Wednesday, May 23, 2007

05-21-2007 – The Corner Pub, Mundare

Mundare, again? Third time out here in less than six months, and the Giant Ukrainian Sausage is losing its novelty; in fact, it’s getting a bit creepy, with that weird kink in its loop, its unwholesome matte finish, its left-in-the-sun-too-long wrinkles. There’s much more to Kalyna Country ("Where culture meets adventure!") than iffy giant objects, though. Lots to attract the city-alienated looking for a place to be…

The wind-down of a whirl of a weekend, holiday Monday in The Corner Pub. Mid-afternoon locals propping up the bar, VLT spinners, proprietor giving the country welcome: hearty spiced with wary. We dare the jukebox and an oldtimer tells us the rules: “I don’t care what you play, long as you give us at least one Johnny Cash.” We forsake Johnny for Roseanne, spice the mix with ol’ Hank and Bobbie Gentry, and are rewarded with free loonies to continue DJing.

The first time out here was a wintry large-objects tour, the second was a jaunt to the Big Egg, specifically. This time the occasion is the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village’s spring opening and festival of Ukrainian dance. We’d seen the sign on our way back from Vegreville: “600 SHUMKA DANCERS!” How exciting is that? I tried (maybe I could have tried harder) to recruit every Ukrainian, sorta-Ukrainian and miscellaneous Slav I knew; my final cultural posse comprised myself, my parents, my fiancée and my roommate: a Polish family, a Russian and an ancestral Uke. It’d have to do.

Turns out the sign was a bit of a tease. The part of me that craves all things epic imagined six hundred Shumkas simultaneously, a whirling mass of feet, flowers, braids and baggy pants. Still, even doled out by the dozens, the dancers were pretty awesome to watch. During the final high-kicking Hopak, I got kind of excited imagining a Ukrainian remake of Gymkata, where a dancer blends Shumka with kick-boxing, creating an unbeatable hybrid martial art in order to take revenge on the ninjas that killed his father…

The Village itself is a trip, one of those “living museums” where the staff are all in character so you either have to play along or get really embarrassed; it’s like being at a dinner theatre, with cabbage rolls and plowing instead of alfredo sauce and shrill sitcom parodies. My girl got a little light in her eye at the thought of working or volunteering here – probably a bad idea for someone who’s been known to trance-channel ancient Galician folk songs when the vodka deactivates her astral defenses. She’d probably get so into character she’d become possessed, end up chasing some poor kid with an iPod down the dirt path shreiking “WITCH! WITCH!”

Still, the Village feeds those get-outta-town feelings… I mean, jeez; these people built a nation living in freakin’ cave-houses made out of turf! Why do I need an apartment, a van, a Wii and three liquor stores in walking distance? All I need is some land to squat on, an axe, some chickens…

Ah, maybe I’m just feeling like running ‘cause I didn’t manage to get what I’d wanted out of an urban long weekend. Who ever does? May Long is one of those times, like New Year’s Eve, when you feel morally obligated to have the most brilliant party-time possible. Shindigs sprout like spring weeds – what is it about August that means so many May birthdays? -- but a combination of party-greed and duty trapped me in a doomed do-everything venue-hopping plan. To hit more than two parties requires:

- Military timing
- Inhuman party-leaving willpower
- A mint’s worth of cabfare, or a sober driver

You end up like the lakeside dog in the fable – grab for too much and get no bone. Worse, I was the DD, and though it felt physically good to be bright-eyed and coherent, it sucks to be sober when everyone around you is going liquid: “Thizz… thizzziz my bes’ frenn! My BES’ frennn!” And you’re standing there, staring at the scene, going “So this is ‘partying’, huh? I remember it being cooler.”

They managed to party all right out here in Mundare; the Corner Pub rattles with dropped hints, rolled eyes and secretive smiles when the subject of the weekend comes up. Yeah, I could party with these people; the bar even has that nostalgic smoke-reek that takes me back to my earliest drinking days. And all I have to do is keep the jukebox queue filled with old-time country and western hits? How do you say “You’ve got yourself a deal” in Ukrainian?


Anonymous said...

I've got it!

the new version of urban up in full costume at the village and...interact. Whatever rules of staff conduct will not apply, and those that work there will assume a new recruit is having theri first day....

2 more observations:

the lack of babies and children in the simulacrum was positivly eerie...couldn't they give one or two of the girls one of those stage-babies, with proper heft, wobbly neck and internal sound effects (murmling, gurgling, fussing, etc.)????

i like the way the working stiffs in uke drag got around the gaze of the gorbies whan it came to outside girl brought another a "plate of goodies" (read: napkin draped over a plate--as in the old howdy neighbour days). Obviously the main reason for her visit was to ascertain "what are you doing tonight?" but it was all couched in character...the other responding "Yeees, I haff special visitor coming this night, we go to dance...."

Anonymous said...

"you've got yer self a deal"

Boar pate and runny cheese. Hand knit sox. It takes real effort to hold a bad sci-fi paperback in front of one's face when another human enters one's vision. Oh la la the ferris wheel and crap dog. The amusing fight between the seagull and the flicker, crow playing uppity way over yonder. Snack stand boyz a wrasslin' step dad is dead this weekend. You are shysa.

Anonymous said...

more is over is over is over. I bought the olives you like. My cousins were here. We spoke of charcuterie. Some people asked about you. I ate some cherries. I broke my vows. I didn't wear sweatpants. I love ice. I wish I was in love.