OK so I've got like 4 or 5 draft posts sitting around that are just link cleanups from the Firefox tabs. Shameful that there hasn't been a Thursday post in that long. I'd like to go on my diatribe about the first week in Chicago right about now (I just settled into the couch after my very long commute home), but that's going to have to wait til tomorrow - the massive amount of links simply demand to be published. I can't argue with that.
Searchmash is actually a Google venture but they don't want anyone to know. Someone let word get out, although I think it was around and serving their purposes for a while before the word finally spread. Its basically a proving ground for some of their new ideas. Cool stuff, what with the expandable wiki link results and so forth.
I rarely ride my bike on the streets of Manhattan because its downright dangerous. Strangely, this is the same reason I really love skating on my brake-less half-pipe blades in the city. I can sympathize with these guys.
Day late and a dollar short on this one, but its still a cool idear.
Briefly entertained the idea of going in on a ski share at the Killington Haus, but seeing as I won't be sleeping in my own bed from roughly mid-December to mid-January, its probably not the fiscally prudent idear.
Cool idea, if I ever traveled for not-work anymore.
Ok I saw a recent issue of Adbusters in the checkout line at Whole Foods on Monday night, and although this magazine was an appalling NINE FREAKIN DOLLARS I simply couldn't resist buying it after seeing the cover, back cover and the first page I flipped to inside. These guys are awesome. They have op-eds from people like Tom Green to some reader who clipped a picture out of another mag of a toddler girl in Prada heels and a string of pearls and whatnot..."I found this ad in W magazine. It immediately caught my attention in a terrible way. The young girl is pictured among expensive shoes and handbags...she wears diamond earrings and her teddy bear lies neglected on the floor." And that was it - their page on Toxic Culture. Can't wait to read this tomorrow.
I haven't read it yet because the few minutes I've had this week have gone to Metal Men, which is simply intriguing and fascinating as all heck, even though I'm only half-way through it. Its the story of the multi-billion-dollar financier who started in metals trading, defrauded the US (and scores of other countries) of millions (perhaps billions) of tax dollars, flooded millions of US dollars to Iran in the 70s-80s, basically single-handedly creating the spot-market for oil speculation, and did a lot of other Very Bad Things. He still lives in Switzerland despite the fact that Clinton pardoned him on his last day in office, because acceptance of a presidential pardon generally implies an admission of guilt.
My admission of guilt is that this is only the first draft post of links I had saved, and I'm too lazy to do the rest right now. Maybe a double-up tomorrow, more likely just my initial impressions of Walgreen's (heretofore WAG - their NYSE symbol).
More likely nothing, but hopefully somewhere in between.
As of this past weekend, the Iraq war surpassed in length the complete involvement of the United States in World War 2. Food for thought.
Earlier this month, just the second Medal of Honor bestowed to a participant in this war was awarded posthumously to Corporal Jason Dunham, of Scio, NY. In April of 2004, Dunham threw his kevlar PASGT helmet on top of a live fragmentation grenade that was dropped by an insurgent he was in direct combat with. He did this to save the lives of his two fellow corpsmen in the vicinity, both of whom survived the blast. Chances are that you never heard about Dunham, however, because he died about the same time as a one Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire.
Dunham died with his parents by his side in Bethesda, MD, after moving through a number of military hospitals and undergoing brain surgery to try to repair the shrapnel damage to his head.
I've had this article pinned to the back of my bedroom door since the day I read it the spring of 2004. The WSJ had their signature dot-matrix caricature of Dunham's picture included with the article, and every day I wake up at home I am reminded of his broad smile, which is no more.
From what I've read, I don't know of anyone more deserving of the MOH. One other one was awarded for services in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and before that 2 were awarded for actions in Mogadishu defending the now infamous Black Hawk (Down). These are the only other MOH's that have been awarded (all posthumously) since the Vietnam war. It is a medal presented exclusively by the POTUS, after either an act of Congress or approval through chain of command.
