So, the U.S. gets ready to deploy 20,000 troops to Bosnia., and of course they want Russians on their side. Russian involvement is crucial: Russia would be less likely to supply weapons to Serbs, if Russian troops are on the ground exposed to those weapons. But who would command such a "bipartisan" force of two former cold war enemies? Americans favor NATO. But Yeltsin can't possibly sell that to his army: they'll see that as an ultimate defeat. Nobody favors UN, because UN showed to be bad at military stuff with its redundant bureaucracy. And, well, it is obvious that there has to be a single command if the operation is to succeed.

Either Americans or Russians should command the force, then. But are they ready to accept each other's command? No. The illusion that cold war ended may break over Bosnia. Few events however show the way: Russia behaves uncivilized, kind of barbaric, in Chechenya, and nobody seems much to bother; World Bank actually endorses a 6 billion dollars loan program to Russia...

America might want to buy the command of joint Bosnia task force. This is a typical American way of doing things. So, we'd have American officers and Russian and American (preferably minorities) foot soldiers, and Russian military is going to get paid off. They desperately need money, which Russian economy can't provide. The only problem is that American economy can't provide that money, either. But isn't it so American to buy things with money that you don't have? The U.S. will do some fund-raising in Western Europe, which is kind of paralyzed with never-ending war in Bosnia, so close to home, and which is scared to death of hungry Russian army and all the Plutonium they have. I guess if Germans don't agree immediately to foot the bill, there will be some more Plutonium discovered on Frankfurt airport.

This is the American way of doing peacekeeping that would I believe actually be acceptable to Congress: Russians risk their lives, Germans pay for that, and Americans keep the command. Victor's spoils.

Yesterday I was at Halloween bash at the Croatian Center. Croatian Center in New York is adjunct to the Croatian Catholic church (near Port Authority) which is maintained by franciscans. Huge Roseland-ish barren dance hall with prevailing grey and franciscan beloved dark brown colors, a huge Croatian coat of arms chandelier and frescos of Croatian (and Bosnian) cities that ador the walls, was decorated with paper scelethons and other Halooween paraphernalia, and my friend Boris appeared in full drag wining the third costume prize. Obviously our priest skipped all the upheaval in the news about Halloween being proclaimed a Satanic holiday by some Christians. I guess we could safely invoke Satan there. The Center is also a place of freedom from certain restrictive laws for younger kids. Who would ever think that the church would have to resort to cheap beer to keep the community from dissipating in the American mainstream? Yet, secretive are the ways of our Lord.

There is something that Croats and Irish have in common: no party is a good party if it doesn't end in a good, though senseless, fistfight. Probably, this is the way how we get rid of excess calories accumulated by too much beer. D.J. and the local wedding band kept music upbeat and contemporary until around midnight. Then they played some songs of Croatian rock bands, and then, inavoidably, they played some Croatian nationaist folk songs (like "Evo zore, evo dana, evo Jure i Bobana"), knowledge of which is a kind of rite of passage to any Croatian teenager in the U.S. Those with more "guts" would climb the stage and grab Croatian flag (which of course is at hand in a Croatian Center), or if they want to show how high their testosterone levels really are they'll give a stiff-armed salute. This is bound to piss-off their elders, who try hard to rid Croatia of its Nazi-past image. But also this makes their elders proud, because it confirms that kids are defiant, ready to do anything for "the cause", that they belong to "the cause". And kids sense that ambivalence. That's why I call this a rite of passage.

Controversial songs and gestures however always produce upsetting situations. And now with Croatia winning the war "over there", a lot of people here started to believe that rite of passage is stupid, needless, useless, ultimately harmful for "the cause". This antagonism nevertheless just fuels the kids rebellion - because after all for a teenager this is a kind of rebellion against "the system" without an ulterior motive. This creates an absurd situation in which cool kids will fight to protect what they believe is their right to perform basically a disgusting ritual (a reverse example of the "message from the messenger dividing" from the Farrakhan-March).

At one point around 2 am some pushing started on the edge of the dance area, then a punch flew and one guy was suddenly lying on the floor, and the "all-out war" broke out, which resulted in dozens of bloody heads and some damaged property. I felt weird, surreal, standing in the middle of that fight, like in the eye of tornado. Nobody touched me. I guess those hours in the gym paid off. Nobody also seemed to have a grsp of the reason why the fight brought up. More they fought by inertia, you know, situation is heated, you say a wrong word, you get hit, then you have to punch back, and then your friends and his friends get involved and somebody fall on the floor and then the rest of the crowd gets involved to kick the shit out of him (this particularly cute habit has its own term in Croatian/Bosnian/Serbian: "cipelariti" - which means to kick somebody with your boots while he is lying on the floor; our language is full of very specific language to describe various fighting practices, God knows why).

