It’s midnight. Friday the 13th 2020. Doomsday looming in both my homes. The bombardment and monopoly of the 24hr news cycle focused on a pandemic taking over the planet. Athens is already under lockdown from the spread Coronavirus Covid- 19, and New York City is not that far behind. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would be experiencing something like this, my parents isolated far from New York and me wondering what the next few days will bring. Fighting hysterical posts on the one end and dismissive political figures on the other; there needs to be a mind and body triage to keep me going.
Two things that have always comforted me in good times and bad, are books and music. Both have been companions and my shield. I love diving into a good book and music, well music has been my salvation over the years, so a virus outbreak calls for some serious tunes and reads. It seems that very soon I will have to rely heavily on both for solace in what have already been very trying times. As an homage to two of my favourite pass times; I’m invoking the ever amazing BBC radio program Dessert Island Discs to make a virus lockdown mix. Music no matter how bad things get will always soothe the weary mind and heart. So with our further delay my dear readers… Here is :
My Desert Island Disks and Books for the threat of a citywide virus outbreak lockdown.
1. Here Comes The Sun — The Beatles
Why this song : Because it’s one of the first songs I ever remember hearing as a child in our Kifissia ( northern suburb of Athens) apartment when I was probably around 4-5 years old. It played on the Techniques turn table my dad had at the time, and I remember my mum wearing her very 70s glasses at the time and looking stunning. I still remember the look of the apple turning around and around 37-38 years later. It makes me tear up every time I hear it.
2. Wish you were here — Pink Floyd
Why this song: It’s epic. Plain and simple. Pink Floyd were and are some of the most prolific musicians I’ve ever come across. My first ever concert was the Pig Tour concert in 1987 at the Olympic stadium in Arhens and I remember like it was yesterday.
3. Personal Jesus —- Depeche Mode
Why this song: My love for Depeche mode and especially this song was born during my London days in the early 2000s, and it’s so telling of the era and the tone it was recorded in. The false prophets and the lost souls in invokes and the idea of a personal savior that never was.
4. Tiny Dancer — Elton John
Why this song : It reminds me of my first and last College boyfriend and who I was at the time. I was for all intents and purposes a dancer, living, breathing that art form in all its glory and whenever I hear this song, I relive my young self in upstate New York and my long gone college days. My passion for this guy who broke my heart and how he knew how to speak through song what he could never voice in his own words.
5. Dionisis Savopoulos — O Karagiozis
Why this song : The love goes deep here with this artist and this song specifically because it describes a whole generation of Greek entertainment, the idea of the pauper fool who despite his squalor always manages to get by. The long lost art of theater of shadows that kept generations of Greeks ( mostly lower and middle class greek families) entertained. This artist who’s the Greek version of Lucio Dalla, part story teller, part folk artist, he raised me with his music more than any other Greek artist I can recall ( and there are many)
6. Koupes — Marina Sati
why this song: Marina Sati to me exemplifies all that is wonderful about the new Greek music scene. A multicultural, multiethnic strong voice. A woman who exemplifies all that I love about the newer generation of Greek musicians. This song is absolutely gorgeous, beautiful vocals, great musicians. It takes me to a place I love visiting in my mind. A sunlit beach with no care in the world.
7. Vivaldi —- The Four Seasons
There are many exceptional classical pieces of music, but for me Vivaldi although often over played and considered not as sophisticated as other classical composers, is one I go to often. Especially the four seasons. It seems apropos to our understanding of nature and how it makes us feel.
8. Faithless —- Insomnia
This is the ULTIMATE dance till your bones come loose club song of the late 90s early 2000s. I get high only from its rhythm and it’s beat. My body feels so good letting its rhythm take my mind off all that’s troubling me. It takes me back to my years studying in London and my hope at the time. I absolutely love this track.
Ok one last one which is cheating the basic premise of the 8 tracks to take to the desert island but this last track is probably my ultimate piece of music I will listen to on my desert island and brings up the most beautiful memories I have of my time in London.
