That Time I Was Completely Surrounded by the Former USSR President

Written by Luke Burgess
Posted February 24, 2023

Hey guys. I just want to share a personal story with you today.

Maybe it’s me – it’s probably me – but for some reason I end up finding myself in a lot of “WTF moments.”

You probably know what I mean. If not, a “WTF moment” is just what it sounds like; moments where logic completely breaks down and things seem so surprising or ridiculous that the only thing you can do is think to yourself “WTF is happening?!” You’re rendered speechless by something’s absurdity.

Well about 10 years ago, I had a really good WTF moment that I’ve been thinking about for the past week and I want to tell you about.

Honestly, I have no clue why I started thinking about it ...

But about 10 years ago I went to a cookout with a woman I had been out with once or twice before.

The cookout was a late night thing at her friend’s house in the city. And I assume it was one of the situations where I was there to get approval from her friends.

At any rate, after the cookout she wanted to show me a house her parents owned that was nearby.

This was a second house for them.

No one lived in it.

Now, I promise you this story is not going to get explicit. You might be thinking this is a classic set-up for an intimate encounter, but I assure you … well, just keep reading.

So we go to this house. And it’s an absolutely huge and beautiful historic row home in Baltimore City.

I know the most common perception of Baltimore is The Wire. And, yes, there are many parts of Baltimore that are exactly like The Wire. But just like any city, Baltimore has historic neighborhoods that are very well-tended.

Some of Baltimore’s rowhomes are 150 years old, and at the time they were built they were nothing less than mansions. These houses are 3,000 to 4,000 square feet. They’re fairly big by today’s standard.

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These are 4 stories high with a full basement. And they stretch far back to an alley. They're really much larger than they seem.

Now I want to remind you real quick again that it’s late.

It’s well-past midnight at this point, and I’m not drunk but I’ve been drinking.

And she didn’t prepare me for what I was walking into.

So we walked into this huge rowhome. And, immediately, the first I notice – it’s the first thing anyone would notice – there are paintings EVERYwhere!

Now, please hear me, when I say there are paintings everywhere, I don’t just mean every square inch of wall space was covered with paintings. No.

There are paintings attached to the ceiling covering every square inch.

There are paintings lined up resting against the walls 20-30 deep.

There are paintings all over the furniture … they’re in the kitchen … they’re on the stove … they’re in the sink … they’re on the stairs … they're in the tub ... they’re in every room … paintings EVERYwhere.

I’m not exaggerating, if there weren't 1,000 paintings in that house, it was damn near close to it.

But that’s not the strangest part of it.

ALL of these paintings …

... every ...

... single ...

... one

... is a portrait of the exact same person.

It was Mikhail Gorbachev.

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Mikhail.

Gorbachev.

Everywhere.

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These are not the exact paintings that were there, but they are very similar from what I remember.

It’s late.

I’m in what really amounts to an abandoned historic mansion.

And I’m helpless surrounded by paintings of Mikhail Gorbachev!

Mikhail Gorbachev is on the walls!

Mikhail Gorbachev is on the ceiling!

Mikhail Gorbachev is in the sink!

Mikhail Gorbachev is in the bathrooms!

He’s in every room, he’s in closets. There's Mikhail Gorbachev hanging from the stair railings. This house had a dumbwaiter ... there were Mikhail Gorbachev paintings in it.

I’ve got hundreds of Mikhail Gorbachevs staring at me from every conceivable angle.

There was no place to land my eyes where I wouldn't have been looking at a Mikhail Gorbachev painting.

“WTF is happening!?”

So after I get over the shock of seeing all this I had to ask, “But whyyyyyyy?”

Why are there so many Mikhail Gorbachev paintings here?!?!

Please!

Let there be a rational answer!

Well, it turns out there is a rational answer.

And it's actually pretty mundane ...

Her step father is (or was) a painter. But he only paints (or painted) one subject: Mikhail Gorbachev.

This house had become basically a warehouse for his Mikhail Gorbachev paintings.

And let me tell you, he had been busy over the years. Because like I said, before me were definitely hundreds, probably more than 1,000 of these Mikhail Gorbachev paintings.

Why Mikhail Gorbachev?

I asked that too.

She didn’t really know.

She said her step-father was just interested in Mikhail Gorbachev as a subject for painting.

I’ve thought about this story several times over the years. I’ve told it to several friends. And everytime I think about the story I think that, even though I was definitely shocked to see this museum of Mikhail Gorbachev at first, it’s really not that odd in the bigger picture. I mean, there are definitely stranger things you could paint.

I believe what she told me: her step-father was just interested in Mikhail Gorbachev as a subject for painting. Maybe he just wanted to get really good at painting Mikhail Gorbachev? Maybe he was also a history buff? Who knows.

Either way, I figure now, if the guy wants to paint Mikhail Gorbachev, let him paint. I’m not judging him. It’s cool.

Nevertheless, I probably won’t ever forget the initial shock of seeing so many Mikhail Gorbachev paintings all in one place.

I don’t think there’s any real message to my story; other than maybe don’t overpay for a Mikhail Gorbachev painting.

Because somewhere in Baltimore City, there’s a house that’s bursting at the seams with Gorbachev.

We’ll talk again soon.

– Luke

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