Pisa…2014

by John on September 23, 2014

–It has been two years since I have visited Italy.  What I have seen still inspires.

–This year I traveled to Pisa with some friends.  The sun was warm, the clouds white, puffy and benevolent.  The breeze was cool enough to be pleasant and carried a slight tang of the nearby sea.  I have always been impressed with Pisa.  I find the town charming and the buildings along the Arno fill me with a kind of peace as they gracefully follow the curve of the river.  I imagine the Romans in their boats, big and small, navigating…

–The Camposanto is the emotional high point for me.  The frescoes are  amazing for many reasons, perhaps because they are even there.  Anyone who visits is made aware of the damage caused by Allied bombing during the Second World War and the subsequent attempts to repair and restore their delicate structures.

–Of all the great dignitaries, princes, princesses, lords and ladies entombed in the Campo, one resident stands out: Deane Keller.  Keller was an American, a member of the MFAA Group that, during WW II, scoured a desolated Europe to save the great artistic treasures either looted by the NAZIs or damaged by the ravages of war.  He is responsible for the saving of what we now see in Florence and Pisa, especially the frescoes of Pisa.  Much was lost.  Much has disappeared.  While standing next to Keller’s tomb, I was talking to a friend about this.  I began to cry.  I was reminded that what we draw, paint, sculpt or photograph is of the finest delicacy and so easily destroyed.  Keller tried to fix what he could and his work continues to this day.

–JDCM

 

Frescoe restoration at the Campo Santo, Pisa, Italy 2014

Fresco restoration at the Camposanto, Pisa, Italy 2014

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Departures and arrivals…

by John on September 17, 2014

The crowds have thinned out on Paros.   The roads have become less treacherous and the island is, once again, for those of us who live here.  There is a collective sigh of relief.  I have been biking well, using my new Boardman road bike and loving it.  In a recent post I stated that I wanted to ride at least 125km per week.  I have done that in three days.  I will have to up the ante.  Maybe 200km?  Easy-peasey.  My mountain biking has been vigorous and rugged.  As it should be.

I continue to build a solid portfolio of 35mm portrait pieces for my exhibit scheduled in the fall of 2015.  I think I also have enough ‘cafe-Cafe‘ images for the small show I hope to hang in November.  Now all I have to do is print, matte and frame 12 images. This will begin in October, when I return…

I am leaving for Italy tomorrow.  It will be a short trip, only a couple of weeks, and I will hook up with friends and colleagues for some art, art history and good eats.  I am all but packed with only my shaving kit to stuff in my rucksack.  My camera bag is ready, awaiting my laptop and assorted odds and ends.  I am only bringing two cameras: my trusty, well-used Canon G11 point-and-shoot and the small Pentax 35mm I bought from a friend last July when I was back in America.  I will bring the 50mm and 135mm lenses.  I have been having fun with this little machine and so it feels good to continue the joy.

Cavafy’s poetry continues to inspire and fill me with emotion…

Return

Return often and take hold of me,
cherished sensation, return and take hold of me–
when the body’s memory awakens.
and past desire again runs through the blood;
when the lips and skin remember,
and the hands feel as though they touch again.
 
Return often and take hold of me at night,
when the lips and skin remember.
 

–JDCM

 

 

 

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Cavafy on the beach…

by John on September 7, 2014

–A friend recently presented me with a small collection of C. P. Cavafy’s poetry.  I am familiar with his work, but not so much with those collected in this small, beautiful anthology.

–Today we lay on the beach on Andiparos.  Waves lapped at the rocks; birds sang in the dry, hot September air; we swam, ate lunch.  We read Cavafy to each other.  I was particularly moved by his poem ‘Ithaca’, written in 1911.   It is of leaving and arriving, the maturation of the soul and that this is all we may wish for as our journeys continue.

–We all come to places, places we have read about in books, or perhaps overheard–they are awed, exotic hushed whipsers.  We all leave these places, hopefully taking with us what we have been given, what we can carry, gifts from Phoenecians…

                      Ithaca

As you set out bound for Ithaca
hope that the journey is a long one,
full of adventures, full of learning.
Of the Laestrygonians and Cyclopes,
of wrathful Poseidon have no fear,
you’ll never meet suchlike on your journey,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if noble
sentiment grips your body and spirit.
You’ll never encounter raging Poseidon,
Laestrygonians and Cyclopes,
unless you bear them in your soul,
unless your soul sets them before you.
 
