In this video, we see representative clips of the great variety of street musicians in Athens. We take an upbeat tone, edited for ease on the mind, leaving out the gangrenous swollen legs of the begging junkies and all of that because it’s a drag. Here is the kind of Balkan weirdness Athens is best at.
I got out my old tripod, the cunning small one that I bought at Rome airport while flush with tuxedomoon tour gelt. Then this photo sort of happened while Maria and some of her girl friends were having a wee glass o’ wine out on the veranda. We are so lucky to have this view without being millionaires. We see the mountains from one direction and the Acropolis et al from the other. Woo hoo.
I love to ride a bicycle. I love to ride a bicycle in Athens because I live here and it is here that I must express this love. Not because Athens is a great place to ride a bicycle. In fact, it is fairly difficult to ride here for a number of reasons. First off, there are no bicycle paths here (or so few that they amount to almost nothing). Second, and this should really be first, The drivers here are like some kind of wild animal. They won’t see you, and they will run you down and back over your corpse if they think they will get to their destination 5 seconds faster. You have to watch your ass carefully, paranoically. Your perception must be ever-acute. It helps to expect the worst. In any given situation, expect the driver to do the stupidest possible thing and you will never be disappointed.
I like Syntagma square. It used to be really nice before it got all….bummed out. The nice new marble waterfall fountains that were put in for the Olympics in 2004 were just what this polluted noisy town needed, a little grace, some good Feng Shui from the falling water and some white noise to drown out the perpetual angry hubub. Now those fountains are ripped apart, flung in the faces of the police who fling tear gas grenades back. And now this. A 77 year old retired pharmacist named Dimitris Christoulas put a gun to his head and killed himself next to a tree in Syntagma, one of the very trees that had been decorated for Christmas this year, (in lieu of a municipal tree which would surely have been burnt down).
He left this note
“The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the state. And since my advanced age does not allow me a way of dynamically reacting (although if a fellow Greek were to grab a Kalashnikov, I would be right behind him), I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance. I believe that young people with no future, will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country at Syntagma square, just like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945”
“Tsolakoglou government” is a reference to the first collaborator government of Greece, under the Germans during WWII.
I got nothing much else to say, but what a bummer. I have been saying that a lot these days.
And here is part two of the last video inclusion, wherein I do encounter a pagan spring invocation, outdoor dining, Syntagma square, home of so much recent discontent at peace and two guys practicing their Tom Cruise Cocktail moves in an effort to maximize tips at the bar where they work. It’s here.
Though it seems to have largely died out now, there was a rash of people dressed like this, nominally living statues. someone in gypsy central dispatching decided this living statue thing was a good dodge and dressed a bunch of people in satin bedsheets. they looked like members of a strange religious cult instead.
Sunday night, February 11, 2012 the center of Athens, and some other cities in Greece, erupted in violence and flames. Huge demonstrations held to protest implementation by the Greek parliament of further austerity measures in order to obtain funds to stave off a default on the State’s debts to the international banks degenerated into clashes between young men, police on one side, small numbers of “hoodies” armed with molotov cocktails and chunks of marble ripped from buildings on the other.
Yesterday (Monday) I went out, like many others, to survey Sunday night’s damage.When we went to bed Sunday night, a pall of reeking chemical smoke hung over the city, held in place by the humidity. When we woke, our balcony was sprinkled with ashes, including some pretty large chunks.
Riding the metro later that morning I saw the same expression on every face, stunned silence, shock and dismay. People are just tired of this shit. My path for the day led me past the area around the university where a lot of the burning took place. I saw the hulk of Starbuck’s and the adjoining art house cinema where I have seen quite a few arty films. I was impressed with how quickly Starbuck’s stripped the building of any corporate identification, I suppose to avoid having photos published around the world which showed Starbuck’s in ruins, perhaps to avoid encouraging further coffee house conflagrations. (This is the second Starbuck’s to go up in flames. During the 2009 spasms, the Omonia Starbuck’s met the same fiery doom.) The whole area smelled charcoal-broiled, seasoned with a chemical pong from teargas, not unlike the plastic reek of burning crack. (Don ‘t ask how I know this). Everywhere is the white powder bloom left behind by exploding tear gas grenades. The nose itches, the eyes burn. I was a sneezing fool.
I have little to say about the politics of this situation. I don’t know anything. I am too ignorant of Greek history to make an informed comment, though this doesn’t stop anyone from spewing drool all around the internet. I am especially dismayed to see how many Europeans, Germans, Belgians, Dutch, show so little care for the plight of others and are so ready to talk at great length about those Greeks out of other orifices than their mouth.
