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It was a black night, the Hudson swayed with heavy blackness, shaken over with spilled dribbles of light. She leaned on the rail, and looking down though: This is the sea; it is deeper than one imagines, and fuller of memories. At that moment the sea seemed to heave like the serpent of chaos that has lived for ever.

‘These partings are no good, you know. They’re no good. I don’t like them.’

-D.H. Lawrence

It's too bad Santorini isn't beautiful, because that would almost make leaving difficult. Good thing its not... (photo courtesy of Pete David)

It’s been a long time, so there is much to cover. I left the bookshop on November 16 and started a journey to Prague. Upon landing in the Athens airport, I chose to take advantage of the 45 free minutes of wireless internet to write a post about leaving Santorini, in other words, to neatly wrap up my four month experience only two hours after leaving. This was, of course, incredibly unrealistic but I did muster this line, “It seems you can live a whole live in only four months.” I was struck by the difference a day could make. One day I was living a life on a beautiful island, surrounded by friends, cats, good dinners, and books, and the next day I just woke up and left. It seemed abrupt and I already felt removed from it.

This song has been stuck in my head for days, and it content-wise fits nicely here. Enjoy the classic.

Dinah Washington- What a Difference a Day Makes (download/wiki)

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01WhatADifferenceADayMakes.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

If you thought this was me at the highest point on Santorini overlooking it all, you were wrong because this is me in front of a tiny model of Santorini complete with a tiny ocean. It was adorable.

But, with hindsight on my side, I am going to disagree with my past self. Saying that I lived a life in four months just isn’t simply true because, a) its a bit dramatic even for me, and b) it carries with it a sense of detachment from the rest of my life, as if that was an isolated event that is now over. And, let’s really think about this, past self, because thats just simply not true. The experiences I had there were very real. The lessons I learned are things I will carry with me into whatever it is I do next and even past then. The friendships are as real as any I’ve known. Not to mention, I didn’t even “just wake up and leave,” I stayed up unnecessarily late (per the usual) and then got up with Vlad and Pete to see what we thought was going to be the sunrise, only to realize it was WAY too early for the sunrise, so we went and hung out on a cliff in the dark, with the dark sea below us. I remember some laughing, some farting, and some “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” being hummed. Mostly, somewhere in that dark moment, we were happy to just be there. That was enough.

Vlad may have beaten me many other times, but, make no mistake, I won this one with a little help from an opening I learned from Craig.

What books did I buy to take with me, you might ask. Well, I bought "Empire" by Niall Ferguson, "The Woman Who Rode Away" by D.H. Lawrence (see above quote), and "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides- the last of which I was recommended by Pete David, went on to tear through in only a few days, and strongly recommend.

So, there I was, in the Athens airport trying to make sense of what was happening- long after my 45 free minutes of internet were up and I had managed a few simple sentences of a blog entry. Memories filled my mind of the way the light filters into the shop, the sounds of donkeys above the ceiling of my room, walking the main walkway of Oia with John as he headed home and stopping along the way so we’d have more time to talk, and all the beautiful faces I’d met a long the way. The thing about writing a blog like this is that somewhere in all of these events and thoughts, I am supposed to arrive at some sort of conclusion or some concise lesson or lovely thought that I can write down and make document forevermore. And thats just not going to be the case here. I’m going to be processing this one for a long time to come, and I think I am going to choose to keep a lot of those things to myself. At least for now. Sorry, blog, there are some things I just won’t be able to include here.

What post from Santorini would be complete with this face? Why is she looking so down? Don't fool yourself into thinking its because I'm leaving, it's probably because she knew she was about to get fixed. So, for all you Sylvie fans out there that were hoping to have a baby Sylvie of your own and to all you hip male cats who were hoping to "get wit this," sorry, you're out of luck.

With the minor physiological crisis passed/averted/working itself out, I arrived in Prague, unaware of what it would be like to return to the place where I studied in spring of 2006. Prague, with its incredible buildings and history and the mighty Vltava, is famously a city for walking, and thats exactly what I did upon arrival, just as we used to do back in 2006. The thing about visiting Prague is that I had kind of told myself that I wouldn’t do visit it for quite a while, because I knew it wouldn’t be the same and the vision of Prague I had in my mind was near perfect and largely contingent upon the people I shared it with back in 2006. So, being there, almost only four years later, seemed strange, and it felt as strange as I could have imagined. The only way to really describe my first night there was that it felt like I was looking at a photo album. I felt nostalgic, but in the way you feel when are you very far removed from something. However, the memories of my time in Prague, a time that I still call one of the most important of my life, came flooding back. I could feel the way the winter felt and the breaking of spring. I remembered the friendships I made, many of which I’ve been fortunate enough to keep up with over the years. This night of wandering around the city in the rain served to remind me why I had loved Prague and my time there.

The year? 2006. The place? Prague. The problem? One beer for three guys. Two of us don't seem that upset about that.

The year?  2006.  The place?  Petrin Hill.  The problem?

The year? 2006. The place? Petrin Hill with Prague Castle in the back. The problem? I am made nervous by beer when not having to compete with two other guys for it. It seems too easy.

It was here that I realized the importance of revisiting an important place from my past, as I leave one from the present. Being there, and realizing how much of that experience I carry with me still, especially the relationships, worked to assure me that my time in Santorini was anything but an isolated life in and of itself. Remembering my time in Prague and its profound mark on the path I ended up taking, from new friends, to the Romero Troupe, to joining Teach for America, etc. It was as if it was all saying it all works out and when it does, its for the best.

Here is a song I got once from Bonnie. I’ve been enjoying it lately and considering how much blues we used to listen to in Prague, its also fitting.

R.L. Burnside- Skinny Woman (download/wiki)

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/03SkinnyWoman.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

The next day, however, served to illustrate the things I love about Prague at its core. Of course, I made a point of visiting all of my favorites places from before, but I was also very much engaged with Prague as it stands now. It was an important balance to strike. I visited Maly Buddha and had coconut milk, I had dinner at Pivovarksy Dum and had cerny pivo, wandered around Petrin Hill and overlooked the city, I visited the Kolej (where we all lived), had a beer at A Proc Ne, had a spinach pizza outside of Tesco (which is no longer Tesco, it is some partner of Tesco), sat next to the Vlatava, rod the tram, and the metro. This all fell on the national holiday of the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, and I was fortunately to see the days festivities. It was somewhere in the midst of walking from one side of the city to the other on this day that the feeling of it all changed from me being nostalgic to sitting down with an old friend and catching up. There was a reciprocity to it all- a sharing. “Oh wow, Prague, your hair looks great long and your economy is as strong as ever! Things seem to be going well for you. You deserve that. Oh, me? Ha. Yeah, my beard is long. Do you want another beer?” Because, lets face it, if Prague was a person it would be really exceptionally good at having a beer with a friend, reminiscing, and reconnecting.

Let’s quickly play game called Greece or Prague. Ready?

That one. Greece or Prague? Are you stuck? Hint: It DOES NOT rhyme with the word fog.

Now this one. Hint: This one DOES rhyme with fog.

