Signs Your Neighbor May Be a Russian Spy

06/29/2010 1:14 PM |

Always be wary of beautiful Russian ladies expressing interest in you.

  • Always be wary of beautiful Russian ladies expressing interest in you.

So, the local Russian spy ring, despite its cloak-and-dagger tactics, may have given away the game a bit goofily. Still, even as they were right under my nose in Fort Greene, I didn’t notice a thing. If we’re to defeat the Red Menace, we must do better. As we’ve learned from this affair, spies are almost certainly among your neighbors. So, with the help of L Mag counterintelligence experts Jonny Diamond, Henry Stewart and Paul D’Agostino, I’ve compiled this list of Signs Your Neighbor May Be a Russian Spy.

-Speaks with a thick Russian accent and keeps asking you whether you know the nuclear launch codes even after you’ve already told him like a hundred times that you don’t.

-Lived in Russia for 15 years working as a translator, married a Russian woman, and now lives in Montreal with his wife and two kids. Also has a fondness for cheap blended scotch and Armenian food (this is suspiciously identical to Jonny Diamond’s brother, Tim).

—Is totally boring.

-Favorite movies include Breach, The Falcon and the Snowman, and An Englishman Abroad.

-For that matter: Favorite movies include Beaches, The Squid and The Whale, and The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain. Basically, likes movies. You know who likes movies? Spies.

-Banned from Disneyland.

-Claims to originally hail from Canada but wears expensive sunglasses, has never heard of poutine, and the name on his Canadian passport is the same as a deceased Canadian (ie, “John Candy,” or “Pierre Trudeau”).

Defected to Soviet Union; three years later, defected back to United States.

-All of the curtains in his home are made of iron.

-The shower curtain, too.

– Whenever he visits your home, you invariably catch him looking behind mirrors and paintings.He justifies this by saying, “You are having here excellent drywall.”

-The first time he mentioned “excellent drywall,” you made a probing joke about the Berlin Wall.He was not amused and went home immediately.

-He has a large poster in his foyer showing Rocky Balboa getting his face punched into further crookedness by Drago. Whenever you visit, he points to the poster and laughs with great heart, clenching his right fist that appears to be made of iron.

-When you watched Eastern Promises with him, he just constantly shook his head.

-You study enough Russian to say to him, with admirable delivery: “Friend, I seem to hear a certain guttural inflection in your speech, with also a fair amount of Russo-lingual lilt. This leads me to believe that you know Russian. This is true?”His reply, in English: “I do not speak the Russian, is amazing I am understanding you. Furthermore, my voice is not sounding like you say. And now we order a nice American pizza and watch the baseball?”

-You buy a copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment in the original Russian and show it to him one day. He looks at it and says, “I am not knowing this famous writer, whose Brothers Karamazov is featuring nice interlude called Grand Inquisitor. And I am suggesting to you to read this writer’s book The Idiot, because title is making me think always of your face!” After this he laughs with great heart, clenching his right fist that appears to be made of iron.

-He has an acute awareness of hidden surveillance cameras everywhere you go with him. He points them out to you and laughs with great heart.The next day, they’re gone.

-When friends call, he says something about “landline is better,” then excuses himself to make a phone call about his sick aunt upstate. “Is urgent,” he always says.

-Whenever you or anyone else mentions Georgia, he asks, with avid interest, “Georgia US state or Georgia nation-state?”

-In conversational circumstances where a US speaker might refer to a faraway place, such as Canarsie, as “Siberia,” he refers to “Seattle” instead, then corrects himself, laughing with heart, clenching his right fist that appears to be made of iron.

-He is somehow able to look you directly in the eye while scanning entire rooms. This makes you increasingly curious about his iron curtains.

-When you ask him about his iron curtains, he says, “The UV rays from sun are great danger, you know. You are wanting all the time to make X-rays?” With great heart he laughs, clenched fist, etc.

5 Comment

  • Perhaps too-well versed in Cold War typographical mores, Russian spies leave two spaces between sentences, resulting in the appearance of a circumflexed A, an

  • In the interests of posterity it should be pointed out that Paul’s comment refers to an earlier edition of this post, the formatting errors of which have since been corrected despite their centrality to this funny comment which I didn’t want to delete.

  • Russian spies are trained to have ‘interests in posterity’ so as to always be prepared to create revisionist histories resulting from ‘formatting errors.’

    Mark, are we working for the same superior? Are you, too, laughing with great heart?

    Are we all the men who were Thursday, in effect?

    Until Chestertonian Sunday,


  • In Paris best chestnuts are in Place Pigalle.

  • Susan likes them only in the autumn.