Kazinsky Discovers America
Moe Minsky Tale
Written By Al Geto
a recruiter for Leon Trotsky’s worldwide struggle against his
formidable enemy, Stalin, had contacted the Russian underground in an
attempt to smuggle out his nephew Boris. He planned to bring him to
his tiny flat in Brownsville, a section of Brooklyn, a hotbed of Trotskyite
activity, and to involve him in the plots to overthrow the Soviet dictator.
It would be another credit to Smalkovitch’s standing in the underground
cell consisting of six members of which he was Education Director, the
fourth lowest position in the organization. Lean and bony, he had darting,
suspicious eyes, a mass of black hair, wore thick glasses, and worked
as a printer’s assistant.
he hadn’t seen Boris for a dozen years, he remembered him as a
cherubic boy with light hair, a stubby nose, and a love for animals.
Hidden in a truck among a load of live chickens Boris escaped across
the Polish border and arrived in New York after an aggravating journey
on a freighter where he contracted food poisoning. To his uncle’s
surprise Boris’ former chubbiness was totally gone. He was, in
fact, malnutritioned, even emaciated, a rattling bag of bones on the
verge of collapse.
did they ever let you into the country?” Smalkovitch exclaimed.
told them my job was the circus skeleton man,” Boris replied,
sullenly. He was virtually unable to digest anything and detested the
tinned food his uncle provided from Gregorsky’s, the neighborhood
grocer. “Russian grass was better than this,” he muttered
as Smalkovitch tried to get him to eat. Shchav, a Russian soup, was
about all he could manage.
the crowded two-room apartment jammed with old newspaper cuttings, books,
and assorted junk Smalkovitch collected for sale, he made room for Boris
on a folding cot. Using Boris’ smattering of English as a base
he started him on lessons at once, along with a daily political lecture
in an effort to prepare Boris for admission to the cell. In his talks
with Boris, whose blank stare his uncle took to be concentration, Smalkovitch
tried to smooth his nephew’s path into his new life by praising
America while predicting its future as a socialist paradise.
food and growing weaker, Boris reclined on his cot listening to Smalkovitch’s
perorations. “They already had two revolutions here and soon will
be ready for the final solution to capitalism,” he assured his
nephew. “but everybody who comes here finds something they can’t
resist. With one of my girl friends it was brassieres. There was nothing
in the world to compare to American brassieres. To my friend Ivan it
was his automobile. He carries more insurance on his automobile than
he does on his family. For me, you can laugh, it was fountain pens that
don’t leak. They are very inventive, very clever. They invented
the electric light, the airplane, chewing gum, sunglasses, and they
kick the president out every four years. They also made the stock market
but we’ll take care of that. Suddenly
one day you too will discover something in America, something will strike
you, and everything I am telling you will become instantly clear.”
event like that actually happened but in a manner totally unforeseen
by Smalkovitch when a few weeks later he decided to take Boris on an
outing to help bring him around. They took the subway to what his uncle
described as the entertainment mecca for the American peasants, the
popular beach, boardwalk, and playground called Coney Island. There,
the salty ocean breezes, the merry-go-rounds, the trinket shops, the
daring roller coasters, the air saturated by buttered popcorn, and the
sideshows failed to produce any sparks of response from the anorexic
prone Boris. His sad eyes and sulky demeanor only deepened as he dragged
after his uncle, who finally declared in a last effort to appease Boris’
soul with a tasty morsel, “Come, we’ll eat a dog.”
I don’t eat dog. I love dog,” Boris muttered.
is a hot dog,” Smalkovitch informed him, dragging him along.
cold, I don’t eat dog! I love dog,” Boris insisted.
led him towards a crowd of people three deep and half a block long surging
up to a counter of similar length facing the sidewalk where mouthwatering
odors of food wafted out. A colorful sign above the counter read, “Nathan’s.”
People emerged carrying long frankfurter-laden rolls plentifully slopped
with golden mustard and topped by a mound of steaming sauerkraut. They
were an involuntary cult of New Yorkers known as Fressers, devouring
the repast hungrily, as though the consumer couldn’t get it down
fast enough in order to have a second. This was followed by cardboard
containers of one or another brands of burp-producing drinks such as
coca cola, root beer, and ginger ale. Crisp, oily french fries, heavily
salted in wax paper bags were eaten as an accompaniment. Smalkovitch,
leaving Boris on the edge of the mass, plunged in soon to return with
a pair of the rolls amply topped by the condiments.
