Issue #13/68, July 1 - 15, 1999
Many of you who aren't belatedly overdosing on your own testosterone--and I know the majority of Moscow's foreign community is not--have probably been wondering what a normal young couple might do for a fun night out in Moscow. Strangely enough, even though I've tried to make this column as couple/lover/partner-friendly as possible, I found myself asking myself this very same question just last weekend.
The reason is that last Friday night was what my girlfriend Amy and I call "Date Night." That's when we choose an evening and go out on a "date" in a light-hearted attempt to relive those early days of our relationship. You know: the nervous first dinner, the overweaning attention that I give to her and the less-restrained curiosity and inquisitiveness on her part. What this generally means is a nice dinner for two--nothing too ostentatious or expensive, but romantic enough to show that it's special--followed by some kind of fun, unusual activity, like bowling, dancing, a walk along the river, a trip to the ballet...
Actually, my first date with Amy was back in Toronto. We met at a party being thrown by a mutual friend of ours who worked for the UN's High Commission for Refugees, although she now is a senior consultant for the world-renowned (and not without its share of controversy) Canadian PR firm Burson-Marsteller. The party was being held at our friend's high-rise condo. Our first few minutes were spent arguing over the fate of the Inuit First Nationers, towards whom Amy had mixed feelings because of their treatment of women, while I argued that it wasn't fair for a European-blooded colonialist to impose his or her moral system on an ancient, alien culture such as the Inuits, whose land, after all, we had stolen. Despite our differences over this issue, we found much in common that night--such as our mutual passion for the Indigo Girls. (Amy insists that I was a little too "forward" with her later in the evening when we were alone in the bathroom, although as I remember it, I was trying to convince her not to do anything with me that she would regret later.)
Our first date was simple. Coffee after work (I didn't have a job then). The next night, we went to dinner at a new Weegan restaurant that was cheap and sort of like the Weegan Krishna restaurant I'd once tried in Prague. Amy insisted on picking up her half of the tab, and I was won over by her independence. Later, we went to a showing of The English Patient, which we both loved, and then she came over to my house so that I could show her one of my favorite films on video, The Shawshank Redemption. I won't go into any further details out of respect to our relationship, but suffice it to say, we have lasted for more than two and a half years since, and our relationship has never been stronger.
Last Friday, we decided that it was "date night," and we were going to relive those early memories. Since there is nothing even close to a Weegan restaurant here in Moscow--not that I'm Weegan myself, but still, that's what we did back then--I decided to cook for Amy at home. I have to admit, I make a pretty mean pasta. Borrowing a page out of the "365 Ways To Make Pasta" booklet, I whipped up some of the most amazing Carbonara al Muscovi as I call it: the sauce base mixes Italian half-and-half with Russian Kefir, giving it an unusual flavor. We polished off an entire bottle of Amy's Inglewood Estates bottle of blush zinfandel that she bought at Stockmann's. Candlelight. Indigo Girls. And the two of us. It was bliss.
After that, we took a taxi to Bi-Ba-Bo, a somewhat new bowling alley located smack dab in the heart of Smolensky Square--right where the dark-blue metro station exit is, next to the Lobster Pot. Bowling while feeling a little tipsy from wine and passion is something I recommend to all young expat couples. Bi-Ba-Bo has many advantages over other bowling alleys here in Moscow. First of all, it's compact, clean, and centralized. Secondly, it has a fully computerized scoring system. Thirdly, the staff is friendly and service is functional, while prices for an hour on the alley are reasonable (less than twenty dollars!). Don't worry about bowling shoes--they have all sizes here!
Next, I took her to the newly-opened Voodoo Lounge to check out Sticky Fingers, a Rolling Stones copy band that others in the eXile had spoken highly of. Indeed, Amy and I were not disappointed. Excepting the drummer, who was big, beefy, hairy and young--that is, everything Charlie Watts isn't--these guys were the spitting image of the Stones circa-1978 or so. It was eerie. On top of that, the Voodoo Lounge, located in a quiet part of town just down the road from Belorusskaya Vokzal, looks set to be one of those happening new hangouts for a broad spectrum of night-trekkers such as myself.
Why's that? First of all, you have two separate bar areas, including a "Cuban" bar and the regular bar in the music room, all manned by the famous bartenders from the infamous Hungry Duck. Then you try their reasonably-priced margaritas--among the best in Moscow--and you'll see what I'm talking about. Amy and I were starting to get a little tipsy by the time Sticky Fingers rolled into Under My Thumb, a song which Amy told me she had no stomach for.
We didn't try Voodoo Lounge's wide selection of Cuban and Tex-Mex goods, but I can tell you that the prices--all in the Pancho Villa-like $5 to $10 dollar range--had my budget-conscious mouth watering. My problem was that I only had enough money to buy us two rounds of five-dollar margaritas, and I couldn't fairly ask Amy to pay for both of us for two more rounds (we always split bills) as well as the food.
I'm not going to open myself up to more macho criticism here by talking about whether or not we spooned all night after going to the Voodoo Lounge. I'll only say this: in Moscow, dating isn't all that different than in Toronto. Even if your date has been your girlfriend for over two and a half years.