Hope that the journey is a long one.
That the summer morns be many
when with what delight, what joy
you enter harbours hitherto unseen;
that you stop at Phoenecian markets,
and acquire fine merchandise,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and all kinds of heady perfumes,
as many heady perfumes as you can;
that you visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from the erudite.
 
Always keep Ithaca in mind.
To arrive there is your destination.
But in no way rush the voyage.
Better for it to last many years;
and for you to berth on the isle an old man,
rich with all you gained on the journey,
without expecting Ithaca to give you riches.
 
Ithaca gave you the wonderful voyage.
Without her you would not have set out on your way.
Yet she has nothing more to give you.
 
And though you may find her wanting, Ithaca has not
                                                                            deceived you.
Wise as you’ve become, with so much experience,
already you’ll have understood what these Ithacas mean.
 
C.P. Cavafy, 1911
 

I will continue reading Cavafy.  I fall into his words, as one falls into a conversation.

–JDCM

 
 
 
 

 

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In the shift…

by John on August 31, 2014

–The August crowds have departed and it is almost September.  The summer is slipping away (has slipped away), a tide across the sand.  The light has shifted.  It is no longer the July glare.  Delicate clouds mute the summer fierceness.  Autumn approaches.  Today it is windy and cooler.  A meltemi eases fevered brows.  A scirocco will present itself midweek.  The breeze will drop to almost nothing.

–All the forecasts point to the possibility of a light shower this week.  Whether this will happen on Paros or another nearby island is never certain.  I shall just have to wait and see.

–The mountain bike race on Andiparos has been cancelled.  The next event I can participate in is the race on Naxos, at the end of October.  That’s OK, although I was looking forward to Andiparos.

–In a couple of weeks I head off to Italy to visit with friends, eat some steak Florentine, and allow the Renaissance to inspire my eye.

–My portrait work continues.  I would like to shoot and develop a couple of rolls of 35mm before I head to Italia.

–I continue my biking.  I need to pump up the kilometers a bit.  Now that it is cooler and there are fewer cars, this is easier.  I pay the final installment on my road bike tomorrow. Then I can begin that dynamic routine.  200 km a week total with both bikes.  That is all I ask…

–JDCM

 

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Impressions of Amsterdam…

by John on August 22, 2014

Amsterdam is not really part of Holland.  It is an autonomous state within the Netherlands.  They would prefer it if you did not call them “Dutch.”

The weather during my stay has been unusually cool and wet, very much like November weather on Paros.  I am grateful I brought my fleece and warmer, wet-weather clothes.  I have needed them.

People in Amsterdam are so fluent in English as to make native English speakers seem lacking.   I have even heard the locals speaking English to each other.  Odd.  At other times I have heard a very Anglicized Dutch.  An Amsterdammer told me they love to hear visiting Belgians speak Flemish since it is closer to their mother tongue.

The food here is good, if on the heavy side.  In addition to the traditional Amsterdammer restaurants there are numerous Indonesian and Surinamese places, a tasty side-effect of brutal colonization and the Dutch East India Trading Company.  For some reason there are also large numbers of Argentinian/Uruguayan steak houses.  These seem to cater more to tourists.  Another interesting restaurant is all-you-can-eat sushi.  The locals love these spots.  I ate at one twice.  Inexpensive and high quality.

The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum (modern art) are all superb.  I bought my tickets in advance and avoided the long waits on line.  I also visited the Rembrandt House and the Dutch Resistance Museum.  Both were excellent and worth a viewing, especially the latter.   Ultra-right wing political parties are on the rise in Holland and in Europe as a whole.  We must all take a stand against fascism and all that it means.  If not me, then who?  If not now, when?

I do not think that those who drafted the laws regarding the decriminalization of “soft drugs” in Holland expected the odor of pot smoke to fill the streets and cafes full of college students getting wasted.  There are national movements trying to limit the usage to residents, but in Amsterdam that vote was thrown out.  Too much tourist money.  Still, it is illegal to grow it, illegal to transport it, illegal to sell over 5 grams per day to one person and illegal to buy it in bulk.  Therefore the “legal” cafes are still reliant on the black market for their stash.  So what is legal about it?  I recoiled as if from a hot stove.

