In the last issue, I made the claim that the line between a slut and a whore in Russia is rather blurred. In this, the second installment of Whore-R Stories, I'm going to examine the other side of the equation: The Slut.
What better place to test the slut-whore-equation theory than in the Belorussian town of Slutsk. I nit you shot, folks. There really is such a town, located about 100 kilometers southwest of Minsk.
Ever since my first and only visit to Belarus over five years ago, the land of Europe's last dictator has always held a special place in my heart (and other organs). Minsk, after all, is where I first discovered the White God Factor. But a provincial town with a name like Slutsk must have something much more than a White God factor - say, a Big Bang God Factor ... As a professional investigative journalist and veteran explorer of the FSU's hinterlands, I knew that fate, as well as desperation, would draw me to Slutsk and, like Stanley in the Congo, I'd report the exotic findings back to my readers. Only instead of bringing back shrunken heads, I hoped to bring back carefully preserved samples of chlamydia, smuggled on my person.
The two-and-a-half hour bus ride from Minsk to Slutsk cost two dollars. On the outskirts of town there is a familiar cluster of 8 and 16-story paneli, Brezhnev-era housing projects, dirty white with blue or purple stripes straight down the elevator shaft. In the center of town the structures are smaller, a mix of pre-Revolutionary two- and three-story houses painted yellow, green and pink, side by side with Soviet concrete boxes. Slutsk is run by a Saiko. Literally. The head of the Slutsk city council, with its cookie-cutter Lenin statue out front, is named Saiko.
Slutsk has one hotel, aptly named "Hotel Slutsk," on the main street, Ulitsa Lenina. There was fresh blue paint in the lobby. The elevator didn't work. I was given a room on the fourth floor. A single for $33, not exactly cheap.
After wandering around town freezing my ass off for most of the afternoon while trying to get noticed, I took a rest in my hotel room then headed back out. It wasn't looking good. The two top restaurants were butt empty. I found a cafe that looked promising, slut-wise. Standing outside the entrance were two women - not girls, but women - bundled in cheap fur coats and hats. They smiled as I passed, and I said hello with a pronounced foreign accent.
The cafe had only two patrons. One man was slumped in his chair; his friend scowled at me, one eye open. I sat at the far end and ordered 150 grams of cheap cognac.
Just then, one of the women from outside the cafe entered, walked towards and then passed me, turned to leave, then turned around a second time and said to me, "We feel sorry for you being alone. Would you like to join us somewhere else?"
"Sure," I said.
"Meet us outside."
She walked out. I downed as much of the cognac as I could take and asked the bartender, an aging woman, "Are all Slutsk girls this friendly?"
"Only if the person is from out of town," she answered.
I joined the two women outside the door.
"That cafe was horrible, we couldn't even stand being in there," said the one who'd rescued me. Her name was Olga, and the other one was her younger sister,
Yulia. They told me that there was a much better caf? down the street with a better crowd. They were waiting to join a friend of theirs, Alla.
We powerwalked along the ice as best we could to the next cafe, called V Dalee ot Zhyon, or Far Away From The Wives. It was crowded, packed mostly with young banditibees in black leather coats. A few had young girlfriends on their arms, cute ones too.
Alla stood at the counter and ordered: a carafe of vodka, four crab and mayonnaise salads, sliced ham, bread, Sprite, and a bottle of Medvedovskaya Krov wine for Olga. Adding two more vodka carafes and other goodies, the whole bill came to nine dollars.