Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Skype is a good thing

Don't have Skype? Get it! If you have high-speed Internet and your friends and family do, too, you can be talkin' with them all over the planet through your computer - for free. I love it. Just a few minutes ago, I talked to Steve, an old friend of mine in Greece. He and I haven't spoken together for years literally.

I adore this guy. I'd call him "not-so-tall, dark, and handsome." And a completely wonderful goofball. He's a totally loveable freak. I will never forget the day I met him, working in the consular section of the embassy in Moscow. He spoke the most exceptional Russian I'd ever heard out of a non-Russian. He had a six-pack of beer in his desk drawer and a bullhorn next to his phone. (The bullhorn was a necessary piece of equipment for the consular section back then, trust me.) Steve was giving a tongue-lashing to someone over the phone in lightning fast Russian while listening to old Tears for Fears when I walked in. Somehow, we clicked as friends immediately, the handsome Greek guy and the American lump woman with bad hair and stirrup pants. He liked to play "Louie, Louie" with the airhorn on the bullhorn and shoot flames across the room using hairspray and a Zippo. He used do his "Armenian Elvis" impression for me, saying, "Ah 1, 2, ah 1, 2, 3, 4!" in hilariously accented Armenian. He also did impressions of some of our favorite visa applicant con artists, and he did them brilliantly - one of the best was of a man who had a criminal record for stabbing someone else. He claimed the stabbing was accidental - he'd been cleaning his fingernails with a knife and some dude came by and fell on his knife - 22 times.

Ah yes. The old days...

So, today, Steve got on Skype in Athens, fished around and found my ID. And, voila, we were yakking away like we were back in Moscow a dozen or so years ago. I was really bummed to have to cut it short, as I had to run to a doctor's appointment, but, god, it was so good to hear his voice.

Man, have I got stories about this guy... and some hilarious pictures to back 'em up.

But I think laws in several states may keep me from telling some of the stories...

Okay, one story. Back in '90 or '91, my mom came to visit me in Moscow with a family friend in tow. By total coincidence, a group of my mom's friends from WWII were doing a "friendship visit" to Moscow at the same time, meeting up with some Soviet women who also flew military aircraft in the war. By, yet again, another coincidence, Bob Hope came through Moscow to do a show for the Marines stationed at the embassy. Truth be told, those Marines were too young to really know who Bob Hope was, and his comedy was waaaay past its prime, but the gesture was sincere. He had the amazing Rosemary Clooney in tow (and that was flippin' awesome to hear her sing in, basically, my front yard) and Brooke "Tom Cruise Needs a Smackdown" Shields.

My mom's friends all arrived at the embassy to hear the concert, and mom and our family friend went out from my apartment to the big embassy lawn to enjoy the concert. I didn't want to interrupt a very unusual WWII reunion, so I offered to come later with friend Steve in tow. Steve can drink anyone I know under the table - perhaps his liver (and his constitution) were iron-lined after growing up in Moscow (his parents were Greek diplomats - Steve himself was a dual Greek-U.S. citizen, having been born when his 'rents were grad students in Oklahoma.) Up in my kitchen, Steve proceeded to make himself the largest Jack and Coke ever seen by man. It was the bottom half of a 2-liter plastic Coke bottle, hacked off with a Ginsu knife.

By the time we plopped ourselves down in the yard where Bob Hope & Co. were doing take after take after take of awful, awful patter and jokes, Steve was more than three sheets to the wind, I do believe. He was very well-behaved throughout Rosemary Clooney's set, which was cool and really lovely and full of nostalgia.

But then Brooke Shields came out on stage. The Marines hooted and cheered. Steve whistled. And poor Brooke Shields tried to sing. Bless her heart. Brooke Shields is not a singer. Brooke Shields is not musically inclined at all. She is, in fact, virtually tone deaf. And that lovely, embarrassed woman tried over and over again to sing "Try A Little Tenderness" for the crowd. Finally, in between one set of takes she said, "I know, I know. I can hear you all: 'Don't sing, Brooke!'" To which, Steve, sitting next to me, with my mother and her friends just a few feet away, replied:


And I crawled under the lawn. I swear, I think I physically crawled under the turf and waited for it all to end.

Is it any wonder my mother did not find me and introduce me to her friends? Oy vey!

In retrospect, it's just another one of those "Omigod, Moscow!" moments that makes you laugh inappropriately. At the time, I was just thinking that my mother was going to kill me. But Steve is just Steve. Despite the "boob" comment, my mom saw just how charming, sweet, and funny he was. Sometimes a little crass, most times really classy, and always funny. I haven't seen Steve since 1992, I think. I used to love just going to his apartment and watching old British sitcoms and hanging out or going to the embassy dacha with a couple of friends, barbeque'ing and listening to Steve play Russian songs on his guitar. He was a great buddy.

I'm glad to be able to hear his voice again. Can't wait to hear more - about his family, his gorgeous girlfriends, life in Greece...

Skype doth rock - and thanks to the Sasquatch for getting me hooked up with it. It's most excellent, indeed.


Anonymous said...

Always love these stories of yours, Merujo!

And I know empirically that Skype is a lifesaver. Thank you again for helping keep me sane these past weeks (can I say weeks yet?) Merujo.


and thanks also to the great Sasquatch for setting you up (and being a great chap!)

Merujo said...

You are most welcome, Paul! You can call me any old time, my friend.

And, indeed, the Sasquatch is a great chap. Once you get those bigfoot beasties out of the woods, they're really quite personable. :-)

Shafa said...

Steve proceeded to make himself the largest Jack and Coke ever seen by man. It was the bottom half of a 2-liter plastic Coke bottle, hacked off with a Ginsu knife.


Chuck said...

I love Skype! I just got it this month. I signed up for the "unlimited calling" special they were having. While my friends and family can't call me from regular phones, I can call them all I want for $15 this year. Definitely takes the strain off of my cellphone minutes. I may get some Skype accessories soon.