Following my defeat at the roulette wheel, I found myself down-and-out in the Soviet shit-hole of Tbilisi, Georgia. Shit-hole is a strong word. But digging through trash cans for rotten cucumbers breeds strong feelings. Concrete. Grey. Oppressive.
My first job was Trashman. I got it by sitting on a curb and having a crazy old man come jabbering up to me to move a giant pile of trash. I moved the pile of trash. He communicated that I was to be back the next day at 9:00 AM to move more trash. A trashman was born.
Unfortunately, that job didn’t pay anything.
I wandered in and found work at the shittiest hostel/flophouse in all the land. “Hotel Romantik”. My job is to chase away would-be-hooker-buyers, clean up drunk Iranian businessmen blood and scrub poop off the walls. “Hotel Romantik” – the hellish basement where for $6 a night you get a flea-bitten mattress in a tiny cell, dinner, all the free rotten wine you can drink, and a smokey seat at the court of the ruling matriarch’s angry German spazzes of yelling and throwing things. At night I plug in the crappy hotpad which can’t even boil water and cook food for 20 people on a $4 budget while they hover around complaining and making trouble. “Hotel Romantik” – some sort of weird, disfunctional family has been formed. Shady Iranian businessmen, our German/Indonesian Chechnyan-speaking angry baglady leader who was arrested as a terrorist, mysterious transgendered man with no country, Sleepy Japanese Guy, Zulu English teachers who speak click-language, a Philippino painter, Surly American Girl and Polish rastafarians. We all got sucked into this windowless black-hole of existence and none of us can get out, so we drink and drink and glare down the steady stream of Polish tourists and grumble and drink and complain.
Next I became an Eastern European construction worker. My boss is cool. He works in a business suit and nearly burnt my face off with a flame thrower twice. He taught me that mortar is too expensive to actually use and we grill hot dogs over trash fires. There are no building inspectors in Georgia, which is good for us. Neither of us know what we’re doing. I’m the electrician.
So I settled into my new life in the Soviet Union. Wake up, scrub shit out of the toilets, eat last night’s leftover shitty dinner, packed marshutka ride across town, spend all day carrying cinder blocks up a broken homemade latter, fire balls in the face, packed marshutka ride back across town, cook new shitty dinner, drink rotten wine and jealously listen to the plans and joys of travelers, go to bed sad, get up every twenty minutes to unlock the door for drunks going in or out, wake up, scrub shit out of the toilets, eat last night’s shitty leftover dinner, packed marshutka ride across town… Repeat. On the side I bake cookies and sell photocopied books which I wrote long ago and swore never to sell. All together I rake in a grand total of $17 a day.
All good things must come to an end, though. The construction job mysteriously dried up, the savings mostly gone to vodka, leaving me a sad drunk at the miserable $2 a day hostel job. I woke up on my birthday in my feet-smelling coffin, knowing I really couldn’t take another day of this. So I quit.