Archive | Athens Greece

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

Deep in the Ancient City…

Below my hotel balcony the city breathes deeply.  Tribal drums motivate interpretive dance, guitars reverb surf music through metro tunnels, amplified bouzoukis in Syntagma stir a metallic thrum, mingling the aromatic sounds into a heady stew.  And the smells!  Food, concrete, diesel, piss and old, old stone.  Athens is alive!  In the distance I hear a saxophone, I imagine the player–sunglasses at night, hat on the sidewalk at his feet, the slow crooned blue woodwind wail runs through the ancient marble veins.  Voice carry up from the street–all the languages I have ever heard and many from central Asia, east Asia, Eurasia…The Cosmopolis…the world as a city.  It is here. I am here.  It is my home.  I am blessed.  I wear the sign of the anointed.  If you have to ask, you’ll never know.

I was in taxi and the driver and I were talking.  He told me had two jobs and was raising his three children by himself.  “You have three jobs then, ” I said.  He laughed in agreement.  “I think this is the beginning of something”, he said.  “There is only one choice now for us and it is that things will improve.  There is no other alternative.”  It must be the truth.

This is the beginning of something.  It is all happening here.  The Pope came to town.  There are rumbles of possibilities and energy flows, rich static arcing through the crowds in Monastiraki, Psirri, Exarchia, Sygrou Fix, Thissio, Keramikos…We wait for the great popular firework display, crescendos of chrysanthemums and showers of sparking lights heralding a New Age.  The Emperor will emerge, naked. The applause will be deafening, the laughter unending.  The party is always starting…

I have worked for the past few days deep in a secret archive in the city, a vault of imagination and celluloid.  We are alchemists turning crystals into precious metal.  Magicians.  The dancer moves across the page, fading into view.  Her body leaves atomic molecules, drifting bits of herself, richly perfumed droplets of life.  She bursts from her black background, glowing, free and transcendent.   This is what it is all about.  We plant our collective flags and cry “This is me, this is who I am!” We glow, shine and dance through the traffic, gathering stars in our arms, passing them out like leaflets to the big show.  Entasi!

dancer 1

 

–JDCM

0

The hazy shade of winter…

After a few weeks of unseasonably warm and dry days, the weather has turned back to winter here on Paros.  The rains have started, the clouds have rolled in…the wind has shifted from the north.  We need the water badly.  I am sitting at Port Kafe, waiting for the boat to come and take me to Athens for a couple of days.  The schedules have changed for today so I have a few hours to wait.  Still, I would rather wait here than in my flat.  Pericles makes an exceptional Greek coffee and he knows me well.

Today is the first day of Lent in the Greek Orthodox Church.  For the next 40 days there should be seriousness, sadness, contemplation.  Also no oil, no animal products, no leavened bread,no meat with a backbone.  No weddings, no christenings, no birthdays, no name-days…Thank the gods for octopus and chorta, fresh clams and beans with lemon juice!  Like most traditions co-opted by the Church, the idea began long before Christianity.  It falls around the same time of the year when the stores of food would begin to run low.  The fall and summer harvest’s bounty is beginning to be used up and it is too early for the new lambs…the seas perhaps too rough to fish.  So for the next 40 days we scrimp and don’t eat so much.  Or so we should.  I think, maybe, considering everything that is happening in the world,  we should do it just to experience a little starvation.   Many people don’t have this luxury.

Today is also my mother’s birthday.  She would have been 92 today and we would have gathered and helped her to celebrate with flowers and cards.  I can still celebrate the day.  She was very proud of me and my sisters, loved us dearly and without conditions, without judgment.  She worried, like all good mothers can and do.  She rushed to our aid when she could.  She let us go as we needed.  She gathered us in her arms when we returned home for a holiday, a weekend or a much needed break from all the difficulties that taxed her children’s existence.   For me, she was the parent I turned to for help.  In times of trouble she would look me in the eye and say, “Listen, this is all going to be over soon…” or  “You have always been able to just do it, just go out there and make your own way…!”  and eventually “The last thing I want you to do is waste your life taking care of me…I’m alright.  You get on with it.”  She was quite the woman.  Quite the mother.  My mama.  Our mama! I miss her every Goddamn day…that would have been something she would have said too.  She was brilliant, caring, gentle and could curse like a longshoreman.  Happy Birthday mama.  Many kisses.

