May 28, 2007

Notes from Bulgaria II

For one night, and one night only, George Michael will be the king of Bulgaria.

His posters are everywhere and nearly as ubiquitous as the graffiti which covers every virgin inch of Sofia. The concert is part of a comeback tour, which he's dovetailed with the "You Are Not Alone" campaign -- raising awareness of the six Bulgarian nurses who await death by firing squad in Libya. A Lybian court found them guilty of intentionally infecting 426 children with HIV. Never mind that conditions were harsh, and needles were few, and the nurses had their fingernails pulled to elicit a confession. When Lybia offered to release the women, if only Bulgaria would dismiss millions of dollars sovereign debt, it just pissed off the Bulgarians.

But the nurses are not alone. The campaign is hard to miss. Politicians wear the Red, White and Green Ribbon on television, cafe waitresses sport them on aprons, even the Air Bulgaria 737 we passed in the Paris airport had one painted from top to bottom. And now George Michael has joined the cause. This hasn't changed his reputation, even in Bulgaria. Everyone wants to talk about George Michael, and then they want to talk about the men's room.

In a residential neighborhood of eastern Sofia, I waited in a hot car and fought off a nap by listening to the radio. Darik Radio spammed a promo for the concert -- an eighty-ton stage! -- John Lennon's piano! -- oh yeah, and George Michael's "indiscretion" in a Los Angeles men's room. Even Darik won't cut the guy a break. The promo faded into version of Careless Whisper, and I watched an old man scrub fresh graffiti off of his over-sized Winnebago. The graffiti didn't come off, it only smeared black and runny. Poor bastard.

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