I do feel that there are probably many more in the armed services who have sacrificed themselves "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States...". That said, I am thankful for the unique example that Cpl. Dunham has provided to the United States - a young, small-town-America kid who extended his stay in Iraq because, as he said, "I want to make sure everyone makes it home alive."
At the opening of the Marine Corps museum in Washington, DC, on what would have been Dunham's 25th birthday this month, President Bush said, "As long as we have Marines like Cpl. Dunham, America will never fear for its liberty."
The problem with that is that the majority of our young men are more concerned with getting the latest video game system then they are about patriotic duty. We simply aren't raising up a nation of men who are willing to lay this kind of sacrifice on the altar of freedom. And we're all to blame for this - supporting politicians who would underfund protection for our soldiers, pay them so little to risk so much, all the while sending their children to Ivy League schools. I shudder to think where we will be 20 years from now at this rate.
If there's a better argument for conscription than Jason Dunham, I've yet to hear of it.
Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circum- stances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:
So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits.
When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.
The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other's heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.
Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.
Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.
If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.
I see dead turkeys. They're everywhere. Walking around like real turkeys...
OK, not so much. Especially not in Washington. When will an American president finally be a real man and condemn that turkey to its horrible carnivorous fate?
These are the thoughts that plague me.
I'm listening to the rain on my skylight. I love that sound. If it rains a little harder, I can hear it on the roof, which is even better because there's no skylight in my bedroom. Something about the rain on the roof - living without that sound is what makes the prospect of about 95% of Manhattan apartments unattractive to me.
I don't know why I love rain so much. I always have. Really, precipitation in general - I mean snow, I go giddy-child-stupid for that stuff, love wouldn't even begin to do it justice. Snow is just a part of who I am. But rain, I just love. Its like the next best thing. Especially a good thunderstorm. Everyone always asks what it is you would run back for if you could grab one more thing as your residence burned to the ground. Me, I'd grab my hard drives. But the second thing would be my raincoat - I love my raincoat not because its a great raincoat, but more because I've had so many great times in the rain with it. Then my hard drives would be dry, too.
Snow falling doesn't really have a sound. It has, rather, a distinct absence of sound, perhaps the complete absence when you're in the right location. Another reason to more than love it.
As ever, my thoughts - rambling and unimpressive.
So the week was work from home - wrapping up a bunch of training stuff before the magic starts again in Chicago next week. If I haven't mentioned it, I'll be there with Walgreen's for the foreseeable future. Oh and Monday I saw my ortho for the pain I've been having in the upper left thigh. Its either a stress fracture to my femur or a muscle tear, the MRI next Friday will tell us. Either way, its likely due to the running 40-50 miles a week thing, he said anything above 25 miles a week puts you in a whole new category for these things.
And then today I went with some Redeemer folk to serve at a soup kitchen in Brooklyn for the early afternoon, and then it was off to Dave's for dinner with his family and a bunch of other folk. Probably the best Thanksgiving food I've had outside of mom and Mossy's - you just can't beat your own maternal seasonings when it comes to holiday foods. But it was great - good food, good times, lots of beating Jonathan at his own video games, trying to protect yourself from Mike's groin shots, and taunting Dave for his inability to draft a good fantasy team and his poor liquor pricing speculations. I like their place, its one of the most completely comfortable places that I've found in this city - I guess because it reminds me of home in a lot of ways.
Tomorrow and Saturday are wrapping up the work/life stuff I still need to get done before the traveling starts. And then the traveling starts.
Yesterdays' post made me realize that I never really did a post mortem on the Greece trip, which is something I wish I had done a little closer to returning home from there. But here's the opinion a couple weeks out...
I really, really liked Greece. Its...my pace. Now, this should be tempered with the fact that I really, really wasn't that excited about it as our destination for the big family vacation. I wanted to see the big cities in Europe - London, Paris, Rome, etc.. Or at least just bum around Italy. The idea of Greece just didn't ring my bell, but the 'rents were excited so I sucked it up and tried to get excited about it.
