Bora Bora 2005.10.24

Bora Bora 2005.10.24
Bora Bora 2005.10.24 ©2005 Mark Phillips

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The places I knew as a student are gone.

Athens smells of cigarettes and diesel. Its dominant color is concrete brown, streaked with gray rain; except the Plaka, newly gentrified, now a vibrant rainbow for the Olympics.

The places I knew as a student are gone. Cheap flophouses without hot water; tawdry bars where my university friends spent their evenings. I have no nostalgia for them. I remember them as gray and lifeless, and they're associated for me with heartbreak.

I went looking for one thing: a brandy Alexander, made the real way with Metaxa and creme de cacao. Back in the day we'd found a lefty bar owned by an old red who remembered the kapitanios: these were his specialty. At the end of an evening's treasure hunt my friend found one in an upscale bar catering to the new class of local hipsters. It was 10 Euros — no longer Drachma — and it was delicious.

I loved the trip.

Mark Phillips, "The Plaka", (2017)
Mark Phillips, The Plaka (2017)


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

White Then, Brown Now

It was white then, but it's brown now.

White as white, bleached white, pristine. Dirty brown, colored by air pollution, visible signal of the looming end of the world.

It's so all over Greece, but most especially in Attica. The Parthenon, the Temple of Zeus, most dramatically Sounion. White become brown as civilization waddles on.

Mark Phillips, "Sounion", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Sounion (2017)


Sunday, November 26, 2017

What's Their Deal?

And so we settle down to an Athenian routine.

Exploration and photography in the morning; gift shopping and lunch in the afternoon; dinner and extended evening at Arcadia with our hilarious waiter buds, who fatten us with free desserts and drown us in complimentary alcohol. The guys are so much fun, and the food is bomb. Life could be worse.

It's interesting that the entire time we're there, which adds up to a good quantity of hours, no other Americans talk to us. We're effusive, gregarious, laughing and talking loudly with the staff, especially once they get us lubricated. There are Americans at many nearby tables: retired couples, young couples, families with children. But they keep to themselves, and although we smile and nod, not one chooses to engage with us.

They look unhappy. They bicker, or they stare silently at their food. The children look cowed, everyone seems confused.

What's their deal?

Maybe we're so obviously buzzed that they feel the need to protect their children from us. Maybe the news of my angry encounter with the evangelicals at the Areopagus has gotten 'round. Maybe they're just intimidated by a foreign country. Maybe they hate being there and can't wait to get home.

I dunno.

Note that neither of us actually cares. I only mention it 'cos it seems so odd.

Mark Phillips, "Athens", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Athens (2017)


Saturday, November 25, 2017

We're the Happy Americans, the Gregarious Ones

Aloof Americans at other tables. Grim. Unsmiling, non-conversational. They barely talk with each other, certainly not with the waiters.

We're the Happy Americans, the gregarious ones, bantering with our new friends, who hover and dote and ply us with round after round of free alcohol.

I ask, "What's the difference between the brands of ouzo? Is there one you recommend?" The answer is no, and to prove it, they bring shot after shot showing us conclusively they're all the same.

Then it's Raki, to teach us the spirits of the country. Raki from Crete, raki from Mykonos, raki from Attica. Then retsina, then black beer, then brandy. Always on the house, while we laugh and joke with the entire staff, and the Americans at other tables scowl, or mumble to each other, or argue among themselves.

Aren't they here to have fun?

Mark Phillips, "Athens", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Athens (2017)


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Blindness is mine! My spirit understands!

Lord of the Lion's House of strength
Light of song
Fire in my heart and music to my pean
On my altar burns the ancient censer
Robes of thy colour bind me for thy token.
All listening spirits answer and adore.
Blindness is mine! My spirit understands!
O divide the one light into a million shattered gems!
Lycian, listen!

Mark Phillips, "Delphi", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Delphi (2017)


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I Would Ask the Oracle, if She Lived...

I would ask the Oracle, if she lived:

Should I, shouldn't I, what does it mean, what do I feel, what does she want, what do I want from her, what chance would we have if we both did say yes?

To Apollon. Blest Paean, come, propitious to my prayer, illustrious power, thy piercing sight extends beneath the gloomy, silent night. 'Tis thine all nature's music to inspire with harmonious lyre: now the last string thou tunest to sweet accord, divinely warbling, now the highest chord; the immortal golden lyre, now touched by thee, responsive yields a Dorian melody.

Dionysus god of wine, respect us!

