From the very beginning of our travels in we were told by our USA tour guide that there were two important rules when traveling in the Soviet Union. One must never buy anything—as tempting as it may be—from the thriving Black Markets. "It is, first of all, against Soviet law, and, secondly, is extraordinarly dangerous given the individuals who sell the outlawed stuff.
Two: "Do not attempt to eat outside of the hotel restaurants. It's nearly impossible to get a reservation, and, you never know what you might be fed or where it comes from."
It seemed ludicrous that taxi drivers waited to serve only "rich" Americans, leaving their compatriots to freeze on the streets.
I told no one about these transgressions, and Susan apparently did not mention our secret rendezvous except to her husband. As we gathered in the lobby to leave Moscow, however, the two young boys who had sold me the Russian dolls, ran up to us, explaining to our US tour guide that I had forgotten my proof of purchase (obviously a fake document), necessary to take the dolls out of the country. The guide handed it over to me, tsking, "Douglas, shame on you, shame!" I bowed my head like the bad boy I was.
Los Angeles, January 20, 2011