I didn't. And next thing I knew I was there, I was tired, and I was annoyed. I had arrived a day earlier than the folks and had no idea where to go or who to meet, because mom had all that info, and I had been expecting her and the rest of the fam to be on the same flight as me, before they missed their connection. But Chris finally found me and did the smartest thing a Greek guy could do, he took me straight to the best kebab Greece has to offer.
I have been lusting for said kebab all day long today. I realized 2 things - I didn't have enough of them while I was there, and I neglected to take a picture of one, in my furious bouts of greco-gluttony. The kebabs are a good standard-bearer for the rest of the dining fare offered in that country. I'm not huge on a lot of the seafood offerings, but I can't really remember a meal there that I did *not* think was fabulous.
The Greeks as a whole are fairly welcoming to Americans, in that sense that an arrogant American might welcome a well-meaning foreigner - happy to help them but generally assuming that this foreigner is ever-so-slightly a bit of a moron. Maybe we're all right, in the end. But the ones I dealt with were plenty nice, even if they were usually in a position to take my money in one way or another.
Greeks enjoy their late nights and late mornings, and as a whole I don't get the impression that they work very hard at all. They do however seem to maintain an equal or greater stress level as those societies that do in fact work a good deal harder. They just spend their afternoons sitting around drinking coffee and smoking and discussing how stressed they are. Of course I exaggerate, to a degree, but the point remains. Perhaps its the way they drive that contributes to this.
The islands, well - the islands were simply delightful and I fully plan to return and spend much more time there. Athens I could take or leave, but I will make a point to take the kebabs if I'm ever back. Thesoliniki I would like to spend a night of clubbing in, that's about it.
And if I'm ever back I plan to have my motorcycle license before I arrive. And I'd like to speak a good deal more Greek. Seemed to come off like the kind of place that you could be a friend with any stranger if you only knew the local dialect.
So there's your rave review of Greece. I was wrong. It happens, at times few, and far between. I remain, ever the skeptic.
I've been behind on a lot of things lately (as evidenced by lack of blogging), but one of them that I really shouldn't be is burning and mailing out my Metafilter Side-Swap CD's. Basically its a way for a few of us to send a disc of what we've been listening to lately to a few of the other MeFites (as we call ourselves) out there who are also willing to mail out a few discs.
Now, I can blame bad timing, the email that gave us the addresses of those we would be sharing with came out shortly before I left for Greece. But, I've been back for over a week and I couldn't find an hour to devote to the task until now, shamefully. But the discs are burned and all that remains is to get them in the mail in the AM. And to finish updating my flickr photo-set from the Greece trip, so that I can share that with my MeFite friends (promised in lieu of on-time disc delivery) as well as everyone else that I've promised to get them too. Another thing I'm way behind on, but little brohim in Cali needed me to walk him through the best way to upload all the ones that I took on mom and dad's camera (when my memory card crapped out), and I finally got that done tonight.
Anyhow, back to the music. Here's the playlist:
The majority of these were related to Greece in one way or another. Some examples:
The New Radicals - I heard this song blaring from a coolish looking little bar on the back streets of Athens' club/bar district where we ate on our last night there. The family was having desert and smoking cigars, so I left to walk around some before the smoke made me throw up all over their deserts. I'm not sure this is the exact NR song I heard, but I know it was one of the hits off their first album, and it took me straight back to junior year of college.
There were a lot of tunes I heard on the radio that had been re-recorded with Greek lyrics. I'm still trying to decide if "I Don't Want to Lose Your Love Tonight" is better in English or Greek.
Mindy Smith was recently profiled by a music critic for the LA Times as one of the best new artists of the year. I don't think she's particularly new, but she was new to him at the time, and she's got a NYC feel to her music, which I like, although not particularly in this song. Anyway, I read about her while I was over there.
Heard some old-style swing guitar at one of the cafes in Nafplio while we were walking down the waterfront. Sounded like Django to me - might not have been - but kudos to them if it was.
