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8-5-2016–Long Beach, CA

I’ve been home now for a week. It’s weird how NOT weird this is: other than dealing with some jet lag, I flowed right back into my California life. This is in part because I immediately had to go back to work: my teaching schedule this coming semester is going to be INSANE–8 classes, 5 different preps, and 2 classes I’ve never taught before, which are on the opposite poles of the discipline of anthropology. Still, I’ve found myself in similar situations when coming home from a trip and there has been some days and weeks of oddness (with a touch of depression). I’d like to think this is because I’m so sure of my life: I (largely) like where I’m at, know where I’m going and why, while being quite happy with what I seem to be seeing on the horizon.

I think I’m also doing so well because seven weeks in Greece really helped clean out my mental/emotional pipes. I knew going in that I needed to make some changes in my life here, but I couldn’t quite define what they should be (or maybe I knew what they were but for whatever reason didn’t quite have courage to make them). I now have a much clearer picture on these counts. I’ve already started changing stuff and it feels great! What stuff? Ah, this is too complex and personal for a blog post, at least in a direct way: everything one does betrays who one is, so I’m sure this picture will emerge even as I play it close to the vest here …

For know, I’m just working, scheming, enjoying some fantastic mid-summer weather (amazing not hot for So Cal in August). Onward … into whatever is out there …

Note–I ordered a new adapter for my camera. So soon I will start posting my backlog of Greece photos …

 

Music: Ross Daly & Mitsos Stavrakakis  — Echo of Time

Red Hot Chili Peppers — The Getaway

Books: Aristotle — Politics

 


Hania–Luxury!

7-25-2016–Hania, Crete, Greece 

I’m back where I started my trip–Hania, on the northwest coast of Crete. This officially marks the last phase of my trip–in a little more than two days I’ll be on a plane heading home (Hania-Helsinki (!)-Chicago-Los Angeles). I’m feeling good; I’m glad to be here. I like Hania, more so by far than any other urban area I’ve been to in Greece. Though it’s very touristy, it manages to do so without being totally tacky and overwhelming (see Waikiki). It’s also a very pretty city, dominated, in its older areas by Venetian architecture and alleys that in comparison reveal places like Iraklio to be the modern monstrosities they are.

The place I’m staying in here is pretty crazy. Greece overall might be hurting for tourism, but Hania, as usual for high season, is rocking. I knew this would be the case and duly expected to overpay for a hovel of accommodation. When I got into town, though, things were worse than I expected–this town is pretty much booked up. For about an hour I traipsed from place to place while they all told me they were full or that they had a room but for only one night at a ridiculous price (such as 9o euros for essentially a closet). Evetually I found myself at a hotel by the old harbor (the most desirable part of town), a place I normally would never have tried because it looked so pricey.

I was told they did have a room for the three nights I needed, but that it was an “apartment” they usually only rented out to families. I was then informed the best price they could give me on it was 60 euros a night. I jumped on it. I’m now staying in what is for me a bit of a palace. I mean, the place has three fricken floors, four beds, a kitchen, a living room and probably a godcdamn pot of gold if I look hard enough ( I really wish I could post pictures). Oh yeah, the price includes breakfast! In other words, during the height of tourist season in a town that’s packed I’m living large for relative chump change …

There is a goddess and she loves me long time!

I know of course why I got his place so cheap. Nobody comes in off the street looking for this set up–they book it in advance. They must not have had a booking for this room for the next few days. So it was give it to me cheap or probably make nothing and have it sit open. I was just in the right place at the right time …

 

 


Paleohora Chillout

7-21-2016–Paleohora, Crete, Greece

Hanging out, hunkering down, in Paleohora on Crete’s southern shore. After the Daly/Thoma show I spend a day in Iraklio, at their archaeology museum. I’d seen it before, but not since 2011. I’d heard that they’d overhauled and improved it extensively since then. They have. It’s now great. It’s mostly Minoan stuff (which makes sense—this is Crete after all), which is now planned out and displayed quite well. The old set up they had was pretty cramped and generally not in the league of the material they were presenting. I’m glad I decided to check it out again …

So what am I doing in Paleohora (again—his is where I started my trip)? Well … After my concert, as I’ve mentioned, my trip suddenly felt over—I felt as if I’d accomplished everything I needed to here. This was a bit of an overstatement, but it was definitely feeling like mop-up time. I was also just as suddenly feeling exhausted, in my mind and body—I didn’t feel as if I could take in anything new. So I landed here. I know this town, it’s relaxing, easy—it’s a good place to come down, take stock, transition out of here (Greece). This has turned out to be a good move: my exhaustion and travel saturation have not abated—I’m out of it, crawling thru the days … More »


Thoma and Daly–Magic!

