Sunday, April 30, 2006

You want iced tea?

Today we fell into our usual habit of spending too much money at a coffeeshop while taking a stroll, and we were at a place that featured a fancy menu of various teas along with the usual coffee fare. Among the teas were a selection of iced teas, and I ordered one. The barrista had to come to our table and inquire discreetly, iced tea? Because usually they serve hot tea.

Iced tea may not be altogether common in Europe, but you must realize one thing - I am a Southern girl, and Southerners love their iced tea. Iced tea is as common in the South as hot tea, in fact, I daresay there is a Southerner or two out there who loves some iced tea but turns their nose up at the heated variety. Now the big tea companies, Nestea and Lipton, have tried their hand in the market here with bottled, overly sweetened, not very rich iced teas, and I guess some people drink them or they wouldn't keep selling them. But this tea is a far cry from the tea we like in the South. I can't even make my own proper iced tea because the tea I used to use isn't sold here. Sure, I could whore myself out to Lipton, but I don't wanna. This is a serious issue, for goodness' sake.

In the end they didn't have the tea I wanted (why have the fancy menu if you don't have the tea??) so I ended up with a mocha freddocinno. Such is life. I may have found decent Chinese food here, but if I want a good iced tea, I'll have to go back to the South. It's a long trip, but it's worth it.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Caroline laughs and it's raining all day

I was 16 years old when the movie Pretty in Pink was released, and like many other girls my age, I fell instantly in love with Andrew McCarthy. The puppy dog eyes, the kissable lips, the peach fuzz mustache - it all made me positively swoon.

Yet, hidden deep inside my psyche was a dark secret -I always wanted Andie to end up with Duckie at the end of the movie. If only I had had the perspicacity to fall for the Duckie type guys myself in high school, I might have been a whole lot better off.

The China syndrome

Today I finally sated my appetite for Chinese food. We got a menu from a Chinese restaurant the other day, and we also had a word of mouth recommendation for some place called "The Noodle Bar" down by the sea. Since we didn't have a menu for the latter, we decided to take our first steps into the world of Chinese food in Greece with a place simply called "ΕΣΤΙΑΤΟΡΙΟ ΚΙΝΕΖΙΚΟ", otherwise known as "Chinese Restaurant". I guess when there aren't too many around, you are entitled to such a moniker. This place seems to be take-out only, as the menu only lists a number, not an address. Desperation makes us do dangerous things.

My husband isn't as familiar with Chinese food as I am, although he has had it before, so we just ordered a standard meal of spring rolls, sweet and sour chicken, vegetable lo-mein and wontons. It actually wasn't bad, although we were sadly lacking duck sauce, hot mustard, and fortune cookies, not to mention it didn't come in the U.S. standard Chinese food cartons. It wasn't the best I've ever had, but it wasn't the worst either, and since I am too lazy to attempt sweet and sour dishes myself, it will work for me. And we have yet another place to try, when we work up our courage again.

A bit ago, a mere 4 hours after our Chinese feast, my husband exclaimed, in a voice wrought with desperation, "wtf, I'm hungry again!" (ok, he probably didn't say wtf, but it makes it funnier that way, and if you don't know what wtf means, just forget it) He has now learned the curse of the Chinese food - the imminent hunger a couple of hours later. A strange and unexplainable phenomenon that will certainly benefit our favorite pizza joint a bit later.

My work here is finally done

You know you have reached the pinnacle of your blogging career when your blog seems to be a frequent stop for people searching for things like "Tom Cruise eats placenta" "Placenta souffle" "did Cruise eat placenta" "watch Tom Cruise eat placenta". Let me refer you to the Wikipedia entry on placenta and you tell me if he ate it.

I've also been tagged for a search on "sperm draining torture" and I'm not entirely sure what that entails. I guess the U.S. is looking for ways to spice up their torture tactics at Guantanamo.

Someone is apparently having problems with their air conditioner sounding like a pigeon. I wonder if they thought of the fact that they might have a nest on top of their air conditioner?

I take the greatest pleasure for coming up on a search for "scary dead lady in a house". I'm not dead and I live in an apartment not a house, but I can be a scary lady. Just ask my husband.

What do I have to say to these web searching fiends? Bring it on, baby. Bring it on.

