29 June 2008

Tuesday in Αθήνα

Piraeus Pros Aegina
Today I decide after a lazy morning to hop over to the nearest Greek island for a little day trip. It was stupidly easy after getting off at Pira
eus, I am distracted by the pedestrian bridge which looks very very Calatrava-esque. Am even more distracted that I did not use it, since crossing six lanes of traffic in a city where pedestrians are an afterthought takes nerves of steel, and about five minutes.
Road is crossed, finally, after some ambling about the ticket offices, ticket is bought, and I stare at the giant, excellently named ferry Artemis which will take me off into the Saronic Gulf.
Settling in by the window, the Artemis is humming along and it would be so easy to close
my eyes and drift off.
I see other boats and ships in the distance but I don’t know how to explain or even comprehend the sensation that the Artemis is not moving at all, but instead everything just orbits around her so there is a subtle shift of the coast and other boats, but all the while with the constant feeling that we are merely hovering. It's hard to guess how much time is passing also; I wonder if this is what space feels like? Artemis in space...
The Saronic Gulf is hypnotising, suddenly I understand where the colours of the Greek flag come in to play; brilliant deep blue and crisp white seafoam. Heaven.

On 'Greek Time':

I see a ‘Flying Dolphin’ boat cutting through the water abruptly. It looks more like a rocket, or better yet a coked-up robotic mosquito; pummeling through space.
I did have the option at Piraeus of getting to Aegina in 35 minutes on one of these (compared to 1 ½ hours on the ferry) but being strapped to my seat from sheer velocity defeats the l
aid back purpose of ambling lazily along in the sunshine to an island for the afternoon. In a country where nothing is on time and nothing is done quickly…why rush now all of a sudden? We are on Greek time (meaning you add at least 1-2 hours to anything; even Olympic Airlines subscribed to this phenomenon, taking off an hour later than scheduled, but still arriving on time!)
Even the seagulls are faster than our sturdy Artemis, but I don’t care. As I have remembered all over again, the Greeks (when they aren’t shouting and gesticulating of course) are supremely laid back and after the first two days of rushing around non-stop all over Athens to take in the sights something just switched in my brain and I just….slowed….down….no rush, all easy.


Aegina is lovely and cute and I wonder if the town is in cahoots to try and make this little island as picture perfec
t as possible. It's working. I walk around for a bit and try not to look too enthusiastic over the bright fishing boats all lined up, but really I want to hop around and clap my hands together. Dork.
I stroll around until I spy a quiet piece of the shore (I have been dying to be near the water for so long, even though I am not a natural water-baby; the Athens heat, humidity and the sun make me want to drench myself). I step into the water and it's the perfect temperature a
nd clear like glass. Hitching my dress up to the point of almost indecency and splashing around, I long to just fall back into the water fully clothed (but mindful that last time I did that in Sydney I was not a happy little vegemite; soggy and cold on the ferry back to Circular Quay). Still, I collect some lovely pebbles as my Aegina memento and wish I could just float on the water in the sun for a bit,; ideally a set of dry clothes would materialise from nowhere, as would a perfect tall Frappe.On my way back towards the ferry I buy some cherries. The lady asks me if I want the 'hondra' (juicy and plump) ones...I nod with astonishment, of COURSE I do! We both laugh and I walk away happy with my thick paper bag filled and heavy with dark little beauties.
Cherries are my favourite thing about summertime, I was so so SO happy to have my fingers stained with cherries in the sun on a Greek island. I never thought I would be saying or doing that, but I'm so glad I had the chance to!
On not rushing:
I probably haven’t seen as much as I could in my time here (both in Athens and Aegina) but I realize that I don’t much like rushing around. I end up not processing as much as I am too distracted by the next ‘to do’ so what I’m currently doing isn’t even sinking in properly. I came here to see and think and observe and you can’t do that if you are darting around: well, I can’t anyways.
I like ambling. It allows ample time for reflection and letting my mind wander over countless thoughts (some relevant, most absurd). Whilst right now, only having the crinkled water and fuzzy horizon to focus on is a luxury that I don’t intend on frittering away.

Solitude and Worry Beads:

It’s reasurring that so many people stop and sit on their own, perfectly happy; be it in the shade on a park bench, on a slab of marble that hasn’t been sectioned off in the Ancient sites, in a café, and most tilt their head to the side ever so slightly and stare into space: thinking thinking, watching people go by, thinking some more, taking a drag of their cigarette, patting a friendly street dog, then a sip of their Frappe. Their minds are wandering but they are still connected to the place in some form (not like London old zombie town where everyone seems unreachable in their private bubble).
It’s a beautiful thing to behold. And it’s nice that you never feel like you have to give up your table once your drink is finished, you can sit there for hours and hours, your water will always be refilled without the pressure of having to order something else or pay straight away.
Now that, is civilized. What ever would we do with a culture that encourages sitting and thinking, mulling things over and not being rushed? No wonder worry beads are a dime a dozen over here. It makes sense that so much influential philosophy originated here, even then they sat and stared into space, thinking and questioning, arguing and debating with strangers and friends.