Mark Phillips, "Delphi", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Delphi (2017)


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

Eat, drink, flirt, sleep.

Nothing real, electronic phantoms, vitiated by distance and confusion.

Something real, in the lobby, at the bar, smiling, waiting.

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

Dionysus god of wine, protect us!

Mark Phillips, "Delphi", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Delphi (2017)


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Dionysus God of Wine, Speak Through us!

Comfortable hotel, beautiful museum, extraordinary views, unbelievable restaurant. Black beer at dinner, then back at the hotel I introduce my friend to Retsina, 'cos, Greece.

Lotso talk. The past, the future, the lovely day today.

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?

Dionysus god of wine, speak through us!

Mark Phillips, "Delphi", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Delphi (2017)


Thursday, November 16, 2017

On My Own I'd Have Not Planned Anything

My traveling companion has a system.

She rents a house, or a flat, or a villa, to serve as base camp for day trips. Thus from Kalo Nero we sortie to Olympia and Pylos; from Nafplio we do Argos, Epidavros, Mycenae, Corinth, and Tiryns; and in Athens we walk from our flat on Vaiku south of the Acropolis to museums, Syntagma, the Plaka, and so on. It's brilliant because we have a familiar place to return to each night, where we can spread out, recharge, and feel at home. It minimizes driving distances, so that the longest of our day trip drives is around 90 minutes.

She did the research, the planning, the booking. We put our heads together to decide on the order of events and the number of days in each location.

On my own I'd have not planned anything. Or reserved anything. I'd have probably changed lodging each night after visiting a new town, and it would probably have been hotels.

I'm good with both strategies. I feel mine is more adventurous, hers more grounded. I like the freedom of mine, to stay in one place if I love it there, to move on out if there's something interesting down the road. But I also like the relaxed feel of having a home. And I love the well-chosen digs she rents.

Mark Phillips, "Tiryns", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Tiryns (2017)


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Travel in Greece While Trump is President

Travel in Africa when Obama was President:
"Hi, where are you from?"
"America! Obama! Tell Obama I say hello!"

Travel in Greece while Trump is President:
"Hi, where are you from?"
"America? Oh. Well. We have assholes too."

Mark Phillips, "Nafplio", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Nafplio (2017)


Friday, November 10, 2017

The Comfort of Known Quantities

The buses' air conditioners sound like beehives. Appropriate: tourists spill and mill like lost insects, searching for the comfort of known quantities. Landmarks, food, condiments, language: something familiar to anchor themselves to and drag around like stones.

These are religious. Church groups on package excursions to the places of the Bible. Here, old Corinth, a wealthy city whose bones now bleach under hot October sun.

The museum says Corinth grew wealthy through trade. They have amphorae from Carthage as documentation. Pausanias says otherwise: the city's wealth originated with the exploitation of thousands of prostitutes, where New Testament Corinth was the Pattaya of its day, a prime destination for sex tourism.

Mark Phillips, "Corinth", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Corinth (2017)


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Heinrich Schliemann's Backhoe: the Video Game.

Much of the commercialization feels incompetent.

"Menelaus Hotel"; "Agamemnon Café"; reproductions of bronze age weapons or armor. "Odysseus Travel Service", which, when you think about it... I suppose that if you choose to view the poor taste as deliberate it's mildly amusing in a kitschy kinda way. Mostly it feels forced, and false, and thoughtless.

I wonder what the pros would do?

Trojan War Theme Park.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider Adventure Ride.
Heinrich Schliemann's Backhoe: the Video Game.
Clytemnestra Cleaner; Clytemnestra Fabric Softener; Clytemnestra Bath Oil with aloe;
     Clytemnestra Non-Dairy Topping with essential vitamins and iron.
"Fifty Ways to Kill Your Husband".
Greek Philosophers Playing Cards.

Oh wait, that last actually exists. I bought several packs for my friends in academe.

Mark Phillips, "Mycenae", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Mycenae (2017)


Saturday, November 4, 2017

Alas, It's Not to Be

We share the site with an Italian drama class. One by one their professor calls them to the stage, where they recite from memory passages from Euripides, Shakespeare, and Jarry.

I'm hoping she'll call me, too. I have my piece all ready to go.

"Just sit right back — and you'll hear a tale! A tale, of a fateful trip. That started from this tropic port — aboard this tiny ship."

Alas, it's not to be. They return to their bus; my theatrical discovery will have to await another occasion.

Mark Phillips, "Epidavros", (2017)
Mark Phillips, Epidavros (2017)