A Cavalcade of Irishness, and Other Short Stories (Part I)

Baby World Strikes Again

As a pair of toddlers deafeningly screamed and pounded on the door adjacent to my bedroom, I stepped out onto my balcony and moaned to Marissa on the phone, “I hate children!  They’re so loud!”  And yet they just won me over once again.  That’s the thing with children—they’re terrible and they’re adorable.  One might say they’re terribly adorable!

As I left my room to pop down to the store for a coke, the two young kids emerged from the old computer room and looked up at me wide-eyed.  “Sad iqkhavi?” (Where were you?) they asked in adorable baby voices.  They don’t even know me.  I’ve seen them twice before, and that was thirty and forty minutes ago as they ran circles through the living room, and yet they still insisted on knowing “Where were you?”

I pointed to my closed bedroom door and told them “Aq.” (Here.)  Naturally, they eased the door open and stepped inside.  As I’ve mentioned before my bedroom is baby Mecca.  There’s a tiny Kaaba and baby Muslims make annual pilgrimages here.  There are stuffed animals and Disney stickers on the walls.  The two toddlers ignored all this and instead decided to play “flip-the-laptop-bag”—one of my childhood favorites.

I ushered them out and went downstairs to satisfy my coke craving.  (One moment, I’ve just been asked out to photograph some of Luka’s birthday festivities!)

He's twelve now and had a nice big party last night!
And once you're twelve, you're allowed to eat your cake face first!

Speaking of Niccolo, when We (the fantastic, royal “We”) returned from Turkey (an adventure you’ll hear about extensively and soon, I promise!), We were treated to a visit from Niccolo himself!  I haven’t seen that boy in a long time and would you know what? He looks like a girl now!  Mostly because of his hairdo that day.  It was done up like Pebbles from the Flintstones:

Like this, but with pink sneakers.

and he was wearing pink shoes.  I barely recognized him.  He also could walk and talk, which I barely recognized!  Currently his vocabulary is limited to people’s names, but man has that kid shot up!  (Thankfully not in a Heroine-y sort of way!)

Niccolo melts Tata's heart. After I took this photo I was tempted to take a second one of Tata fake baby-crying to cheer Niccolo up even more! I refrained.

A Women’s Day Disaster

Weeks and weeks ago at this point, Marissa called me up to ask if Rick Gove and I would play some music at a Women’s Day Exhibition she was helping plan at Atinati, an NGO in Zugdidi.  As we understood it, Rick and I would be playing some light jazz or easy listening riffs in the corner while people read poetry and looked at paintings.  It was very beatnik-y.  We seriously considered getting berets and conga drums.

We planned on meeting early on Saturday morning to rehearse.  I was visiting Joanne in Chkhorotsqkhu (I’ll give you a moment to read, reread, and decipher that one) and so she and I had to drive in.  Rick was ridiculously hung over and as things often (Read: Always) go in Georgia, the plan was immediately out the window.

The night before, Joanne and I got some food and beers in one of Chkhorotsqkhu’s one restaurants and did some faux-rocking out.

Joanne would make a killer rock star. Just sayin'.

Joanne’s brother Misha is an avid…child and has for months been promised that “If you’re good, Mish, Raughley will visit and he will bring his bass guitar.”  Misha hasn’t been good, but I was forced to undermine Joanne’s rule by bringing my guitar along for the performance anyway.  I used the evening before the Exhibition to practice and impress with light renditions of Beatles and Ingrid Michaelson songs.

Saturday morning, Joanne and I slept in as Rick battled his hangover.  This meant that rather than showing up early to rehearse, I arrived at Atinati a cool fifteen minutes before we were scheduled to go on.  Remember, by “Go on” I mean “Chill in the corner jamming.”  Asia (Pronounced “Ah-Sha”) told us, “Okay, so there will be some poetry playing on the boom box, then I will have my presentation, and then you guys will have your concert.  Okay?”  Excuse us?  Concert?  This was not what we signed up for!

Yeah, we were utterly unprepared for that day.

The poetry and presentation gave us a solid fifteen minutes to rehearse though.  Now, please understand that when I say “rehearse,” what I really mean is “teach, learn, and practice.”  It was going to be a shit show.  In fifteen minutes we had time to learn “The Way I Am,” “Help!,” and practice one of our standards, “Paparazzi.”

