Wide Awake in Wonderland

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

The further I get from civilization, the more I find myself talking about celebrities October 17, 2008

Hanging out in my room and enjoying some Greek TV

Hanging out in my room and enjoying some Greek TV

The last few days were mellow mix of sand, sun, surf, cats, and nursing my cat-inflicted wounds. They do not like to be picked up. I cannot stress that enough. Even the babies are little ninjas. Nature’s Swiss Army knives.




On Wednesday, I waited for the bus (which comes every two hours, or when it feels like it) for a while, and then decided to walk to town instead. How far could it be? Well, it turns out it’s far – 7km each way from Ag Anna to the Naxos harbor (just shy of nine miles round trip for those of us never taught the metric system and now clueless in a metric world). At least half of it is a picturesque walk, and the other half can be spent musing on things that don’t matter, like “Wasn’t my childhood pediatrician’s name Dr. Precopio? How did he spell that? Could it have been Prokopios? Like Ag. Prokopios? What did he look like? Was he Greek? Think back… No clue. All I remember is that he would always say he could hear a duck in your tummy. ” or wherever your own pointless ruminations might take you.

Street scene in the labyrinth of Naxos

Street scene in the labyrinth of Naxos

When I got there, I found the wifi and had the nice meal that I mentioned. Once fueled, I started wandering and checked out the town. Naxos is really amazing in that the entire ‘old town’ is this unbelievable labyrinth of streets and archways and stairways and alleys, and somehow it looks EXACTLY like it should. Everything is blue and white and cobbled and crumbling and covered in bougainvillea and cats. I have not taken so many pictures since Venice. (And it is my full intention to post some photos for you tomorrow. The only reason I don’t do so more often is that this Linux-based mini-computer freaks out my camera, and it takes ten to fifteen minutes PER PICTURE. Seriously. WordPress, although mostly awesome, kind of sucks like that.)

Meanwhile, if you recall my food woes from the scary market (which, by the way, never opened again. I went by twice to see if they had gotten any bottled water or beer, and it appears I may have shopped there in the last minutes of the 2008 season), you’ll understand what happened next. Although I knew the walk back from Naxos Town to my studio would be long, I was unable to resist when I recognized a sign for 50% Dia – the same grocery store chain as they have in Madrid. Not knowing what I might be up against the next three days, I decided to get some survival basics – milk, eggs, orange juice, a seriously huge bag of muesli, blue cheese, a package of those sesame stick pretzel rod things they sell all over Greece, and two large bottles of water. This was by no measure the biggest shopping trip of my life, but I don’t usually carry the groceries home four and a half miles on my back, either.

A little beyond the edge of town, I passed a sign: Six kilometers to go, and feeling fine. At five kilometers, I was a little horrified to recognize the area where guys had been loading a truck with something that smelled like moth balls. That’s as far as I’d gotten!? At four kilometers was my first right turn and a long stretch of beach. The bag was starting to feel heavy, but the worst of it was my pants.

Naxos Town in the distance during my long walk

Naxos Town in the distance during my long walk

When I had started out in the morning, it was very overcast and kind of cool. It had rained the night before (or at least I think so – there was some water on the seats of the chairs outside my room), and I felt chilly, so I put on a pair of black sweat pants, a green tank top, a sweater, AND a jacket. By the time I was halfway there, I was down to the tank top and thinking maybe I could buy a pair of shorts with “Naxos” on the butt once I got into town? By the time I got to town, I would’ve been happy to grossly overpay for a pair of shorts that said “Kick Me” on the butt. Unfortunately, despite visiting at least five souvenir shops, no shorts of ANY kind were to be found.

By 4pm and my walk home, It was hot and humid and sunny. Carrying 25 pounds of groceries and wearing dense black sweatpants in the intense afternoon sun was not helping the situation. I tried rolling the pants up, folding them, pulling them down as low as I could, ‘pegging’ them above the knee. No matter what I did, they unrolled themselves back to their full, oppressive heat generating shape within minutes. For a solid half-kilometer I considered taking off my pants and wearing just my thong underwear. I’d seen some totally nude old guys on the beach – a thong and tank top would be modest in comparison.

However, in tune with my general policy to “attract no unnecessary attention,” I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So on I trudged, sweating like a stuck pig.

This is why I was so very happy when, with 2 kilometers left to go, a car pulled over. Probably 25 people had honked at me along the way, but no one had actually STOPPED. I walked up and found a Greek woman in her late 20’s in the driver’s seat. She asked where I was headed, and when I told her, she laughed and said, “You are going to Ag Anna on FOOT!? It would be good exercise, but…it looks like exercise you don’t need.” I agreed, got in, and within minutes we were at the door of my studio. As I waved and walked away, she pulled a U-turn, and headed back to her afternoon. Thank you, kind stranger!

Yesterday I decided to take it easy, and stayed in the three-kilometer radius of my studio. In the morning I went for a long run (where four people, including one on a motorcycle, pulled over and offered me rides. Go figure?). Later, I walked the entire length of Ag Anna beach (3km each way, according to a sign I saw), went swimming, searched in vain for a gyro, and laid in the sun. There may be no other human being on earth that enjoys laying around in the sun more than I do. I know it’s not good for you (in large doses, anyway), but I love it. This is probably why I worked as a lifeguard until I was 22. Come to think of it, I haven’t entirely ruled out moving to Hawaii and resuming my lifeguard ‘career’. Don’t judge. David Hasselfhoff did it until he was 67.

