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Friday, March 5, 2010

The Winehead Blues

Back in the good ol' Shevardnadze days when diesel generators were a common part of the aural Tbilisi landscape, I went to the Tbilisi main bazaar, Bazroba, for wine without my roommate Zaza’s help for the first time. Dusk was falling and I tried to imagine the Bazroba Zaza had described of the early 90s, when the only people down there at night were crazy guys with Kalashnikovs.

You think Bazroba is bad now, it was utter bedlam then. Peddlers and consumers bumped, haggled and shoved while carts, jalopies and minivans plowed through them at rude speeds. The exhaust ridden air was filled with odors of fish, fowl and cheese to the tune of shouts, honks, and the melodious chants of “tseli hatchapuri, shoti, cigaretti...” in polyphony. Hysterical colors screamed, swirled, tangled; oil black, persimmon orange, wet juicy green, plastic bucket red... But as twilight approached, it was as if a big hand slowly dimmed the switch. People, produce and pickpockets faded away while the effluvium had seeped into the ground under puddles of chicken blood, vegetable guts and cigarette butts. Scattered piles of trash burned, lighting the straggling vendors in the darkening night. Companies of cats strolled on top of corrugated roofs as rats darted in the shadows below. I enjoyed the diluted anarchy.

Most wine stalls were closed although a few tables had big glass bottles filled with blood red and amber white. I approached a familiar man.

“Hey, Chicago!” he greeted.

“Hey Kakheti!” I said shaking his thick hand.“Black?” I asked.

“No, no good,” he said in English.

“Ok, white.”

He dipped a greasy glass into a blue plastic barrel and passed it to me. In my best imitation of a Kahketian, I raised the glass to him, mumbled some nonsense and took it down to the bottom.

“Kargat,” I said and asked for three liters with my fingers.

Walking back through the bazaar I was happy there were no Kalashnikovs and that I had a personal wine guy. It was so cheap and good, I was convinced I’d turn into a total wine head in no time.

I went to Zaza’s and was able to pour my wine for a guest before he left. Glasses were filled, a simple toast was made and we took it down.

“Good wine,” I said pointedly.

“Yeah?” Dato, the guest replied. “If it’s so good tell me, why is there water in it?”


Matthew Collin said...

It could have been worse - look what happened to this poor chap recently in Georgia (as reported by Caucasus Press)...

One man was killed and six were injured in a projectile explosion in the village of Kumburi of Vani district.

The accident took place in David Julakidze’s family. The 39-year-old man tried to drink wine from a "special dish" and used for this the projectile, which he brought along from a military unit, where he had served.

The projectile exploded, killing him on the spot and wounding his six guests and family members. One of them was urgently operated and his condition still remains very serious.

paul rimple said...

likely making a toast to peace..