I heard "Theme from Abbadesse's Street" on the plane as we were flying back, probably somewhere over Italy or the sea near it. Reminded me of a tune from Ocean's 11, but I like this one better.
As for the rest, I either listened to them at some point on the trip, or something in them speaks to a thought from the trip, or they are completely unrelated to the trip, and I threw them in simply because I liked them and thought they rounded it out well. Its by no means a good definition of my musical tastes overall, so much as it is a sample of what I've been putting in my ears lately.
If you'd like a copy of the CD, just email me your mailing addy.
Friday felt like a really fast recovery from jet lag, but as the weekend would prove, it took the body clock a while to get back on track - I kept waking up at like 5:30 in the morning.
I skated into the city to pick up a package from the office and then down to the church offices to help round up the high schoolers for the Young Life work crew trip. As per normal for these trips, we get a lot of kids coming out of the wood-work, so I was kind of bummed that I wasn't going, but I knew it was the prudent decision - I had dry-cleaning to pick up and sleep to catch up on and an early flight coming up Monday morning, and a work crew weekend would have just sucked it out of me. So anyhow, we got all the kids out to Hoboken where Cregan and Mindi and Jenny all met us with the rental cars to drive everybody up. After sending them on their way I picked up a burrito and got started on cleaning out my email.
Then I get the call about an hour later that lets me know the Chicago thing is on hold for the moment, and I'm not flying out Monday after all. Super greaaaat. But all things for a reason, even poor management timing on projects I haven't yet started on.
Then it became the weekend of shopping. It started innocently enough - a couple of pairs of jeans from the Earnest Sewn sample sale, then a couple of shirts around the corner at DCC Labs. Then Sunday everything just went to crap. Some qualifications:
Hugo Boss hardly ever has a sample sale of any size whatsoever, and this was evidenced by the hordes of people in line when I got there on Sunday morning, most of whom were gay men or well funded straight guys with their girlfriends or wives. But mostly gay men. Another great qualification is that I need some suits for the Walgreens project, and these ones were a full 2/3rds off their normal market price. And they were beautiful. And I could not say no. And no one would help me. Next it was dress shirts and knit tees and tennis shoes and dress shoes and then my entire annual bonus was gone. Just like that. I was a victim of the situation.
I'm taking back the Hickey Freeman I picked up shortly before I left for Greece, so that will let a little of the blood, but November will still be known for years to come as the month the wheels came off with my years-long restraint with the credit card. Shame on me.
So this morning, instead of waking up and catching a plane to Chicago, I woke up and got back on the 8-mile horse, and there's nothing nicer than running on completely rested legs. Odd to have running weather in the middle of November, but I'll take it while it lasts.
Still working on getting all the pictures hashed out on flickr, should have a link for them soon.
Been up for goin on a full 24, given the time change. Flying back is a lot freakin longer than flying out. Right now I'm trying to stay awake and catch The Office, and then I'm sleeping until I wake up tomorrow.
Lunch in that area that starts with a P that I will spell right sooner or later (but not quite yet), and then we drove back to Athens. Got my last kebab while the last of the shopping took place, and then we all had dinner at a nice joint that Chris had taken me to on my first night here, before the folks got in. They really liked it, but I was dog tired. Woke up a little and walked around the area while they had desert and smoked cigars at a place across the street. I wanted to see the area and staying in range of that cigar smoke would have been dangerous for me. It reminded me a lot of the village - it was just kicking into gear at 1am and seemed really full of life and smoke and music and booze and talking and people and life.
Took a quick spin by the Marathon arena, couldn't get very good pictures in the dark but it was still something to behold, and then we jetted over to the parliment building to catch the 2am changing of the guards in front of Greece's very own Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Reminded me very much of our own, there was a lot of respect and time-tested honor there.
Back in Greece. Disembarked the ship early this morning and we all hopped in the van with Chris to head north to Kavala - where we're staying tonight. Our base camp, or sorts, for Philipi and Thesoliniki tomorrow. Everyone's looking forward to that but at least some of us are getting a fair bit vacationed-out at this point. If there's one thing I've learned in the last couple years of traveling for work, its that there's no soft spot in the world to curl up in like your own sweet bed. I want my down comforter, and my fan.