7-17-2016—Iraklio, Crete, Greece

I made it to my Kelly Thoma/Ross Daly show. It was magic. It took place on a warm beautiful night in a cool little outdoor theater that is built into Iraklio’s old Venetian walls, between to walls (in the old mote?). The place holds about 300 people and was around 90 percent full. One of the first things I noticed was the age range of the crowd. Not counting the little babies a few people brought, there were people from their early teens to their eighties. It was a wonderful crowd too, laid back, happy—the vibe running thru the place quite gentle and loving. This openness extended to the performers.

Kelly Thoma, Ross Daly, and the other musicians were wandering thru the slowly-growing crowd between the sound check and the show, talking to friends and fans. (Daly was cutting quite a regal figure at this point. He’s got to be around 6’-5”, and he was dressed—as he often seems to be—all in white linen, which, when combined with his long flowing white hair, was quite striking). More »


Telendos Happiness

7-15-2016—Telendos Islet, Kalymnos, Greece

Yesterday morning I fled Pothia (I couldn’t wait to get out of there—that place is just bad vibe central). Since I don’t have too much time to explore this island I decided to pick just one promising spot to check out, Telendos, a tiny “islet” just off the west coast of the main island (when I say “just off” I mean it—I can see people on the other side of the channel and could probably swim there if I had to). This place is MUCH more my style. It’s quiet—there are no vehicles of any kind here—laid back, gentle. In other words, it’s everything Pothia is not. Here I think one can get a little taste of what being in Greece must have been like in the 1970s, ramshackle, unhurried, friendly …

I knew the second I got off the boat I’d made the right decision to come here. Suddenly I was surrounded by quiet, except for the sound of a guy sitting in one of the little tavernas that line the waterfront tuning up his bouzouki. Equally, I suddenly felt like I was back in Greece, the kind of Greece I like anyway, as opposed to touristy craziness, which I think blots out some of this country’s soul …. All this is not to say this is some backwater trapped in the past. Though it was surely a little fishing village at one time, now it lives, or mostly so, on tourism. Little boats run day trippers here from the mainland for a day of beaches and nice food (only a few of us stay here overnight). It does this all in a low-key way, though, in part because tourism is way down this year but also because most people probably never figure out this place exists. I’d like to think that you have to have a little bit of … style to end up here …

I’m staying above a seafood place called Zorba’s (yes, that’s really what it’s called), run by Zorba (yes, that’s his real name) and his very sweet wife, Nikki. It’s a cool place, painted in a myriad of bright colors (it looks more like something you’d find in Mexico than Greece). Oh yeah, Zorba, who is really nice, has one eye and looks like a pirate, and spontaneously breaks into dance now and then. He alone would make this place interesting …

So what do you do here? Hit the hiking trails, swim (on some good beaches), and hang out in the cafes and meet people. Oh yeah, the island is very arts-and-craftsy: folk artists of many stripes sell there creations in shops and little tables placed in the walk areas. I’ll probably buy something. Several cool little pieces have caught my eye …

The only problem is that I have to leave tomorrow morning, early, to catch my flight for Iraklio. This place will definitely be on my itinerary when (if?) I come back to Greece …

Crete soon! Urban Crete, where I’ll (hopefully) be sitting in a theater listening to a concert. The cultural whiplash continues …


Problematic Pothia …

7-14-2006—Pothia, Kalymnos, Greece

Be careful what you wish for. I was feeling a touch bored the last couple of days I was in Agathonisi—the place was starting to seem a bit slow, played out. The former at least cannot be said about where I am now—Pothia, the main town/port of Kalymnos. As these island ports tend to be (the larger ones, anyway), this place is fast, hectic … I’m not sure if this town has something about it that makes it more so these things than other similar towns or if I’m just tired from being on the road for five weeks, but this stop has really got my nerves jangling; every time I’m out and about I feel as if my senses are being assaulted …

