Monday, May 24, 2010

Bicephalic Memories

You've all heard about "recovered" memories of occurrences that, for whatever reason, we have repressed or forgotten (perhaps after the trauma of some vicious parental abuse, such as extreme chocolate cookie deprivation) but which, miraculously, we one day, while dunking an Oreo in milk, spontaneously retrieve from the recesses of our mushy gray matter.  Undoubtedly, of course, a certain percentage of such felicitous rememberings are of events that have never happened at all (the McMartin Pre-School Case comes to mind).  Still, I maintain, along with Dan Quayle, that the mind is a terrible thing to lose and that, therefore, we ought to heed and give credence to even those memories that seem the most spurious, trusting them to be "sufficiently" reliable to provide us with a vague sense of psychological autonomy.  Absolute objective truth might indeed be desirable, but it is definitely of secondary importance.  We are what we believe (and remember) we are.

That's why I'm writing this blog post.  Because just the other day I remembered something rather important:  I am the rightful Tsar of Russia!

I don't think I had so much "repressed" this memory as I had simply failed to piece together all the overwhelming evidence pointing to the "sufficient reason" of this story. Indeed,  since intellectual slothfulness is itself a time-honored Romanov trait, the very tardiness of my discovery constitutes additional proof of my imperial origins.

But finally, I DID connect all the dots (or the "dachas", haha).  It was an exceptionally hot and muggy night in late April.  The frogs in the mudhole (er, "biopond") behind the house were croaking at full volume, the air-conditioner was rumbling away like a tumbril on cobblestones, the nocturnal dogs were yowling at distant police sirens.  Decidedly understimulated by these tedious tunes, I had poured myself a vodka tonic and settled down to listen to the 1812 Overture (figuring that the bells and cannon would shake me from my lethargy).  Suddenly, just as the orchestra burst into the joyous strains of "God Save the Tsar" (or, as I was wont to sing in my undergraduate days, "Dear Old Macalester"), I was overcome by emotion.  Tears gushed from my eyes. Lights popped in my head.  Reeling and trembling, I stumbled once again toward the liquor cabinet, only to discover, in my distress, that since the stock of Schweppes was depleted, I would have to drink the remaining vodka neat, in one great gulp, a la russe.

That was all it took.  Everything then came back to me.  Everything then became clear.

And, as if the bottom of my vodka glass contained a set a matryoshka nesting dolls, I "recovered" memories within memories within memories...

--My grandmother was Anastasia Romanov, who HAD, after all, survived that evil royal slaughter, thanks to a sympathetic guard who spirited her away and stowed her in the hold of a ship bound for America.
--My father was the child of Anastasia (now known as "Anna") and her American husband, Marvin Gompers of Jacksonville, Illinois.
--My father was adopted by Olaf and Hulda Kirkeby after the Gompers fled to Waukon, Iowa, in a futile attempt to escape assassination by Bolshevik thugs.  With her dying breath, Anna told her secret to my "Grandfather" Kirkeby, who was the only policeman on duty in Waukon on the night the Bolsheviks shot the Gompers, set their house afire and searched, unsuccessfully, for their baby, who was asleep in the trunk of Olaf Kirkeby's squad car.
--My "grandfather" told the secret to my "grandmother," but pledged her to silence.  So my father grew up playing basketball for Waukon High School and thinking he was merely the third son of a ne'er-do-well slacker who could never manage to hold a job for more than two years running.
--But in her declining years, after she began to drink a bit too much Bourbon and 7 and hallucinate about being attacked by wild dogs, Grandma Kirkeby broke her promise and told my father the truth.
--Having no desire to be a tsar, my dad, like his ancestor Alexander I (who faked his death so he could live out his life in solitude in a tiny town), isolated himself in the provinces, teaching high school biology and coaching football  in Lewiston, Minnesota (population 759).
--Though he sometimes grew nostalgic about Russia, reciting (on long car trips) the poem "Abdullah Bulbul Emir"--regarding the extraordinary exploits of Ivan Skavinsky Skvar--my father kept silent about his origins, choosing, in fact, to avoid almost all conversation about anything but golf.
--However, after he suffered a stroke which left him unable to talk, he apparently had a change of heart.  In his last year of life, he repeatedly drew pictures of two-headed eagles on napkins in the nursing home's dining room.  (He also drew pictures of two-headed dogs and two-headed people, which led the nurses to conclude that he simply saw everything double, but I think that's an unwarranted conclusion.)  Clearly, the bicephalic eagles were his attempt to make a Romanov Revelation to us, his imperial children.

And, since I am Dad's eldest son, I am--by direct succession--the heir to the Russian throne.  I sense, therefore, that my real name is not Kenneth, but--as Grandmama Anastasia would have wanted--Alexei, in honor of her beloved brother.  And that makes me, Yes I remember it now!, Tsar Alexei II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias.

Obviously, my recovered memory distresses me enormously since I am, after all, 66 years old and, like Prince Charles of Windsor (a distant cousin), I have yet to RULE.  Unlike Charles, though, I do not even have a decent palace to call home.  And some miserable republican rabble are in control of Holy Russia.  What a mess!

But YOU can help.  All I ask is that each of you send a small contribution to my Romanov Restoration Campaign--a mere $35 per faithful subject would more than suffice.  In return, Mother Russia will be restored to the Romanovs and the miscreant usurpers exiled to Queens, Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  To quote Sarah Palin, I intend to take back my country!  Including Alaska!

Needless to say, the God of Orthodoxy will bless you richly for your support.  As the descendant of saints--great grandparents Nicolas and Alexandra, notably-- I can assure you of divine favor (and, even as I write this, I am making the sign of the cross backwards).  Contributions can be made online at

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