click here for first part short story in a 2-part series of traveling with Lady Spyderco

"Jumping Ship In Batumi"

Bryan Adrian, written in 2007

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"Jumping Ship In Batumi"

Bryan Adrian, written in 2007

First, let me introduce myself, I am Bernie Flanders, not a famous film star, just an occasional adviser to Kartuli {Georgian} community rights neighborhood organizations in Tbilisi, Georgia. The local urban and village residents are extremely worried about the high volume of American Mormon missionaries here, and do not trust them. But that is another story, which I will get to in just a short while. 

The seas were rough and unpredictable and mercurial during my passage on the Black Sea cargo ship, for which I had paid a miserly shoestring budget fare, to stow away unofficially, all the way from Trabzon, Turkey to the Black Sea port town of Poti, Georgia. Poti harbor impressed me as a depopulated export/import small seaport, mostly for other foreign countries' profits and not much for their own. Poti was less than I had expected, in that I was seeking the ancient Phasis, of the Colchis legends. I must admit however, that the very small old part of the town on the river, with the splendid little Hagia Sophia Cathedral, made that part of Poti as enchanting and enjoyable as pre-Christian Phasis might have been. I then headed for the nearby larger port town of Batumi. Batumi was less than I had expected also. First I saw some old and new oil storage terminals set within a seaside resort atmosphere, and many casinos, which I later learned were mainly for Islamic wealthy male tourists to gamble and drink free whisky in the casinos and to hire expensive prostitutes. All those sinful things they are forbidden to do in their own home countries.

Just outside of Batumi is the poor man’s rocky beach town of Kobuleti, a magnet for many older Georgian uncles leering at young girls in their chaste bathing suits, and lower middle class families, the same types of people that go to Coney Island, if you are familiar with Brooklyn. Maybe in the late 1800s when Baron Alphonse Rothschild built up the port and the railroad for his oil flow from Baku to Batumi, it was a much more lively place. The old town part of Batumi, despite the eyesore of so many gaudy and boring oversized casinos jammed next to nearly all places of interest, has a feeling of turn of the 20th century European charm, and well laid out streets, adorned by both palm trees and fir trees, growing in the same soil together. One day Batumi could conceivably become the second capital of Georgia, a prominent arts capital, happy to be free from the endless banks and anti-Russian extremists politics of Tbilisi Batumi could one day be a kind of Black Sea Montpellier, not as disorganized as Tbilisi, and much more cultural and European, in its offerings in the humanities and the arts. This visit however, Batumi did not hold me tightly, and as I said, so I headed straight for Tbilisi as soon as I could catch a minivan.

On November 7th, 2007, I entered the city of Tbilisi, Georgia, about dawn.

There were soldiers everywhere in Tbilisi in the early morning sun near the imposing Parliamentary Building, they were bunched up in the streets together like steaming horse dung heaps. Running at a gallop were Rose Revolution Speznas commandos, wearing Darth Vader looking helmets with plastic face shields and trendy European gas masks. An opposition woman in her 60s was lying on the pavement with her teeth bashed out. 

She was what the media labeled, after the Presidential military crackdown ad ensued, a ‘violent anti-government agitator’. A pool of blood was circling her kindly but unconscious grey-haired head. 

I couldn't believe my eyes. Water cannons were spraying people in near-freezing weather. A female New York Times journalist wearing her press pass was laying on the ground with her knees and elbows bloodied and scraped. It looked like her camera and eyeglasses had been broken into many pieces. 

I had to ask many people in English, Spanish, and in German, what was going on, but nobody spoke any of these languages with me for quite some time. I was listening to this new to my ears, extremely complex ancient Georgian multiple consonant and challenging esophageal language language, for the first time ever. I could only say two or three phrases in Russian, a language well understood here, so I had to judge events mutely and solely with my American eyes. 

A truncheon swung down near my head so I bobbed away from it and grabbed hold of my Spyderco in my pocket. I did not know if the man in the black ski mask and black sweater was a cop or a soldier or a secret commando for the ruling government, perhaps funded by USAID, as was frequently rumored on the internet. 

Suddenly I heard English being spoken! There was a large group of State Department looking Americans running for the Parliament doors! I overheard two of them, who were running, and from their nametags I could read NED on the man's and Fannie Mae on the woman's, and they were discussing a secret upper floor of the Parliament where they had completely concealed operations within the Georgian Parliament, a floor within the heart of the government which was open only to them and their special guests, with an electronic key security card. I could not make out the floor number in Parliament they were talking about, for just then a man hurling a smoking tear gas canister back at the police shouted out loudly near my head, “Shen, Kleo!” 

Some more truncheons batted around my head and body and I ducked and swerved out of the way, but a down-at-the-heels semi-gray-haired American expat journalist, of some sort, named Jeff, was grasped from behind and held by many pairs of hairy arms that wrapped around him like chains. They next started to pummel him mercilessly with their fists. His face was taking it badly, and then they worked on his skull and abdomen until they were so utterly tired that they simply walked away from his almost comatose body and lit up cigarettes, like after sex. 