Monday in Αθήνα

JUNE the SECOND 2:10pm
Sitting to the side of the gorgeous yet unassuming church ‘Ayia Paraskevi’ in an outdoor café off busy crazy Athinas Street. I kick myself now in hindsight, for not taking photos of the fantastic Byzantine mural over the doorway, but instead I sit and watch countless pairs of Greek women of all ages walking past, then suddenly stopping and backtracking towards the church, motioning to each other that they should really go inside and quickly light a candle.
For whom I wonder?
Church and State seem one and the same over here, maybe this is already changing. I never felt as ‘Greek’ as other kids I knew because I wasn’t raised in an Orthodox environment, thereby missing out on at least 50% of what it is to be Greek. Maybe even more than that. I think the last time I was in a church was when I was christened! Haha.
The market on Athinas is fantastic and makes me miss my dad who would be happy to see a trillion different types of nuts being roasted and bundled away. The meat section is enormous and I take a little peek, not brave enough to walk through rows and rows of dead skinned chopped up animals. My favourite, the spice store. It's literally on the street about one and a half metres wide but with bags and bags of herbs piled up to the wazoo. Cinnammon sticks as long as your forearm, a medley of autumn colours; browns, burnt oranges, olive greens....I just wanted to bury my head in a pillow of dried oregano, or maybe just sprinkle some over my fetta.
Two cemeteries and a stadium
From Athinas Street, I head up and over to Kerameikos Cemetery and further on to Technopolis. Walk to metro stop Thisio (my favourite for some reason, maybe because there are marble ruins on the grass either side of the train track!) and over to the First National Cemetery near Sygrou-Fix.
Looking for the poet Seferis, didn't find him, but found Melina Mercouri's grave which was a bit overwhelming (someone had lit the lamp on her grave and it had many fresh flowers on it). Sat in the leafy cemetery for a little, watching the people. I'd call them 'mourners' but Greeks never look sad here, maybe because they are so preoccupied with death, it's a natural thing to spend so much time in a necropolis visiting various family and friends. Gather thoughts in the silent sun and plot my next move. To my delight, the Panathenaic Stadium is so close by, and I wander around the streets heady with jasmine and see the cats eyeing me suspiciously as I invade their private back alleys.
Spent more time gawking at the stadium than I thought I would..it really is enormous, immaculate and completely marble! Makes me want to run or sprint or something athletic, which is hilarious because I would only think of running if I was being chased by someone or something. Wander down back through the National Gardens over to Syntagma to have an early dinner before going back to Zografou for a reflective beer or two on Chrysi's balcony, but without my dearest friend for company.
I did so much walking today, a big triangle over Athens. Yesterday I was around the ancient sites which are so close to each other, but today? Up down and all around, I need a Mythos!
A couple around my age is in the café a few tables away from where I am sitting. The girl is asking him questions, growing increasingly emotional with each one. When I perk my ears up I hear her mentioning looking at other girls etc. It is unclear to me if he has been actually doing this or she is just jumping the gun a little. In any case, she's getting quite upset.
The boy is not freaked out at all by her emotions but does look concerned and empathetic even. He calms her down by drawing her close and giving her one of the most passionate kisses to rival even the best movie moments. Even I am trying not to gawk. Mostly when I see strangers pashing in public it's just not cool, but this kiss? I was glad I was sitting down.
Seems to have worked. The girl grows quiet and is happier.
Bravo leventi!

PS: (This is the street I fell in love with, in between the cemetery and the stadium)

25 June 2008

The boys that ruined it for me (or, "I feel for you Chuck Klosterman")

A few months ago I posted a short essay written by Chuck Klosterman titled 'John Cusack ruined my love life'. Well I've been doing some thinking and it was not a major revelation to me that boys I have encountered on the big and small screen have completely ruined any hopes I have of finding a real life human being who will be able to stand anywhere near these monoliths of ideal love in my own mind. Here's to you Chuck, and to those damn unreal boys. Sigh.

In the order of which I fell in love, pay no attention to actual chronology (it all starts for me in highschool)

Griffin Holbrook from Party of Five 1995
The troubled excellently named gorgeous brooding boy who is constantly stuffing up but turns out to be a hopeless and fearless romantic, transformed by his love for Julia. Swoon, double and triple swoon.

Noel Crane from Felicity 1998
Griffin's antithesis, the responsible best friend type. A
'good' boy, super smart and dependable (so you can see why she chose Ben, grr) but oh so handsome and sticks around to be taken for granted time and again. Stupid Felicity. This is one exception to the rule that the bad boy is almost always more appealing than the best friend type. Sniffle.
My friend J and I have this theory that we have been talking about for nigh on ten years now, it's the same pattern again and again. It needs it's own post so look out for it soon right here!

