Kartuli Ensemble 1994 Tour, October 7 through 17th


Friday, October 7
Convergence on Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Target to leave for NYC, 2PM, Kevin's friend locks keys in ignition with car ON, futz with coat hanger for 1 hour, abandon car, leave at 3PM, Mark runs out of gas at 3:02PM, run to get help, finally get on road around 4PM. Carl:"Typical f-ckin' Kartuli trip."
Meet gang at Kennedy Airport. 1 Qt of Stoli at Duty Free, TWA flight 740, 6:45PM to Frankfurt. Meet Tim and Frank Kane. Gate is elusive. Check-in is out of an India film saga, Tim almost left without seat, last minute negotiating by F. Kane in Georgian resolves issue, all on plane.

Typical shenanigans en route. Plane full of Georgian World Congress intelligentsia, NYC Georgian Club, Iberian Princess living in Spain and entourage, Georgian descendants, press. (Frightening note: Jet is owned by Aviaenergo, whose logo is the Russian double eagle--with a lightning bolt through it!)

Saturday, October 8, Late PM
Arrival at Tbilisi International Airport: Surprising good landing in the Allusion jet by the ex-Aeroflot pilot. First image of Tbilisi is tarmac full of approx 700 people, press, lights, dogs, children. "Cool". Met Rustavi in crowd, sang several songs amid emotional re-acquaintance with them (saw them last at Lugwigs house party almost exactly one year hence, 363 days according to Osborne). Took luggage from huge pile off WW2 era truck, whisked off to Hotel in 2 new Toyota mini-vans.

Hotel: Nice private dacha, newly refurbished, with real toilets and tub. (Somebody said metallurgists' rest home? Looks like something out of fucking Dynasty!) Toilet paper. Call for 1 AM "dinner: since by our apparent host. Met our impresario, Director of Rustavi Metallurgical & Iron Works. Killer Supra, eat and drink fest, full Supra tradition. First (and last) love affair with Rasputin vodka (Geoff: We put the spew in Rasputin). Unfortunate hurling throughout the night. No toilet left unscathed.

Ludwig and Glenn stay at "Jaba's" house, second most important leader in Georgia next to Schevardnadze.

Sunday, October 9
To Tbilisi, Zahl Philharmonii, with State Merited Ensemble and dancers. Nice lunch reception at local hotel, newly fixed after war. Stained glass.

Rehearse for first performance of tour in Philharmonia, part of larger State show. Anzor suggests that Carl sing second verse of Chakrulo. Nugzar (big soloist, forget his last name, can look up) is ready to kill. Otar Bluashvili (one of the trio that invaded Ben's house in 1991) further suggests that Glenn sing it with him. Nugzar's eyes spit daggers.

Supra: Unclear, needs research. In Rustavi.

Monday, October 10
Toured Metekhi Cathedral and statue of Vakhtang Gorgasali (Gorganzola). Mike: Went into cathedral (in city of Tbilisi), woman spoke Georgian, Mike just pointed to the back of his Kartuli shirt, woman started crying... We sang two sacred pieces in cathedral, nice. Left small donation $6.00 in poorbox.

Concert at Philharmonia with State Merited Ensemble. Major applause and appreciation. First in series of Anzor schpiels to house on our behalf. American-look black outfits work great. Nugzar is much happier after hearing our set.

Went to new fountain dedication in city, next to church headquarters. MAJOR supra-type party on church grounds, i.e. 500 people. Kartuli did loud table song or 2, eventually invited up to mic to do several songs, Shevardnadze and Patriarch in audience. Well received. Met many local people.

Tuesday, October 11
Opera House with Rustavi performance. Beautiful old-style house, with typical dagger holes in wooden floor. Tremendous crystal chandelier, 15-20' across. Nice rehearsal room on upper floor.

First encounter with charismatic high-energy woman from Georgian radio, neat punk haircut. Flintstones tape recorder with huge mic. Endured 'deathgrip of Georgian hospitality'-insistence on using the elevator, even tho it took forever and only held 4 people per load.

