America, June 1, 2004
Thankfully, they don't party like the Russians
Now what would you do? What would you do if you had to entertain ten Ukrainians in Washington DC for four days in early June? Ten Ukrainians from all walks of life, here to cap a one-month tour of America, who spent the last three weeks in Louisville, Kentucky?|
Well this is Washington DC, our nation's capital and it was my duty to figure out what would interest them thanks to a call from my Peace Corps buddy, Matt, who now works for the Louisville International Cultural Center.
In his unique Matt way, he called me out of the blue in March and asked what I was doing the first week of June. Having no clue I told him so, which had him laughing as he told me what I would be doing.
I would be in the midst of a Ukrainian invasion.
I have to say, looking back on this past week, I'm so glad that Matt called me. I had a great time with all ten of them, showing them the unique sights this city has to offer. First off, right after they popped out of the bus from the airport I had them eating quality Thai for lunch at Jandara.
Then it was off to the Pentagon City Mall as I expected them to wanna shop for last0minute gifts for home. To my surprise, they didn't care about the Mall, having seen enough in Louisville. No, they wanted to see the actual Pentagon.
Off to it we went, by a long way, which turned out to be the best way. From a hill overlooking the building they took several-dozen trophy photos (look, this is me in front of the Pentagon!). When we did get near it, we saw that post-9/11 the Pentagon parking lot, a lot the size of several football fields was now a no-photo area. And after Sergey snapped a photo, causing a heavily armed guard to come quiz us and check the shots, we understood that they really meant no photos.
After that excitement, we went back into DC and wandered around Dupont Circle, winding up at my neighborhood favorite: Trios. Where else in DC can you slam down tall glasses of vodka and not have sticker shock when the bill comes?
The next day, their first full day, I took them to DC crown jewel: The National Mall. Now this isn't a shopping mall, it's a walking mall. Four miles of monuments, museums, and government that encompasses everything from the United States Botanical Gardens to the to the White House to the new World War II Memorial. As I expected, they were in awe. Hey, who wouldn't be? I know that each and every time I wander along it I am.
That night I put the Ukrainians in awe of another part of Washington DC: Adams-Morgan. This super-diverse neighborhood in DC, where I spent way too much time when I lived nearby, is home to much of DC's cool youth-orientated nightlife, a nightlife that the Ukrainians loved.
Or at least they tried, as the next day they were headed to New York City on a last-minute, day-only dash to the Big Apple. Being only four hours by bus away, they couldn't resist a trip to see the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Times Square. Places they only hear about in a awe-inspired hush back in Odessa.
So come 10pm, it was just four of us, with the majority of the group straggling back to the hotel to get a good night's rest. A night of rest that was not in the plans for Roma, Katya, Karen and I as we tuned south and started towards Dupont Circle. Stopping first for another round of drinks we planned out our night.
An hour later found us deep in the midst of Drag Bingo at Club Chaos, and chaos it was as we tried hard to make the letter 'T' for 'transvestite' or bingo up and down as numbers came at us fast and furious. Missing out on the Porn Jeopardy fun, we split for another of Dupont's intuitions: Club Cobalt.
Unlike Kyiv's gay club, Big Boy, in DC gay clubs there is good music, strong drinks, and if you like them like Katya does, hot men. Hell, even if you're not into men, you still have to give props to these gym bunnies.
With less than 4% body fat even the bartenders are an anatomy class in themselves. How do I know, cuz they're not wearing shirts, and if you had a body like that, you'd go topless too!
Late that night, too late for any proper people, we all went our separate ways and I stumbled home just in time to drive to the bus station to check on my NYC-bound charges. They were all so excited, much more than I could manage so early with no sleep, as they waited for the next adventure to begin.
I spent the day recovering and then next morning laughing as I heard how exhausted everyone was. It seems that a back-to-back DC-NYC twofer is one hell of a trip for even hardened Ukrainians to manage and everyone was sleepy quiet on the ride to the airport. After they left, and on my way home, who did I sit next to and end up helping to find the bus station but two fresh-from-Cheboksary Russians.
Wow, just call me the DC-CIS connection!