Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year

To all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

By popular demand

[Bear scratching back, from here]

OK, I got a couple of requests for this story. It's not much, and I'm sure I'll massacre it in the narration, but anyway. This came up at a dinner a couple of days ago, but I distinctly remember having read about it in a daily newspaper a few years back, so I am pretty sure it's a true incident.

It's about a guy who was walking to work one morning, in the city of Patra. At some point his back felt seriously itchy, so after a few failed attempts to relieve the annoying sensation with his hands, he did what bears usually do. Since no trees were in sight, he located an electricity pole, put his bag down, leaned against the pole and started violently scratching his entire back on it.

At that moment another person was walking across the street. He turned his head and noticed the man with his back against the electricity pole, shaking up and down and left and right. Surprised by the sight and violent movements, he thought that the man had somehow gotten an electric shock from the pole! He knew that he had to find a way to detatch him from the pole, as soon as possible. He ran towards him in a frenzy. But if he touched him, he would probably get electrocuted also! So he grabbed a large plank of wood from a nearby construction site, and started violently beating the man, trying to push him off the pole!

The other guy obviously didn't see any of this coming. Before he had any idea what was going on, or any chance to react or say something, he was beaten so bad that he ended up in hospital with two cracked ribs and a dislocated shoulder!

As far as I remember, no charges were pressed.


[My dinner with Andre]

That's how it goes these days. Dinner in, dinner out... Friends, jokes, laughs, stories about dogs and twice-deceased rabbits, stories about people getting their ribs broken because of an itchy back, good food, good wine...

It's ok...

Nothing changes.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Far away so close

Years ago I fell in love with this movie's soundtrack. It was the first one I ever owned.

This Christmas I received two more great ones; presents from a loved one.

Far away, yet so close...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Live long and prosper

Best wishes to all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Today is the shortest day of the year. And I really have no problem with that.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

home for the holidays

Image Hosted by
Catster says this cat is cooler than mine

Christmas is coming early this year. For me, anyway. I’ll be good and open my presents when I’m supposed to, but I won’t have to be patient much longer. Two short flights and one night in Amsterdam. One more flight (a long one), two hours or less in a car, and I’ll be home. I call it home, but it was never my home. I didn’t grow up in that house. My parents moved south when I moved west. I took most of what I owned with me, but it ended up back with them, in the basement where I slept that one year between the Great Plains and Greece, and where I sleep now, as a guest. I see my books, my bed, my cactus, and my cat once a year. At Christmas.

The books are in boxes, stacked sky high; the cactus is just as tall, immovable now, having reached the ceiling of the sun porch and started growing across it, and into it. As for the cat, she is no longer mine. She remembers me, but I sit alone and jealous while she snuggles up with my mom, or more often, my dad. She visits my mother in bed at night, meows, brings toys; mom puts them under the pillow, half-asleep, and wakes up to a funny collection in the morning. They have an understanding, those two, and a sense of humor.

My bed is in pieces -- parts of a life I sometimes think about going back to.

It’s a comfort to have somewhere to go, even if it’s only for two weeks of the year, sometimes three. When I go home, I always have the sense of going home. The strange part is that I feel it equally strongly, when I come back.

Merry Christmas to everyone. Especially you, Steph.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Someone told me yesterday that it feels like Christmas. I know what it means and don't want to think about it.

But the little pomegranate tree in my garden seems to agree!

Monday, December 12, 2005

winter in you

Image Hosted by
You Said Love by the Gus

Here’s a poem written by Laura Sims, a middle-school classmate of mine. We used to tease this girl for her glasses, but I think we all knew, and secretly conceded, that she was cooler than the rest of us. She’s published now. She’s won awards. She’s the envy of another classmate (“so effing jealous” was the phrase she used), also a writer, and a good friend, the only one, in fact, who asked me how I felt about my brother’s news (a loaf in the proverbial oven), who understands how unhappy it can make a person, to be happy for someone else.

Have I seen such a tower

Her fleshy, spectacular hand
Would the dogs not find

A tower of ash when the hearth wound down
What it costs

to put winter in you!
Her nails cleanly sculpted, bare

And the autumn?
One buys tires for life

Then her hair falls down

Her hand
Is the winter

lost, little innocent people?

(A blogger person has a nice review of this poem here.)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

long life

Image Hosted by

This granny was born in 1913. We share the same name.

She lost her mother in the influenza pandemic of 1918. She spent her childhood in the village hiding from pirates and threshing wheat. Sometimes, she danced all night at the Church of Agios Panteleimon.

