It’s uncanny how small a town Stockholm is when you’ve lived here a few decades. Old friends suddenly just pop up out of nowhere. That’s what happened to me this morning, when I visited an On-Off home electronics boutique on Kungsgatan.
Imagine my surprise when I bumped into Vladimir I Lenin, a short, bald-headed gent wearing a boxy flannel suit that was long and bulky. His trousers were tapered, with two-inch cuffs, and he wore a white dress shirt with a funky silk tie, held in place by a collar pin.
Once a fierce revolutionary, “Volodja” is considered the father of Russian communism, and I recognized him instantly because of his trademark tailored goatee. He was tightly clutching a queue-number for On-Off customer service in his right hand. I started a conversation.
Me: “Vladimir! Long time, no see. What brings you to Stockholm?”
Vlad: “I came for the May 1st worker demonstration at Norra Bantorget. I’ve stashed a giant poster in a railway locker that says: ‘Down with the ministers-capitalists!’ That should shake up the Swedish bourgeoisie on Thursday.”
Me: “Yeah, sure, that ought to go over big. By the way, I once heard that you liked to hang out at the Royal Library (Kungliga Biblioteket) and read the international newspapers. Do you have any other special plans for Stockholm…perhaps a visit to the Gröna Lund amusement park?”
Vlad: “Well, its sort of hush-hush, but the truth is that I need some help with branding.”
Vlad: “Yes, I need a better image so that the masses can better appreciate the glories of communism. Why should that pip-squeak adventurer Che Guevera be so popular and revered around the world? What about me, Vladimir Iliich. I masterminded the glorious Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Shouldn’t that count for something? [sadly, stroking his beard] I need to freshen up my image.”
Me: “To be honest, Volodja, you’ve gotten a lot of bad press during the past 70 years or so…state-sponsored terrorism, mass arrests and executions…it’s hard to put a positive spin on some things.”
Vlad: “Well, you can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs. By the way, is this a good place to purchase a cheap gramophone?”
Me: “This shop and several of the other home electronics stores on this part of Kungsgatan carry stereos, CD:players, and Mp-3 players.”
Vlad: “Mp-3? Isn’t that the name of the artillery introduced by the German Army?”
Me: “No,the Mp-3 lets you download tunes from the Internet. What kind of sounds are into these days, Volodja?”
Vlad: “I’ve always been fond of the Appassionato Sonata by Beethoven, and I just heard some interesting music I like by some local young people, Looptroop. Are they widely respected?”
Me: “Their latest album kicks ass.”
Vlad: “Kicks…ass? I think that I have been away from the capitalist West too long.
“In fact, haven’t been back in Stockholm since 1917, shortly before I made my way to Petrograd for the October Revolution. I bought an overcoat at the PUB department store for 17 Swedish crowns, if I remember correctly; then I caught a night train to Haparanda and continued onward to Mother Russia.
Me: “Well, you can’t buy much for 17 crowns at PUB nowadays. The store has been transformed into an international lifestyle emporium; very upscale. You wouldn’t recognize the place. By the way, you look mighty sharp for a fellow who was embalmed for nearly a century.”
Vlad: “Thanks for the compliment. An advanced team of Russian scientists—the best in the world–took out my brain and made substantial improvements to my body. I discreetly escaped from the Mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square, and now I’m ready to make up for lost time.
“Watch out all you treacherous Mensheviks, Trotskyites and war-mongering Imperialists! The new –and-improved Lenin is back in town, and I’m ready to…how you say, kick some ass.”