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Saturday, September 24, 2005


Passing the Torch

Contorted from eight hours in a Volga and reeking of assfat, I arrived home from my forced march across the regions last night. All I wanted was a little cherry juice spiked with Moscowskaya.

I opened the front door to find a dead rat lying in the hall.

Too some degree, I was relieved. I knew the City Rat Master had been by earlier that day to strategically lay some Rat Smack. A rat carcass was better than dog carcasses.

I was also relieved to see that, while it was a rat of considerable girth, it wasn't as big as I expected.

However, I was deeply disturbed at the prospect at removing it. The Producer acted all brave over the phone, insisting that if I would only stop wailing and wait 15 minutes, he'd be home to deal with it.

Fat chance.

I summoned the courtyard kids and one of the braver ones disposed of it. Thus, I am forced to rescind the title of Rat Master,


Photos of strange things in Azerbaijan

On a forced march through the regions this week, I came across a couple of amusing things.

I saw this old guy walking up the hill in Sheki, hunched over, toward the Khan's Palace. He had what looked like a big stuffed dog over his shoulder, covered with a yellow cloth so only its ears were sticking out. He proudly unveiled it for me. It was a very old, very ratty taxidermied wolf. For a few thousand Manat, he kindly turned on the Christmas lights he'd strung through its smile for a photo. I wish I had a photo of it on his shoulders. This has become my new favorite photo.


Since it's harvest time, this isn't very unusual. Azeris are very skilled at packing every square inch of their Ladas and Volgas with produce -- watermelons, apples, potatoes, or like this guy, onions -- they need to sell in the bazaars.



Memo To America

God is angry. Isn't it time to start asking why?

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Rat Master!

I am the RAT MASTER!

We have had an exciting weekend, full of mystery, revulsion, edification, revelation, misplaced blame and best of all, resolution.

Lately, we have been having a curious amount of trouble with laundry. And, trust me, this is very relevant to my evolution as a certified RAT MASTER.

First of all, we recently discovered that the reason why our clothes never get clean to our satisfaction is because Samaya, our cleaning lady, doesn't actually wash our clothes in the washing machine, preferring, instead, to do them the old-fashioned way -- by hand in the tub. It is not clear how long she's been doing this, but it's probably been a while since the washing machine has been used with regularity.

So, we started doing our own laundry in our machine. This led to all the problems.

The first time I used the washing machine a few weeks ago, the rinsewater drained all over the kitchen floor (the machine is under the kitchen counter, like a dishwasher), resulting in the parquet buckling to such a degree that speedbumps prevent us from walking to the sink without stumbling.

I called the master in to fix the washing machine, I got the typical response: "I don't see any problem with the washing machine. It works fine." So, I ran a load of wash, and, again, water drained all over the floor, causing so much buckling that we can't easily open or close the refrigerator door. This is a major annoyance, but, in truth, not really relevant to the story.

So, being the resourceful homeowner that I am, I assessed the situation and determined that, for whatever reason, the outlet hose from the washing machine wasn't staying in the drain. While it is certainly the case that that the machine hadn't been used in a long time, this had never happened before. I got the duct tape and secured it it until I could retain the services of a more competent master.

Now, in the meantime, The Producer spotted a mouse in the kitchen. This caused some alarm. However, because of our inability to reach consensus about what to do about it, no action was taken.

Today, I opened the cabinet under the sink, which houses the laundry detergent and the drain for the washing machine. I noted a whole bunch of something that looked like pellets of shit.

Now, I grew up in an environment in which I was not unexposed to the output of various rodents, but this had to come from something the size of a rabbit. AND, there was a pile of kibble and small pieces of bread in the corner.

RAT! Not a mouse, a RAT!

I nearly fainted at the prospect.

I had yelled at some dogs Saturday for removing a loaf of bread from the kitchen counter. I slowly realized that it probably wasn't the dogs who ate half a loaf of bread and left it on the floor. I was wracked with guilt!

It was, in all likelihood, the work of the biggest fucking rat in the world. The dogs were probably cowering in the corner, trembling in fear, much like their father was during the mystery-solving phase of this story.

I sprung into action. I looked up the word for rat in the dictionary. I hustled down the street to the Cheap Chinese Plastics store, at which I vaguely recalled seeing anti-rat products. After an elaborate pantomime in which I expressed my shame, horror and disgust at having a rat in my house, and the owner expressed his sympathy and recommendations for the most effective solution to my problem (in the debate over glue versus poison, poison seemed to fit my needs better. I wish I could convey the body language that helped settle this discussion), I ran home with a packet of little purple pellets.

Worried about negative impact of rat poison on my dogs, I thought I'd check with a local. I called my most senior male staffer and asked for his advice.

It turns out, and this is very interesting, that every neighborhood has an epidemiology office that is in charge of investigating rat issues. Upon getting a report, they will come an lay down poison and block the entrance the rat is using to gain access. This is a vestige from the Soviet era. He said we would call this office on Monday and come up with a dog-friendly rat termination strategy.

I found this reassuring, but I am sure it is not as easy or convenient as all that. Paperwork will probably have to be filled out and bribes asked for and denied. This is, after all, Azerbaijan.

I still felt like I needed to take some action on my own.

I studied the undersink area for possible access points. Slowly, I came to an astounding realization:

The reason why the outlet hose wasn't staying in the drain was because it was being chewed through and pushed out! I looked at it again, and despite having just been fixed by a master two days before, it was sticking out of the drain with gnaw marks all over it!