With a bang
Keith Jarrett — Köln Concert Part I
My list of books for keeping sane in insane times will be up tomorrow night. Till then..
A walk through my favourite parts of Brooklyn brought with it unexpected surprises and a small detour.
On an unseasonably warm March Sunday morning; Brooklyn beckoned for a long walk through its tree lined streets and quaint neighborhoods. I have been feeling the effects of a sedentary winter, the crazy health scares and the political scene, like many of us; so taking a long stroll was just the medicine needed to wake up my winter body. It seems my idea was not a novel one, as there were many fellow sun worshipers taking their long awaited dose, of freedom as if they had been let out of their winter prisons.
After a hearty breakfast with a friend at her neighborhood Greek diner, ( yup every neighborhood has one); I decided to start my walk admiring the incredible victorian inspired architecture of Ditmas Park, with the final destination aimed at the neighborhood of Bay Ridge, ( the other Greek enclave outside of Astoria, Queens.
I first walked though my old neighborhood, taking a fresh look at familiar streets, eyeing suspiciously at new stores opening up where neighborhood staples had been open for years. The obligatory stop to say hello to my favorite Yemeni neighborhood bodega near my old street lead to a quick conversation and a joyful reassurance that god will look over us all. I suppose as a spiritual atheist I’ll take all the blessings I can get. I kept my pace walking up the hill between Greenwood Cemetery and Prospect Park. There lies a little secret street not many people know about well protected from real estate sharks tucked in a triangle all on its own. The architecture is a mixture of old wooden houses and pre WW II two story single family homes. Thankfully most of them well preserved and owned by old timers who desperately hold on as best as they can. Primarily an Italian American neighborhood until the late 1970s.
I know now that making time for diversions on my walks is always rewarding, because as I stood at the top of a quiet crossroads between my old neighborhood and Greenwood cemetery, I caught the eye of an older gentleman sitting on his stoop taking in the sun while reading his newspaper. I didn’t have a deadline except for making sure I was back home by sunset, which left a good 3 hours for my stroll. I greeted the older man who introduced himself with a smile. “Hello!” I say “taking in this lovely sun I see.”
Jack, is a genuine Brooklyn local, born, raised, married, had a family and lived on this block his whole adult life. Italian- American ( as are most of the old timers of this neighborhood since the early 20s) from the island of Favignara just off the western coast of Sicily.
-You’re looking well! I said which was part encouragement part truth, and he quickly replied “it’s all the extra virgin olive oil from the mother land!” To which I replied “oh I could not agree with you more, I’m from Athens and I don’t buy anything other than olive oil from my country” What unfolded was one of the loveliest conversations I’ve had the privilege of having.
Jack introduces himself with a sweet smile on his face, probably quite glad someone from the neighborhood stopped by to say hello. He is a spry 91 years young, and despite his blood thinners and according to him horribly restrictive diet, has a youthful demeanor about him. He has lived in this very neighborhood since he married his lovely wife in the early 1920s. He quickly pulled out his wallet to show me his wedding day picture which showed a handsome dark haired man with his strong gaze, standing proudly next to his elegant Italian beauty of a bride of 61 years. They moved from their cold water flat to this gem of a neighborhood, had two children, 3 grandchildren and 2 great grand children. I asked if his wife was around and a slight sadness overtook him as he explained her passing 2 years prior.
– I’m lonely now, everyone I know has passed on, my kids live outside the city, yes they visit but not often enough. He said as his eyes grew darker. Things have changed here over the years. You know what did it? That damn highway, ripped through our quiet neighborhood and changed everything since the 60’s.
-You don’t like change, Jack?
– No! He responded quickly in a distinctive Brooklyn accent now rarely heard around these neighborhoods.
– These ugly apartment buildings going up all over the park, I hate them!
– I don’t like change either, but what can you do? I’ll visit you Jack! I said and I meant it. Having lived with my amazing land lady of 95 years, I know how older people crave company.
