.  You head to the counter,  and here's what happens:

"Good day, sir. Passport, please."
"Certainly. Go Twins."

 Pause. Blank stare.

"What's your business in the USA?"
"How long will you be here?"
"As long as it takes to get my hands on critical military and state secrets."
"How long does that usually take? Ballpark."
"Hmm... how does a month sound?"
"Your tourist visa's valid for 3 months, so that'll work fine. "
"Cool. Maybe I'll have time to get to Vegas. Us spy types are mean poker players. You ever play Petrozavodsk Hold'em? Scintillating stuff."
"Never had the pleasure. Where will you be staying while you're here."
"All over West Hollywood."
"Excuse me?"
"Ah.. Los Angeles. I don't have an address yet. I'm a spy. We improvise."
"Got it. Well, this all checks out. Good luck with the state secret thing."
"  'Preciate it. You have a beautiful country. Really glad we got with the whole capitalist thing and can work together."
"Me too."

You start to walk away with a light skip, awash in contentment. His voice stops you. Uh oh. You turn, fearing the worst.

"One last thing. Has anybody ever told you that you look exactly like Howie Mandell?"

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