Westward. Day 24

Getting a Soviet peck on the cheek, dodging a question at the border. TODAY is the day that an Intourist guide kisses me. She is the first guide who frankly says she doesn't like American jazz. We can hardly offer my customary token for guides, a jazz cassette. We give her one of the gifts Joan carries. It is a packet of the letters of the alphabet in the calligraphy of Jean Evans (the letters seen in this newspaper a couple of years ago). The guide handles the small present with delight. That's when I get my Soviet peck on the cheek. I can hardly believe we're standing on the train platform at the Finland Station. The station where Lenin made his return to Russia in 1917. The name that Edmund Wilson used with such resonance in the title of his book on revolutionary traditions, ``To the Finland Station.''

Now we're about to go from the Finland Station. By rail to Helsinki. By water to Stockholm. By air to New York.

When Soviet customs inspectors pass through our train, Joan and I don't have our luggage searched and address book scrutinized. Another American does. She says the ordeal began when an official saw her wedding rings and lectured her for not declaring them in writing.

We think this is the official who looks at least impatient with Joan's declaration. It swears Joan is leaving the Soviet Union with the same amount of money she brought in almost two weeks ago. ``Did you buy something in our country or not]'' the official bites off in an accent that may sound more accusatory than she is, despite her authoritative shirt and tie.

``No,'' says Joan, pointing at me. ``He's the moneybags.'' This word, often preceded by ``old,'' is a family term of semi-endearment that I usually hear when I'm expected to pay for the movie tickets. What on earth does it mean to our English-as-a-second-language interrogator? She either understands perfectly or decides she has enough troubles. She leaves. A man comes in and says, ``Stand up, please.'' He checks under the bunk. Finding no stowaways, he closes us in with a decisive slide of the door.

Tonight in Helsinki we find the kind of movie film I have run out of. The clerk sells me on an extra roll in a three-pack. We're back with merchandising Western style. Then a wonderful, busy, untouristy restaurant, the Kosmos. Salmon with morel cream sauce. New potatoes with dill. Poached strawberries. The doorman says, yes, his customers include the artists whose posters adorn the walls. He gives us a poster designed for the restaurant.

Roderick Nordell is the Monitor's feature editor. Tomorrow he keeps the tour bus waiting.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Westward. Day 24
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today