The tale of a Kazakh horse rider in Moscow18 may 2011, 19:31
I like drinking with the guys.
It’s not that I’m a big drinker: I hardly touch the stuff. At least, that’s my story -- and I’m sticking to it.
What I like about drinking with the guys are the funny stories. They wend their way to the surface like Champagne bubbles when alcohol throws inhibitions to the wind.
Take the other night, for instance.
I was having drinks with my Kazakh television-executive friend and one of his best friends at an Astana pub.
These guys swore they’d disembowel me with a shaslyk skewer if I used their real names in a blog, so I’ll call the TV guy Timur and his business-executive friend Anvar.
I told the two that I’d written a story about an American cowboy who came to Kazakhstan to run a cattle ranch. The image of a cowboy thundering across the steppe in his trusty steed prompted Anvar to tell a horse story.
A few months before, he said, he’d led a business delegation of five Kazakhs to Moscow for a chance to strike a deal with a Russian company. The six Russian executives they were dealing with – being Russians – took them out for a night of vodka.
At 7 a.m. the very-unsteady group of 11 was walking near a park, trying to clear the fog from their brains.
Suddenly they saw two women leading horses to an area where, a couple of hours hence, the mounts would be used for pony rides for children.
“Look at those horses,” one of the inebriated Russians told Anvar. “You Kazakhs are supposed to be hot-shot riders. I dare you to ride that thing.”
“I’ll not only ride him – I’ll ride him all the way back to the hotel,” Anvar shot back.
That would be no mean feat, given that the Marriott was a couple of miles away, and Anvar was swaying back and forth without even being in the saddle.
But our hero was determined. He fished in his pocket, gave one of the startled horsewomen $300 worth of rubles, mounted her steed and galloped off to the cheers of the combined Kazakh-Russian business contingent.
A few minutes later a traffic cop spotted a guy in a coat and tie riding a horse down the street. The gendarme’s hand went up like he was stopping traffic to let a Vladimir Putin motorcade pass.
Anvar said he had no idea what the cop’s problem was.
Maybe the gendarme had spotted a pollution violation – too much exhaust coming from the tailpipe.
In any event, the cop asked why he was riding a horse in downtown Moscow in the early morning while wearing a business suit instead of equestrian garb.
As I was listening to Anvar’s story, I was thinking: “Didn’t that cop having anything better to do? Everyone knows that the real hazard on Moscow streets are the leggy blonde pedestrians in short skirts who distract the male drivers. They’re the ones who should get traffic citations, not Kazakhs who are simply reliving their Ghengis Kahn cavalry heritage.”
Somehow Anvar talked the gendarme into letting him go. If I had been in Anvar’s stirrups, I would have kicked the horse in the side as I galloped off, hoping for an exhaust burst just below the cop’s helmet. But Anvar didn’t mention that he’d done that, so I presume it didn’t happen.
A few minutes later, the doorman of the Marriott stood in disbelief as our hero trotted up to the front door and dismounted with a flourish that was half swagger and half stagger.
And then our Kazakh friend uttered a line that would have done justice to the ending of a Hollywood movie.
“Park him in a good place,” he said, giving the doorman the horse’s reins and a 100-ruble tip.
I was enjoying Anvar’s story so much that I forgot to ask him an obvious question: Did the Rooskies give you the business deal?
After all, the Russians could have viewed Anvar’s horse-riding hutzpah in one of two ways.
On the one hand, they could have said to themselves: “This guy’s got true grit. We want a partner like him!”
On the other, they could have thought: “No way we’re partnering with a guy who’s got more cowboy in him than George W. Bush.”
If I had been one of the Russians, I know what I would have done. I would have said to Anvar: “Here’s the contract, moi droog. Sign on the dotted line.”