I opened the door to a leggy, slightly bunny-toothed mouth breather. Sixfooter. Jelly-bean blue eyes. Rippling wheaten hair. Bare midriff garnished with a tasteful five-pointed red star. Accordion-pleated micro-mini. Couldn’t have been a biscuit over twenty-one. What do we have here? I thought.

“Dasha,” she said. “You like, I come in. No like, Boris send different girl.”

“What’s not to like?” I said, welcoming her with the palm-up wave of a Tour d’Argent maitre’d. “Join me in a glass of Orvieto? Or may I offer you something else?”

“Vodka, please. No ice. What I call you.”

“Marcelino will be fine.”

My suite at Moscow’s Leningradskya Hotel was comfortably lavish, featuring a glossy baby grand, seven-branched candelabra, and a master bedroom sized for King Kong. Not bad for a stand-up comic from Vancouver.

“Want me undress now?”

Did I just hear…undress? “Why not?” I spoke. “Except for the stilettos.”

“You know Boris?”

No clue, yet it was obvious to me that Boris had fumbled the address for Dasha’s intended client. “Friend of a friend,” I fibbed.

Within seconds Dasha unveiled a physique devoid of fat and body hair below the neck. While I poured our libations she gravitated to the Steinway, gracing its fortuitous bench with her magnificent derriere. “I play for you?”


Beringed fingers began dancing curiously over only the black keys, conjuring a hauntingly familiar melody. By the time I delivered three ounces of Putinka, Dasha was crooning in a Pan-Soviet club singer’s alto. “When my loneliness is through, I’m going to find another you…”

“John Mayer?” I ventured.

A nod and lopsided smile. Dasha’s up-tipped breasts defined the ultimate perfection in size, symmetry, and ivory allure; head, neck, shoulders, spine: all perfectly aligned. A breathing Bernini sculpture. And during those enchanting moments―intoxicated by the unutterable beauty of her creation―I sensed the improbability of ever encountering a more consumingly adorable form.

I like to think our souls place value on our experiences according to the drowning man method: that is, whatever passes before our eyes during life’s final moments represents―in the aggregate―the true essence of our existence. Everything else is merely an inconsequential filler. Drowning man moments are like a slap to the face, commanding our attention, and it seems the more of them I accumulate, the more alive I become. Witnessing Dasha’s impromptu piano bar gig will unquestionably make my end-of-life highlight reel, and woe to those whose final breaths bring forth nothing but gawking at social media apps or gossip rags in supermarket checkouts.

“Now I’m going to dress myself for two, once for me and once for someone new. I want to do some things, do some things you wouldn’t let me do. Oh, I’m going to find another you-ooo.”

Dasha held the final note in a divine falsetto. “Bravo,” I applauded.

Spasibo. I’m in love with John.”

You and a gazillion other women. Lucky for me he’s not in town tonight.
“Saw him in concert a few years ago in California,” I said. “Top drawer.”

Dasha threw back her vodka before approaching me like a runway model, a sight to forever stand in isolation above all others. Normally I’d step away from a virtual stranger invading my personal space. Yet so desperately did I want to be as close as possible to this recherché masterpiece, my legs stood their ground like hundred-year oaks.

“You want touch me now?”

Me? No way. Let’s forget the whole sex thing. How about a movie? Boris probably won’t whack me for that. “Sure,” I said. “Here’s what I’m thinking.”

Dasha listened expressionlessly before raising a glittered fingernail to my chin and riffing a string of Russian slang. Publishable translation: “Mr. Marcelino very naughty boy.”


Between the dark and the light, Dasha enchanted, entertained, enlightened. Not that I harbored any illusions about her craving my body or companionship. Mama only raised one fool―my brother―but who could fault Dasha for choosing to sleep in a luxury suite with an open bar room service Sevruga instead of returning to wherever she usually pillowed her head? And who could blame me for being hospitable?

That said, we did hit it off. Every moment in her presence gifted effortless delight, and she remains the most accomplished pound-for-pound vodka drinker I’ve come across.

Sometime during the wee hours, we faced each other on a two-cushion loveseat, backs against the armrests, knees bent into upside-down Vs. While washing down goat cheese pierogies with silver sillies, the view from my vantage point was unspeakably resplendent. From Dasha’s, I’m guessing not so much.