Troy Dire of Reality Bites c.1994
I am not alone with this one, almost every girl in highschool in the 90's fell for Troy (Ethan Hawke at his most scrumptious) and still can't manage to let go even though now Ethan is a bag of bones, divorced and not so handsomely gr
ungy. Again a fine example of the bad boy arsehole who you *know* will break your heart but seems to be the only one you can really connect with on all levels.

We did not even blink when Lelaina cheated on Michael (sweet but bland Ben Stiller) with her love-hate quasi-philosopher rocker-loser, it was the most natural thing in the world. Troy bridges both camps by being a bad boy AND a best friend. Phwoar. He is also testament to how low a self-esteem girls have to become involved with someone that they categorically know is an arsehole. Sadly it gives us the false hope that maybe we are the Lelaina's of this world and can set them straight. We are not and cannot. Hence why this is a movie and not real life.

Jesse from Before Sunrise/Before Sunset 1995 and 2004

Around the same time a
s Reality Bites came this little gem, and even though the sequel is nine years later and Ethan is not the boy we all fell in love with..the character still makes yer heart flutter, and so does Julie Delpy's Celine too for that matter.

Jess Mariano of Gilmore Girls
I like to think Jess is the teenage version of Troy Dire. Of all the boys on this list he is my favourite. Perhaps because I know someone quite similar to Jess in real life (ok, barr the vandalism bit). Extremely well read, funny and wry, a bit of an attitude, cocky, an irreverant streak, slightly elitist, way too charmin
g in a scruffy way, hell even the damn shuffle-walk that he does and that stare...ah but I regress. Back to the unreal Jess...wait, those things are the real Jess too. Sigh.

*cue frustrated rant*
Rory Gilmore totally let the team down on this one, Dean? Logan? You've got to be kidding me. She and Jess acknowledge they will always have this 'so
mething' there...hence why she is a major idiot. Especially since he really got his act together towards the end and became even sexier; hopeless romantic with his cool heart on his sleeve, running a small publishing house, writing a short novel..reminding her of who she is and what she is capable of. Stupid stupid girl. I will never forgive her for that. Or perhaps myself for that matter too...who has their own personal Jess and does nothing about it? Egad, I'm doing a Rory Gilmore!
Heavens to Betsy.

Count Almasy from The English Patient (the novel 1992 and the movie 1996)
The thinking woman's man. All passion and brooding, a morose disposition, scowling and skulking around the campfire; of course on screen it takes Kris
ten Scott Thomas to light that fire in his belly and turn him into a reckless and dynamic lover. Heartbreaking heartbreaking. But then again, I was heartbroken for all the wrong reasons when Ralph had a mid-flight quickie in the toilets with a skanky Qantas air-hostess last year. Damn him ruining my lovely blurry curtain between real and non-real men!

Also for another fine Fienne (sorry!) romantic protagonist see the movie Onegin c.1999. Oh those Russians, so tragic, so sexy.

Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything 1989
(just watch the excellent first movie by Cameron Crowe or read Chuck's essay...you don't need me rehashing)

a day in the life...

Reading Schopenhauer on the tube...everyone thinks he is a mysoginist and a pessimist, I actually am quite partial to old Arthur. I feel for him. I know why he has these opinons of women and understand that he doesn't really hate them but he never managed to get the love and attention that he craved.
When the first female role model in your life (dear mother) doesn't make you feel your own worth and bags you out to Goethe where do you go from there? Endless rejection, endless longing. My favourite grumpy German.

Cradling Marlboro lights on my fingertips. Old friend. Always there when I need to regroup and focus, cigarettes will kill you though. Gah. Red red wine in the evening leaves me looking like I've been punched in the mouth...a suitable illustration for how I feel. I have been converted to the Church of Blossom Hill...who knew the Californians can make a mean Merlot? Certainly not me.

Decide I want a poodle as an homage to Mr. Schopenhauer. Ok maybe not right now though.
I read an article that said listening to sad music when you are down actually makes you feel better, as opposed to worse; cue Ryan Adams, a man who has given me more comfort than he will ever know. One day I will buy him a drink or three. Absolutely.

Being a hopeless romantic is hard work; it's hopeless because inevitably no one will love you the same way you want or need to be loved. There are people out there, I'm sure. I've only met one so far and I'm too terrified to explore this further with him and so keep him in the shadows, much to both our dismay...the dissapointment and longing is a badge we hopeless romantics must wear time and again.

