Τετάρτη, 26 Μαρτίου 2014

A night in your city...

I was walking. Holding my head up high and looking left and right. Tall, elderly buildings stood next to me and in front of me, immovable observers of an unusually hard, to my eyes, reality. I crossed an almost empty square, filled only with birds that moved aside for me to pass. In the distance a young father photographed his daughter, a crazy little fairy dancing with pigeons. A lunatic shooed imaginary flies away, completing the image. I crossed the street, just in case things looked better from the other side of the road. No such luck. I continued down your city's street and stood on a corner waiting for redemption. It came in the form of an angel with eyes red from crying. In his hands he held a soul removed. Bloody.

I was driving. I could feel the wind on my face trying to clean me. I helped him by opening up the throttle a little more. The roar of the engine momentarily filled the emptiness inside me. I found the way easily. Would I rather have got lost though? Deep inside your city. Parts of it scare me, but I prefer them to how scared I feel when I gaze into your empty eyes. Or the feeling I get when I watch your city's children begging in the kafeneia and pedestrian streets... You know I like your city. You can tell from the way I look when I wander round it. You don't know that I look like that, because of the feeling of your arms around me, the smell of your hair, the pressure of your body on mine at every sudden braking...

I was sitting. On the screen folders were flying from one side to the other, transporting pieces of life, of souls, of personal stories with good intentions. The blues embraced the beat of my heart and calmed it. Outside the night already covered your city with that feeling of eternal dawn I have only experienced here. I rolled another cigarette and remembered the way your eyes lit up the first time you saw me use the little roll-up machine that rolls them so straight and neat.. You wanted to try it too, and I took you through it, step by step, until your eyes lit up even more... Now, yet another thing, touched by your presence will acquire new meaning. I feel uncomfortable. Sort of like a penitent vampire. I see the colour emptying out of your life, drop by drop. Just as drop by drop it colours my life, my things, my hands, my mind, my heart...

I was sleeping. And in my dream I woke up. And I was in your nightmare. I was angry at myself because I wanted to wake you but I could not move. I could see your form under the sheet, reminding me of things I would rather forget. That's why I wanted you to wake up, to get up, to stop reminding me of these things. I thought of singing to you, but I'd forgotten the words. I thought to write you a note, but could not find a pen. I thought to e-mail you, but the computer would not start. I thought to turn the motorcycle on and rev high so you would wake up from the noise, but I could not find the keys. When I finally did, the lock was frozen and they would not go in. I remembered how loud your phone rang but all the telephones I found had lost their buttons. I opened my mouth to scream, but all that came out was an endless stream of featureless black birds.. I could not breathe...

I was awake. The house was quiet. I could feel that a few hundred meters away you were still asleep. I hoped your morning's sleep was better than my night's. I stepped out onto the balcony and allowed the sun to warm me, because I felt quite cold. I took two gulps of hot black coffee to wake me up. I stood at the railings looking down. I took a deep breath of your city so that I would remember it... in vain...In a few days I would be gone and that breath would have been displaced by thousands of others. I went for a wash, and discovered a wrinkle. I dedicated it silently to you and got ready for my departure. Your city may rob me of your scent, but to make up it wraps its tentacles around me and pulls me like a rubber band. I think she kinda likes the idea of adding yet another victim to the others, especially with such a great excuse.

Your city wants me here. Wandering through her streets, lost in endless concentric circles, lost in a labyrinth with a thousand foreign Minotaurs chasing my shadow. Looking for your house, aided by a book of maps with one page missing. Your page. Lighting the way are neon signs that go off just as I try to make out the name of the road I didn't take. Following buses in the hope they stop outside your house. Asking drivers for information while they stare at me silently. Passing in front of shop windows and seeing my reflection, wondering if I know me. A witness to its everyday bittersweet madness. Trying to leave.


Τρίτη, 25 Μαρτίου 2014


During the 4 (and now almost 6) years I have been blogging, I have written about a variety of subjects, some of them serious and others of the "lighter" variety... (I shall let my readers be the judges of which is which...)

Recently a "new" reader of mine (and a rather good looking one as well...) commented on how she likes the way I sometimes "bare" my thoughts, reveal my sensitivities, don't hide behind some silent or cynical mask, some funny or hard shell...

