The Cold War expired when I was an FBI agent, transforming the USSR into the UFFR, the Union of Fewer and Fewer Republics. At the time, Vladimir Putin was a baby faced KGB second fiddle who had not yet learned to ride a horse with his shirt off or win at ice hockey against no opposition.
In the aftermath of the Cold War’s bloodless death, I hosted two Moscow cops who came to Alabama as guests of the FBI to beg insights and advice about coping with conflicts between freedom and law enforcement in the new Russia. How were local police supposed to behave in the upstart Russian Federation? Democracy had brought organized crime, defense attorneys, unruly teenagers, drugs, and loud music the two cops told me. Police morale was low. They could no longer round up people and have them disappear. They wished that things were like the old days under communism, when everyone got drunk and did what they were told.
I had just the tonic to make the two Russian policemen feel better, a down home Southern breakfast in a mom and pop place called the Ranch House, owned by a family descended from Greek immigrants. What could be more American that Greeks running a grits and barbecue eatery in the Heat of Dixie? The year was 1994.
I ordered scrambled eggs for three, with home fries, sausage, ham, gravy and biscuits hanging with grits, jelly, and tomatoes on the side, plus a whole pot of coffee. The waitress brought our food and spread it around a large round table. Before eating, the two Russians had a question for me. Did this American restaurant serve beer?
Several hours later, after we had pledged not to let bosses stand in the way of good police work, and to continue the quest for the perfect donut, the table was covered with empty long neck Budweisers standing mute like dormant smokestacks in the old USSR.
P.S. What’s In A Name Revisited. Over the Christmas holidays, good wishes were sincerely addressed to me as Mr. John Jackman.