Friday, March 31, 2006


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Mr. Bensah’s post on the eclipse is not to be eclipsed. It’s got all the drama and the awe that I couldn’t really muster when I managed to see it (just for a few seconds -- my glasses, with which I really enjoyed the last eclipse, having expired, oh, six years ago). We had 95% coverage here in Crete, and the eclipse took place just before 2 p.m.

I still want to take a minimalist approach, so I’ll just quote my mom (via email) since she always has something to say: “Did you see the eclipse? We saw pictures and it looked as if it was ‘near’ you. It is still inspiring, even if all the superstitions are known to be silly!”

Wednesday, March 29, 2006



It's out !

Aris (and his friends) have had their 15 minutes of fame. I haven't yet, but that's cool...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ugly, ugly people

[AIR: Not ugly people]

I went to the local Tax Office today (or Εφορία, to you). They totally broke my balls (I know, it's funny when I say balls). They always do...

I usually walk out of there thinking why all Tax Office employees are such helpless, offensive pieces of shit.

Today, however, I found myself wondering why they are all so APPALLINGLY UGLY. They all look miserably and desperately sick; like they live inside a glass box pumped with stale cigarette smoke and big-city pollution. Hey, maybe they do, what do I know...

Horribly ugly people...

black and white and sort of stylized

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Illustrations from the lovely and moving Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi. Someone recently told me I remind him of an Iranian girl he used to know. He said it had nothing to do with the veil, but rather some expressions. I think there could be a likeness after all.

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Some scenarios are so beautifully profound and romantic… until you have to live them yourself. Pain is so edifying in novels, the heroine so much the better for having loved and lost. In real life, they say it’s the hormones, it’s the pregnancy, it’ll pass. If they are right, if it is the pregnancy, what better or realer reason could there be for feeling everything twice as strong? If everything seems to take on more importance at a time like this, it’s because everything does take on more importance at a time like this. A terrible importance. And we’re talking about things like having someone’s hand to hold one weekend and no one’s the next; having someplace to go, a place where you are wanted, and noplace at all; knowing what you want and realizing in a half-lit churchyard, for what seems like the first time but can’t be, that they are all the same things you can’t want. I’d been in that churchyard before.

He didn’t even ask me where I’d been. He just laughed like it was all just a silly thing that happened. I said, only because I promised my mother I would, “Do you want to talk about this?” He said, “You had your chance to talk about it last night,” when we sat through a painfully long and embarrassingly short dinner together, in silence, at Erganos. But even then, I tried.

I had just spent an hour sewing the cat-eaten couch back together, and I wondered out loud if the buka would take one look around and wish it could go back where it came from. I know that was not the most sensitive way to put it. It wasn’t about our finances; it wasn’t about his ability to provide or to protect our material possessions from the cat of mass destruction. I was really just asking if the buka will like us. It is something of concern to me.

Now we’re in a phase where we don’t talk at all. I’m holding my tongue, thinking very carefully about what it is I want to say, or rather, what it is I want to do. He believes in routines. He won’t invite trouble, or emotion, which to him are the same things.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Crazy Chinese!

21:30 - Order Chinese. Crispy duck etc...
22:25 - Food delivered. Dead hungry!
23:10 - Done eating, sticky fingers.
23:13 - Crack fortune cookie open.


So... the opportunity of a lifetime, in the next 42 minutes. Let's wait and see...


It's 11:37 now as I am posting this. Nothing yet.


Will let you know...

1 ACROSS: faux __ __ __

(it always starts easy)

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It’s my father’s fault. Or maybe I could trace it one step further back and say it’s his newspaper’s fault. It’s so full of small-town gossip and “blogging” -- which is what my father quite rightly, and uncannily (what does he know about blogs?), calls the ridiculously inappropriate and sentimental ramblings on personal and irrelevant subjects that constitute the local columnists’ sole contribution to the dissemenation of “news” in his area -- that the only thing he could find to sink his teeth into was… the crossword puzzle. It became a daily thing, first his, then mine.

At Christmas, we did a puzzle together everyday. Well, sort of together. He started calling me his closer, giving me a chance to work on it -- I’d usually close the deal -- only after he’d exhausted his own abilities. There was definitely a competitive aspect.

He still does his puzzle everyday. He informs me by email that Begonia (the cat) is not as good a closer as I was. He clips the columns that annoy him the most -- and sends thick stacks of them to me to annoy me too. He also sends me puzzles, really big ones, from Sundays. He says they’re duplicates (he keeps the smaller, more manageable weekday ones for himself), but I think he mostly wants to challenge me, to test my patience and resourcefulness exactly the way the puzzles test his.

