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PART ONE

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

PART TWO

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

A note to fans of Little Golden America: as of issue No. 22, Admit Two adopted a PDF format, which means you will have to access individual back issues to get to further chapters of Ilf and Petrov's American adventure.

 

oLittle Golden America                     by    ILYA ILF AND EUGENE PETROV

_______________________________________________________________________

o

 

 o

Chapter Six…

  Papa and Mamma

 

 

BEFORE DEPARTING from Moscow we had collected numerous letters of

introduction. It was explained to us that America was the land of letters

of introduction. Without them you could not turn around.

      Americans of our acquaintance whom we visited before departure at

once and in silence sat down at their typewriters and began to pound out:

      “Dear Sir: My friends, whom I commend to your attention…”

      And so on and so forth. “Regards to your wife” – and in brief all that

is proper to write on such occasions. They knew beforehand what we

had come for.

      The correspondent of the New York Times, Walter Duranty, wrote

with incredible speed, taking the cigarette out of his mouth only in order

to swallow some Crimean Madeira. We carried away from him a dozen

letters. In farewell he told us:

      “Go, go to America! It is much more interesting there now than here

in your Russia. With you everything goes up.” He indicated with his

hand the rising steps of a stairway. “With you here everything is clear.

But with us everything is not yet clear. And no one knows what may

happen.”

      A colossal catch awaited us at Louis Fischer’s, a journalist well known

in American left-wing circles. He spent at least half of his working day on us.

      “You are threatened in America,” he said, “with the danger of finding

yourself at once in radical and intellectual circles, getting lost there,

seeing nothing, and returning home with the conviction that all Ameri-

cans are very progressive and intellectual people. Yet it is far from the

truth. You must see as many different kinds of people as possible. Try

to see rich people, the unemployed, officials, farmers. Look for average

people, because it is they who make up America.”

      He regarded us with his black and kindly eyes and wished us a happy

and fruitful journey.

      We were in the throes of greed. Although our suitcases were bulging

with letters, it seemed to us that we did not have enough of them. We

recalled that Eisenstein had at one time been in America, so we went to

see him at Potylikha.

      This famous cinema village is laid out on the picturesque shores of the

Moskva River.

      Eisenstein lived in a small apartment in the midst of chandeliers and

huge Mexican hats. In his workroom was a good grand piano and the

skeleton of a child under a bell glass. In the reception rooms of famous

physicians bronze clocks usually stand under such bell glasses. Eisenstein

greeted us in his green-striped pajamas. He spent the whole evening

writing letters, told us about America, regarded us with his childlike,

crystal-clear eyes, and treated us to jam.

      After a week of hard labor we were the possessors of hundreds of

letters  addressed to governors, actors, editors, senators, a woman photog-

rapher, and simply kind people, including a Negro minister and a

dentist from Proskurov.

      When we showed all this harvest, garnered after arduous labor, to

Jean Lvovich Arens, our consul general in New York, he turned pale.

      “In order to see every one of these people separately… your will

need two years.”

      “What shall we do then?”

      “The best thing you could do would be to put all these letters back

into the suitcase and go back to Moscow. But since you are already

here, we’ll have to think up something for you.”

      Subsequently we convinced ourselves more than once that the consul

could always think up something whenever it was necessary. On this

occasion he thought up something grandiose: to send all these letters

to their proper addresses and to arrange a reception for all at once.

      Three days later, on the corner of Sixty-first Street and Fifth Avenue,

in the salons of the consulate, a reception was held. We stood on the

landing of the stairway at the second floor. Its walls were hung with

immense photographs of the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station, the harvest-

ing of grain with combines, and children’s creches. We stood beside the

consul and with undisguised fear looked at the ladies and gentlemen

who were walking up from below. They moved in an uninterrupted

flow for two hours. These were the spirits called forth by the united

efforts of Duranty, Fischer, Eisenstein, and a score of other of our bene-

factors. The spirits came with their wives – and were in excellent spirits.

They were full of eagerness to do everything they had been asked to do

in the letters, and to help us learn what the United States was like.

      The guests greeted us, exchanged a few remarks, and passed into the

salons, where there were bowls of claret cup and small diplomatic

sandwiches.

