November 10, 2012

A good friend of mine Mark and I were working a JLO show in the city of Kiev in the Ukraine. Both of us flew there early for a survey of the arena, as the rest of our Tour would be arriving a few days later to set up for the show.

I was handling the Stage placement, show rigging, and dressing rooms, as Mark was handing the gear that was being provided and all the lighting as far as placement and cabling. The arena we were in was old and looked industrial. Seats were worn metal with a faded pastel color look to them. The bleachers were dirty riveted metal plates. The backstage area was damp and dark. The dressing rooms were concrete cells filled with a musty scent. We had many decisions to make, as there was a lot to do in preparation for the show. It was a long process and an even longer day.

By the time we made our way back to the hotel, it was late and I was starving. Mark and I parted ways as he went up to his room, and I headed straight to the lounge area. The lounge was a stark contrast to the arena where I spent my day. Everything was very ornate and clean. The lobby was tiled in white and black marble, the walls were draped elegantly with a golden fabric, and even the elevator was golden right down to the shiny button.

My feet felt heavy as I made my way into the lounge, and the smell was what hit me first. It was a combination of cigars and a wood varnish. I scanned the room and was pleasantly surprised to see wonderfully crafted wooden panels, pillars, trim, tables, and chairs all in a dark stained oak or possibly mahogany. The floor and seat cushions were neatly sewn in a rich burgundy velvet giving the room a classy touch to its décor. There were a few people lounging about that were dressed in what seemed to be an outdated style that exuded wealth. Everyone looked so 80’s fabulous. Some people had pleated slacks and a Cashmere cardigan draped leisurely over their shoulders in colors of blue or green. Those people were relaxing in a booth in the corner stirring their liquor filled glasses. A few people in the back lounging on couches were smoking casually in their elbow patched sports coats. As I sat down at one of the 2 person tables in the middle of the room, I looked over to view the intricate woodwork surrounding the bar. I half expected to see the DosEquis “Most Interesting Man in the World” sitting there, arms around a couple beautiful women. With a smirk on my face, I imagined him turning toward me uttering, “Stay thirsty my friend.”

Then a tall and well-dressed waitress sashayed her way over to my table with a smile and handed me a menu. She was thin, which everyone seemed to be in the Ukraine and had a purple dress that added to the whole mystique of the place. I took one look at the menu, and my smile faded.

The menu was written entirely in Slavic, but there in the fine print on the first page I found the words “mini-burgers” written in English. Wonderful, I thought, a snack that was like having a little bite of home in such a strange land.

I ordered the appetizer, and when she brought it to my table each of the 3 tiny burgers were different….hmmmm. The first one looked okay but had a fishy smell, the second had a lighter meat color to it but smelled all right, and the third one had a darker slick color with a disturbingly rank smell. Disappointed in myself that I neglected to inquire about the kind of burgers I was ordering, I motioned for the waitress to join me and pointed to each burger as I politely and calmly asked, “What is this?” In broken English she explained to me that the first burger was a tuna burger, the second was a veal burger, and the third one was a term I was unfamiliar with. I took a second to try and grasp what she just said, but I still had to ask again. “I’m sorry, what is the third one?” She repeated herself over and over as I blankly gazed up at her completely clueless of the words she was muttering.

I sat up and directly asked, “OK, is it Pig?” No. “Is it Cow??” NO. “Is it…..Elk???” NO, NO, NO, she said and began speaking firmly to herself in her native Slavic language that told me she was becoming frustrated that I still didn’t understand what she was trying to explain to me. Quickly she turned and walked away to ask the bartender for the English translation.

When she came back and told me what it was I was yet again faced with another very tough decision. Do I eat the Duck Liver Burger or not….

It was late. I was hungry. So despite its appalling odor all I have to say is….yum.