Showing posts from June, 2009

Blood On the Dance Floor

My word, how mortals take the gods to task! All their afflictions come from us, we hear. And what of their own failings? Greed and folly double the suffering in the lot of man. —Homer On Friday morning Ivan burst onto the hostel balcony where we were eating breakfast with the news that the King of Pop was dead. The global response was just as unbelievable as the hasy obituary. Moonwalking in the Liverpool Tube station; spontaneous concerts in Leicester Square, Copenhagen, and under the Eiffel Tower — if you didn't know what a joke Wacko Jacko was two weeks ago, you would have thought by such international veneration that he was still a respected cultural icon. Ivan saw the news in between his comprehensive survey of the security camera footage from the morning before. A man had walked in, past the camera in the entry hall, up the outdoor stairs, and under the surveillance of the second camera in the lounge, where he grabbed a British girl's half-charged iPod off the shelf next

On Candian Shores

I got a long way to go, I'm getting further away. — Elliott Smith, "I Better Be Quite Now" I spent a few days recuperating and reintegrating in Athens, and again visited my favorite place. From the Areopagus hill at sunset, the grid of the city is lost in a disordered mass of cubic concrete, linear windows, stale white blocks, and the twinkle of hasty street lights. The families and lovers and tourists seated on the smooth, uneven marble steps watch the Acropolis redden with the dying star's farewell light. The squeaking bats come out from pits on the hill to harvest. One morning, when I was rebooking my bed, I heard this speech from a tour guide: "We only have a limited time at each site, and you need to limit yourself to that time frame. Some of the sites close at different times than others, and if we want to see them all today we have to follow the schedule. If you need two to three minutes to take a photo, that's fine, but any longer and the tour group w

The Things They Carried

If you don't want it, we'll take it; If you don't want to give it to us, we keep walking by. Keep going, we're not tired. Got plenty of places to go, Lots of homes we ain't been to yet. West Side, Southwest Side, Middle-East, Rich house, dog house, outhouse, old folks house, House for unwed mothers, halfway homes, Catacombs, twilight zones, Looking for techniques, turntables to gramophones. —The White Stripes, "Rag & Bone" For my twenty-third birthday, I thought I'd look at how my inventory has changed since I first left home four-and-a-half months ago. To lose items when you change residence every day is inevitable; to accrue new one when you're halfway around the world is also to be expected. But really, there's nothing extra that I wish I had brought, except maybe a good pair of walking sandals for the Mediterranean, or an extra pair of light socks. I lost the chain to lock up my backpack in Cologne, my clothesline in Vienna, a pair of

The Stones of Athens

We do not say that a man who takes no interest politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all. —Pericles of Athens The Israeli couple who picked me up in Delphi dropped me off near Omonia Square, about half a mile from the Acropolis, and right into the middle of a budding protest of KKE, the Greek communist party. I had noticed the party's signs and banners painted and plastered everywhere from Corfu to Attica, all white and red with a hammer and sickle — the communists are apparently very good at marketing. At the protest I saw in Athens, they read a few megaphone manifestos, backed by shouts of, "Allah akbar." The condensed, modern construction and cosmopolitan bustle of Athens immediately disoriented me, after two weeks spent wandering the sparsely-peopled hinterland of northwestern Greece and southern Albania, and two months in cities which at best were post-Communist, and at worst war-raved, and universally backwards and hom