      In the simplicity of our souls we thought that when all would come

together we, the reason for the occasion, if one may say so, would follow

into the salon and also raise cups and eat small diplomatic sandwiches.

But that is not what happened. What learned that we were supposed to

stand on the landing until the last guest departed.

      From the salons came gay laughter and noisy exclamations, while we

stood endlessly, greeting the late-comers, seeing off those who were

departing, and in every other way fulfilling the function of hosts. More

than a hundred and fifty guests had gathered, and in the end we did

not even manage to find out which of them was a governor and which

the native of Proskurov. It was a notable company of gray-haired ladies

in spectacles, pink-cheeked gentlemen, broad-shouldered young men, and

tall thin young ladies. Since every one of the spirits conjured out of our

envelopes represented an indubitable point of interest, we deeply re-

gretted the impossibility of talking at length with each and every one

of them.

      Three hours later the stream of guests was directed down the stairway.

      A fat little man with a clean-shaven head on which glistened large

beads of icy sweat came up to us. He regarded us through the magnify-

ing lenses of his spectacles, shook his head, and with much feeling said

in fairly good Russian:

      “Oh, yes, yes! That’s all right! Mr. Ilf and Mr. Petrov, I have received

a letter from Fischer. No, no, don’t tell me anything. You don’t under-

stand. I know what you need. We’ll meet again.”

      He disappeared, small, compact, with a remarkably strong, almost an

iron body. In the confusion of bidding farewell to guests we could not

talk with him and puzzle out the meaning of his words.

      Several days later, when we were still lounging in our beds, thinking

about where at last we would find the ideal creature so indispensable

to us, the telephone range and the voice of a stranger told us that Mr.

Adams was speaking and that he wanted to come right up to see us.

We dressed quickly, wondering who Mr. Adams was and what he

wanted of us.

      Into our hotel room entered the same fat little man with the iron body

whom we had seen at the reception in our consulate.

      “Gentlemen,” he said, without any preliminaries, “I want to help you.

No, no, no! You don’t understand. I regard it as my duty to help every

Soviet person who comes to America.”

      We asked him to sit down, but he refused. He ran through our small

hotel rooms, pushing us now and then with his hard, protruding stomach.

The three lower buttons of his vest were unbuttoned and the tail of his

necktie stuck out.

      Suddenly he cried:

      “I am beholden for much to the Soviet Union. Yes, yes, very much!

No, don’t talk; you don’t even understand what you are doing there in

your country!”

      He became so excited that by mistake he jumped out through the open

door and found himself in the hall. We had a quite a time of it, dragging

him back into our room.

      “Were you ever in the Soviet Union?”

      “Surely!” cried Mr. Adams. “ Of course! No, no, no! Don’t say, ‘Were

you ever in the Soviet Union!’ I lived there a long time. Yes, yes, yes! I

worked in your country for seven years. You spoiled me in Russia. No,

no, no! You cannot understand that!”

      Several minutes of association with Mr. Adams made it clear to us

that we do not understand America at all, that we do not understand

the Soviet Union at all, and that in general we understand nothing of

anything at all, like newborn calves.

      But it was quite impossible to be annoyed with Mr. Adams. When in-

formed of our intention to undertake an automobile journey through

the States, he cried: “Surely!” and attained such a state of excitement

that he suddenly opened the umbrella which he carried under his arm

and for some time stood under it, as if protecting himself from rain.

      “Surely!” he repeated. “Of course! It would be foolish to think that

you could find out anything about America by sitting in New York.

Isn’t it true, Mr. Ilf and Mr. Petrov?”

      Much later, when our friendship had deepened considerably, we

noticed that Mr. Adams, after expressing any thought, always demanded

confirmation of its correctness and would not rest until he received that

confirmation.

      “ No, no, gentlemen! You don’t understand anything! We need a plan!

A plan for the journey! That’s the main thing! And I will make that

plan for you. No, no, don’t talk! You cannot possibly know anything

about it!”

      He suddenly took off his coat, pulled off his spectacles, flung them

on the couch (later he looked for them in his pockets for about ten

minutes), spread an automobile road map of America on his lap, and

began to trace curious lines on it.

