Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Have you ever been taking a walk and the weirdest memory just pops into your head? You're walking, enjoying a nice stroll in the neighborhood. You talk to a few neighbors, pet the neighborhood six-toed cat, round the corner, and remember something like this.

Porto!
Porto?

My first summer at American Ballet Theatre was after my freshmen year in college. My desk was right by the artistic department and therefore I was one of the office chicks the dancers, ballet mistresses, choreographers, directors, whatever, saw on a daily basis. Perhaps they thought that connected me to the top-secret workings of the office, and therefore I was the person that many of them told about things that were wrong with the building, or where they were going, when they would be back, and if so and so calls, I've died and left my inheritance to my cat. Things like that. It was all new to me and exciting to work in a top-tier performing arts environment. What can I say? I got a kick when people like Twyla Tharp would tell me that the toilet in the second floor bathroom was making a weird hissing sound that could be heard in Studio Three.

Every year, it's hard to avoid The Nutcracker on television during the Christmas season. No, I'm not talking about a wrestler in the WWF. For those who aren't aware, or just never gave a shit, American Ballet Theatre is the company performing that hazy filmed Nutcracker danced by Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland. My mom made me watch it the first time, invited over a couple friends of ours and I barely managed to sit still through it. However, it soon became a fixture in our holiday routine to sit and watch it every year. It was just so, well, Christmassy.

What does that have to do with me sitting by the artistic offices and my weird memory, you may ask. Well, occasionally, I'd see a face from The Nutcracker that I recognized. It was cool, and I'd think back to being a kid and watching the very people who were now passing by my desk, still around in some fashion with the company.

Which brings me to my encounter with Drosselmyer. Otherwise known as Alexandr Minz, may he rest in peace. Drosselmyer, in The Nutcracker, is Clara's mysterious uncle who brings the Nutcracker doll to his niece and sets off all the adventure. If you've watched the production, he's the guy dressed in black with a cape.

Alexandr Minz was a ballet master at ABT. He had defected from Russia a long time ago but still had a very pronounced accent. To myself, I referred to him as Drosselmyer, to his face, he was Sasha.

One day he walked up to me, dressed in black tights, white shirt, a towel around his neck and stopped short, staring at me. He stood with perfect posture, his feet in first position probably out of habit, and held out a stiff brown paper bag. I was sitting and he towered over me, commanding attention. I turned to him, a bit intimidated. Other hand on hip, he held his chin high and said one word to me.

Porto.

I looked at him, not understanding. He stated it again, this time louder and sharper.

POR-to!

Me: Porto?

Drosselmyer: Porto!

Me: Porto?

Drosselmyer: Yes! Porto!

He hadn't moved, his body as stiff as a board, paper bag still in hand.

Us: (silence, staring at each other.)

Me: Portable?

Drosselmyer: No. Porto!

Me:(face reddening) Porto what?

Drosselmyer: Porto! Porto! I found it in the bathroom! It's disgusting!

Me: (Really clueless now. Had he found a portable potty?) In the bag?

Drosselmyer: Yes. Porto!

Me: (timidly) Let me see.

He thrust it at me, chin still high and waited, now both hands on hips. I was prepared for the worst and peeked in the bag. I was greeted by a picture of the biggest, thick-veined erect penis I'd ever seen, almost comically huge. It was on the centerfold of a gay porno magazine that had been folded back. There was no mistaking the one eyed worm on steroids.

Me: (closing the bag. Looking up. I wouldn't crack, he wasn't going to see me break.) Oh! You mean Porno!

Drosselmyer: Yes! Porto! Like I said!

Me: (Thinking: That dong was fucking huge.) I'll pass this along.

Drosselmyer: Good!

After he left, I passed it along to proper department. That being the trash can by my desk. I covered the Porto with other trash, then went to the porn free women's room and washed my hands with very hot water and lots of soap.

Next time you happen to catch The Nutcracker on TV, purposefully or accidentally, and see Drosselmyer parading around, swinging his cape like he's master of the universe, you know you're going to think it.

Porto.

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