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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Home again, home again…

by John on June 17, 2014

I am back on Paros, grateful for the short time away, grateful to be home.  I am dropping off my laptop at a Mac repair shop in Naoussa in about an hour, so I’ll update now and be off-line for a few days while they fix my RAM/overheating issues.  Get some other stuff done… Here are some thoughts gleaned from the notebook I kept while away from my keyboard.

–On Iraklia, be sure to eat at ‘Pefkos’. A nice, small family-run taverna.  I had excellent goat there and fried zucchini.  Ate there twice.

–On the day I left Iraklia, I wrote “Fisherman repair nets.  There is music on the radio. My donkey and I wait for the boat to Naxos.”

–A kamaki is a traditional three-pronged spear used to hunt fish.  It is also the term used for the people (kamakia) who wait for you to disembark from a boat.  They try to lure you in to stay at their hotel, studio or apartment.  I wrote “The life of a kamaki is no life at all.”

–A poem…Sikinos slips by/stone dragon in/a shining sea./From the stern/I gaze up/its scaly flank/searching for Episkopi/the worn dome/the Apollonian columns.

–”I’ve seen Sikinos burning, from miles away, on another island, years ago.  From Andiparos the blaze measured 5 mm between my fingertips.  A year later I searched the rocky terraces and found no sign of the inferno.  Perhaps it was dragon spit.”

–I was able to finish ‘Ulysses’ while on holiday.  “As the Aqua Jewel slid into the harbor of Sifnos, Molly Bloom exclaimed “…yes I said yesI will yes.”

–A Gypsy woman wearing an electric blue t-shirt.  Written in large, bold black letters is “variegated moss green.”

–”The lights of Paros shine faintly off the starboard bow.  I can see Paros from where I am.”

–JDCM

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Milos, day 6…

by John on June 12, 2014

–I had forgotten how posh Milos can be.  It is easy to avoid if one so chooses.

–From the top of Prophitas Ilias (748 m) the view is spectacular.  Even on a hazy day like today, the archipelago was in full view.  Kimolos, Polyagios, Santorini, Sifnos, Serifos, Folegandros, Paros.  This was all around me.  Far to the south I could make out a faint, long shape:  Crete.

–The FIAT Panda is, perhaps, the finest car in its class ever made.  A real gaidaros…a real donkey.  I have mentioned this in other posts already.  A big ‘thank you’ to Niko’s Rental in Adamas for allowing me to change my rental agreement not once, but twice.

–I have purchased my ferry ticket back to Paros on the ‘Aqua Jewel’, leaving Sunday evening at 18:00 hrs.  This leaves me with almost three full days left for my biking, hiking, swimming and photography.  Not always in that order.

–Yesterday I had just finished up an arduous 10km hike, ending up at a lovely beach on the west coast.  As I lay on the sand I suddenly realized I did not know what day of the week it was.  I had to laugh.

–The last time I was here ( June 2012) I only spent 3 days.  Being here so long has allowed me to really get into Milos.  I have discovered that despite the heavy mining and cosmopolitan aspects, it is as rugged and wild as they come.   Wild goats still scamper up and down the rocky crags.

–Tomorrow is a photography day.  My goal is to finish one roll of AGFA in my Voigtlander and start another.  Easy-peasy.   Rocks and wood.

–JDCM

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On holiday…

by John on June 7, 2014

So here are the bullet points…

–I was supposed to travel to Milos last Tuesday but the high winds cancelled my boat.  Then my laptop died before I left Paros.  I left it behind.   I took the next available ferry from Paros to Naxos.  Enroute I bumped into some folks I knew (Orfeas, Bjornante) so the gods put me there for a good reason.  I continued from Naxos to the small island of Iraklia, one of the Minor Cyclades.  I spent the next 3 days hiking and biking that very quiet place.  While there my “smartphone” decided I wasn’t smart enough, so it locked me out.   I’ll  get some reading done instead.

–Yesterday morning I began my odyssey to Milos.  3 boats, 16.5 hours.  Iraklia back to Naxos; Naxos to Ios; Ios to Milos.  I arrived at 24:30 last night, checked into my hotel, unpacked and had a solid night’s sleep.

–So I am here for the next week.  Lots of biking, hiking, swimming and sun.  I hope to visit nearby Kimolos next week for  a day trip.  It is a short ride on a slipper ferry from Pollonia to the Port of Kimolos and the boat goes every two hours or so.

–I cannot upload any pictures or change the header  so that will have to wait until I get back to Paros, fix my laptop, etc….

–JDCM

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–May is here.  The sun is shining, the tourists are few.  The winds are from the south, north, east and west.  It is lovely here on Paros.

–My darkroom work is progressing nicely.  I have been printing my Weather/Texture 35mm images on a regular  basis and am finding great joy in the consistency of this portfolio.  I have also been keeping up with my 4×5 portrait work and  recently photographed a young artist who is visiting our fair isle.  I made 12 exposures, of varying depths-of-field.  I’ll develop them this weekend.  Paros Portraits, Part II moves at its own pace…

–Recently a close friend  gave me a lovely gift: Richard Avedon’s Woman in the Mirror .  The images reminded me to look a little deeper into this photographer’s life.  I have always been impressed by his work.  I admire those who labor at what they love and have paid their dues, either through hard work, hard times, or both.  Avedon was a skilled craftsman who supported himself and his family through commercial photography.  While I never met the man, I get the feeling that while he became famous in his own time, he maintained his humility.

Avedon said that “I never wanted to be called an artist.  I wanted to be called a photographer.”

…also “sometimes I think all my pictures are just pictures of me.”

He also believed that “a photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.”

–Dig it.

–JDCM

 

 

 

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