-If I’m alive! He quickly responded.
-I just found you Jack, don’t leave me just yet! I joked and he laughed a toothy smile.
-Ok let me ask ya a personal question. He goes.
-Ask me anything, I respond ( fully knowing what would come next)
-You have someone ? he asks with a concerned look.
-Ah Jack… Not really.
-What! A lovely woman such as yourself?
-You wanna be my beau, Jack? I smiled.
He smiled back, and at that moment another neighbor brought by some chrysanthemum bulbs that he couldn’t use, and I lingered a little longer before I said good bye.
– I’ll see you soon Jack! Take care of yourself. I’ll bring you some spinach pie next time I come around. I won’t put too much feta in it.
– May god keep you happy and healthy always. Take care of yourself, you’re a lovely young woman. He gave me a soft embrace and I reassured him I would keep my promise to come by again.
As I walked up the hill towards the cemetery it hit me, how many times I drove by Jack’s house in the four years that I lived down the street from him and never passed by. The time was right and I do hope I get to see him again. These precious moments for him are morsels of sweetness in a life that has long changed since he moved to this quiet hill in Windsor Terrace.
– Bless you Jack! I waved as I resumed my stroll, realizing I had spent a good 45 minutes talking to my new friend.
The sun hit my face once more and I took in a deep breath. Thanks Jack, you’re a gem.
Living in one place long enough, you forget to see it with curious fresh eyes. You walk up the same train station, drive the same route to work, take the same street to your yoga practice, gym, dance class; go to the same cafe or bar for a drink with friends. None of this is bad per se. There is something beautiful, comforting even, about the familiar faces and places you encounter every day. Yet shaking up the pot ignites renewed curiosity in a place that has become part of your everyday life.
I challenge myself to the newness of things in order to avoid getting into a much dreaded rut. Daily life is not often full of wonder, unless we make a concentrated effort. Practice, go to work, teach, give massages, come home, cook, write. Rinse and Repeat. I try to stay true to my commitment to novelty, curiosity and keeping a fresh eye on things I see everyday. The reason? I have to gaze at things with absence of predictive air, feeding my need to stay present so I don’t get lost in the same story line. So I don’t get lost in myself.
Routines, set schedules, predictable outcomes can be equal part comforting and a trap. Looking up at that special moment when all you want to do is bury yourself in the same thing over and over again requires a little extra effort. I say this because falling in love with a place you don’t consider your home requires effort, presence and a sense of wonder. Falling in love with it when it’s all you know is twice as challenging.
New York is not an easy broad ( and for me she IS a broad— not a lady, or a missus, or a woman she’s a broad with whatever images you care to understand reflect that characteristic).
She is harsh, unromantic and somewhat uglypretty. ( a Greek word not really translatable “ασχημόρμοφη” ) a trait she shares with my hometown Athens, who’s femininity is always cast over with a shadow of the unkempt or wild. Taking her for granted and ignoring her nuanced beauty is easy to miss. She’s not glamorous or sexy like Paris or Rome but she’s enchanting, and when you take a moment to notice; she will make you fall in love with her. Unlike my love for Athens, which is in my blood, my love for New York has been peppered with anger, loneliness, pure joy, grittiness and forgiveness. New York is a cinematic love, Athens is a poetic one.
Living and learning to love a city that is not my place of birth is about a deeper kind of love. It’s about understanding the hustle, the grind, and the soul of this metal giant, as the facade of its deep felt inherent kindness and humanity. Some days it takes effort and patience not reserved for your average New Yorker …. but just like I’m not your average Athenian, I’m certainly not your average New Yorker.
Belonging to this city is a work in progress, and like most die heard New Yorkers will never miss a chance to state that: you don’t deserve to be called one unless you’ve spit blood, sweat and tears for it. Noticing it’s magic, however belongs to everyone regardless of socioeconomic status, birthplace, or location. Ive learned to love New York as I hade learned to love myself. She has become a part of me and I a part of her, and every now and then she enchants me, this gal of mine.