Miscellaneous notes to self

  • when replacing a 20-year-old air conditioner with a brand new air conditioner, have the foresight to realize that older models were monstrously larger than newer ones and that the ghastly green paint that was painted before you moved in will now show around the area where the new air conditioner resides
  • when having pedophiliacal (I'm sure that isn't a word) affairs with 13-year-old boys, don't text message him with embarrassing statements that will surely end up in the press and on affadavits for your arrest
  • teach Britney Spears about the wonders of birth control
  • stealing an ancient Byzantine chapel isn't the smartest way to win the hearts of my Greek hosts
  • Invent new letters to add to the English dictionary, why should the Swedes get all the fun?
  • Make time now and then to watch a balloon float away, watch it weave and glide as the wind carries it upwards into the clouds and slowly disappears

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I guess I need more excitement

You know your life needs more pizazz when you dream about cutting your cat's claws.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Thessaloniki in springtime

I don't think I've ever experienced a better spring than this year, here in Thessaloniki. The weather has been fairly grand for a few weeks now, and I have forsaken the indoors for leisurely strolls around the city and overpriced coffee in charming cafes. I figure I better enjoy it now, because come July we'll be mired in heat and humidity as bad as any Nashville summer, and I'll be once again a slave to the indoors, constantly praying to the gods of air conditioning. For now, though, there is no electric hum except the white noise of the fan that lulls me to sleep at night.

Despite living in the city center we have still enjoyed the fresh smell of jasmine thanks to some horticulturally proficient neighbors. A songbird on a balcony across the street manages to sing it's song without being annoying or repetitive. The crazy pigeons are usually gone by dusk, when the sparrows come and do their twirling dance of flight all around us. I now understand why cats find birds so fascinating to watch.

Strawberries are at their peak and we can't get enough of them. Tomatoes are rich red and plump, and fruits and vegetables of all kinds are in great supply, and quite a bargain compared to what I used to pay at Kroger or Wild Oats.

We were caught outside yesterday in the rush of a sudden spring shower, and to our surprise, a full rainbow presented itself high in the sky above Aghia Sophia, right in the middle of the city. Spectacular. My mother-in-law, after expressing her awe at us having seen a rainbow in the city, quickly moved to the more important question "you did have an umbrella with you, didn't you?" What a mother!

I know the tradition is to travel to Greece (especially the islands) in summer, but I have to strongly suggest trying Greece in the spring instead. There is something to be said for the reunion of mother and daughter, and Greece celebrates Persephone's return in wondrous glory.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hope for salvation

So my first (official) Orthodox Easter(Pascha) has come and gone, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Good Friday passed in solitude, because my husband had an E.R. shift, and I didn’t see fit to find my way to a litany service on my own. Luckily, two church processions passed right in front of our apartment building, one stopping at the corner for a bit to sing the melancholy elegy, so I could look over the balcony in quiet observation.

Saturday night we proceeded to the resurrection service. The one we attended just happened to be at the same church we were married in. This experience seemed to justify my core belief that I am better off as a distant observer of such services. When it was time to light our Easter candles with the so-called holy light, it seemed that mine would extinguish almost immediately, but by some miracle it stayed lit. Then, a piece of the wick had broken off and attached itself lower on the candle, which started burning anew when the candle burned down a bit, and for a brief moment I could see the headline “Heretic Girl Dies, Consumed By Holy Flame”, as the burning wick flew off the candle. Thankfully it hit the floor and extinguished itself immediately, averting certain disaster.

I did not follow the crowd of people outside to watch the actual resurrection, because there were just waaaay too many people, and at my height I would surely end up wedged beneath someone’s sweaty armpit and an oversprayed hairdo about to explode from the heat of the candles. The sound system wasn’t working properly, so the priest’s voice scratched as it came in and out of the speakers. Finally, Christ was resurrected, the bells were rung in jubilation, and everyone returned to the church, where family all greeted one another with the traditional Easter greeting. When Uncle George approached me, instead of saying Χριστός Ανέστη (Christ has risen) he said, in heavily Greek accented English, “Christ stood up”, which sent my mother-in-law into a fit of giggles I wasn’t sure she would recover from. After a few more moments of pleasant, Dead Can Dance-ish singing from the priests, we left to go to my in-law’s apartment and enjoy a one a.m. meal celebrating the resurrection and the breaking of the forty day fast some Orthodoxites endure. I don’t think I saw people enjoy meat and cheese more than these relatives, some of whom actually had been fasting the whole time.

Today we headed to Easter dinner at Uncle George and Aunt Sophie’s beautiful home. I was fearful of seeing a lamb or goat turning on a roaster outside upon approaching the house, but got lucky, they were cooking it in the oven and the fireplace, no big skewer or whole animal present. I didn’t get lucky when I spotted the goat head on the dinner table, and almost ran screaming and pulling out my hair in distress, but I gouged my eyes out instead. Oedipal references aside, the head disappeared by the time I looked at that part of the table again, so I guess someone got head. Goat tastes remarkably like pork, by the way, in case you were wondering. And goat intestines taste just like liver. I’m still trying to get the taste out of my mouth. Too much homemade dessert and a few sing alongs with the guitar later it was time to go home. Easter was officially over.

Καλό Πάσχα to all my Orthodox friends. I hope yours was filled with as much love as mine was.

