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Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

Jack Kerouac is accused of writing about people going nowhere…but they were always going to Denver, and that is a definite destination indeed. -As quoted in the Denver Post, December 29, 1974

Back on New Year’s Eve 2008, as the year turned to 2009, I remember being struck with an overwhelming feeling that it was going to be a good year. It felt definite and unavoidable. There were things throughout the year that quite actively worked against this but nothing could change the fate of 2009. It was, when all was said and done, a good year.

I know people who would fall on both sides of this argument, those who firmly disagree with me and didn’t bat a eye or shed a tear as the calendar turned from 2009 to 2010 and those who, upon meeting the new year, said,”You got some big shoes to fill, 20-10.” While I am admittedly someone who admits failure much more readily than I do success and will therefore avoid putting any sort of superlative next to 2009 (e.g. “greatest year ever,” “most important year ever,” “year that I ate the absolute most”), I will say that as a year it felt important/good/new enough that I couldn’t help but look at that big old full moon that 2009 left as a housewarming present for 2010 on New Year’s Eve and, like anyone who played after Otis Redding at the Monterey Pop Festival, say, “That’s a hard act to follow.”

Taken during a friendly game of hide and seek at the Denver Contemporary Art Museum with Kyle and Aileen. Aileen was trying to be completely camoflauged.

So, you ask, what made last year so great? What made it so good that I find myself addressing calendar years as they were human? Was it that I started the year in New Orleans, spent half of it on a Greek Island and have ended up in Colorful Colorado- three of my favorite places? Well, that surely helps. Surely it has something to do with all the new people you met and strong connections you made, right? Right, thats important. What about when the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals? Yeah, that really helped. Was it all the new places you visited and new experiences you had, from camping in Mississippi to having the best birthday you’ve maybe ever had to skinny dipping in the Aegan sea and learning how to play chess? Of course, those were all important, just like my students succeeding and all the good music and books and food that helped to make it a good year. However, there were things that didn’t help it as a great year- things I won’t go into here- but suffice it to say that every year, even the really good ones, have their ups and downs. This is why I won’t say that the aforementioned things were the essence of why this was a good year, though it bares repeating that I am thankful for all of these things and know that I wouldn’t be where I am without each and every one of those things.

Interlude for a photographic essay entitled, "Things that happen in Colorado around the holidays." First up, making apple pie.

Arguing about who gets to ask the question in Trivial Pursuit and then getting in a fist fight with your dad because he won't let you read it.

Congratulating families on their new arrivals.

Alliances.

Solo musical performances.

Musical duos that involve profoundly unattractive facial hair.

Get to the point, right? Here is why:

A route differs from a road not only because it is solely intended for vehicles, but also because it is merely a line that connects one point with another. A route has no meaning in itself; its meaning derives entirely from the points that it connects. A road is a tribute to space. Every stretch of road has meaning in itself and invites us to stop. A route is the triumphant devaluation of space, which thanks to it has been rereduced to a mer obstacle to human movement and a waste of time. -Milan Kundera, “Immortality”

I feel like 2009 was a year that thrust me forward into new places with new faces, and it was the decision to make the year a road instead of a route that made the difference for me. I wanted every stretch of road to have meaning in itself and accept its invitations when it asks me to stop.

I spent so much of my time in Greece attempting to be present in a moment, to worry not about what was coming next or what came before but what was happening then. The funny thing is I realized, when all was said and done, I failed at this. I was unable to simply be present, and, to be quite honest, I’ve never been happier to admit I failed at anything in my life. One misses so much when they are simply present or in only one moment. Being present is important but I think I realized I already knew how to do that. What I really needed to learn was that life is indeed moving forward, or at least around, and the challenge is knowing when you’ve been invited to stop and value the space you’re in along this road. When I said I wanted to be present in my life, I think I actually wanted to make sure I wasn’t on a route with my actions, experiences, and movement purely defined by the point I started and where I would end up. And, you know what, it isn’t.

