Brian Cuban-CIA Operative!
Waiting to hear back on my job application with the city of Dallas. Reading the jobs section in the now defunct Dallas Times Herald. My eyes lock. A half page ad. THE CIA IS HIRING. My eyes read the qualifications. So far so good. Then I see Proficiency In Russian preferred. The wheels start turning. Russian? I can speak Russian! Well, I know some Russian. My high school was one of the few in the country that offered a four-year Russian program. I did all four years. Albeit not very well. I also took a course at Penn State. Why? Because Mark had also taken Russian at Mt. Lebanon High School. He had traveled to the Soviet Union with his Russian class. I wanted to be like Mark. Maybe that would be enough.
Why were they interested in Russian background? This was 1987. Just months earlier, Ronald Reagan had given his famous “Tear Down The Wall” speech calling on General Secretary Gorbachev to tear down the wall separating East from West Germany. A few years earlier on television and at the movies, military conflict and nuclear holocaust based on U.S and Soviet tensions were the themes with such movies as 1984’s Red Dawn depicting a joint Soviet and Cuban (the country, not my family) invasion of the United States and the 1983 widely watched wide movie about a Soviet Nuclear strikes on the United States, The Day After.
As one might suspect with the CIA, even the directions to their office were secretive. My interview would be held in a room only marked with a number at the old Federal Building in Dallas. I received a letter with instruction on how to find it. Not being a detail person, I forgot to bring the letter or write down the room number. I spent 20 minutes walking around the building asking where the “CIA Room” was. I finally got to the room.
“Thank you for coming Mr. Cuban. Did you have any trouble finding us?”
“I had a little bit of trouble”
“Please tell me that you weren’t asking around where we are. We like to keep low profile.”
“What do you know about us Mr. Cuban?”
“Only what I read in the ad and what I see on television.”
“Well, let me tell you what we envision for you. You will officially work for the State department based out of Washington, DC. You will, however, be overseas with rotations back to the states. You’ll take immersive Russian language classes, among other training.”
“This job is about meeting people and getting them to trust you. You’ll attend parties and other events as well as travel extensively. You’ll love it.
As you are probably aware we do not have a domestic charter. We have no domestic positions for what you will be doing. You’ll live overseas wherever your assignment is and be attached to the State Department.”
I stopped listening after “no domestic positions” and “meet people.” I didn’t even want to get my hair cut in the Marines, now, I have to go overseas alone? I have to actually interact in social settings? I have to get drunk first just to go out at night.
Every flicker of a career ambition I have has been quickly snuffed. I wasn’t nearly prepared enough for Big Law. I couldn’t admit the truth about my drug use to the Dallas PD. And I’d never hack it in the CIA with my unaddressed mental health issues. What was left for me after strikes A, B, and C?