Living Communally

At first, our taxi driver asserts that the United States will surely triumph overseas—thanks to the teams of dedicated, patriotic geniuses who diligently work in the field of American foreign policy.

On second thought, he wryly reflects, the Soviet Union employed teams of geniuses, too.

At least, that’s what my wife tells me he said; I speak no Russian, so I could not understand a single word of the ex-Red Army sergeant’s reflections upon his experiences in the Afghan War.  I doubt the irony is lost on the immigrant cabbie, however: The government of the country in which he now lives is struggling to put down the same forces that it once kindled against him and his comrades-in-arms.

Personal, familial commitments have forced me to put aside my instinctive distaste for New York City, and so my wife and I are staying for the week with relations of hers in “Little Odessa”—the heavily Slavic section of Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn.  The trip is not without its redeeming factors: If I must be in a megalopolis, I would much rather stay in more earthy ethnic neighborhoods—actual, working neighborhoods—of Russians and Eastern Europeans than in, say, a trendy, upwardly mobile, and vanilla-cosmopolitan sector.

Another taxi cuts in front of us, and the sergeant-cabbie vents his frustration.  “I have no problem working with Africans or Puerto...

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