Turkey was cold, and in retrospect, our Turkish tour guide really rushed us through the Ephesus ruins so that we'd have plenty of time in his buddy's rug store when we got back to the port. But it was good to see, even if we only had a few hours there. I think I've officially spent less money than anyone else in the family - the shopping thing just isn't doing it for me. In Kasadusi, I bought exactly 30 minutes of net access and one lamb kabab. I like the Greek food better. And the hospitality.
Basically, the Turks are a bunch of greedy...guys. Example: most Americans have no idea that the Turkish airforce invades Greek airspace over the isles *every* day. They fly around there until the Greeks intercept and obtain missile lock, and then they leave. They do this because they're trying to create an international incident (ie. hoping that some day a Greek will accidentally fire a missile, etc.), because they want the airspace rights to the isles, many of which are within a reasonable distance of the Turkish coast (take Samos, for instance). I learned about this while we were driving north this morning and I saw the daily dispatch of Greek fighters taking off. I think its somewhat of a good representation of the general Turkish feeling towards the western world. And they insist on being best friends with America. Go figure.
But that's just my initial impression.
Still a few ruins left to see, a few pictures more to take, and a few more plates of slouvaki to attack, and then its back home. Oh, and Pantalomos (or something close to that) - a little city on the side of the hills across the valley from Mt. Olympus. We had lunch there today, and coffee after. If I ever come back to Greece, this will be one of my primary destinations. Hydra, then Pantalomos, then perhaps Mykonos again. Preferably on a sail boat.
And talking with Chris today, I have a feeling my next visit to Europe may be to do a BMW cycle tour of some of the western EU nations. Have to get myself a bike license once I'm home.
Tonight was walking around the port of Kavala and then dinner in a local joint where we once again experienced the true Greek hospitality of a round of ouzo to start us off, and the refusal to give us the check until they had given us all free desert. This seems to happen everywhere we go, and I like it.
From this morning...
Back in Pantalomos. Yesterday was a big one - woke up in Kavala, hopped in the car and headed for Philipi, where we spent the morning exploring the ruins there. Saw the cell that Paul and Silas had their chains miraculously released in, at the bottom of the very building they must have witnessed to the jailer and his family in. Saw the amphitheater and the tunnel that the Romans used to release the animals to torture the Christians. Saw the first actual Christian church (that wasn't a home-church, but specifically built for Christian worship).
Then off to Thesoliniki - we got there early evening, and we hadn't stopped for lunch, so I had an hour or more of extremely low blood sugar misery while everyone did their thing. When we finally did stop to eat, it was more great Greek food and hospitality, followed by what else but a couple more hours of frickin shopping. Thesoliniki actually seemed to be a really cool town - like Athens its old but very metropolitan, busy, crammed with people. I would have liked another day there to just explore, but that will have to wait for next time.
Last night we drove back to Pantalomos where we stayed at a place near the water, as everyone wants to have lunch up in the hillside village again. Which is where we're off to now.
After that we'll head back to Athens, have our last dinner there, shop - I don't doubt - for a few more hours, and then tomorrow morning its the flight back home.
I've got about a bajillion pictures to sort through, I figure I'm going to finally break down and buy the upscale flickr account so that people can see them easily, but I'll try to throw some hi-lights up here too. Be patient, I have a busy weekend of prep for the start of the Chicago thing when I get home and then the magic starts again on Monday.
Its been a good trip over all. I like it a lot here and don't want it to be over, but I like home a lot too and I'm looking forward to being back too.
Slıghtly less smokey ınternet cafe, mainly because theres only 3 of us ın here. Youll notıce the lack of apostrophes and the funny letter İs ı suppose because I cant fınd them on the keyboard. Loggıng ın was not very fun just now.
