Friday, October 20, 2006

What a Bear does in the Woods is Die

Last night I was listening to Michael Savage...and apart from being struck by the fact that even he wants to see Donald Rumsfeld fired (for different reasons than most of the rest of America, granted), I was struck by his reading of a news story I knew nothing about.

It was something having to do with the King of Spain shooting a drunken Russian bear. I told my identical cousin, Todd Ristau about it. I said that Michael Savage was likening the news story to Dostoevsky. Todd, being better educated than I, said it all sounded like Gogol to him and that Dostoevsky was probably the only Russian writer Savage knew, and was probably pulling even that out of his butt just because the names sounded Russian.

It could be. I don't know. All I know is that my cousin wrote this Gogol parody based on that news story. He sent it to me, and said it was hilarious. Hilarious I don't know about, but he's a college professor in theatre, so maybe he knows these things. At any rate, it is too heartbreaking to write about American news, so I offer his writing about Russian news to you today instead.

By Todd Ristau, based on actual events

(Lights up on a line of people standing on the stage. From left to right, they are MITROFAN the BEAR, VLADIMIR PUTIN, JUAN CARLOS, STAROTSIN, and PALACE SPOKESMAN . None are aware of each other, and all speak directly to the audience. The Russian men wear furry hats, Juan Carlos wears a Burger King crown and holds a shotgun.)

MITROFAN: I am a bear. I was a bear. I am a bear no longer. I was born of the soil of Mother Russia. I lived in humility and meekness until my old age. I was born in a state of captivity, and as a captive I lived my entire life, in a holiday resort. My tired and captive eyes staring out through the bars of my cage at the line of distant trees which mark the forest which should have been my home. Had I ever spent any time there as a cub, perhaps I would have yearned to live there, but knowing only the life of a slave bear, I was content to live among my captors and exist by what kindness they found in themselves to show me. These important personages at whose whim I was allowed to live…at whose whim I did not realize I would one day die. Even in Russia, the bear finds no honor in his homeland.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: I am Vladimir Putin. I am the President of the great nation of Russia. I am a friend to King Juan Carlos of Spain, whom I invited into my country.

JUAN CARLOS: I am Juan Carlos, King of Spain. I have never been to Russia in my life.

STAROTSIN: I am Starotsin, Deputy Chief of Hunting for the region of Volgda. Sometimes, when important people want to go hunting, sometimes a call comes in from the higher ups. Get us a wolf, they might say. Vicious, but not dangerous. Lean, but not fast. Old, but not crippled. Someone important needs to shoot a wolf today.

PALACE SPOKESMAN: I am the spokesman for the palace of the King, Juan Carlos of Spain. Whatever else you might hear, from me, you will hear nothing but the truth.

MITROFAN: Perhaps it is only my own mad imaginings, but I’d always expected to be buried alive. Of course, even though I am a bear, I knew that one day I must be buried, but I could never conceive of my own demise. I did not even imagine I would be dead when under all that dirt, but forever lying in my own grave and chewing on my own flesh for nourishment, waiting in vain for a resurrection which could never occur, because I could not die.

PALACE SPOKESMAN: Reports that King Juan Carlos of Spain shot a drunken bear to death during a hunting trip in Russia are ridiculous.

MITROFAN: Am I a metaphor? That is for others to decide. All I know is that I was a bear, and am no longer. Thanks to King Juan Carlos of Spain.

JUAN CARLOS: I was not even in Russia at the time. It is ridiculous. They tell you a lie when they say I have shot this bear. The bear has shot itself. What are you laughing at? You are laughing at yourselves!

MITROFAN: A bitter punch line to a badly written bitter joke, a joke at which I alone can laugh, and the laugh I laugh is a bitter laugh. Thanks to King Juan Carlos of Spain.

PALACE SPOKESMAN: We have no comment to make because this story is totally ridiculous and the source is sensationalist. You may quote me on that, but you are not allowed to use my name, due to palace rules. The palace of King Juan Carlos of Spain neither confirms nor denies that the King, Juan Carlos of Spain, was hunting.

JUAN CARLOS: I was not hunting.

PALACE SPOKESMAN: We can neither confirm nor deny that the King, Juan Carlos of Spain was hunting in Russia.

JUAN CARLOS: I have never been to Russia.

PALACE SPOKESMAN: We can neither confirm nor deny that the King, Juan Carlos of Spain, shot a bear.

JUAN CARLOS: I have never shot a bear.

PALACE SPOKESMAN: We can neither confirm nor deny that the bear, alleged to have been shot by the King, Juan Carlos of Spain, was drunk at the time of the alleged shooting.

JUAN CARLOS: I do not drink.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: The King of Spain, Juan Carlos, was visiting Mother Russia for the purpose of hunting. It was a private visit. By my personal invitation.

PALACE SPOKESMAN: The King, Juan Carlos of Spain, was hunting in the Volgda region near Moscow.

MITROFAN: And even now, in the fresh new gloom of death, I see that yes, gentlemen, it was gloomy in that world, and gloomy in the next as well. Goodness, how sad is our Russia!

STAROTSIN: When a king, who is a very important person, is invited by the President of the nation, also a very important person, to go on a bear hunting trip and expects to shoot a bear—

MITROFAN: Symbol of the nation in which Juan Carlos, King of Spain, is a guest…

STAROTSIN: All I know is, when someone important expects to shoot a bear, that is what had better happen.

