Tuesday, December 27, 2005

wierdest Christmas ever

but in a good way. This whole trip has a slightly surreal quality, like I've slipped out of ordinary time. The weather feels like March to me; the sun shines far too much for December (not that I'm complaining); the streets are lined with trees laden with oranges. Impossibily old ruins coexist with bustling, grimy modern Athens.
On the 23rd I finally made it to Eleusis. Got on the right bus this time, and rode an hour to the outskirts of Athens. The ruins of Eleusis are bizarre juxtaposition of ancient temples surrounded by used car lots and factories. I was alone, except for a very large Greek man who always seemed to be tailing behind me (unnerving). And the cafe across the street insisted on blasting "Jingle Bells" over and over. Hard to believe it was one of the holiest sites in ancient Greece. I liked seeing the house of the priestesses though.
Spent Christmas Eve at Delphi, wandering among the cat-covered ruins (I have never seen so many stray cats in my life; every archaeological site here has cats lounging on ancient marble columns, soaking up the sun), being awed by the mountain vista. No wonder they had an oracle here. I went with the InstaFriends that you make at hostels, my roommates of a day and half at that point; a Yank and two Canadians, all expats like myself. Katy's from San Francisco, studying in Paris; I'm bunking with her over the New Year and saving myself the cash. Monty is from Alberta and Marie-Eve from Quebec so they spent the next three days arguing the intricacies of Quebecois separatism.
That evening we joined up with another American and another Quebecois, Olivier, for a big Christmas dinner at a local Greek restaurant. Complete with live music; the bouzouki player kept checking his cell phone between his solos. I've fallen off the vegetarian wagon slightly; I'm in Greece, man, I gotta try the moussaka! But mostly I've been living off spinach pies.
After dinner I read everyone's tarot cards. On the bus to Delphi I made the mistake of admitting that I had brought my deck with me, and everybody wanted to know about their love life and career. I've been studying tarot for about two years but I'd never read for anyone but myself before; but it went really well. I had a lot of fun; so if worse comes to worse I guess I can always set up a booth at Renaissance Faires...
Everything has been closed the last two days; the four of us mostly wandered around and drank coffee. Christmas night we climbed to the top of Phillappapos Hill, the Hill of the Muses. Of all the ancient sites I've seen, the Hill of the Muses affected me the most; I've decided that my private spiritual beliefs are less influenced by marble temples and ancient societies than by just nature itself. Statues are cool and all, but I'd rather just sit under a grove of olive trees and enjoy the sunshine.
Went to the National Archaeological Museum today and saw the ancient Neolithic goddess statues. I think I sprained my eyeballs, I rolled them so much as I read the captions describing Neolithic "man" and "his" creative expression. Because women aren't artists, you know, and Neolithic women made only babies...
Found some more bookstores; no Sappho. I despair. I don't know what's wrong with people; I can get the collected works of Browning here, for crying out loud! Did end up spending far too much money on Karen Armstrong's A Short History of Myth, which is an appropriate choice, I think.
Will spend the next couple of days reading and wandering some more, I guess; my roommates have scattered to Crete and elsewhere. I'm reserving Crete for sometime in the future; I'll go home and save my pennies and have Carol Christ show me around properly.

Friday, December 23, 2005

because it's just not Christmas without Boris Karloff

Although, admittedly, I usually get my Xmas Boris Karloff fix from the 1960s animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas. ("You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch...Your soul is an apalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots!" Oh, warm fuzzies!)
However, yesterday I was astonished to find Mr Karloff's long-lost Greek cousin serving lunch at the Eden Vegetarian Restaurant, nestled in an ancient street in the shadow of the Acropolis.
I was so excited to find this place, because the gyros were starting to take a toll on my usually meat-free self. And when I walked inside I was greeted by a gangly sallow-faced giant of a man who totally lacked any facial expression whatsoever. He spoke just enough English to get by, in a flat, rumbling monotone.
I shrank about 3 feet as soon as I saw him.
"Yes." I think it was intended as a question, but it sure didn't sound that way.
"Um...lunch for one, please," I squeaked.
"Ggggnnnnnnhhh." he said, and showed me to my table.
I actually spent the entire time trying not to look directly at him, because I wasn't sure if I would screech in shock or start giggling uncontrolably.
"I'd like some Greek coffee, please."
"Now or after."
"Er...now, please." Trying not to crawl under the table and hide.
It's not that he was mean, exactly, or rude. He was perfectly polite, prompt service, etc. But he made Marvin the manically depressed robot in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy look positively gregarious.
I ordered mushroom stifado (fan-fucking-tastic, as was the coffee). "Thanks," I squeaked, as he placed it before me.
"Ggggnnnnnnnhhhh," he said, and lumbered off.
All he's missing are the neck bolts. It was like being served by Frankenstein. The food was incredible and affordable, but I'm too scared to go back!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"if not, winter"

