Back in the USSR

Break out the vodka -- The Nightfly tours Houston's Russian-themed bars

During the day, I've been phoning the brand-new local Russian consulate. I've been wanting to speak with Consul General Nikolay V. Sofinskiy about these clubs. Has he ever been to any? What does he think of them? Do they set an appropriate Russian tone? For four days I've been hearing this: "You have reached the Russian consulate general in Houston. Our telephone system is currently under construction, so please dial zero for an operator." Dial zero, and a pleasant female voice asks me to "Please hold while I try that extension," at which time I find myself wired into a voice-mail system where "greeting one has not been recorded." Dammit! This place opened in June, and they still don't have working phone service. It's easy to believe the capitalist propaganda about how these people had to wait in line for hours just to get a single loaf of stale bread.

Back at the Russian Bear, my girlfriend has just informed me that if I don't stop thinking about ordering a Smirnoff Ice, she will walk out and I'll have to catch a ride with a pirate waiter. So I order a Corona -- you know, when in Rome. I catch Ms. Popkov offstage and get deep on her about the other places in town using her culture to cash in. Had she known about any of them, she says, she would have been flattered.

"You don't have any problem with it?"

The drink of choice at the Russian Bear: Corona, of all 
Al Cameron
The drink of choice at the Russian Bear: Corona, of all things.

"I have no idea. It sounds nice."

Wow. Here I am ready to start an arms race over something even the owner of this authentic Russian outfit doesn't give two shits about. That seems like a good enough reason to let it go. But I swear -- if anyone opens a Gestapo's Bar and Blitzkrieg Grill, I'm not going to let it slide.

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