As I write this I am out of town visiting friends in the small rural village of Elspeet.  Really lovely.  Quiet, green and flat as a panenkoek.

–JDCM

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Paros, Athens, Amsterdam…

by John on August 18, 2014

I have been back in Greece since…August 1st? July 31st?…It feels blurry…I remember a 27 hour travel day: cars, planes, boats…my body temperature shocked from a cool New York July 70F to a sweltering Athens August 38C…dehydrated, jet-lagged, sleep-deprived.   I experienced daily periods of vertigo and lightheadedness for almost a full week.  Water, sports drinks, sleep and more water…7 days later I was 100% and feeling fine.  A friend believes I may have picked up a mild virus during a leg.  Perhaps.  At least it wasn’t my suspected Google-diagnosed brain tumor or West Nile Virus.

Paros has been jammed with tourists, as it always is this time of year.  Too much, really, for me to handle.  I found the best thing to do is bike early in the morning, go swimming, have coffee, check email and make sure it is all done by ten in the morning, then hide in my apartment until a reasonable hour, like 19:00 hours…we dine late, 22:00 or even later…

I left Paros last night (this morning?) at 01:30 on the Blue Star Naxos.  The large ferry was mobbed with Athenians returning home after the religious holiday (The Ascension of the Virgin Mary) and we docked just a couple of hours ago.  While on the dock, weaving through the crowds, I heard an American voice say, “How can this be so stressful?  I thought Greece was laid back…”  Ah, yes, the great illusion…

I was tired so I took a cab to the Attalos Hotel, my oasis.  While my room is not ready yet, I am out of the chaos and look forward to snoozing most of the day away on cool sheets.

I am en route to Amsterdam, NL for the week.  My little scheme is to visit some top-notch museums (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, Rembrandt House, Modern Art), eat some Indonesian food and visit some good friends outside of the city during the weekend.  Pretty simple.  Then back to Greece and Paros for the very end of August and most of September…

–JDCM

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Soon I will depart for Greece, and Paros.  It has been splendid being back here. I have spent my time visiting with good friends and family, eating American food, driving around…

I joined the local gym the day after I arrived and have been able to work out 6 out of 7 days.  I have stuck with the treadmill.  Why not the stationary bike, you say?  Simple: boring.  All exercise aside, the stationary bike has none of the qualities I look for in bicycling. There is no wind in my face, no exhilaration of speed, no constant vigilance concerning traffic and/or obstacles.  It contains none of the rewards I glean in a long uphill slog on a rutted, rocky road.  So I hike the treadmill.  I have been able to walk 8+ miles (12.9 km) at a stretch, keeping a constant 4.3 mph (6.9 kmh).  The only variable has been the grade.  I start off at 6.5% and by the time I am finishing up mile number 4, I am at a 15%.  It is all downhill from there.  I finish at 0.0%.  I count the time, the miles, and watch the calories drip off.  I manage to burn off 1800+ per session.  I think, let my mind drift.  The exercise has allowed me to indulge the American palate.  To be honest I have also been eating a lot of watermelon and grapefruit.  At my age, I cannot pretend my metabolic rate is the same as when I was 40, or 30.  Move a muscle…

I attended an estate sale last week and purchased a neat little Pentax ME 35mm camera with a nice F/2.0 50mm lens and a F/3.5 135mm telephoto to go along with it.  I figured I couldn’t go wrong for $45.  I ran a couple of rolls of film through it as a test.  For technical sake it was roll of TRiX 400 and TMAX 100.  I developed them both using Rodinal 1:50 for 11.5 minutes.  They look pretty good.  The camera is light-weight and easy to use.  I will carry it with me.

I have missed Paros terribly.  My heart is there.  Greece has gotten into my blood.  My senses are full of the place.  I have succumbed to Her wiles.  The seduction is complete.

