Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Novgorod Pt. II/Saturday

the cafe we stopped at in the country
run down rural dwelling
group photo!
sign in Novgorod
the wall where the kremlin is. the honey beer wasn't far from here.

The Rap and hip-hop club stuff is located towards the middle

So we head off in search of the honey beer. I was very excited about it because it reminded me of ButterBeer from Harry Potter. We asked directions. We found a few dead ends and then finally we discovered that it was located somewhere actually within the kremlin walls. So we go inside of them and start frantically looking while trying to maintain a level of cohesiveness amongst ourselves. The group dwindled down to three in our mass hysteria. Myself. Will the kid from Texas. And the Chinese student Zhong that I Baptized in the Baltic Sea. It wasn't my fault we ended up all over the place but I will take the blame for finding the location inside the kremlin walls where the tavern was.

Once we found the place we walked in and it's actually, literally in the wall. We had to go down some stairs once inside and we were underground. It smelled really old and I felt as if most of the place had been untouched (as far as restoration/renovation goes) in decades. We found the bar and for only 50 rubles we could finally drink what we had so long sought after. It was in a ceramic tea kettle and the lady poured it for us into some ceramic cups. About .33 liters. I made sure each of us had what we wanted and that we would all take the first sip at the same time. We sat down. Toasted. And bottoms went up. The drink was supreme. It tasted like a kind of thick delicious champagne. I am far from being an alcohol connoisseur but this drink I had was worth every struggle we endured to find it.

The rest of the group never caught up but we sat there and drank up and then realized we needed to head back to the hotel for dinner. What we were actually drinking is probably best known as "mead". Back in medieval times Kings and knights and Vikings used to drink it.

After dinner everyone wanted to go out to the beach. I did too. I told them I'd take a nap first and catch up with them later. I went up to my room at about 8pm and laid down. When I woke up it was 4am. I guess the sleep from the all nighter I pulled caught up with me. Not a problem though. I didn't really miss much. And my bed and room were really comfortable and to balance out the DJ Screw from earlier I fell asleep to the sounds of Leonard Bernstein, Yo-Yo Ma, and Mark Elder & The Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

I fell back asleep and woke up around 7. Took a nice long hot shower and then went downstairs and had a very delightful breakfast. The hotel was great.

After that we moved around Novgorod and saw some more historical places. Churches, homes, and other buildings and we took a group shot. It's included up above.

On the way back I realized how poor Russia really is. A lot of the houses I saw were all pretty run down and made of wood. I counted probably less than five on the way back to Petersburg. They're not THAT bad but as nice as the cities are you would expect for the countryside to be about as equally developed. Not the case at all. We stopped in a quaint little village place so people could use the restroom and get snacks. The little cafe we stopped at had a nice Russian Country living charm to it. For anyone who has ever driven through an impoverished area of east Texas or the backwoods and swamps of Mississippi and/or Alabama that's what rural Russia reminded me of.

Back in Petersburg. This being my last Saturday I wanted to go out with a bang! I go to Sif's workplace and it's packed with people 18-24 years old. All of them had nice clothes and iPhones and expensive watches and glasses. One girl heard me speaking English and she came up to me and told me that she studied in London. At first I thought she was British but she's Russian and her family is just rich enough to afford to send her to school there. Sif wasn't working he was just relaxing. He said they come in every Saturday and request the same thing so he has it already prepared for them. I was hungry cause I hadn't eaten since breakfast so I grab some McDonald's and I picked up something for him too.

He told me the party spot to be at tonight was club Bubble. Located right off of Nevsky prospect. On the same strip where I first went to a Russian club. I went there and in short I had a great night. The club has 3 rooms and two floors and it catered to a hip-hop ground and a house music crowd.