Good performance, did 20 minutes, plus 3 joint tunes with Rustavi. Received marriage proposal, hastily written in Ruski-English. 30-something gynecologist with child, wishes music filled life. Wants family (editors note: Read, SEX is possible). Sent nice little bouquet of flowers. The boys were less than gracious. Took till about 2AM to decipher signature: Zamiko.

Signed autographs after concert backstage, Carl is big hit. Saw Giorgi Topuria, from last trip to US and Georgia. Also Avto Robakidze (of Mtiebi), with a guy from Colorado who's teaching his sons English. Koba Khutsishvili (also Mtiebi; hosted Glenn, Kevin, and Carl in 1991) doesn't make it; his son is in the hospital.

First re-acquaintance with former Kartulad Erik Jonsson. Supra at Jaba's, "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous". Jaba looking very dapper in white dinner jacket, white tie. Spoiled-rotten son Kotya (drives a Lexus!) has his friends, the "Mkhedrioni Ensemble," over. Spoiled grandson downstairs playing billiards. Toast to Jaba's nice house followed by Keisruli (Ode to the little Mingrelian mud hut....) Good example of F. Kane's dry humor infecting Georgian tradition. First encounter with dragon-lady, poetess and member of Parliament Iza Orjonikidze. Director of art museum(?)

Wednesday, Oct 12
To Telavi, concert at old "Tsmelly" theatre. Several lads wavering under intestinal gyrations. Huge outdoor reception upon arrival of minivans. i.e. 1000 people, Glenn: really for first ever return of rich Georgian-American to Telavi. Young boys/girls in traditional costumes, plate of fruit, TV, speeches. Engulfed in sea of onlookers.

Supra at Tsinandali Winery, nice stained glass window upon entrance. Stone walkway into large wooden room. Devil woman. NYC Georgian president errs at supra comparison of Georgia now to Japan/Ger after WW2. Frank: Tamada is fool, (was a professional actor, not a trained Tamada.) Didn't know the rules and tradition, let anybody say anything, whenever.) Host's son killed fighting in Abkhazia. Touching moment, aka Vietnam for them.

Stayed at Abkhazi refugee hotel (10 floors walk up). Lights are out; Father Paul has candles but no matches! Spontaneous pick up rehearsal of Star Spangled Banner between younger members of Rustavi and Rich, Glenn, Lugwig, Mark, Goeff, Luke, Bill, Alan. Sheet music hand-carried by Richard. Mark: Late night talk with Father Paul in his room, lit candles and incense. Nice guy.

Thursday, Oct 13
Impromptu concert for Mingrelian refugees from Abkhazia. Long, long drive back to Rustavi. (bad stomach's). Stopped at roadside stand. Turkish Fanta. Poor Urich photo with cow skull. Arrived at dacha long enough to change clothes and rush to city of Rustavi concert.

Visited grave of Gaioz Arabishvili; also Ikhalto monastery/academy & outdoor Supra. (While the rest are drinking chacha, Glenn wanders off with a guy named Givi who has invited him to drink with his friends--plain grape juice!)

Sang good concert with Rustavi chorus. Carl's "Orovela" to the crying baby (audience picked up on it). SUPRA: Deep throat basso tamada, at pasha. Anzor also at supra.

Friday, Oct 14
Morning trip to Mtskheta to see Patriarch at national holiday, "Living Pillar Day." Very hot, totally crowed church, huge TV cameras covering the mass. People coming very close to setting each other on fire with every move they make. Feeling of being birthed again getting shoved through the doors in & out of the mass. One toilet for maybe 4,000 people.

Anzor gets us inside the holy area to sing with State Merited for the high priests and also Shevardnadze. Carl singing directly at Ed S and Patriarch with a 'Far Side' T-shirt (chef throwing ball at lobster perched above pot on stove).

Sang at Hamlet Gonashvili's grave, Carl's haunting Orovela with wind moaning through the trees. Grave stone worker chipping marble in background.