My visit to Prague was short-lived, however, as I made my way south to Novy Myln- better known as the farm I will be staying at for the next few weeks. Let me paint a quick picture for you of my greeting to rural Czech life. The bus dropped me at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, with all of my bags from Greece. I had been told that the farm was the only house on the left, but not only was there not a house on the left, there wasn’t a house anyway, not that I could be sure of this, though, because I couldn’t see anything in the pitch black. So, I wandered for a bit thinking a few trees here and there might be a house, preparing what Czech I could remember to try and find the farm, and muttering swear words to myself. Thats when I just started walking. I knew I’d find it, but what I didn’t realize is that I would have to walk through the wooded part of the road to do so. As I walked deeper into the forest, never straying from the same road and avoiding the cars as they passed, all the while, barely being able to see and relying on my trusty iPod for light to read the signs, I eventually saw a house on what seemed to be the left. I said aloud, “Please be a house on the left.” Since it was and even though it had no visible lights on I ventured up to the main door, leaving my bags on the street in the case that I had to run or something. Not only was it the right house, as not one but three English speakers greeted me, but it was a wonderful, huge home with a kitchen warmed by a fire and cards on the table ready for a game of poker.

By day? Beautiful! Enchanting! By night? The perfect setting for a horror movie.

And that’s the way its been ever since- nothing short of storybook-esque. The weather is supposed to be really cold in the Czech Republic right now, and while its chilly, the days have been beautiful with blue skies- a bit of the fall I didn’t really get in Greece. We wake up in the morning, eat porridge, and the get to work around the farm. There is a lot of wood cutting to be done, as all our warmth comes from wood burning stoves. We scour the forest for mushrooms and take turns cooking. There are many projects around the farm, including painting window panes and refurbishing furniture, and always time for a tea break and kicking the soccer ball around.

Despite the fairytale nature of the farm, the real excitement started last Friday when we ventured into Tabor, the nearest big town. We played indoor soccer with a bunch of Czech guys and I…ready yourself, blog…scored a goal. This was probably the most Czech I’ve ever been, and followed it up by going to a pub and enjoying Czech beer, or, as it is better known, the best beer in the whole world. Whether its in Tabor at a pub with a pivo or walking the forest looking for mushrooms or reading my book next to a fire, this is proving to be a wonderful experience and a welcome addition to my European adventures.

Pictured? The house in which I am currently staying. Not pictured? The piles of wood we cut. Also, not pictured? Greece.

By the way, a late Happy Thanksgiving to all. As the only American on the farm, the holiday was more toned down that I am used to, but I still managed to make apple-walnut stuffing, mashed potatoes with beans, and steamed spinach with some help from Richard and Katie, the Australian couple here. This is also not to mention the pumpkin pie I made from scratch- yes, I mean from a pumpkin. I do hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I’ve been enjoying the band the Dirty Projectors lately, thanks to Jack. So, if you like the track, you can thank me. If you don’t like it, feel free to contact me for his contacts and you can tell him personally.

The Dirty Projectors- No Intention (download/MySpace)

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/07NoIntention.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

There is much to think about these days. I am planning my moves for when I return to the States and trying to process all that has been this last year, including the last four Greek months. Between all the new people and new experiences this last year brought me, I find myself moved by how much I’ve learned from these things. I am reminded of a woman who came into the bookshop, bought a book and asked to shake my hand. She said it is always an honor to meet someone who is living their dream, mistaking me for the person who started the bookshop. Being at the bookshop and living the realization of a group of people’s vision, being at the farm and being the part of a couple realizing their dream, knowing John as he works on a Greek island to finish his poetry collection, and meeting all the people who are made their journey possible, I realize what this woman was talking about. It is so easy to do the easy thing, the thing that makes sense, or to ride the waves we’re given, but the honor and inspiration I take from the people I meet who are living their dream is something I can only hope spills into my life. Until then, I think I will just shake their hands and then chop some more wood so neither of us get cold.

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The island has felt gentle these last few days. After months of intensity in many forms- intense sun, rain, living, happiness, longing, friendships, dreaming, scheming, missing, loving, food, adventure, books, music, etc., the island suddenly feels calm and gentle. The sky is a soft and clear blue while the breeze is neither cold nor hot. A silence has settled over Oia, a place that stripped of the tourists, truly is just a beautiful, simple village tucked away in the rocks. I’ve felt immersed in the slow pace that I’ve longed for and sought after since I got here, as its easier to lose yourself working in the shop, taking a lunch at Roka, or playing music in the little courtyard.

Here is a song to start off the blog that was played MANY times in the shop in the last few weeks. Luckily, it doesn’t really get old.

Raphael Saadiq- Sure Hope You Mean It (download here/MySpace here)

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01SureHopeYouMeanIt.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

Following a great stint of bookstore personnel, there are now only three of us, me, Amanda (who has returned) and Pete (who owns and runs an independent bookshop in Sheffield, England and plays some great folk music). This is down from six just a few days ago. Ali is back in San Francisco. Debbie and Ellie have gone back to London and onto Paris, respectively, and Desirina left just yesterday to head to Charlotte for a family visit. I was worried that this mass exodus would leave me in a bad place, worn out from more goodbyes and ill-equipped to mentally prepare myself to leave. This, however, was not the case. While I admit I am emotionally exhausted, I feel invigorated by my time with these people and thankful that my last experience with a big group in the shop was with them, because I’ve been left with a sweet and celebratory taste in my mouth (which could also be due to the absurdly and gluttonously good food we regularly consumed). As opposed to thinking upon each respective departure with a mix of hope and worry, “Well, I wonder what is next,” I found myself taking a deep breath and thinking to myself, “Ok. It’s fitting that they’re leaving, because I’m leaving soon too.”

DSC00740

Featured in this photo: A yellow car we rented that we came to call "Tiny Taxi," the newest bookstore worker known henceforth as "Tiny Pete," and a blue sky that is anything but tiny

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Debbie won a prestigious award for her theater venue, so Amanda and I made her this fruit tart.

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Ellie was jealous so she stuck her tongue out at it. Yeah, real mature.

The profoundity of the calmness I am feeling is only understood when I remember the urgency with which I lived during my last few days in New Orleans. My last few weeks there were a blur of last times, goodbyes, and the milking of every second for all it was worth to the point of exhaustion. This is not to say that the last few weeks have been without excitement, though. The days before everyone left were, for lack of a better word, epic. We crammed in as much adventure and whimsy as possible while always making time for good food and loving and tending the shop in a way I didn’t know was possible with so many people.

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INTERLUDE! I now present a new photo series called, "Boy and his oar." This specific one is called "Boy and his oar and his confusion"

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This one is called "Boy and his oar and his friend who lives in a cave and won't come out because she is afraid of the boy and his oar."

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"Boy and his oar and his beard and his jacket that doesn't fit very well in the sleeves"

Finally, this is called "Boy and his oar and the victory of climbing a moderately-to-small-sized hill"

Finally, "Boy and his oar and the victory of climbing a moderately-to-small sized hill"

One of these adventure-filled days, we adventured to Therissia (which has possibly turned into my favorite trek to make on the island) where we all agreed to not speak a word from the time we stepped off the boat from Santorini to the moment we left the island. This proved to be a powerful experience which heightened the views and the silence and made me feel closer to everyone. Ali mentioned it in his blog, too.