At this point, I took the opportunity to address my every curiosity about her profession. Though the ensuing Q & A proved much too steamy for polite society, one PG-rated patron deserves honorable mention: a local oligarch who pays Dasha $2,000 a week for sitting in our positions on his loveseat every Sunday morning at sunrise. He insists on no touching and complete silence while revering her as one might a priceless work of art in the Louvre. The gentleman considers his weekly half-hour with Dasha to be more sacred than any religiosity known to man. At first blush, I considered him to be just another quirky nutball with way too much money. Upon further reflection, I’ve decided to reserve judgment.

Dasha’s tutorial on what it’s like to be an elite high-end escort left me hopelessly conflicted regarding our respective roles in perpetuating an ageless business model to which no parent wishes their daughter anywhere nearby. In Dasha’s case, she turned pro at age eighteen of her own volition, without coercion or abuse from Boris or his Mafia henchmen. She is not a drug user and retains twothirds of her gross while receiving free health care, transportation and security. No other career paths exist where she could expect to earn one-third as much.Competing in an arena built for the ultra-desirable, Dasha has saved most of her income for the inevitable day when Father Time succeeds in eroding her youthful beauty, all while hoping to stay in the game for another five years before seeking
to marry and bear children.

As for my side of our tango, I felt immortal in the arms of such an unfathomable embodiment of erotic femininity. Nevertheless, it was not lost on me that absent Dasha being sent to the wrong address I would have been bedded in a ménage et trois with microwave popcorn and Russian reality TV. Yet if I were not sleeping with Dasha someone else surely would. Such irreconcilable musings called for more Putinka and more Dasha, two ton-of-fun comrades in my exploration of mid-life debauchery.


During our predawn bubble bath, I learned the Stork had dropped baby Dasha in Bucharest as a descendant of Romanian Gypsies. Of course, it’s a miracle any of us make it into this world alive, but Dasha’s odds seem to have been skinnier than most.

In the months preceding Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, the Romanian army force-marched thousands of Romani to concentration camps in Russia where a human life became less important than a drop of sweat. Dasha’s great-grandmother Mita and her two-year-old daughter were caught up in the nightmare. Conditions in the camp soon became so desperate as to drive some to cannibalize the dead.

One moonless night a few brave young men dug beneath the wire to butcher a cow at a nearby farm and ferried the meat back to camp where it was eaten uncooked. Villagers reported the missing bovine to authorities who were skeptical until its carcass was discovered in a shallow grave.

The camp’s commandant gathered all the Roma before machine gunners and demanded the thieves step forward or he would eliminate everyone, ten at a time. “Last chance,” he barked after no one moved. Whispers hissed through the yard as an emaciated twelve-year-old boy appeared before the stone-faced Russian. “I am Sebastian the thief,” he said, “and you sir would have done the same to keep your people alive.”

The commandant did not believe the boy until Sebastian described where he had hidden the cow’s remains. Pistol in hand, the Russian placed its barrel to the boy’s head. Sebastian did not flinch. “Little one,” the commandant said. “You have the heart of a bear. I will not kill you…today.”

The following morning a steel wind of German panzers rolled into Russia. Fleeing for their lives, the guards abandoned the camp, leaving the Gypsies to trudge hundreds of miles back to Romania. Along the way Sebastian found Mita shuffling along without her daughter Printesa.

“Where is your child?” he said.

“Forgive me,” Mita sobbed, “but I could not carry her another step. I laid her down some time ago.”

“Be strong and follow the others, Sebastian said. “Do not weep.”

Retracing his steps, he found Printesa unharmed and carried the toddler to Romania on his shoulders. Eighteen years later they were married in Bucharest, the union destined to produce Dasha’s mother.
I failed miserably at looking busy while Dasha prepared to leave at the first light. Of course, I knew Russia’s domestic security service had likely salted my
suite with pinhole cameras and concealed listening devices but could only hope the video would go viral among the nimrods tasked with watching such things. Otherwise, they could just kiss my roody-poo candy fanny.

Dasha could also have been a Russian intelligence agent on a mission to set the infamous honey trap. Yet I nixed the idea since no one had ever been stupid enough to share any State secrets with me.

After a final appraising look in the mirror, Dasha headed for the door, only to pause as if forgetting an earring. A runway turn brought her gliding over to deliver a breathtaking eye-to-eye nose bump. “You want see me again?” she whispered. “No Boris. No expense.”

Not known for being speechless, Dasha caught me without tongue, her bottomless blue eyes warming me like a shot of Kentucky bourbon.

“A boy meets girl sort of thing? Like dinner? Walks in Gorky Park? Holding hands?”

A nod.

“More than you will ever know.”