Thursday, January 3, 2013

R.I.P. My Russian Bodyguard

Just this morning, I receaved a Facebook message from a dear friend of mine in Russia. Her name is Mosha, and she was my interpreter when I worked for the KasKad CO OP in northern Siberia, I have been told it is the farthest north CO OP on either the Euro or Asian continents.

So here was this mornings news...................

"Daniel, thank you very much for congrats! Our mutual late congrats with the New Year and Christmas for you and Sue! You know I just talked to my mom by phone and she said to me a really bad news. Your Friend Sasha died on December, 13...The fact is that they didn't live in Aykhal anymore. They moved to Krasnoyarsk (this is the south of Siberia, not far away from Novosibirsk) I don't remember exactly when in the past. So, he was buried there. Valentina and Kiki is in mourning for Sasha. I'm sorry. Rest in peace, Sasha"

(end of transmission)

It's been close to 7 years since I spent time with my Siberian body guard, but not a day goes by when I don't think of him. In fact, I got one of his prison tattoo's inked on the back of my left tricep to make sure I never forget this guy..

In many ways, I feel as if I have been blessed throughout my life, because I have been many places, and seen many things.

But throughout these episodes...I've seldom taken a beating.

Maybe I've been lucky up until this point, but either way......

In my mind, much of this has to do with the Polish Christ and the Saint of Warsaw, but a good chunk of my staying in one piece is due to the service of a man as different from me as I will ever meet.


I got to hang out in the Siberian Artic with arguably the baddest ass guy on the planet, and he was my friend.

Submitted below is a piece I wrote about him last year for a publication called Lief Magizine, I hope you enjoy this...............

3-2-1 and.................

Awhile back, I was working in Siberia, in a French restaurant, that was run by Russians.

These bakers viewed me as some kind of magician and pleaded desperately for me to share a top secret American dessert recipe.

The first myth I should have dispelled is that America really doesn't have too many recipes that are indigenous, most of the items served from our kitchens were influenced by ancestors with history in other countries,

But then I began thinking how baking soda, and baking powder were developed in the USA.

So I decided I would share an unique quick bread recipe that a girlfriend from Paris had given me a few years back.

As much as Russians are intrigued by Americans, deep down many of them dream of living a French life style.

Anyway; I told the head chef I was going to need 3 bananas, and she just threw her hands in the air while exclaiming.......

"Somebody find Sasha, the Americone is heading to town."

It turns out that Sasha was an ex con that made a pretty good living guarding people who transported valuble items throughout the Arctic.

But were 3 bananas enough reason to bring in security?

Apparently so, I was told that in the region I was visiting, 36 years old was the life expectancy of local males.

Rumors had surfaced that a guy from Minnesota had arrived, and he was toting backpacks with Jack Daniels and Marlboro's.

In the diamond city of Aikhal, this was reason enough to make a guy disappear.

Eventually Sasha showed up, and backed into a make shift loading dock in a flatbed truck.

It had naked Asian woman painted on the doors of the cab.

As we boarded the truck together, I  hopped in the vehicle, and looked at my bodyguard and thought it strange that such a small body could be connected to such a large reputation.

"Don't be fooled by appearances" the head chef had warned me "That guy is mean as hell."

After we were miles down the road, I realized I didn't have a clue as to where we were going.

So when Sasha pulled into an empty field, I began to get nervous.

There were zero bananas in sight.

Maybe I had watched too many mafia movies, because I really thought I was about to get snuffed.

Sasha instructed me to follow him, and within a few steps he plopped his ass into a dirt field that went on for acres.

Other than the dirt, the only other thing to look at was the burnt brush that would never recieve the elements it would need to become lush.

And there was also a sewage line that was waist high.

The frost line was unforgiving here.

All the plumbing needed to be above ground.

But on this late spring day, the sun was shining. So much that my body guard removed his shirt.

Across his back were tattoos of czars, religous priest looking guys, soldiers and wolves.

Each one of them was framed by a rifle scope.

Sasha explained to me that this area we were sitting in was the most beautiful place on earth.

As a guest, I wasn't seeing it....but I didn't ask why?

Instead, I posed a more curious question....

"Who are those people and animals tattooed on your back?"

Sasha answered with a matter of fact response....

"They are the devils that put me in prision, but this is no worry to you, they are all gone now."

So I just ended up pulling a bottle of whiskey, and a pack of smokes out of my backpack.

I don't know how much time passed before we got up to go pursue those bananas, but I do remember getting drunk enough to muster up the courage to ask Sasha why he thought this non discript terrain was so beautiful.

And even though I was a little waisted, and the answer was kinda cliiche, it makes me smile when I envision my friends response......

"Beauty is not how land looks, its how it treats you. I worked very hard to buy this property, and everytime I come tells me I am free."

-   end   -

Well Sasha, I'm not really good at good bye's, so I guess I won't even say it.

But I do miss you already...a lot.

BTW.....I am proud to wear your tattoo brother.

Stay warm in Russian heaven.

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