Friday, April 21, 2006

And then my head exploded

I know it is (Orthodox) Good Friday. I know it is a mournful day of lament for Christ's crucifixion and hope for his resurrection. I enjoyed the parade of litany with the candles and the gothic singing that passed right in front of our apartment.

But for the love of all that is good and holy, do all three churches in the general vicinity of my apartment building have to ring their bells one by one ALL DAY LONG?!?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The fall of civilization

Last night while my husband and I were enjoying a lazy evening at a coffee shop, a cute little girl and her mother entered. The little girl was around three years old, perhaps, and a bit fidgety (hopefully not because of drinking coffee). We were sitting outside enjoying the weather when the little girl came out of the coffee shop and very meticulously placed her chewing gum on the mat outside the store. The mother observed this behavior, and did not say a word.

Now, I don't know how things are in this day and age, but when I was little and it was time to dispose of my gum I told my mommy and she gave me a napkin or tissue to put it in. I never took it upon myself to dispose of my gum of my own free will and I certainly never would have placed it outside where people walk. I won't even put my gum in a trash can without wrapping it in something. I'm not naive, I do realize that people have been placing their gum underneath desks and tables and on walls for years, but at least that isn't in the line of traffic. This kid went out of her way to be evil.

Of course, my husband told the waiter before we left and he took care of the errant gum. But I have to say with each little incident like that I am more and more horrified at the state of civilization today.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Now back to regularly schedulled programming

The creepy Cruisingtons have finally gotten their baby. It seems Katie Holmes gave birth to a baby girl on Tuesday. They named her Suri, which may or may not have something to do with Scientology.

Let's hope that Ms. Holmes doesn't suffer postpartum depression, and that little Suri doesn't have any psychological issues, since the Church of Scientology doesn't recognize such diagnoses. I'd hate for Mr. Cruise to have to corner the market on vitamins.

Does Ms. Holmes get to enter the record books as the longest human pregnancy? Will Mr. Cruise choke on his placenta souffle? Will Katie ever speak again? Have we heard the last from these two?

One can only hope.

Holy Week

I’ll admit it, I have a hate/hate relationship with Easter. I believe I only tolerated it as a child because bunnies are cute and I could satisfy my propensity for fierce competition in the Easter egg hunt. I never appreciated waking up to go to church at five a.m., and I most definitely hated the frilly, itchy, pastel Easter dresses my mother bought for me. And who the hell thought it was a good idea to put small children in tights? Such a thing begs for little girls to embarrass their parents by pulling their dresses over their heads in a vain attempt to adjust the uncomfortable hosiery. Too bad we can’t get away with that as adults.

Once I got old enough, I could excuse myself from the early morning services. My parents still spoiled me with a beautiful, filled to the brim Easter basket, but by the time I was a teenager Easter lost all meaning for me. When my best friend died on a lugubrious Easter Sunday fifteen years ago, I parted ways with the now somber holiday forever, or so I thought.

I was never ignorant of the religious implications of Easter while growing up. After I got over my childhood trauma of seeing a lonely Jesus sent to be crucified by a maddening crowd in Jesus of Nazareth, I pretty much ignored any theological connotations of the holiday. As I began to garner some grasp of reality I found it harder and harder to accept many things Christianity tried to tell me, and of all these things, I found the whole resurrection deal particularly difficult to accept. Oh me of little faith.

Then I married a Greek Orthodox.

I’ll admit I was blind to the vagaries of the Orthodox religion coming into this thing. I knew they needed proof of my baptism to get married in the Orthodox Church. I knew they had different “rules” for calculating when Easter would be celebrated. I knew their priests wore kick ass hats. I knew parts of religious services were sung. I did not, however, know that Easter, and more specifically the crucifixion and resurrection, was one of the doctrinal threads holding this religion together. I did not know that Easter was a huge deal in Greece, bigger even than Christmas. I did not know that every year, for weeks before Easter, I would be reminded of the religious importance of the holiday to come, a holiday I tried to forget, a holiday that seemed to mock the loss of someone I had loved.

The first year I was here we were too busy planning the wedding to celebrate Easter. The second year I was here we were on Kos and my husband was working so I avoided it again. Last year my husband had a shift and I got lucky again. This year, however, he is off and we are living in the same city as the family. It isn’t looking too good for me now.

At least the service is at midnight on Saturday and not some ungodly morning hour. The fast breaking soup we’ll have after the service is pretty good, the family company is pleasant, so I suppose I’ll survive. And I am told the Easter service is particularly replete with the singing/chanting, which I actually quite enjoy.