Fragment, Sappho

Well, here I am. In Athens.
I'm glad I came. I think I needed this, the sunshine and the solitude. And the sandals. It was the sandals that convinced me, in the end. I read about The Poet's Sandal Shop in my Let's Go Guide, traditional Greek sandals handmade by a man who also composes poetry. And I knew I had to have them. So my first day I visited the Acropolis, like you do, bought my postcards, and wandered around the narrow streets of Plaka until I had my very own pair of Mycenean style sandals. Too bad it's too cold to wear them.
I visited the Acropolis again today; my camera battery died yesterday morning, so I didn't have any pictures. So I spent the solstice watching the waning moon rise (set?) over the Parthenon. Tried to think apropriately deep and profound thoughts suitable to the occaision, but mostly found myself contemplating my lunch ("Let's see, that vegetarian restaurant opens at 12, it's 11 now, so factor in walking time...Shit! Profundity! Need more profundity! Okay, um...'Time is an illusion. Lunch time doubly so.' There, that'll do.")
Actually, it's a surreal experience, trying to celebrate the darkness and waning light in a country that ain't hurting for sunshine in the depths of winter. I suppose I should have thought of that before (duh). As for the Parthenon, well, it's the Parthenon. It's really big and really fucking old and has a spectacular view of smog-covered Athens; it's almost anti-climatic, really, places like this. They're so steeped in history and significance that it really doesn't register. The park's nice though; I wandered around beneath the olive trees until I heard Eastern-style chanting, and discovered a chorus of Greek Orthodox priests singing in a church from the umpteenth century. And the night before I spied on an Orthodox service at the Church of the Metamorphosis on my street. I feel strangely disconnected, surrounded by a totally unintelligable language, pagan relicts, an unfamiliar form of Christianity, cut off from my friends and family. Not an unpleasant feeling, necessarily. There's a certain freedom to it that I relish. But it's not really a comfortable feeling either.
I managed to find an English-language bookstore today, the Compendium. They don't have Sappho either. A bookstore. In Greece. With a section devoted to Greek literature. Has no Sappho. My head almost exploded in frustration. You can get your copies of FHM and Maxim there though, thank goodness. I mean, if men didn't have their various sexual wants met at every minute of every day everywhere the planet would stop spinning on its axis and we'd all be flung into outer space. And that's just no fun.
I am so starting my own feminist bookstore when I get back to the States. I've been fantasizing about it for a while, actually. Fuck. this. bullshit.
(Had to get that off my chest. Feel much better now.)
Well, that's about it. I'm going to try to find some Greek food that doesn't involve slaughtered baby animals, and hang out in my hostle room listening to the bouzouki players in the street below. Whatever y'all may or may not celebrate this time of year, hope it's great.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Holy fuck!

I'm in Greece!! I did it!! With only minor mishaps!

(Though I'm completely incredulous that not a single bookstore in Paris has a copy of Sappho on hand. So much for my you-are-there reading plans)

I think I can officially add "Cosmopolitan Globetrotter" to my growing list of credentials. Or maybe "Intrepid Grrrrl Explorer"

And I've been traveling since 5 am, almost 12 hours straight now, soI'm going to go pass out in my nice shiny hostel room next to the Acropolis (no lie)

Friday, December 16, 2005

holiday reckoning

presents mailed: check

train ticket to Paris: check

Paris hostel booked: check

Athens hostel booked: check

round trip ticket from Paris to Athens: check

supportive emails received from awesomely cool older cousin who just read my friendster profile and realized I'm a lesbo: 1 ("I'm at work and I just yelled 'Holy shit!'")

magazine-run to stock up on English-language queer magazines: not yet

copies of Sappho's poetry purchased: 0, as of yet.

extra minutes purchased for mobile: 0. Crap, get on that.

amusing stories about students: several. But I have internet access at both my hostles.

date of departure for Paris: tomorrow, 6:45 a.m.

later, folks!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Greece is the word

I seem to have decided on spending my holidays in Greece. I haven't got any tickets (plane or train), mind you, or anywhere to stay (though I did find a kick-ass hostel on the internet), but the universe said "You're going to Greece for Xmas" and I don't seem to have much say in the matter.