DSC00730

Let's play a game. It's called Real picture or fake picture. Alright. That picture right there, real or fake? If you answered fake, you are wrong. I've been there. I know.

land before time

Next picture. Real or fake? If you answered fake, this time you were right. This is a scene from the Land Before Time. If you answered real, I really don't know what to tell you.

Loudon Wainwright III (yes, again)- Come A Long Way (download here/MySpace here)

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/09ComeALongWay.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

In the midst of all this, I accepted a mission from my sister, which was to have one day of completely new experiences- new food, new places, new music, etc.- and one day completed filled with familiar and comforting things. I have managed to fill many of my last days with things I love and find comforting. These are things that fit nicely into the calming of the days and enjoying the last of my time here. It was the new day which proved to be the most interesting.

The day was filled with new music (here, here, and here), my first perfectly pouched egg (thanks to Ali and Debbie), a picnic in a field where we all stuck in a tight circle in order to keep the wind out, the exploring of a dilapidated building with three people I’ve never met before which resulted in us being kicked out and followed by a furious Greek woman, and was my first Halloween out of the United States (we watched a terrible scary movie and I fell asleep). Perhaps it was cheating, but I actually started the time on the new day the night before, when we went to the house of a friend of the shops who is a local fisherman. He made us a wonderful dinner of fresh fish (many of which he had caught) and we shared dancing, music, and various forms of Greek alcohol. Following the meal, Ellie and I were taken out in the tiny fishing boat where we (kind of) helped with some night fishing in Ammoudi Bay. We hauled in the load, picked the fish out of the net ourselves, had them fried there, and ate the fresh fish. Now, this night included a variety of first-time experiences. I have never had such a wonderful dinner of things someone has caught, eaten it in their home overlooking the water, gone night fishing, picked dead fish out of a net, and then eaten the fish I helped cook. Folks, I am a vegetarian. I really am. This is big. This night was something else, though. Goodness.

DSC00718

Scene from our dinner at Ammoudi.

All this has passed now and I feel myself waiting calmly and feeling at peace the best of what has happened and what will surely come next, just like the island seems to be gently at peace with the changing of the seasons as it wields the best of summer and fall, an intricate balancing act I know won’t last too long. I am absorbing and cherishing the last of my time with the things I love most here- being amongst the books, on the terrace, eating pitas, going to Ammoudi, playing chess, and talking with John and Zalina. In fact, just yesterday, inspired by the clear blue skies and the calm air, I took a dip into Ammoudi where I was welcomed by refreshingly cold water and a loss of breath, something I welcomed right back. And while these moments are fleeting in nature, I can’t help but rest assured that these are all things and places and people that I will carry with me forever. I can’t help but feel that these are the moments for which I came all this way.

Gillian Welch – Wrecking Ball (download here/MySpace here)

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/10WreckingBall.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

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Music to start and beautiful video to boot. “Heima” means home or to be at home in Icelandic. Guess how I know this. Either, a) I know Icelandic, or b) Sigur Ros told me on a documentary. Choose wisely. Whatever the case, its a beautiful video and knowing that its fall in New Orleans, snowing in Colorado, and I am readying to leave Greece makes it feel somehow fitting.

This blog and I have a strange relationship. It’s like a friend that you see in passing all the time and you say, “Wow. It’s really good to see you. We should really catch up sometime. Call me and we’ll figure something out.” Predictably, and I’m not breaking any new ground or providing any new insight into human interactions, neither person calls the other and no actual catching up ever occurs. However, on the occasion that both take some initiative and some hanging out (h-ing the o as it shall now be known) does go on, both parties have an incredible time and you are reminded of how much you truly care about the other person. At the end of h-ing the o, there is a lot of “I had a really great time,” and “It was so good to see you,” and, most importantly, “We should do this again soon.” Then, of course, it takes quite a while for any o to be h-ed for quite some time.

No problems in this. No new ground. But this sums up my relationship with this blog. I say, “I will blog soon,” or “I’ll figure something out. I’ll get it done today.” And then I don’t for a really long time, but when I finally do, I really enjoy it and it feels great and I promise I won’t wait that long again. Sometimes I even promise I will blog twice in a week (!!). You can guess how its ends. That’s okay, though.

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It's also hard to blog when you have things like this to see.

All that being said, here I am. It’s hard to believe that I have less than three weeks left in Greece. While not yet in the period that CJ called “The Beauty of the Last” (which I have mentioned before), I am attempting to make the most of what time I have left in this beautiful place.

The island is changing every day. Every day, more people have left the island and those shops that haven’t completely closed yet (which a majority of them have) are closing earlier and earlier. The weather is markedly different- a topic I will talk about later. Meanwhile, I just continue to do my thing. The shop opens (no later than ten and hopefully earlier) and closes (about midnight) at the same times it has since I got here. People continue to come and go, leaving their mark on the bookshop and on my life.

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Unfortunately, Sylvie is now addicted to the internet, which is totally my fault. Fortuantely, she still only has paws which helps to keep the addiction at bay.

This isn’t to say that this chapter of my time in Greece is in any way the same as anything that came before. It just doesn’t work like that. There are currently four other people at the shop, all of which love and care for the bookshop in ways that I really appreciate. Also, each of them are very creative people. In fact, all four work in the arts in some respect or another. Between being surrounded by these creative forces and great talks with John about music, creating and poetry, I am feeling inspired as of late. It’s a good feeling to make things I would have never thought of before, let alone have time to complete.

In addition to feeling artistically creative, we are also getting creative in our adventures. So creative, in fact, that we have posted a “Whimsical To-Do List” on the wall which features or has featured such things as make a super-8 short film, pool skimming, southern food feast, Atlantis Books Olympics, and beatnik night.

Here is a new section of my blog. It’s officially called “James takes a picture of a picture,” but for all intents and purposes, we will call it “POP.” All original pictures, are taken by Ali Jamalzadeh, who I am currently living with. If you have the time, I strongly recommend checking out his website. He has some great stuff.

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POP! When I put out an album, this is in the lead for album cover.

Along all the creative, whimsical lines, though much more spontaneous, Debbie and Ali got everyone to create “life flow-charts” on napkins. I have included mine below because I feel like mine is pretty accurate to how I thing life will ideally flow.

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As with any practical person, I like to store my important ideas on something that can also wipe my mouth.

I feel as if most important things in life could be fit somewhere in these categories, but the most important part is the interconnectedness. I have been making a concerted effort to balance all of these aspects, something I strove to do while I was in New Orleans as well.