More than anything, I know I was much more than present because I’m in a different place than I’ve ever been before. 2009 as a road took me from one place and I’ve ended up somewhere completely new with stops on a Greek beach to play backgammon with Mike and Sarah, in John and Zalina’s house talking and laughing, in the Rude Shipyard in Sheffield, in a London warehouse flat as the blue morning light flooded the room, in Eunice, Louisiana to listen to Cajun music, and on my porch on Mardi Gras day. I will admit, the reason 2010 is going to be different than 2009 is that I’ve started it just trying to make sense of the new space I’m in. The new place to which I’ve been brought. But I’m not worried. I’m really not. As long as I step forward meaningfully on this road, this new year, and make as many stops as possible a long the way, I know everything will be fine.

Sigur Ros- Heysatan

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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.

DSC00641

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.

DSC00652

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.

DSC00690

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.

DSC00694

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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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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I will start with a song to accompany your reading. Upon much reflection, Mike, Sheena (mention number five), and I have decided that any music sounds profoundly better when listened to here. In the first few days of being here every song we heard was followed by an almost obligatory, “Oh my God, that song is incredible. Play it again.” I’m not sure if this is the widely accepted magic of the bookstore, the general beauty of Santorini, coupling music with a new experience, or something I don’t quite understand yet, but something definitely enhances listening to music here. This is a song that I recently discovered and have listened to over and over- partially because I think its very good and it hits the spot for me every time, but also because I want to determine how much of its goodness is legitimate and how much is hearing it here. I have concluded it is legitimately great.

Sleep All Summer (Crooked Fingers cover)- The National and St. Vincent

Download here.

So, time is passing. Of this much I am sure. It has almost been a month since I arrived in Oia, and I would say a month is about time to start feeling like a place is familiar, like it somehow starts to feel like where you live. And, admittedly, I feel this. I was excited to return to the bookshop from Crete, because “it will be nice to be home and settled for a bit.” Home? Interesting.

Make this place my own?  My pleasure.

Make this place my own? My pleasure.

Now, I don’t know if I would go as far as to say this is home. Actually, I would definitely not say this is home. The “Where are you from?” question has already proven tough enough. “Uhhhhh, well…originally from Colorado but I’ve been living in New Orleans.” This answer took a while to formulate and the first time I was asked this question, I had a mini-identity crisis, but thats neither here nor there.

Just when you think you are safe, a vicious Greek monster is lurking in the bushes behind you.

Just when you think you are safe, a vicious Greek monster is lurking in the bushes behind you.

I have found it interesting lately to reflect on how I familiarize myself with a place, or, more specifically, how I make it my own.

Making New Orleans my own was easy. I found places that I considered “mine” (e.g. Nirvana, Theo‘s, Parkway Bakery, Bennachin, various places to eat breakfast, etc.), found people I loved (TFA friends, my roommates, Sophie, basketball friends), had an intense amount of routines that I could fall back on (Nirvana on Sunday, Canal Place Cinemas on Sunday evenings, streetcar to Cafe Envie on Saturdays, basketball games early in the week and on Saturday at KIPP Believe), worked hard, loved the work I did, and loved and was wowed by the place more than I could ever have imagined. This made making it my own easy, a big easy even, and I really considered it my home. It’s still hard to say its not.

Clearly, we feel at home in New Orleans.  Hence this family photo.

Clearly, we feel at home in New Orleans. Hence this family photo.

Claiming Santorini (in a strictly non-colonial way) is going to prove to be very different. Meeting the people is one of the best parts, but Santorini is very transient in its nature, so you can’t necessarily root yourself there. Though, please do hear how thankful I am for the people I have met, because they have all brought something to my journey, and how thankful I am for my time with Mike and Sheena, as they have sort of transitioned me here. Of the people who were here when I arrived, only Mike and Sheena remain, and they leave in less than a week.

Living in a small town, finding your places is pretty easy but quite rewarding. We eat pitas everyday for lunch from one of two places- a gyro place by the bus stop or Polski Locale. Marykay’s (this is not how it is spelled in Greek, but how it is pronounced) is a coffeehouse by day and the only bar and club by night and is located right across the walkway from us. During the day, we have gone there to play backgammon (a newly acquired skill and hobby) and just hang out. At night,
it is a good place to get a drink and talk, and last night there was flamenco music. However, this is a love/hate relationship because I have moved out of the bed I was sleeping in before and have moved into the connected living area. This is good news because I have my own space and I don’t always have to get up when the bookshop opens. This is bad news because I am right below Marykay’s and my door opens up to the drunken chaos that can be be the outside of the bar. So, when I go there, a part of me feels like I am losing a battle that I wage every night trying to go to sleep. Anywho, the other places that we regularly visit and are making our own are the beaches- two in particularly, Ammoudi and Katharos.