I do see that whoever the assholes with the molotovs are, they succeed quite nicely in diverting the eye of the world away from the thousands of people out airing their grievances in a legitimate and civilized manner. I see that similar types undermine the efforts of the people’s uprisings all around the world. These are ancient tactics. Infiltrate your enemy’s ranks with berserkers and paid agents in order to discredit them by spurring them on to violence and excess. The mongoloid eye of the world’s media is ever diverted by scenes of flame and destruction. I like John Stewart’s simile where he compares ‘the media’ to a hyperactive puppy following a stick wherever you care to throw it.
Who are the morons doing the burning? There are undoubtedly those among them who believe that they struggle in a cause, but there is always a hidden agenda around here. There are those who want to burn down a losing business to collect insurance. There are also those “protection” types who want to punish people who won’t pay up. There are those who want to buy up land cheap who recruit from the milling hordes of aimless and pointless immigrants to perform all sorts of mischief, burning, looting, distributing drugs in certain areas to bring down the price of real estate. Among those thugs will be elements of the police. Many people around here assume that there are police plants among the hoody miscreants throwing rocks and molotovs.
This whole damn situation is one titanic drag, a bummer of massive proportions. I never thought I would end up living in a country undergoing such a catharsis. Hell, the word ‘catharsis’ is Greek anyway. It means “a cleansing”. It was coined to describe the psychological aftermath of viewing a really nasty Greek tragedy (or a really funny comedy). Those who romanticize at a distance about revolution and upheaval have probably never dealt with the pitiful daily insult of this situation, have not had to go about their daily business against such a frustrating backdrop.
Here is a video recap of the year so far, including Rijeka, Venice and general cultural sampling from Athens.
Yesterday I had to go over to the post office on Ebay business. The local post office around here is at the Platia Dimarchios, city hall plaza. For some reason, local junkies and other permanently bewildered types have taken up a sort of residence there. There seems to be only minimal dealing going on, furtive ingestion, not much else except for a sort of Brownian motion and social interaction. I told Maria it was like going to the monkey house to watch our distant cousins. Big time voyeur action. I watched a strange menage a trois as one belle of the balle, her left eye blackened and swollen, squeezed into jeans and boots, decorated with chains flirted openly with another candidate as her bearded oblivious companion phased in and out of existence off to one side. He lifted her up from behind, stretching her back while beardo, resplendent in plaid shirt and baseball cap had image iteration and rendering problems. Then the police came by and no one altered their behavior in any way.
I guess the dope in this town must be of a very high potency because all the junkies are so zombied. They are like calf fetuses suspended in aspic as they dance their slow motion dance of perdition. I suppose they mix it up with rohypnol or some such. What always amazes me is that they often chop up and snort their painfully acquired cargo out of doors, where wind doth blow and rain doth dissolve. I can’t fathom this. Must be cheap too. Or they must be stupid.
I want to feel compassion for these poor dupes (and I do) and contempt for the hell spawn who sell them their ticket to limbo. I don’t mean the low level junkie peddlers who spin in the same blender, I mean the alien-sucking demons who build their economical and political power on their backs, who use chemical shackles to enslave an army of idiot thieves to prey upon society. It’s the old primate game, dad, purple-assed baboon politics.
If I were world emperor I would institute genuine rehabiliation for all, long slow detox assisted by as much of the chemical in question as required, self-analysis and therapy to try and restore the victims of this chemical spill to sanity, dissolution of clandestine pharmaceutical networks and conversion of their assets to fund health care and education initiatives for all.
Oh yeah. That’s all gonna happen. Just the other day I heard Newt Gingrich talking about it with Baron Sarkozy.
It is Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas in Greece. Bells are ringing, priests moan into microphones everywhere. In honor of the Baptism of Jesus, the priest tosses a cross into the waters (which abound) and swimmers contend to retrieve it.
Easter is coming yet again. Maria was dyeing eggs red in the Greek manner. They put a parsley or dill or mint leaf together with the egg wrapped in a piece of nylon stocking or a sock before putting it in the dye. The traditional dying medium was onion skins, saved all year for the occasion. After, you polish the eggs with olive oil.