Μνημοσύνη- Mnemosyne the goddess of remembrance and memory.
What is memory and when does it begin?
I had a discussion with my parents last weekend about which memories we clearly remember as our own and which ones are the telling of others. We concluded that recalling our first memory was a much more interesting exploration of self.
After looking back at various random events in our lives, all of us recalled or brought to light our first conscious awareness of our surroundings; what was happening and who we might have been with.
Each one of us almost felt that somehow, in that moment our brain just woke up and started recording our history, like the light was turned on in our consciousness and we began to form memories, personalities and a self. For all of us it also was nothing dramatic or traumatic ( for others maybe) just a moment in time that stuck to our memory bank.
For me the biggest question of our discussion was:
Why is it that we can’t recall anything before our third or forth year of existence?
I’m sure there are plenty of amazing neuroscientists around the world who know the scientific answer to that question.
For those who are curious, pass the question along. And while we’re here;
I am posting with a small delay as I was in transit between Paris and London and I wanted to take the time to write about this last day of my 27 day challenge, and what it meant to take this much needed journey.
This year I celebrate my 40th birthday. It’s a milestone of sorts, as I’m sure it is for all who cross that threshold. I never knew what to expect of this day, whether I would have a family by now, whether I would be living in a big house or a small cottage in a village somewhere, or what I would be doing for a living. I remember when I was 18 or 19 calculating the year I would turn 40, and it was way beyond my comprehension at the time; but now here we are. For better or worse I’ve arrived… and new challenges and paths are beckoning to be explored.
I was speaking to my mother, who reminded me of a memory she had of me when she turned 40. We were in northern Athens, at our then home, in what you would call an “affluent” neighborhood now; but back then, it was in an area no one wanted to live at. I was riding my pink and white bicycle with its training wheels; it was 1982 or ’83 and my mum had just turned 40 that December. I clearly can picture her memory; my mother was slender, as always, with a beautiful smile and a determined gaze, short curly light brown hair and big square glasses. My father good looking and in his late 30’s, a hit of seventies sideburns still donned his face and he wore aviator glasses. A year later we would take our first trip to Paris as a family.
The magic of Paris through my 6 year old eyes, will never match any other trip I’ve taken since. I was in awe. We would visit many times after that, but that first trip was like new world had been revealed. I had never seen such beauty in my life. Glimpses of the Louvre museum before the pyramids were built, the clock of the Muse d’Orsay from up close and the smell of the Parisian air, as we walked through Montmartre and the “dangerous” artistic neighborhoods of the 18th Arrondisment.
I remember still the taste of rich chocolate and french food at a small restaurant in Place Dauphine, now probably long gone. I visit that same little park every time I go to Paris. I sit on a bench; eat a pain au chocolat, and dream of my six year old self walking up the stairs of this larger than life Brasserie with sumptuous deserts lining each step.
Today I celebrate my 40th year, in one of the most poetic, beautiful places in the world, with some of my most treasured memories, and most treasured friends. Cheers, santé, Γεια μας. Onward to this next chapter.
Where, do you remember your most fond childhood memory, and where would you travel to next?
I’m late in posting this, but it all started with the thought of warmth. The winter months get more and more taxing on the body as I age, not to say that I don’t feel as healthy as I ever have, but the smell of the sea and the feeling of being weathered in sun and salt is very comforting on this very cold, rainy lonely day.
It’s getting harder and harder to take the harshness of winter. It’s getting more and more immediate; this need for a beautiful beach, clear blue sky, and crystal clear mediterranean water. I’m finding myself longing for that medicine of salt, sweet air, good food and merriment. I’m comforted by my memories and look forward to the moment I can set foot on the beach and just sink in.
Till then… it’s windy and strange out there tonight.