I was stunned! Shocked! A range of emotions convulsed through my body. I felt triumph, like Nancy Drew solving three important household mysteries at once -- the rat, the eaten bread and the washing machine leak. But, at the same time, I realized the rat was coming up the drain from the sewer into my house! More shame and horror.

I rebounded quickly, however. I realized that this vile situation presented an opportunity for me to exact retribution on the rat while at the same time protecting my family, one quarter of which was behaving like a little girl throughout this ordeal.

I could pour the rat pellets down the drain!

With a feeling of power and superiority, I poured half the packet down the drain and put the rest in a little dish in the back of the cabinet. We taped the door shut to prevent accidental canine access.

Now, I am going to sit back and wait for the little purple pellets to work their magic. And, I am going to start doing a lot more laundry, flushing those little bastards back down to the stinking sewers of Baku from whence they came.

I am also considering trading in two dogs and a Producer for some more useful cats.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


My New Favorite Blog

Is one the rest of the world has probably been reading for years, but I just discovered it. It's called 5ives and it's nothing but lists of five things that strike this guy's fancy.

I've put my two favorite lists below. I've enve created one of my own because, i too, think I use a lot of ass-related words. I'm pretty sure he would have included these if he lived in Baku, because they are artful and communicate important concepts.

Five ass-related words I think I use a lot:
--metric assload (n.) - a lot
--asshat (n.) - willfully ignorant person
--assy (adj.) - unacceptably low-quality
--big-ass (adj.) - large
--asstacular (adj.) - really bad

People in Baku tend to use ass-related words as well. Here are our favorites:

--ass-master (n) -- one who is a specialist in little else but one's own ass.
--ass-ectomy (n) -- process of confidently responding to a question with no actual knowledge of correct answer in meetings with people who are asshats.
--smells like ass (adj) -- i.e. Baku smells like....
--ass fat (n) -- lard obtained from nether regions of Caucasian ovines, favored base of Azeri cuisine. Alt: result of diet based largely on said substance
--15 different kinds of ass - (adj) unpleasant in many different ways

And my other favorite, 'cause I think this guy and I went to the same county fairs in the early '80s:

Five things you could win at the carnival (1983)
--Roach clip with feathers
--Coarsely grained, oddly hard, stuffed animal
--Lynyrd Skynyrd coke mirror
--Another throw
--Big-ass pink comb


Baku Is Best Viewed....

At night.





Saturday, September 10, 2005



Carpetblogger’s spinster sister ties the knot in a few weeks. What better excuse to buy a carpet? I meant for her, naturally.


I hope she realizes that the Carpetdogs are part of the whole gift package.



It's a Karabagh/Talish pattern. About 40-50 years old.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Best. Lede. Ever.

If you have the means, go pick up the September, 2005 issue of Travel & Leisure magazine. There's a story about Azerbaijan in it (no, seriously) that made a whole table of ex-pats spit out their sushi.

We don't know who that guy is who wrote it, but he nailed Azerbaijan.

Monday, September 05, 2005


The Eye of My Storm

Now that the initial shock, outrage and horror of what happened in New Orleans is being replaced by stinging embarrassment that such a fiasco is happening in the country of my birth, I checked in with my pal who works at Mercy Corps. I wanted to see if it's the kind of organization she, an employee and humanitarian aid expert, would give money to for hurricane relief.

Not only is The Corpse of Mercy, as we fondly refer to it, rated one of the nation's best charities and from Portland, Oregon, they do the right thing. According to Ho-M, they've sent in three of their best people who will be working with local residents to give them the assistance they need to rebuild their communities themselves -- the same approach they took after the Tsunami and other places they work, such as Azerbaijan. If you've got some spare cash, Mercy Corps is a worthy recipient.

Now I lived in Los Angeles during 1994 during the Northridge earthquake, a mile from the epicenter, and I recall that James Lee Witt of FEMA was practically a local hero for the agency's speedy response to a disaster that wasn't generous enough to give four days' advance warning! But Bush has replaced professionals with political birdbrains at the nation's disaster agency and drained its money to fight a bogus war on terrorism that has made us less secure. Oh, and he's dumped billions into an elective war that's enervated our nation's ability to protect itself from and respond to disasters.

There are corpses rotting in the streets of a major US city. The elderly are dying in the streets or drowning in their nursing homes. Ordinary people are losing their minds because they haven't got food or water or medicine or access to toilets. Watching it from such a distance, from the kind of place where such events are absolutely imaginable, disturbs me in a way that is completely different than what I felt watching the Tsunami, or even the awful events of September 11th.

It's like learning something that you always believed to be true is patently false.

I try to shy away from commentary on US politics on this blog because there are plenty of others that do a much better job, but the cup of my outrage at this criminally negligent administration runneth over and I can't hold back. There's a whole coop full of rotting, waterlogged, pissed off chickens that are coming home to roost. I hope they shit all over the President's head.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Weekend Warriors

Some friends got married this weekend and the celebration hit benchmarks for debauchery that haven't been reached in Baku for many months. This can be explained by the arrival of The Bentonator from Herat, Afghanistan. He's the one wearing the white dress, which provided unfair competition to the bride.


Despite not having been in training -- social outlets in Herat are not as varied as they are in Baku -- he performed admirably. Like all the best leaders, he inspired his followers to take risks and push their capabilities to the limit.


If you are developing the impression that all we do is drink in Baku, let me assure you it's absolutely false. Sometimes we dance.


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