I know I am too bitter about Easter. I wouldn’t have been this bitter if it wasn’t a holiday of resurrection, rebirth, rejuvenation. If it had been a more chthonic holiday I perhaps could have accepted it. If I had more faith, if I could give myself over to religion, then I might find forgiveness and acceptance. But I don’t, and I can’t, so I won’t. My hope is that someday I will see things differently, but for now I shall simply endure, relish the sonorous Orthodox chants, and revel in the love of the family around me.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Ah, to be a kid again

I'm really glad I decided to use the Greek language textbooks that Greek children use in school, because I get to learn all the important "kid stuff" that kids here learn. I've learned important things like donkey care and maintenance as well as how to call someone a sucker, so basically, I have the vocabulary of a seven-year-old, which can come in handy in some adult conversations.

There are a few more adult words I've learned, though, thanks to my husband. I managed to use one of those words at a family dinner last week, and word got back to my mother-in-law that I said it. She approached me quietly and asked where I learned that word, and stately very clearly, to the table, that she didn't teach me that word. Of course, it didn't help when I told her that her beloved firstborn son taught me that word, but she passed it off with good humor anyway. Besides, what kind of seven-year-old would I be if I didn't learn all those good words?

Not yet

Nope, it ain't Easter here in Greece yet. We still have one week to go - this year. Next year I think we share Easter with the non-Orthodoxites, but I could be wrong. Usually it seems like the Easters are weeks apart.

At any rate, Happy Easter to all the non-Orthodox folks back at home and abroad. I hope you all had an excellent holiday.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A universal inconvenience

One of the most horrid fates to face any consumer happened to me this week – they remodeled our supermarket. And by remodel I mean they completely changed everything about the store, they didn’t just rearrange stuff on the shelves. Product rearrangement is nothing compared to what happened to our store.

The store closed for the remodel last Saturday and was to reopen Wednesday. When it didn’t reopen until Friday I should have realized there would be major, mind-blowing, oh my god I can’t find anything in this place changes. The freezers and refrigerated sections were moved, the deli department was in a different place, the produce was put kind of in the middle of everything. The aisles are now better organized with similar products, although I did schlep the entire store today before I actually found the sugar, which was just sort of in a pile at the end of the cooking stuff aisle. I observed the manager helping at least three people find stuff today, and everyone who entered the store had sort of a dazed, deer-in-the-headlights look about them. Most people were wandering about aimlessly, desperately searching for what they were looking for. By the dour, stolid faces of the customers you’d think we were on the losing end of a nuclear holocaust. We might have been, considering all the dust that was on the merchandise.

We also have to think of clever ways to push the shopping carts through the checkout lanes, because they didn’t think about people actually needing to get carts from the entrance to the interior of the store. It will come in time, no doubt. Until then, we’ll have to get used to everyone asking everyone else where things are.

When a mother-in-law has faith in you

Tonight, I called my mother-in-law and requested her μουσακά (mousaka) recipe. I told her a friend in America wanted it, and she started laughing hysterically. She said "and I thought you might be making μουσακά", as if there is no way in Hades I'd ever be making μουσακά. I sheepishly told her that I might make it someday, although she is probably right. Still, did she have to rub it in?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

And then they ate them

A village in China had an honorary dinner for 200 cats that they had released into their farm fields to eradicate their rat problem.

A couple of funny things about this story: for one, the villagers had decided they didn't want snakes around, so they got rid of all the snakes. Since the snakes ate the rats they again had a rat problem. Also, the villagers paid the equivalent of 1,200 euros for 200 cats. It is pretty easy to get cats for free. I think they got ripped off by the underworld cat black market.

After all the rats were gone, the cats got overstuffed with fish as a thank you. I can only imagine what happened to the cats after that.

Those that do, practice medicine

Last night my husband and I went out with a bunch of his colleagues. Hanging out with a bunch of doctors is not really my idea of a good time, but I guess I have to accept the hand I’ve been dealt. Not that I really dislike doctors in any particular way, but there is always that invisible wall that exists between doctors and regular people. Doctors always think they are so superior, yet deep down inside I really think that literature majors are much more superior. So there.

Of our party of twelve, ten were doctors (all still working on their specialties), and two of us were doctor’s wives. Luckily, the other wife present was also a lit major, so we had something to talk about. Of the ten doctors, few actually looked like doctors, although I can’t really say what doctors should look like. But I did learn a few things about doctors last night.

Five out of the ten doctors are specializing in psychiatry. Take that, Tom Cruise! I imagine any day now I’ll be telling “5 psychiatrists walked into a bar” jokes.

Only one of the ten doctors was a surgeon. Apparently, doctors and surgeons are mortal enemies, much like lions and hyenas.

Three of the ten doctors were balding, belying their youthful ages and appearances.

