Novruz landed in AZ with armies of pavlaka, gogal and sekelbura-formidable advisories of the health conscious, they launched their sugary, buttery goodness with precision, taking no prisoners; for the those lacking will power, they left a wake of calorie comas across the country. Having experienced the cooking/preparing/indulging last year-this season witnessed an epic influx of my favorite usual suspects from Baku and a few new partners in crime. Opening the door, I was greeted by no less than 9 Europeans. It was the largest concentration of non-American foreigners that Ismailli had ever seen-the reaction of ISM people was both surprisingly nice and laughably odd-take for instance B, who’s dreads were petted and fondled on numerous occasion by a enamored water at the TeaHouse-who, we guessed was thrown into confusion deciphering B’s gender and thought him to be a 6+ foot tall species of killer fembot. After returning from a short wander around the elegant town center of ISM, K wanted to know if I had taught the children the following phrases: ‘Ohhh, Myyyy, Gooooodddtt’, ‘Ello my name is!!!!!’ ‘Marry Me’ and ‘F*&% Youuuu!’. –as the sight of 6 foreigners had sent the young population of ISM into uncontrollable yelling spasms.

One day found the lot of us descending upon Nic to photograph the abandoned Christian churches and partake of pork kebabs-again, its certain that our entrance was epic-as we received no harassment only unmasked curiosity in the form of unwavering stares with people going out of their way to say hello (nicely) and ask if we needed help. One man, in charge with guarding a lovingly restored place of worship even went so far as to transport, in his tiny Lada, our 10+ packs to a resting area, allowing us to enjoy wandering around unencumbered. He refused payment, asking only that we give accurate accounts to the outside world of the history of Nic. The small market offered little else but frosty cold bubbly piva (luxury!); cans in hand, wandering down dirt roads in afternoon light, the elusive contentment of life was bit nearer. Taking over a roadside cafй, we settled in for a feast of pork kebab. I had heard tales previously (from the group of archeologists I had spent several days with in this region last fall) of the absolute superiority and medicinal power of the locally made Zoqal Vodka and indulged in a sizable bottle for the picnic. The group toasted several joyous rounds, the drink not disappointing and being quite honestly the best vodka I’ve had! Sedated and happy and with the assistance of a newly made friend, we found cars to drive us through the stunning glacier carved valley between Qabala/Oquz on the way to Mincivicher. This stretch of road is perhaps my favorite in Azerbaijan, on a clear day one can stand at the lowest point and see the foothills and higher Caucuses Mountains, a vista that even for those weary of landscape, is breathtaking. The little story of how I first visited this area with an archeological team will make its way to the blog eventually.

Energy draining, talking, tea drinking, frustrations, stress; characterized the countdown days to certain homelessness. Oh, there were options, yes. A xanim showed me her kitchen, and promised ‘you can sleep here whenever you want, when we are not eating, only 60AZN each month.’ It seemed irrelevant that said kitchen lacked a bed. A man showed me a shed whose previous occupants (I was sure) had been of the barnyard kind. The selling point was the shed possessed a telephone line. (Smart cows, yea?)

March ended one morning with my entire flat packed up and sitting near my door in 4 boxes, 2 small suitcases and a backpack. Moving house due to getting the boot is one of my least favorite pastimes-right up there with visiting the dentist, dancing at Toys and explaining why I don’t have babies. Later that day, I learned that, alas, my landlord, in a supreme display of chain yanking, had just decided to not kick me out-for now. I stood looking at the pile realizing that, while I had too much stuff, I was, at that very moment, living the clichй of all packed up and nowhere to go.

All About Control.

April 25, 2010


April 18, 2010

Shaking off the Titanic doom cloud wasn’t difficult-good parties/conversation/wine having a tendency to do that-and I tripped into Monday with enough optimism to annoy the generally dull.  This lasted until Tuesday mid morning when upon answering the door, I was greeted by my landlord and had the following conversation:

Landlord: (looking down) Can you move tomorrow morning? I have just sold the house to another family.

C: (shocked) No.

L: (exasperated) Why not?

C: (scarcastic) I don’t have another house.

L: (confused) Why not?

C: (exasperated) I didn’t know I needed another one, I live here.

L: (stubbornly) This is my house.

C: (internally screams ‘no s@#$ Sherlock’!) I know.

