Posts Tagged ‘Pool skimming’

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.


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.


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.


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.


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:







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.



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)


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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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


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