Russian hip-hop lesson 101: Here in Russia where everyone is about 20 years behind every American trend the same goes for hip-hop. Russia very much so embraces "old school" or "real hip-hop" Russian rappers strive their hardest to come up with "clever rhymes" and master "lyricism" anything that sounds like has a Jazz sample in it or like DJ Premier. Hence why Wu-Tang is so popular here. But the first person to bring ringtone rap, bubblegum hip-hop, and what I essentially like to call Soulja Boy type rap/T-Pain R&B will become an instant millionaire.

There are a select few that know of this kind of rap and most of them highly disapprove of it. They're very much so into beatboxing and scratching turntables and anything that was really cool to do in the mid 1990's. This turned out to be a real treat for me. I was in the club and really enjoying some nice old school djing and old school rap. Not in a corny, bohemian, forced way but it stemmed from an authentic knowledge and love for true hip-hop. I sincerely enjoyed hearing that sound again.

Then the drunk Russians came. The kept coming up towards the DJ and hitting the stage where the table was making the beat skip. The security there was awful. Which is strange cause almost everywhere else here there's an armed guard on duty. Anyway, he gets up way too close and puts his hands on the DJ's turn table. This whole time I've just been posted up minding my own business standing right in front of where the DJ was. I told him that he was really good and he had skills. He wanted to give me a mixtape and in return I showed him a "super secret Black man handshake that all thugs known in the US". Anyway, back to the drunk Russians.

He's being rowdy and pushing people that are there and ruining everyones fun. I'm annoyed. The DJ is annoyed and everyone else in the place is too. The security finally comes back and ask me why I haven't done anything?! Me! Of all people!? As soon as they asked me that he (the drunk Russian) stumbles into me and looks like I did something wrong. I figure. He's only 5'5 at the most. He's annoying and I've been wanting to knock him out for quite some time. The DJ, club security, had all given me the green light to take initiative. I took initiative. I wrapped him up in a bear hug and all of the sudden everyone wants to step back and all of the security wants to step in. I throw him in the direction of where the security is and they restrain him from there. The head security guy comes up to thank me and shakes my hand. The DJ now thinks I'm 1000 times cooler than he already thought I was. Sweet.

Just like in American clubs people are always trying to promote something. Except here people were actually doing it well. About once every 25 minutes there would be a sideshow/competition in which people could win prizes from people promoting clothing brands or whatever. There was a hot kiss competition. Some lesbians won that... There was a drink the beer fastest competition. A Russian won that. And a freestyle contest. Enter Jimmy.

When it was opened up I was in the restroom showing some other Russians "a super gangster handshake"... Sif said that Russians really like learning things like that. And the DJ comes and gets me and says I'm up. I'm introduced as "Jimmy from the США" and well after this one whack Russian spit his verse I stole the show.

It was so ridiculously easy my flow consisted of the following elements: (rhyming) "why are you trying to rap you're not even black" followed by several gun and 50 cent references as well as illustrating with my body actions such as shooting a gun and kicking in a door. and finishing with the... "now put your hands up, put your hands up... now wave them in the air like you don't care..." too easy. The crowd ate it up! I was instantaneously the most incredible person there. My prizes? I won 3 T-Shirts and a couple of fitted hats. Name brand t-shirts. I gave one of the shirts to the second place dude. and one of the hats to the DJ and I think someone stole my other shirt. But I've got a brand new New Era Houston Astros fitted hat (ironic) and this other orange shirt.

It was too easy. I knew 80% of people in there didn't understand anything I said BUT I knew my audience. I knew what they wanted to hear and see. And I gave it to them and won them over.

Sif would join me later in the night. The party was jumping there was a troupe of girls that did break dancing that performed and I enjoyed the show from a nice comfy sofa close to the DJ table. It wasn't VIP but it was still nice. People took their pictures with me and now I'm probably all over vontakte (the russian facebook). When I left Sif was emceeing keeping the party jumping.

Please bear in mind that this wasn't a low profile, hole in the wall club. It was legit and that made the experience so much more better.

I went back home feeling good. I tipped the cab driver with an American dollar and he told me it was his favorite souvenir.

Stay Tuned

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