I must admit, my time recently has been a bit heavy in the categories of experience, celebration, and enrichment, but I suppose that is the nature of a journey such as this one. Recently, I went to some friends’ housewarming party which involved a nice collection of eclectic music, beautiful Greek food, wonderful people from all over the world, and some of the best homemade wine I have ever had in my entire life. A few days later, I went to a panigiri for Santorini, which is a celebration of a name saint. This was a celebration that would have made New Orleans proud, complete with excessive meat consumption (of which I did not partake), free wine (of which I did partake), and local music which included a stand out performance by a man playing a bagpipe like instrument made from an inflated pig hide (of which I would have partook in if he would have let me play his beloved animal horn). This is not even to mention the dancing (of which I did partake) and the pool skimming that followed (of which I DEFINITELY partook). This all begs the question, what is more beneficial, a celebratory cultural experience or innocent breaking and entering under a beautiful night sky?

guitar on the terrace

Music? Yes, please.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, everyone at the shop has discovered our main common interest: beautiful, delicious food. Each night is a surprise with people taking turns making dinner with two goals: do something original and/or delicious with the limited ingredients we have AND do it as cheaply as possible. Some stand out performances have been last night’s pizza night, burrito night, saganaki, chili, baked vegetables, and dakos.

This is a good time to clarify that I am not huge on cooking. I don’t mind cooking, and in some cases I enjoy it, but generally, I find it kind of stressful. That being said, I took on heading up the Southern feast. We intentionally ate cheaper all week in order to save money and then still pitched in more to make it really count. Now, understand, this is a lot of pressure, but, if I do say so myself, I not only handled the pressure but relished in it. I made baked macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice, and an apple pie filling, while Desirina, originially from North Carolina, make mashed sweet potatoes, steamed spinach, and took care of the crust. We emerged victorious and everyone emerged excessively and gluttonously full. Highlights:

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Duck.

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Duck.

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Goose.

The weather is changing quickly and we have had almost a storm a day for the last four days or so, including one that actually would give most of the storms I saw in New Orleans a good run for its money in terms of pure intensity. It should be noted that I was driving in the midst of this storm trying to get to a local concert, listening to the band Explosions in the Sky (which added to the drama), only to decide, after literally fording rivers across the road which were lined with moving rocks and asking for directions after walking through water that came half way up my calf at points, maybe we should turn around. So, me and Tatyana found our way back to a small Greek restaurant to wait out the rest of the storm while we enjoyed fava, tomato fritters, fried cheese, and french fries

The mornings after these storms are calm, hazy, and beautiful. Because we all invested in renting a car for a few days, we drove each morning to some adventure before opening the shop. One morning, while visiting a beach that I had previously visited with Aileen, Lizn, and Tash, the grey skies brought out colors in the water that I have never seen one morning and I remember being moved by the beauty of the moment that I felt physically weak. The next day, we got up again and hiked part of the mountain only to get swallowed up by the fog around us.

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POP!

Though, on the days where its not storming, its still warm enough to swim. This song is in honor of that and for this last summer.

Loudon Wainwright III- The Swimming Song (download by clicking)

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01TheSwimmingSong.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

In other news, basketball season has started. The Nuggets won their first game and tonight they play Portland, which always manages to add a healthy competitiveness to my relationships with Sophie and Joel (both of which have great blogs you should check out). Carmelo Anthony is awesome. Witness.

loving bball with joel

This is what Joel and I look like from inside the TV when we watch basketball. Though, this picture was unable to capture our screaming and Joel's tendenacy to pour olive oil all over himself when someone dunks. Also, don't let my shirt fool you. This was not a game against the Nuggets, so it was okay to cheer for the Trail Blazers

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So, things are good. Life is good, and I can’t help but feel that I am achieving some sort of balance in the vein of a life flowchart on a napkin. But, I’m realizing, balance is a funny thing. I’ve spent so much of the last years of my life, mainly much of my time here and the last two years in New Orleans, looking for a balance in my life- wanting to feel like a balanced, healthy person. Of course, this is a battle that is incredibly important and one that, due to my propensity for getting lost in work and take on too much at any given time, I imagine I will be fighting for the rest of my life. However, I’m learning this is only half the battle. Anyone can achieve a balance in their life in some form or another, though its admittedly harder for some than others, and I can say fairly confidently that I have found a pseudo-healthy to healthy life balance at many points in the last three years of my life. The harder part is knowing what to do when your life gets unbalanced, which inevitably happens, particularly when you are living passionately and meaningfully.

The idea that a good portion of the quality of my life depends less on the times I am striving or achieving a balance and more on the way I handle the times I am noticeably out of balance is a huge mind set shift for me. I strive so much to be in control of my life that when I fail to do so it feels somewhat like failing, though maybe, just maybe due to the inevitability of it all and the strength it takes to pull it all back together, its less like failing and more like some form of forward movement. This is something I hope to remember.

Final song. I’ve been trying to get this song on here for quite a while, but the file size is too large for my host. So, here it is on youtube. I will continue to try to get it so you can download it.

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The young man in the new blue suit finished arranging the glistening luggage in tight corners of the Pullman compartment. The train had leaped at curves and bounced along straightaways, rendering balance a praiseworthy achievement and a sporadic one; and the young man had pushed and hoisted and tucked and shifted the bags with concentrated care.

Nevertheless, eight minutes for the settling of two suitcases and a hat-box is a long time.

He sat down, leaning back against bristled green plush, in the seat opposite the girl in beige. She looked as new as a peeled egg. Her hat, her fur, her frock, her gloves were glossy and stiff with novelty. On the arc of the thin, slippery sole of one beige shoe was gummed a tiny oblong of white paper, printed with the price set and paid for that slipper and its fellow, and the name of the shop that had dispensed them.

She had been staring raptly out of the windows, drinking in the big weathered signboards that extolled the phenomena of codfish without bones and screens no rust could corrupt. As the young man sat down, she turned politely from the pane, met his eyes, started a smile and got it about half done, and rested her gaze, just above his right shoulder.

“Well!” the young man said.

“Well!” she said.

“Well, here we are,” he said.

“Here we are,” she said. “Aren’t we?”

“I should say we were,” he said. “Eeyop. Here are are”

“Well!” she said.

“Well!” he said.

– Dorothy Parker, “Here we are”

Tom Waits- Long Way Home

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/2-03LongWayHome.mp3?attredirects=0
Since my last post, my vertical leap has increased to where it is now significantly higher than the height of an average American male.

Since my last post, my vertical leap has increased to where it is now significantly higher than the height of an average American male.

So, here we are it seems. Aileen (aka Allen, Lee Lee, Onion, Leen Green, Amber, etc.) has been in Oia for almost two weeks and leaves in two days. Having her here is similar to playing the ukulele for the first time in months (something I have done in the last few days)- it’s seamless, fills a need you weren’t completely sure you had until its been filled, and compiles everything you love about everything else into one small package. Within a few days of Aileen arriving, our long-time friend and Aileen’s current roommate Liz Newton (aka Lizn, Lynx, Liza, Lips, Leonard, etc.) arrived in Santorini. Just yesterday, I overhead Liz say to Aileen, “It’s hard to remember what my life was like before we were here.” From the moment Aileen arrived, and then later with Liz, it has felt this way. Just matter of fact-ly they arrived and it seems like they have always been here. I currently can’t imagine the shop without them.

Aileen takes things very literally, and upon hearing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," she stood in this position for two days hoping for "the answer."

Aileen takes things very literally, and upon hearing Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," she stood in this position for two days hoping for "the answer."

