Lebanon, part 2…

I don’t know why being in Athens makes me want to blog more about Lebanon.  Maybe it is this early morning, 7am light coming through the window of my hotel room…Not that that has anything to do with Beirut or Lebanon….So let’s talk about the food in Lebanon.  Like the stereotypes of falafel and kebabs, these places exist there and, trust me, the worst there is better than the best anywhere else, but there is so much more!  Salads much like the way salads are thought of here on Greece, as side dishes.  Eggplant, tomatoes, onions, etc…tabbouleh…Also plates of grilled meats (no pork) on sticks and the wonderful, fantastic kibbeh nayyeh (nigh-yah).  I may be weird, but there is nothing quite so good as prepared raw meat, either lamb or beef.  Mixed with salt, pepper, spices, olive oil….amazing!  I have only one photo and it doesn’t show details, but I have included a link that has good pictures and a solid recipe should anyone wish to try it.

I feel that this dish is a symbol of what can be right with the world.  You need meat that is fresh, handled by as few people as possible, from a source you know and butcher who knows what you want, i.e. no processed, packaged brand name big store shrink wrapped meats.  Buy local, stay healthy–in mind, body and planet!

Let’s talk about the government for a bit.  This is what I know:  Lebanon is a ‘failed state’ and, as such, has no government.  Yes…they have a president, a parliament, etc…they even have diplomatic relations with many countries like the USA, France, Greece…so on that level they are legitimate.  But the government doesn’t run the country.  The country is run by a group of families–let’s say 20-most of whom have been in power of some sort since the Middle-Ages.  Now, these families are very wealthy and most own the very legitimate and wealthy banks.  They are also the patrons of the very good and well-known hospitals and universities in Beirut.  They are the patrons of everything.  Think of it as the Five Families that run New York in ‘The Godfather’ and you’ll get the picture.  They run it all and, for the most part, the people like it that way.

Regarding militias…all but one militia have officially disarmed.  That is good.  These patrons, these wealthy families, are not all associated with militias, but the militias are all associated with wealthy patrons.  Make sense?  So whether you are Christian, Druze, Sunni or Shia–you have a friend somewhere making sure that your children go to good private schools, your parking spaces on your street are kept up, your fuel oil is delivered in the winter, you have medical care for your family, churches and mosques are kept up and polished, etc…

Let’s talk about the Power Ship!  Electricity is scare on Lebanon, hence the air pollution problem one sees everywhere.  Private home generators are needed to compensate for daily brown-outs which as a tourist, you’ll never notice.  In 2013, a Turkish company floated this amazing thing over to Lebanon and leased it to them for a few years.  There is a better article about it and the company here.  It is a pretty interesting idea–and one that is supposed to be temporary.  The problem is that the Families that run the country cannot agree in where to put the new stand-alone, on-shore, full-time power station.  No one wants to miss out on the money and no one wants to donate the free land for building, etc…so the Power Ship sits, expensively sending its energy to the country–and everyone loses.

 

 

 

 

 

My friend Thanassis took the photo of supper and the Power Ship photo came from the web somewhere.  That wide angle lens on the iPhone really distorts the image a lot…

–JDCM

0

Lebanon, part 1…

I have my laptop back!  While Apple in Athens had it up on blocks, I took the opportunity to get off-island and travel.  I went to Lebanon to visit some friends in Beirut, see the country, eat the food…fascinating, sad, vibrant, beautiful, ancient.  It was an easy, inexpensive, 2-hour flight on MEA.  Up and down.  Beirut reminded me somewhat of Athens, but only more so.  I’ll have better details later, but I just wanted to set the thread spinning…Here are some pictures.  Many more to come!

Looking north from the top of the crusaders castle in Saida.   Much of the coast of Lebanon looks like this.

 

The Mohammad Al Amin Mosque, just west of the old Green Line, Beirut.  It is a 21st century addition to the cityscape.

An interior of the Druze castle in Beit el dine.  This is an amazing castle, in perfect condition and all but empty of visitors.  I pretty much had the place to myself.  I’ll post more from here.

Beit el dine interior…

The Cedars of Lebanon, Jabal Barouk, Chouf.  The cones of the Cedars look more like roses…It was silent but for birdsong when I was there.

