Coach Vlad first entered my life when he was hired as an assistant for the high school swim team I was coaching. A rotund man of 55 years who got his fashion sense from the Wild and Crazy Guys skit from Saturday Night Live, he showed up for our first swim team meeting in a leisure suit with the top button unbuttoned to show off his gold chain. Despite our communication problems with Vlad’s shaky English and my nonexistent Russian I suppose he considered me a good friend. He would always ask me to drink Vodka with him and he even asked if I would cosign for a lease on his brand new car. I turned him down on that generous offer.
When I left California and the swim team in Vlad’s capable hands I thought that would be the end of us co-starring ever again in this movie called life. But then I received a phone call from Vlad. “David, how you?”
“Good Vlad. How you?” I immediately reverted to a Russian accent as though that would help him understand me better.
“Good. I go to Miami for cruise with wife. You find us place to stay?”
I soon received an email under the subject heading of Vlad Vacation with his itinerary. I found him a hotel on the beach for sixty dollars a night that met his strict Russian requirements of being cheap with no bugs larger than his index finger. I picked him up at the airport and met his wife for the first time. “A pleasure to meet you.” I told her. She pointed at her bags. I obediently put them in the back of my car.
I did receive a tip of sorts. Vlad had a couple Hannukah presents for me. A pair of sunglasses with yellow tints and a bathing suit I could use if I ever get back into swimming laps. They were tired from their cross country trip and so Vlad reneged on the offer of a drink after checking into the hotel.
The next day I was busy, but Vlad updated me on their travels with a variety of photos messaged to my phone. There was one of Vlad and his wife at the beach. Another had them on a tour bus overlooking the cruise ships. There was even one of Vlad holding a baby alligator.
The next night I shared a drink with Vlad and his wife. “When you move back to California?”
“I’m not sure. My love interest… did I tell you I got engaged?”
There was confusion. Once I was able to explain what engaged meant Vlad pointed to the waiter. “Vodka. Gray Goose.”
After a couple shots I was in a happy enough mood to agree to pick Vlad and wife up early the next morning to take them to the port for their cruise.
My love interest came along that morning. We picked up Vlad and his wife. His first question to my love interest was, “You cook?”
“I’m learning.” she said.
“What you do for Hannukah, David?” Vlad asked.
“Not much. my parents light the candles every night. How about you? What do you do?”
“Bullshit.” Vlad’s wife said.
It was the only comment she really made on the drive to the port. We dropped them off, but not before Vlad insisted on taking a few pictures with us. And off they went on their Caribbean adventure.
I asked my Love Interest what she thought of Vlad. “It’s fun,” she said, “He gives you a chance to talk like a caveman. Ship big look.”