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Kalo mina!

It’s November 1st and here on Paros the weather is decidedly cold and chilly this morning.  The winter is beginning to set in.  99% of the tourists have left and the few that remain wander around the empty streets, looking in the windows of closed shops, shuttered tavernas…the island has been returned to those who live here.  Thank the gods!

Here are the bullet points…

— I am going to Naxos this weekend for a mountain bike race, my third on that island.  27km around a mountain and through the town of Sangri, high above the port.  The weather predictions are good–high pressure, 14-18C, sunny, breezy.  Perfect for biking.  We have had some rain which will keep the dust down and reduce the amount of loose, gravely ruts.  I’ll go and have fun.

— I am grateful and happy to have joined up with the Photography Club of Paros.  They are a good bunch of photography-loving folks with excellent eyes who love to take pictures.  I will begin a long-term darkroom project with them tonight.  For most of them, it will be a first in this digital-automatic age.  Each week, a member gets a 35mm camera (Pentax K1000/f.2 50mm lens) and roll of 35mm film (Ilford Pan 400) and shoots the roll.  Then we (me and the group member) go into the darkroom, develop the film, print, etc…all in a week.  So far there are about 10 people signed up, but that number, I predict, will jump to 20 quickly.  The project will go until the end of April and then they will look at the assembled portfolio and hang a small show.  For more reasons than I can count, this is a superb thing/event/group/happening with which to be involved.

— My own work is moving along.  The year-long Canon G-11 project is ticking away.  I am ready to print a new portfolio of abstract pieces.  I have to re-shoot or otherwise re-evaluate a b/w still life idea.  I am unhappy with several of the pieces due to their DoF, i.e. focus.

— My gym membership is paying off.  I have been going 2-4 times a week for either Hip/Abs classes or just to burn off calories on the treadmill.  After only a few weeks I can once again fit into my 34″ green Levis.  I will go this morning and push some more limits.  That, plus the biking, is keeping me fit and sane.

— The world?  Well…we all read the news and while it isn’t all bad, it isn’t great.  Leaks in the dam…death and disease, as Polly Jo would have said.

My life is Greece is expanding and growing every day.  I am eternally thankful to the wise woman who advised me over 5 years ago that if were to stay here on Paros, I would need to build a life around me.  And so I have.  Biking and exercise, photography and fellowship, the arts and humanities, connections in the community.  Thank you Liz!

–JDCM

 

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Much to say…or maybe not…

It has been over a month-and-a-half since I last posted and so much has happened in the world and I have taken so many notes that I do not know where to begin.  The political news has made me almost numb to the idiocies of the American President and his sometimes-dangerously bizarre antics.  The heat waves and weather changes obvious here on Paros are indicative of the Anthropocene.  That I have been able to compile, and look forward to printing, four new photography portfolios is a real plus.  I will begin printing in September.  The typing and collating of my mother’s newspaper articles is ongoing.  I am struggling to learn the Bookwright software from Blurb.  I hope to figure it out.  I think there is something I am not doing that will make it easy.  Someday the book will be made.   So it’s bullet points this time.

–“Drumpf”–We all know it.  It is a fine example of onomatopoeia…the flatulent early-warning of someone who eats too much red meat…the sound of a fat drunk collapsing at the bottom of the stairs…the porcine grunt of a hog at the trough…a bamboozled public scoffing at the truth…the slow con hustle of the American Dream.

–I have been biking and swimming a lot.  Xionidaki and Kiri Marmalada start squeaking for their breakfast early, so I am up around 06:00.  Coffee, vitamins, email, the morning scan of the news…I am out on the bike by 07:00, swimming afterwards, coffee at a favourite cafe after that.  Obviously the routine is not that precise.  Suffice to say I am finished before it becomes too hot to exercise.  And it has been hot.  A few weeks ago Athens hit the mid-40sC and Paros was not far behind.  I had to use the AC in my flat, something I am not keen on doing since it  increases my carbon footprint.  It was either that or not sleep.  Thankfully is has been dry.  The prediction for next week is more heat.