Not that the place isn’t interesting. Kalymnos is dry, hot, and desolate appearing; from the boat coming in it looked as harsh and inhospitable as any inhabited Greek island I’ve seen. Pothia rises abruptly out of this hostile seeming backdrop; it climbs the steep mountains surrounding an inlet in spectacular fashion, until it seems to just stop, as if the any further expansion was doomed to failure and a wise truce had been drawn with the landscape. I also find it interesting, in certain ways, culturally. If nothing else, it’s intriguing me because I can’t quite nail down what it’s about …

More »


Agathonisi Part 3

6-9-2016–Agathonisi, Greece

I’m still here. I was planning on moving on yesterday but I got a message from my friends G– and C– from Paris, letting me know that they were just up in Samos and would be hitting Agathonisi on Monday. I haven’t seen them since 2013 and I’ve come here all the way from California–I decided that it would be incredibly stupid to miss them by a couple days just because I feel the need to keep to some itinerary I made up in my head. What will I end up missing–Lipsy? Friends are more important than landscapes …

Actually this little change of plans has worked out quite well. It’s nice to not always be on the move. Plus, this little out-of-the-way place’s tranquility appears to be just what I needed–it’s so fucking wonderful to have nothing to do.

Notes:

Damn it! It’s happened–I now like ouzo. I suddenly now can’t imagine not having on before dinner each night. Greece has officially corrupted me …

A typical day for me on Agathonisi: I get up around eight. Then I write for a couple of hours. Then I head to a cafe down the road and get a coffee, before heading to the market. Once back “home” I write for another hour or so. Then I head over to Cave Beach to swim and sun for a few hours. Then back home for reading and napping … until it’s ouzo time … Dinner comes next, followed by a coffee at the place  had my first coffee that morning …

The hiking here sucks. Unless you’re really into heat, endless thistle, wind, goats …

 

 


Agathonisi Continued …

7-6-2016—Agathonisi, Greece

Another quiet day in something approaching paradise. Hiked down the coast only about half a kilometer and found a nice little beach, “Cave Beach” (there’s a little cave behind it). Great little swimming hole, calm, sandy bottom, hardly anyone there even though it’s close to the main settlement. I spent the morning and early afternoon there, swimming, sunning, reading … and trying remember my name, amongst other unimportant stuff. Went and had a frappe after that. Then I went back to my room and read some more, took a nap, and now I’m having a pre-dinner drink, an ouzo, at a tiny café maybe fifty steps from where I’m staying. Big decision now—where to eat. I only have an hour or so to come to a conclusion. How will I ever handle the “real world” again? Shit, how will I handle the hustle and bustle of 700-souls strong Lispsi? Maybe I should head to the island of Arki instead (it’s nearby). I think its population is something like 60. You’ve gone thru a attitude change when 700 is teaming …

While I’m on the subject of destinations … I’ve decided to give Athens a miss this trip. This run has been designed to be an islands romp. Heading into to big crazy Athens would just threw off the basic vibe of what I’m trying to do here. Also, I’ve decided I don’t just want to rush thru Athens. There’s a whole bunch I want of see there—it’s almost a trip in itself. For awhile now I’ve had the idea of doing a winter trip to both Athens and Rome, an indoor trip, museums, etc. The prices are cheap then, for everything airfares, hotels, etc. Plus, there won’t be any crowds. Yet another cool thing about teaching college—Winter Break.

Skipping Athens works well in another way. I’m realizing the urban part of my trip is already going to be fairly substantial, in that over the last several days I will be spending time in three Cretan cities: Iraklio, Rethymno, and Chania—any more would probably be overkill. It also gives me a few more days to wind my way thru the islands. So the only specific goal I have now it to be on a plane from Kalymnos to Iraklio by no later than the morning of the 16th. How this happens doesn’t matter too much …

 

Notes:

I’m at the moment (literally) making an attempt to like ouzo. I love the raki down in Crete (a bit like grappa, but … good). Ouzo, though, has never worked too well for me. It’s way too sweet for my taste. I might like it more as a winter drink, but for summer it just isn’t refreshing enough. I got to do it, though. Disliking ouzo makes you few friends here; it almost makes you a bad person …

Something on this island is setting off my allergies. I’ve been sneezing my butt off the last couple days (he says, while his wiping off the iPad screen).

The mosquitos on this island are pretty gnarly; they’re biting the hell out of me. Big welts too, not like those left by ordinary mosquitos. Japanese filmmakers have missed out on these guys. Godzilla, Mothra, MOSQUITOR!