This is not to say that their time here has been ordinary. In fact, it has been anything but. We have gone from one tip of the island to the other- south to see the lighthouse and stand in awe of the geologists wet dream that is this island, and north to swim and stand in awe of the sunset that the tourists actually CLAP for everyday.

Despite Aileen reading my blog for the last three months, she was still surprised to find the sea here.  Also, if you don't find my captions informative enough, this is the south side of the island by the lighthouse.

Despite Aileen reading my blog for the last three months, she was still surprised to find the sea here. Also, if you don't find my captions informative enough, this is the south side of the island by the lighthouse.

Let’s take a second to break and reflect on the fact that HUGE groups of people clap for the sunset everyday. Now, I love beautiful things. Quite a bit. The sunset in Santorini is extraordinary. One of the highlights of everyday. I also believe strongly in being able to express yourself. But clapping at the sunset has never ceased to amaze me. Why? Some people get upset when others clap at the end of a movie. They say, “The actors aren’t here. They can’t hear you. Why are you clapping?” If you are one of those people, you should never, under any circumstances, watch the sunset within ear shot of the castle in Oia. You will implode. I, on the other hand, have given in and now clap whenever anything that is absolutely supposed to happen goes ahead, does its job, and happens. I started with the sunset (“Bravo”), moved onto to clapping every time my alarm goes off (“Great performance!”), and have ended with clapping when the water heater finally heats the shower water up (“Beautiful!”) . Its the little things, really.

In other news, Maxi got into the World Wrestling Federation (now known as WWE for some reason) with this exact move.

In other news, Maxi got into the World Wrestling Federation (now known as WWE for some reason) with this exact move.

Meanwhile, we ate pitas, we counted, priced, alphabetized, and put away 2500 newly received books (!), swam in the sea, and took senior pictures on a cliff overlooking the water. We took a car to Kolombos beach, which was as calm and serene as I have ever seen it. We had competitions to see who could find the best passage in five minutes, the rules changing only when Vlad decided we would play the same game except the passage had to be in Italian. Thanks to Ali‘s strange ability to get attractive, young, interesting, English-speaking women to hang out in the shop, we have met many new wonderful people. Accompanied by one such girl named Tash, we found our way to a beach I had never even heard of on the south side of the island which was quiet, beautiful, and calm. It was there that we found caves that, despite every Baywatch episode I have ever seen that climaxed with a tourist getting stuck in a cave with the tide rising, were begging to be explored. One particular cave, though small, was quite extraordinary and led to the other side of the rock formation, so we turned around and did it again. Aileen bravely leaped off the towering reaches of the Ammoudi church ledge- on numerous occasions.

This is the start of my photographic essay entitled, "Things that happen at the bookshop."

This is the start of my photographic essay entitled, "Things that happen at the bookshop." Picture one is called, "Reading."

"Organizing books"

"Organizing books"

"Hanging out"

"Hanging out"

"Laughing heartily"

"Laughing heartily"

"Being a wooden doll"

"Being a wooden doll"

Later, thanks to a successful busking performance by John, Tash, myself, and Zalina, our band manager, which resulted in 6.99 euros, and following a successful breaking into the local hostel by me and John in order to get Tash to come back out, we bought some whiskey and then sang songs that involved two chords and reading straight out of the books on the shelves. We listened to musicians play in front of the shop. We even had one of the now famous nights in the bookshop where we pretend it is the dead of winter because it is slightly chillier that usual, which this time involved drinking wine, eating glorious stew, listening to Joanna Newsom, and playing cards.

John is a secret ninja.  I am pretending to not have a head.  Both of these things will help us break into the local hostel.

John is a secret ninja. I am pretending to not have a head. Both of these things will help us break into the local hostel.

Speaking of Joanna Newsom,

It should be noted that jumping off of the Ammoudi church ledge is no small feat. Not in my book, anyway. You walk to the swimming area from the port and you see an island immediately in front of you. If you swim out from this point of entry you can look up and see all of Oia dusting the top of the cliffs like Parmesan cheese on top of spaghetti. Delicious. It is from here that you can first see the ledge. There is a church on this island. Having a church in such a place, an island or at the bottom of a gigantic gorge, is not uncommon in Greece, a religious characteristic that, unless I have misconstrued it, is very beautiful to me. Next to the entrance of the church, which faces directly towards the middle of the caldera at the volcano, is a bell and if you walk a bit further on sideways-turned rocks, which are perilous when barefoot, you find yourself at the large semi-circle that is the ledge famous for being the jumping point into the crystal blue water below.

The first time I made this jump, I was with Mike Hurley (mention number 8). I am not afraid to admit that I remember feeling an immense fear, one that starts with “Oh no, you must be kidding me,” and ends with, “Yeah, fucking right.” It is probably 20 to 25 feet to the water, but when you stand at the ledge it seems at least 3 times that. I also remember, when feeling this fear, that I had to jump just then, because if I didn’t, surely this would not bode well for the rest of my journey. Really, it was the fear that pushed me over the edge. I had to jump because I was scared. If you have ever felt such a thing before, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I knew I would be safe, and I had nothing to prove to anyone else, but I had to jump because, quite simply, I was afraid of doing just that.

So, I jumped. Just like I had to, and since then I have jumped over and over and over. At least twenty times. Each time, it got a little easier, and each time it felt as if I was able to go deeper than the time before, though always managing to miss the treacherous rocks that line the sea floor, and soon I’m confident I will go so deep that I will be able to actually walk on the bottom.

Liz is a senior in high school.  This is her senior picture.

Liz is a senior in high school. This is her senior picture.

I am a model.  A model who just found a pot of gold.

I am a model. A model who just found a pot of gold.

Aileen is also a model.  A model waiting to be struck by lightening.

Aileen is also a model. A model waiting to be struck by lightening.

This is where I’m at right now. I am at the top of this beautiful ledge next to a beautiful church looking up at the beautiful village that holds my beautiful bookshop. And I have to jump. I have long been pondering what to do after I leave the bookshop, thinking that I would be leaving in mid-November. I’ve let it stress me out and bring me down in ways that are in no way healthy and in no way abide to my goal of being present in a moment. Every idea I’ve had, I found a reason not to go through with it, and I, on some level, attribute this to fear. It could be noted that before I left for London, I was worn down and tired. But that is no longer an excuse because now I feel much better, aided by the presence of my sister, a trip to London, and constant reminders of the wonderfulness of this place.

And here I am. Here we are. Part of me feels new, like an egg or like I’m dressed in all new beige clothing, some of them still with the price tag on. Another part feels like I’m settling in, maybe taking a bit too long, but I’m settling in for something. Either way, here I am, and the tension is very real. It is time for me to jump.

So, here it is (or in more detail here). This is where I’m going for at least two weeks when I leave the shop in mid-November. I have received confirmation from the family who runs it and they are expecting me. Splash.

DSC00580

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I’ve been having this creeping feeling lately that something big is about to happen. In a good way. I can’t be sure what is bringing this feeling on or if it is true but the last few days have found me with this exact feeling- that something important is going to happen.

Here's whats coming, James.  Checkmate.

Here's whats coming, James. Checkmate.

