Monday, October 31, 2005


Birthday boy!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Stromboli expedition

In late September 2002 I found myself on the volcanic island of Stromboli, and undertook a night expedition to the top of the volcano. This is a concise account of that night, in few words and some pictures. Why? Sissy knows...

I set "base camp" in a really nice bed-and-breakfast named "La Locanda del Barbablu'". From the terrace, the view to the volcano was captivating:

The expedition started out in the late afternoon, on a narrow path leading up to the mountain. After a few minutes walk, we had a first view of the black, burnt northern slopes of the mountain known as the "Sciara del Fuoco":

A few more turns of the road, and a gaze at the sunset over the hazy sea surrounding the Aeolian Islands:

As the dark of night set in, we were faced with the first signs of volcanic activity:

But we could not have imagined the continuous explosions that we would witness once on top, at regular intervals of about 4 minutes, with one really great one every half an hour. I set up my tripod, and shot some of the action:

Finally, a few hours past midnight, we set out for our return to sea-level, flashlights in hand, through a slope covered by volcanic ashes in which we sunk deep all the way to our knees with every step:

It was memorable.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

making the news

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one of these was mine

By sheer coincidence (and the death of a friend), my father has recently put me back in touch with someone I used to work with -- in my very first job as a college graduate. It was her job that I took, as a matter of fact (she got a promotion but kept the same desk, right next to mine), so it fell to her to show me the ropes, introduce me around, and buy me a little of the credibility that I would need with key sources. I could never have filled her shoes, and after the first week or so on the beat, I didn’t even want to. I thought I could be a writer, but I realized quickly that I wasn’t cut out for being a reporter.

And yet I was one; I was a photographer, too. I wrote some stories I am still proud of -- and did a lot of things in my youth and arrogance of which I am not. Many things changed for me in that year.

And many more have changed since. It would be so easy to sum it all up in a neat, coherent paragraph, to write a life for myself of drama and adventure in a foreign country. I’ve done it before, so many times. It’s a story that never gets stale. So why is it easier for me at this moment to write this post to total strangers than it is to write that email to her? I was a consummate actress in those days. I worked what I had. Maybe I should try it again.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Fly by night

Ljubljana vs Prague

Ljubljana - Castle

Ljubljana - River

Prague - Castle

Prague - River

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Slovenia 4

Mediocre Tiramisu'.
Best hot chocolate EVER!
Most beautiful Slovenian girl i saw.

Slovenia 3

Heroes of the past.

Heroes of the future.

Slovenia 2

A "birds-eye-view" looking down the staircase leading up to the tower of the castle of Ljubljana.

A tourist's take on the issues with the view in the opposite direction (click to enlarge).

Slovenia 1

One of the world-renowned Lipizzaner horses (from the Lipizza (Lipica) region and stud farm in the south of Slovenia).

A (less renouned) Lipizzaner cat (from the same farm).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

good vs evil

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Stumpy and Rita Sue

Reading: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

Favorite line: “He had eaten his share of the dinner, but he hadn’t really enjoyed it because he was thinking all the time about Turkish Delight – and there’s nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half as much as the memory of bad magic food.”

This is one of those books that every child (and/or every religion major) thinks he has read until he (or she in this case) actually decides to read it. I knew the conceits going in; still, the story (I mean the storytelling, the language) surprised me in its violence, its simplicity, its implicit sexuality, its expectations of these four little kids. I find myself underlining passages, like the above.

Watching: Carnivale (season one, on DVD)

Favorite line: “He didn’t knock me up. That only happens in dime novels.”

Everybody gets laid in this one; the sexuality couldn’t be more explicit, although not all of it is fulfilled in the usual ways. I just love that Rita Sue. And Sofie. There’s something so compelling about women in hard times. Again, it's about latency and expectation. And the way we line things up, the bad just as engaging as the good.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

ex officio

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(changed my mind about the shoes)

Three questions a man asks himself when falling in love*:
• How can I win her?
• How many have known her?
• And when will I see her again?

It’s that second one that intrigues me. It seems particularly masculine to me: there’s a competitiveness, an inherent need to one-up, not just one ex, but any and all exes, that I suspect is genuine. Everyone wants to be loved best and last, but I doubt it’s a coincidence that it was a man from whom I first heard the term “bruised peach.” He was referring at the time to his wife, and the circumstances in which she converted to Mormonism and subsequently married him. An awful thing to say, but said with humility. And pride.

A woman has to be desired to be desirable, but she can’t be too experienced or too demanding. She should be bruised a bit, but not damaged. I’ve been thinking about exes lately. In the abstract, not my own. Something about a friend looking for the perfect pair of shoes to wear to a wedding, at which her husband’s ex would be in attendance. The shoes weren’t exactly the issue.

There is no substitution when it comes to love; relationships have a cumulative effect. There’s a layering of experience and expectation, a build-up, both a buffer and a wall.

* from a novel I enjoyed but do not recommend

Friday, October 14, 2005


Thursday, October 13, 2005

I got the blues for you

As I stand by your flame
I get burned once again
Feelin' low down, I'm blue

As I sit by the fire
Of your warm desire
I've got the blues for you, yeah


In the silk sheet of time
I will find peace of mind
Love is a bed full of blues

And I've got the blues for you
And I've got the blues for you
And I'll bust my brains out for you
And I'll tear my hair out
I'm gonna tear my hair out just for you
If you don't believe what I'm singing
At three o'clock in the morning, babe, well
I'm singing my song for you

-- I got the blues
(M. Jagger/K. Richards)
Recorded in March & May, 1970. Released April 23, 1971 on the album Sticky Fingers

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

winter wardrobe

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with ears.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

a pain in (or somewhere near) the neck

Pain is hard to assess and hard to manage. You think you can tolerate pain. When the doctor asks if you're okay, you say yes. You say the same when he tells you it's not pain at all; it's fear that you feel, not the needle or the knife or the pressure or the cyst. It's fear that turned your vision black and your skin bright white, ice cold, covered in sweat. It could be.

