Type of Bread: Russian Black Bread
It is hard to remember that sunny July day now that autumn has arrived in the North. My co-writer and our team of conspirators have gone home. The days grow shorter and the nights colder, and Khlebchik and I utter encouraging words to one another:
"Will you keep me warm when the heat is broken and the temperature's gone below zero?"
"I will," he answers. "And will you bundle me up when we venture into the snow banks and wind to bring cheer and warmth to the city?"
"I will," I say.
"Can we make toast on a sleigh?"
"I hope so, Khlebchik, I hope so."
July 22 was another day of historically unprecedented heat in St. Petersburg. Fans flapped wildly in the hands of the audience members at the Alexandrinsky Theater and the orchestra pit glimmered far below us in a haze of heat. Khlebchik cuddled contentedly in my bag on the floor next to me throughout the performance of Swan Lake...he likes the heat.
Anya, Anna and I used the two brief intermissions in the performance to dash around the theater, looking for outlets in dark corners, behind coat racks and benches. It proved to be a difficult task. There were simply no outlets. Where do they plug things in in this place? we wondered.
At this point, I got somewhat sidetracked on another mission I will briefly describe. We slipped into one of the theater's red-carpeted cocktail halls (for lack of a better name) to discreetly inspect the lower part of its walls. And there before me was a guard, in a black suit, with the most impressive sideburns I have ever seen. Looking just to his right, I encountered the second-most-impressive sideburns I have ever seen, on a small bronze bust. I very much wanted to get a picture of this man, preferably next to the statue that must have been his inspiration. But fate (or the man himself) foiled me again and again as I chased the guard through corridors and up staircases, snapping pictures just as he turned a bend or switched off a light. I only managed two very blurry pictures, one of the guard, the other of the bust:
Now, back to the matter at hand. We finally did find an outlet by a bench near the staircase. We hurried to it when the performance ended and began our risky task. We were out in the open and expecting a babushka to round the corner at any moment. But Khlebchik came through, as he always does.
We felt that something was missing in our toasting adventures because we hadn't elicited any responses from Russians. The risk of being caught is just too great--the slap on the wrist we would get for making toast at the ballet might be administered in a labor camp in Siberia. So we decided to pose for photos with Khlebchik outside the theater, and we finally got some very puzzled looks. It was a bittersweet moment--our last adventure of the summer--and we were filled with sadness, pride, and most of all...toast.