Im above a bazaar ın Kadusı, Turkey. I wont be joınıng the other few thousand cruıse passengers ın the normal stop to shop routıne, even though apparently Ill be mıssıng out on ıncredıble exchange rates, accordıng to our tour guıde, who was actually a great guıde ın the ruıns of Ephesus thıs afternoon. I saw the worlds oldest advertısement there - thats what he called ıt, at least - pıcture to come. And upon gettıng back to the port he promptly trıed to usher us all ınto hıs frıends carpet store. Or the leather store across the street. Or a jewelry store. Or any other kınd of store that takes money. Any kınd of money wıll do, just so long as you have some.
Wasnt very ınterested ın helpıng me fınd an ınternet cafe.
But here I sıt, nonetheless, trapped above busy shoppıng streets, wıth narry 20 mınutes tıl ıts back to the boat. They actually have ınternet on the boat, but the problem ıs ıts a Euro and a half a mınute (dıd I mentıon that already?). Four Euros thıs AM for the fastest fantasy football pool update Ive ever done.
Sucks that I dont have the tıme Id lıke to wrıte at the moment, much less a western keyboard, because I have a lot I want to wrıte, and as Ive found of late, I can do ıt much faster through a keyboard. Ive come to loathe pen and paper after a fashıon, ıf only because ıt feels lıke thoughts have to queue up and waıt to get out - I can type probably 3 to 5 tımes faster than I can scrıbble.
After spendıng the mornıng on Patmos seeıng the ısland to whıch John was banıshed and the very cave that he wrote the book of Revelatıons from, we hopped back on the dıngy and rowed over to Turkey, where as I mentıoned the destınatıon was Ephesus. A full 6 mıles ınland, a cıty that was on the water ın Pauls day. Durıng hıs years of mınıstry, he spent more tıme ın that cıty than anywhere else, and today my feet stood on the same stones that hıs once dıd - I watched the evenıng rıse over the same hılls and valleys he lıved and breathed ın.
And I was rıghteously pıssed because I was out of megabytes ın the camera. I had a number of other thıngs on the lıst of stuff to be pıssed about, and as I sat there lookıng at a monument to one of the Roman emporers, beıng pıssy, Ecclesıastes came rushıng ın.
None of thıs crap matters. I cant get food on the boat when I want ıt late at nıght. Sıster ıs upset wıth me for makıng some gross comment. Ran out of megabytes. Mom and dad revertıng to parents, guy ın hıs late 20s not takıng ıt too well. Cant fınd freakıng ınternet anywhere. Dont know what I thınk about goıng back to a project ın Chıcago or stayıng ın consultıng or goıng back to school or what to do wıth my lıfe.
Buıld a monument. Buıld a cıty. 5 tımes over, on top of the old ones. Buıld an empıre that covers the known world. Drınk yourself to death because theres nothıng left. Doesnt matter. Someday a few thousand years from now people mıght be lookıng at what we dıd, but chances are at best ıt wıll be a small tourıst attractıon ın some corner of the galaxy. Doesnt matter.
And then thought two.
Paul and hıs contemporarıes were concernıng themselves wıth the only thıngs that mattered. Sure, they were tent-makers, and carpenters, and fıshermen, and dealıng wıth daıly ıssues - ınterpersonal, fınancıal, whatever. But theır lıves were centrally about one thıng - tellıng people about the good news. And ın the end, when all the ruıns have worn away and the seas drıed up and the megabytes are all gone, that wıll be the only thıng left.
Im fındıng perspectıve ın weırd ways on thıs trıp, but at least ıts fındıng me.
Another smoky internet cafe, this time somewhere on the island of Rhodes. I've never seen water so deep blue as the sea here.
Last night I ran out of the net cafe and down the shoreline a few blocks to the last bus back to the boat. Margy left a bag of her shopping hoard in one of the shops near the cafe I had been in, and she had to run back to get it while the bus waited for her and a few others who were running late. This stressed the rents out, something awful - the thought of leaving a daughter behind on some Greek island in the middle of the night. Its funny how when people get older certain things seem to stress them out a lot more than they should - I mean its even worse with my grandparents, for instance. But take last night, worse case I would have just told them to get on the boat, I would have hopped off the bus, and gone and found her. Even if we missed the boat, its not like we're going to spontaneously ignite or something.
