The Producer has been invited to speak at Career Day at one of Baku's main international schools. A lot of time was spent over the weekend brainstorming his talking points.
He really needs to have a top notch presentation, because even though he's on right before the guy who's going to talk about microfinance ("First, kids, you need to understand how CAMEL assessments work"), he's scheduled for right after Baku's Most Famous Resident! The pressure is totally on!
I'll give you an exclusive preview:
Way back in the late '90s --- or maybe it was the early oughts; the details of this story are admittedly hazy -- the Producer made a commitment.
This was not the widely-ignored "quit smoking before we get married" commitment of 1994. Nor was it the "you're going to buy me a horse someday" commitment (but for quick action on my part, I almost had a half-Arab courtesy of some guy in a L.A. bar called "the Casting Couch" back when we ate ramen for dinner every night and walked a lot of places because we had no money for gas).
Under circumstances that are now obscure*, probably because of an alcoholic haze hanging over the event, The Producer agreed to procure a Gram Parsons impersonator, wearing a genuine Nudie Suit, to perform at my 40th birthday.
Because I believe in accountability, and the Presidential election, which falls AFTER my 40th birthday, has already started, it's time to increase the sense of urgency around this issue. This agreement was made MINIMUM eight years ago. My 40th birthday is approximately 17 months away and the Producer is no closer to making this happen than he was when he agreed to it.
*Do any readers out there recall those circumstances?
Sometimes, things happens to you in your adult life that trouble you to your very soul, that scar you to such a degree that you block them out of your head, maybe with the assistance of chemicals or mood-altering pharmaceuticals.
Like that one time I tried to leave the Black Butte housing development in central Oregon the morning after a snow storm. I drove in circles for two hours, unable to find the road that led out of the development. I passed the same curling white lanes and the identical, pine-shrouded mountain chalet houses over and over and over again until finally, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I followed another driver out to the highway. Accordingly, I refuse ever to go to Black Butte again.
Anyway, my friend Enid wrote about how her cruel husband locked her inside her house with the Ukrainian cleaning lady. It stirred up memories of the most traumatic thing that happened to me in Baku.
Our apartment had one of those front doors that are very common in the FSU. You can lock it from the inside by means of a gear-like thing -- a primitive, retarded deadbolt, if you will. If it's locked from the inside, there's no unlocking it from the outside. I guess it was designed to keep the KGB out.
I arrived home from a work trip to Warsaw at four am. I waved my driver and his warm white Volga away and hauled my heavy bag up the two flights of stairs. I put my key in the lock and turned. Nothing happened.
No, something did happen. The Carpetdogs started barking their heads off, as they are wont to do when anyone comes to the door. I rang the doorbell. Once, twice, three times. Four times. A dozen times. No sleepy foot steps. No admonishments to "dogs shut up!" No sound, except frenzied barking.
Clearly, the Producer had indulged in some kind of horse tranquilizer, or a prodigious amount of alcohol, 'cause for the next two hours, I called his mobile, called the home phone, rang the doorbell and banged on the door. The Carpetdogs became hoarse. I became hysterical. It was, after all, early February at four in the morning, and freezing cold.
I knew I was doomed when the dogs stopped barking at the doorbell -- the first and only time this has ever happened. They, and my mobile, were my only hope. The dogs were going back to bed and my battery was nearly dead. I cursed all three, wait, I mean four of them. What to do? I tried curling up on the landing, but my ovaries started to freeze.
I did what I should have done after the first 20 minutes.
I left my suitcase on the doorstep, ran out to the street, got a taxi and checked into the Hyatt. It was 6 am and I was well past the point where $180 seemed excessive for five or six hours.
I was pretty confident the suitcase on the doorstep, 200 increasingly vitriolic sms's and 500 missed calls would have the desired impact. Nestled into the Hyatt's cloudlike down comforter, I went off to sleepyland. I had also done what any aggrieved wife would have done. I switched my mobile off.
