I ended up at a cocktail party at the Russian consulate in San Francisco, which is -- according to international law -- technically sovereign Russian territory. I'm sure this doesn't stop Uncle Sam from bugging the holy crap out of the place, but hey, this is international relations. Of all the reasons for a cocktail party at the Casa de Putin, this was a party thrown by a Russian videogame company.
The consulate was full of miniature CIS flags and dour-looking diplomats in horribly bad suits. These guys all looked straight out of central casting; if you'd challenged me to pick the seven guys who were consulate diplomats out of the 100 people present at the party, I swear to God that I would've successfully picked all seven out of the lineup. Not that they made it hard for us; in a crowd of videogame-industry people, these Kremlin apparatchiks stood out like priests at a porn convention.
The comrades seemed genuinely delighted to be hosting a cocktail party with videogame folks. After all, their usual parties must be dismally dull affairs filled with semiconductor salesmen and trade representatives and the like. On this night, there were hot rent-a-blondes milling about and computer games to be played. Talk about diplomacy! And nothing warms the heart like seeing a Russian bureaucrat in a bad suit having the time of his life playing a racing game with a life-size steering wheel.
Passing by the security checkpoint where a grim young dude was stationed, I was tempted to walk up to him and say, "I wish to defect -- the knowledge I possess could advance the Soviet videogame industry by ten years." But I couldn't work up the nerve to try out the joke.
When I left the party, I was presented with an actual Russian babushka hat to keep as a gift. That's some hospitality! These guys aren't so bad...and watching their faces light up at the sight of videogames makes me wonder what that whole Cold War thing was all about anyway.