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It's hard to imagine pain until you feel it yourself, and then it's hard to imagine it gone.

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solution (phase 1)

More than one type of pain has converged in me. I am constantly reminded that it could be worse, that people suffer worse things. I'm in good hands; the doctor is family. And according to him, I'm in no pain at all. Just cover it up. It no longer exists.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

nice pants

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100% polyester

I’m a sucker for a good pants story. Who isn’t? This one came to me in an email. I have the writer's permission to reproduce it here, and I do so with minimal editing.

It started when this person was asked to be in a friend’s wedding in September. This would involve wearing a tux.

When he went in for the fitting, the young woman working there gave him a pair of size 40 pants to try on. She said they would fit. (Anybody who knows anything about sizing could take one look at this guy and realize this was a mistake.) My friend, being a nice guy, not the kind of guy to complain, dutifully tried them on -- then he waltzed out to the fitting area wearing the potato sack. Holding the waist out far from his own, he mentioned they may be a little big for him.

The couple about to get married witnessed the whole event. They said it was all an elaborate ruse on the part of the girl to get a look at my friend’s “package,” that he should have seen the signs and gone back to get her phone number.

That didn’t happen. And neither did the wedding. Or rather, the wedding went on as planned, as far as I know, but Hurricane Katrina made it impossible for my friend to attend, in a tux too big or perhaps just right. It was another missed opportunity -- for everyone but the girl.

Friday, October 07, 2005

greek time

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(I have no idea what this is)

You know it’s time to get the car washed, not when it’s covered with dust (it’s always covered with dust), but when the names and symbols of various sports teams you hardly recognize, and which may or may not represent you, start appearing in fingery trails on the windows and doors. Because first there are fingers, and then there are keys.

You know it’s time for bed when you hear the upstairs neighbor walking around in her high-heeled shoes, getting ready to go out.

You know it’s winter when it rains. (At least where I live.)

Other times are a little less definite. TV programs start whenever they start, each channel on its own idiosyncratic timetable. “Morning” extends to after noon, and “noon” is from 2 to 4 p.m. “Breakfast” is coffee first thing and a cheesepie midmorning, well into the workday, and the workday could be five hours or eight, depending on the day of the week.

Last night (aka “afternoon”) I asked my students, “What's the difference between ‘on time’ and ‘in time’?” One brave but hesitant boy raised his hand. “On time is when you arrive five or ten minutes late, but it’s okay.” I stopped him there, before his uniquely Greek theory could be fully fleshed out.

“That’s not on time or in time,” I said. “That’s Greek time!” For once, they had to admit I was right. I'm not complaining. As far as time is concerned, I'm as Greek as they are.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


My friend here has offered to fill in for me, until i am back (cables and all)... And I know someone who could use a little bit of company the next few days. So this worked perfectly!

But I won't be far... quite the contrary.

[L8r, you!]

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

broken street

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I’ve been calling this street the broken street. It must have a proper name. The street is not only broken; it is deconstructed, destroyed. It has been for weeks. It’s uneven, and full of rocks and piles of rocks that shift and slide underfoot in parts, and puddles in others. Pipes are exposed; engines rumble and churn up dust. The bookstore I frequent is full of it.

You have to walk a rickety wooden plank to reach it, or the travel agent, or the police.

This street is in the central shopping district in my town. Not much shopping is taking place there these days. Nor much construction, from what I can tell. But the people have to walk through there. There’s no other way. Most are extra careful -- not to misstep, twist an ankle, get a sandalful of mud or a lungful of exhaust. But here, more than anyplace else, I keep getting hit -- with bodies, shopping bags, baby buggies. I’m tired of it.

It’s every man for himself on the broken street, and every other street, in my town. In the myth I have of myself (my other life), none of this stuff happens. Not where I come from.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Στον Παγασητικό

Στον Παγασητικό, χαθήκαμε το βράδυ,
Στον Παγασητικό, σε δρόμους σε νταμάρια,

Στον Παγασητικό, τη μέρα δυναμίτες,
Στον Παγασητικό, το βράδυ ερημίτες,

Στον Παγασητικό, τα σχέδια λουλούδια,
Στον Παγασητικό, λουλούδια του πελάγου.

-- Αργύρης Μπακιρτζής, Χειμερινοί Κολυμβητές, 1981

Monday, October 03, 2005

the consumer in me

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As a rule, I don’t buy Greek magazines, or "women’s magazines," but I really wanted that t-shirt with Sakis Rouvas’ signature on it. It’s not a classic now, but it will be, by next summer, or the next. Some forms of irony take time.

I’m always amazed at the weight of these magazines themselves. They’re too weighty to throw away, too light to be worth the trouble of carrying home.

I did, though. And I read about the girl whose palms are embarrassingly sweaty during sex and the bored housewives having no sex at all. I read about adoption in Greece (something I’ve wondered about) and how men fear getting married almost as much as staying single. I skimmed past all the fashion pages and the ads (I couldn’t tell you which were which) and finally found what I was looking for:

The courage of conviction, to throw it away.

Saturday, October 01, 2005