In other words, despite numerous reasons why I shouldn't go, I can't get the idea out of my head. It's entirely possible that I'm going to end up bumming around Paris for a few days and that's it. It's also possible that I'll get to Athens, freak out, and come home. But I'd hate myself forever if I didn't at least give it a shot.

I've never traveled alone before, and I have no idea what I'm doing--buying train tickets, getting a bed in a hostel--I've never done that before. And of course I don't start small with an English-speaking country like Ireland; oh no, I have to pick a place that doesn't even use the Roman alphabet. At least I'm true to my unofficial family motto: why do it easy when you can do it hard?

As for my family, they're nervous about me traveling on my own, understandably. European men don't have a very good reputation in the States; they're all lecherous winos on the hunt for naive American girls! And I'm a little (okay, a lot. A-freakin'-lot) terrified of wandering around Athens on my own. But I'm familiar with this brand of fear; it's the kind of fear that means I should do it. And I keep having visions of myself hanging out at Delphi (the oracle was Gaia's before it was Apollo's) on the solstice.
Besides, I certainly don't plan on checking out the nightlife (well, Mykonos is supposed to be very, very gay, so we'll see). And anyway, women aren't raped by strange men lurking in the bushes, they're raped by men they know, so stastically speaking, Verdun is the most dangerous place for me at the moment.

It's almost like I've set a test for myself. Can I get to Greece for a week, just me and my Let's Go Western Europe? I honestly have no idea.

Of course, first I have to figure out my Christmas shopping....

Thursday, December 08, 2005

blog maintenance

cleaned up the blogroll a bit. Also, check out the flickr tag below--I got pics! They're not in any order, but finally you get a chance to gaze upon yours truly (try to keep calm, ladies). Any resemblence to Mo, by the way, is entirely coincidental.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Inspirational women

Right, so, still teaching Christmas carols (::grits teeth:: Happy fucking Holidays!), still indecisive over travel plans (starting to lean towards the Mediterranean, though), same old, same old. So I'm picking up the meme that Winter did a few weeks ago. So, after much deliberation, here are the five women who inspired and influenced me the most, in no particular order:

Meg Murray. I still remember the first time I picked up a copy of A Wrinkle in Time. I was nine, and I found it on the bookshelf in Mrs. Marks' classroom. The rest of my childhood and adolescence was marked by my mother crying "My god, are you reading that book again??" Meg Murray was my alter ego growing up, my long lost twin sister. She was smart, like me, she had glasses and braces and bad hair, like me, she was terminally unpopular, also like me, and it was her brains and her courage and her compassion that saves her family. And she gets the boy in the end too. I identified so strongly with Meg, with her outsiderness and adolescent angst. I think it was the first book I read that didn't talk down to me because I was a child. Madeleine L'Engle respected my intelligence, she threw in references to Shakespeare and classical authors and expected me to keep up. I read every one of her books I could get my hands on, the series about the Murrays and the Austins as well as her philosophical/theological musings like The Summer of the Great-Grandmother and A Circle of Quiet. The characters in Madeliene L'Engle's books lived in a charmed world, to my mind, where people read great literature for pleasure and were terribly sophisticated and educated and well-traveled and were everything my family was not, it seemed. Her books were the first time I encountered the concept of homosexuality outside of catechism class:

Of course lesbianism exists, and has since the beginning of history, and we have not always been compassionate. I thought it was now agreed that consenting adults were not to be persecuted, particularly if they keep their private lives private. We human beings are all in the enterprise of life together, and the journey isn't easy for any of us. A House Like a Lotus
Meg Murray kind of opened up literature to me; reading A Wrinkle in Time made me feel I could read whatever I wanted, that I was smart enough to explore books on my own, without a teacher or parent to tell me what was appropriate for my age. L'Engle is a devout Christian, and I kind of rejected her when I rejected God and Christianity. But her theology is critical and complex and has probably influenced my own spiritual beliefs more than I realize; I have immense respect for her. I should pick her up again, and see what happens, now that I'm older.