The fight went on and off for about twenty minutes. Then finally adrenaline levels dropped and everybody calmed down. The original perpetrators disappeared (they got more bloodied, too). So, I went around to talk to kids who seemed to be the target of the original attack. The oldest was born in 1973. The one who got kicked first, Vanja, is a tall, lanky, kind of guy you'd not be afraid to hit. He thought I was on their side. Good for me. It seems that other side thought the same. So, I asked him what precisely was "his side", because I find hard to be on somebody's side if I don't know either who he is or which side is he on. He was the "ustasha" side, he said. Fantastic: here I have a regular American high school kid with his baseball cap turned backwards, baggy pants, zits, and all, slurring through consonant-intensive Croatian language, still hyped-up that he was the first guy to get hit, and he is an "ustasha." So, what were the other guys? "Chetnicks", he said. But they weren't. They were Croats, too. But they were the ones who started the fight. I told him that I was not exactly on his side, but I didn't get hit.

Vanja's friend, in process of tending to his fresh head bump, said that fight was over "ustashtvo", too. Another of his friends said that the other guys stepped on Croatian flag (I didn't have another side available at that point to cross-check, and I did not witness stepping on flag event). Finally I could see the core of the attacked group of kids. The actually fared better than attackers. Two punks, judging by haircut and dresscode, one guy with a joker hat and heavy make-up and few other kids. They were calmed and consoled by Hrvoje and Kreso and few other a little older guys there. The older guys actually tried to stop the fight and call to reason, but it simply did not work until the fighters exhausted their hormonal high. More interesting, girls fought, too. Trying to get their boyfriends out of the frying pan.

Hrvoje and Kreso did not fight. Which is highly unusual, particularly for Kreso, widely known to fight all the time and who even got in the fight on my birthday party. He eventually put his nature to "good" use by joining the Croatian Army. Now with the war over, he is back and he just put through the post-trauma disorder stuff, he got himself a beautiful wife and he seems to be much more tempered, now. He was never really a bad guy. Kind of raw and rowdy, though. Girlfriends of my girlfriend, p.c. Barnard college graduates, despised him, I remember. So, he found his wife in Croatia: actually in Zagreb few blocks away from the place where I lived when I went to college and worked on Radio 101 there.

Tanja is beautiful and two years younger than my younger brother. She said that she was relieved that she found Kreso. I bet. Green card and stuff, huh? But not only that. Kreso, who might be mucho macho for American college standards, is well bellow obnoxious machismo of contemporary post-war Croatia. She said that all of the cool guys of her generation from our city (Zagreb) either left the country or died (or lost a leg or something) in the war, and that all of the Zagreb downtown clubs are crowded by irritating guys, so-called refugees from Hercegovina, who somehow escaped the war while boys from Zagreb and Split were dying to liberate their villages, who have plenty of money from their relatives working in the Germany and in the U.S., and who behave, in her words, "primitive" and "intolerable".

Also, there are no more fistfights. They all carry guns. Zagreb kids are sometimes afraid to go out at night in their own clubs in their own capital city of their own free, independent and sovereign country, she said. My friend Sasa, just called me from Croatia a minute ago and confirmed that Hercegovci-bashing is talk of the city in Zagreb. He also said that they dominate the Zagreb's main square (Trg Bana Jelacica), while "real" Zagrebans meat at the south-west corner known as "Spica", which was a place where usually Dalmatians from Split would hang-out before the war. There are no more Dalmatians, now.

Curiously, there was a group of Bosnians at the party. Kids from Sarajevo. Muslims by names. Fortunately, nobody pointed to them when the fight brought up, and they did not fight. Good for the bad guys. Ibrahim, who came to the U.S. with his sister, still did not hear of his parents who were lost somewhere in the ethnic cleansing. He played waterpolo for his high-school and won a second place in sit-ups championship in Queens, being the only white kid in the first fifty. They figured out correctly that, since Bosnia and Croatia are now a con-federation, and since Croatian Center carries frescos of Sarajevo and Mostar (with the bridge, of course) on its walls, it is their center, too.

Later my friends took me to Village Idiot to get drunk the redneck way and forget the embarassment of the stupid fight (I was really pissed). Village Idiot smells like the bottom of the beer barrell, and its bartenders dressed in jeans and bras will spray you with Coca-Cola or other non-alcocholic beverage if you dare to order it. The beer is cheap, the setting is sipmle (you know, the pool table, juke box and a pinball; odd chairs). Likeable. Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is also available for connoisseurs of real white trash ambience. Boris had bigger breasts than any of bartenders and they joked about it. Still he failed to extort free beer from them.

Andrew raved up the juke-box with some Merle Haggart. He told me to listen carefully the words of "Okie from Muskogee". I was pleased to hear that American entertainment industry was able to produce something even worse than "Evo zore, evo dana". Then I had to wait forever for Andrew who wanted to pick up a bartender, which he failed. Well, better luck next time.