What you see is what you get.

The last few months a piece of song is often playing in my head... "O Gatos" (The cat) by Vasiilis Papakonstantinou.

"oh no my good people, I am no tomcat,
I am only a human full of feelings..."

That's the way it is...I am a human full of feelings.

(to be honest, the song is one that, like so often happens, I had misheard the lyrics-or remembered them wrongly-so instead of feelings I thought it said "errors". It would suit me to go with "feelings" as I would not need to admit to "errors"...haha.. but that is how I thought it went... so let's strike a balance and say I am full of feelings and errors...

(a translator's comment...the above does not "translate" very well, but I hope you "get" it...)

I like to be open about such things. I believe that our feelings and our errors make us what we are. And that, in our journey through life, when we choose to develop relationships, whatever kind they may be, it is always better to be ourselves. Naked, without "makeup", without masks...I have been known to overdo it sometimes...

This is the self we require the others to love. And not some other self, some fake created in order to satisfy vanities and desires, be they our own or the other's...

I am now 45 (now almost 47). A couple of years ago I met an old friend and she rather openly (and in a very German way) told me she always thought of me, saw me as a child. And she still does now...

I didn't know if I should be happy or sad about this. Deep down I was happy, but maybe also a little worried..about when I will finally grow up.

This past summer (2012) I went for a midnight skinny dip on a moonlit night. For the first time after a loooong time... As I plunged into the water again and again, the moon lighting up my bare bottom ostentatiously, I felt really free. Swimming in the dark sea, without fear, diving, at home... ( I would so much like to say "my tight little bottom" but that era is long gone...)

Although I I try to be open and honest, naked, I know that I carry "baggage" from my life up to now. We all do.

Hangups, neuroses, fears, prejudices... buttoned up and hidden behind suits of armour and masks we try to move through life. We try to set up relationships, we need them, be they social, love, or friendship.

How though, when we make it so hard for others to know us?

 "I am looking for friends" said the Little Prince. What does that mean--'tame'?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. It means to establish ties."
"'To establish ties'?"
"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. 

me, when my age was less than the years that have passed since then...

And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you, I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world . . ."
"Please--tame me!" he said.

"I want to, very much," the little prince replied. "But I have not much time. I have friends to discover, and a great many things to understand."
"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame me . . ."  ♥

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)

I love. I care. I sometimes choke on feelings of injustice. I sometimes feel helpless to change much. I often get tired of how obsessively people tend to disregard where others are "coming from"...
Every person we meet has walked a path in life which has led him or her to where they are now. We cannot understand them unless we know that path. If we cannot find the way or the time to find out, let us not judge at least... Let's just love them for whatever good they brought to our lives...even if not obvious...

I want to write that we have more to "gain" from standing "naked" opposite others, but I am making a conscious effort to avoid this vocabulary which has invaded all facets of our lives, and reduced everything in life to profit, loss, debt and credit...I am tired of it...we have allowed it too much room...

Standing then "nekkid" opposite others, we allow them to see us for what we are...

Tomorrow's friend, mate or lover, fellow human, fellow "naked" person...

Back in the times I used to pose for gay magazines...(and yes, I 'm joking)

Originally posted in Greek on the 12th of September 2012

The woman in me

I know this may sound unbelievably gay (on my straight "arhidia" as I would say in Greece) but as a youngster in high school, I often used to watch the other boys feeling up the girls as they made their way into class and wondered... a) what were the bums thinking about, and b) why did the girls put up with it...

I always believed women to be worthy of respect and correct polite behavior, something no doubt to do with how I was brought up... yet the fact that this made it extremely difficult for me to acquire a girlfriend, never rang enough bells or turned me into the cynical misogynist that some of my mates turned into to...

I spent a fair part of my teens battling with the label of "gay", a label that many "well-meaning" macho men and future speed-freaks and petty criminals took upon themselves to lumber me with. Their assumption was probably based on the fact I had friends I held conversations with, rather than spend my time doing wheelies and talking about women and sex in a demeaning way while leering after every female that passed... Then again it may also have had something to do with my  hairstyles (I had highlights and braids at some point during the eighties...) or a tendency to wear scarves with tresses and various bracelets (I went through a hippy phase too) It was the Eighties for god's sake!! (although I wanted it to be the sixties...) Anyway it never bothered me too much as I knew which way my preferences went...