At the age of 19, in a very discreet and indirect way, she found herself engaged to be married. The village was exercising some subtle pressure on her husband-to-be to choose a wife, get settled. He declared staunchly that he wasn’t interested in marriage; he wanted to “create himself” first. But there was one girl, he admitted, who had caught his eye.

She comes from a good family, the intermediaries enthusiastically responded, but they don’t last long. There’s always something. She has outlived them all, of course.

When she was approached, her first reaction was also to declare an adamant disinterest in marriage. “You’d better think hard,” they told her. “He’s a good man.” So she turned it over more than once in her mind -- and realized that since those people were neither his relatives nor hers, they had nothing to gain from the match. When the couple finally came face to face, he wanted to be sure that it was her decision to marry him, not the village’s. “I take you,” she said, and she did.

There are no pictures from their wedding, no pictures at all from their youth. But there is one of them in old age, taken by a tourist on her way to the village museum. It shows an old man and an old woman sitting outside the house they rebuilt with their own hands after the Germans burnt it and everything in it and around it to the ground. Hand in hand. And proud.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

(more) hearts and flowers

Image Hosted by

The space man's dream
is not unlike your
(according to J.Nevada)

I’m not the only one whose head is full of hearts and flowers these days. I’m really interested in relationships, that much is obvious, but I’m not really one to give advice. Even so, a friend wrote me with a good question: What does it mean when she is peeling the label off the beer when I’m talking w/ her? He assures me it’s no joke.

And he’s right. Her body will give her away. Facial expressions, tone of voice, “illustrators” -- these are all perfectly harmless in normal circumstances. But when there is some conflict in the self (some call it stress), these mannerisms speed up, especially the repetitive ones like hair-twirling, finger-tapping, label-peeling; our hands carry out our heart’s desires. Make too few gestures, you’ve got something to hide. Make too many, and you are trying to distract. Emotional signals are so easy to spot, and we all know what to look for. We do it as a matter of course.

We’ve got the knowledge -- when people pretend to smile, the corners of their mouths turn down, not up, and even babies know to check the wrinkles around the eyes -- but there’s always a danger of misinterpretation. There’s a reason a polygraph is not admissible in court.

Lying is just one source of stress. There are many others. Like fear, arousal, and love.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Image Hosted by

Tis the season.

I started my Christmas shopping today, or rather my Christmas looking. It's been six years now; I've given pomegranates to everyone I know, and good luck charms full of blue beads and little silver garlics. I've done the wine, I've done the cheese, and I've done the baklava. I did textiles once, and wedding wreaths when relevant. Chocolate is a standard. I was on my way home, empty-handed and empty-headed as far as Christmas was concerned, when I met a dear old friend, an acquaintance really, on a motorcycle. We stopped, we kissed, we held hands a little too long. It was great to see him. I was carrying my manousakia (must be a Cretan thing) and feeling not Christmassy exactly, but nostalgic. A little romantic. Flowery.

It wasn't that guy. It was the other one.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bureaucracy my foot!

The task of the day was the following:
- Get Transcript A from City Hall.
- Use A to get Transcript B from City Hall.
- Use B to get paper C from Registrar's office.
- Use A&C to get Transcript D from City Hall.
- Submit D to Ministry of Culture (along with E,F,G, etc., the results of tasks of previous days).
- Get little piece of paper with a protocol number on it, put it in wallet, take care not to lose it.

Most of it was useless, as I found out later. But that was no consolation to my poor feet, that walked me all around Athens non-stop. If I didn't have the greatest company imaginable with me (on and off), it would have been quite unbearable...


I did finally have a chance to scientifically verify something I suspected from a long time ago:

I have ancient Greek feet!

In the main room of the City Hall, where I spent most of my day, there was a statue of an ancient Greek Kouros, actual size. And I noticed that it's feet had a peculiarity that my feet also share: The second toe (see little arrows) is longer than the great toe!

A little google research produced the following statistics:

"According to anatomists:
- 3/4 of the population have a so-called Egyptian foot which is characterized by a great toe longer than the second toe
- 1/6 of the population have a so-called Greek foot where the great toe is shorter than the second toe, while
- The rest of the population have a square foot where the great toe has the same length as the second."

Modern Greek bureaucracy sucks, but ancient Greek feet are SOOO cool!


PS. I would have pursued this investigation into other parts, but the statue was... handicapped :-)