Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sunday afternoon

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

househunting cont'd

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the real live kitchen of the fancy house (the people still live there)

The househunting never went anywhere. There isn’t much on the market, and it didn’t take long to see all there is to see. I’ve already mentioned two that were finally the only two houses realistically considered. I still think about the possibilities of the old one: a spare room for my parents, sunlit office, Olympic-size playroom for the buka, arch, mudroom, doors. Doors are exactly what the other house, the fancy one on the fourth floor, lacks. And what the flat I’m in now lacks, among other things. Not that I’m crazy about doors, but something’s got to be done, to keep the cat on one side of the house and the buka on the other.

The real estate agents are a joke. They show up late, can’t find the key, open the door to the filthy, dusty, uncleaned remains of somebody’s life left behind, shadow you, but don’t offer a word. That’s if they bother to show up at all. The houses stink, are full of mess, and as hard as you try to imagine the possibilities (one even had a garden, full of citrus trees and artichokes), all you are left with is a whining voice in your head that says, “I don’t want to live in this stinky house!”

Properties sit empty. Realtors never call again. Nobody will buy, nobody can buy, unless the owner really decides he wants to sell (I’m convinced this is the real problem), in which case he or she should make a minimal effort at least.

So now I try to imagine the possibilities of not moving, of staying in my apartment -- a crib for the buka or a fold-out bed for my mom? There’s no room for both. Gifts are being amassed -- there’s no room for them either. But one thing the buka has taught me is that you can always make room if you have to. My belly gets bigger; I buy new clothes. To make room for the new clothes, I throw away the old ones. Maybe it’s time.

(do not) think pink

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About a month ago, I went to my doctor for a check-up. He squirted my belly, started poking around with his pointy ultrasound probe, and asked me, “Have we said anything about the sex?” I was alone (but I’m always alone) and I panicked a little. “Don’t tell me!” I shouted, but of course, I couldn’t drop it there.

“Did you see something?” I asked.

“I supect something,” he said.

“If you saw something, it must be a boy,” I said. And at that moment, I was sure it was a boy, despite the doctor’s delayed but diplomatic response.

“Oh no,” said Steph, when I told him later, ever the supportive friend. Everybody wanted a girl.

I decided to wait two weeks, til after Easter, when a more advanced ultrasound would show the sex for sure (and all the other organs, which were of much more interest to the doctors). I bought that time -- to think about boys, and disappointments, and names.

And it’s a girl. Healthy, long-legged, strong-willed. A sound sleeper. I want her dressed in white.

When I went back to my regular doctor, to proudly confirm what he already knew, he (uncannily) confirmed something that I already knew, something I had even written, in a declaratory email or two.

“Deep down,” he said, “everybody wants a girl.”

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Carpe diem (1943)

[Picture of Kenny with Al in the Philippines]

"They only saw each other once more, at an airfield in Lingayen Gulf, where they spent the day together going over old times, the war and Kenny's fiancé, whom he suspected of being unfaithful. The two would never see each other again."

[From The Life and Death of an Airman in the AAF, 1942-45.]

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


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... of the petty bourgeoisie

(It’s just a list, some items deadlier than others.)
[... and I took the liberty, with permission, of adding a couple of words, here and there. S.]

Gluttony: What I cut back on in salt, I make up for in sugar.

Wrath: I prefer to call it fury. It comes and goes.
[it lives inside]

Envy: Words, time, love. Genes.
[jealousy is the name of my beast]

Lust: A flushed cheek, in a love room close to home, or a morning all alone.

Sloth: Stay up all night, feel tired all day; the cat will take full advantage.
[snails have been known to walk as fast as I do]

Greed: I want the house: the arch, the windows, alabaster floors, ancient kitchen whose ridiculous drawers open over my head.
[I just want]

Pride: Finally, the right proportions. I wouldn’t hide it if I could.
[this one I'll keep to myself]

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

garden bego

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Keeping up with the Joneses.

Friday, May 19, 2006


"Fuck today; it's tomorrow..."
- F.M.

Baby slow down...

Baby slow down
The end is not as fun as the start
Please stay a child somewhere in your heart

I’ll give you everything you want
Except the thing that you want
You are the first one of your kind

And you feel like no-one before
You steal right under my door
And I kneel ‘cos I want you some more
I want the lot of what you got
And I want nothing that you’re not

Everywhere you go you shout it
You don’t have to be shy about it

Some things you shouldn’t get too good at
Like smiling, crying and celebrity
Some people got way too much confidence baby

Everywhere you go you shout it
You don’t have to be shy about it, no
And you’ll never be alone
Come on now show your soul
You’ve been keeping your love under control

U2 --- Original of the Species

Monday, May 15, 2006

Simos P. Myrotheos


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

belgian chocolate

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Nine small squares of marital bliss... can go a long way toward compensating for an immeasurable amount of marital strife.

Monday, May 08, 2006

More gardening

With the help of my devoted apprentice...

... the first rose inaugurates spring in the garden.

(But the watch is on Polychronis...)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

scouting the Outpost, part 3

Tuesday. Set off for the mountains, a vast forested area with funny topless trees. This phenomenon was whimsically but satisfactorily explained when I got to the monastery at the top of the mountain -- an opulent place (which my tour book magnanimously describes as “reputedly wealthy beyond dreams of avarice”) with gold mosaics on every wall and a surprisingly postmodern museum. When the icon of the Virgin with babe in arms, both in a distinctive position (the name of which the monastery shares), was brought up to the church, all the trees along the way bowed down in respect, and apparently, decided to stay that way.