Try in vain to keep away from one very very lovely English boy who turns me into a gibbering idiot with every interaction, and he reads Schopenhauer too, oh the pain. Searching for converstation but only find stammers and stops and banal comments on both our parts; "it's really bright in here isn't it?" Holy crap. If only you could just say "look, I really want to kiss you" maybe just to see their reaction. Ok, I like stirring things up...but I will keep that comment to myself. I hate when people ask for permission to kiss someone for the first time. The tentative politeness ruins it. Passion is not synonymous with politeness.

Schopenhauer is an old friend to me now. I rue the fact we will never have a proper dialogue..our conversations are so one-sided; I read him and relate and say to him "oh you don't really mean that, you're just hurting and scared like me" and he just keeps on going. Sometimes he relents and I break out into a grin, gleeful that I cracked his gruff exterior if only for a second, buried in a sentence somewhere.

Thinking about Virginia Woolf and she's right, I do need a room of my own. What am I going to do with all that spare time that was once gobbled up and filled to the brim with a lover? Be completely selfish, that's what. It's about time. Boys get more attention than they deserve and don't give much back for it either. Write, look out the window, do my own stuff without feeling self concious...it's been far too long. Edward Hopper Morning Sun, 1952

8 June 2008

Sunday in Αθήνα


As soon as I left Monastiraki station, there it was; the Acropolis! Monastiraki markets are heaving with uneven walkways and painfully kitschy tourist shops –I only wish I had room enough in my luggage to bring back my very own large model of the Acropolis complete with internal glowing orange light.
I was tempted to buy a small version of the Parthenon that I’m pretty sure was an ashtray but decided all those Doric columns would be too hard to clean. Quite fitting really as Athens is not known for it’s clean air and much damage has afflicted the buildings on the Acropolis because of it. Still.
I loved the proper flea market which operates on Sundays; random things like door handles, old pistols, a LOT of tiny opera glasses and old watches. Of course!
In the main square of the flea market one stallholder was shouting at the top of his lungs, over what injustice, I’m still not sure, but he was outraged by something. He kept mentioning ‘xartia’ (papers). I have a feeling it was to do with people who don’t have the right to live/work in Greece incringing on the Greeks proper. Some agreed with him which spurred him on further, some shouted back to shut up as this was their workplace too and they are trying to serve customers, one said ‘irimise re yimnokefale!’ (calm down naked-head!) haha…when I looked at him again, he actually was balding which made me laugh. Normally the Greeks favour ‘xerokefale’ as an insult (implying your head is hard and thick).

I love how abrupt the Greeks are, there is 100% nothing subtle about them. When they disagree or even when they don’t, they fly into an impassioned raucous performance but don’t seem to expend any energy doing it –they just keep going.
That hair trigger reaction of extreme emotion is something that has been mentioned to me and has often made me question whether or not this is normal or insane. In the marketplace I realized that this quality I have which others make me feel is improper and out of control is actually a very normal cultural Greek thing, as those in the Marketplace attested to. Why I ever questioned my own sanity really disappoints me.
The Greeks don’t bat an eyelid at such velocity of emotions. Unfortunately…the non-Greeks (hello Aussies) do. Do you water down your natural cultural upbringing for the sake of milder Anglo sensibilities or do you continue to let it fly? My money is on the latter.

The weather here is like Sydney, white sunshine that bleaches out everything and air that clings to your skin so you are always damp. When I woke up Sunday morning I was a little disorientated –in a strange bed and my surroundings didn’t sound like they normally do. I went out onto the balcony and saw white, cream, beige and every shade in between of apartment blocks stacked on top of one another as far as I could see; aha… I am in Αθήνα!
*Cue my Hiro Nakumara pose of hands spread out, victorious with glee!*
After a while you learn to ignore the feeling of being damp, sticky and coated in a thin film of dust. But oh…when a breeze comes along you almost forget your clothes are plastered to you –in a moment cool air lightly feathers its fingers over you ever so quickly. The only word for it is delicious.

One of the many rogue dogs is playing tug of war with a young guy and his absent girlfriend’s black cardigan. The guy is at a loss until his girlfriend promptly marches over to him and the dog, brazenly grabs the dog by his scruff and retrieves her cardigan; giving her boyfriend a look that probably made him feel about 2 inches tall.
Doggy by this time is really excited and still wanted to play, hopping about madly. When the couple wouldn’t oblige him he consoled himself by letting his own tail be the next item up for grabs. Then the air, then the leaves he was kicking up whilst spinning around to get to his tail.
-Oh to be a dog in the sun and create your own playground always!

OVERHEARD : At the entrance to the Ancient Agora 1:50pm

Do you have any information on the Apocalypse?” –American woman, mid-forties.

I think the only connection the Greeks have with the Apocalypse was that Revalations was written in Greek. That’s about it.
Or, if you ask the Greeks they can tell you the Apocalypse is coming in 2010 when smoking indoors will be banned in Greece.
Panayia mou! Ti treles!

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