This article originally appeared in the January 22, 1988 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
Dear General Secretary Gorbachev:
Oh my, what a stiff greeting. May we dispense with the formalities? I will throw international courtesy to the wind and call you “Mr. Gorbachev.” It suits you so. It suits you like your camel’s-hair coat, like your modest striped tie at state functions. Not “Gorby,” which is far too reminiscent of “Gumby” (American capitalist toy that promotes manipulation of others at an early age) and certainly not “Mikhail” (associated with unfortunate Naval television comedy starring Ernest Borgnine), but simply “Mr. Gorbachev.” Yes. I will call you that.
Mr. Gorbachev, in the spirit of glasnost, I must speak openly and I pray my frank statements do not offend you. It is imperative that these words be exchanged – it could mean the difference between world peace and global destruction.
You see, Mr. Gorbachev, I want to date you. There. I said it.
Let me start from the beginning. The first time ever I saw your face was on the front page of the New York Post. I heard the demented newsboy on my block chanting the headlines, as he does daily. “Commie Slime Comes to Washington!” he shouted, over and over. I walked by, fast, and caught your visage out of the corner of my eye. “Just another soulless slave of the state,” I thought, as I hurried past. But something made me stop and turn around. Maybe it was that thing on your head. I bought a paper and studied your face, your smile; I studied that mark on your dome. Was it a map of Korea? Was it a dab of paint carelessly spilled by your Creator? If you were a horse, it would be called a “star.” All I knew was that I wanted to touch it.
It was an innocent enough desire, at first; after all, I have long yearned to wreck Gary Hart’s hair or to catch a glimpse of the tiger on George Shultz’s behind, but none of these urges ever blossomed into obsession. But that thing on your head was different. I followed it. I followed it to Washington, to state dinners and cultural events, to Oval Office tête-á-têtes… I watched it glow a little redder when discussions became heated. At first I wondered if it was an emotional barometer, not unlike Khrushchev’s shoe… ah, but you are made of different stuff. Was it your third eye, a spiritual satellite dish? Or simply a rare flower blossoming on the tundra? Mr. Gorbachev, by the end of your historic visit, that thing on your head was branded in my heart.
Oh, sure. I thought I was impervious to the charms of politicians. I’d been seduced by pretty words before, by promises from podiums, but these had turned to dust and I was bitter. My loyalties were all used up. The president, the pope, the Dalai Lama… none could move me. But then you came along. My Mishka, my big brown bear.
You were charming, idealistic, romantic, sincere. Your eyes twinkled, your hair glistened; you looked big and warm in your soft coat. Your voice was gentle. You were even witty. I thought: there is my Russian. No more shall dopy Ruskie jokes e’er pass Reagan’s rubbery lips. When I saw the hammer and sickle waving alongside the Stars and Stripes, I saw my destiny.