Pentax ME w/135mm lens

Pentax ME w/135mm lens

 

–JDCM

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I sit across the breakfast table from my mother.  All is well here.     (Leica m8, Voigtlander 75mm, ISO 320)

–JDCM

 

Polly Jo, July 2014

Polly Jo, July 2014

a pear, a white bowl

a pear, a white bowl

 

yucca and lily

yucca and lily

nasturtium, basil and salvia

nasturtium, basil and salvia

day lilies

day lilies

astilbe

astilbe

 

 

 

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Traveling…again…

by John on July 2, 2014

–I leave Paros tomorrow for Athens.  From Athens I fly to the USA via Vienna.  This is my usual route.  If all goes well I will be at my mother’s house in upstate New York in time for dinner Sunday night.  I will stay three weeks, then return to Greece, and Paros, on August 1st, just in time for a friend’s watercolor exhibit.

–I have much on my mind.  Distance will allow me some perspective.

— When I return to Paros I have my work cut out for me:  I need to start house-hunting in earnest.  I have been told that August is the time to do this.  I will also take possession of my road bike, a different animal from the mountain bike.  So I will have two bikes.  It is similar to having pets. I need a new space.  Ideally I am looking for something with a small terrace where I can store the bikes and an extra, small room where I can keep my photography gear.  Currently these fill my living room.

–While I am out of town a close friend is housesitting for me.  She leaves on July 21st so at least my flat will be occupied and used for the next couple of weeks.  It will be good to keep it aired out.  She’s a peach!  Thanks JR!

–Before I know it September will be here.  I will finally (!) begin Greek language lessons.  I have been here too long to know so little.  I am embarrassed.  There is a 25km mountain bike race on nearby Andiparos in which I would like to compete.  I also have my own photography to work on.  I am working towards a small solo show in November.

–Lots of thinking, lots of action.  At night the wheels spin in my head, clanking about like rusty, broken gears.  Sleep can be difficult.

–JDCM

 

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The busy island…

by John on June 24, 2014

Paros becomes busier daily.  The tourists come through, then leave.  I stay.  My friends and colleagues stay. We live here and thrive in our respective communities, circles within rings.  I have to admit that I am amazed at how life is working for me these days.  I suit up, show up, don’t push, breathe and keep things light.  I take my pictures, ride my bike, etc…Here are the bullet points:

–I am working towards a small solo show for November, centered around, and exhibited in, the small cafe in which I am currently tapping away on my Macbook.

–My Macbook is in fine running order.  Fully cleaned, reseated RAM, etc…No overheating.  Thanks to Pararam in Naoussa for that, and only 20 euros!  In the US it would have been three times that amount.

–I had a nice discussion with a friend the other day about working and showing your work, i.e. “putting yourself out there.”  On being prolific.  We cited the author Michael Chabon.  He is my age, more for less.  He has published a lot of books.  Not all of them are Pulitzer Prize winners, but he has published a lot of books.  That’s OK.  If people want to know what you are doing, you should show them.  Once a year, big or small, grand or humble.  It all matters.

–I rode my first long road race last weekend.  The Circle of Paros, 61km around the island, began at 17:40 Saturday.  It was my first long race, first road race.  I rode the course on my mountain bike last Wednesday and made it in 3 hrs 15 min.  That’s with fat tires, 5 stops for water, and not being exactly sure of the route.  Afterwards some more experienced riders advised me to load slick road tires on my MB and ride that way.  So I did it.  I just wanted to knock off 16 minutes.  My final time was 2:37:48.  And I had a puncture that delayed me 6-7 minutes.  Here is a Youtube link.  It’s in Greek but it’s fun to watch…

–There was a moment (fleeting!) when I almost quit. I was only 6km into the ride.  But I decided to push it anyway.  Not give up.  I overtook many and made it to the big hill-climb towards which I was looking forward before the race officials closed it.  I made it.  My “Franken-Bike” worked well, but an actual road bike would have been better.  I now have my eye on one.  A friend is willing to sell me his Boardman road bike.  It is essentially new, but the frame is too large for him.  We shall see.

–I would be unable to thrive, enjoy life or otherwise be part of these circles, these rings of communities, without the support and advice of many.  For me, I can trust my instincts only so far.  Even the wisest and experienced turn to others for guidance and direction.  It is best to not pretend you know what you are doing.  That would be arrogant folly.  Hubris.  That’s a Greek word.

The "Franken-Bike."  I took the 26x2" mb tires off and replaced them with 26x1" road tires.  Not ideal, but it did the job.

The “Franken-Bike.” I took the 26×2″ mb tires off and replaced them with 26×1″ road tires. Not ideal, but it did the job.

–JDCM

 

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