Saturday, April 29, 2006

scouting the Outpost, part 1

The Outpost is everything he says it is. (Yes, this island, this country, does have a name, but I won’t be the one to reveal it -- although, sorry, Lox, it won’t be hard to figure out, given my descriptions.)

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In the airport, upon arrival, I smelled urine. There were some people with cat carriers, and I thought that explained it. But when I stepped out of the airport into the cool night air, the smell got even stronger, despite the wind. I boarded the coach with the rest of the tour group, breathing through my mouth, and just when I was starting to wonder if the smell was coming from me, I heard the woman behind me say, “There must be a hippodrome around here.” There was no hippodrome, just a pungeant welcome to the Outpost.

Finally got into the hotel room, stuck in the card, and the TV came on, playing what? The Bride of Chucky. The horror show continued in the bathroom, which was full of ants.

Saturday. Woke up to that infamous 95% eclipse of the sun (the stupid hotel curtains didn’t quite close), the remaining 5% of direct sunlight coming through the window being enough to rouse me at 6 a.m., much earlier than I would have hoped after so few hours of sleep. But I was ready to go. Got on the bus early, got a good seat, out of the sun, but within sight of the guide. We arrived at the archaeological museum in the capital city, and were rushed through in 45 minutes, from room to room, and tomb to tomb, some reconstructed, with or without their plunder. I was fascinated with the convincing evolution of a phallus into a cross and the fertility statues I am starting to resemble. No time to dilly dally in the museum shop or anywhere else. We were on our way.

Next stop, prison. From the cells to the gallows to the “imprisoned graves” themselves, we saw it all, accompanied by all the sordid, sad details of the tortures and executions of the local boys at the hands of the British. And how fast the cameras came out when that noose came into sight. “Grab your children by the hand,” the guide said, lest they fall into the ghastly pit. That was the least the parents could do. It was very disturbing.

When it came time to get back on the bus, the arguments ensued. I should say that we were a mixed group, some retired couples, some young couples (some with young kids), some families with teenagers. But somehow, the combination turned us all into a bunch of kindergarteners. Why? Because everybody switched seats. It was ridiculous. I got in a fight over my seat in the front, but finally gave in and resettled in the back, which was worse -- I couldn’t hear the guide at all for all the thousand arguments about who confused the seats and who should be ashamed. Finally, we stopped downtown, in “the people’s neighborhood,” for our two hours of free time, away from the bus and away from the group.

I did what a tourist is supposed to do -- went up to the observatory, walked the pedestrian streets as far as they went (which in this case was a barbed wire barricade with gunmen on either side, but hey, that too is a tourist attraction in this country), shared a halloumi sandwich with a cat, who liked it a lot more than I did. I bought a souvenir magnet.

Back on the bus, we went to the Archbishop’s palace. I was more impressed by a catfight there in the street that resulted in an extremely impressive long-distance escape. We walked to the Statue of Freedom, another monument to those who were tortured, killed, and imprisoned by the English. The members of my group got right in the middle of the statue, put on their best smiles, said cheese.

The Death Tour continued with one more stop -- a cemetery, a monument to our guys, fighter pilots and soldiers from Crete, shot down by accident by the locals they were on their way to rescue. “When it happened, they said the Americans did it,” one man said, perpetuating an outrageous inaccuracy, but one that obviously still has an appeal. “Well, yes,” the guide answered, not exactly clarifying the situation, “Kissinger was the butcher of [the Outpost].” I took it all a little personally.

(to be continued)

Friday, April 28, 2006


Just got a call (well, technically made a call, but it's the same) that completely changed my day, and my mood.

I thought I'd celebrate it with a bit of gardening! (The socks are just a perk...)

PS. Oh, and for completeness, RGB.

[PPS. Took a step back so as not to distrupt the great travelogue trilogy]

Food for the cats

Sunday, April 23, 2006

(For Greeks only...)

[click to enlarge]

Έτσι, έτσι...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

"Living in lies by the railway line
Pushing the hair from my eyes
Elvis is english and climbs the hills
Can't tell the bullshit from the lies
Screaming along in south london
Vicious but ready to learn
Sometimes I fear that the whole world is queer
Sometimes but always in vain

So I'll wait until we're sane
Wait until we're blessed and all the same
Full of blood, loving life and all it's got to give
Englishmen going insane
Down on my knees in suburbia
Down on myself in every way

With great expectations I change all my clothes
Mustn't crumble at silver and gold
Screaming above central london
Never born, so I'll never get old

So I'll wait until we're sane
Wait until we're blessed and all the same
Full of blood, loving life and all it's got to give
Englishmen going insane
Down on my knees in suburbia
Down on myself in every way

Day after
Day after
-- David Bowie, "The Buddha of Suburbia"

Dedicated to S, G and H, my only real people (and that's cool).

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Bukas and bugs

[Indicesive buka with bug]

They say it's the little things in life that are the most important...

