4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Humorous Humanitarian Dispatches from a Ukrainian Border Town

Ukraine: what looks to be an ambulance van left over from World War II.
Ukraine: what looks to be an ambulance van left over from World War II.

In the thick of night, you can almost always hear the tree branches rattling in a rhythmic chorus of nighttime symphonies. A tap starts at your window; a breath of air shakes a group of leaves. A whoosh is followed by a rattle, a shake followed by another whoosh. The sounds build off of one another in a chain-reacting Mother Earth soundtrack. A full moon is a candle in the black space above, illuminating the eternal sky. Gray clouds hang, heavy with tiredness. Shadows run in a hide-and-seek choreographed dance.

Not just day, but night, too, can be a time of earthly energetic activity in the Ukrainian border town of Molodohvardiysk (which translates to “young guards” in Russian. The town takes its name from young resistance fighters involved in guerrilla warfare against the Nazis as they stormed through Eastern Ukraine. The “young guards” were eventually captured and thrown into an underground mine alive. The town’s name is a relic of their courageous resistance to fascism.) People are in their homes tending to children and making supper. A father is having a beer with his feet up after a 12-hour day in an underground coal mine. A mother is preparing a nourishing meal. Children engage in a night-cap playtime session filled with giggles and innocence. All the while snow falls softly, blanketing the steppe landscape.

Sounds and sights become more visceral as night creeps on in my current hometown. Unlike in the daytime, there are no cars whizzing over water-filled potholes. No old ladies wobbly walking from the town’s outdoor market, rolling their rusty push-carts filled with bazaar bargains. No underage teenagers huddled in packs at the entrances of spray-painted apartment complexes with cigarettes in one hand and beer in the other. No exhaust showers from the mining buses that frequent the main drag with a roar. No banter of voices echoing from the street market in a shuffle-and-jive auction of scarce winter vegetables. There's only the sound of the day’s brother, night, bringing a softening snowy geo-delight.

Here I was, senses alert on a cold, lonely Ukrainian winter night, entertained by the sights and rhythms otherwise hidden by day’s time to shine. I peered out my window, reflecting on the day, and suddenly I was warmed by the humor that had occurred earlier that afternoon.

“Dear Kip Madden, we received your water project proposal. All looks good other than one of the pictures you sent in. Could you please take another picture of your school from the outside and sent it in ASAP? The first picture wasn't clear enough.”

This was the response I received from Appropriate Projects, a water charity organization that funds water-related projects for Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide up to $500.00 – anywhere from Senegal to Ukraine. My school wanted a new hand-washing system in the cafeteria and I wanted to help.

I handled the deal, and the charity ended up approving my written proposal in a month’s time span. The only element of the project they were waiting on was a clear photo of my school building. A representative told me I needed to email this photo ASAP. So I got on it.

The day after I received the email I jetted to school, meandering my way through the mud mixed with slushy snow, past crumbling slanted apartment buildings and slow-walking babushkas. With camera in hand on the first sunny day in days, I approached my school, snapped a few quick photos, and beelined back to my apartment, eager to get the best photo sent to Appropriate Projects sooner than later.

Now let’s jump back to two weeks prior on a snowy Wednesday night.

My Russian tutor Vitali called me out of the blue for an invite to his band practice. Being a worshiper of all things musically holy, I accepted the invite without hesitation. After arriving at 6:30 that night, I met Vitali outside of the Art Culture House in Krestnodon (a nearby town of about 35,000 people 10-15 kilometers away) right on the Russian border.

He was his usual self: eyes squinted pondering something profound, cigarette hanging from his bottom lip, decked out in black, knee-high boots. We shook hands and he waved me into the town’s Art Culture House, a four-story building where anything from youth dancing to music practice takes place seven nights a week. Shooting the breeze, we made small talk as we walked up the stairs to his bands’ practice room on the second floor at the end of a long corridor.

Vitali nudged open a pale green door. The old wooden door creaked open, and thick cigarette smoke poured into our faces.

Immediately, it struck me that I’d been transported to a 1950s time capsule. There were four Russian dudes, decked in old fashioned Flat Caps, some sporting gold teeth, others with old sailor tattoos and a few with white t-shirt sleeves rolled midway up their shoulders, greaser style. I gazed slack-jawed at the old AK-47s mounted to the wall and dozens of tattered Chuck Berry and Elvis posters – but most noticeably at the bazillion Playboy posters. There were so many Playboy posters and calendars that they appeared to function as wallpaper. I imagined that when these Russian rockers made this room their rehearsal space, they tore off the wallpaper and put up air-brushed photos of Playboy models to dignify their manhood. To this day, I’ve never seen such a worshiped collection of nude ladies plastered to walls.