I met this same guy a few days later, swathed in bandages. He was an anti-corruption USAID agitator who had published many news features on malfeasance all over the world, investigations on lost funds and misspent finances within several USAID satellite global projects. He said he was married to an Armenian. I told him I was married only to my Spyderco knife, and I highly recommended that he buy one soon, and have a honeymoon with it. From the look on his face, as bruised as it was and as bumpy were the lumps crowning his head, I figured he needed some kind of kick-ass cheering up catharsis. 

Jeff and I suddenly looked up at a window high in the Parliament building where the sunshine was reflecting off of it like a mirror, every so often, in the glass. An American flag was proudly displayed in this window. An eager young Georgian reporter from a local Tbilisi economic rights advocacy newspaper was trying to capture by camera the frenzy of fighting in the streets between hundreds of thousands of Georgians – those opposing their uncaring U.S. financed government -- and the heavily armed government security forces. But the poor photo man could not get his photos snapped. He was blocked by the statuesque figure of a Georgian woman. She told me she worked for GEORGIA TODAY when I asked her. She was evidently a Muskie Fellowship graduate, guessing by the large IREX badge she had roped around her neck, and she continued standing there after I moved away, like a compressed giant block of phosphate fertilizer, saluting the American flag clearly seen now in the sunny Parliamentary upper window. She was obstructing both the camera angle and view of the local reporter. She seemed in a kind of Rapture, like they speak of in the Second Coming of the post-Millenialists, or among Mormons. 

‘Georgia Today’ is a pro-American Chamber of Commerce policy English-language newspaper published in Tbilisi with a U.S. manager who is a major investment hedge fund player in the old Russian Federation, in addition to being a former gold mining director in Georgia, along with attractive Cayman Islands interests. The newspaper prides itself on its unbiased coverage of news events, even though many weekly editions contain a full color insert on the glories of the Georgian military build-up, that has been using up tremendous amounts of American monies. The struggling poor villagers and farmers and pensioners and teachers here get virtually zip from this US. Treasury largesse. The IREX woman continued to remain standing there and standing there, saluting the flag, and her unflinching patriotism nearly brought crocodile tears to the eyes of the thousands of opposition combatants around her. They were crying out to try to warn her that her skirt had been ripped off in the chaos of the violent street activity around Parliament, and she hadn't a clue that she was standing there in her panties only, from her waist down. Poor Georgian 'gogo,' apparently blinded by her free education abroad in American exchange programs. 

My bandaged new reporter friend Jeff quickly accepted my Spyderco when offered to him. Unfortunately, he rushed at a policeman just afterwards and swung the knife down at the United National Movement officer’s gun belt. The gun in its belt and holster dropped to the ground like shit sodden trousers, down to his riot police boots. Everybody who had been wrestling and defending themselves from the military crackdown government personnel had a good laugh over this! The riot policeman who had lost his revolver spluttered out a machine gun like battery of very dirty and ugly Georgian cuss words. My eardrums nearly burst from the force of so many ancient Colchi consonants strung together and spit out by such a powerhouse of his compressor lips. 

Another policeman ran over to my friend, still holding his new Spyderco knife with glee radiating out from his face, and this riot cop kicked the Spyderco knife out of his hand. A third riot policeman scooped up the knife from the ground with his fingers and the three policemen then all climbed up quickly into a water canon vehicle and drove away with the booty. 

Luckily, the graying conspiracy-theory journalist Jeff had not been arrested, the soldiers overlooked him in their rush to get into the water canon vehicle. 

"Hey, did I tell you yet about the can of worms I opened up in Pakistan, where the USAID folks got busted in foreign courts and smeared in the world press, for siphoning off the greater share of their own financial aid?? …….I wrote the feature!" Ho, that was me man!” the gray haired 50-something rabble rouser Jeff boasted.

”Sorry pal, no time I answered, I have to telephone my mother, its her birthday!” I answered this mysterious journalist.

As I was waving goodbye to my always going full-throttle newly acquired reporter friend, I turned back to wave goodbye one last time, and just then from a distance I saw a Board member of the local AmCham spitting in his face. I recognized the face from their monthly magazine photo opportunity spreads boosting BP Oil and the US military and Marriott hotels and McDonalds and Wendy’s locally. 

I looked for a phone booth but all I could find were vintage 1950s-looking old Soviet aluminum box phones that would not accept any coins correctly. So I went into a little post office, one of only three or four in all of Tbilisi, and placed a call to the States. 

My mom's phone had been disconnected. The recording warned me that her number had been permanently disconnected. I found that very strange and disturbing. Even though I seldom visit her I called her frequently, and I would never miss calling her on her birthday. Something was wrong. Very wrong. 

I got lost and was in the hills behind Parliament, in Old Tbilisi. I walked down a few hills with poor street signage and broken sidewalks, and then saw the Central Elections Committee (CEC) building. A lot of thugs were standing around in front of the door, like it was a Racing Bets outlet in New York City. They looked similar to many of the unemployed men of Tbilisi, although dressed a bit better and quite a bit smugger in attitude. 