Αύγουστος 1993 — Κλείνω τα μάτια και αφήνομαι σε ένα υπέροχο ταξίδι αναμνήσεων. Τα πρώτα μας καλοκαίρια μόνες μας χωρίς τους γονείς μας, όταν ήσουν δεκαπέντε, δεκαεφτά χρονών. Τα πρώτα φλερτ, η άμμος να σου ζεσταίνει το δέρμα και εσύ με κοιτούσες λοξά με αυτό το ειρωνικό βλέμμα που λέει πολλά και δε λέει τίποτα συνάμα. Θυμάμαι να γελάω με μια παρέα φίλων μας που δεν ξαναείδα ποτέ από εκείνο το καλοκαίρι. Μαζευτήκαμε στη παραλία της Σαρωνίδας, κωλόπαιδα και χαμένοι στις ορμόνες μας. Μόνο η Σοφία έμεινε, από αυτούς τους γνωστούς-φίλους, που μοιάζει με άλλη ζωή πια. Όποτε περνάω από τη Σαρωνίδα για τα Λεγρενά τους σκέφτομαι άραγε που να είναι τώρα.
Αύγουστος 1995 -Κλείνω τα μάτια πάλι και βρίσκομαι στα πρώτα μου καλοκαίρια στη Μύκονο, στο Caprice μπαρ, μικρή Βενετία, να ξεπροβάλλει η πανσέληνος, τα νερά να χρυσίζουν μετά τη δύση του ηλίου. Χόρεψα πάνω στο μπαρ για πρώτη φορά στα 6 και τελευταία στα 36, και τώρα πια σαν τη παλιά μου ζωή, έχει κλείσει αυτό το κεφάλαιο. (καλύτερα βέβαια λέω μέσα μου, καιρός ήταν να ανοίξει κάτι καινούργιο). Γνώρισα το νησί από την καλή και την ανάποδη, την φωτεινή και τη πολύ σκοτεινή του πλευρά. Κατάλαβα πόσο γλυκό μπορεί να είναι ένα καλοκαίρι μετά από τη πικρία και απογοήτευση του χειμώνα. Καθισμένη με ένα κρασάκι στο μπαλκόνι μου στη Λια, με θέα τα Διβούνια, πάντα αναπολώ τις στιγμές που το νησί δεν ήταν τόσο γεμάτο κόσμο και ήταν “δικό μας”.
Εκεί γεννήθηκε η φιλία μου με τη Βίβιαν, τη “μεγάλη μου αδερφή”, εκεί μας υιοθέτησε μια παραλία που είναι πια ο παράδεισος μας, η οικογένειά μας και το “σπίτι” μας. Δε θα πω πια… τη κρατάμε μυστικό για όσους πραγματικά την αγαπάνε και τη σέβονται. Εκεί γνώρισα έρωτες και φλερτ, εκεί γνώρισα τους πιο σκοτεινούς και ύπουλους ανθρώπους, εκεί γνώρισα υπέροχες φιλίες που κρατάνε χρόνια… Ένας μικρόκοσμος πάνω σε ένα κυκλαδίτικο νησί.
Αύγουστος 1994 -Θυμάμαι επίσης αυτό το απαίσιο καλοκαίρι στην Άνδρο που αρρώστησα με το που έφαγα αυτή τη καταραμένη Φρουτάλια και ξέρναγα όλο το βράδυ, με είχε ρημάξει ο πυρετός, η παρέα ήταν ανυπόφορη, και δεν ήθελα να μείνω άλλο. Έφυγα την επόμενη μέρα, άφησα πίσω μου το νησί και τη κακή παρέα. Η κατάρα ευτυχώς δε κράτησε για πολύ, ξανά πήγα μετά από μερικά χρόνια και έκατσα στο πιο όμορφο μπαλκόνι του νησιού μαζί με μια φίλη παντοτινή. Μοιραστήκαμε τις ιστορίες μας, διαβάσαμε ποίηση, μαγειρέψαμε πανέμορφα γεύματα, και αγάπησα πάλι την Άνδρο σε όλο της το μεγαλείο.
