Saturday, June 25, 2011

A walk

Things I really enjoy about a place are the unique history, the cultural heritage, the use of space. I notice these things where ever I go, and every place has a story to tell.

Tbilisi, being old, at the crossroads of so much of history and then being sort of mired in the Soviet time-capsule, has these things in spades! Tbilisi is undergoing a bit of Urban Renewal, investors are coming back, I meet US banking agents exploring 'emerging markets' at local eateries. (How can you tell they're American? Seriously, we stick out. Our clothes, our mannerismsms, our persistence in the belief that if you you speak English slowly and loudly enough these foreign people have to be able to understand you...).

Public spaces. They're all over the place and filled with the sort of old world monuments Americans rarely see. To the left top, is Shota Rustaveli (1172-1216), on Rustaveli avenue. The Georgian Shakespeare, author of 'The Night in the Tiger Skin' (I have a copy I'm picking through). And right next to this icon, yes, another, this one decidedly American.

As one of the first peoples to accept Christianity (they were beaten out for the title of 'first' by the ancient Armenian Kingdom, but most Georgian's will contest this fact...), the town is also filled with these iconic cruciform Churches. Little old ladies in black (widows) sit on the steps with cups. Everyone makes the sign as they cross. A very different place from what an American is used to.

And yes, I'm still plugging away on my next book. Working title 'Mission First'.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Happy father's day to all of you guys that had the good fortune to take on the most important (guy) job in the world.

We have a family tradition on father's day that I managed to uphold sans wife and progeny. You see, (almost) every father's day my wife and kids make a point of taking me somewhere that I would enjoy. As a Dad, I've done hundreds of trips to___ (insert place you have to go as a Dad, and are happy to do so, but wouldn't pick if it were up to you: training bra shopping, the thirty seventh T-ball practice, any amusement park, parent teacher conferences, chuckee cheese-you get the picture).

So On Father's day, my wife and kids make a point of finding something that I would like to do and take me to do it. They get bonus points if they wouldn't have picked to go on their own. Airshows, zoos, museums of any nature- the geekier and more obscure the better here, classical music venues, brew pubs.. the sky is the limit.
Being alone in Tbilisi, I started the day with a scavenger hunt. The fam had hidden a treasure trove of gifts while they were here, and emailed me the locations last night. Coffee mug, check, Georgian Nataktari Beer Stein, check, box of chocolates check, cool statue of the Svan towers check. All that was missing was the geeky venue- which I supplied myself.
The Georgian National Gallery. Yes a museum.

The first picture is of the exterior. An old building bulit in the the 1890's when Georgia was part of the Russian empire. The second is of the interior. Notice it says National Gallery in Georgian and English?

(Actually in Georgian it says erovnuli galerea, which I assume means national gallery. I am getting pretty good at reading Georgian Script, okay, that's relative, 95% of the five year olds in Georgia make me look stupid, but it's coming along. It's pretty phonetic once you know that wavy squiggly line that looks like a fishhook means 'ah', or kh', or 'dz', but just because you can sound the words out doesn't mean I have any idea what the word means.)

It was a very nice gallery (or galerea). Many, many people whose names end in shvili, dze, or eli, who toiled away during the russian and subsequent soviet occupations trying to express themselves and give meaning to what they saw. If you're ever on Rusteveli avenue in Tbilisi, with nothing to do, it is 5 lari ($3) well spent.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I have never done a movie review on my Blog, so I won't break that trend. But I did go out to see an English Language version fo five days in August.

So? You say. What's the big deal about a movie in English? Well, it's a big deal in Georgia! They have their own language here. Georgian. I know big surprise not everyone in the world speaks English.

I enjoyed the film. It tells the story of the Russian/Georgian war in 2008 from the pov of a few journalists, a few Georgian's and a few diplomats. I've been to almost all of the Tbilisi sights in the film. In fact many were within a kilometer of the Theater.

I encourage you all to see it. Big news earlier this month when Andy Garcia brought Sharon Stone to premier the film, the same theater in which I saw it ...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Out of place at the ballet?

I went to the Georgian National Ballet last night. I know, me at a ballet? Well truth be told, I have gone to more ballet's than I care to admit. The vast majority were to watch my post-toddler daughters in cutsie little ballet recitals, but some grown up ones too. When I told one of my staff here in Tbilsi that I was going, the response was 'what's a troglodyte like you going to a ballet for?' 'Well,' I responded, 'I'm a knuckle-dragging manly man on the outside, but on the inside...well, I'm sensitive, and I've got feelings. Really. So shut up.'

The ballet I went to was actually a dance troop that performs traditional Georgian dances from the dozen or so sub-groups and regions of Georgia. It was actually really fun, and the ulterior motive was background for my WIP.

If you've never seen them you can check them out on a plethora of You Tube videos. Like this. And FYI, ballet with daggers is certainly troglodyte approved.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

WIP Word Count

This blog is primarily meant to be a commentary on my writing life. Should what I write be of interest, it's meant to be a place to get a little bit of the 'rest of the story'. It's unfortunate that my work life has intruded to such a great extent that my writing has been slacking off. But, between now and my great American Novel, I have to keep food on the table, don't I?

I've been working in Tbilisi, Georgia now off and on for a year. Moving here full-time (for a year) starting last January. The program I manage is a US government-sponsored, primarily public health support program. It has kept me quite busy, and unable to read much, or to make much progress on my WIP (work in progress, come on we talked about this!). My family was here with me as well for the first three months. But they have had to return to the world, and now I'm here alone.

I have writing friends that keep word counters for their WIPs in order to help keep them focused by displaying their progress for all the world to see. I thought I'd try it. If you don't see it move much, it might not be working.

The hyena has nothing to do with it. I just like hyenas (check out my second novel: Gift of the Bouda).