The Temple of Bacchus, Baalbek, Bekaa Valley.  The whole Roman site is slowly being rebuilt and cleaned up.  This is actually a small temple.  The Temple of Jupiter is 3 times larger.

A view of Byblos…a layer cake of civilizations…Phoenician, two or three Greek, then a couple of Roman, Byzantine, Middle Ages, Ottoman, French Mandate, Arab…

Another view of the mosque…that other building is the old cinema. During the civil war in the 1980s, Palestinian guerrillas would hang out there and watch action flicks in between skirmishes–or so I have read.  There are movements trying to keep it as is, in memorium, but it is falling apart.

–JDCM

1

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to Christina Book and Joe Splendido, wherever you are, and to me too!  I have forgotten how old they are…friends from the distant past…maybe the same as me, or damn close.

52 years and doing alright, all things considered.

I woke up this morning at 6AM after a fitful 5 hours of sleep–dreams of lost luggage, being stuck in crumbling concrete airports, missed flights, mercenary taxi cabs…

As of tomorrow I will be off-line for almost two weeks.  I am sending my laptop into Athens to Apple to be repaired and cleaned.  I am taking this time to avoid my mobile phone as well.  I’ll get some reading done, take a lot of pictures and sleep differently, I imagine.

I inherited my mother’s old Olivetti Lettera 22 (c.1966) which she used for over 30 years, one of many typewriters she owned.  It needs some TLC, and I found a repairman in Venice who will do it, but it will be expensive.  It will be expensive to send it there and have it sent back but I feel it is worth it.  It might be cheaper to go to Venice and deliver it, stay for a few days, then bring it back.  Well…not really, but it might be worth the trip!  Venice in the spring?  I would like to use it…type some letters to those I love…write something interesting.  The happy organic sound of a manual typewriter clacking away on the front terrace…

Olivetti Lettera 22, c.1966

This post was going to be about politics, but I deleted what I wrote.  Not worth the effort.

–JDCM

 

0

A Cold Day…

“I really am a pessimist. I’ve always felt that fascism is a more natural governmental condition than democracy. Democracy is a grace. It’s something essentially splendid because it’s not at all routine or automatic. Fascism goes back to our infancy and childhood, where we were always told how to live. We were told, Yes, you may do this; no, you may not do that. So the secret of fascism is that it has this appeal to people whose later lives are not satisfactory.”  Norman Mailer 

“It is not truth that matters, but victory.”  Adolph Hiltler 

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”  Benito Mussolini 

“Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.
Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.   They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.   They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”  Henry A. Wallace 

“The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen. Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response.”  Noam Chomsky

“The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store.  Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill.”  Sinclair Lewis

“I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.”   Chris Hedges

—  My thanks to Goodreads and Brainyquotes for the ability to cut and paste…

—JDCM

 

0

Chronio Polla!

Well…It is my name day!  I am so happy to have finally been able to celebrate it here.  In Greece, one’s birthday isn’t nearly important as one’s ‘Saint’s Day.’  Today (January 7) is the day that we celebrate St. John/Agios Ioannis — this John being St. John the Baptist (in the Greek Orthodox Church, not the Roman Catholic), not John the Apostle, or any of the many, many Johns that have been canonized by both churches over the millennia.   So Chronia Polla! to all you Johns, Seans, Johannes, Joannas, Ioannas, Yannis, Ivans, etc…out there!  Many years!

Paros has dipped back into the cold today and the rains have been glorious and dramatic.  It’ll be close to Zero C for the next 24 hours or so, and the weather man has posted a possibility of sleet.

I went biking the other day with a friend.  We both have new mountain bikes and I had only been able to ride mine two or three times due to the weather.  The day we rode the wind was low, the sun was out and the temperature was in the high teens centigrade.  Really nice.

I have converted my old mountain bike into my shopping/getting about bike, with panniers and 1.75 inch road tires.  Who needs a car?

Just a couple of guys with their new bikes!

— JDCM

0

Man, oh man, oh man…

Ha!  Well, I had grand ideas about updating the blog after the Presidential Election in America…and then I did not. Then again when I went to Santorini for a quick visit…and I didn’t.  Time has gone by, the Winter Solstice was yesterday and in acknowledging this planetary shift I am locked in to updating this thing today.  This afternoon, I think.  I’ll write, edit, load the new header image and post from the very same cafe where I currently sit, snug and warm and out of the cold and rain.  And, yes…I have a head cold.  Shit.  ‘Tis the season.  It is a wet and windy 6C (42F) outside and with the 43km north wind it feels more like 3C (38F).  Suffice to say that those of us who live in houses without central heating all wear clothes, all the time.  I sleep in fleece and base layers.   And a hat.

