David the taxi driver is not the brightest light on the Christmas tree, so to speak. Two days in a row he asked me what I thought of the holiday lights strung along Rustaveli Avenue as if he was looking for a consenting negative opinion.
“They’re nice,” I said. And I meant it this time. Last year when we went through the same ritual, my first answer was non-committal as I had aesthetics in mind when he first asked. This year, they have changed the lights and taken away the angels that stood like sentries in front of Parliament. They’re probably in Batumi this year, guarding the Sheraton.
“Do they have this in America?” David asked.
“Yes,” I replied. “Only different.”
I forgot to keep my answers to single words with David. How to explain in three kilometers that I have lived abroad for nearly 20 years and in this time have embraced the liberation from the insistent American barrage of carols, advertisements and Xmas sales that start before the Thanksgiving table scraps get tossed in the garbage. This lack of artificial consumer programming has made for a pleasant, stress free and wholesome Christmas experience. At least that was until I walked into the big Populi at Kolmeurmeobis meidani last week and had umpteen different versions of Jingle Bells blasted in my ears.
“There’s more of it.”
The beauty of celebrating the holidays in Georgia is that you do everything twice – there are two Christmases and a pair of New Years. You consume, not by running around shopping malls looking for presents people don’t need and often don’t even want, but by eating and drinking, which is what consuming is supposed to mean. The problem of course is over-consumption as the party really begins December 17th on St. Barbara’s day and continues to binge until old New Year’s on January 14th.
“Do they eat satsivi in Chicago?” David asked. I looked over to see if there was a hint of facetiousness there but it’s hard to tell with David, as half his face is scarred from a childhood dog attack.
“No, no satsivi.”
Nor do we shop at open-air bazaars where tables are loaded with mountains of piglet carcasses and freshly plucked chickens while voices chant, “tskheli hachapuri, shoti, cigareti,” in polyphony.
“What are you doing for New Year’s Eve?” he asked. That was a good question. I usually have to work with my band that night, but so far, no gig was lined up. Normally, I have a scrumptious dinner at my adopted family’s home before going out. This year might be a good one to spend on Rustaveli dodging fireworks aimed at your face and swigging champagne from the bottle.
“I don’t know. I hope I’m working. How about you?”
I gave David a five for a three-lari ride and thirty for 5 liters of chacha. The only reason I put up with him is that he is a reliable chacha connection, and there is nothing that lights you up better over the holidays in Georgia than chacha.
(image lifted off vandrellikariwarrior.blogspot.com)