My May Day With Mikhail


IT'S HELL trying to get into Moscow the week of May 1. Inter-Republic Highway 1 was backed up all the way from the Ukraine to Red Square with vehicles of all makes and models--squat black station wagons filled with screaming ice-cream besmeared Young Pioneers, squat black sedans driven by provincial head men, squat black vans with airbrushed scenes of the steppe at sunset painted under round tinted portals, and even a few squat black bicycles weaving their way through the stalled traffic.

Fortunately I had borrowed a friend's Harley and was able to inch my way out of the tangle onto the immaculate median strip and soon was laying down tracks at a cool 90 mph. Like many things in Russia, the weather here is designed for one purpose only: to ward off potential invaders. But with the wind in my hair the heat was quite pleasant, and I felt a quiet sense of pride at the American's ability to improvise lanes of traffic.

As I buzzed through the roadside flora I was given over to thought about the human condition. Here in Russia these teeming hordes were referred to as "the masses;" in the U.S., the same people would be called "the viewing public." But were they not, in fact, the same? Were not Russians and Americans cut from the same cloth? Were they not, in the end, both human?

Then I remembered that I was among Godless Communists.

Not only that, but the heathens happened to have an APB out on me for an abortive coup I plotted a few months back. I could not keep too low a profile. To this end I painted the words "World Socialism Rules" on my gas tank and borrowed the diplomatic plates I found on a sedan at the East German border. Now all I had to worry about was not getting pulled over, since my driver's licence had been revoked for trying to run down the premier of Rumania.


SEVERAL HOURS later, as I pulled the hawg up to a stop alongside Red Square, I felt a twinge of worry that Yupi made it out of the hospital in time for the parade. How could I explain that I had only been joking around--that I had no idea he'd try to dodge me at the last minute, when I was about to swerve. He's probably livid.

But what heart could carry a burden in the fantasy world of flowers, floats, and happy faces that teemed among the happy throng at Red Square--billed as "The Largest Paved Enclosure East of the Balkans"? As troop carriers and missile launchers gaily paraded by, clowns threw buckets of confetti at the crowd, and Misha the bear stooped to say hello to youngsters. "I am Misha, the friendly symbol of the Soviet peoples," the bear would announce in Russian. "I welcome all strangers in peace. But if you come with aggressive intentions your blood will water the land of Mother Russia!" Young and old alike applauded in delight.

His little show over, Misha made his way over behind the "Say 'No' To Star Wars" pavillion. Something in his gait seemed familiar, so I followed him. As he removed the head of his bear costume, I realized it was none other than Soviet Big Wheel Mikhail Gorbachev. Sneaking up behind him, I whispered in his ear, "Hey, buddy, you want some Space Shuttle plans, cheap?"

MIKHAIL TURNED and at once broke into a smile. "Rutger!" He cautioned me with a finger to his lips. "You must be careful. Raisa knows all about that nightclub in Reykjavik. She has spies everywhere." He handed me a big furry hat, a fake moustache, and a Politburo I.D. badge. "Better wear these".

"How's things in the U.S.?" He added. "Any significant troop movements I should know about?"

I smiled. "Well, Al Haig's running for president," I said. "Which is pretty exciting. With any luck we may see a return of Manifest Destiny."

"What about the new network I've been hearing about?"

"Well, we're still in a wait-and-see mode," I answered. "For the time being, though, Joan Rivers seems to be holding her own."

"Is Johnny still pissed?"

"I don't know." We came to the back of Lenin's tomb, where we found an unguarded drain pipe leading to the roof. I gave Mike a boost and we shimmied up. Up top the Politburo folks were passing out mint juleps and trying to get the Kentucky Derby on a transistor radio.