Agathonisi

7-5-2016–Agathonisi, Greece 

I left Patmos after a short two-day stay (a pleasant enough locale, but not really my thing). I’ve replaced the semi-glitz of that island with Agathonsi—a place that’s a bit more than a speck on the map. According to Lonely Planet this island’s population is only 160 (I’m sure there are far more goats than people here). It feels like it—this place is sleepy (in a good way). Basically there’s nothing to do here but swim, read, and try to figure out where you’re going to eat each night, which is pretty easy, given there are only about five options. I like islands like this, am drawn to them; I enjoy the feeling of being somewhere different, somewhere most people don’t reach …

I’ll probably stay here one, maybe two more days. There are boats going to my next destination, Lipsi (a metropolis—population 700!) from here nearly everyday, so I don’t have to do much planning—I can bail out at pretty much the last minute if I have to …
Agathonisi Notes:

This place is hot, even by summer Greek Island standards; I briefly tried to hike inland today—fuck that! Dry scrubby hills, few trees, little shade: even the goats seem to realize that they’ve got it bad (by goat standards!). Odd mixture here of off-the-beaten-path types and yachties, the latter of whom seem to be anchored throughout this island’s numerous calm inlets. Not the obnoxious super-rich yacht-holes, mind you, but just mellow people it would seem who happen to be able to afford nice boats …
General Notes:

I need to make some decisions in the next few days. Though I still have over three weeks left of the trip I now have to start thinking of time. My plan has been to be in Iraklio by the evening of the 16th so I can see Kelly Thoma and Ross Daly perform. This is still my plan. What I’m not sure of is how I get there. I’ve been thinking about throwing an urban section into this trip. I’ve always wanted to check out the National Archaeology Museum in Athens. So I’m considering spending a few days there (I’ll have to go thru there anyway on my way back to Crete). If I go that route I’ll need to catch a plane soon, probably from down in Kalymnos, or maybe back in Patmos. My other option is to skip Athens and just keep drifting south, till I’m bored and/or get to an island with and airport.

My biggest problem at them moment is trying to figure out which gorgeous Greek island I want to fly out of to get to another gorgeous Greek island, on which I plan to hear amazing music. I’ve made some good decisions in my life …

Still bummed out at the lack of photos. No chance whatsoever of correcting that here, or probably the next couple of islands on the horizon. Last night I took apart one of my broken adapters to see if I could fix it. Didn’t happen. I even yelled at it for awhile. No dice. This is everyone’s fault but mine …


Ikaria … and a Little Patmos

7-3-2016-Skala, Patmos, Greece

I just arrive in Patmos this afternoon, after spending about four days on Ikaria, to the north (officially now I’m no longer in the Northern Aegean Islands and am in the Dodecanese). Ikaria was great, so far easily my favorite (new) island I’ve been too this trip. I started off in the south of the island, at the main port of Agios Kirykos. It’s a typical little Greek Island port town, not super exciting or anything, but a pleasant enough place. Lonely Planet describes it “dated, but dependable.” I can definitely understand the “dated” reference—most or the place looks like it was thrown up in the early sixties and has undergone little change since then. I don’t quite get the “dependable” part, though. You can depend on it being dated?
This town is in interesting surroundings, though. Ikaria is rugged, big mountains sticking out of the sea basically. Agios Kirykos is situated on a tiny coastal plain and backed with fast-rising mountains so high their tops are shrouded in shifting mists. Like Samos, the island is quite green; I did some hiking and was surprised at how dense foliage there was, how many big trees greeted me. Things got a lot more interesting, though, when I headed for the north coast …

There I stayed in a tiny settlement called Kambos, at a little place called Rooms Dionysius, run by a wonderful Greek man and his Greek-Australian wife. On my first night there they took me to a village festival down the road, where I got to hear some good music, eat abunch of goat (not my favorite meat, but not bad), and drink way too much Ikarian wine. It was easily my best night on this trip—finally I got to feel that I was part of something beyond the tourist trade …

Like I said, I’m now in Patmos. This is not a stop that particularly thrills me. I went to this island my last time thru. It’s a nice place, in regards to landscape, and it has a pretty vocal fan-base of travelers. But it’s not my thing. It’s a little glitzy (though admittedly in a low-key way), one of those spots that seems to have adapted itself almost entirely to the tourist trade. It strikes me as the kind of place that would be neat to sail around if you had your own yacht: there are lots of little inlets, hard-to-get-to beaches that must be fun to explore from that angle (then again, most places are probably fun to explore if you’re doing it from your own yacht). More »