This is my new space.  Upgrade!  The mess is not all mine.  Mostly mine, but not all.

This is my new space. Upgrade! The mess is not all mine. Mostly mine, but not all.

But, more than anything, it is the routines and, strangely, the new experiences that are making me feel at home. Generally, I wake up and try to do some work in the bookshop- like one good project everyday that makes the bookstore better. Sometimes it is administrative duties (I have now completed my first successful business trip into the large town of the island where I met with the accountant briefly and deposited money at the bank), but mostly it is projects in the bookshop. It is here that I feel the most comfortable- surrounded by the books. When I rearrange the shelves, I enjoy feeling the bound pages in my hands. I am surrounded by beautiful works of art, characters, and stories that mean so much to so many people. It is here I feel the best. It feels safe and overwhelmingly beautiful. And don’t forget, the beautiful music is playing the whole time.

Regular things that happen at the bookstore: 1) I still at the till; 2) I am on the computer; 3) The cat suckles my shirt...  Trust me, its even weirder in person.

Regular things that happen at the bookstore: 1) I sit at the till; 2) I am on the computer; 3) The cat suckles my shirt... Trust me, its even weirder in person.

Bookshops are fun!  So is stealing other people's hats!

Bookshops are fun! So is stealing other people's hats!

The other thing that brings me comfort has been experiencing and learning new things. I have started playing backgammon, played a few games of chess, found old pieces of marble that I plan to paint on, recorded a song, learned the Greek alphabet and a few Greek words, jumped off ledges into the sea, and created a shelter from the sun on a beach.

This was our pre-robbing a bank photo, somewhere in the vein of Bonnie and Clyde, but following the actaully we realized our error in picking a crashed car as our get-away vehicle.  Poor, poor planning.

This was our pre-robbing a bank photo, somewhere in the vein of Bonnie and Clyde, but following the actaully robbery we realized our error in picking a crashed car as our get-away vehicle. Poor, poor planning.

I made this.  How needs architecture school when you have this raw talent?

I made this. How needs architecture school when you have this raw talent?

If you think this is me jumping off a high ledge, you are incorrect.  This documents my incredible ability to jump out of the water like a dolphin.

If you think this is me jumping off a high ledge, you are incorrect. This documents my incredible ability to jump out of the water like a dolphin.

Be sure to visit our new website, brosonbuoys.com

Be sure to visit our new website, brosonbuoys.com

If you thought this was Mike pushing me off the buoy, you would, once again, be wrong.  This photo documents my rare ability to dance on water.

If you thought this was Mike pushing me off the buoy, you would, once again, be wrong. This photo documents my rare ability to dance on water.

More than anything, I am learning that roots grow. This simple thing has been filling my mind lately. The thing that keeps us in one place, that keeps us grounded, grows. Outward or downward or upward if you are in the swamp, and where they grow is a part of that thing forever, just as much as anything else. I will add to this my list of very important things to remember.

DSC00159

Here is a song brought to me with the incredibly musically-wise Justin Lamb (check out his blog for some original . Its a jam, thats for sure.

Slow Down- Jesse Dee

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/03SlowDown.mp3?attredirects=0

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Today I did my laundry by hand for the first time in my life.  And while I can’t guarantee the cleanliness of these articles of clothing, I can say that I really enjoyed this as a task.  It was both productive and gratifying, which, ideally, all household chores would be.  This is, of course, not the case, but that must be saved for another post.

Proof that I did my laundry...by hand...by myself...and by myself I mean with minimally help from Sheena...but very minimal...so mostly by myself.

Proof that I did my laundry...by hand...by myself...and by myself I mean with minimally help from Sheena...but very minimal...so mostly by myself.