Below are some images from the past few weeks–pictures drawn by the children of some friends for my birthday, a photo of me at the bike race receiving the 3rd Place Bronze…Mom would have been tickled pink to see these things and to be at the party.  I would like to think she was.

DSC_0677

bday pic 2

 

bday pic 3

 

bday pic 5bday pic 6

–JDCM

1

Asleep, then waking…

The streets of Athens feel empty at 04:00.  This ancient city is sleeping.

I have returned home from my father’s memorial service in Provincetown.  It was a lovely and moving weekend laughter and tears.  On Sunday we scattered his ashes in the bay.  We boarded the rented schooner and set sail on a foggy and grey afternoon, light winds from the south.  As the skipper cut the motor and the crew raised sail, I was struck by how calm and peaceful the air had become, silent but for the waves lapping at the hull.  Light mist settled upon us with caring hands. As we came about my sisters and I stood against the gunwale and poured him into the briny blue-green, the water turning momentarily milky as the ash melted into the deep.  And he was gone.  Afterwards we gathered with friends and told tales of the man.  We watched a moving short film prepared by his widow, and ate some food.  We all agreed he would have enjoyed  it.  He would have also exclaimed, at one point, “Enough already!”, his modesty finally outweighing his pride.  So long, weary traveler!  Kalo taxidhi!

I have been musing on happiness–again.  I have heard that it is an ‘inside job.’ If so then what are the external expressions?  I know that I am happy yet my world, to some, may look messy, chaotic, perhaps unsystematic.  There is nothing neat and orderly about it.  It is not sanitary or perfectly aligned.  Maybe a need for external neatness, a desk of neatly sharpened pencils and carefully arranged in/out boxes is actually a cry for help?  I know my father’s office, even when he was young and dementia had not taken its toll, was what would have been thought of as messy and disorganized. In fact, everything was exactly where it needed to be.  His internal life, his ethos, was ship-shape and trim.  His morality and sense of self were in alignment and he was happy.  And he left a desk of unfinished work–a sign of a life well-lived.

I celebrate the dust and disorder of the external and understand how it feeds my imagination.  It is a zen geometry, creating an oblique stack of books, random pieces of folded paper, a crumbling temple on a rock overlooking the noise and chaos–all precarious. It allows me to get lost, discovering the jewel in the mud that others will never discover.  I have permission to get muddy.  To find joy and laughter in the lack of right-angles, the subtle aspects of color and shades of grey…That is fun.  That is happiness.  Creation is messy work, full of uncertainty and risk.

Macmillan-Wharf-view-2015

–JDCM

2

The true gifts…

–It is New Year’s Day, 2015.  Happy New Year!  May this next year bring us all the best that life has to offer.  I am sure there will be uncertainties, enough for all: jobs, businesses, pursuits of all colors.  The best thing I have found is to be active and know when to let go of something that simply will not budge.  It is better to walk away from the brick wall than to keep banging your head against it.

–Sometimes the best gifts can be those that have been worked on and  constructed by the giver.  I gave some of my family photographs this year.  This past autumn I was lucky enough to be in Paris for a week and photographed the Parc de Bagatelle with my Voigtlander r4M using Rollei 400s film.  The negatives were lovely and I chose three specific images for presents.  I worked carefully on the pieces, choosing specific papers for the right feel, adjusting the developing chemistry to activate the proper tonal scale and contrast.  They are lovely.  I was happy passing them on to good homes where they would be appreciated.

–I return to Greece this week.  If all goes well I will be back on Paros by Tuesday lunchtime.  My name day is January 7th, which is also the birthday of a close friend, mentor and colleague.  I hope to cook her and her husband dinner that night.  Probably pork chops.

