Jan 19 2012

Ash, Rain, Athens: So Goddamn Tired And Over It

""){ ?> By Woody Evans


From Go, it felt like we were working retrograde.  Azimuth spun south, drifted like a bad left eye.  Dubai to Doha; Doha to Athens; Athens to Navplio; Navplio to less-posh parts further down the coast road — way on down past flooded gravel lots; a botched and now-dead railhead; & The Derti Club… on to a surly fishing village squeezed between mountain and sea.

Our room, like the village, wore a stout dose of 1980s Eastern Europe — concrete block walls, dogs roving, graffiti wherever you could get away with it.  In the souvlaki joint and in the wee grocery and in the bar, heads turned slowly and conversation quieted when we entered. My Greek is… um… nascent, so… smile.  Kalí hroñá, gentleman.  Please don’t get up.

The bear in the room is the bad economy; the corrupt government; the enforced austerity.  It brings folks down even out at the edge of the wild places.  We blew through it dropping dirhams-cum-euros like some kinda Saint Tourism.  I guess I thought our very presence might bring a splash of cheer; like a dash of pepper, to the grime and drear of the constant disgruntled hum of ain’t-got-no-money or capitalism-ain’t-working-for-me or I-ain’t-working-hard-enough-to-make-capitalism-work-for-me or variations.  It didn’t.

But folks were kindly, generous, patient.  We picked around the edges of what may be the oldest continually inhabited site in Europe, and the people smiled as they talked about the end of history. Sites at Argos, the castle Palamidi, up on Akronavplion, the Tholos tomb — all closed due to strikes.  The past is past, and the future got lost on its way.

Our day in Athens was riot free but the people in the Plaka are heart-broken.  A yarn merchant told me that he feared the world has peaked and that we will all now decline violently. He gave my son two plastic buttons and my wife a discount on the yarn.  He wanted to give us more.  It was like he wanted to give it all away before it was taken from him by future looters.

Maybe it was just a touch of the old apophenia, but I started seeing his prediction everywhere.  The dude who owned a gas station in Nea Kios said he hoped it would be enough income to ride out whatever was coming (he’d gotten the hell out of Pennsylvania, whatever that means). The taxi driver with dead skin, grinning hollowly and speeding through pedestrian crossings.  Grim jaws in cheap restaurants.  Butch cats prowling, looking to bowl over the slow or confused or the aged for the scent of stale squid on the breath.

Here in the cradle of the West, everyone was just so goddamn tired, so over it, already. Pouty-lipped girls slouching in thresholds, steeled for whatever pummeling comes next.  Maybe the techno-optimism of NoCal never really even got a good start in these curly bits of southern Europe but such memes sure as hell won’t find friendly agar now.

From a dour fishing village squeezed between mountain and sea, on up the road past dirty clubs and abandoned rails, on into Navplio, then to Athens, then on to Doha and Dubai, we found our way back home. Doha is stumbling over its own feet, like a fast growing teenager learning how to dance — but at least it’s excited.  Dubai’s got its problems – but at least it’s optimistic.  Coming home from Greece was like coming back home to the future. Folks here in the “new” Middle East are oriented toward what we will become, not what we used to be.  Qatar’s economy is growing in the double digits, y’all.

The trip was instructive.  From Attica to Tripoli, we tunneled back and forward in time.  We haunted pre-fab trailer churches on switch-back mountain roads; kissed the icons; whispered snatches of hesychasm; then roared off at speed with radio techno pop -—the car’s arphids barking at aspergeristic tollbooth AIs: “Let them pass through the mountain, now.”  And we did.  Temporal cognitive dissonance flared up like a toothache.

But Greece will be there. Olive groves will grow in Argos. And the Greeks will come through this somehow — and hopefully not much hungrier than they already are.

I thank God for them for ouzo… if the grain keeps producing, that is… and if we can manage our yeast stocks.  Is it really that we must shed any hope for rainbows, anti-gravity, orgasmatronic drugs, pet asteroids, or perfect physiques?

And we settle, as perhaps we always have done, for an aniseed drunk… and for the headache that comes with dawn.

  • By Sporatt, February 2, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

    …and I needed ample ouzo to get through this pedestrian article. thanks wood. or can i call you hard-on?

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