This afternoon Virginia and I went to Sami’s for gyros. After the initial feeding frenzy, in which I lost the tip of my pinky finger, we traded gyro stories. Actually, it was less a trade and more of her listening to me while she ate.

I had my first gyro in Gorky Park in Moscow, in June of 1994. This was at the tail end of a six week class excursion to Russia, and the bunch of us were dirty, sleep-deprived, suffering from mild alcohol poisoning, and loving every minute of it.

The day was overcast and spitting rain, and the park was mostly empty, except for the carnies. Boy, if you think American carnies are scary, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. We didn’t dare go on any of the rides; by Cedar Point standards they didn’t look like that much fun and we had a healthy distrust of Russian safety measures. The latrines were the most frightening experience of my life. They made my eyes water from a hundred yards UPWIND.

Just off of a smaller path a ways away from the river two Azerbaijani gentlemen had a small kiosk set up with a home-made rotisserie grill thing and a small strongbox. On the rotisserie was a big hunk of sheep meat. After days of sparse sack lunches and shoe-leather stew, the site of so much fresh meat sent us into a slavering frenzy of waiting in line for the sheep to finish cooking. The twenty minutes felt like an eternity. Every movement of an Azerbaijani arm left a vapor trail and the glint of sunlight from gold teeth was blinding.

Finally they were preparing my gyro. Several thin slices of lamb on pita bread, with a cucumber sause and fresh crushed parsley. To this day, I remember it as one of the best meals of my life.