This comedy of each of us having a separate conversation on different topics carried on for 20min-L refused to believe that I didn’t have another house and I refused to just leave after having paid the March rent. Eventually, as it happens in most conflicts, each side thinks its won by letting the other side thinks it’s won. We parted on pretend compromise with him promising to help and not kick me out until another flat was found. Closing the door, I was oddly enough not thinking about where I would eventually have to move, but that, it was certain now, there was no hope left for the laptop; how could there be? 

L told me that my co-worker had indeed died in Baku.

Computer Whiz Russian Guy wasn’t on hand when I walked  in to collect what I hoped to be a marginally functioning computer.  It was alive, in the sense that Zombies are alive- lacking any brain activity but a desire to consume my data and make unintelligible error messages.   Its worth noting that was the first time (and everyone hopes the absolute last time) I cried  in public in front of AZ men; men who’s leers quickly became looks of confused puzzlement -common reaction among men of both AZ/USA citizenship when females unleash the eye fountains.  Sheepishly embarrassed I mumbled something about ‘very bad cold allergy tired much have’ whereupon the confused trio of geeks fell over themselves to rummage for napkins-I left soon after, clutching a wad of snotty napkins and my computer bag.

What to do?  Running clothes in ISM.  My headlamps as well. The ability to smile reduced to an annoying desire (developed in the 30 min walk back to TheFlat from the computer repair shop) to verbal vomit my woes to anyone within ear shot. Adrenalin. Heights. Fine Men. Running. Photography. Public Art(aka graffiti-before you get the shap-shaps in a bundle, lets be clear, I’m not talking about scrawled genitalia  on phone booths,  various scrawled nicknames for genitalia, cuss words rendered abstractly on already dirty surfaces or any of the piss paint ‘’ that clutters every reachable surface- I’m talking art. Good art.  In public.) All the top choices to let my troubles go are usually/mostly inaccessible in Baku and AZ at large.   However upon returning to TheFlat and digging out my sketchbook, a solution presented itself that could include at least 3 of the previous mentioned stress reducers.  A and I had planned for just such a time (in case life was going arse over tits or swimmingly) by making sure we had various pieces for a collaboration (the genius spawn of creativity) at our fingertips.

Gathered around drinks and taking stock later that night/early the next morning around 5am, we were pleased to discover that Adrenalin, Fine Men and Public Art combined nicely, though not in the way we, or our Fine Men had expected.

Thanks to Eye and Ear Candy from my Frenchman, the next weeks were a downpour of fresh sights and sounds covering up (in the waking hours of down time) the demented chickens and crying puppies occupying  the rubbish heap outside my kitchen door. Feril animals who have precisely timed the launching of their rows to occur between 2-6am at 30 min intervals.   With spring springing, my dreams have been fussed up wildly by visions of chickens with fangs, dogs in flack jackets and screaming shadowy figures.   The upside to this is that my outpouring of creative juxitiposions of images/objects (in photography/college/drawing) has expanded to include a new series highlighting my absolute distaste for fowl and the mistreatment of animals.  Coming soon to a public place, where you are not.


March kicked off with Little Troll Poo and Mr. Grumpy Pants visiting Izzy Town-the weekend didn’t disappoint: tripping wildly across a frozen rope bridge suspended above a river basin, jumping freezing streams, pulling ourselves in a little trolley car across said river (again) and placing our lives in the driving hands of a half drunk but unshakably friendly ‘professional driver’ of a basterdized combination dump truck /tractor.  All good things do end, of course. 