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On a ridge further up, next to the Archbishop’s creepily guarded grave (there’s a soldier, in the dark, inside the mausoleum, standing on duty all day), is a place called the Seat of the Virgin. I was touched by a babybib tied to a tree there, along with a zillion other leavings of paper and ribbon, prayers each one, offerings, pleas.

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Wednesday. Back on the bus. First stop: the furthest settlement in Free Outpost, which overlooks Occupied Outpost, its ghost towns and guard towers, foreign flags, fortunes in ruins, monuments to lives shattered and lives lost. I watched a film presentation in the Visitors’ Center, in English, with a group of Czech tourists; I held back tears for the whole generations that have waited, bags packed, to go home. It was very moving, very effective propaganda, put out by a country that, not knowing what else to do, has turned an unfortunate political situation into a tourist attraction. Free brochures were available in every language. I left them there. I don’t have to read a brochure to know that sense of waiting, the determination that doesn’t flag, the desperation, the futility.

From there we went to a charming seaside resort town that arose as a product of the occupation. Our main destination was a church, or more precisely half a church and half a cave, whose holy waters are said to have saved countless thirsty children whose cries would otherwise have given them and their families away, as they hid from the enemy within those walls. The members of my group went nuts, kissing icons and collecting bottles of water to bring back.

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Next stop: the airport city. Slowly but surely we were getting closer to home. Spent the afternoon on foot, making the most of the free time allotted. I walked along the palm-treed beach, hot and cold by turns. Found the municipal gallery with an interesting (and free) exhibition by a prolific but repetitive local artist, a castle, and finally, the Church of Lazarus, so named for Lazarus himself, whose second but not final resting place lies within. I had never thought about what happened to him after Christ raised him, but it wasn’t exactly “happily ever after.” First of all, his skin never quite recovered (it had started to yellow and rot, which was essential to the plausibility factor of the miracle), he was persecuted as a follower of Christ, kicked out of the holy land, and ended up in the Outpost. He arrived hungry and thirsty, cursed an old woman who refused him some grapes, and turned her vineyards into salt flats for all of eternity. Nice guy. At some point, his bones, all but one (part of his skull, if you really want to know), were removed from the church and sent back to Jerusalem. I saw the empty tomb down there in the catacombs, but I couldn’t bear to see the relic.

Final stop: another tomb, this one covered by three large stones and a green cloth embroidered in gold. I didn’t want to take my shoes off, so I respectfully stayed outside the mosque, toured the gardens, watched the members of my group make spectacles of themselves, but do no worse than what they had done in their own holy places.

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Our guide bid us a heartfelt goodbye; she recited a poem that left us all moved and a little sentimental about leaving the Outpost still in the midst of its agona (sic)… until… we got to the chaos of the airport and were informed of a two-hour delay that turned into a four-hour delay. Sometimes a “rats” and a free sandwich aren’t enough.

But it gave me a chance to write all this, to make up a bit for all the pictures I wanted to take but didn’t. When my eyes fell on beauty, which happened all the time, I felt it so strong I had to turn away. My head tells me that the Outpost is a small, sad place (full stop). But when I was there, and now, it’s too much for me, too big an experience to reconcile with so short a summary. Maybe it’s me more than the Outpost -- the timing, the trouble with comms, the multitude of beautiful things that I can’t bear to look in the face. Some experiences put others in perspective, and some don’t change a thing.

(the end)

Monday, May 01, 2006

scouting the Outpost, part 2

They make a special bread for Easter in the Outpost. It’s crusty and seasme-sprinkled on the outside, heavy and moist on the inside, dense with cheese and eggs and raisins. I was determined, on this second day, even more than the first, to like it, and everything else.

The hotel arranged an extravagant Easter party for all the guests (it didn’t have quite the sex appeal as the one I went to last year), which included roasted lamb and endless buffets of salads and sweets. The highlight of the entertainment program was “the dance with the cups,” during which one of the traditional dancers placed an inverted glass of water on a hankie on his head, and proceeded to stack up 25 more glasses, empty and upright, along with wine bottles and whatever else he could find, until the ceiling started to crowd him in. I don’t know if that’s how they do it in the Outpost, but I heard somebody next to me say, “That’s not a traditional dance -- it’s a circus act!”

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Easter Sunday also included a visit to a convent that doubles as a cat sanctuary, a quick loop around a castle, and a thwarted attempt to enter an archaeological site. As this was the first day in the rented car, it also featured me, sitting in the driver’s seat, but instead of driving, saying “to the left, to the left” a thousand times, which, naturally, didn’t go over too well with the driver. (In the Outpost, they describe their own driving as “backwards,” a backwards description if you ask me, especially considering the lack of concern they show for the tourists, to whom driving backwards may not come naturally at all.)

In the resort town where I stayed, the streets after dark filled quickly, with local teens in low jeans, robust and underdressed European tourists, and hordes of dark-skinned “foreigner workers” of indeterminate ethnicity (who comprise 11% of the Outpost population, according to some statistic I read). At some point I walked down Jerusalem Steet and ended up outside Saint Catherine’s Catholic Church. Through its open windows, I heard a considerable Filipino congregation singing “Amazing Grace” in English.

Monday. I walked on a beach from whose foamy seas a goddess is said to have been born.

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I toured an extensive archaeological site with a clever and satisfying design that allows one to climb, explore, try out different points of view, and conquer different fronts -- the sea straight ahead, the land to the back, and even straight down where colorful mosaics that have been walked on for thousands of years lay immaculate still, if prone.

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Met a man at lunch, while waiting for food that never actually came, who announced maniacally, “Ah, Crete! Crete is a poem!” I loved the simplicity and spontaneity of his conviction, and although I didn’t want to feel homesick yet, I knew he was right. You can’t exactly live in a poem, but it is a thing of beauty just the same.