Monday, January 27, 2014

My Father’s Russian Doppelganger

Since I haven’t tired of embarrassing myself at all things Russian, it seemed fitting that I should add cross-country skiing to the list. Yesterday Dima invited Liz and me to join him for some outdoor athletics, but since Liz had a coffee date at Café Pushkin, that just left me to tag along with a trio of Russian men.

To give you some background, my first and only experience cross-country skiing occurred in the days when the Soviet Union still existed. And I hated it. My father had gotten the bright idea to take his three daughters (all under the age of 10) skiing, and he decided to up the discomfort factor by securing us lodging in an unheated, dormitory-style chalet. Melissa, Stephie, and I were terrified to sleep in the female wing without a parent to protect us, so we ended up spending two nights bunking down in the men’s quarters, which were only moderately less scary. As for the actual skiing experience, I face-planted in a snowdrift, Stephie could barely walk then, much less ski, and Melissa, who complains when temperatures drop below 70 degrees, was ready to murder us all.  My dad laughed us off and said, “You guys seem like you’ve got the hang of it.  Stay together and I’ll see you in an hour!”  Thoroughly abandoned, the three of us collapsed in the snow for a good cry, a bitter rant against our father, and an agreement to never cross-country ski again.

Even though I had started to suspect that Dima is like a younger, Russian version of my father, I agreed to give cross-country skiing a second try.  We left the flat yesterday afternoon armed with sweet tea and chocolate and packed ourselves into Sasha’s dashcam-equipped car.  I immediately fell asleep, awaking to discover that we were lost in some snowy Moscow suburb or other. Maps were consulted, dead ends were hit, and night started to fall. I figured we’d give up and go home, forgetting to factor in Dima’s Dick-like tendencies. My father has never let nighttime interfere with his hobbies—insert flashbacks to many nocturnal bike rides, 4am raspberry bush planting by lantern-light, and that time he woke me up at 1am to film him chasing a possum out of the house. 

When we finally arrived at our destination, it was clear that Dima was no less fazed by darkness than my dad.  I layered up and hoped my ski lesson would be delivered in English, but Dima just sent me off and said I was doing fine, which I seriously doubted. When it became apparent that I was moving about 12 times slower than the boys, Dima circled back to check on me.

Dima: We’re going to take the 17-km loop, so we’ll meet you back at the car. You’ve got your phone, right?
Me: No, I left it in the car like an idiot.
Dima: Well this sounds like the beginning of a story that doesn’t end well.

I would have chimed in my agreement, but he had already skied off. Before I could entertain too many paranoid scenarios of a bear mauling me or an encounter with a serial killer, I comforted myself in the knowledge that Dima was behaving like my father.  Never mind that “fatherly” behavior once resulted in Toddler Jessie dislocating her shoulder (to be fair, my dad was indulging my request to be dragged across the floor, and probably wouldn’t have agreed had he foreseen the questions he’d get at the hospital).

A beautiful setting for skiing...or getting killed

In the end, the boys didn’t abandon me, and I finished the 3-km loop ready for more.  Sasha (also a first-timer) was less enthused, and voted to pack up and head home. But he was quickly shot down by Dima: “We didn’t drive all the way out here to only ski 3 kilometers, did we?!” If not for the fact that he was speaking Russian, I would have sworn that he was my father, who said something similar before taking me on a bike ride so painful I’m surprised I’m not sterile.  I think if my dad comes to Moscow, the combination of Dick and Dima will cause my head to explode.  Or, at the very least, end in a hospital visit.

My dad, his Moscow t-shirt, and his banjo


  1. Please find a way to make Dima's name a double entendre like "Dick Long." Then my delight will be complete.

    Absolutely hilarious post. Well done, yet again JTL!!

    1. My Russian's not good enough for that, but I'll do my best!

  2. I´m crossing my fingers that Ricardo will come and visit you in Moscow just so that I can hear all about it! Bicos de Galicia!!!

  3. Hahaha. Oh man. Glad you survived and weren't mauled!

  4. You seem to have forgotten that I was more able to handle temps below 70-degrees in my youth. Additionally in those days, you and Stephie still welcomed my leadership. On the day in question, I led the team in building a protective snow fort, or hole, to help protect us from the elements.

  5. Thanks for making me look like the idiot-weirdo in my office who is sitting at my desk laughing out loud all by my lonesome. Any attempts to hold-back my laughter failed miserably. Good read nonetheless.

    1. Haha, glad you enjoyed it! I know you are all too familiar with my father's bizarre antics :)