Upon Sophie’s recommendation (which is something you should almost always follow, particularly when it comes to books), I have started reading “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck, which is Steinbeck’s travelogue of his trip across the US in 1960. First of all, I should reluctantly admit that this is the first time I have ever read any Steinbeck, so I am taken in the same way one is when they have their first crush. “Oh, this is what everyone has been talking about.” Or maybe, more accurately, I am taken in the same way I was when I first started listening to Bob Dylan in high school and vowed to ONLY listen to Bob Dylan for at least two weeks. I called it “musical cleansing” and I think I made it the two weeks, or at least very near. If you don’t remember this, ask Gabe, because I’m sure he does because I made him listen to more Bob Dylan in that old Le Baron of his than he could have ever wanted. I feel like a world has just opened up to me.

It doesn’t hurt that the book contains so much of Steinbeck musings about journeys, exploring, leaving home, and experiences in a way that resonate so deeply with me that I often just put the book down after a passage and walk away. There have been very few times where I have had to do this in my life. I should clarify that the themes in the book are more numerous and much deeper than I am even beginning to explain, because I am only touching on the things that immediately affect me and this blog. I should also note that I only about a third of the way through the book, so if something drastic happens and I no longer like it or something changes, I will be sure to notify you. But currently the book has been turning the way view this experience on its head.

This was the same time that I went to go see the sunset but fell asleep.  True story.

This was the same time that I went to go see the sunset but fell asleep. True story.

Perhaps what I have been feeling is momentum, as the last week or so has felt as if I have taken a step definitively in a direction. What direction exactly, I don’t know, but it is in a direction.

This last week has had many firsts and changes. First of all, it rained here for the first time. Before that, though, it was foggy, as in fog descended over this whole end of the island and overtook everything. It started at night and we chose to go nightswimming in it. This was a good choice. But the next day, it was even more so. I welcomed the weather change, as the weather has been virtually the same from day to day for over two months. Also, I grew up in Colorado, which was incredibly distinct and pronounced seasons, and four of them, at that. So, I have come to appreciate having variety in weather and despite moving to New Orleans and then onto a Greek Island, I really love the cold and gray.

Not pictured: thousands of disappointed tourists.  Also, not pictured: Me.  Happy as could be.

Not pictured: thousands of disappointed tourists. Also, not pictured: Me. Happy as could be.

It stayed gray and rained for a few more days. On the last day of this, Amanda and I sat in the shop as customers walked in and out virtually unphased by the change in weather. I understand this. It is their holiday and, to be very honest, it wasn’t THAT cold, just chilly. However, Amanda and I were acting like it was the dead of winter or the coldest day of the year. We holed up, read books, act popcorn, drank copious amounts of hot tea, messed around on the internet, and pretty much did the things you do in Colorado when it is a blizzard and school has been canceled.

This is an example of a real life winter day in which one might hole up, read books, and drink tea.  We did not do that on this day.

This is an example of a real life winter day in which one might hole up, read books, and drink tea. We did not do that on this day.

Add some clouds to this and you would still not have an example of a day where you would hole up, read books, and drink tea.  We did that anyway.

Add some clouds to this and you would still not have an example of a day where you would hole up, read books, and drink tea. We did that anyway.

Also, I shaved. It was just time. It’ll grow back. Here you go. This took me no longer than a few minutes to make, so don’t judge the quality, but enjoy the product.

Although it wasn’t a first, I went to Ammoudi with Chris and Amanda one day. We swam and found a spot secluded from the mid-day crowds. It was not swelteringly hot so I just sat on this rock overlooking this beautiful place that has been so important in my time here and has seen so many chapters of my experience. I was perfectly content. Slowed down. Relaxed. This is why I came here. It felt like a first for some reason.

In case you didn't believe me, I included my foot in the shot.  I was there.

In case you didn't believe me, I included my foot in the shot. I was there.

There was another first. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the start of something that later turns into a sort of revolution. We officially founded an activity called “pool skimming,” though it has been loosely and unofficially practiced for decades by rebellious teens everywhere. It involves locating, entering, swimming in, and sharing high fives in private pools. There were five people participating so it was no small task to silently get everyone in the water at three in the morning, swim, high five, and leave, while many of the pools were immediately next to rooms of the residents of the hotels and villas where these pools could be found. We did this NINE times in a little more than an hour. There is something to be said for a group of full-grown adults (I was the second youngest to give you an idea) not being able to control their giggling as they enter a pool in the same way a ten year would do as they enter any room clearly marked “DO NOT ENTER.”

This is a picture of Oia at night where you can see some of the pools glowing bright.  They were all victim to the famed pool skimmers of Oia.

This is a picture of Oia at night where you can see some of the pools glowing bright. They were all victim to the famed pool skimmers of Oia.

I decided to take a break from shaving to go pool skimming, so I looked like this as I entered private pools.

I decided to take a break from shaving to go pool skimming, so I looked like this as I entered private pools.

Today marks another change in Atlantis Books personnel. Liz left a few days ago after a FULL YEAR of traveling around the world. September 9 to September 9. Read her blog when you get a chance. It’s awesome and the things she has done and seen are remarkable. Many of the pictures on this post are from her. She also gives a good description of her last night here, which had Liz, Amanda, and me “getting our America on” after a botched attempt to see “Inglorious Bastards” at an open theater. We listened to music VERY loud in the car, sang, ate popcorn, and drank beer in parking lots of strange mini-bowling alleys

Amanda left today, though with a promise of returning in a few weeks, and Rich and Chris will leave in about an hour. That means its just me and Tony for a few days.

The constants at the bookstore are me, John, a guitar, and us tuning out everything else to play music.

The constants at the bookstore are me, John, a guitar, and us tuning out everything else to play music.

As a preview of things to come, I just booked a flight today to visit Jack in London. We will be going south of London for the weekend with some of his students and camping in the English countryside. More on this at another time.

The day I arrive back is the day that this one girl gets here. Her name is Aileen. She is my sister. I am somewhere between absurdly and unnecessarily excited about this happening.

She likes me more than it appears here.

She likes me more than it appears here.

Maybe I don’t feel like something big is going to happen soon, but I am just feeling forward movement. In “Travels with Charley,” Steinbeck talks about the Spanish verb “vacilar.”

If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere but doesn’t greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.

One of the many reasons that pushed me to come to Greece was knowing that there is so much more in the world that what I have experienced and what I have seen. Its humbling, for sure, but it is part of the reason I was driven to do something new. I am most definitely “vacilando.” I am heading towards something, though, unlike Steinbeck’s definition, I can’t quite tell you where, but I feel my movement in that direction. Though, at this particular moment, I can’t say I’m in a rush to get there. I can’t foresee being in a rush until I understand how I am going to manage how to experience all there is to experience.

Of course, this is a question that can’t really be answered, and surely not in a blog post. It’s more of a question of how to find meaning in one’s life, which is for another post to say the least, and a question that we all answer every day. So, I’ll just continue to love where I am, learn as much as possible, and move forward thoughtfully and meaningfully. The rest, I have faith, will follow.

Greg Brown- China

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/05China.mp3?attredirects=0

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How ridiculously good is this song?