Band practice.

Anyhow, I shook hands with everyone and I sat down on one of the old tattered couches that smelt of smoke and burnt hair. A cigarette was lit and the band started jamming. There was a drummer, a double-bass player, a solo guitarist, and a rhythm guitarist who was also the lead singer. The music was a Rockabilly twist of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and The Brian Setzer Orchestra.

My curiosity instantly sparked and I took out my camera just as Fat Dennis (the band’s 400-pound hairdresser) was giving the band’s last member, the saxophone player, a 1950s haircut while the rest of the band jammed away.

The (cropped) photo in question.

I snapped a photo of Dennis mid-clip (left), cutting the saxophonist’s hair with the Playboy pictures in the background. The shot was truly epic: a mini-walrus-sized dude cutting a musician’s hair with naked ladies decorating the foreground. As the jamming carried on through the night, I continued snapping photos and attempting to breathe in the nicotine-infested room.

Now jump forward two weeks – I was about to upload the photo I’d just taken of my school.

I plugged my camera into my computer, opened my email, and began my email to Appropriate Projects. I then opened up the photo folder that popped up on my desktop. Clicking on the photo I thought was the picture of my school, I attached it to the email, along with a title, “A more appropriate picture.”

For the body of the email, I wrote “Here is another picture of my school which is more appropriate than the last one I sent. If you have any further questions, concerns, or need me to send any additional photos, please let me know. Warmest Regards, Kip Madden Ukraine”. Then I clicked the send button. A sense of accomplishment immediately came over me.

Two minutes later, out of curiosity, I checked the email I had just sent and there it was in all of its glory: a picture of 400-pound Fat Dennis cutting the saxophonist's hair, lots of boobies, upper thigh, and nudity!

Somehow I had sent a profane picture with the title “A more appropriate picture” to a bunch of sensitive humanitarian folks wanting to distribute water charity throughout the world. Could I have screwed up with a worse audience? I cursed, slammed my fist on my desk and pulled at my hair. I had myself in a bit of a pickle.

Now my worry is to get these people to not think I’m a sick and twisted American trying to play a joke just for kicks. I am hoping a follow-up email or two will remedy the situation. I still have my fingers crossed.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

The art of heart surgery, Grossmont Hospital's interns, a skeptical patient

What University Hospital's young doctors say, UCSD med school hard to enter, bruised babies
Next Article

Walter Matthau’s dark side exposed in Charley Varrick

The self-proclaimed “last of the independents.”
Ukraine: what looks to be an ambulance van left over from World War II.
Ukraine: what looks to be an ambulance van left over from World War II.

In the thick of night, you can almost always hear the tree branches rattling in a rhythmic chorus of nighttime symphonies. A tap starts at your window; a breath of air shakes a group of leaves. A whoosh is followed by a rattle, a shake followed by another whoosh. The sounds build off of one another in a chain-reacting Mother Earth soundtrack. A full moon is a candle in the black space above, illuminating the eternal sky. Gray clouds hang, heavy with tiredness. Shadows run in a hide-and-seek choreographed dance.

Not just day, but night, too, can be a time of earthly energetic activity in the Ukrainian border town of Molodohvardiysk (which translates to “young guards” in Russian. The town takes its name from young resistance fighters involved in guerrilla warfare against the Nazis as they stormed through Eastern Ukraine. The “young guards” were eventually captured and thrown into an underground mine alive. The town’s name is a relic of their courageous resistance to fascism.) People are in their homes tending to children and making supper. A father is having a beer with his feet up after a 12-hour day in an underground coal mine. A mother is preparing a nourishing meal. Children engage in a night-cap playtime session filled with giggles and innocence. All the while snow falls softly, blanketing the steppe landscape.

Sounds and sights become more visceral as night creeps on in my current hometown. Unlike in the daytime, there are no cars whizzing over water-filled potholes. No old ladies wobbly walking from the town’s outdoor market, rolling their rusty push-carts filled with bazaar bargains. No underage teenagers huddled in packs at the entrances of spray-painted apartment complexes with cigarettes in one hand and beer in the other. No exhaust showers from the mining buses that frequent the main drag with a roar. No banter of voices echoing from the street market in a shuffle-and-jive auction of scarce winter vegetables. There's only the sound of the day’s brother, night, bringing a softening snowy geo-delight.

Here I was, senses alert on a cold, lonely Ukrainian winter night, entertained by the sights and rhythms otherwise hidden by day’s time to shine. I peered out my window, reflecting on the day, and suddenly I was warmed by the humor that had occurred earlier that afternoon.

“Dear Kip Madden, we received your water project proposal. All looks good other than one of the pictures you sent in. Could you please take another picture of your school from the outside and sent it in ASAP? The first picture wasn't clear enough.”

