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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bakuriani, if you dare

(lifted off

Two years ago I had vowed never to return to Bakuriani in winter, but then I never imagined somebody would someday pay me to go. What is more, they would put me up in a room in the newly built Hotel Tbilisi and feed me three times a day. All I'd have to do is play 2 ½ sets of music every night for a week during the post New Year holidays.

Bakuriani is a resort town in-the-making, about 20 kilometers from Borjomi in southern Georgia. The two towns lost out on their bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to Sochi, Russia, which might have been a blessing in disguise. Transforming Bakuriani into a world class ski resort in a matter of years rather than decades is about as realistic as Georgia ever having an independent judiciary.

This is not say there is potential. The stunning landscape is a ski resort developer's wet dream, with a dozen ski runs begging to be whacked out of the pines in every direction. Training Georgians how to use these facilities civilly, however, could be daunting.

First, Georgians must learn how to drive in the snow, particularly as the roads are not plowed. That snow is slippery stuff, which is why the rest of the world puts chains on their wheels. Most Georgians, however, cannot be bothered with such frivolous acts. This makes trudging along the side of the road exceedingly treacherous as not only must you watch out for cars but there are also horse-drawn sleighs, snowmobiles and ATCs to contend with.

Although I considered putting in a couple runs, one look at the lift line was all it took to send me into the lodge for a cognac. Waiting in a lift line is a universal annoyance at every ski area in the world, but when there are no roped serpentines to assist people in the civilized process of queuing, and the country you are in is Georgia, the lift line becomes the mother of all ski nightmares, unless you're Georgian.

Like tire chains, Georgians cannot be inconvenienced with serpentines. They prefer the funnel method, where people stand on each other's skis and elbow their way to the front of the line. In peace, love and free hugs California, standing on a person's skis is the quickest way to get a pole in the eye, yet Georgians will shuffle and bump all over themselves for an hour without so much as a grunt, get on the rope tow or chair lift and ski down the mountain in a couple minutes only to repeat the inanity. It's quite remarkable, in a way, especially when you consider how short life is.

Another significant difference between Bakuraini and Innsbruck, Squaw Valley or Lake Placid is that the concept of waste disposal has not yet been developed, although this year I saw a garbage truck for the first time, which is no doubt a positive sign. It stops wherever people toss their plastic bags full of rubbish and a guy scoops whatever he can into the back of the truck. The problem is that stray dogs and pigs get to the garbage first, which might be handy for the animal but not so good for the aesthetics and environment. The odd thing is that only foreigners seem to find this detail disturbing.

I promised myself I would not complain on this past trip to Bakuriani. After all, I was getting paid to do what I love and breathing clean mountain air to boot. Being crammed into a room with my four band mates was only a minor exercise in zenmanship, despite the all-night polyphonic snore choir, sopping whisker growing bathroom and general lack of oxygen. Fortunately, I had a three day reprise from the intimacy and stayed at a guest house with my lady and our friends who came up for a weekend. Our hostess stuffed us with her home grown cooked delicacies, and even sacrificed one of her rabbits for our benefit.

The club however, was rasping away at my demeanor. Bakuriani nightlife, like waste management, is a new concept. At the Hotel Tbilisi club, people come hang out, play pool, drink and listen to the barman's selection of death metal and remixed pop tunes at maximum level. We were just the house band and for the most part played to a black hole of an audience. I would not have hired a blues band for such a crowd, if I had been the boss.

As expected, we were asked to play Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. On my last night, a drunk came up between every song and asked me to play Tracy Chapman. I told him time and time again we were a blues band and we didn't play that shit. Then he came up while I was soloing and snatched the microphone off the stand. In touchy-feelie California and everywhere else I know of in the world, that's the quickest way to get clobbered by a guitar or tossed out on your can. But this is Georgia I reminded myself, things work differently...


lado said...

...who really needs the "blues" performed by white amateurs?

paul rimple said...

Amateur? You're funny. You know nothing about me.

Jova said...

I admire you for daring to perform any type of music in the country where entire population is divided on two segments: artists and poets.

lado said...

... hey, I didn't meant to be so rude, just re-read my comment ... take care ... and play more blues for lazy georgians!

paul rimple said...

No offense Lado.