The Left Banke- Walk Away Renee

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01WalkAwayRenee.mp3?attredirects=0

This blog post has been particularly hard to write. Its probably due to various factors, none more than the fact that I have waited so long and spread out the writing over a few days instead of just sitting down and doing it. And time does funny things here. Not this kind of funny. Or even this kind of funny. Not even this kind of funny. So, really maybe a better word is strange. Okay. Time does strange things here. The pace of life is slow and I am living at the slowest pace I ever have. This is healthy for me on many levels and I have reflected on numerous occasions on the value of taking time.

These grapes grow about one mile from the shop.  Because I now move so slowly, it took me almost 29 hours to get there.

These grapes grow about one mile from the shop. Because I now move so slowly, it took me almost 29 hours to get there.

However, it is the way that certain things just fly by here that has been perplexing me lately. I have been here for two months now, but these two months can be dramatically broken into various chapters, all of which are profoundly different from the others. Since I last wrote, I have experienced essentially three different chapters.

Jack left last Sunday, along with Helen, who is a(nother) teacher from London who stayed at the shop for five days. Jack and I got a long famously, and I think this came down to our shared decision to spend our days intentionally seizing every opportunity that came our way. We lived this time to the fullest and did so very much on purpose. First and foremost, we worked hard in the shop to make it our own and I believe we succeeded. The recommended section featured a strong combination of our tastes (that sold many books, nonetheless), we had good communication and routines, and the shop always had a positive energy. Furthermore, I am most likely going to visit him in London in a few weeks, but thats neither here nor there.

We added a "Currently Reading" section.  Jack did the artwork and the reading.  I just stayed as current as possible.

We added a "Currently Reading" section. Jack did the artwork and the reading. I just stayed as current as possible.

Speaking of doing things on purpose, this might have been one of the times I beat Jack at chess.  On purpose.  Or it might be one of the times I lost to Jack.  But that was also on purpose...

Speaking of doing things on purpose, this might have been one of the times I beat Jack at chess. On purpose. Or it might be one of the times I lost to Jack. But that was also on purpose...

There is something that makes this chapter different than any of my others. I refuse to compare one segment of my time to another in terms of what is better, but what I can say is that I sped up for the last three weeks, and it all started by learning how to say, “Yes.”

I would say that often I default to “no” in new situations, or at least I have historically. This is not to say that I don’t try new things, because I would say I do, but somehow saying no, whether initially or ultimately, always allows me with a certain level of control that makes me feel comfortable.

Here are things Sylvie says yes to: 1) being disguistingly adorable, 2) terrorizing the rest of us, and 3) through some combination of the last two, getting away with it all.

Here are things Sylvie says yes to: 1) being disguistingly adorable, 2) terrorizing the rest of us, and 3) through some combination of the last two, getting away with it all.

Once again and to clarify, this does not mean that “no” is my final answer, but for these last three weeks I have made a concerted effort to say “yes” first and then think second (I promise it hasn’t been as dangerous as that sounds, Mom).
I’ve said yes to night swimming at 3 in the morning with people I had just met and was witness to some of the most incredible beauty I have seen here yet. Ammoudi (our regular swimming spot) was a different world at night. The stars shone proudly and brightly above us. The water was warmer than is right for 3 in the morning. And, most amazingly, the water was filled with incredible, glowing phosphorescent things that lit up the water.

Oia at night.  Not the swimming spot, but you get the idea.  (Pictures courtesty of Helen Boobis)

Oia at night. Not the swimming spot, but you get the idea. (Pictures courtesty of Helen Boobis)

I said yes to a sunset with wine and cheese one night and beach time at a part of of the island I had yet to visit the next day with Lauren and Mary Kay, friends from high school and New Orleans, respectively, who traveled to Greece together.

I’ve become closer with new friends on the island. We’ve had numerous music nights on the terrace that last well into the morning. I’ve learned more Greek in the last three days than I have for the whole rest of my time here. Jack and I let a new friend match us to our respective energy stones at his parents’ shop and then we bought them. I still wear it actually. I’m not sure how much I believe in such things, if at all, but, if nothing else, it has come to remind me to try new things.

And these things started with yes (and good judgment, Mom). Saying yes is not always easy for me, but, somehow, it is continually bringing me wonderful things here. And with each passing yes, time somehow gets stranger and stranger, and instead of hearing “Yes,” time hears “GO!” and it moves as quickly as possible.

Just try to say no to that sweet face.

Just try to say no to that sweet face.

Try this on for size and tell me what you think. She is an Icelandic singer-songwriter. I think its beautiful.

Ólöf Arnalds- Vittu af mer

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/06Vittuafm%C3%A9r.mp3?attredirects=0

Whatever the case, I must admit, I like what is happening, and I think I’m going to keep doing it. Not recklessly. Not stupidly. But just here and there. At times when I wouldn’t usually do it right away.

After Jack left, I was alone at the shop for three days. I enjoyed this time with the bookshop and I got to spend some great time with John and Zalina, friends of the shop who have been very, very good to me.

Now, I am beginning another chapter. A crowded chapter, but a fun one nonetheless. There are currently five other people in the shop, but luckily they are all outstanding people. The shop is a happy place and each night has been marked by a family style dinner on the terrace, somewhat in the vein of family dinners in Nirvana in New Orleans.

I have been thinking a lot about New Orleans lately, particularly with the recent anniversary of Katrina. I will spare you of anymore of my musings on this incredible city with its incredible people, many of which I love quite dearly. I have said time and time again that I know I will never be able to understand what this disaster actually meant to New Orleans. I had never been there before the storm, and this is something that you can’t really understand unless you lived through it, but I feel like New Orleans is in my blood now, or at least somewhere deep in where I feel rooted. More than anything, I just want it out there that I am thinking of New Orleans.

Bob Dylan said in his book, Chronicles:

New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don’t have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there’s a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There’s something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands…There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better.

I know its clique, but I just couldn’t help myself

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/21DoYouKnowWhatItMeanstoMissNewOrleans_.mp3?attredirects=0

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People do funny things when they travel. Things they wouldn’t usually do. I am no exception to this rule as I haven’t shaved in almost two months and regularly go without shoes, two basic activities that I would never have done in “real” life. I guess that’s one of the biggest draws of traveling. Being pushed out of your comfort zone. You are meeting new people, trying new things, and seeing new sights. It’s a fairly simple concept, I suppose.

Let's compare. Would I do all these things in the US? Grow my beard that long? Probably not. Write on the celing? Probably not. Smile that ridiculously for a picture? Unfortunately, probably yes. For the records, the names on the ceiling belong to all the people who have worked and lived at the shop.

Let's compare. Would I do all these things in the US? Grow my beard that long? Probably not. Write on the celing? Probably not. Smile that ridiculously for a picture? Unfortunately, probably yes. For the records, the names on the ceiling belong to all the people who have worked and lived at the shop.

Let's play one more round of "Are these things I would do in the US?"  Have a nice beer with dinner?  Yes.  Have that beer be 80 cents?  Probably not.  Sell books to people from around the world?  Unlikely to no.  Be on the computer too much?  Absolutely.

Let's play one more round of "Are these things I would do in the US?" Have a nice beer with dinner? Yes. Have that beer be 80 cents? Probably not. Sell books to people from around the world? Unlikely to no. Be on the computer too much? Absolutely.

