Photography! Baku! Arts!

October 13, 2009

On September 19th       Azra, Javad and I opened ‘First Step’ at YarAdAn Gallery in Baku.

Showcasing the photography of youth from Seki, Zaqatala, Mingacevir, Goycay, and Xacmaz, the event was the first of its kind held in Azerbaijan. Part gallery show, part publicity event, part celebration, we estimated over 300 people visited over a 2 day period.

(Apologies for the somewhat blurry snaps)

Azra and I take a moment to shamelessly pose at the entrance.













Javad-gallery owner-artist-psychologist- extraordinaire interviewed by the press. (In reality, the youth that attended gave more interviews than Azra, Javad or I, however, no snaps of that)



The Xacmaz crew reprezents! H font and center and L on the right were amazingly bold in talking portraits in the community-they also swooped in to help endlessly with translating.

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Chilling in the street front room.



Y-my self proclaimed ‘brutha’ from Seki next to one of his portraits.

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A-the right hand man for Azra and I in Seki, he was the saving grace when working at the Yaddash Orphanage-if I could adopt brothers, A and Y would be top picks. A took some of the most original photos of the entire summer.

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Mr. French next to Mr. J-my two aficionados of style, culture and hipster-ism-we have snooty conversations about snooty topics while waving around cheap smokes and making sarcastic jokes.


Sometime during the after party, Azra and I had an ‘Oh. Wow. We did it!’ moment and then followed up with a victory snap shot. Lovely.


Devoured since May, is a stack of books that includes Azerbaijan Diary by Thomas Goltz. A man who I had the fortune to meet at Tequila Junction late one Baku night when said author, after waiting until my male companion dipped inside to use the toilet, approached me and opened the conversation by forcefully demanding ‘Do you know who I am young lady?!’ Being witty and bit of a minx (or so I’ve been told by S. Jeeves Westminster), I looked him straight in his eyes and said with a bored shrug, ‘No, no, I don’t, am I supposed to?’ It must have been provoking, as Mr. G growled out ‘Well then you obviously haven’t read my book, Azerbaijan Diary.’

‘Obviously’ said I with mischief, ‘Let me run to the nearest Ketabhaxna (library) and pick it up.’

What followed can only be described a word brawl between an older man losing his pride and temper and dropping the F-bomb most inappropriately and a 20-something lady gleefully being shamefully rude. Thankfully, a handler was, well, on hand, to calm the waters before two Irish Tempers attacked without mercy.

(I make the assumption that Mr. G is Irish based on his unwavering self assurance of ‘I’m kinda a big deal’ that seems to be prone to those in possession of Irish roots-I could be wrong, but in any case, if Mr. G happens to read this, I hope he takes it as a complement.)

And then of course, curiosity getting the better of me, I did go the next day, not to the nearest Ketabhaxna but to a friends flat, picked up Azerbaijan Diary and burned through it in a mere 3 weeks.

So this can be seen as a solid endorsement of the book and recommendation for one to read it-it also is, in a round-about way, a very small way of sending up the white flag of truce and stating that if, Mr. G and I should happen in the future to meet in a pub, while I will never apologize, I will offer to buy a few pints and swap tales of Azerbaijan, and make a point to state that yes, I do know who he is, but, more importantly, does he know who I am?


I don’t almost get into pub brawls with the author of every book I read-evidence: Rereading William Goldman’s The Princess Bride has been delightful, and I have neither felt nor desired to yell at him for being pretentious. When reading, there is usually a paragraph or page that makes the book-for instance, in Les Miserable, in the section of 100 pages or so when Mr. Hugo goes into exacting detail about the Paris sewer system, I drooled, while most simply rolled their eyes and skipped to the ‘good parts’ involving romance and angst. In The Princess Bride, this gem of a paragraph was re-discovered:


(Buttercup and Westley are about to enter the Fire Swamp.)

‘As a child, she (Buttercup) has once spent an entire nightmared year convinced that she was going to die there. Now she could not move another step. The giant trees blackened the ground ahead of her. From every part came the sudden flames.

“You cannot ask it of me,” she said

“I must.” (Said Westley)

“I once dreamed I would die here.”

“So did I, so did we all. Were you eight that year? I was.”

“Eight. Six. I can’t remember.”

Westley took her hand.

She could not move. “Must we?”

Westley nodded.


“Now is not the time.” He pulled her gently.

She still could not move.