Next morning I woke to the computer blasting the following message across its screen and into my brain via my blurry eyes ‘The Group Policy Client Service has failed the logon. Access Denied’. Nothing hits you in the gut like a machine denying you and failing, all at once. On a Monday morning. Possessing the annoying American trait of ‘do it your self’ I spent several days combing the interwebs (courtesy of the local stanky net café) in hopes of finding at least a minimal instructions on how to CPR the machine. It’s a moot point now, but my computer wasn’t backed up on an external hard drive preventing any sort of re-boot. (Sometimes my stupidity astounds even me.)
Savoring the last bits of music on my dying ipod (Atmosphere and Doomtree) I proceeded to drop by L’s (of the running fame) house to catch on the local gossip-an activity relished with infinite patience: who’s selling watered milk, what boy is looking at which girl, the latest follies of the school director, the drama and joy of text flirting and the cost of a kilo of rotting green beans sprayed with petrol (seriously). So much to be learned. Anyway, this day, the gossip was centered on one particular topic and surprisingly enough, my name was in the mix. G (L’s mother) related that the night before (while the trio of PolishDutcAamerican were drinking beer and flirting) my co-worker from the library had tried to killer herself by swallowing acid and then vinegar. It was a botched job, she had been rushed to a hospital in Baku and was, at this moment hovering somewhere between a painful life and the unknown after. Summing up the irony of the situation, G looked at me and said ‘it is too bad, she is still alive, if you want to die you must, it is awful to be here and in pain’. This information took an appropriate time to settle in and left me confused and numb. I couldn’t even remember said co-workers face, an extraordinary feat, as the library staff is less than 10 and sometimes more than 5-numbnes was replaced by awfulness, both that I couldn’t remember her face and that, when she lay in horrid pain, I was having an internal winge about being so typically passive and justifying my name/face forgetfulness by recounting the daily insult of being called or mistaken for ‘Amy’ and/or ‘Rachel’ – ladies who left a total of 5 years previous and of whom one was a 6 ft tall Amazon and the other a Jew. This internal tussle brought me round to more sober thoughts of the transcendent nature of life and the hidden lives of those I/we so often take for granted. 

Shortly after this I made my way to Baku in hopes of finding competent males to assist in fixing the computer. Alas, one bright Saturday I found myself with M, among the shops of 28May, resigning computer to 3 males-my heart sunk when, having just taken the machine from the bag, they fumbled around for 5 minutes trying to figure out how to plug the laptop in-fighting back panic (parents must, must, feel this when a teenager goes on a first date with another hormone swirly teenager) M and I used Russian/Azeri/English (and pleading looks on my part) to explain the situation. The computer whiz Russian guy (who looked 15 and could have been a ‘she’)gave a charming full smile of brownish teeth (ok maybe 20 years old) and promised to have it all done ‘ok, no problem’ the next week. 

Deciding that the best way to deal with computer related anxiousness was a multinational festive gathering, I rushed back to the ‘The Flat’ and found comfort in making hummus with my favorite Frenchman and readying the ev for a party. Caught in a swirl of people/friends/enemies and a deluge of wine/smoke the computer was soon forgotten. In regards to the gathering: on one balcony a Germany and American argued theology/psychology on the other a Frenchmen and Spaniard coolly took drags off Davidoff’s’, the Polish held on to their clothing, the Swedish poised, the Americans looked, a ShoreDitch Twat pulled, a Norwegian twirled. At 4.05 am and borne on the wings of tiredness, we barley bothered to mumble adieu, and pushed out the leftovers, calculating that in a group of 4 drunks, the combined conscious is equal to that of a 4 year old, thus rendering them able to find their way home. The time for waking/traveling back to ISM came too soon in every cliché of the phrase-though in a display of superhuman forethought, J and I had carried out the 14 bags of trash somewhere between 3AM and booting the leftovers-causing our exit to be, while not graceful, at least painless. After arriving at the Titanic and separating from J, I was struck with the singularly defeating sensation that I too, like the passengers of the doomed ship had an unpleasant experience awaiting me in the near future.

…it must be true!

  Baku AZ, makes the list as a great party city!
Clearly in making such a decision to include Baku, the writers gave washed up oil workers, prostitutes, the filthy rich, and the morally corrupt their due 15 min of fame. Or they interviewed tipsy volunteers. Or maybe they took the mirrored elevator to the top of the TV tower and paid 35 AZN (43.59USD) for tea and a depressing view of the slums. Either way, if they had actually spent more than one night in Baku (which was certainly in a vodka/cigarette induced haze) they likely would have realized that once one has played  ‘count the prostitutes’, ‘insult the sleazy businessmen ‘ and ‘whinge with the volunteers’ there is little else to do in and around the Baku clubs and ‘nightlife’. In fact, I truly wish they would have taken a camera, or gathered a few stalwart fellow writers/travelers/photographers and wandered the areas outside Fountain Square, hell, maybe they could have even spent a day in Mardekend-and seen just how bad the divide is between those who enjoy the hedonistic lifestyle and those who suffer because a good chunk of those partying are siphoning money from NGO’s, public works and aid packages.

The Problem of Pain

April 12, 2010

“We imply, and often believe, that habitual vices are exceptional single acts, and make the opposite mistake about our virtues.”

“We think we are kind when we are only happy: it is not so easy , on the same grounds, to imagine oneself temperate, chaste or humble.”

C.S. Lewis


April 10, 2010

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