Yep, there is.
Now that we've resolved that...let's dip a pewter flagon into my stream of consciousness and take a little drink, shall we?
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
Happy Halloween. It's my favorite holiday.
I can't say I was looking forward to my recent business trip to Kiev, Ukraine. I envisioned it as being a drab, dour place--much like East Berlin when I visited it in 1988. Or K-Mart when I visited it in 2005.
Beyond that, I really didn't know what to expect--except that the trip would end with my lifeless body being stuffed into a industrial drum and tossed into the Black Sea by a neckless, hairy ogre purporting to be my taxi driver.
Well, I was a bit hasty in my pessimism. Kiev is actually a very nice town--even if my taxi driver (who, in fact, had a neck) did point down-river as we passed over a bridge and said, "Cherynobl."
Kiev's buildings were clean and brightly painted. Golden minarets shimmered. Highways were lined with old growth white birch trees. And the women?
O! M! G!
Guys, come closer and listen carefully. If your life's "To Do" list has an entry that says, "Find a tall, thin, ridiculously beautiful eastern European-ish babe," then go buy yourself a ticket on the first available flight to Kiev.
She's there. In fact, she's everywhere.
SPEAKING OF EASTERN EUROPEAN-ISH BABES:
Meet my girlfriend.
Her name is Agatha Szczykutowicz. Yes, yes, yes...it's pronounced as it's spelled.
What? You're shocked, shocked to discover that I have a girlfriend?! Why?
Oh, yeah...I guess I've failed to mention her up till now. You might even say that I was keeping her a secret. A secret, that is, except to Mr. & Mrs. The Big Finn and Michael. The five of us pigged-out on Q at a restaurant in Chicago last summer.
Thanks, guys...for invoking the cone of silence.
By way of history, I met Agatha when I worked for the Niagra Mohawk power company in 1979. I was inspecting some electrical wiring in the attic of a raised ranch in Buffalo, NY. Agatha was sitting at a spinning wheel in a far corner of the attic spinning cotton thread into gold.
I lured her downstairs with a freshly sauteed pierogi and into my canary yellow '73 Plymouth Barracuda. The rest, shall we say, was history.
Agatha has an adorable black schnauzer named after a beverage cup, and an adorable set of parental units. Her father is 8'4" and once rested his ashtray on Andre the Giant's head. Andre thanked him politely and offered to fetch him another beer.
In her free time, Agatha enjoys playing Baroque music on her accordian and cracking walnuts between the muscles of her six-pack--although not necessarily at the same time.
Agatha came to visit me in Spain a few weeks ago, and we spent a romantic weekend in Barcelona. She loved Barcelona. Said it was better than any K-Mart she had ever visited.
AND FINALLY...PUTTING THE "EX-" IN "EXPAT":
Yeah, it's true. More on that later...