The next day, after sufficient time had passed to ensure maximum anguish over my whereabouts, I revealed my secret location. Naturally, harsh words and accusations were exchanged. Only one party had grounds for a grievance and the accused offered no defense. It was up to the guilty party to atone, which he did.
From that day forward, every time we planned to come home at different times, I would provide a gentle reminder. "Don't lock the top lock." Maybe even a pre-bedtime call . "Good night. I love you. You didn't lock the top lock, did you?"
The top lock was never locked again. See? They can be trained. It's hard work though.
If you're the Producer and you have to return to Baku on a Sunday, the only option is to fly via Moscow.
Kyiv to Baku via Moscow: what, as they say, could possibly go wrong?
Let's examine the variables:
1. Your flight's on Aeroflot, which "isn't that bad," as long as you're flying outside the FSU. It lives up to its stellar reputation for style and service on those "internal" flights;
2. You fly on a Tupolev, which "isn't that bad," as long as your comfort and maintenance standards are fairly low;
3. You fly via Sheremeteyvo, the totally ghetto Moscow airport which serves Crapistan, including the flights to Baku and Yerevan, which leave at the same time from the same gate;
Alas, there's nothing really to report, other than a bunch of drunk Russians throwing up in the aisle during the flight from Kyiv. Nothing unusual about that at all.
Who else's office would burn down two days after he moves into it?
Big fire in an office building in Baku Tuesday night. It started in the local Eriksson offices and pretty much stayed there, but The Producer's brand new set of four offices, sublet from an American NGO, were right next to it and supplied the walls through which firefighters could break to fight it. They'd only actually moved into one of the offices-- the very one that now has a charred, collapsed roof and is ankle deep in water.
Fortunately, they hadn't yet moved the pricey new editing suite in. Also, the brand new high-end camera they just purchased seems only to be a little wet. That's about all that can be said that's good.
No insurance. Hadn't yet signed up. A couple of computers ruined. Police and/or firefighters STOLE two of the other cameras. It is the case, however, that one of them is unique in Baku, so if it turns up in someone's grimy little paws, the fur is going to fly.
More than one person expressed surprise that Baku does have a firefighting brigade. They seemed to be reasonably well equipped (by that I mean the engines weren't pulled by horses and there were hoses that reached the 5th floor).
Everyone in Baku knows the Producer, from the freak frisbee accident, to the Russia mugging to the fire.
Just got word from Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia. The Producer was mugged last night on his way home from a bar. Everything was stolen -- camera, credit cards etc. He's not hurt badly, though he was literally jumped by five guys and knocked around a bit. I guess it's easy to forget that not everywhere is as safe at 2 am as Baku.
If his passport hadn't been stolen, I think it would be time to revoke it, at least for Frisbee trips to Russia. The team came in fifth, though, a vast improvement over second-to-last in the last tournament.
The Producer is in Moscow this weekend playing frisbee. No reports so far of broken bones, although I am usually among the last to hear about these things.
I'm a little jealous. We haven't been back to Moscow since we were there in August, 1991, during the first coup against Gorbachev -- the most significant in a decade-long+ chain of events that resulted in us being here. When we were there, the shop shelves were empty and people lined up around Pushkin Park to eat at the recently- opened McDonalds. I can only imagine how it's changed.
He took the camera, so maybe I'll post some action shots when he gets home.
As I sat on Jenn's comfortable SF couch this morning, drinking coffee and using fast wireless, I got this email from the Producer, who drove the Neva up to Guba today with some visiting friends:
No oil in Car. Oil indicator does not work.
Get stopped for speeding. I actually was.
Flat Tire. No wrench in car to get tire off. Break guy's borrowed
wrench, buy new one for him.
Get pulled over by another cop. Our driving permission does not have necessary stamp. Goes to impound car. Paid the money and now I'm pissed.
Called Afa. No water in mornings, broken toilet, garage door will not shut.
I really do not think much more could happen to me today.
This email raises a lot more questions than it answers, but since I'm 10,000 miles and 12 hours time difference away, I'm merely a spectator, just like you.