I have always had a deep appreciation of things that just make me and/or other people just stop and force us to be present in the moment we are in.  The two examples I regularly use when talking about such events are church and the ferry.  Generally speaking, church is a time when large groups of people stop the rest of their busy lives and just be in one place doing one thing.  Now, the actual enjoyment people derive from church-going is subjective, and I don’t not claim myself as a religious person in the traditional sense by any measure, but I have come to appreciate the power of church in making us slow our lives down for even just an hour.

The ferry I specifically think of is the one that goes from the end of Canal St. to Algiers Point in New Orleans.  Its no more than ten minutes if I remember correctly, but there is something about being put on a boat with nowhere to go for ten minutes at time and being surrounded by a city in every direction and the Mississippi.  At least it always helped me slow down.

This is NOT the way I remember the ferry to Algiers.  But thanks to Jerry Bruckheimer, no one will ever believe me that is a pleasant experience.  Seriously, the odds of it blowing up are minimal.  I promise.

This is NOT the way I remember the ferry to Algiers. But thanks to Jerry Bruckheimer, no one will ever believe me that is a pleasant experience. Seriously, the odds of it blowing up are minimal. I promise.

This is what doing my laundry, by hand nonetheless, did for me today.  I slowed down.  I felt a little more than I usually let myself feel.  I needed it.  Thank you to the social norms which required me to wash my clothes today.

That being said, I must admit I feel a bit guilty saying I needed time like this.  I am currently in the midst of what many have told me is quite close to their dream job/vacation and I just returned from five days in Crete.  A vacation from a vacation?  It sounds indulgent but its what happened and it felt great.

Crete is an incredibly geographically diverse place.  In the midst of our five days, we saw large cities, small cities, small farms, vineyards, touristy beaches, remote beaches, mountains, gorges, and a vast array of plant life.  Oia is a wonderful place but it is easy to get caught up in the bustle of a place that relies almost solely on tourism to survive.  The population swells so dramatically during tourist season that it is a completely different place.  My taxi driver from when I first arrived said it can grow by up to 10 times, but if you want to see this man’s legitimacy in terms of competence and trustworthiness, you should read the entry from when I first arrived.

While Crete is also very touristy, it provided a change of scenery and a change of pace.  Not to mention, it was probably the last time Mike, Sheena, and I would be able to travel together (Mike and Sheena reference four) away from the bookstore because most of the crowd from the bookstore has now left.

Day 1 was spent traveling from Santorini to Iraklion by ferry and then to Hania (Xania to you Greek speakers, which I am sure I have a loyal following of), where we spent the first night.  Here we walked the streets and found (read: Mike found) an awesome restaurant  where we made friends with the wait staff who brought us an extra bottle of Raki on the house.

Was Crete ready for the team now known as Team Game-Time Sensation (Team GTS)?  Probably not.  But it survived, though not unscathed.

Was Crete ready for the team now known as Team Game-Time Sensation (Team GTS)? Probably not. But it survived, though not unscathed.

The next morning symbolized the start of the best day of our trip.  We caught the first bus from Hania to the Samaria Gorge, which is a remarkable hike of about 16 km (you do the conversion if you are that curious) down a huge gorge and is one of the islands largest tourist attractions.  We missed a huge crowd because we caught the early bus.

The Samaria Gorge.  As Americans, we felt it our duty to try to open a Starbucks here, but the Greeks, integrious people that they are, politely declined.

The Samaria Gorge. As Americans, we felt it our duty to try to open a Starbucks here, but the Greeks, integrious people that they are, politely declined.

Even the water was beautiful.

Even the water was beautiful.

Proof that Mike and Sheena hiked the gorge.  Proof that I did the hike does not currently exist.  You just have to take my word on this one.

Proof that Mike and Sheena hiked the gorge. Proof that I did the hike does not currently exist. You just have to take my word on this one.

Anywho, the hike was perfect and we got to the bottom where we ate some food, jumped in the sea and caught a ferry westward to Paleohora.  Upon arriving at Paleohora we found ourselves a vegetarian restaurant in the middle of town (yes, a vegetarian restaurant) and ate to our heart’s content.  At this point, we were tired but feeling like the day had already been a win, so we decided to be a bit indulgent.  And what is more indulgent that going to find the one cinema in town that just happens to play English-speaking films.  Our expectations were low, as we didn’t know what to expect in terms of venue, language, pricing, etc.

