Wide Awake in Wonderland

We’re only dancing on this earth for a short while

Bear with me. This rant has a point. I think. October 18, 2008

So when I get home it will be November, and I’ve decided – in addition to the blog and the book I’ve been working on (slowly) during this trip – to do NaNoWriMo (http://www.nanowrimo.org) – National Novel Writing Month (and just a few letters more than the overly rich BC coconut dessert bar thingies). This is something of a community support site to write a novel in one month. It may not be realistic to try to do all these things at the same time, but if you want to change to a career as a writer, I figure it’s best to write. A lot. And maybe the ‘God helps those who help themselves’ effect will kick in? Or I’ll eventually write something someone wants to pay for!?

Meanwhile, I have a Kindle (Amazon’s electronic book device) with me (I love it. I keep meeting people who say they heard they don’t work, but mine has been flawless and a life-saver. It’s so small. Like the size of a DVD case. And the battery holds a charge – allegedly, I’ve never tried – for 14 hours. I can attest to at least ten hours of battery life. The Kindle was worthy every penny if you read a lot and travel a lot), and as a rule I’m aways reading three or four books at once.

Along with The Book Thief, ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’, and The Art of Racing in the Rain (all sad books, really), I’ve been reading this book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Actually, I’ve been reading it in small doses. It is arguably the saddest book of them all, and I find it incredibly upsetting. I really enjoyed Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire, about the intertwined evolution of four plants (potatoes, tulips, and apples, and marijuana) in conjunction with humanity. All told, it was very interesting and thoughtful, but in no way distressing.

I guess that’s why I was unprepared for the Ominivore’s Dilemma. If you read Fast Food Nation, that was for children. Seriously. The situation Pollan paints is so dire that in some ways it seems unfathomable. And sitting on the Blue Star Ferry from Naxos to Pireaus (Athens) right by the “Goody’s”, I watched as dozens of overweight people bought themelves and their chunky kids what are no doubt corn-syrup and corn-derivative based “chicken nuggets” and “Goody Burgers” and “Star chickens.” and you start to wonder where it all ends? What happens when we literally deplete every fossil fuel on the planet and cannot develop antibiotics smarter than the bugs, but we’ve mutated our cows and our salmon and god knows what else to eat corn, and eat other cows (which is where mad cow comes from. Apparently a similar disorder occurs in human cannibals as eating the flesh of one’s own species carries a special risk for infection.) What happens when all we’ve eaten for several generations is garbage that has more or less been made in a lab and super fueled with antibiotics?

And admitting I have not very well explained the book, but drilled down to the worst of it. And even if Michael Pollan’s research is inaccurate or one-sided or prone to hyperbole (and I don’t know that it is, I’m just playing devil’s advocate), it occurred to me that the end game of this dilemma would make a damn good story. And although science fiction is not something I know anything about, I figure as long as my science is solid, the rest is fiction. So there you go.

And as what I’m taking as a ‘thumbs up’ sign from universe (BTW, is there anywhere that’s rude? I read not to slap a fist into an open palm or make the ‘victory’ sign in Turkey – but I don’t do these things anyway. I DO, however, throw around thumbs like I’m The Fonz. Ehhhhhhhhhh! Essentially, now that the head nodding and shaking is out, it’s how I try to convey to non-English speakers that I’m okay, or my backpack is on now and you can let go and stop whimpering, or I understand that the large white boat is the ferry or whatever. No one has ever looked offended, but I’m not always the best judge of subtleties. Let me know if thumbs up = something bad and where).

So I totally interrupted myself there. Let me try that again: As what I’m taking as a ‘thumbs up’ sign from universe, within ten minutes of coming up with this idea, I stumbled across a quote that strikes me as a compass for the storyline. It comes, quite auspiciously, from the brilliant science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently developed technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

So now I guess we know (to some extent) what we’ll be talking about come November…

Meanwhile, the Italians have NOTHING on the Greeks in terms of aggressive male behavior. The Greeks are in a league of their own (which is not necessarily a good thing). On the upside, I have had three men tell me they love me today. On the downside, I don’t know any of their names. More on that tomorrow…

p.s.

As I’ve worked on this tonight, I can hear an Australian guy on the phone in the hall lamenting to person after person how someone picked his pocket on the subway today. I would like to take a moment and offer up some heartfelt gratitude.

TO THE POWERS THAT BE: THANK YOU SO MUCH that NOTHING of any kind (minus a cold, which was truly no big deal) has befallen me the last three months! Just let me know what form of alms you would prefer. Having been to the Archeaological Museum today, I’m up on Egyptian, Classical Greek, Estrucian, etc. etc. etc. Or if just reminding myself and anyone else who cares to notice how infrequently we stop to be grateful is good enough, then so be it. I’ve noticed…and muchas gracias!!!

 

I’m in it for the t-shirt October 14, 2008

I woke up at 4am to a strange sound, only to find that I’d fallen asleep with the TV on. This time it wasn’t the wind. Or the crying dog. Instead, what had been the Jack Black movie “Shallow Hal” was now hard core porn. Like so hard core it was sort of fascinating from an anthropological perspective. There wasn’t much talking, and what there was wasn’t in English, but I will say the Greeks don’t waste a lot of time on plot and character development and watch your back should you ever come across a woman in a a nurse’s outfit wearing a back strap-on. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

It’s another sunny day here in Santorini, and I went for a long run this morning. The winds are less ferocious, and I wasn’t lacerated by a half ton of sand, which was a happy change from Sunday. Also, you should know that as of yesterday I am in training.

Against all logic and reason, I have signed up for a half-marathon in Istanbul on the 26th. My only goal is to finish before they close down the course. I’m in it for the t-shirt. How did this madness come about, you wonder?

Well, let me tell you: A few days ago, on the train from Bucharest to Sofia – the train I probably would have missed in a more efficient country where things move a little faster and tend to be on time – I met a lovely woman from Slovenia. She’s one of those people that you hit it off with immediately and then still like ten and a half hours and 246 miles (which means the Bulgarian train traveled less than 25MPH. Sad!) later.

Thus, it was a happy coincidence to discover that we were staying in the same hostel, especially since we got in late at 11pm. The next day we ended up going for a run together, and somewhere along the way she told me about the half-marathon she was doing in Istanbul on the 26th. My original plan had been to get there on the 27th, but I couldn’t shake the idea of the run. And the novelty. And having someone to do it with. And the fact that if I just tweaked my schedule a little bit, I could join her. I looked it up on the internet, and the last day to register was today. I know a sign when I see one.

To be frank, I have no business running that kind of distance. I usually run five or six miles, maybe seven if I get lost. However, at this point in my trip, the time I have remaining is about novelty and natural wonders and doing the things I really want to do, even if that just means spending two hours seeking out a thermal pool or going for a run on an empty beach.

For me, that has been one of the best parts about visiting Santorini this time of year. It’s the off-season and the beginning of ‘winter’ (albeit 25C/78F and sunny). The grocery stores are wiped out (and what’s there looks like it came out of a compost bin), windows are being boarded up, and all but a handful of restaurants are closed. If you came looking for nightlife or a swinging party scene, you’re SOL. However, if you’ve ever wanted to stroll down two miles of black sand beach under the full moon and not even see another living soul, this is perfect timing.