      Right there before our eyes he was transformed from a wild eccentric

into a businesslike American. We exchanged glances. Was this not per-

chance the ideal creature of whom we had dreamed? Was this not the

luxuriant hybrid which even Michurin and Burbank together could not

have brought forth?

      In the course of two hours we traveled over the map of America.

What an exhilarating occupation that was!

      For some time we discussed the advisability of driving into Milwaukee,

in the state of Wisconsin. There you find at once two LaFollettes, one

a governor and one a senator, and it was possible to get letters of intro-

duction to both of them. And enviable situation! Two Muscovities sit in

New York and decide the question of a journey to Milwaukee. If they

like, they’ll go there; if not, they won’t!

      Old man Adams sat there, calm, clean, self-contained. No, he did not

recommend that we go to the Pacific Ocean by the northern route

through Salt Lake City, the city of the salt lake. By the time we arrived

there, the mountain passes might be in snow.

      “Gentlemen!” exclaimed Mr. Adams. “This is very, very dangerous.

It would be foolish to risk your lives. No, no, no! You cannot imagine

what an automobile journey is.”

      “But the Mormons?” we moaned.

      “No, no! Mormons – that is very interesting. Yes, yes, Mormons are

the same Americans as others. But snow – that is very dangerous!”

      How delightful it was to talk of dangers, of mountain passes, of

prairies! But even more delightful was it to calculate, pencil in hand, the

extent to which an automobile was cheaper than going by railway, the

number of gallons of gasoline needed for a thousand miles, the cost of

dinners, of a modest dinner for a tourist. For the first time we heard

the words “camp” and “tourist room.” Although we had not yet begun

the journey we were already concerned about keeping expenses down,

and although we had no automobile we were already concerned about

greasing it. We began to regard New York as a dark hole from which

we must forthwith escape.

      When our elated discussion passed into the stage of incomprehensible

shouts, Mr. Adams suddenly jumped off the couch, caught his head in

his hands, squinted in dumb desperation, and stood like that for a full

minute.

      We were frightened.

      Without opening his eyes, Mr. Adams began to knead his head in his

hands and to mutter:

      “Gentlemen, everything is lost! You don’t understand anything!”

      And then what we did not understand became clear. Mr. Adams had

come here with his wife and, having left her in their automobile, had

run up to see us for just a second in order to ask us to his house for

lunch. He had run in for just a second!

      We raced down the corridor, frightening the old ladies who always

populate American hotels. In the elevator Mr. Adams jumped with im-

patience, so eager was he to reach the protective wing of his wife.

      Around the corner from Lexington Avenue, on Forty-eighth Street, in

a neat but no longer new Chrysler sat a young lady who wore the same

kind of protruding spectacles as did Mr. Adams.

      “Becky!” groaned our new friend, stretching forth his fat little arms

toward the Chrysler.

      In the confusion his hat flew off and his round head glistened in the

reflected light of New York’s autumn sun.

      “And where is the umbrella?” asked the lady, smiling wanly.

      The sun went out on the head of Mr. Adams. He forgot the umbrella

in our room, he forgot his wife in the street, the umbrella was upstairs.

Under such circumstances occurred our meeting with Mrs. Rebecca

Adams.

      With bitterness we noticed that it was not Mr. Adams, but his wife,

who took the wheel. We again exchanged glances.

      “No, evidently this is not the hybrid we need. Our hybrid must know

how to drive an automobile.”

      Mr. Adams regained his calm and normal state and talked about things

as if nothing untoward had happened. On the entire trip to Central

Park West, where his apartment was located, old man Adams assured

us that the most important thing for us is our future traveling companion.

      “No, no, no, you don’t understand! This is very, very important!”

      We became sad. We ourselves knew how important that was.

      The door of the Adams apartment was opened to us by a Negress to

whose skirts clung a two-year-old girl. The little girl had a firmly

molded little body. She was a little Adams without spectacles.

      She looked at her parents, and said in her thin little voice:

      “Papa and Mamma.”

      Papa and Mamma groaned from sheer satisfaction and happiness.

      We exchanged glances for the third time.

      ‘Besides, he has a child! No, this is most decidedly not the hybrid!”