            Xionidaki snoozing in the shade

 

–I have some work in a small group show this October in Hudson, New York.  I sent the 13 photos, matted and framed, a few weeks ago and they all arrived safely.  I will not be attending.  I also now have a good contact on the island of Antiparos for the photo show next summer. She really likes what I do and wants to hang it.  I was impressed by what I saw at the exhibit this year.  I still have a couple of irons in the fire for some events in between now and then.  I shall keep poking at them.

                 Kiri Marmalada

–Fish and vegetables.  That’s what I eat these days.  The local produce here on Paros is stunning.  Melons, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini…the cherry season seems to have lasted forever and I eagerly await the fresh figs in a couple of weeks.

–Oh yes…perhaps most important is that this month marks the first full summer I will have spent on Paros.  In the previous years I have always gone back to America to see my mother.  When August 12th comes around it will be a full year outside the walls of the Fortress.  I am happy for this.  It feels solid and right.

                Out biking…07:30 or so…

–I had a contrast MRI a few weeks ago in Athens to determine if there was anything I didn’t know about my Meniere’s Syndrome.  It was an easy procedure and I was in the clinic in the morning and back on Paros in time for supper.  Thank the gods for cheap flights!  The results are…nothing!  No tumors, no cysts, no aneurysms, no brain clouds, no small dwarves, no swelling of either labyrinth.  According to the ENT specialist, I have what they like to call a “Meniere’s-like Syndrome.”  Ha!  This will be the last investigation I will do.  I have the CD-ROM with the pictures but I do not have a DVD player or the required software to look at them.  I promise you all, I will sort this out.

After all, who doesn’t want to see the inside of their head?

–JDCM

 

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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

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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

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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

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Travel notes, May 2016…Kea…

–The short ferry ride from Lavrio to Kea is, despite its single hour, quite remarkable.  As a student of 20th century Balkan History I had heard of, and read about, the concentration camp island of Makronisos, but I had not realized it lay so close to the mainland.  As we slowly sailed past I could see the ruins of buildings and structures…political prisoners, social dissidents and members of the military suspected of being “infected” with dangerous ideas were sent to Makronisos during the Greek Civil War (1946-49).  For a more detailed and moving account of this time, read Kevin Andrews’ The Flight of Ikaros: a journey into Greece.  Ironically, I re-read this book only a few weeks ago…

–Kea is a rugged place.  Smaller than Paros, yet it feels bigger.  The Port of Korissia is small and around the port are a number of meadows heading inland, but only for a short distance.  After that it is a long climb to the chora, Loulida, perched along the ravine.  The streets in the chora are steep and car-free.  It is pretty little town and the archeological museum is supposed to be one of the best in Greece.  It is, however, only open on Friday from 08:00-15:00 and so I will miss it.  Kea reminds me of a smaller and greener Naxos.

–The flora of Kea is very much the same as on Paros and many of the other islands with one lovely exception: the pedunculate oak.  For centuries, Kea supplied the tanners of Greece, Rome, Venice, etc… with acorn caps.  By the end of the 19th century this practice had been replaced with less expensive synthetic processes so the acorn was not needed and the thriving industry collapsed.  Thank God they didn’t cut down the trees!  You know what…go here instead.  These folks know more about it than I do and are a big part of the new sustainable Kea.

–Kea is still a thriving agricultural island and this is evident when one hikes along the well used donkey paths and other by-ways.  Pommes de terre are numerous!   The xcero-lithia that crisscross the island are lovely, beautiful, crafted…some are so old that the moss and lichen that cover them are dissolving them, turning their hard edges round and soft.  New wall construction is in the old fashion, so the technique is being preserved.

–I will have shot three rolls of 35mm film when I leave on Friday as well as  fair amount of digital.  I have been hiking a lot although I did rent a car.  It is a good idea so at least get up and out of town into the interior before setting out walking to a cove or mountain top.  This time of year it is quite empty outside the port, so it has been rare to see anyone else but the occasional goat.  Most of the others I have seen are, I think, French and English.  I cannot be sure.  Athenian day sailors like Kea too.

–If I had brought my mountain bike, I would have rented a car anyway for the same reasons as above.  Mountain biking on pavement is a drag and bad for the tires.  Best to load the bike into a car and drive inland, park, and bike on the dirt roads.  For road biking, anyone who wants constant interval training on hills, come to Kea.  The fun never ends.

