It was summer. A time for ice cream. Or Champagne. Maybe Poros. Possibly Piraeus. Or someplace where Aegean flies. Santorini? Nah. And now? Visit a new nation, one with ancient bones. And lots of gods and goddesses. Athens.
Things you notice in Athens at 5:34 in the morning on a semi-random Tuesday in August. Or maybe Wednesday.
(probably a hot day, anyway…)
I smell bread.
I see a seagull.
That car is going way too fast.
Does a motorcycle really need to make so much noise?
Who still jogs?
A policeman slathering on suntan lotion rather languorously.
It’s too early to contemplate the use of the word languorous.
The Algerian Embassy is across the street from a hotel-by-the-hour. There must be a Greek word for a hotel where you pay by the hour. It probably sounds nicer in Greek. Only rarely do these hotels turn up on Booking.com. Not that I looked.
(Greek hour hotels look positively intriguing next to the ones you used to find in lower Manhattan before the hedge fund managers took over.)
Evzones in the zone, zone, zone. No tourists monkeying around with them at this hour.
Roosters are crowing (is that what they do?) in the National Garden. This is normal?
Six green parrots flying over the garden treetops, a trace of sun lights up their wings. Whose birds are these? Also, I want one.
I don’t care how spiffy you look at the bus stop mr Athenian Lawyer, your overdose of aftershave is my next sneeze, and man I’m out of Kleenex
That is the Temple of Hephaestus up there, but I am on a metro car down here. There must be a church somewhere too, because a passenger makes the sign of the cross, but we are straddling the Agora, seems to me what it represents commands more veneration than organized religion.
I command more caffeine. No one is listening, so
…the clapping shut of the metro compartment doors gets louder in function of the frappes one has not had time to sip.
It is not yet even 7am. Someone has just approached me with a friendly What’s up dude?
Do I have ‘California native’ written across my forehead? Then I need a bigger hat.
Man, I say without saying, I don’t care if you’re Kim Kardashian or Jesus Christ, do not approach with me with anything before 7am, unless of course it’s a free guest pass to the Lohan Beach House in Mykonos.
“Hey dude” I muster. Can I go pretend to go back to sleep now? Because I just realized I haven’t really slept for about the past five weeks. Athens and sleep mix like Greeks and Turks at a costume ball: uneasily and at random.
So, I will be looking for a ferry going to an island that begins with the letter I.
I will stumble toward the boat, so hot, so exhausted and my eyes are already tearing because though it is still just slightly after dawn, the sun is already way up and the air is a toxic metropolitan poison, let’s admit it. Smoke, fumes, yuck. The gods must be smoking, and I’m the fucking ash tray.
Gate E9, is it? Piraeus. Piraeus, my Piraeus, the mighty port and my unknowable ancient brother, who I embrace even though she only ever embraces the sea, filakia, filakia…sea kisses etc. and suddenly the philosophical/daydream part of the journey ends:
(the ticket is given)
“This is not your boat.”
(this is not my day?)
me: “This ship is not going to the island of I.?”’
“To Mykonos, Mykonos! You boat, over there!”
(U-boat? now I’m really in trouble..)
It is now 6:55AM, and I am still not up, but I am inching out of Athens. And I am counting on Seajets to carry me the rest of the way.
So take care Piraeus! I’m going to take a few more heavy steps, as necessary, in this Hephaestean heat, this anti-caress, because I’m going to see V. on the Island of I.
(even if it takes a submarine)
(even if it is, and goodbye to the secret, this island)
Special thanks to Seajets.
Because not only are they as odious as Oregon, they’re bad for the environment tambien. As we might have suspected. So please don’t be a ding-a-ling and build one of them things. And do read why here in Ling.
Don’t believe us? Well, follow me!
Image Courtesy Zürich Tourism
A funny thing happened on the way to researching my latest story for The Points Guy, about the ins and outs of traveling on two or more passports.
The mechanics of being bi-national are pretty basic. But at least when having that second passport is not something granted by dint of birth but rather sought after and somehow attained, it raises other issues. Isn’t it so darn Yankee-y to focus on what to show where and to whom? Of course, that’s important: you wanna move across borders you gotta follow some rules.
But then there is the psychological aspect of official duality or plurality, and the emotional. When I hold the passport of That Other Nationality in hand, or show it to a customs officer smiling or sullen, am I saying goodbye to one person and becoming another? And which one do I want to be? Which would you choose if you had to, and if you knew that there was no going back? Etc.
Photo Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics.
In the summer of 1987 I spent a number of weeks at an artist’s stone-walled villa on the shore of Lago di Bracciano, a volcanic lake outside Rome.
You must understand that that world no longer exists. Except for maybe in video.
To be continued