Thursday morning, the last day of Technical Recce, I didn’t wake up until someone knocked on my door. I jumped up from the bed, looked at my watch, 7 :15. I took care of everything including putting on contact lenses in 5 minutes then went downstairs to meet with everybody in front of the mini bus. We headed for the old part of the town.
It was raining. I was glad I broght my green raincoat with me. I didn’t mind missing the breakfast but I was weary of not having anything in my stomach. It might be the rain, everybody was sleepy. So we decided to stop by a gas station for an espresso. I usually don’t drink coffee, but special situation called for special resolution. I bought some cookies and ordered an espresso. That made my breakfast.
Most of the town was built on the hillside. The roads were small and oblique. Only small car the size of mini Austin could pass through. I then understood why most of the cars here were small tiny ones. Well, this was part of the reason, I supposed.
For a small town, Veles has taxies probably more than it needed. Taxies here and there, running through the narrow streets of Veles. The whole crew of 9 of us took 3 cabs into the town. The cabs carried us to where they could go. Then the street got too narrow for cars to pass, we had to get off and walk the rest of the way up.
The house on top of the hill was one of our locations. The art department built it. We had to climb up the hill, pass through trees and weeds and garbage and sheep droppings. The local kids were so happy to see us. They followed us everywhere. Even though I couldn’t say a word of Macedonian, I picked up my camera, used a finger to draw a half smile on my face, they all understood and fully cooperated.
On my way down the hill, I thought to myself, I should just relax and let go. I was probably too tense. Then something happened. First time in my life I learned how to blow air into my ear and poped the clog.
That night, Gotze, a 22yo young man who worked as a draftsman in the production invited me to have a drink at where some of the folks in the art department stay. There were 6 of them when I arrived. I didn’t know what was the occation, but everyone was drinking. Someone poured me beer in a plastic coke bottle that was cut in half. For a split second I wasn’t sure I was supposed to drink from that thing. Until everyone picked up their cups to toast. They all had the same cut-half water or coke bottle cup.
The place was rented by the production. A 2 room flat on the ground floor of a house. Anything could be a bed was a bed. Very much like how we lived back in the college. They started to play local pop music. The music sounded to me like Turkish mix Serbish. One of the song, they told me, was about mobile phone. Something like, I have a mobile phone, it cost me a fortune or something. Someone took out a microphone and plugged it into the amplifier and started Karaoke-ing. They said the landlord was so nice that one night at 3 o’clock they were drinking and banging guitar and singing, he came downstairs with a chair to see if they needed more seats.
In order to show me, Dimitrij picked up the guitar.
“Let’s make a song.” He said, “How do you say cheers in Chinese?”
“Gan-bei.” I replied.
“What about alcohol?”
I thought about it for a second, “Lei-jiu. That means strong alcohol.”
Then he immidiately heavy-metaled his guitar, “Gan-bei, Gan-bei, Gan-bei,— Lei-jiu.”
That must be the funniest Chinese rock-n-roll I’ve ever heard in my life. More over, his pronounciation was so accurate that I had no doubt the song was gonna be a hit.
When they found out I was living in New York, Vladimir went to play a song for me. It was Frank Sinatra’s, of course, “New York, New York.” He started singing. The other guy, Ljubisha, stood up and danced. Ljubisha had curly hair, slander face like Roberto Bernini’s. He looked Italian too. However, he told me, he had nothing to do with Italy.
He grabbed a black umbrella from behind the door and started impression-danced Frank Sinatra. I couldn’t stop laughing.