Thursday, September 11, 2003

I think it is pretty funny that an American can teach Ukrainians about local music. There is a group called pyatnizza. I was exposed to them in Nikolaev by Gregory and some friends of his from Germany. There were in town having come from Kazantip.

Sidenote: Kazantip is a growing festival in Crimea, which unlike most other festivals lasts a month. It is on the beach, and everyone has an amazing time. Opening and closing ceremonies tip about 30,000; however, any given day the festival hosts about 4,000 music loving sun-worshippers. There is even a stage called stonehenge. You can Serge and Gregory's site at Yet another amazing cast of characters I've met in my travels. Good Folks.

So, here I arrive in Kiev, and I'm asking Alex and Daria to help me find this CD. I got one of their discs before leaving Nikolaev, and I gave it to Gregory as a thank you for his help during my time there. At a kiosk in the metro I was able to find another copy; Not before asking at five places or better. They're relatively unknown around these parts. Sergei, Gregory's friend from Hamburg, told me about their story. It goes that they were near Kazantip playing, on the beach or something of the like. It could have been anywhere, they're two guys with one guitar. They have amazing harmony and apparently humorous lyrics in Russian and Ukrianian. So, the organizer for the festival heard them playing, and he was either in a bind or astonished because he invited them to play on the mainstage. From there a producer heard them, and he asked whether they would like to go to Moscow to play around in different venues. They cut a disc, and I think now their trying to explode. The three of us here have listened to this disc many times, and Alex and Daria's friends also like their Reggae flavor. It's quite something to introduce this to them.

I can't speak entirely for the accuracy of the above; however, Sergei was dubbed foreign minister of Kazantip, so I have pretty good faith in his knowledge of this matter. Regardless, yet another person has exposed me to great music. Music is something I've given a good bit of thought about lately because it's very comfortable. I have been listening to music on the metro. Daria and I have typically been going to the office at different times. I love having slow mornings with some reading or tea or stretching, or my absolute most favorite of late, chess.

Alex and I have discovered wonderful chess opponents in one another. He taught himself through books in childhood. Both his father and grandfather are also players. There is a chess clock that belonged to his grandfather, but it is in ill-repair. He doesn't seem to have much interest in speed chess. Speed chess is a great game to talk some shit and have a lot of fun. The real game lies in sitting hovered over a table with bad posture, in my case twitching my leg, a nice cup of tea, and figuring out how best to annhilate your opponent. There is an amazing beauty watching a strategy executed. Pieces coordinate with one another harmoniously on 64 squares. Alfred Carlin always told me look at every square on the board, something is happening on each one. When you're able to encompass all of the board one's game expands exponentially.

We were talking yesterday over our games about blindfold chess. He said it has always been an interest of his to learn to play the game without pieces or a board. Imagine two people without a chess board, pieces, or even a table for that matter. Tell me your move, and I'll tell you mine in return. 64 squares, 32 pieces, 16 pawn, 4 rooks, 4 knights, 4 bishops, 2 queens, 2 kings, 2 opponents, and no material to speak off. That is an incredible game. Alex talking about this reminded me of a grandmaster. I may mispeak by saying it was Capablanca that played a simultaneous exhibition (where one person plays multiple opponents simultaneously) against 20 opponents. That in itself was a feat, but that there was a sheet between himself and his opponents is the really difficult part to grasp. He played 20 opponents at the same time without seeing any of the boards. All of his opponents had the pieces in front of them, and I remember correctly none of them won, with perhaps some draws. Walking in the park playing a game of chess makes walking and chewing gum sound like childsplay.

I have threatened before to return to the game of chess, competitively. Seeing how much I'm passionate about this amazing game has confirmed that I want to accomplish more. Sitting at a table with some for hours and hours struggling to topple each other in a single game is an incredible experience. I had the discpline before, and I think this time to figure out who I am has returned me to that same desire to learn and play and laugh. You've never heard language like you do when two people are having an all out slugfest on the board.

I went to Shevchenka park the other day where much like my beloved Washington square park there is a chess circle. Except this is an imperfect circle. People are everywhere. There are twice or three times as many people as I usually saw in New York. Chess is a national past time here, and they love it. And, the trash talk is the same. I didn't understand all of it. However, there is a phrase I learned while at the beach in Ochakov. Irina, Polly's homestay mom taught me to say, "A Sto Dee-a-let." Essentially, it means what to do. It's very akin to a personal favorite English idiom, "What I'm gonna do?" So, they say it in the park; we say it in the park, and you can hear it all over the city.

If you finish the phrase with "A Camoo Seechas Lighko?" You're saying, "who has it better than you." Everyone laughs when I say it. It must be my southern twang that comes out when I try to speak foreign languages.

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