–The real gifts are non-material.  I no longer live in an imagined world of fear, where people are out to get me, shaft me, or otherwise take advantage of what I like to think of as my good nature.  I no longer play the victim card.  I no longer need to open up my Bag from the Past to show people what-tough-time-I-have-had-and-if-you-had-my-life-you-would-be-like-this-too!  I am so happy I found a way up and out, have been able to let go of so many bad ideas and open my heart, embracing change as a positive force.   Yes, I have days that are not perfect, but that is OK.  That is the gift of being right-sized: I am a person among people, a worker among workers.  I am emotionally secure among grown-up people.

–I heard a good quote the other day…

“You know what the big problem is in telling fantasy and reality apart? They are both ridiculous!”

Unknown

–JDCM

 

 

 

1

cafe/kafe, romanticism and keeping it light…

–I was eating my corn flakes and goat’s milk one morning and it occurred to me that I am an incurable romantic.

–I returned from Paris two weeks ago and I am back on Paros, about 2300 km and one vowel distant.  My time in France was lovely.  My heart was filled with warmth even though the weather had chilled by the time I departed.

–I was able to shoot 4 rolls of Rollei Retro 400s while in Paris.  I also gave myself a Christmas present.  I found a very affordable Leica M2 at the local Leica store.   The deal was good and I was there.  I had to get it.  According to the serial number it was manufactured in 1966.  I find it extremely cool that I bought a an old Leica in Paris.  It just feels right. Very romantic.

–While in Athens on Friday, I ran a couple rolls AGFA APX 400 through it.  That made 6 rolls.  When I returned to Paros and checked my ‘to do’ box in the darkroom I found two more rolls of film (Rollei Retro 100) that needed developing.  I spent Sunday afternoon developing of film.  8 rolls from three different places from three different cameras…Here’s the breakdown:

–4 rolls Rollei Retro 400s, Voigtlander r4M w/ Voigtlander 35mm lens, Paris; 2 rolls of AGFA APX 400, Leica M2 w/ the same Voigtländer 35mm lens, Athens; 2 rolls Rollei Retro 100, Balda ‘Super Baldina’ (c. 1956), fixed 40mm lens, Paros.

–While working I listened to The Clash’s ‘London Calling.’  It was released in the UK in 1979.  35 years later it still sounds fresh, complex and vibrant.

–Romanticism…OK.  I don’t wish for days gone by.  Whatever they say, life was not simpler, or easier.  Thomas Hobbes referred to life as ‘…nasty, brutish and short.”   He was right.  I like living on a remote island.  Romantic again.

–The ‘cafe/kafe‘ photographs are matted, framed and behind glass.  I will hang this small exhibit this Friday at Mikro Kafe here in Paroikia.  It is not a grand exhibition, just something light and easy, something small to keep my hand in while I continue the prep for the second, far more involved ‘Portraits‘ exhibit next autumn.  There.  I said it.  Autumn 2015.

 

–JDCM

 

 

0

“…the streets of Rome…”

“Well the streets of Rome
are filled with rubble;
ancient footprints are everywhere.
You almost feel like you’re seeing double
on a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs.
Gotta hurry on back to my hotel room
where I got me a date with Botticelli’s niece.
She promised that she’d be right there with me
when I paint my masterpiece.”
 

That song kept running through my head last weekend.  It began Sunday morning as I left Pistoia and here, in Athens on a warm Wednesday afternoon,  it still echoes…

Thank you Mr. Zimmerman, for the ear-worm

In any case, I left Pistoia with a scratchy throat and by that night I was slightly feverish, congested, et al…I am dubbing this ailment the Tuscan Plague since it attacked all my friends as well.  Each seems to have had some variation on the virus, all miserable.  I killed mine with plenty of bed-rest, warmth and the miracle of modern pharma.  Arriving in Athens this morning I am much improved.  I am also relieved to be back in Greece.  I need the local soul food.

Rome was lovely despite my ague.  I was able to visit the Museo Massimo and gaze upon the precious and lovely Roman frescos; I wandered through the Galleria Borghese and marveled at the Bernini sculptures, frozen motion and pliant, soft marble.  How did he do that?  Truly a high point in sculpture–a divine concoction of craft, skill, artistry, aesthetics, hard work and obsessive compulsive desire for perfection.  Some would say “madness”…”insanity.”