I ordered mango stir fry.  I know...I still don't believe it was real.

I ordered mango stir fry. I know...I still don't believe it was real.

Well, after some wandering, we found it.  Oh, did we ever find it.  It was an open air cinema with stray kittens running all about.  The silence in the movies were filled with the sounds of cicada-like bugs and the wind in the trees around the theater.  Looking up you could see thousands of stars all around.  The movie, to add to the exceptionalness of the evening was Slumdog Millionaire with Greek subtitles.  Life is good, huh?  So good in fact that we found a beach cot on the beach and just slept there, with the sounds of the waves in front of us and the lights of the city behind us.

Most likely, this is an illegal picture of Slumdog Millionaire, and it hardly depicts how beautiful the theater actually was, but at least you've know seen it.

Most likely, this is an illegal picture of Slumdog Millionaire, and it hardly depicts how beautiful the theater actually was, but at least you've know seen it.

The morning after.  Do you see how appealing it was to stay another night?

The morning after. Do you see how appealing it was to stay another night?

Even though the next day started with Mike running around going, “Get up, get up!,” it was a perfect way to wake up.  He was doing this because the current suddenly rose to the place we were sleeping but everything was saved, so no worries.  The previous day and night had been so good that we chose to stick around for the whole next day and night.  Can’t get enough of a good thing, right?

This was a wrong assumption.  While the day was nice and relaxing, when we set up and settled into sleep in the same spot from the night before, we were greeted with a life lesson that sometimes it is good to just let good things be.  The night was just one gigantic wind storm that quickly turned into a sand storm.  Poor Mike only had a sheet, which temperature-wise was fine but the wind was much too violent.  At some stressful point in the night, I took more beach cots and built a wall of resistance against the wind, which helped with sleeping but the sand still found its way everywhere.  When I flossed last night there was still sand in my mouth.

We rose early (surprising, right) and started the track back to Iraklion (fifth largest city in Greece, mind you) where we would catch the ferry the next morning.  I will not spend much time telling you about Iraklion.  I never feel comfortable about criticizing a place, considering people live there and most likely many of them proudly call it home, and especially a place where I spent a total of about 18 hours tops.  My experience was, as I’m sure you have guessed, not the best of our journey.  However, we did find our way to a bowling alley and to the entrance of a little fair.

Greek bowling is serious.  These are our game faces.  And, for the record, I won.  Twice.

Greek bowling is serious. These are our game faces. And, for the record, I won. Twice.

If you can't get into the fair, why not just just dance at the entrance?

If you can't get into the fair, why not just just dance at the entrance?

All in all, an amazing trip.  And lessons learned.  No matter where I am or what I have been doing, its always nice to have something slow you down for a moment- if even just for that moment.  Take time, as they say.

The Books- Take Time

http://7970917082554362344-a-1802744773732722657-s-sites.googlegroups.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/08TakeTime.mp3?attredirects=0&auth=ANoY7crkuRlk29asEkgFZ_3_kRJmkPzm7X23MwSuCejRKBHodg4orOt6ZHt1YvX3LBSZgBseNJpHEQIhckMNU_fGQe1bMce57qqQru1jTEHTsWhBqhi-7BKVSqhW6JPMrky6mI7aFmouQu2dM2IM54FjLdmhI5UyemLtmVXjKQah_PtLGzy_klddr3CjaivchrBnhPA4qepRyDnSb9i16icX-K_I2ZEJLJzojkrC36x1kZbJEDSv1d4%3D

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"When you first arrive in a new city, nothing makes sense. Everythings unknown, virgin... After you've lived here, walked these streets, you'll know them inside out. You'll know these people. Once you've lived here, crossed this street 10, 20, 1000 times... it'll belong to you because you've lived there. That was about to happen to me, but I didn't know it yet." - L'augerge espagnole

"When you first arrive in a new city, nothing makes sense. Everythings unknown, virgin... After you've lived here, walked these streets, you'll know them inside out. You'll know these people. Once you've lived here, crossed this street 10, 20, 1000 times... it'll belong to you because you've lived there. That was about to happen to me, but I didn't know it yet." - L'augerge espagnole

The lesson I am learning is it is important to blog regularly. That avoids what has now happened, which is that I have an incredible amount of things to fill you in on but no idea where to start. The morning after arriving, I quickly became aware that this was an incredibly special place- more so than I ever could have imagined. Everyday has been filled with the richness and beauty that I hoped it would be. I am surrounded by beauty in every direction and the bookstore is full of beautiful people, creations, and art.

