Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Digs

I know that you were all rather fond of my apartment. You thought we were good together. But you didn't really know my apartment. We never quite connected as we should. There was always another woman coming between us. Also, my apartment was trying to kill me. One day, as I looked over the barren vines hanging brittle over my balcony, I realized that we had only been staying together for the grapes. And now that they've grown up and gone away, there's nothing to keep us together.

Then there's all the fighting. The landlady has proven far short of honest and our arguments are more frequent and bitter. And then there's this. I was wandering through my neighborhood, which is, as far as I can tell, the Georgetown of Tbilisi if you're from DC. The Highland Park, if you're from Dallas. The Lincoln Park of Chicago? I forget. Regardless, there on the corner I saw a crowd of people in front of a storefront I didn't recognize. I looked up, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? But a sign, in the Latin alphabet, saying "DOLLAR STORE." I peered inside the windows and saw giddy Americans with manic grins on their faces, throwing things into baskets. I went in and stopped a woman, clearly American: "What's this all about?" She looked back at me, nearly bursting with the glad tidings, "It's new. Just look around. Stock up!"

I looked around. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. For a dollar. I mean, really, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese at all. But for a dollar, to boot? Pancake mix! Brownie mix! I mean: mix!!!! Campbells, I tell you, Campbells ever-loving soup! Granted, only two varieties, and by now I've become rather partial to my own homemade soups (turns out this isn't too hard to make), but still! Woolite! Butterfingers!! Vanilla pudding! In no time I had joined the corps of giddy Americans gleefully tossing crap into baskets and fairly skipping through the aisles.

But buyer's remorse sets in fast. I got home and stared accusingly at my paltry finds. Was that really me? I don't actually even like Kraft Mac'n'Cheese very much. I know how to make pancake mix from scratch. I never make brownies. It all felt a bit whore-ish and dirty. Making such a spectacle of yourself. In the Dollar Store. That's it, Sue. Time to leave the neighborhood.

I found an apartment in the heart of the Old Town, behind the synagogue and below the fortress, where the streets are narrow and twist whimsically this way and that. A part of town I love to wander through, trying to decide if it's beautiful in spite of itself, or precisely because of the dilapidated, decaying grace. No Nike or Dollar stores here; the last time this was an area of bustling commerce was when Tbilisi was still a stop on the Great Silk Road and the caravans would stop in the square just steps away, and they say you would hear vendors shouting in Persian, Arabic, Armenian, Russian. Now it is quiet there.

My apartment is up one flight of cartoonish, tilting stairs. There's a bright open balcony and from my windows I can see up into the circling hills. The floor is comically uneven, the amenities are bare, and a non-decorative wood-burning stove still squats in the middle of the large room. When I tell Georgians where I'm moving, they all acknowledge what a lovely location, but then act as though I am moving into a cave. "Have you seen the place?" they'll ask skeptically. "The buildings there are so old. There may not be water or light," they warn. But there is, my friends, safe and properly ventilated heating (aside from the stove) and just so much charm I can't bear it.

Pictures will follow when my Christmas present from Kriston arrives! (A camera, can you believe it? I remember when he couldn't afford to eat!)


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