Αύγουστος 2016 Επισκέφτηκα το νησί εκ νέου μαζί με τις αδελφές ψυχές μου, δύο υπέροχες γυναίκες που μπορώ να πω είναι η καλύτερη κοριτσοπαρέα, γιατί για να είμαστε ειλικρινείς μόνο με αδερφές ψυχές μπορείς να πηγαίνεις διακοπές. Με περιμένουν και φέτος να σαρώσουμε τις Κυκλάδες.
Αύγουστος 2009– γνώρισα τη παρέα, τη παραλία, και τη τοποθεσία που θα μου άλλαζε τη ζωή, και συνάμα γνώρισα το νησί που θα μου άλλαζε τα πάντα. Νότια Κρήτη, Γλυκά Νερά, 20 άτομα παρέα, με παρέσυραν, φλέρταρα μετά από δύο χρόνια σε μια δύσκολη σχέση, με φίλησε, αφέθηκα στο κύμα και στο γέλιο τους, επέμειναν να αλλάξω τα σχέδια μου, έμεινα όλο το βράδυ μέχρι το πρωί, σε άφησα να με αγγίξεις αλλά ήξερα ότι δε θα σε ξαναδώ ποτέ. Θα ξαναπάω φέτος στο ίδιο ταβερνάκι, μαζί με την αγάπη μου μέσα μου, και γύρω μου. Θα περπατήσω την ίδια διαδρομή μέχρι τη μαγική αυτή παραλία. θα βγάλω τα παπούτσια και τα ρούχα μου και θα αφεθώ στην υπέροχα μαγεία του Λιβυκού. Πολλά έχουν αλλάξει, ωστόσο κάτι παραμένει το ίδιο… με περιμένει ένας διπλός μέτριος καφές και ένα γλυκό στη Δέσποινα… (μου το έχει τάξει και το περιμένω πως και πως)
Αύγουστος 2004. Πριν από εκείνο το καλοκαίρι ήμασταν 400 ξένοι μεταξύ μας. Μετά από 4 μήνες πρόβες, γίναμε μια ομάδα, μια οικογένεια, μια μικρή κοινωνία. Χορέψαμε μαζί γελάσαμε μαζί, κλάψαμε από υπερηφάνεια μαζί. Πάσχιζα να βγάλω αυτή τη γαμημένη μπογιά από το πρόσωπό μου μετά από κάθε πρόβα, αλλά ήταν το ποιο όμορφο ταξίδι που έχω ζήσει. Θυμάμαι να μη μας νοιάζει το λιοπύρι του Ασπρόπυργου, γιατί κάπως γνωρίζαμε όλοι ότι ήμασταν μέρος μιας ιστορικής βραδιάς. Το Ολυμπιακό στάδιο, έλαμψε στις ζεστές μέρες του Αυγούστου. Ζήσαμε με εμπειρία που μας ένωσε όλους ψυχή, και σώμα. Ομολογώ ότι ίσως για μία και μοναδική φορά στη ζωή μας ήμασταν όλοι υπερήφανοι ως Έλληνες. Κρατάω ακόμα επαφή με μερικούς μετά από 13 χρόνια, ελπίζω όλοι να είναι καλά.
Αύγουστος 2017 μετράω τις μέρες… να συναντήσω τα παλιά μονοπάτια, να νιώσω τον ήλιο και να με τρελάνει ο ήχος των τζιτζικιών το απομεσήμερο όταν κοιμάμαι μετά από ένα υπέροχο γεύμα πάνω στη παραλία με φίλους. Να ερωτευθώ τη ζωή ξανά μέσα στις καυτές μέρες του καλοκαιριού. Φέτος θα είναι το πιο όμορφο απ’ όλα, κοντά σε φίλους παντοτινούς, κοντά σε γνώριμες γειτονιές, με ανθρώπους δικούς μας που μας γεμίζουν τη ψυχή και με παρέες που μας κάνουν να ξεχνάμε και να θυμόμαστε μαζί.