I could tell politics incensed the princess, so in my inebriated merriment I decided to have some fun. "You know, Arva, if you'd been born in 1970 and not 1497, you'd be an indefatigable political activist for the Social Democrats." The princess' eyes widened for a moment, her entire body stiffened, but she quickly relaxed. I could tell she'd decided not to take the bait. Still, she was curious. "What makes you say that?"
"Well, you have the typical leftist attitude 's long on criticism and short on ideas. You're an idealist, a utopianist 's you want everyone to run around naked in the forest, singing folk songs and drinking mead."
"What's wrong with that?" Arva said defensively. "I happen to enjoy running around the forest naked." I nearly choked on my whiskey. "Besides, what does naked-in-the-forest have to do with Social Democrats?"
I smiled. "Honestly, I don't know."
"You're drunk, American crusader."
What else is there to do in Klaipeda?
"Better drunk than a leftist skunk."
"What's a skunk?"
I had forgotten. Old World Arva didn't know all New World animals. "It's a small rodent-like animal, black with a white stripe along its back. It sprays an extremely smelly substance if you get too close."
"You mean a Lembergs! I read about them. They migrate in enormous groups and have been known to run straight into the sea, committing mass suicide."
I laughed aloud. "No, that's a lemming, not a Lembergs."
"Oh," she said.
"But you're changing the subject. We were talking about your political affiliations."
"No, we weren't."
"Yes, we were," I insisted. With Arva, you have to be equally stubborn. "You were about to tell me your plans regarding the creation of a pan-Baltic leftist movement."
"You're such a dolt, professor. Here I am, planning war against Poland, prepared to spill rivers of blood so that the Baltic people will finally be freed from the Judeo-Christian yoke, and you're telling me I'm an idealist?"
"Okay, then you're a Garda girl," I said, referring to Latvia's rabid nationalist who apparently has an echelon of maidens running around Latvia doing his bidding.
"Don't insult me. Garda's a @(!?%#. You couldn't fit his brains in a ????. Back in my day, we took men like that and *????! them until they *%&)^#@."
I cringed. "Sounds nasty."
"So, as you see, I'm no picnik."
I thought about this one, then it sank in. "Not a picnic, but a peacenik." I smiled. "Nice try, though. For a leftist, you learn quick."
"Rather be dead than red," she said in perfect English.
This nearly floored me. Boy, she really did learn quick. She must have lived in the Internet cafe. "Waitress, bring me some more Tennessee juice." To the princess: "So you've shifted to the right now?"
Arva summoned her best diplomatic skills, and again she didn't take the bait. Like a true debater, she tossed the onus on my lap.
"You say you voted for Gore, right?"
"I said nothing of the sort!"
"Yeah, you did. In so many words. I saw the twinkle in your eye every time I mentioned his name in regards to the Internet."
"Twinkle in my eye?!? What in the hell are you talking about? I wouldn't's"
"And you just didn't order whiskey, did you? You ordered 'Tennessee juice.' Very peculiar, consider that this Gore is from Tennessee." My vocal chords shriveled up; I couldn't speak. The homeless woman I discovered in a swamp over a month ago had become an expert in U.S. politics. "You like Gore so much you think of him every time you order a drink."
Slowly I could feel my body temperature rise. "Listen, princess, I did not vote for Albert's"
"Oh, so you voted for Bush!
"Wait a second, just because I didn't vote for Bush doesn't mean that 's"
"Ah-ha! You didn't vote for Gore, nor for Bush. That makes you a Ross Perot fan!" The princess made a face that I hope never to see again. It looked as if someone stuffed a rotten oyster down her throat. "My respect for you has fallen to below nil, professor."
Honestly, I wanted to cry. Once again I learned that there's no victory to be had when up against these Baltic women.