And he knows I can’t resist the challenge. I work on the same puzzle for days. He never asks me how it’s going, or even if I bother. I know my obsession has more to do with me than him, but still, I don’t want to disappoint him. I don’t want him to think I’m stupid, or that I give up too soon. I don’t want to think these things about myself. Worse, I don’t want to be one of those shallow irrelevant blogger people that earn his scorn with their naïve and insignificant sentimentality. Not that he knows about this blog, or the other one. Not that I have anything to worry about. Like I said, it’s about me, not him.

P.S. I dedicate 102 DOWN to Steph.
The clue is “sell out.”
Here’s what I had to go on for the longest time: __ __ T O N.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


I found this little guy in my garden this morning. About 12cm long. He was moving slowly, seemed not too well...

I wanna help him out, but dunno what to do. Maybe he just woke up from a hibernation (do salamanders hibernate?).

What do salamanders eat? (is it really a salamander?)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Jason's Prime

I'm used to solving problems. All different sorts of them.

But this one... Wow! I'm telling you, this one's totally got me by the balls.

What do I do?

Friday, March 17, 2006


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I love it that a Greek man can love cats (two words) this much.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


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Couldn’t sleep last night. This was due, in part, I think, to a suddenly crazy work schedule (which ordinarily wouldn’t bother me, but I had planned to spend this week on other things) and in part to Crash, which the New Yorker cheerfully exalts as a “brazenly alive and heartbreaking film.” I didn’t watch it because it won. I watched it because I finally found it available on the shelves of my redemptive albeit hit-and-miss DVD club and it is the only one of the five nominees for best pic, the only one, to appear in any form, big screen or small, in my charming but unfortunate, culturally deprived town.

After the first five minutes, I found the film and each subsequent crash in it superfluous and heavy-handed (as my college poetry teacher used to say). The New Yorker says the “bizarre coincidences” that predictably and inexorably weave the disparate characters’ lives into one plot, as if all of Los Angeles consisted of about 25 people, “feel exactly right.” I remember saying “oh, brother” more than once.

Still, things do happen: the bad cop and the good cop do a classic flip-flop; Sandra Bullock nails the rich but desperate housewife (watch out for those slippery socks on your extravagantly slick wooden floors!); a magic mantle saves a little girl whose incongruously tatooed daddy is the most sympathetic character in the film.

I’ve never been to L.A. The America I know is rarely the one that makes it to the movies. There is plenty of ignorance that looks an awful lot like intolerance, but I think it does a great disservice to put so obvious and so violent a face on it. We swallow it in small doses, and the more we swallow, the more insidious it becomes.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


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Camera shy, and not much to look at. But mine. The rest of the story is over there.


I knew it right away. Slightly swollen, slightly off-balance, a little dizzy going up. I knew in Amsterdam better than to drink beer. In Maryland, I ordered a glass of wine, as a decorative object more than anything. I knew and I didn’t. It was Christmas, after all. And I didn’t say a word, not even when all the talk was about my brother, his wife, his baby, his plans. All the talk. And while they talked, my breasts swelled, and my belly bloated. I went out and bought supplies for that time of the month. And when that time didn’t come, I went out again and bought a test. By then, of course, I knew.

6:30 in the morning, I walked to the bathroom, I read the instructions, I took my time. One minute, it said, before the result would appear, maybe less. I wanted that minute, alone in the quiet house. But it wasn’t a minute, and I wasn’t alone.

I stared at the word that told me so, still half-expecting some sign of ambiguity, or negation, fearing it and wanting it. I gave up on that and turned my attention to the mirror, searched the same pink face I recognized from pictures in which I looked impossibly young and impossibly happy for someone who was neither. I searched for something different or something sure, anything, really. I looked at myself for an hour, numbed and cold, telling myself, and telling him, mouthing the words, none of which made it any realer, the fact of it, or the implications.

7:30, edge of the bed, a broken promise poised. “We’re having a baby,” I said, still not sure that was the right thing to say, or the right way to say it. “That’s great news,” he answered, adding my name, an endearment, and a hug. We haven’t said much about it since. And what should we say? Things are going well. When I cry, he reminds me that other people have problems.

While I’ve hardly felt a thing.

Neither a love child nor an accident, it’s been called a little bean, a little fish, and a little buka. It gets bigger everyday. I’ve seen it swimming like mad, hiding its little face with its little hands, hilarious, and heart-breaking. It’s eight centimeters, an immensity that I struggle to comprehend. And yet it’s so slight, it could be nothing at all.