The Temple of Apollo in Naxos

The Temple of Apollo in Naxos

Anyway, there’s nothing like the sun and the sea to make you sleepy, so last night (after searching in vain for wifi or an internet cafe, and finally asking the owner of the studios where I was staying if i could use her laptop), I took it easy.

It was then that I learned that the Italians have nothing on the Greeks with respect to TV. Along with the usual dubbed-over American programming and several CNN-looking channels, it turn out the Greeks really like to gossip. There were at least three shows seemingly dedicated to the topic (and a picture of Madonna was on the the screen of one of the CNNs). One show featured a panel of about six people (mostly overdone, bleached-blond ladies) discussing the facial features of the children of American celebrities. Another crushing moment where it seems I may never have a blog as successful as ‘Black Celebrity Kids.’ and for that I blame you, the sheep that make up the world. (Well, not YOU if you’re actually reading this sparkling commentary instead of stalking some Hollywood kid, but I digress…)

Basically, there would be a split screen with a picture of Halle Berry and her husband, and on the other side a paparazzi-taken photo of their child. Ditto for Julia Roberts and her husband and some serious invasion of privacy, super blurry telephoto lens shots of their children. Then it would cut to these people talking about (presumably) how the kids stack up against their parents, with a lot of gesturing toward one’s own nose or eyes or mouth.

At first i thought, “Well, Julia Roberts and Halle Berry are international movie stars. Although I couldn’t name a Greek movie star if you put a gun to my head, probably the Greeks are interested in these people because they see their films.” Cut to Nicole Ritchie and her kid. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but Nicole Ritchie hasn’t added a scrap of anything to the human race. I’m not even sure how she got on the radar of the universe, except maybe that she is a friend of Paris Hilton, who is of course, famous for being stupid. And rich. And thus – apparently – worthwhile fodder for the whole, entire world to discuss and ponder the reproductive talents of her friends. I thought only America was this brainless, but it looks like we’re all going down together, people.

Meanwhile, the Greeks also enjoy a rich and varied public access TV lineup: Three of my ten channels seem to endorse an “anything goes!” spirit, and this evening you can find:

  • Three guys sitting at small green desks (like from an elementary school) talking earnestly to an audience you can’t see while he volume varies wildly. Then, there’s an abrupt splice to a different formation of the same guys, still talking. I couldn’t even begin to guess what’s going on here.

  • A live feed of someone’s anniversary party and some group circle dancing – very “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

  • A guy in a spandex shirt three sizes too small interviewing a very alarming-looking individual in an insanely flamboyant outfit. Kind of like Emo Philips in over-sized glasses and a yellow lounge suit. And if both of them aren’t waxing nostalgic about the legendary gay scene on Mykonos (but only during the actual summer months!) or something in that vein, I’m Paris Hilton.


The Pool of Tears June 8, 2008

Filed under: Travel — wideawakeinwonderland @ 1:55 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Okay, so based on the name of my blog, I have this (not very original and no doubt soon to become tiring) idea to name the posts – at least at first – after Alice in Wonderland themes, but it just so happens that Chapter 2 kind of works for my thoughts today. In the summer of 1992, having broken up with my boyfriend of two years who I had to planned to move to Boston that fall to be with and eventually marry and live happily ever after with in this life and the next, I found myself a wee bit lost in the world. Granted, I didn’t have the greatest foundation to start with, so I was as lost as anyone at nineteen…times six hundred.

Anyway, I was living with my dad and working two or three lifeguard jobs at the time, one at the Howard Johnsons near the airport. In hindsight, this was a pretty sorry little motel, with outside access to all the rooms and a super tiny pool with an unobstructed view of the parking lot. It was one of those C-shaped deals where the whole place was built around the swimming hole, and I imagined you could see me sitting there from any room in the joint.  

They didn’t have an official lifeguard chair, so I would sit at a table in the corner and vaguely watch the families or, when no one was there, I would read. I don’t entirely recall my state of mind or my plans (if any) or how I fathomed I might bail myself out of my latest mistake. In fact, my only real memories of the job are the umbrella-covered table, the little room that had the pool pump where you’d add the chlorine, and feeling of being on total display. Perhaps as a result, when this guy in his late 30’s (older than I am now, the dog!) started hanging around and wanting to talk to me every day, I was relatively receptive. Actually, I will add an addendum based on fifteen additional years’ life perspective and quite a bit of therapy, and note that I used to believe that if someone hit on me, I had no right to say no or reject them. Heck, I was still operating that way a few months ago!

So moving on, this guy, whose full name I am surprised to find I still remember – we’ll call him Aaron – was in town buying the wheels and axles off trailer homes and selling them to some outfit in York. Simply because he could make big money off this, I suspect there had to have been something sinister or sleazy or predatory about doing so. Admittedly, this is also a little colored by later learning he was a giant douche bag. But what do I know from trailer homes? Anyway, the only reason Aaron, who claimed to have been living in Hollywood working on the show Amazing Stories and to only have ever loved cocaine-addicted women named Jane, matters to this story is because he put the idea in my head.

After raking in some quick cash buying and reselling the axles of the poor and disenfranchised, he was off to Prague to make his fortune. In 1992, Czechoslovakia had just recently become a democracy again for the first time since the 1960’s, and the soon-to-be expatriates were flowing in from the USofA. He had some whole plan that involved making films for HBO and working for CNN, and I had never been out of the country (not even to Canada), never considered it a possibility, had no clear plan for my life, and this tidbit started the hamster wheel a-turning.  Thus, it was a mere two months later that I found myself with the world’s cheapest and possibly least ergonomically correct external-frame backpack strapped on my back, clutching a one-way ticket to London.