After that it was a show then gambling and drinks and dancing and whatnot. Dancing is certainly interesting when the floor is moving. I'm pretty sure 5 card stud takes your money faster when you're at sea, too. Going to try to stay out of that part of the ship for the next two nights.
Today Joe and I rented a motor bike and we've been zipping around the island, seeing a lot but stopping a little. Margy got one too but she promptly laid it down with dad on top of her. Thankfully everyone was ok, but I'm pretty sure they were taking her bike back after lunch. Time for more zipping around for us, now. Tomorrow: Patmos and Ephesus.
In my years of blogging, I sit now in what is officially the far and away coolest location I have ever blogged from. I'm in an "internet cafe" above the shoreline of the island of Mykonos - one of the Greek isles.
Not what an American would think when they think internet cafe, either. I'm surrounded by smoking Greeks, a dozen or so who just finished a mass multiplayer FPS game. They're cursing at each other about why the winners were cheaters, why the losers are whiners, etc.. You don't need to speak the particular dialect to know the language of the gamers. As its Europe, they're all smoking and there's loud music. I appear to be the only one who's not here to play games other than the few at the bar out front.
And my space bar is clearly over-used from massive FPS gaming. Which adds to the coolness factor.
I have to run to the last bus back to the ship in about 10 minutes, and from there we're off to Rhodes tomorrow. Today was mainly getting to the boat in the Port of Athens, getting checked-in, and riding some rough seas here to Mykonos. Which was actually nice because it kept most of the people confined to their staterooms, and left the ship open to explore and relax in, the first of which took all of 15 minutes. While its a cruise ship, its not entirely that huge, in cruise ship terms (I should know...), but we are at sea, and I'm plenty happy about that. Nice to have my sea-legs back, although I'm envious of every sail boat I see.
Oh, and the average age on the boat is probably about 60+. Fine for three days, but...oy. Good thing we went with the all-inclusive drinks.
We got off the boat here in Mykonos this evening and began exploring the main city. Its everything the pictures and paintings made it out to be in my mind - curvy tiny little large-stone-paved streets, every single structure is white-washed stone with blue wooden trimmings, and there's winding little alleys to explore every 20 meters or so. Its mainly a tourist trap but if you're not really there to shop then you don't have to worry about such things. Unlike my sisters and mother, on the other hand.
Anyhow, cruising all weekend and the rate for internet on the ship is a Euro and a half per MINUTE, so I'll be sticking to uber-cool little joints like this where there's incredible art on the wall, well dressed gamers with their headsets on sideways, smoke in the air hi-lighting the great lighting, and probably the best sound-track to write to, ever.
Athens today. Started out at the national museum, which was quite fascinating. Bronze statues that had been found in the sea after spending a thousand plus years there, etc.. More marble human/animality than you could shake a spear at. Interesting to walk through the evolution of sculpted art - from the statues with both legs shaped in one pillar, to dual leg stances, to weighted stances, to full-on action poses (the discus thrower, et al.).
Then off to the Acropolis and the surrounding ruins. Walking around the city for a few days, seeing it in the distance, looming above you, does something to add to the experience. When you finally get up there, you have high expectations, and in my case they were certainly more than fulfilled. Even in all its manifold destruction, it still emanates authority. There's a million and one stories to be told about that place, and its probably less than 3 acres in size at the top. But there's simply no end to the lore and adventure that existed, across the ages, on that one rocky hilltop.
Standing by the flag pole, we debated whether or not Paul would have visited the Acropolis in his time or not, with both sides making logical arguments. Personally, I think if he preached on Mars Hill, he walked the rest of the way up.