Now when I go to work, all the girls ask, “How’s the baby?” I wish they wouldn’t mention it. I’ve said the secrecy was the hardest part, but all my instincts told me to hide it. It’s not so easy anymore. I don’t show it off; I’m more embarrassed than proud. I feel for my colleagues in loving marriages who’ve been trying for years. I feel for the other ones whose babies are learning to eat and grasp and crawl. The questions used to be about them; now they’re all about me. I can justify it to myself, how desperately and how long I wanted this, how badly my body wanted it, how I conceived right away. But there’s always another side. I still look at pregnant women and envy what they’ve got, not just the cute pregnant-person belly, and the clothes that suit both them and it, but all the passion I imagine they’ve got, the glow, the pride, the confidence, everything I’m supposed to be feeling but don’t.

Except when I do.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Disorder in the court

ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.
ATTORNEY: What is your date of birth?
WITNESS: July 18th.
ATTORNEY: What year?
WITNESS: Every year.
ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?
ATTORNEY: How old is your son, the one living with you?
WITNESS: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can't remember which.
ATTORNEY: How long has he lived with you?
WITNESS: Forty-five years.
ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, "Where am I, Cathy?"
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan.
ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?
ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: Uh, he's twenty-one.
ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Would you repeat the question?
ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.
ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!
ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting in a jar on my desk.
ATTORNEY: But nevertheless could the patient have still been alive?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practising law.

[I don't usually post jokes that circulate in email, I only have once in the past actually, but I thought this is cute...

These are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts, and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and published by court reporters who had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were actually taking place. Fact!]

From the garden II

I thought the garden was still asleep... but these two shy little guys proved me wrong.

(These are for Sissy.)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

complaints about work

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1. My boss recently spent a lot of money on much-needed “improvements” for the school (reliable door handles, better lighting, white boards, a toilet that flushes, a towel dispenser, a fancy new photocopier, a new coat of paint). All of these things were great for morale – for about ten minutes. Beyond that, there still aren’t enough chairs in the teachers’ office, which means I spend the breaks doing one of three things: teetering on half a chair, standing in everybody’s way, or photocopying things under false pretenses (the photocopier is in another tiny, claustrophobic room, but at least I usually end up in there alone). The classrooms are no better. There are too many kids in them too. And most of those kids seem to be innately compelled to desecrate or destroy anything shiny, clean, or new.

2. It’s March, and I still haven’t been given my tax form from 2005. Things may be more relaxed in Greece, but George W. is waiting. (It’s the accountant’s fault, says the boss, not very helpfully.)

3. Not too long ago, a proud parent whose kid had done well on an exam brought us a cake. It was a big, round, chocolate cake – a very generous gift, but not the most practical thing in the world to be shared by 15 people with a five-minute break between classes, not to mention that we didn’t even have a knife to cut it with or paper plates or forks (I know, I know, in Greece, you eat cake with a spoon). So one of my colleagues suggested putting the cake in the fridge overnight, bringing in all the essentials the next day, and having a proper party. It was a great idea. By then, however, our boss had taken it upon himself to give our cake (our cake!) away – to the cleaning lady.

It’s little things like these that get under my skin and make me resent the fact that I have to work there at all. But something happened on Friday that put it all in perspective and made me realize that I don’t have to work there, I choose to work there. And that I’m lucky to have that choice.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

From the garden

I promised Lu and Lochie something from the garden. Anything...

Turns out this time of the year, on this side of our globe, or in these few square meters of it that I call my garden anyway, not much of interest is to be found. There's always Poly, of course (and I get the impression he has some surprises in stock), but right now he's rather dormant. And the rest of the plants look quite... sad.

So instead of waiting a few weeks for the flowers to show up again, I cheated and dug up some pictures I took last summer...

I hope it's ok!

PS. L&L, I'll be sharing that tomato with Sissy, I trust you won't mind...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


...for tonight.


Athens, February 1989.

One of them four mummies is me (I honestly don't remember which one...)


Johnny: Resolve is never stronger than in the morning after it was never weaker.

Johnny: No matter how many books you read, there is something in this world that you never ever ever ever ever fucking understand.

Johnny: I've got an infinite number of places to go, the problem is somewhere to stay.

Louise: So what happened, were you bored in Manchester?
Johnny: Was I bored? No, I wasn't fuckin' bored. I'm never bored. That's the trouble with everybody - you're all so bored. You've had nature explained to you and you're bored with it, you've had the living body explained to you and you're bored with it, you've had the universe explained to you and you're bored with it, so now you want cheap thrills and, like, plenty of them, and it doesn't matter how tawdry or vacuous they are as long as it's new as long as it's new as long as it flashes and fuckin' bleeps in forty fuckin' different colors. So whatever else you can say about me, I'm not fuckin' bored.

Johnny: Oh, "Jane Austen" by Emma. That's one of me favorite books.

[Mike Leigh, 1993. It's just one of those movies...]