Now,Good Friday (Big Friday to the Greeks) the sounds of droning byzantine song and tolling funereal bells for ol’ daid Jaysus drift up to our apartment from the 15 or 20 churches in a six block radius of our apartment. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of churches in Athens alone. This is why there is a constant furious breeze in Athens, from the quick circular self-crossing motions that greeks are compelled to do every time they see a church. Tonight they drag out a two-dimensional flatland rendition of daid JC and parade him in a picturesque manner around town, often accompanied by marching bands. It is a big night.
We will most likely go down to Piraeus, putting our bicycles on the metro.
That’s it for today. Xristos Anesti.
Today has been a most interesting day. I started by going over to the Pathgate Dharma Center, a Tibetan Buddhist center right here in the neighborhood. I encountered one of the guys who lives there, Dawa Loday, while riding my bicycle one day. Unusual sight, someone in full tibetan robes walking these streets. I struck up a conversation and found out where he hung out. Here is the link http://www.palyulnyingma-gr.org/index.html The place turns out to be a dance studio type space with wood floors, full of rich tibetan imagery. Silk banners with hand-painted images of tibetan deities hang from the walls. Sitting there on a cushion meditating, contemplating a statue of padmasambhava was an unlikely way to spend Sunday morning in Athens, especially since the area is patrolled constantly by the walking dead, Athens zombie junky army.
Excellent. Dawa loaded me up with fruit from the altar, some bananas and a mango, which he thanked me for taking away.
Then Maria and I took the bicycles up to Athens First Cemetery in Metz. It is quite a climb up to Metz, the area behind the wonderful first Olympic stadium. The buildings there retain their pre-1960’s neo-classical look, before Athens was garrisoned with sun-blocking concrete apartment buildings.
The cemetery is amazing. It is full of really well-executed marble portraiture of the illustrious dead of Greece. Some of the tombs are supermarket size, displaying for all to see the wealth of the families involved.
I opened one tomb door and was enveloped in incense smoke. I was transported to Hades for just that moment.
We had a most satisfying day.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Today I attended a demonstration of cyclists in Athens at Pedio tou Areos park. The aim was to show strength in numbers and ride to the Ministry of Transport to demonstrate in order to allow bicycles on the Metro among other demands. I had the most wonderful time. When I started cycling around this town 6 years ago, I felt like a lone freak, dashing around in between the cars, invisible, beneath contempt. How divine to find myself riding down Mesogeion and Vasilias Sofias avenues today, in the company of at least 500 of my cycling fellows. For just that little while, the bikes owned those main streets. I have noticed before that cyclists tend to wear these big smiles and today was no exception. Even when we arrived at the Minstry of Transport no one seemed to feel at all confrontational. Everyone was having too much fun.
February 12, 2004
Just about to give up on this uneventful day when the sky opened up and it began to snow. This was not just a wimpy little dusting, but a big sloppy blizzard with fat wet flakes billowing down. I need not remind you that this is far from common in Greece. I hear the cars honking down on the avenue. Panic is no doubt ensuing down there. I smirk secretly to know that the ever-aggressive drivers of this town, who stop for nothing and no one have met their match in the strange frozen water from the sky. Ha. Honk at that, bozoes! The lights of the city reflecting up on the snow lend a strange light to proceedings, something like sunrise on one of Saturn’s moons.
I took some photos of the snow on the lemon trees. Lemons are hardy and tenacious little devils, they hang onto the tree until the last, unlike their orange cousins who drop off and rot away if not harvested. This may not be news to some of us, but to a boy from Colorado like me the snow is less mysterious than the behavior of citrus trees.
Damn. Wish I could just post the photos I just took. Perhaps you are lucky that I can’t.
Thursday January 22, 2004
NEW WORLD SHORT ORDER
Howdy. I neglected to tell youse about a rather amusing event that transpired the other day. Some bozoes of my acquaintance, called “Aera Patera”, musicians for whom I did a session came out here to bourgeois land Sunday to take me to a video shoot for their cd. They came in a beat up red car (important later). Also important to remember is that I decided to dress in my Matrix-influenced baddest drag for the occasion. I sported my long black leather overcoat, a pair of blue mirror shades, black turtleneck. Couldn’t have done better had I consulted “Osama’s Secret” terrorist wardrobe catalogue. We hadn’t travelled more than 500 meters down the road when a pair of newly-minted fascist cops from the olympic brigade decided this was our lucky day. Beat up red car in a posh neighborhood? Scowling mafioso in the back seat? It’s them, stavros! Oh, the arrogance. The leather lad in charge pulled us over by standing in the middle of the road and pointing his finger. You.