The Russian Librarians

    On January 24, 2004, Loie drove to Philadelphia for midwinter ALA. Her hotel reservations had not worked out just right, so she planned to stay that night at the home of Frank Giorgilli, a good old time friend of Bucky’s. Bucky was to join them for the day on Saturday. Bucky and Frank planned to spend the day touring and shopping the Italian markets, and then having supper with Loie. Bucky went out with the Eby’s that night to hear a band play. When he came home, Bucky tried to call Tictoc inside. It would have been all right to leave Tictoc out overnight, but Bucky wanted to get him inside so that he could leave bright and early in the morning. Loie and Frank walked to a neighborhood Greek restaurant for supper. Everyone was having a good time, until disaster struck.
    Bucky arrived in Philadelphia well after noon. He had been up off and on all night trying to get Tictoc inside, and had not succeeded until almost nine o’clock. And when he finally got to Frank’s house, there was Loie, not at her meetings, drop down sick with a terrible flu! She had never even made it to her hotel. Frank, ever the gracious host, served his own home made matzo ball chicken soup for lunch. Bucky put Loie to bed at Frank’s house. The new plan was to let Loie sleep the afternoon away while the guys went to the markets. The shopping expedition went famously. The Italian markets took up several blocks of a street that has become almost a mall. Old wooden crates were being burned in steel barrels along the street. The scents wafting out of doorways were intoxicating. Cheeses as big as the guys hung in windows. Every kind of vegetable, meat, fish, cheese, olives and oil was for sale. Bucky found delicious Apulian olive oil, green picholine olives, Parma prosciutto and a mezzaluna. Frank found cookies and olives and oil.
    “I’ll be spolied now,” said Bucky. “We don’t have any kind of shopping like this in Baltimore.”
    “You’ll just have to visit more often.” said Frank.
    When the guys returned home, Loie was awake, and thought she felt just well enough to move to the Westin hotel downtown, so that’s what they all did. After the exertion of moving, Loie was too tired to go out. She was very sick with the flu. Bucky and Frank walked to Chinatown and ate at Bao Bao Hao. They then walked to the Metro Center and found a brew pub for sitting and chatting. Bucky drove Frank back home, then navigated himself back to the Westin Hotel.
    “Are you sure you can find it all right?” Frank asked.
    “This downtown part’s pretty easy,” said Bucky. “It’s a nice grid plan. I’ll be fine.” And he was, until the next morning. You probably can guess the fate of the rest of the expotition. Bucky was sick unto death Sunday morning, and Loie wasn’t much better. Plans for Sunday brunch with Frank were cancelled, and he did yoeman’s work, calling sister Terrie to ask her to take care of the cats while Bucky was laid up in bed in Philadelphia. Frank visited the sick room that afternoon, and brought the Lovebunnies a present. Caribou Magic Bone Man now has pride of place on the Table of Crafts, for he was to prove the Lovebunnie’s salvation. On Monday, Loie managed to drag around to two of her scheduled meetings. Bucky slept and sweated. Tuesday morning, the Lovebunnies decided they had to get home. They were scheduled to pick up their Russian guest at three that afternoon!
    A party of librarians from Russia had been invited to visit Carroll County and its library system as part of the Library of Congress’s Open World Program. Loie and Bucky had volunteered to have one of them stay at Lake Drive, and to host the farewell dinner, scheduled for that Friday. But the plans were all awry.
    “I don’t guess it’d be an international incident,” said Bucky, “But it wouldn’t be very hospitable to make the Russian librarians sick as dogs.” Loie agreed. She called her secretary Christie and asked her to call Carroll County, trying to beg off for at least that night. The Lovebunnies staggered out to their car, only to find that Bucky had lost it.
    “You must have been getting sick that night,” said Loie.
    “Well, I guess so, but it’s all the same. I know I came in like this, and turned this way…” Luckily, Frank’s Caribou Magic Bone Man was helping them. He brought a security guard, who helped refresh Bucky’s memory by pointing out the exit signs, telling him he had to have followed a certain path through the garage. And there was the car.
    Caribou Magic Bone Man helped again as the Lovebunnies were leaving. They picked up Trucker at Frank’s house, and headed back downtown to the highway. Loie was sure she knew the way, Bucky followed knowing what a good navigator she is. But the lingering effects of the flu dulled their wits, and they were lost. They could see the highway just yards away, but had not a clue how to enter it. Loie pulled over at the side of a broad avenue, just in front of a parked police car. She asked the friendly policeman how to get on the highway, and he said, “Ok, follow me.”
    Oh brother! He pulled across all four lanes of the avenue and onto a dividing strip. They were all facing the highway, on its shoulder! He leaned out of his patrol car, pointing across the highway at an exit. “You folks be careful pulling out now,” he said with a wave, and drove off.
    The Lovebunnies in their two cars were facing straight across an exit or entrance ramp: the traffic was all going one way. At sixty and seventy miles an hour. Four lanes of traffic, between them and their exit. Loie shrugged and pulled out into the first break. Bucky roared out behind her. They cut across the lanes and were on their way. It wasn’t until they were unpacking at home that Bucky realised what had happened.
    “We never could have made it without him,” Bucky said as he took Caribou Magic Bone Man from his little box. “I’m still way too sick to have done that cop thing on my own. Caribou Magic Bone Man saved us.”
    “Frank is a good friend to have found him for us,” said Loie.
    The Lovebunnies didn’t have their guest that night. But the next day, Irina Garriyevna Kuznetsova, coordinator of the Carroll County Russian Librarians did come to stay for three nights. Of course the group was very busy, and Loie and Bucky didn’t get to visit with Irina much. On Friday night, all five of the Russian group and their hosts came to Lake Drive for a Maryland Supper. It was quite an exciting evening. One of the Carroll Countians got stuck on the Inner Slope. Bucky called Roger Krumrine, the neighbor who farms the Lovebunnies’ feld, and he came with his tractor.
    “You’re lucky,” said Roger. “I was just getting ready to take my shower before bed.” Roger’s tractor made short work of hauling the stuck car up the remaing length of the Inner Slope. The Russians, none of whom spoke English except Irina, all admired Gunther. They saw a little bit of the property in the gathering dark, and asked if the Lovebunnies were rich.
    “Well, not for Americans,” said Bucky as Irina translated. “But I think we are in lots of ways, yes.”
    When everyone was gathered in, Bucky served supper. An appetizer of cheeseboard with fruits had been put out before the guests arrived, and Bucky continued with oysters rarebit, pumpkin soup, Mauer and Miller ham with hominy, succotash and buttermilk biscuits. Then came dessert, and iced Cristall vodka toasts.
    Bucky led off with a toast to friendship, finishing his remarks in Russian: “Za drushba,” “To friendship.” All of the Russian librarians eagerly echoed “Za drushba, za drushba,” happy that Bucky knew those few words. One of the Russians also proposed a toast to the company, which was happily drunk by all.
    The next day, Loie took Irina to the Wilson’s and the librarians left for the airport. On their way, they stopped to do some shopping at an outlet mall. Loie later told Bucky that had not been a raging success.
    “They said things were too expensive, even at the outlets,” she said. “Maybe they could have done better elsewhere, I don’t know. It was kind of a last minute thing, anyhow.”
    “They needed better shopping research,” said Bucky.