Five of the ten doctors are smokers, and one of the smokers is a pulmonary specialist. I realize that as far as Greece is concerned having five people smoking out of a table of twelve isn’t that surprising a statistic. But honestly, those statistics are never going to change if five out of ten doctors smoke. I am trying to figure out how a doctor who smokes can in good conscience tell a lung disease patient not to smoke. In my opinion, doctors should be setting some sort of example, because obviously, having a sticker that says smoking can kill you in huge bold Greek letters on cigarette packages isn’t doing the trick.

I’ve gone on about smoking before so I won’t continue my diatribe now. I’m the last person to ask people to give up their vices. Yea, I hate smoking, and would prefer people didn’t do it around me, because after a night in a smoky restaurant my lungs are not feeling too great. But I am pretty sure most smokers know they shouldn’t smoke. Besides, why should they stop smoking when the doctors who tell them it is harmful smoke too?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

How to cause your spouse extra stress when he is working an E.R. shift: 5 simple steps

1) Call him and tell him you are so desperate for some dessert, you are going to make a cake.

2) Call him prior to making that cake and tell him that you checked the cheap ass hand mixer you bought and that you think it is one of those Chinese brands that shocks everyone with their appliances.

3) Call him the minute before you make the cake and say “ok, I’m going to go electrocute myself now.”

4) Call him again right as you are going to start the mixer because he told you to. Stay on the phone while using the mixer because he told you to.

5) While mixing the batter, signal for your cat to cry in surprise as you scream and go suddenly silent, the mixer whirring absently in the distance.

Yea, and that won't offend him

In a surefire plan to rid the world of Osama bin Laden's reign of terror, Italian porn star Cicciolina has offered herself to the world's public enemy number one if he will stop doing all that bad stuff.

Considering that Saddam Hussein didn't take her up on her offer in the 1990's, I'm sure bin Laden will be happy to have her. 55 is young for porn stars, right? Besides, we all know what every Muslim fundamentalist really wants is a porn star of his very own.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The scary pigeon did it

I’ve discovered a clear disadvantage to living on the 6th floor – pigeons. Now to most American folks the 6th floor doesn’t seem that high up, but in Greece, most buildings tend to be only seven or eight floors high, so the 6th floor is prime real estate for the pigeons that flock the city.

I’ve tried to keep them at bay by leaving our awning as far down as it will go without interrupting our satellite reception. Apparently this tactic simply does not work, as some pigeons seem to have taken residence on top of our outside air-conditioning unit. This is a great location for them, because when I have the shutters open they have the advantage of craning one eye downwards, mockingly, at three very interested cats who have absolutely no way of getting to this most delicious prey. I’m quite sure these pigeons know exactly what they are doing and what dangers are involved should they get within paw reach of these cats, and I am also sure that they are aware that the lady of the house does not approve of their presence on her balcony.

I wouldn’t mind their new found habitat if it didn’t involve bird crap on our laundry, feathers everywhere, and the incessant chatter. Pigeons have to have the worst speech of any bird, because their chorus is singular, only occasionally sung in a different pitch. It isn’t mellifluous or pleasant like chirping, it is monotone and dull, constantly repeating the same refrain. I feel like I’m stuck in some nightmare marathon of John Cage or Riley’s In C. Not only that, but these birds, who feel the need to have intense philosophical discussions at seven in the morning, have to speak loudly enough so their friends across the street can hear them. If they want to chat, why can’t they all fly to the same damn place? It isn’t like it is difficult for them to travel. Besides, what in the hell do they have to talk about? They are birds. They fly around scoping out newly washed cars to poop on. That’s hardly fodder for a thirty minute conversation, unless they are like the Ents in Lord of the Rings, and it takes them days to speak a simple greeting.

All I know is we are on the verge of an all out war. If only the pigeons didn’t have the upper hand by realizing I am afraid of them. Hey, if a pigeon flew right up to you while you were hanging out the laundry you would scream too. I don’t appreciate it when birds taunt me. But I do have a secret weapon – cats, and one of them is quite skilled at hunting. She can bring down a fly with a simple flip of a paw. Not to mention she likes to keep her prey alive long enough to torture it while she plays with it. I’d hate to see what she might do to a pigeon. It would be quite unfortunate if the cats were accidentally left to roam on the balcony unchecked.

Quite unfortunate.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

My thoughts are with my home state

Tennessee, I'm worried about you. This is the second harsh storm system to pass your way in a week, and it seems that there is more to come over the next couple of weeks. The news is startling enough that it made the local news here in Greece, about 5 minutes of coverage on this evening's news broadcast, full of pictures of the devastation in the Hendersonville/Gallatin area I knew well enough. My thoughts are with all those who have lost loved ones to these storms over the past few days.

Take care of yourself, Tennessee, protect your citizens, young and old. You may be a red state, but I still of think of you as home.