The next ordeal I had to go through was the army. You don't get a choice of who you are stationed with There I had to go through listening to men talk about women again in a derogatory way. A classic joke about this kind of man, is that every woman is a whore except for his mother and sister...I got through this without changing my attitude, although there were times when I had to grunt an implied approval in order to conform with the norm and not make myself a target... thus feeling like my namesake saint, who denied all contact and knowledge before the rooster crowed... (Matthew 26:34)

I'll risk another wrong impression and state, that I often felt in touch with the woman in me.
I do believe that in every person there is a little of both elements, the male and the female, if anything it helps explain some of the things we see around us!

What does this mean practically though?

It means I like to cook, and also to take care of people, my friends, my children.

It means I don't see sex as a god given right of mine, but as a higher expression of love and affection.
It means I am an incurable romantic.
It also means I have no hope of becoming a speed freak (the Greek word is Kangouras, meaning the guys in souped up vehicles roaring about all over the place, in utter disregard for rules and regulations of even basic polite behavior). I will also very rarely watch a game of football (unless it is with the right company..they know who they are...)
I won't hunt, I don't like guns, I often cry through sad scenes in films, and I have never lit a fart.. (and never will)
It meant that I would hold a baby in my arms at 12 and think "One day I will become a father and hold a baby of my own"
It meant that when I finally did at 25, I would often bottle-feed her and change her nappies happily, bonding as early as possible...

It means I feel totally comfortable to ask a woman if she breastfeeds, without fearing misunderstanding, and even being able to offer advice which I learned from my wife.

I like to believe that the contact with my "female" side makes me a better Man, but I won't go too far with talking about myself, maybe the women in my life should comment.

I love women. there is nothing like the arms of a woman to take all your troubles away, nothing like the love of a woman to cure every wound (and nothing like her whinging, but I'll leave that for another post...)
Nothing like the way a woman blooms and becomes beautiful when about to become a mother...

Muddy Waters said it all when he said:

"A big black mama is gonna carry me to my grave..."

John Lennon once said: "Woman is the nigger of the world"...he wasn't far from wrong.

 Tom Robbins says that once upon a time, thousands of years ago, women ruled the world. Then men took the power and things went to hell..

I know what you are going to say.... Margaret Thatcher, Imelda Marcos and others.. Well, allow me to say they were overly in touch with the man in them...

This post went up (in greek) on the 24th of April 2012, almost 2 years ago. Someone, a reader of mine commented that he felt exactly the same way, and also offered another little tom Robbins gem. He said "I would like aliens to come to earth and take away all the balls. Footballs, basket ball, rugby balls...to see if men would become evolve to a higher species". My friends comment was the beginning of a strong friendship. His is an amazingly analytic mind, with a wonderful way of thinking, which I admire greatly!

As I translated my post in order to put it in my English speaking blog, I confess to not feeling as "comfortable" with it as I did initially. To my now "two-years-older" eyes it seems a little naive. Yet it was very heartfelt and honest when originally written. I haven't changed my mind, no, but certainly my view has changed.

I have been reading a lot, I am experiencing new things, a new relationship, a new view on past relationships... also Therapy.

Increasingly I understand that we as people, as personalities, are defined by our relationships. It is almost as if without them we could not exist. How could we be defined if not within the loose boundaries set up by the interaction and view of others? And look at how people who avoid proximity with others are often troubled..

What is colour? Only the wavelengths of light reflected by certain materials as viewed by our eyes. And so it is with us. We are the "colour" that  is reflected to others through our relationships.

Just a few thoughts...

Right now I'm feeling kind of flowery and bright on the inside... I must be in love... (smile)

Have a good morning all!

Σάββατο, 1 Μαρτίου 2014

Amola Kaloumba!

When I was young, Clean Monday meant three things to me. First a possibility that I would go hungry, or at best make do with a piece of "lagana" (the traditional flatbread with sesame baked specifically for the day...) and a piece of cheese that my mother would hide from Grandma (it was Lent and thus sinful to eat cheese...).
Second that we might get to have our first  swim, and third, the flying of our kite!!

