The Titanic: a rant etc.

May 21, 2010

The public transportation system in Baku and AZ at large is a beast of far reaching power, nasty temper and a horrible hair problem. When stepping aboard a metro car, marshurt, taxi, bus, or dump truck, one never knows what adventures will befall them. Like the great epics of Frodo and the Ring and Lewis and Clark, transportation can hold fear and abuse, surprises and joy and white knuckle near misses than leave your lunch on the roadside. When going from Baku to Ismailli there is the palpable anticipation of the 3 hour marshruta ride ahead. Will I be smashed against the window by an Elephant Xanim and arrive like a pancake? (This happened) Will I share a seat with a puking baby and smell like sour milk? (This too happened) Will the marshuta slide on the snow and stop 6 inches before plunging over a 60 ft. cliff? (I thought death was near and so did the other 13 occupants of the bus.)

The mess and melee of buses and taxis in Baku was moved last year to a new avtovagzal outside the city center. In the months preceding the grand opening, my Baku friends along with various volunteers had both excitedly and ironically warned me of what was happening. Even so, upon seeing the vagzal for the first time, I was shocked and stunned. The complex is built to resemble the mighty doomed HMS Titanic. There are useless smoke stacks, pointless cable lines, portholes and an ocean liner shape. The sheer utter stupidity of this is mind boggling. The Titanic is, unfortunately, one of the most popular movies in cinema history, only recently trumped by another James Cameron self indulgent love fest called: Avatar. The Titanic movie reached pretty much every country in the world-in AZ the influence is felt from seat covers (with pictures of the doomed liner) and advertisements (Titanic sale! Leo and Kate on copy books) to music mixes that combine Celin Deion with Turkish beat and AZ wailing (not for the fait of heart and sometimes played at Toys). There is usually not a public or school event that commences without some brave soul belting forth a badly translated version of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ (ex: ‘You’ve rendered the door’, ‘This far, I know where you are’ [creepy?!] and so forth).

The Titanic sunk, people died, lots of people died, no doubt in a horrid way in freezing cold water, crying out for help. Babies died too, and if you believe the movie, several very fine looking young men sunk to the bottom of the sea, causing the gene pool to lose some handsome points and subjecting us to an influx of average looking males who can’t draw. Then Mr. Cameron became a millionaire and Ms. Deion’s career gave one last futile breath. Pisser, yea?

So then, why? WHY?! Why did the developers/architects/city planner (if there are any) decide to fashion the new avtovagzal to resemble the Titanic? Was it to appeal to the masses and their obsession with the doom and fatality of ‘true love’? Was it to make sure that, amongst the other ridiculously awful buildings in Baku; the avtovgzal would be the lone truthful icon of the horrid transport and worse roads? What was going through their minds? I fear that what lighter fuel vodka was on hand for dinner, or what fresh meet was for sale occupied the foremost thoughts of whoever ever was in charge. Or maybe they were too busy trying to get a mention from Lonely Planet to realize their project was already a grand failure.

In a sadly poetic way the Titanic has fulfilled its own prophecy. The building is cavernous and dark-portholes don’t let in much light (future architects take note) and even so the interior is poorly lit; giving the impression that the entire structure is in fact about to sink into a churning abyss. At the back of the structure, stranded in a sea of dull concrete and seemingly impossible to reach, is a hotel with a fountain. Both of which, at my last Baku visit were neither spewing water nor receiving guests. The toilets are broken. That there are even indoor toilets in remarkable-those who have visited the Goychy/Ismailli/Ganga avtovagzals understand. I paid 40qap to attempt a leap over a pool of what I can only assume was piss so I could hover over a porcelain bowel that was likely salvaged from a rubbish heap. (Why not just pee in the hall then?) People often get lost in the ‘ship’, walking around trying to find exits to bus platforms, as the signs are adorned with random arrows that point no where. It is possible to buy poorly made Turkish shirts with pink feathers and cheap pimp rings, but how many lost souls develop the desire for left over drag wear and finger plastic? (My impromptu poll says: 0)

This begs another, even more unsettling question. Where is the money? No doubt there were some heavy investors in this mass confusion. It may have even looked good on paper, many things do. It’s an irrefutable fact that Baku had desperately needed a new avtovagzal; for the past several years 20 January Station had mostly disintegrated into what amounted to a huge road block of buses and rubbish. In terms of investment, it’s a sure win; public transportation in AZ will be a constant need for at least the next 10+ years. So then, where did the money go? Certainly not for installing proper lights, building pedestrian stair/elevators, or fixing the broken glass doors. Someone likely paid for a holiday in Dubai (real-estate?) and brought a bloated Hummer for the ‘wild’ Baku pavement, by hiring cheap unskilled labor off the roadside. (Said with the recognition that it is painfully difficult to get a job in Baku for both educated and uneducated, and while I support enterprising men taking what jobs are offered in the way of construction, it’s unfortunate then, that they enable drastic cost cutting in places where it’s most certainly not appropriate.) It is even possible to untangle the skimming of funds? Has anyone even investigated this? Will anyone even care?

To be generous, the Titanic shape could be forgivable, if the station functioned. In fact one could argue that the huge structure wasn’t even supposed to resemble the Titanic, but some other ship (names escape me, beyond several sunk subs at Pearl Harbor, depressing!) or simply evoke the idea of ‘ship-ness’. Fair enough, but the vagzal still isn’t pedestrian friendly, still suffers from poor design choices, and still limps under malfunction snafu’s , even after more than a year since opening. It seems that if it has succeeded at anything, the sheer size and pathetic function of the Titanic is a laughably colossal monument to corruption and poor architectural decisions.

Having stated that public transport is never dull, the last thing I want to be thinking of is doomed ships and people dying when I place my life in the hands of a driver, who for most of the 3 hour stretch will run hairpin turns and swerve to miss animals/incoming vehicles/people/roadblocks, all while taking on the mobile, smoking, digging for treasure in his nasal cavity, conversing with passengers and picking his teeth.

Bad British Architecture

6 Responses to “The Titanic: a rant etc.”

  1. S/// said

    Sounds a *little* nit like NW London (from a drivers perspective lol)

  2. mcmacdonald said

    are there cows in london streets? What would siolo do? 😀

  3. Gabe said

    another post begging for pics

  4. mcmacdonald said

    on it. tho, given the piss poor quick snaps i took in GA, it seems im getting weak :-s

  5. Mike said

    From what I can tell, though, wouldn’t a pretty, well-lit, intelligently-designed, properly-functioning transit centre be even more of an abomination, though?

    Something ugly, ill-lit, barely functional, smelling of piss, and inevitably reminding every onlooker of a horrible tragedy just seems like it would appeal much more to people in that part of the world. Gloomy national character, and all that.

  6. mcmacdonald said

    too true! tragedy is nursed!

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