You have a bit of tzatziki on your chin

Today the extended family went out to a nice taverna in celebration of my sister-in-law's graduation from med school. The place had a nice atmosphere, very comfortable, obviously very popular. The food was great, the service was excellent. Yet it had the same fatal flaw that many other Greek tavernas have that makes me ask the question:

What the hell is up with the napkins?

In most tavernas here, for whatever reason, the napkins are those small, square, paper thin things, what we would call cocktail napkins in America. I'm sorry people, but Greek food is way too damn messy for these teeny, tiny pieces of paper that fall apart immediately upon first use. I feel like I am in an Asimov novel with some kind of futuristic napkins that disintegrate right after using them. This isn't enough napkin for a rabbit, let alone a grown adult human being. Sure, you think you may be cutting costs, but we end up going through a bushel of those damn things during any meal. Buy some decent napkins and we'll only have to use one.

This particular restaurant had free fancy matchbooks, CDs, and other various assorted curios. Scratch that crap and give me a good napkin! That isn't too much to ask, is it?

Ground control to Major Tom

Is this a baby she is carrying or an alien being poised to rip open her stomach, drop kick the placenta and scamper around the earth creating all sorts of havoc in its wake, thus jump-starting the apocalypse?

I guess we'll find out soon.

Who needs creativity, it's only porn

Tonight's porno selection on our satellite movie channel is entitled Riverted Rectums*. I can't even being to fathom what that might mean and, more importantly, how it might translate into porn, nor do I think I want to.

Don't you miss the days when porn titles were salacious, clever twists of more "civilized" fare - Little Oral Annie, Robin Wood, A Tale of Two Titties**. Pornographic movies used to have a spark of life to them, a bit of creativity. Now they are just porn, all glossy and dressed up. Which I suppose is fine, if that is what you are after. But honestly, can you beat One Flew Over the Cooter's Nest?

*sic the Greek translation, maybe the idea of reverted rectums bothered them too much
**Yes, yes, ok, I seem to know porn titles. I happened to pass a porno theater on my way to school every day. No, I wasn't walking to school. And this was back in the day when a respectable porno theater didn't raise any eyebrows.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Big city life

I had no illusions when I was living in Nashville that I was living in a “big city”. Had I lived smack dab in the middle of downtown, perhaps I might have been used to city life. Sure, the neighborhood I lived in was a far cry from the suburbs, but it had a laid back, bohemian atmosphere, probably due to the proximity of a popular local coffee house and two university campuses. I enjoyed that life – close enough to everything if you need it, far enough to be immune to the hustle and bustle of the nerve center of the city.

When I moved to Greece, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had spent some time in Europe, but most of my time was spent in smaller villages – with brief stints in the cities to visit museums and the various curios of each burg. Greece still being a “siesta” country, I expected a calmer, low key atmosphere, more like Italy.

My first year in Athens was a whirlwind. I barely had time to get used to the city before it was time for us to move, but I knew I wasn’t fond of life in Athens. It was a busy city, so busy, in fact, that people seemed to be more robot-like than human. Everyone had a purpose, as if it was pre-programmed into their brain functions, and it was if the world around them didn’t exist, they had a tunnel-vision leading them to whatever particular goal they were undertaking, and that was that. Looking into people’s eyes it was if all the happiness, the joy of life had been bled out of them, and all that was left was a soulless automaton. I rarely heard laughter in Athens, on the streets or in the cafes, except for the sounds of children playing in the street below our apartment, and even among them, laughter was uncommon. Perhaps if I had lived there longer I might have noted glimpses of humanity, I might have seen the city come to life. But what I witnessed was cold, dead. Life in Athens was stressful, and it showed on the faces of its denizens.

After that I had a year on an island, and a year in a village. Life in those places was more like I expected. There were inconveniences, of course, but the pace of life was more my style. People worked hard, yes, but their lives hadn’t placed a burden on their happiness. Despite my enjoyment of village life, I was ready to move to the city again, with all the city conveniences and family nearby.

I had spent time in Thessaloniki, so I knew a little bit about life here. It is a much smaller city than Athens, and I often compared it more to Nashville, despite the fact that population-wise, Thessaloniki was twice as large. We live in a nice apartment in the city center, close to family, walking distance to just about everything you need downtown. While my husband and I do most things together, including grocery shopping, I have been out on my own on several occasions, usually to go to the store, but still alone, nonetheless. I never had problems being alone in my life, in fact, I quite enjoy it, so imagine my surprise when I went out for an evening stroll the other night, and found myself drowning, inexplicably, in a panic attack. I had taken a well-known route, most of it was on back streets, where there wasn’t a lot of traffic, or people. It wasn’t until I turned onto the sidewalk beside a major thoroughfare that things started to change.

