MTV USA: Pimp My Ride
MTV Germany: Pimp My Bicycle
Next on MTV Albania: Pimp My Rickshaw ...
Friday, May 27, 2005
MTV USA: Pimp My Ride
Thursday, May 26, 2005
I have a wicked fear of flying. I'm so afraid of flying that a fellow passenger once told me how brave I was for getting on the plane anyway, and then promptly escaped to another seat.
I'm so afraid of flying that the flight attendants supply me with pre-liftoff cognac just to keep my nerves on ice.
But here's some perspective: Tbilisi taxis.
I got into a taxi one day and the driver wanted to stop right away.
"Benzin," he says.
"Benzin," he says again, bookended by loud Georgian words.
Okayokay, so I guess he needs to stop at a gas station and fill up. No prob, I've got time.
He stops on the spot (in what could be defined as a middle lane), leaves the engine running, grabs a rusty gas can out of the trunk, and (oh wait, stops to light his cigarette) pours a couple of liters into the tank, while a swoon of minnowing honking Russian Ladas flow around him.
Okay. At least the gas is in the tank now, and not the trunk.
We hop back into traffic.
He wants to ask me where I'm from and he wants to look at me while he asks. This is a problem because I'm sitting in the back seat, and since he has no rearview mirror, he must turn his head a half revolution to see me.
The problem is worsened by the half million Ladas careering around.
The problem is further worsened by his broken steering column.
While he's turning his head half revolutions, he's turning his steering wheel complete revolutions (clockwise, counterclockwise, clockwise, counterclockwise) just to stay somewhat within a three-lane area.
This is how Georgians drive (those white lines are just a suggestion, as in: if you wanted a lane, here is where it would be): with everyone weaving and tearing horizontally across "lanes" and using horns instead of brakes.
We drove for miles like this, the driver straining his head all the way around to look at his passenger who was soon to assume a fetal position.
Where was I headed? Yep. Airport.
I was leaving Vienna the other day after a very important meeting. (coffee date with a Swiss guy, albeit followed by meeting on the Moldova journalism school), when Sir George didn't want to start. He started after a cupla tries and since he has a brand new starter I know that's not the problem. So I taxied on home and put the problem off -- this way it could break down when I was in a massive hurry and had a full schedule that didn't involve sitting at home waiting for a mechanic.
That was yesterday.
The mechanic/high school junior dropped by today on his lunch hour. It appears to be a contact problem with the cable so after about three seconds, Sir George started. So when is this Kein Kontakt problem gonna kick in again? Who knows, but I'm sure it'll be raining.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
I was with my friend Gloria in Hainburg and we passed one of her elderly neighbors in the hallway of her apartment building.
Gloria didn't say anything then, but when we got in the car, she said "that old lady we passed in the hall is a real bitch."
"Some old people are," I said, "I think maybe it's just because they're old, they don't feel good..."
"No," Gloria said, "she was a REAL bitch when she was a young woman. A professional one. She worked in Fischamend. You know, for all the soldiers."
Thus began the English lesson for this native German speaker on the difference between a bitch and whore.
Friday, May 20, 2005
I spent April in Vietnam. While I'm there, my brother emails to let me know it's the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. Right. Gotcha. Anyhow, wrote back that had it not been for all the parades, flags, special celebrations and the four-day holiday, I may not have known about it since CNN's saturated coverage of the anniversary was occassionally censored.
THINGS I SAW IN HANOI:
•A legless man in a wheelchair in traffic
•Women selling cuts of beef off of their bicycle seats
•A boy stirring peanuts in a wok on the street (every morning)
•People with photos of Ho Chi Minh on their desks (alongside family photos)
•Theme to Gone With the Wind playing on the radio
•Drinking tea from teeny tiny teacups
•People lugging around ginormous scales that belted out tunes when you weighed yourself on them
•An overabundance of blue plastic chairs
•Dung Hair Salon
•The biggest roach I've ever seen in my life (about the size of my hand)
•A drain placed at the highest point, so you have to kick the water up into it
•A man sitting on the sidewalk cutting lenses for glasses with a pair of scissors
•Barbers set up on the sidewalk
•Pedicurists/Manicurists set up on the sidewalk
•A motorbike guiding a cow
•Dead, skinned dogs in a large basket on a motorbike
•Dead, plucked chickens in a basket on a bicycle
•Live chickens in a basket on a motorbike
•Assortment of refrigerators/tvs/stereos/microwaves carried on motorbikes
•A 6 ft. bookcase carried on the back of a motorbike
•A large accident involving six motorbikes, but no chickens
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Back at the Landman Cafe. The Serbian guy who lives in my cellar is here. Appropriately named Dragan. Scary stinky man. Father Christmas is here, too. He spent 10 minutes yesterday trying to tell me that I should have sent a postcard from Hanoi. Mein Deutsch ist schlect, so for the longest time I couldn't figure out why he was trying to tell me I needed a) a visa with a very beautiful photo on it, or b) a nice letter from people in Hanoi who send beautiful pictures. So now I know I should have sent a postcard. Alles in ordnung. Meanwhile, Remi's slummin for crumbs and damn near prostituting herself for a good belly rub. I know how she feels.
Got a note from my friend Caroline Gordon who wants to donate money and time to help Moldovans--inspired, such as it is, by Tony Hawks' pseudo-famous book Playing the Moldovans at Tennis. She told me that she just helped raise 85,000 dollars to repair/replace/build/enshrine a disabled toilet in England, and thought afterward that there must be a better way to spend her money than flushing it down an 85,000 dollar toilet.
She wanted to know more about Moldovans. After five months there I summed it up for her the best way I could: 25 percent of the population has fled looking for work, most of them leaving young children behind. It has the only freely-elected communist government in the world, and mafia thugs still tend to try to run things, as I found out when renting an apartment there (big dude barred my door, forbidding me to leave without forking over another 200 euros). That they have virtually no infrastructure to build on, that the only people still left are the thugs, the babushkas and the hopefuls--the ones who believe in the unity of their still divided homeland, in building a new country despite an old mindset, and who know this belief is essential for the future of their children; and I forgot to tell Caroline that when I write about Moldova I get emotional.
There are still the Corinas and Angelas and Dianas of the world that make you want to quit your job, roll up your shirt sleeves, and help them sort through the mess and rebuild their land, which was left in tattered shreds by others who had black hearts.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
POORLY TRANSLATED MENU ITEMS
Masked Potatoes (Tbilisi, Georgia)
Smashed Pototoes (Chisinau, Moldova)
Grilled Crap (Bucharest, Romania)
Steamed Crap, or Crap Stewed in Beer (Hanoi, Vietnam)
Fresh Butter Shake (Hanoi, Vietnam)
Turkey Chest with Bee's Nest (Bratislava, Slovakia)
Salad, Made by Octopus (Bihac, Bosnia)