–JDCM

Kea walls and oaks                  Kea walls 2

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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

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Another year…

I am 51 and a day today.  This past year has been one that is still hitting me in waves, endless ripples from countless stones tossed in my emotional pool.  I contemplate making a phone call and suddenly realize there is will be no one on the other end of the line.  I imagine a voice and the softness of a cheek…and they are gone.  My mother will no longer look up from the New York Times Sunday crossword, over her glasses, and announce, “Well, that’s done!”  My father will no longer smack his lips after taking a sip of something tasty and raise his glass.  He was always one for toasts.  “Hear, hear,” she would chorus during better times.

Polly and Hilary in Provincetown, 1970. photo by Sara Ballard

Polly and Hilary in Provincetown, 1970.

I was thinking the other day that I have never been the “cool” guy.  Never hip, never dressed in the latest fashion…I was feeling down that day.  Then I realized I didn’t  care.  When I was younger, maybe, but then again I was envious of those around me who had better or more or newer or sexier (or so I believed)…not much weight there.  Pretty superficial stuff.  I hope they are happy in their respective lives.

So these days I do what I am wanting to do and this makes me happy.  I am not treading on the lives of others and I am moving forward and slightly uphill.  I am honouring my mother and my father in my life and activities.  I am finally getting around to reading a short biography of St. Augustine given to me by my sister a few years ago.  I am reading some Epicurus.  I am back to building fine scale WW 1 aircraft which give me great joy and satisfaction, not just in their execution but in the research involved.  I am in training for a very tough mountain bike race being held here March 6th.  I have a photo shoot coming up next week which I have been looking forward to for months.  It will be several hours of intense work, and then that stage will be done.  Then I develop the film.  Then I choose what to print, etc…intervals and stages, tension and release.  One day I am 50, and then the next day…

Biking here on Paros is a good metaphor for my life.  The stress of the uphill slogs are rewarded by not only the accomplishment but also the release of the inevitable downhill run, slaloming around rocks and through washed out sections of red dirt roads.  Then it is uphill again.

It all feels pretty cool to me.

–JDCM

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Just an update…

I have always loved the change of seasons.  Whether in the Hudson Valley where I grew up or the small island in the Aegean Sea where I now live.  I welcome each new season with joy and relief, only to say good riddance three months later after weariness sets in.  This autumn is no different and there are many changes to go along with the weather.  Clocks have been set back.  Tea time seems more meaningful as darkness falls.

I have been living in an apartment full of boxes for the past two months.  All of my books, shelving, camera gear, odds and ends…have been packed up and ready to be moved.  At first it was an exciting feeling, to come home to this pyramid of brown cardboard.  It has grown stale as the day approaches when I can finally begin to move from one side of town to the other.  As one friend remarked last night, moving house is inspiring and makes one reevaluate routines.  Like the change of seasons, this move will give me a new perspective.  I need it.

My small photo show was, on many levels, a superb success.  Many people came to the opening and I was struck by the wide variety of people I know here on Paros: people involved in the arts, those I know through the local biking community, others I have come to know over the years, students from a local art school…people who would ordinarily not mix.  They crammed into the space provided by a small Italian restaurant and had a good time.  I guess that was the point, really, to have a small gathering on a night in mid-October when there was ordinarily little to do.  Many compliments, many questions…alas, not a single sale so I am stuck with 22 framed and matted photos.  So I will choose one to put up in my new apartment.  There is a part of me that wants to just burn the rest.  But what to do with the frames and glass?  Eventually I will get around to scanning the photos so people can see them online, which suddenly feels like cheating.  Now I don’t want to do that.  If you missed the show, you missed it.  Is that so selfish?

I wasn’t asking a huge amount for these photos.  They were priced inexpensively.  If I had sold five I would have broken even on the costs.  I think many people have no idea of the work that goes into a single image.  Even had these been digital images, the work would have been substantial.  They are not, of course, so we are talking days of labor to get the picture right and that is before matting, framing, the overall cost for the exhibit opening…I guess I am taking page from Robert Fripp’s advice to artists–work for free–an expensive venture.

My list for today is as long as my arm and I must get it all done.

–JDCM

 

 

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