Monday, April 17, 2006


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There’s a new girl at work. I only see her on Thursdays. She arrives in a frenzy, cheeks flushed from her scooter ride in the cool night air and a hectic rush up the stairs, always just a little late. Her hair is long and loose and red. She’s Irish. A beauty for sure, but she never looks quite put together. One week, she caused a stir in the office, a tantalizing triangle of thong brazenly exposed at the top of her summery low-cut pants. We’re a casual group. We do each other favors -- we brush off a little chalk dust here, tuck in an errant tag there. Pen marks in embarrassing places are an occupational hazard in our field. We tell each other these things. But that night, at such a sight, we all lost our tact, and our tongues. Nobody said a word to her, but needless to say, we found plenty of words to talk about it later. I’m not a prude, but I was embarrassed, for myself, and for her.

In other news, I did some househunting last week. It’s a surprisingly engrossing pastime, one that came to me right out of the blue, one I’ve never actually done before. I looked at exactly one apartment before moving out of my parents’ house so many years ago, and when a bigger one opened up across the hall, I moved into that without looking any further. For graduate school, far away in the frozen tundra, I arranged an apartment over the phone, drove west, and moved into it sight-unseen. I was extremely lucky. My accommodation in Greece was also arranged before my arrival, as was my job. It was a whole prefab life. Now I’m thinking of a remodel, a bigger space, a color scheme, kitchen cabinets, a room the buka can run around in. There aren’t many houses for sale in my neighborhood. Right now there are two contenders, both in the same price range. One is luxuriously appointed, for all intents and purposes new, ready to be moved into. But it’s not ideal, and not only because it represents some other family and some other personality that doesn’t match mine. The other is a fixer-upper, with the potential to be a classic. Such an undertaking takes money and time, neither of which my current circumstances admit in much measure.

Despite that, I’ll be spending Easter in the Outpost, wondering if one or both of those houses will have been sold by the time I come back, wondering why what’s difficult is also what’s desirable.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

the secret life of peeps

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The whole sordid gallery can be viewed here.

… and mine (who knows what they do when I’m not looking?) are just sitting in a nice neat row in the cabinet, not making a peep. Thanks, mom, and happy Easter to anyone celebrating today. (Round here, we still have to wait a week. Be patient, peeps.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ocellated integrated

Eventually, after a couple of uncomfortable weeks of hiding here and there, our skink found its way around my garden, and identified what seems to be its new micro-habitat of choice. Clearly happier, it now moves faster and more frequently. It also enjoys sliding its tongue out and back in, now and then, in a very reptilesque way. It's cute...

But what really astonished me is that, underneath one of those pitch black rocks, I found a newborn skink laying low and waiting. I cannot be sure that it's the offspring of our friend, but if it is... then wow! This guy's been busier than I thought (and where's the missus hiding, by the way?).

Anyway, it seems that naming season is open. Any pitches?


“You are the best. You are the worst. You are average. Your love is a part of you. You try to give it away because you cannot bear its radiance, but you cannot separate it from yourself. To understand your fellow humans, you must understand why you give them your love. You must realize that hate is but a crime-ridden subdivision of love. You must reclaim what you never lost. You must take leave of your sanity, and yet be fully responsible for your actions.”
- Gnarls Barkley

"Perhaps Gnarls Barkley will never fully reveal himself. But if St. Elsewhere is any indication, his music bears Marvin Gaye’s depth of feeling, Jeff Buckley’s emotive theatrics, and wild courage not seen since Prince’s prime. Behold the most exciting debut of 2006. A psychedelic soul masterpiece. Gnarls Barkley may not be easily located, but he won’t be a stranger."

Saturday, April 08, 2006


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love cookie, intact

The southern winds have finally subsided. They kept me in last night, and up the night before; for a time, I dreamed of flying -- while they filled the sky and every available space with a dirty drab fog, dry and thick, not a cloud but a desert, of sand and dust from Africa. They blew all the way to Athens. These winds bring headaches and dysphoria. My lovely Georgian student showed up with her soft pink lipstick caked in black particles. She had to wipe her mouth before the lesson. On her spelling test, she confused all her a’s and e’s.

The winds alone are bad enough, but they coincided this time with a sanitation strike. Stinking, unattended mounds of trash and filth were piling up on every corner; the tourists downtown had to adopt a contortionist’s pose, to angle their cameras away from the blight. The wind picked up, and picked up whatever it could find -- outside the supermarket, a large piece of cardboard sailed up from the sidewalk and slapped an old woman in the face. Everyone tripped along over plastic bottles and bags; they ran, rushed by the wind, blinded by it and wild masses of their own hair.

I’ll sweep my balconies today, shake the dust from my laundry, or re-wash. The streets will take longer; right now, in such a state, it seems they will never be clean. But a little water does wonders. A strike can’t last forever. We move on. We leave the bad behind us.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Broken umbrelly