Westley took her in his arms. “Child; sweet child. I have a knife. I have my sword. I did not come across the world to lose you now.

Buttercup was searching somewhere for a sufficiency of courage. Evidently, she found it in his eyes.

At any rate, hand in hand, they moved into the shadows of the Fire Swamp.’


My landing is void of nosey neighbors; a fact who’s pros and cons have been thoroughly discussed by most everyone. Some contend living alone on a landing is safer since it negates the possibility of having bad men neighbors in close proximity. Some contest that no landing mates makes it dangerous (possibility of bad men neighbors be dammed) in case I need help when a flat crisis occurs-such as not knowing how to change a light bulb *shudder* or not being able to sweep. *horrors* I think living on a mostly empty landing, except for myself and a blue eyed cross-eyed white cat is a prime arrangement. (Yes, there will be snaps of qəşəng pişik. Oh. The possibilities of mad win if I could get the midget cobbler and kitty in a photo together…),The other 2 flats are empty for typical reasons: drunken husband, some scandal involving a woman, and a business deal gone bad/good in Baku.

I was on the mobile talking to a friend who was having an AZ crisis that involved all the usual suspects: homelessness, nasty food, leering men, mysterious sickness-so absorbed was I in gum flapping that as I backed out the door fumbling with my key, hunched over the impossible lock, I didn’t notice the women in the opposite doorway of the empty flat. Some movement on her part attracted my attention and I straightened. We stood 2 feet apart, eyes locked in a dead on staredown. If this was a movie, the ass kicking music (Metallica-‘Enter Sandman’ comes to mind, feel free to substitute your favorite) would have cued, the sun disappeared, my tabbi boots, and bowstaff appeared and her fangs and cape materialized. But this isn’t a movie and 3 minutes into the staredown I was getting bored for precisely that reason, no fangs, no smoke, no ass kicking music and slow motion fight sequence-just your standard everyday strange/awkward encounter with a woman who wasn’t supposed to exist. *yawn* My friend kept talking and I kept staring, realizing that this could go on forever, since I’m never one to conceded a staredown from tiredness, I pulled a ‘New York’ escape, (The ‘Oh damm, oops, I’m on the phone, its important, *shrug* can’t talk now, gotta go, I’ll call you later. Sorry *contrite look*’ dance that females have perfected to avoid annoying suitors and evidentially possible ghosts.), turned and made all sorts of haste down the stairs, not forgetting to throw a cute little wave over my shoulder.

Retro thoughts.

October 5, 2009

                 I had not returned to Jorat in 2 years. When I had left I was angry, scared and hopeful. And now, as I rode in a car, along the sea road, like I had so many times in that ’07 summer, thoughts and feelings unexpectedly rushed to the surface. Nostalgia: usually reserved by the populous for cliché memories of past loves is reserved by me for the flatness and heat, the burning wavy lines that made ratty Ladas take on fantastic shapes, the noise and dirty air, the tension below the surface of people at once restless for something new but languid in heat that suffocated even the sharpest thoughts, the same fisherman casting his line next to the spewing sewage pipe-it shocked me on my first morning walk; the smell of oil and excrement that became familiar, the thin film of blackness that covered my clothing and skin after every wander or stolen moment of peace smoaking a forbidden cigarette- Nate and I and Misvig would sneak to the sea shore at dusk, huddling in the wind to light our Wests, mostly not talking, just being and looking out across the sea-Jorat; frighteningly strange for a small American girl-the men yelling nasty remarks about the paleness of my skin, ‘Fish’ they called me and still do-I had never thought to miss it, the sleepless nights, listening to the sea, but that is what I remember most distinctly, the jet lag and culture shock causing nights of wakefulness and tossing, the first night I couldn’t sleep, when the yard was finally quite I thought a water pump was running, but no-walking out my door to the crumbling stoop, I could hear it, waves, a small sound of water, a backdrop to everything else, calming and distant-when he would yell and scream and hit the family, I would wait, straining to hear the distant crashing of waves on the sea shells that made up the beach-every pause in the one sided argument, I would try and catch the calm, beyond the sounds of hitting and stomping and distress. That is why I had left with anger and fear, and now, riding in the car, to the wedding of the daughter, I realized that those petty emotions had gone, foolishly I tried to conjure up bitterness, but nothing, a breath of calm, so often I had despaired over the lack of ability to change myself into a better person, and of course, no one can be truly good-but the calm is knowing, being in Jorat and not being angry anymore.

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