People flooded the sidewalk, walking in both directions. I heard of flurry of conversation on all sides of me, mostly Greek, but a few unknown languages as well. Cars were honking constantly on the road beside me, some vehicles rushing past, others getting caught in a slower moving lane. As I looked around me, everything seemed unfamiliar, the buildings were odd, the talking pedestrians seemed to blend together, their languages entwining into unknown sounds. Everything around me looked grey, dull, and in a flash, it was like I was in some cheesy video, where I was standing still and everything was moving around me at a supersonic speed, in a blur. I felt I was in a quagmire, a rushing swirl of everything moving past me, and that if I wasn’t careful, I’d be caught into the whirlpool, pushed along the sidewalk as if I were in a rushing flood. My breathing became labored as I increased the speed of my steps, I had to get past this. As I turned onto the side street my mind became to calm, although I kept the quickened pace, to further my distance from the busy street. As I regained my senses I felt ashamed, angry, confused. What had caused my panic? Sure, I’ve always been a drama queen, but I’ve never panicked in such a situation.

A couple of days later I still haven’t gained much perspective on what happened, or why it happened. Perhaps it means I still haven’t gotten used to the fact that my move to Greece is permanent, that Nashville is no longer my home. Perhaps it was some sort of early mid-life crisis. Perhaps it was just a fluke. Perhaps it simply means I am not cut out for city life. All I know is I hope it never happens again.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

You know something is wrong with you when... spend five minutes trying to put the wrong cap on the juice, wondering the whole time why the hell it won't go on, only to have the right cap staring you in the face the whole time. I hate idiotic things like that, but I hate them more when my husband is home to tease me about it. Hey, the man wears his underwear inside out, he has no cause to make fun of my shortcomings.

On another note, people keep coming here after doing searches for "the weirdest thing you will ever see". I can't imagine doing a search for that, and I wonder what the universe is telling me by sending them here.

But I really don't know what the person searching for "McDonald's satanic" was looking for. Perhaps a themed restaurant?

It must be a guy thing

My husband has the uncanny ability of putting the remote as far away from me as possible, especially when he is getting up from the couch. I'm trying to decide if it is a deep seeded control issue, or just an unthinking guy thing.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Only God can say

The perfectly preserved monk, Vissarion Korkoliakos, is back in the news again. After weeks of constant visitors to the small church in Fthiotida, the Church of Greece has stated again that they are not prepared to exalt the monk to sainthood, stating that any decision would be left up to God.

The Church has been quite effusive with claims that the undecomposed body is a "sign from above" and "a message for our people and our age", yet they don't think God has made the decision for him to become a saint? What are they looking for, the body to sit up straight and start talking?

It makes no damn sense. But then again, the whole darn thing is one stop short of Crazytown.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Survival of the fittest

Every now and then, you have to feel sorry for scientists. Frequently misunderstood, misquoted, and often enveloped in a quagmire of jealous and contrary colleagues, scientists really don’t have an easy life. This appears to be especially true for University of Texas biology professor Eric Pianka, who has taken quite a lot of heat – including death threats, for some statements he made on a couple of occasions regarding the overpopulation of the planet.

Pianka reportedly made two speeches last month, both to students and colleagues, and in each he made statements regarding dwindling animal habitats and human overpopulation. A newspaper in Texas reported on these two speeches, and although the newspaper had a transcript of the original speech, it was on the condition that the speech not be distributed, so we can’t know the exact details of the speech.

But we know the gist of some of the text in his speech, which is that unchecked overpopulation of the earth will lead to problems for humans and animals alike, and that if we don’t start practicing population control – natural events, like epidemics, will take care of it for us. In separate statements since the controversy began, Pianka has been quoted as saying:

"If we don't control our population, microbes will. Why do we have these lethal microbes that kill us in the first place? The answer is, there's too many of us."

"We're taking over this Earth and not leaving anything for anything else on this Earth."

He also asserts that a lower population would mean less strain on natural resources. The newspaper that covered the speeches, the Gazette-Enterprise, reported that he said that disease

"will control the scourge of humanity. We're looking forward to a huge collapse."

It said he weighed the killing power of various diseases such as bird flu and HIV but decided neither would yield the needed results.

One colleague of Pianka’s, Forrest Mims, states emphatically that Pianka is advocating the destruction of mankind.

"He wishes for it. He hopes for it. He laughs about it. He jokes about it," Mims said. "It's got to happen because we are the scourge of humanity."

The University of Texas, exhibiting common sense in this whirlpool of bullshit, is supporting Pianka and his First Amendment rights.

Pianka was expressing his own opinion, University of Texas spokesman Don Hale said.

"Dr. Pianka has First Amendment rights to express his point of view," Hale said. "We have plenty of faculty with a lot of different points of view and they have the right to express that point of view, but they're expressing their personal point of view."