Classic Quote: "Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I'll be on my way. Speaking of ways, pet, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract."

my college academic advisor. Once I declared my major as English (out of resignation, really. I couldn't think of anything else to study), I was assigned Dr. S as my academic advisor. I went to her office to talk about what courses I should take; the English major at my university is almost ridiculously unstructured. I said I kind of liked doing criticism in my intro course. "Well, I'm teaching a Feminist Criticism class next semester, would you be interested in that?" So I signed up for it. Frankly, I kind of shudder to think what my life would be like if I had been assigned to another professor. Dr. S's classes have been nothing short of revolutionary in my life. She's a relaxed and engaging teacher with high expectations; exactly the kind of teacher I always needed. She introduced me to all the big names: de Beauvoir, Cixous, Irigaray, Kristeva, Segwick, Butler, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, etc. etc. Queer Theory was mind-bending and liberating and radicalizing and really, really fun. We did an independant study of Women's Memoirs my last semester, meeting at Java Co. to discuss Ruth First and Isak Dinesen and Angelica Garnett. And she was one of my first real feminist role-models. She started a NOW chapter in our little podunk town. I became the secretary of FMLA; we all went to Washington D.C. for the March for Women's Lives. I gave her Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible as a thank-you gift when I graduated. I miss her classes.

Classic quote: actually, when I think of Dr. S I think of her loud, braying laugh that drowns out everyone else in the room.

Adrienne Rich. Her essay "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" finally kicked me out of the closet. Assigned readings for class don't usually make you sit in your room and cry with self-recognition, but this one did. After months--well, years, really--of terror and confusion, Adrienne Rich laid it all out for me, crystal clear. Her examination of the structure of compulsory heterosexuality in our society was almost more enlightening than her concept of the lesbian continuum. It became a life-line for me.

Classic quote: To take the step of questioning heterosexuality as a ''preference'' or "choice" for women--and to do the intellectual and emotional work that follows--will call for a special quality of courage in heterosexually identified feminists but I think the rewards will be great: a freeing-up of thinking, the exploring of new paths, the shattering of another great silence, new clarity in personal relationships.

Eve Ensler. The first time I saw "The Vagina Monologues" I had to secretly sneak out of the house to do it. I read about a professional performance in the newspaper over Christmas break; it was at a university, and if I arrived 2 hours early, I could get discounted student tickets. The house was extra-cramped that year; my 80-something grandparents were living with us, I was sharing a room with my sister, and I felt like I was escaping from prison as I backed out of the drive. Somehow, miraculously, I got front-row seats, and I laughed and cried the whole way through. I'd never seen anything like it before. After break I tried out for my college's production, and I landed the menstruation monologue "I Was 12. My Mother Slapped Me". I'd forgotten how much I loved acting (I'd forgotten so much about myself by that point). The next year I performed "The Little Coochie-Snorter That Could", appropriately enough. I loved making the audience gasp at the beginning, when she impales her "coochie-snorter" on the bedpost as a little girl. I loved describing the first time she kisses a woman. That performance coincided with Adrienne Rich; it was very much a public "Here I am, world!" kind of coming out experience. I've heard some criticisms of the play, and I don't really disagree with them, but they don't diminish my affection for the play. I hate to be cliché, but it was empowering. Plus, Dr. S performed "The Flood" monologue, and she was hilarious.

Classic quote: "CUNT!!!!!"

Molly Bolt: I still remember standing in the campus bookstore, looking at the copy of Rubyfruit Jungle, working up the courage to buy it. It was the first lesbian novel I ever read. It was the best choice I could have made; Molly Bolt has this "fuck you" attitude that's enthralling. She realizes she's a dyke and she doesn't hate herself and she doesn't die, but instead proceeds to seduce the captain of the cheerleading squad and moves to New York to become a film maker. I want to watch her movies.

Classic quote: Damn, I wished the world would let me be myself. But I knew better on all counts.

I'm supposed to tag folks, so I'm picking my pal RC over at Polarity of Sound, Hush, nicotinefreegirl, and FemiKnitMafia. Have at it!