As Rick is afraid of singing publicly (Shame, Rick, shame!), much of the singing burden fell to me.  Practically, this meant that Help and Paparazzi effectively had no vocals.  Ingrid Michaelson I could pull off, though!

The performance went badly, to say the least.  One TLG volunteer sitting in the front was gamely supportive, but the audience generally responded somewhat tepidly or, in the case of a large group of Georgian boys, with laughter.  When our three songs wrapped, however, Marissa and Joanne cheered us on, rallying the crowd and prompting us to learn more songs on the spot.  We did a nice Blues improve, a hastily slapped together Hit the Road Jack, and another sloppy cover or two to the varyingly pleased crowd.  Finally we were through.

After our most shameful performance, Rick and I felt no shame.  We had had fun and you know what?  I don’t care if those Georgian boys thought it was funny or if the Women’s Day Exhibition regretted inviting men to play a concert—I always enjoy a good RickRaughl session.  So take that!

Chkhorotsqkhu, a.k.a. The International Word for Choking to Death

I always promised Joanne that I would visit her in Chkhorotsqkhu.  Several weeks ago I finally made good on that promise.  Chkhorotsqkhu is a small town about an hour East and North from Zugdidi.  Consequently, the easiest way to get there is via Zugdidi.  After a brief stop in town to have a pizza with Marissa, I hopped on a Marshrutka, bass guitar and laptop in hand, and made the windy 45-minute drive to Chkhorotsqkhu.

It was hard to tell when I arrived.  Very little set it apart from the surrounding villages.  Okay, so it was a good deal more built up, but that was hard to see from my murky Marshrutka window.  Disembarking, I found that I had no money on my phone and a keen desire for a restroom.  As I wandered around looking for a place and a way to add money to my phone, Joanne called me, creepily, and said, “Raughley!  Cross the street.”

She continued to guide me eerily down the road to her resource center.  Apparently she had seen me from the window!  We headed to the restaurant for a bite to eat and had a blast just eating and drinking and, if you ask Joanne, having the waitress fall in love with me.  (I didn’t see it, though.)

I got to meet Joanne’s host family, who are a wonderful bunch!  There’s Keso, the anesthesiologist at the local hospital (Percs for Joanne include watching C-Sections and Appendectomies from the Operating Theater), Tina, an adorable 71 year-old secret alcoholic who speaks almost no English except, “Good Morning Joanna!” and “How are you?” and who is apparently in love with Marissa, and Misha, a rambunctious 13 year-old who is obsessed with Real Madrid and for some reason always shouts “Ohmybabyyellow!” as his catchphrase.

Aside from Joanne, the main attraction that Chkhorotsqkhu has to offer is the splendid statue of St. George slaying a dragon.  Only this time, the dragon has three heads!

And as is often the case with St. George, another fallen brother bites the dust. Only this brother bites the dust three times as hard!
Cristen, try as we might, we can never replace you.
We kidnapped Marissa from Zugdidi and brought her back to Chkhorotsqkhu with us, but she was promptly attacked by the dragon!
Luckily, I was there to save the day! More luckily, the dragon had already been stabbed nearly to death by St. George.

We spent the afternoon following the Women’s Day Exhibition relaxing, eating hot dogs [Chkhorotsqkhu has a hot dog stand!!], watching depressing movies, and enjoying each other’s company!  The following morning we found a lovely little café and began planning our impending trip to Turkey.

A very drunk Georgian man sat at the table next to us and peppered us with mild questions about who we were and where we were from.  It was only 11-2 and he was already quite drunk.  He kept leaving but came back on the hour, every hour to ask us more questions and toast to us.  We had ordered coffees from the women who ran the place and they were so tickled to have us their and dancing our asses off to the Boney M that they played for us that they gave us free beers and snacks!  It was fantastic!

Bat’a, as the man turned out to be called returned with a plastic coke bottle filled with a clear liquid.  He’s probably hydrating to stave off his hangover, right?  Wrong!  It was full of Tchatcha!  The lucky ladies were only forced to do a pair of half shots with him, but I had to bolomde each time, out of manly honor.  One cannot refuse a toast in Georgia.  That said, we skedaddled as quickly as we could to avoid further shenanigans (I nominate this sentence as the one containing the most and longest out-dated “s” words).

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