I ate some glorious grub as well.  Roman stuff…fried artichokes, sweetbreads, lemon pasta…Very fancy by Greek standards.  Foreign food.  Western.  Give meat on a stick, tomatoes and capers slathered in olive oil and a plate of fried sardines.

Good to be back in the East.

–JDCM

 
 
 
 
1

Paros, Athens, Amsterdam…

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

1

Pinch me…

–They say our reality is Krishna’s dream while he sleeps on a lotus flower.

–It seems like a dream.  I woke up a few minutes ago, startled and disorientated.  Jet lag.  I am in Athens.  I walked out onto the small balcony of my hotel room overlooking the street.  It is quiet at 04:00.  The city sleeps, breathing slowly.  Two days ago I was in America, visiting family and friends.  I am in a different world.

–In America I ate hot dogs, apple pie, toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, beef jerky.  There have been excellent sit-down meals too.  Very American food.  I have been able to stave off the calories at the gym.

–There was lots of snow there, and rain, and frigid cold.  It was lovely. There was an abundance of water.  On the little island I call home water can be scarce.  We use less.  Long showers are a luxury.  I luxuriated.

–On the Massachusetts Turnpike I drove through the kind of rain, wind and fog that made it seem as if I was driving underwater, surrounded by a screaming mass of tractor trailers and SUVs all moving at 80 mph.  I had little choice but to keep up.  Every light on my little car was switched on so people would see me.

–Photography during the winter allows for simplicity.  Sticks, snow, shadow, light.

–So I am back in Greece.  Last night I ate yigandes, patzaria, and briam for dinner.  Greek food.

–I am back in Greece.  I have a few days here in Athens then I hop the ferry back to Paros.  What is waiting for me there?

–I was thinking of taking pictures of metro stations.  I need a new header image before I post this entry.  I’ll use one of those.

–Life is like a dream.  Row, row, row your boat…

JDCM

 

0

Mid-December update…

Phrenology at the Street Market

Phrenology at the Street Market.  Leica M8, Voigtlander 28mm; f/5.6; 1/125; ISO 320

-I haven’t posted in a while.  I have been busy with the ending of the 2013 Autumn Session at the Aegean Center.  I have been very pleased with this session.  My steep learning curve as an instructor has taught me a few things and I have been able to avoid some of the pitfalls common to any novitiate.  My overall opinion of teaching is that the small rewards outweigh the tragic gaffes and stumbles.  I keep searching for the Golden Key which unlocks the door.  It has been a humbling three months.

-I am currently in Athens, making my way back to the USA for the Christmas and New Year holiday.  I will visit with family, close and dear friends, and enjoy driving my car.

-It will be frigid in the little town where I grew up.  This will make exercise difficult and lazing about watching movies easy.  For the month that I am there I will probably join a gym and try to burn off the calories as I gain them.  I have no desire to return to Paros 6 kilos heavier than when I left.  One of the many benefits to living on Paros is the ability to get out and about without donning the kind of winter gear I will wear in New York.  There is also no snow on Paros, or none to worry about anyway.  This allows me to ride my bike.  It’s all about layers.

-I was sitting in a café yesterday with some Athenian friends and I was astounded at the general din of this large, ancient and sprawling city.  After the quiet of Paros, the noise is deafening.  It troubled my sleep last night.  I tossed and turned.

-I still adhere to the belief that I am not an “artist”, per se, or at least would rather not be known as one.  Call me a “skilled technician” or “an able-bodied craftsman” or “a journeyman photographer”.  The world has become a market for the “artist”, a place to sell goods, like a street vendor selling fruit, or perhaps something darker.  In order for “the artist” to really be a mainstream success, he or she must conform to the trends and fads that guide the fickle opinions of gallerists and marketeers.  For me, this is a trap.  If I am creating to please the public, then I am on an ego-trip.  It urges me to be the center of attention, in the limelight.  I am not comfortable with center stage.  Once in a while these lines intersect.  The rest of the time I have to be patient with hard work, working long nights and being a wallflower.

JDCM

 

 

0