The first was due to the fact that I was a rather "difficult" child as regards food and practically all the "nistissima"" (food allowed to eat when fasting for Lent) was definitely in the weird food zone to my eyes..shellfish, octopus, kalamari, taramas..there was something distinctly fishy about it all... no,no,no...
The swimming, what can I say, other times? Where we children and ready for everything? I dare say the swimming season then was like the tourist season...longer and it started earlier....

And I come to the third...the kite!

My father made his own. It was an art he learnt as a kid in Piraeus. He was a carpenter by trade, so very much comfortable with the wood, measuring and glueing required.

About a month before Clean Monday, he would organise his supplies from Piraeus. He used a kind of waxed paper, not unlike baking paper or the stuff used to wrap up cheese. It came in a a few basic colours, and could not be sourced on the island. Thin pieces of wood, glue, some special "decorative" papers, in silver and gold, kilometres of string and scissors completed the kit, and he was ready to start work.

The "tail" alone would sometimes take days, every little tuft of paper carefully cut to the same length, often many colours bunched together and all spaced out evenly. Where the bridle connected to the edges, he would add more tufts of coloured paper,  to make for better balance.

Ready for take off..
Every year he made a different one. He never made the same one twice, and he never kept one for next year. He would either take it apart and recycle the frame, or once it was high enough, he would cut the string and set it "free".

One year the plan was to get it as high as possible. Armed with 2000 meters of string, we proceeded to Kassiopi, our favorite kite-flying and picnic spot. Reel by reel, we joined the string, until the kite was so high we almost could not see it. A piece of string that went up to the sky, on its own, and we in turns, held on to it, happy and laughing. To my eyes the kite was flying somewhere over Albania, amongst the birds and clouds...

Another year he made a different one, a "Smyrna" kite as he called it.  It had a very different shape, and it also was a bit more "technical" to fly. The frame was made of bent bamboo strips. I think he had always wanted one, since he was a child, and he finally made one. His mother, my grandma, was a refugee from the Asia minor catastrophe in 1922.

The "smyrna" kite

Another "thing" about the kites was the matter of "size" (men...) Obviously he wanted to make them bigger and bigger, but there was a limit. The size of our car. Or rather cars! My father had a car rental business at the time, so we had a choice... So one year he decided to make a really big one and use the company minibus. If my memory serves me well, that years design was a Sun. Golden rays, a bright smile, yellow and orange... but it was too big!! So he had to opt for putting it on the roofrack...

Getting near to Kassiopi, my mother was looking out the passenger window at the shadow of the car as it sped on its way. There was something wrong. Shadows were dancing on the roof... "Yianni, I think you had better stop, something is not right..."

He pulled over and got out, took a look at the kite, and got back into the car, without speaking. The mood was not good. He stopped at a local "bakaliko" (grocery store) and asked to buy some of the brown greaseproof wrapping paper they used for the feta... We then proceeded to the port of Kassiopi where he set down to fix it. He gathered the left over strips of paper, cut some patches, glued them up. The kite, even patched up, flew as high as ever. As well as ever.  

a typical Papageorgiou kite

Moments from Clean Mondays past...

my little sister, looking incredibly like her son with long hair and a skirt on!
The picnic

My cousin Vassilis
Grandma next to her son, and my mum and sister behind
In the first photo at the top, and the previous four, did you notice something they have in common?

There is something that "ties" them all together...

It is a piece of string.

This piece of string is something we all need to take care of. This piece of string may be something different to each of us, that doesn't matter. What is important is that it should be recognised for what it is. A connection to our past, a connection between us, a continuation, a feeling of consistency.

In the difficult times we are going through, it will be bits of string like this that will keep us connected, tied together, remembering our past so that we may have a future, and so that we may look upon this future in the same may that Yiannis the kite maker looks up at his kite in the next picture...

Attentively, with hope and with joy in his heart

Looking at the future

PS I was intending to "tie in" the story of the kite that was damaged but was repaired and flew, with the ending, but it eluded me...  so Ι will add the lesson as a postscript. Against all odds, against all the problems and setbacks, we CAN make this world, this life, "fly"...
The world and our lives are changing. The change is our very own kite. And as much as some people are intent on tearing it up into little pieces, we have to use our brains and ingenuity, to patch it up and get it off the ground...

And a little note on the title. Amola kaloumba, is a greek kite flying expression which means let more string out...