So there are the bullet points.

–Santorini was good.  I went solely to visit the archeological site of Akrotiri, which was closed the last time I visited 10 years ago.  I took the ferry on Friday afternoon, saw the site and both museums the next morning and then took the boat back.  I was off-island for just over 24 hours.  I was glad to be back on Paros.  Aside from the caldera and the archeological sites, Santorini is pretty dull.  Too built up, too barren and, at this time of year, mostly closed.  Some that is no one’s fault.  3400 years ago the place blew up and has never really recovered.  I guess that is part of its charm.  It is, after all, still an active volcano.  This link is really good…Hey man…that’s my neighbourhood!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_eruption

–I have been re-watching ‘The Sopranos’ since I never actually finished the series a few years years ago.  It is very good.  I have fallen in love with this clan of sociopathic narcissistic trash.  Really amazing.  Like watching a train wreck.  And then, somewhere in the middle of Season 2, or maybe 3, it dawned on me…The White House has been handed over to The Sopranos!   Think about it.  Complete with a goon squad!

–“For the love of money is the root of many evils…” (1 Timothy 6:10)  If this guy (I daren’t say his name) didn’t have any money, he’d just be another vulgar, racist, sexist, loud-mouthed, annoying asshole xenophobe sitting at the end of the bar.  Really.  No joke.  He is proof that money cannot buy you class or taste.  In fact,  he symbolizes all that is wrong and bad in our world–avarice, hubris, graft, ignorance–a deep soul-sickness lying beneath his veneer-like need for attention.  He is the winner of that contest, hands down.  I think he’d even win the popular vote.  This makes him very dangerous.  Anyone who studies history knows this.

–I’ll blog again before the new year.  There is more to report from this lovely rock in the middle of the Aegean Sea.  Have a Merry Christmas everyone, or whatever you wish to celebrate!

–JDCM

 

 

 

0

Autumn, elections, swimming, biking…even photography!

*It has taken me some time to get back on the horse.  I was out the other day with my Voigtlander, exposing some film…it felt good…gentle.  No urgency, no great time-line to follow.  So I took some pictures.  I have some ideas.

*I have been combing through my negative notebooks, trying to find images of my mother’s office.  I have found some.  I know there are others.  I would like to print some of these this winter.

*I need to type up my mother’s newspaper articles.  I keep on saying that to myself…siga-siga…it’ll happen.

*I developed the 4 rolls of Tri-X that I shot when I was back in America in July.  The camera I had on hand was a medium format Holga, so that’s what I used.  I guess that sums up a philosophy…The best camera I could use is the one I am using.  People talk a lot about camera X, or  lens Y.  They list the many attributes and the technical aspects…these things never made a photographer better, or even good.  That has to come from within.  Ansel Adams said something about that…good gear, bad photography…I can’t remember the exact quote.  Liz knows.

*It is autumn, and we have had some cooler weather, but not right now.  It is Little Summer and the scirocco blows a steady Force 5, gusting to 6.  The air is hazy and hot and feels like 26C.  I was out for a bit of mountain biking and then a swim in the sea.  People here say the water is cold, but they haven’t been in Cape Cod in August.

*The election for the next American President is today.  Polls have begun to open, voters are lining up to cast their ballots. There is so much at stake in this contest.  I am not sure anyone can really guess everything that hangs in the balance.  I mailed in my absentee ballot well over a month ago.  We shall see.  I am more concerned about the potential for aggression and actual violence at the polls.  America will be divided whatever the outcome.

–JDCM

0

Thoughts meander…

The sun rose golden peaches as I departed the Port of Pireaus 3/4 of the way through September.  I have been back in Greece and on Paros since the middle of August.  Through a window of the Blue Star Delos and across the gulf the mountains surround Attica.  How I love this place.  Ancient rocks cradle my heart and timeless seas ferry me home…

I haven’t blogged in a long time and I apologize.  Sometimes I have had too much on my mind and to sort out any coherent thoughts and to put them down seems daunting.  What I need is time to let the events of the past year-and-half filter out into something resembling…something, something solid.