Thank GOD. Honestly, I don’t understand why people are getting their panties in a wad over these statements. Overpopulation can be a problem. Epidemics are the Earth’s way of dealing with overpopulation. People shouldn’t breed willynilly with no regard for the consequences. We are running out of natural resources. We are ruining the natural habitat of thousands of animals. We are forcing ahead global warming. Reality bites.

In what was reported, I don’t see any indication that he hates people or wants the human race to be wiped out. Without reading the entire transcript, I don’t see how anyone can react with enough vitriol to want to kill the professor and his family. If you ask me, those are the people with the problems, not Dr. Pianka.

Even so, I’m not sure Dr. Pianka has done very well with keeping up with biology statistics. Not all of us are breeding like rabbits. Recent numbers in Europe are showing that many E.U. countries aren’t even keeping up with parental replacement (2.1 births per family). National averages in many countries are running at 1.99 and much, much lower. What we are going to end up with, then, is extreme overpopulation in some countries, and underpopulation in others. Unfortunately, though, I don’t think these numbers will average out, as we may even experience the dying out of some cultures, and overwhelming numbers of others – countries where the birth rate is upwards of 6 or more, yet in these same countries, the infant mortality rate is shockingly high. The world may already be experiencing the scourge Dr. Pianka was talking about, but on a different, and much slower scale. Add in a flu epidemic like the one in 1918, and we will be well on the way.

The bottom line is, these are not pleasant things to think about. In a world with constant terrorist threats, religious fanaticism, crazy and destructive weather, impending pandemic – talking about reality in this manner just adds fuel to an already incendiary population. The world of 2006 is a world of fear, and there are too many unknowns. Poor Dr. Pianka is taking the heat from a fire that has been blazing steadily for too many years. Maybe it is time to cool off, and take things in stride. After all, we are alive right here and now, and tomorrow we may not be.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Who needs the devil?

Apparently, it is easy enough to sell your soul to the highest bidder, as a young man in Hong Kong found out recently. The 24-year-old man decided to auction his soul on the internet because he no longer needed his soul and thought he could sell it to someone who could get some use out of it. I'm not really sure how you know you no longer need your soul anymore, maybe a slip of paper comes flying out of your ass telling you that your soul is no longer needed. And if this guy no longer needed his soul, maybe it did him no good, so why try to pawn off a bad soul on someone else? That is just plain bad karma, if you ask me.

Unfortunately, the auction was taken down, because the logistics of the transaction were too difficult to figure out. Even so, 59 buyers had shown interest before the auction was closed. One wonders if any of the intended buyers had figured out a means of soul transference, or if they were just on a buying frenzy, willing to bid on anything.

One thing is for sure, you won't be seeing my soul up for auction anytime soon. One never knows when they might need their soul for supernatural currency.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

What it was, was baseball

Opening day of baseball season 2006 has arrived, and here I sit, thousands of miles away from the closest baseball game. We have somewhere around nine sports channels on our satellite service – none of which are airing, or planning to air, any baseball. You could spend your whole life in Greece never knowing that baseball even existed. Τι κρίμα.

I was born in the shadow of the defeat of the Baltimore Orioles to the New York Mets in the legendary 1969 World Series. I should have known that being born into an O’s loving family in the wake of that loss would prove ominous for my life – if only I had seen my first days at the same time a year later, success would have been mine. All the same, I learned to love baseball, and growing up I knew the names Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Cal Ripkin, and Earl Weaver as readily as I knew the names of crooked and clumsy Presidents. The year the O’s met my favorite National League team in the World Series was the zenith of my baseball fandom. My newly acquired hero, Rick Dempsey, helped win the show in 1983, and my used-to-be hero, Pete Rose, would take a dive a few years later, banished from baseball forever (eh, so he had already retired, anyway). 1983 was the year I got to meet Rick Dempsey, and I saw Eddie Murray’s ass in the O’s locker room. By the time ol’ easy out Cal beat the consecutive games record in 1995, baseball was all but over for me. Strikes had left a stale taste in my mouth, and interleague play in 1997 left me cold. I watched a handful of baseball games before I moved out of the U.S. in 2002, and I haven’t seen one since.

Still, I can’t help but feel a gentle stirring in my heart when spring days grow warm. In the distance I imagine the crack of the bat, the cheer of the crowd, the excitement of a player sliding into home. I can smell the hotdogs, the spilled beer, and Boog Powell’s barbecue. If I close my eyes I can see Camden Yards opening up before me, the Bromoseltzer clock tower poised ahead. One breath and I can feel the excitement as the game begins. Baseball has a mystical, ethereal quality that is inexplicable. No other sport has had so many legends and myths surrounding it. No other sport feels the way baseball feels – the sounds, the smells, the aura. I do miss baseball, although it will never feel the same as it did on a cool summer evening in 1983.