Perhaps I should start with a brief tour of the bookstore.

Here is Sheena at the entry to the bookstore.  She is modeling what some tourists do, which is take pictures and peek in without every actually entering.  Good job, Sheena- this is a very accurate depiction.

Here is Sheena at the entry to the bookstore. She is modeling what some tourists do, which is take pictures and peek in without every actually entering. Good job, Sheena- this is a very accurate depiction.

Don't be fooled.  Come night time, this turns into where I sleep.

Don't be fooled. Come night time, this turns into where I sleep.

If you look up in the backroom, you will see Mike and Sheena's bed above it all.  I did not volunteer this bed readily.  They won it in an intense wrestling match with high stakes.  What can I say?  It was 2 vs 1.

If you look up in the backroom, you will see Mike and Sheena's bed above it all. I did not volunteer this bed readily. They won it in an intense wrestling match with high stakes. What can I say? It was 2 vs 1.

These...well, these are the books.  Also, known as the goods.

These...well, these are the books. Also, known as the goods.

Most days are marked with a trip to the beach, falafel in pita for lunch, time spent behind the till talking to tourists and locals, learning the ropes of the bookstore, and sitting on the terrace of the bookstore talking and laughing. Our first week was marked with an incredible 8mm international put on by the bookstore’s very own “Splice girls,” as they became known. It is not without responsibility, though, as learning the ins and outs of a bookstore can be complicated, but is so rewarding to watch it function late into the night and bring so much joy to so many people. This bookstore, as a project and as a location, is something that people truly care about and want to be a part of, and the times we are a part of such things are times to cherish.  The days are full, but not in a way that I have ever experienced before on such a regular basis. They are full in the way that you feel after a perfectly portioned meal with good company- satisfied, not too full, by no means hungry, and reminded that life is good.

This is me behind the till.  This picture also adds to the countries in which I have taken an unflattering picture, which can now be totaled at 10.

This is me behind the till. This picture also adds to the countries in which I have taken an unflattering picture, which can now be totaled at 10.

I believe a large part of the specialness of traveling and particularly of this place is the people. I am fortunate to have Mike and Sheena with me (Mike and Sheena reference number 3). Our time together is something I know I will cherish dearly for the rest of my life and they graciously let me be a third wheel regularly. I have met and played music with people from Germany who are biking to India and spend their days as statues in the main square of Oia. Ani and Justine from Montreal came in and read a whole book in French aloud with Joni Mitchell in the background. Ajay and I play cribbage. Sarah and Madeleine make incredible dinners every night. I sat on the terrace with two eleven year old Greek girls who made an art project for the bookstore, where we listened to pop music and they taught me the Greek alphabet.  Chris and Maria, who live in San Francisco and Cyprus, respectively, were part of the group of people who founded the bookstore, are both teachers, and have a love for this place they have created that inspires me to create things of my own. Not to mention, in the midst of writing this very blog entry, Kira Orange-Jones, who is the Executive Director of Teach for America in New Orleans, just walked into the bookshop. I tell you, there is something about this place. Not even the island so much as the bookshop itself. More on that as I experience it more.

As Sheena and I prove here, it is hard not to take a picture of everything.  Once again, nice job Sheena on depicting my points.

As Sheena and I prove here, it is hard not to take a picture of everything. Once again, nice job Sheena on depicting my points.

There is still a lot to explore and learn.  I will have much more to read as time passes.  Tomorrow, Mike, Sheena, and I are heading to Crete for a few days to hike in the mountains, explore a new place, and experience another part of Greece.  Until then.

I must say, the road ahead is looking good.

I must say, the road ahead is looking good.

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