This was the response I received from Appropriate Projects, a water charity organization that funds water-related projects for Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide up to $500.00 – anywhere from Senegal to Ukraine. My school wanted a new hand-washing system in the cafeteria and I wanted to help.

I handled the deal, and the charity ended up approving my written proposal in a month’s time span. The only element of the project they were waiting on was a clear photo of my school building. A representative told me I needed to email this photo ASAP. So I got on it.

The day after I received the email I jetted to school, meandering my way through the mud mixed with slushy snow, past crumbling slanted apartment buildings and slow-walking babushkas. With camera in hand on the first sunny day in days, I approached my school, snapped a few quick photos, and beelined back to my apartment, eager to get the best photo sent to Appropriate Projects sooner than later.

Now let’s jump back to two weeks prior on a snowy Wednesday night.

My Russian tutor Vitali called me out of the blue for an invite to his band practice. Being a worshiper of all things musically holy, I accepted the invite without hesitation. After arriving at 6:30 that night, I met Vitali outside of the Art Culture House in Krestnodon (a nearby town of about 35,000 people 10-15 kilometers away) right on the Russian border.

He was his usual self: eyes squinted pondering something profound, cigarette hanging from his bottom lip, decked out in black, knee-high boots. We shook hands and he waved me into the town’s Art Culture House, a four-story building where anything from youth dancing to music practice takes place seven nights a week. Shooting the breeze, we made small talk as we walked up the stairs to his bands’ practice room on the second floor at the end of a long corridor.

Vitali nudged open a pale green door. The old wooden door creaked open, and thick cigarette smoke poured into our faces.

Immediately, it struck me that I’d been transported to a 1950s time capsule. There were four Russian dudes, decked in old fashioned Flat Caps, some sporting gold teeth, others with old sailor tattoos and a few with white t-shirt sleeves rolled midway up their shoulders, greaser style. I gazed slack-jawed at the old AK-47s mounted to the wall and dozens of tattered Chuck Berry and Elvis posters – but most noticeably at the bazillion Playboy posters. There were so many Playboy posters and calendars that they appeared to function as wallpaper. I imagined that when these Russian rockers made this room their rehearsal space, they tore off the wallpaper and put up air-brushed photos of Playboy models to dignify their manhood. To this day, I’ve never seen such a worshiped collection of nude ladies plastered to walls.

Band practice.

Anyhow, I shook hands with everyone and I sat down on one of the old tattered couches that smelt of smoke and burnt hair. A cigarette was lit and the band started jamming. There was a drummer, a double-bass player, a solo guitarist, and a rhythm guitarist who was also the lead singer. The music was a Rockabilly twist of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and The Brian Setzer Orchestra.

My curiosity instantly sparked and I took out my camera just as Fat Dennis (the band’s 400-pound hairdresser) was giving the band’s last member, the saxophone player, a 1950s haircut while the rest of the band jammed away.

The (cropped) photo in question.

I snapped a photo of Dennis mid-clip (left), cutting the saxophonist’s hair with the Playboy pictures in the background. The shot was truly epic: a mini-walrus-sized dude cutting a musician’s hair with naked ladies decorating the foreground. As the jamming carried on through the night, I continued snapping photos and attempting to breathe in the nicotine-infested room.

Now jump forward two weeks – I was about to upload the photo I’d just taken of my school.

I plugged my camera into my computer, opened my email, and began my email to Appropriate Projects. I then opened up the photo folder that popped up on my desktop. Clicking on the photo I thought was the picture of my school, I attached it to the email, along with a title, “A more appropriate picture.”

For the body of the email, I wrote “Here is another picture of my school which is more appropriate than the last one I sent. If you have any further questions, concerns, or need me to send any additional photos, please let me know. Warmest Regards, Kip Madden Ukraine”. Then I clicked the send button. A sense of accomplishment immediately came over me.

Two minutes later, out of curiosity, I checked the email I had just sent and there it was in all of its glory: a picture of 400-pound Fat Dennis cutting the saxophonist's hair, lots of boobies, upper thigh, and nudity!

Somehow I had sent a profane picture with the title “A more appropriate picture” to a bunch of sensitive humanitarian folks wanting to distribute water charity throughout the world. Could I have screwed up with a worse audience? I cursed, slammed my fist on my desk and pulled at my hair. I had myself in a bit of a pickle.

Now my worry is to get these people to not think I’m a sick and twisted American trying to play a joke just for kicks. I am hoping a follow-up email or two will remedy the situation. I still have my fingers crossed.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

There's an art to falling

"I have built up my immunity, but I still get sick"
Next Article

A word from the Family House of Pancakes

Woody's child abuse explained
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close