American invention,” he informed him, “famous all over America.”
A sausage?” Boris said, wearily.
his uncle announced imperiously, “is a Nathan’s hot dog.”
not look like dog,” Boris said, bleakly, although the odor had
already tickled his palate. Almost reluctantly, he bit into it. He chewed
slowly. His expression changed as though he couldn’t believe his
mouth. He bit into it again, chewing faster and faster and shoved the
remaining half of it down his throat, demanding in jammed together words,
consumed five additional loaded hot dogs one after the other without
pause, aided by a container of root beer. Speaking in Russian on the
train ride home he told his uncle, “Everything pales in comparison
to it. Brassieres, chewing gum, the airplane, nothing is like that hot
laughed, pleased. “But how can you say that, Boris?”
can say it with my mouth. I who have experienced hunger my entire life.
On that I am an expert,” he declared, pale, dressed in donated
clothing, the pants too long, the shirt too short, the shoes worn, his
haircut by his uncle. The next day he went back there for lunch and
consumed seven, savoring them slowly.
get sick if you keep this up,” his uncle warned him.
don’t care if I die,” he replied. In a week he began to
gain noticeable weight for the first time. When Smalkovitch refused
to give him money, Boris pinched it from him. Day after day he returned
to fill himself up on hot dogs. While there he saw a way to be near
his need. He found a job running a small Wheel of Fortune stand two
blocks from Nathan’s. All he had to do was spin the wheel and
collect the money, giving a stuffed animal as a prize to the occasional
have no interest in politics,” he told Smalkovitch. “I would
never change a system that makes such hot dogs.” He found a small
room near his work and virtually lived off the frankfurters day and
night for the next six months.
Boris suffered a serious case of gastro-enteritis. Smalkovitch’s
doctor frightened him enough for Boris to reduce his consumption radically
and add nutritious foods to his diet. A period of shaking and crying
followed after which he regained control of himself and was down to
one hot dog a day. That was at the end of May. In the middle of June
he heard the announcement on the radio. The Coney Island merchants in
order to kick off the summer season invited all Fressers to a hot dog
eating contest. First prize was an unimaginable five hundred dollars.
The press picked it up and contestants from Kentucky, Colorado, and
Texas announced their intention to participate. The Honolulu community
raised money to send two Hawaiians.
crazy,” Smalkovitch cried.
be rich overnight!” Boris declared.
you’ll be dead in the morning,” his uncle warned. “Besides,
five hundred dollars is not rich.”
you know has five hundred dollars?” Boris demanded. Smalkovitch
had to admit that he didn’t. With the savings from his job Boris
would have almost a thousand.
Boris won he was immediately rushed to the doctor and given a high colonic.
Smalkovitch’s remedy of tins of sardines in olive oil topped by
thick helpings of sliced raw onions to deaden the desire for the hot
dogs worked. While recovering in his uncle’s apartment Boris took
a telephone call from Gregorsky, the barrel-chested owner of the grocery
store around the corner with two underpaid immigrant employees, Smalkovitch’s
see your picture in local paper!” he boomed. “I put up sign,
Meet Hot Dog Champion Boris here five o’clock. Can you come five
o’clock? I give you five dollars.”
Boris hesitated. “I don’t know-”
you like be my partner in grocery? I need cash bad. You got thousand
dollars? You be my partner.”
ran around the corner to settle the deal. He had about eight hundred
counting his savings.
brought you here from Russia to be a member of my cell, and this is
how you repay me?” Smalkovitch berated him.
be member, I be member,” Boris placated him.
can you be member now?” Smalkovitch cried. “You are a boss,
an exploiter of labor, a profiteer! How can you be a revolutionary?”
But he simmered down and maintained a relationship with Boris despite
the latter’s disinterest in politics. Boris and Gregorsky went
on to open a supermarket in which Boris, the junior partner, labored
a ten hour day. Smalkovitch never entirely forgave him.
deserted the working class,” he complained, bitterly.
I deserted?” Boris laughed ironically. And with his latest command
of English shouted, “I am working my ass off.”
Philosopher of Bensonhurst | Boris
Kazinsky Discovers America
the Tombs of the Known Soliders | Relatively
Speaking | Right
Out Of Ripley
Last Chance | Once
You Know, You're Stuck With It
We Come, Ready or Not!
In A Name | The
Day I Almost Became A Vegetarian
Sweet Mystery Of Life | The
Nervous Young Man
Copyright © August 3, 2000-