I of course am already running out of MBs for the digital, so I have to start getting selective, as I opted against bringing the laptop with me, and therefore can't upload to free up space. I was realistic about the fact that I couldn't go cold-turkey on internet (I mean, the first step is admitting you have a problem, right? I have a problem. I'm fine with that.), but I did think it was an important step to pretty much totally disconnect from work for a week or so. I was thinking about this dilemma with the camera today, however - kind of ironic that I now, somehow, feel limited by the hundreds of pictures I can take.
What in the world did people do back when they used to have rolls of film they had to carry and (shudder) get developed? How did they take more than a few pictures of anything?
Today was a study in contrast. We saw many amazing things today, but for me, the contrast was most clear.
We set off in the morning for Korinth. Where Paul spent some of his time, making tents, speaking, writing letters, and other Pauline pursuits. First impression: sea sure has subsided / silt sure has risen a good couple miles in the past couple thousand years - the ruins were no where near the sea, although it was visible in the distance. Stood in a few of the same spots that Paul himself did, that was just plain moving, reading from Acts while standing there.
As we were eating lunch outside our van, getting ready to head off for Mycenae, one of the typical Athens taxis pulled up (read: bright yellow Mercedes). Mind you, Korinth is a solid hour's drive from downtown Athens. Four Japanese business men poured out of the taxi and started walking around taking pictures. Chris pointed out to me that the cab driver would make upwards of 300 Euro for the cab fare one-way alone, not to mention the return trip or tip. I guess some people can just afford to appreciate the ruins at that luxury.
The ruins at Mycenae were equally, if not more so impressive than were those at Korinth. For starters, Mycenae is mainly a large fortress of sorts on the top of a hill. There are surrounding famous tombs in the hillsides which seemed so dominant in their size that they somewhat diminished the hills that contained them, but the fortress itself is a sight to behold. The Lions' Gate, the main entrance, itself is quite imposing, these thousands of years later.
Just inside the gate, as we began our way up the paths towards the crown of the fortress, I saw what I can unequivocally say is the shortest living human I have ever seen. This woman would be considered, essentially, a midget to a normal midget - that is to say I doubt she was above 3 feet tall - perhaps not even 2.5 feet. She was walking down the uneven path with the aid of the typical walker-crutches people with these kinds of disabilities have, and almost to where her friend with the wheelchair was able to get the chair up to. And on we moved towards the top of the fortress, continuing our exploration.
An hour or so later we were leaving the ruins, headed off to a dinner in one of the picturesque sea-side towns. About a quarter-mile down the hill from the parking lot below the ruins, we passed the short lady and her friend, who was wheeling her down the road, sans vehicle. We had plenty of room in the van and so we stopped and offered them a ride. They hesitated briefly, as many might, but then agreed.
They were French, of which a few of us spoke a little, but between their broken English and our broken French, we could communicate well enough. As we drove them the mile or so to the main road, we realized that they had taken the bus out there from Athens to the nearest town, which was another two miles down the main road. They had taken the earliest bus out, walked (well, her friend had pushed her) all the way up to the fortress, saw the ruins, and were hoping to make it back to the city in time for the last bus back to Athens. Being as it was going on 6pm, and the last bus was at 8:15, I doubt whether they might have made it.
In the 15 or so minutes we spent with them, we actually learned quite a bit about each other - places they were from that some of us had been, and vice versa. When we pulled up to the bus station we found we had just missed the 6:15 bus, and we were disappointed they had to wait an hour. They clearly didn't share our disappointment - they had an hour to sit and have coffee and relax. I pulled the wheelchair out of the back of the van and Chris took a picture of them with the family.
And off to dinner on the seaside we went.
It hit me later that night, in the quiet of a van full of sleeping people at 120km/hr on an empty freeway, that we were much closer in stature and standing to those business men in Korinth. We have the benefit of our own vehicle, excellent meals, warm beds, and the ability to view the incredible locales at our own leisure.
I just hope that, in our hearts, we might be a little closer to those who, despite their limitations, want so earnestly to appreciate the same things we were there to see.
I'm one who tries to complain as little as possible, but heaven help me if I grumble once more on this trip.
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"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."