As I have mentioned before, Santorini’s economic livelihood is nearly completely dependent upon tourism. Particularly during the “season,” the crowds can be overwhelming and stifling. As Craig (one of the owners of the shop, not my dad) said, the tourists here are like the weather. Sometimes you just gotta wait it out if you want to get anything done. Now, this is touchy territory, because undoubtedly I am a tourist on my own level. Euphemistically, I like to call myself a visitor, but for all intents and purposes, I am a tourist.

Very few of the people who work on the island stay around for the full calendar year. They leave when the season is over, because there is no work to be had here. The bookshop is a special case because people live here year round and stays open for almost that whole time. The island, and in my case Oia, is a dramatically different place come winter. To give you an idea, the bookshop is located on a small street made of marble that houses more than its fair share of touristy places to spend your money, jewelry shops, and overpriced restaurants. But in the winter, this is all closed. There are no cruise boats and most of the town is left deserted until the beginning of the next season.

Hey look!  It's the Greek God of tourism.  The locals call him Michael Hurley (mention 7).

Hey look! It's the Greek God of tourism. The locals call him Michael Hurley (mention 7).

So, understanding the huge number of tourists that pass through this town is important when you begin to think about the out of the ordinary things people do as they travel. Naturally, we are going to be witness to a large number of strange occurrences involving tourists. Of these phenomenons, nothing has struck as the apparent loss of memory that is known to stricken some tourists. Let me be more specific. There are a remarkably high number of stray animals in Santorini, and it seems that upon arriving to the island, people completely forget they have ever seen a live, domesticated animal. Immediately upon the arrival of a stray cat, the streets of Oia are filled with approximately 57 languages saying, “I must take a picture of this strange animal that I have never seen before,” and dozens of people gather and snap pictures. When some people walk in and see our cat asleep on our lap, they say, “Oh my god, a cat! May I hold your cat?” “Yes”/Well, I guess. I mean, its asleep, but I guess/Seriously?

Okay. I’m exaggerating slightly and clearly there is bitterness in my voice. And when I got here, I was similarly taken by the strays. Proof:

Guilty!

Guilty!

Here’s the thing. We have a cat at the bookshop. Her name is Maxi and she likes to do two things. One, sit in the window where all passing traffic can see her, and, two, sleep in the recommended section of the book shop. We regularly just have people peeking into the shop, losing their mind because they have spotted an ever-elusive cat, taking a picture, and moving on. Perhaps you are thinking that I am being a bit hateful, but you are missing out on the most important thing. The noise. The international noise for calling cats. Everyone does it. It’s just this really abrasive, “Psssstt,” over and and over.

Psssst. Pssst. Pssst. (Snap picture) (Snap picture)

All day this is what we hear.

Who really runs this bookshop, Mr. Hamilton?

Who really runs this bookshop, Mr. Hamilton?

Craig and Maxi battled over this spot for the length of his time here.  Craig wanted to put books here.  Maxi wanted to sleep here.  Maxi won.

Craig and Maxi battled over this spot for the length of his time here. Craig wanted to put books here. Maxi wanted to sleep here. Maxi won.

So, Jack and I have obviously become quite tired of this noise. I really never had a problem with the pictures or the talking until the noise became too much. But lets take a break from that for a second.

First, a musical treat. This is one that we sometimes project on the ceiling of the shop.

Jack and I sometimes get up early and take swims at Ammoudi bay early in the morning. Great way to start the day. So, we did this one morning and came back to open the shop.

A crowd of onlookers gather to take a break from having their picture taken and watch Jack swim.

A crowd of onlookers gather to take a break from having their picture taken and watch Jack swim.

Upon our arrival back to the shop, we find…the smallest, feeblest, most delicate, tiniest, and most adorable kitten the world has ever seen. Right on the steps of our shop.

"The Grinch's heart grew 3 sizes that day and he began to see things in a new light."

"The Grinch's heart grew 3 sizes that day and he began to see things in a new light."

It was so feeble, we couldn’t help but give it water. MISTAKE NUMBER ONE. Then we noticed that it was so tiny and malnourished even. So, we gave it some food. MISTAKE NUMBER TWO. Then we just started making incoherent noises and just taking photos, as if…as if we had never seen a cat before.

"What is this strange creature?  I should take a picture."

"What is this strange creature? I should take a picture.

Why can't I stop taking pictures?

Why can't I stop taking pictures?

"Oh my god, a cat!  Can I hold your cat?"

"Oh my god, a cat! Can I hold your cat?"

Maxi didn't know what to make of the whole situation.  She still doesn't.

Maxi didn't know what to make of the whole situation. She still doesn't.

So, the cat begins to feel at home and just walks itself into the bookstore and takes a seat on the books. We are impressed by how brave it is. We name it Rambo, which we later change to Sylvie. We named it. MISTAKE NUMBER THREE. This cat will surely leave, right? No, it goes to the back of the shop and takes a nap.

The kitten continues to stick around. It finds a permanent spot on the lap of whoever is sitting at the till. We feed it again. And then regularly. And then the unthinkable happens. I don’t know where the cat is, and I need to find it. So, I make a noise. Not just any noise, but the international noise of calling a cat.

Pssstt. Pssst.

Embarrassed, I immediately look to Jack in hopes that he didn’t hear the noise I just made. His look is a mixture of disgust and of someone who just had a small piece of them die. And while, we have since promised to never make that noise again. Things have clearly changed at Atlantis Books.

Cat naps.

Cat naps.

Don’t worry. Not everything in Greece has been this traumatic. The other night we hosted a movie night on the terrace. The featured film? E.T. The turnout? Two awesome American girls who are sisters. While the movie was going someone had to be at the till, and while there, Jack met two Spanish women who had their violin and guitar with them. Jack, ingeniously, invited them to play on the terrace. They agreed.

Meanwhile, in traditional Greek time (a feel for time that makes New Orleanians seem like they have the regularity of the sun), all of our friends and guests showed up for the movie- when it was over. This is okay, though, because we suddenly had about twenty party guests and a band. So, we headed up to the terrace and made a fire in the fire pit. What else was there to do?

The two women played, and did so beautifully. Those in attendance were as diverse as the night was incredible. UK, America, Greece, Maritius (small island off of India), France, Canada, Russia, Serbia. I’m sure I’m missing someone, but I’m sure you get the idea. Then the guitar was passed around. It was an amazing night. So amazing, in fact, that it was suddenly four o’clock in the morning- something I would have never done in the US.

Who gave me the guitar?  Seriously.  Good time?  Ruined.

Who gave me the guitar? Seriously. Good time? Ruined.

One of those nights where the whole next day I just keep saying, "Wow, last night was great."

One of those nights where the whole next day I just keep saying, "Wow, last night was great."

So, the story goes. Greece continues to present me with new experiences and I catch myself opening my mind and broadening my horizons. Here’s to hoping thats something I can always do- no matter where I am and for how long.

Sometimes its just best to say yes to new things.  Just ask Maxi.

Sometimes its just best to say yes to new things. Just ask Maxi.

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