A huge alpha male dog that was homeless, broke from his pack of 7 or 8 other homeless dogs who had hungrily joined in the opposition, and lunged at me. Perhaps he could smell Ned and Fannie Mae on me. I reached for my Spyderco, but of no help to me now, it was gone. The three riot police had confiscated it from my bandaged anti-USAID agency new pal Jeff. I tried to kick the dog in the snout but he was damned fast and mean, and he tackled me to the ground and chewed into the back of my knee, into the tender flesh there. 

A lovely Georgian female doctor who was shouting loudly along with the opposition forces, protesting for better public health care systems, and fundings for village clinics, and for some free western donated medicines here, she helped me up. She had some rubbing alcohol in her purse and pulled it out promptly and nearly completely cleaned my pretty deep dog bite wound, in a jiffy. 

She warned me that I should get anti-rabies injections as soon as possible. She gave me her mobile phone number in case I needed help later, and I also learned that she was unmarried, as we were saying goodbye.

As I was trying to find a cab driver who spoke some English, I turned around and looked inside the window of the CEC elections office, once again.

Inside there was a man who resembled the president and he was shredding many voters’ names lists with my Spyderco knife! I cannot be certain it was truly the president of Georgia, for I had only been in Georgia for a day or two, but the hawkish eyes and a hunger for military adventures were scrawled indelibly all over this man's face, mirroring exactly what I had detected in the face of an unfamiliar to my eyes at the time, UNM president ranting on television, while I had recently been in Batumi, the night before. Maybe all men in the Georgian Parliament have that same demonic look in their eyes, and the face I was staring at now from this angle was perhaps only one of the lesser MPs. One thing is certain, it was not “Tootsie”, local nickname for the current de facto female president until the new president shall be elected before the end of the first week of 2008. 

Whoever this man is, he was most certainly shredding documents that looked very official. Stacks of them, and all papers crucial to the upcoming election, on January 5th, when most people are still saddled with bad hangovers after New Year's celebrations, and just before the January 7th Orthodox Christmas family tradition-bound holidays here. This strategic timing puts all voters in between a rock and a hard place. I crept up as close as I could to the window without being observed, and on some of the documents being made into early election-victory confetti, I could make out vaguely the imprimatur of OSCE on the publishings and correspondences being violated before my very unbelieving eyes. 

I next went to the Infectious Diseases hospital and after a long wait received my anti-rabies injection, the first of several awaiting me before I could be declared out of harm’s way. The wound was not further cleaned nor dressed at the hospital, that would be my own personal duty later, I had been told. For a poor country, I was greatly pleased, however. Why? The French Verorab anti-rabies treatment I had received was free, donated by the French, so something on a governmental level was working quite well here, after all. 

In the next few days military law was imposed, and all the television media were shut down or raided, except for one pro-government television station that played hours and hours of speech-making by the president, wearing his expensive Dutch suits and colorful European ties. 

Between the president's hours-long speeches, this station, the only one allowed to air news during the State of Emergency, also showed long clips of happy faced Georgian men wearing what looked like snappy American Army uniforms, changed a wee bit, with sexy Georgian ladies swooning over these well equipped men. ’For the Glory of the Country’ was the subliminal message, buried somewhere in all the glittering heavy weapons featured in the propaganda pieces, disseminating the subliminal message, "This is perhaps the only job --young men of Georgia--you will ever find.”

I could not find even a single minute of cable news from the West during this State of Emergency. CNN, BBC, and Euronews were flat out. Gone from the cable channels and air waves broadcasts. Government censorship in what is championed by the local American embassy as “a beacon of Democracy” here in the Caucasus & Levant region bordering on Central Asia. 

Perhaps you are interested in the outcome of what happened between me and the pretty Georgian female doctor, and if I ever found her again, and you are asking yourself, did any romance spring up from my encounter during the hostile protest? Yes, I did telephone her, and we did meet at the university cafeteria a few times later, but no, nothing significant further happened, and despite the rumours that many Georgian women are seeking a foreign husband, I never married her, and she never asked me to do so. I, myself, however, am interested my Dear Sirs at Spyderco, in a good new knife from your upcoming 2008 collection. But even more pressing a goal for me than a new knife, is to meet the ideal Georgian woman to replace my Lady Spyderco knife, as my constant and loyal companion! 

So, yes, I will stay here for a time in Tbilisi, where imported goods never seem to reach any local shops without going through iron fingered family monopolies with a tight grip on the traffic of consumer goods into this brave new world.

Could you please, Spyderco, start as soon as possible with discounted and online Fedex delivery to Georgia? That would help your wonderful under 3-inch blade products to legally get across the borders and into the lucrative market of teenage boys here. These boys and their parents are getting worked up over despotic national UNM governance and pushy Mormon and Jehovah Witness missionaries, and I think they would greatly appreciate your Spyderco 2008 collection during their Christmas and New Year shopping, if for nothing else, just to hold in their hands some of your superb craftsmanship! Thank you Spyderco! 

Myself? You ask? How am I doing now?

I am still seeking my perfect Georgian wife! 


Bernie Flanders

click here for first part short story in a 2-part series of traveling with Lady Spyderco