I return to the island after a long weekend wth friends on another island, another archipelago.  This marks the last of my long-term commitments for 2016 and I finally feel like I can relax.  The deeply emotional yet business-like events of laying my mother to rest and selling the family home are behind me.  My inherited furnitures, works of art, books and homewares are tucked away in storage units.  I packed my bags with those things that I could smuggle and left America.  Oddly enough, I feel no sadness in leaving the house I called home for so long.  With my mother’s absence, the place felt empty and hollow.  She had been its heart and soul and without her it was just a shell.

I have finally found an ear doctor who has offered anything like a solution to my labyrinthitis/Meuniere’s/tinnitus…Dr. Peraki’s prescription has improved my hearing almost 10% over the past month so I have been told to keep at the regimen and we shall see what is what in about 2 months, just before Christmas.

Speaking of that…one novel feeling…I am not thinking about plane tickets back to America.  This time, during the past several years, I would begin looking at dates, routes, etc…not today, thank the gods.  I am looking forward to being here through all of December and January, February, without the interruption of having to leave.

And so on I ramble…

—JDCM

0

Flowers…

I haven’t updated in a long time.  Much has happened in the past 2 months.  I have written list after list, big and small.  All but a few items have been crossed off.  I have much to say but words fail…

 

yucca

yucca

lilies and hydrangea

lilies and hydrangea

by the pond

by the pond

reflection of the Pink Barn

reflection

Pink Barn

Pink Barn

Queen Anne's lace

Queen Anne’s lace

 

 

lilies and wall

lilies and wall

sunflowers

sunflowers                                                                       –JDCM

 

 

 

0

Kythnos and a change of plan…

–There is a lot to see and do on Kythnos and by the time I leave on Friday I will have seen and done most of it.  Superb hiking, archaeological sites (mesolithic, Byzantium, 19th century mining…), good eats, friendly folks…The weather was so-so for the first two days but then the sun came out, the winds shifted and there was fine weather for getting lost on the donkey trails and photographing more stone walls than I knew what to do with.  I am pretty much saturated with walls at the moment.  I have a feeling I will finish up the roll I have in my camera today and be done with this island for the time being.  I have one more long hike to do tomorrow (12 km) so perhaps I will try to use one more roll.  Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

–I found an excellent little taverna on the port of Merichas.  Typical family-run, spitiko, without all the frippish tom-foolery of frankish cuisine.  I ate roasted goat in lemon sauce last night; grilled fresh sardines the night before…local, mild feta on my salads.  I’ll go there again tonight.  Funny thing…when Kostas, the owner’s son, heard I was from Paros, he told me that his cousin Giorgos worked in a fish taverna in Paroikia…Hmmm…I know Giorgos well!  We had a good time and then Kostas called Giorgos and he and I had a quick chat.  I love these alliances.  So Yalos Byzantio is my spot.  I dine there again tonight.

–My lodging has been excellent.  My small studio overlooks the harbour of Merichas.  The ferries dock just a few hundred meters away and the ins-and-outs of tourist sailors in their small rented sailboats make for interesting comedy-drama.  Only some seem to be good sailors.  The rest look like they are trying too park their cars.  Oh well…I wish them all the fun in the world.  The Aegean is a lovely place to sail.

–I am tired.  I am tired of living out of my luggage.  I will have a lot more of that this summer so I suppose I should get used to it, but for the moment…

I left Paros on May 10th, after a four-day general strike which threw all my plans into the air.  As a result of this strike, I was forced to use one of the High-Speed ferries that runs around the Aegean.  I hate these things for many reasons.  The only other time I was on one was in 2006 and I picked up a terrible respiratory bug just by being shut inside the interior for several hours with no fresh air.  True to form, by the time I reached Evia on Thursday the 12th, my throat was scratchy.  By Saturday I was on antibiotics, decongestants…sick.  11 days later I am finally off the meds.  I need to go home.  I feel great, but it is time to sit on my own terrace, sleep in my own bed…

As luck would have it, the same ferry that would have brought me to Syros, continues on home to Paros.  So I will leave Kythnos Friday morning and be home in time for tea…

Pezoules, walls and and Agios Anathasios, Kythnos, 2016

Pezoules, walls and and Agios Anathasios, Kythnos, 2016

 

 

–JDCM

1