waiting and waiting,
and waiting and waiting for
something: you know?
waiting and waiting,
and waiting and waiting for
something: you know?
The dog and I have our every-other-morning walk routine. It generally involves a couple of spins around the leafy and grassy area out front until she deposits a steaming pile of poo in the grass. When I say grassy area I mean a few square feet of curbside grass stretching along one of the busiest streets in Brussels. Inevitably, it’s raining (yes, you can picture that whenever you picture anything I write here-again, Brussels!).
Fancy Paws is what I like to call the main event of the morning walk, when Scapi balances herself, paw in front of paw, along tiny European curbsides and the minuscule deltas between rain rivulets. She can trot along on her half-pads like this for the whole walk just to keep her precious toes from getting mildly muddy. If somebody could make it rain in a tent, she’d be a great circus act. When it’s time to poo, Fancy Paws gets down to business. Scapi balances all four paws on the curb closest to the street, sticks her nose out into oncoming traffic while dropping her load in the grass behind. It’s just not as exciting to take a crap if twenty hubcaps don’t go by three inches from her nose while mom tugs on the leash and yelps nervously at every green light until the deed is done. I like to call this EXTREME SHITTING. It’s like those ironing people… only… you know, with dogs and shit.
Lately, though, there has been a third act added to the Cirque du Fancy Paws. It has involved a little obsession with the bushes. The dog who refuses to moisten her foothairs has been gleefully dragging me over to the bushes that border the grassy-area. There, she runs full power under the bushes as far as her leash will take her, whipping the branches sideways and upwards as she runs and soaking me with the ensuing waterfall. Why, dog, why? She, too, comes out soaked from nose to tail and - what’s this!? - quite pleased with herself?
I kept wondering why this sudden change in my dog? Why this sudden willingness to come into contact with water? Sweet puppy! Finally, she enjoys playing in the rain! Finally, something dog-like about my dog!
So one day, when I could see that this was a habit that would stick… one day, after a gleeful romp under the bushes, I laughed - “Bwah ha, owners of dogs who chase sticks! Bwah ha, owners of dogs who wrestle and tussle with other friendly dogs! See how my dog too can be … dog-ish! … Whatever, just see!”.
Then, I came inside and went to lovingly hug my Scapi. And that’s when it dawned on me. This obsession with bush… it was really an obsession with penis. Actually, what dawned on me was the horrible smell of dog-piss. My dog, you see, had been using the rain + bush to = wash all the boy-dog pee onto her hairy body. That’s right, people. My dog was PERFUMING herself with PISS from the bushes. And then I remembered how after these bush-romps my dog had been enjoying jumping up onto my bed.
Now we call Act III of the Cirque “Le Tug-o-war”. Scapi tugs me towards the bushes, and I yank her back towards the curb.
Ahhh, well. At least one of us has learned to enjoy the rain.
I spend a lot of time disparaging myself (to myself) about almost everything I say and do, wishing I were a more regulated and exact person- stricter about how my environment should be, how to do things properly, and where to draw the lines on socially acceptable behavior. But this self-criticism comes to a halt when I travel. Then, it’s easy to remember why it pays to be flexible in your behavior but pure in your basic concept of self - to be able to take your understanding of acceptable behavior and stretch and broaden it without breaking personal ethics: you see more, you learn more, you understand more.
What does it take to make that break, to allow that internal flexibility? How does a person learn where to draw the line between what they will and will not allow themselves to experience? I can come up with countless examples to mull over, but Dooce comes readily to mind- somebody who lived in a strict religious community only to wake up one morning and feel that everything wrong in their life is just everything they have ever been taught- and no longer believe! We all have those uncomfortable wake-up call moments (Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy stuff), but perhaps the stronger they are, the more difficult it becomes later to construct a solid reality around yourself. The advantages are numerous: empathy, social flexibility, ability to help others find clarity of what they truly believe/want (because you’re always questioning, you know what questions are critical), and/or rebuild in the aftermath of self-discovery (it’s always easier to help somebody else than yourself). The disadvantages are: a total instability of ego because you lack solid barriers and protection from outside assault, and a constant nagging tug-o-war between your tradition and your own intentions.
These are all things I was thinking and writing about during my stay in Athens.
If you’ve already been to Athens before the Olympics but not since, I highly suggest that you change all of your previous estimations of the city. Personally, I don’t know what it looked like before the Olympics face lift but I do know that my experience of the city did not match the dubious descriptions I got from folks who had not been there in a while. I thought Athens was a gloriously beautiful city. The Metro, for one, is clean, cheap to ride (at 80 cents for a one-hour pass) and covers this broad, sprawling city to its outskirts. Several stops had very modern-looking widescreen video that, had it been installed in another big city such as Brussels, would already be completely trashed. The stop with the Acropolis is even conveniently marked with a huge picture of the Acropolis - in case you weren’t sure where to hop off.
The Acropolis itself is hugely interesting, and not just something to tick off a tourism checklist. It is totally worth the crowds that you will inevitably elbow through to see each interesting part. Personally, I enjoyed the almost continuous stream of tour guides. You can walk from group to group and get educated on what you’re seeing without actually paying for your own guide. If you speak multiple languages you can stroll from group to group with an extra level of stealth. I went totally James Bond and put my headphones on as well. What was weird- a lot of people completely missed the most interesting bits which are actually on the slopes of the Acropolis and not at the top where all the marble buildings are.
I was surprised to have the caves of Pan, Zeus and Apollo plus the sanctuary of Aphrodite to myself. Upon seeing the temple of the Goddess of Love I was of course inspired to make an offering… and I wasn’t the first! I won’t tell you which gift was mine, as I already feel Her breathing down my neck for showing you pictures of Her lair…I mean home.
Dare I say, better than the Acropolis itself was the graffiti art in the streets around it. Athens has some of the most beautiful graffiti art I have ever seen. What I find fascinating is the feeling of soft creativity so much of it has. It ranges from disturbing to playful, and in some cases almost childish,
to strange and thoughtful.
I wonder what this says about the artists here who make the streets their canvas versus the hardened, beaten quality that a lot of American graffiti art possesses. What are the motivators for these artists to pick up their spraypaint cans and break the law, and where does the source for what they need to express deviate between Detroit and Athens?
Some final observations and thoughts on Athens:
-My Indian roots are of course always on the lookout for a rip-off or a good deal. Greeks are famous for their ability to gently (and not-so-gently) coax Euros from the pockets of visitors. But overall I had the feeling that the “ripping off” of the tourists was being done very tongue-in-cheek. Like naughty kids just waiting to get called out and caught.
- The word ONLY or JUST in Greek is MONO. I had an entire conversation in pidgin Greek, which was rather alarming both for a certain waiter and for me since I don’t actually speak any Greek. But he very kindly pointed out the if I did not want salad (apparently, SALAD is how you say SALAD in Greek), one must indicate by saying MONO MOUSSAKA. This all made sense once I translated to English, of course. After that, MONO VINO came pretty easy… and though I might have been saying ONLY YO MAMA for all I know, I must have said it nicely because the wine appeared.
- Stray cats and dogs were in abundance around the city, but they all looked lazy bordering comatose, and I didn’t see any skinny animals. Life on the streets can’t be all that hard, living off of leftover moussaka, lamb bones and pita, then padding up to the Acropolis to sun yourself at the feet of the gods.
-Stray sparrows, on the other hand, are vicious thieves and should be kept under constant observation if in your immediate vicinity.
-Oh… and you might want to protect your nuts.