This is hard to say, because, even amongst my hippie friends, this engenders some disgust: I am utterly fascinated by and mildly obsessed with Vladimir Putin.
Hear me out, because I believe there to be two forces at work here. Number one: I lived in New York for quite a while, and then in Louisiana. As a resident of either state, you have to learn to distance yourself from terrifying things happening right in front of you. Manhattan taxi drivers are some of the most insane risk-takers known to man, and yet I’ve never once put on a seat belt while in the backseat, instead choosing to gaze on in amazement as we graze 4 or 5 cars on our way onto the West Side Highway. Similarly, while in Louisiana, I would watch (stupidly gape-mouthed) from behind the bar while gun sales were being made in the parking lot, lines were being done by people in the bathroom while their grandkids waited in the car outside, and the city’s most observant cops, charged with sleuthing out the local serial killer, were asking my 45-year-old co-bartender if she was still in college. In short, I’ve developed a sort of defense mechanism for these things, looking at them as stories rather than actual events.
Which brings me to the second element at work here: I like stories. It’s the lit geek in me. And this guy is the most over-the-top character I’ve ever seen, making the guys Harrison Ford regularly defends our freedoms against seem like panty-waisted nonentities (I will see your Captain Vasily WhoseyWhatsitRedOctoberGuy and raise you four hundred Goldfingers). Let’s look at what I’ve heard so far about him:
He’s ex KGB. (check)
He’s a Judo master. (sure)
He was just given a pet tiger. (why not?)
He also hunts tigers. (of course)
He just left his wife for a teenage contortionist. (who hasn’t?)
He kills his dissenters by bizarrely untraceable types of radiation poisoning. (how else?)
The guy’s character is just so…fully developed, you know? I mean, if I were writing this guy, I might choose one of these things to describe him as perfectly evil and “Soviet” in that throwback-y oh-no-the-commies-are-coming sort of way. But, Jesus God, man, he’s ALL of these things? Does he also enjoy feasting on the raw innards of small game birds, sopping up the juices with bread, all the while enjoying the cries of his impalees as his dinner music?
So, yeah, maybe love affair is the wrong phrasing. I do, after all, acknowledge that he is at best a horrible despot, but more realistically a pissy second-rate bully. But dammit if he isn’t the most wholly realized villain we’re up against (Kim Jon Il having too many goofy qualities, and Bin Laden being too genuinely threatening).
Why am I blogging about this now? Because his soft underbelly was just made visible. Namely, he paints. Pretty well. Like a Nancy boy. But a Nancy boy who sells said paintings for 1.15 million pounds. And then maybe goes home and cries because someone has validated his artistic expression of his inner pain. Then he fucks his contortionist child-bride and shares a raw steak with the baby tiger he’ll one day hunt for sport.