JUAN CARLOS: This story is a ridiculous fraud.

STAROTSIN: So, I think to myself, where can I find a bear? And I remember old Mitrofan, who is soon to be dying in any event, so why not let the old bear’s death mean a little something? It would certainly mean something to the President, and if it meant something to him, it might, in the end, mean a little something to me, too. I hated to do it though, with wolves, you don’t mind so much, but a bear…a bear who never hurt anyone in his whole life…He was really a good natured and joyful bear.

PUTIN: Juan Carlos, King of Spain was a guest, a guest at the personal invitation of the President of Russia.

JUAN CARLOS: I was never even there, I tell you.

MITROFAN: They came to my cage, these men who had been my care takers, responsible for my health, happiness, and very life itself. They fed me bowls of honey.

STAROTSIN: We mixed the honey with vodka, got him drunk.

MITROFAN: There are bears who exist in this world not like entities, but like the speckles or spots on something, and now, that is I. Thanks to King Juan Carlos of Spain.

STAROTSIN: and when we heard the King and the President tromping through the woods, we pushed the old bear out of his cage and shoved him into the woods, in the general direction of the noise the King and the President were making.

MITROFAN: I thought they were bringing me more honey and vodka.

STAROTSIN: Naturally, a heavy, drunken animal is an easy target.

PUTIN: Juan Carlos, King of Spain, took Mitrofan out with one magnificent shot.

JUAN CARLOS: I have never killed any bear. Drunk or sober.

STAROTSIN: He denies it, but you cannot turn black into white.

MITROFAN: Denial of murder cannot restore life to the dead. Perhaps…the gift of that bullet, coming after so delicious a meal, was a divine blessing that freed me from my madness and my mortality in a single explosion of pain, blood, and gunpowder, a fleeting moment providing emphatic punctuation to a run-on sentence which meandered too long without finding its subject.

PUTIN: I think that Juan Carlos had a wonderful time, and enjoyed his trip to Russia very much.

JUAN CARLOS: I have never been to Russia.

STAROTSIN: I didn’t want to do it, but I organized the whole thing. My bosses told me to. When someone important tells you to do something, of course, you must do it. Whether you like what you do or not, that isn’t the important thing. The important thing is knowing what you have to do and doing it. Life is really just as simple as that.

PALACE SPOKESMAN: An official commission has been created to investigate this thing that has not happened, and as yet, they have not reached any conclusions on the fiction being widely circulated in the world press. It will take time to study the issue and to reach conclusions, but we are not going to set a timetable on presenting whatever findings we may find. It is as simple as that.

PUTIN: I was not actually present on the hunt. I don’t know what happened. It is as simple as that.

KING JUAN CARLOS: Why would anyone want to kill a bear, especially a tame, drunken bear who never hurt anyone? It is ridiculous. And it isn’t true. It is as simple as that.

MTIROFAN: The truth is that now I am dead, and even dead, not released from the pain of having lived. I walk this netherworld without even hope of honey, vodka, or bullet to free me. It is as simple as that.

(lights down, end.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spain is finally receiving true democratic influence from U.S. citizens living in Spain.

After its 8th Constitution a newly created political party called Action For Justice (Accion Por La Justicia) is bringing fresh new ideas to an old country. AXJ as they are called ( is centered around one simple idea:

Return power to the People of Spain by taking up the Jury system as it has existed in the United States of America (USA) since its Independence from the British Monarchy in 1776, and its first Constitution in 1789.

This way it would take the pressure off Judges to combat, condemn and encarcerate the Terrorist activities of ETA in Spain.

It would also create a true Balance of Powers and make sure no Politician, Public Servant, Judge, Magistrate, Attorney General or even the present Monarchy is above the Law.

AXJ is just now getting its feet wet and has met a great deal of resistence from the political and economic status quo which cannot accept such change. But votes keep slowly trickling in and AXJ keeps adding members to its ranks.

AXJ has various servers, forums and blogs open to free discussion and consider themselves to be the first web based political activist group in Spain.

Their website is: and email:

10:05 PM  
Blogger Archie Levine said...

Well, yes...of course...but what of Gogol? And the bear?

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did enjoy it. Of course the Gogol parody is a hook, but the piece is much more than that. It lives and breathes on its own, and not merely as a one-man deal. As I read it, I was reminded of the first recording I heard of Waiting for Godot, with Bert Lahr -- that could have been the bear in this one.

It is a great, great piece. If you had the room, which is difficult to foresee given the spare quality of the thing, I think I'd stiick in a reference to how Spain does not exist. Then somewhere I'd have Putin make reference to how the Hapsburgs in Austria had those giant abbatoir-hunts, but then the Palace Spokesman deny that Juan Carlos is
necessarily related to any Hapsburg, living or dead. The reason for that is I think, with those two additions, you then would have something that would
play well in Europe, for it would not be simply a one-time shot at a passing topical event but, nstead, something that pullls out a panaromoa of history that confronts all of Europe with its past. The Hapsburgs, after all,
controlled Holland, the Austrian-Hungarian empire, Spain, bits and pieces of Italy, etc.

I do think this is a vehicle that should play well in Europe as well as here.


8:11 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home