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Thursday, June 23, 2005

TRIVIAL PURSUITS

This blog is just a general bit of chit-chat about how I'm spending my last few days in Athens.
Mezedes: Greek appetizers. So pour yourself a glass of retsina and pull up a chair for a chat.

Here's a story I meant to include yesterday, but didn't. It's just another of my 'memoirs' but I don't want to forget it.

A Tale of Marathon Beach
This is a story told to Roberto and me by our friend Ariadne. Let me introduce her to you first.
When I first met her in the '80's she was already in her late 60's, a tall, slender woman who wore clingy dresses (no underwear), body like a dancer, hair dyed carrot red, scarlet lipstick and lots of makeup. The best way to describe her is "extravangent". She was a German-Jewish actress who escaped the Holocaust by marrying a Swede and going to live in Sweden. Later she became a war correspondent. When I met her she was living in a beautiful house up the hill toward the Hill of Muses. She was known to invite friends to dinner and greet them at the door wearing only her apron. (And that was when she was in her 70's). She was admittedly 'bi' and always had an entourage of flambouyant people around her, writers, artists, performers.
She used to say to me in that deep husky voice of hers, "Kojak..."(she always mispronounced my name) "Kojak, why don't you come and live at my house?" Tempting as the offer was I was too in awe of her (scared?) though I was secretely flattered she'd asked.

Anyway, one day sitting in the plateia talking over wine, she told us this story about her former lover Socrates, (he who was owner of our favorite taverna "Socrate's Prison" which she claimed was financed with her money.) They had gone to Marathon Beach for the day and taken along another women, one who he was clearly interested in. Ariadne got fed up with the scenario and decided to go for a swim. She's a good, strong swimmer and was out quite aways from shore when she got caught in the strema (current). It was a windy day and the current was strong. She was an experienced enough swimmer to know not to fight it, instead to drift with it. So she did.

On the shore, Socrates and the other woman became alarmed when they realized Ariadne had not returned. They began to search for her and called the necessary authorities to report her missing. Meanwhile, the strema had carried Ariadne farther down the coast and she finally came ashore at the next beach resort Nea Makri. Clad only in her bikini she had to find a way back to the city. I can't remember how she did, but when she got there of course Socrates and her other friends were in a state, notifying everyone that she had drowned. You can imagine the scene! Ariadne laughed when she told us about it. She'd really given them a scare -- served them right for ignoring her on the beach! She might have laughed even harder if she'd known that a year or so after her death Socrates' taverna was expropriated by the Ministry of Culture and torn down to make way for the new Acropolis museum.

Mr Bean on the Tram
This is another story that grew out of yesterday's adventures.
I was on the tram going to the beach and a man got on who I swear looked exactly like Mr Bean.
I actually did a double-take and almost started to giggled. Perhaps he noticed because in no time he came and sat beside me. He acted like Mr. Bean. He was dressed like Mr. Bean. He had those same big soulful eyes and goofy look on his face. He started asking me questions (in Greek). Where I was going. Glyfada? No, Alimou. Was I going swimming? Yes. What's your name?Ruth. Ah...he reaches over and chucks me under the chin. "Ruthie!" Then he turns his attention to a young guy sitting in the seat in front of me. Starts asking him questions.
Meanwhile, he's holding a little briefcase or leather folder on his knees but he keeps reaching under it and at first appeared to be scratching his leg, but later I realized he was scratching (or rubbing) his dick. This went on more frequently as the ride continued. I ignored him and stared out the window but wondered if the woman in the seat across might notice. She didn't seem to. I guess he was harmless, like Mr Bean, and he was certainly at bit, as they say trellos but I was glad when the tram came to my stop.
Goodbye, Mr Bean!

Today: A relaxing morning and then a bit more culture.
I spent the morning at Christina's watering the garden and doing laundry and having a long chat with my friend Zoe. Then I headed off for an afternoon at the National Archaeological Museum. I hadn't been there for a couple of years and thought it was time to pay another visit. Also, being air-conditioned, a good place to spend the afternoon out of the heat.

The National Archaeological Museum opened in 1879, a beautiful neo-classical building that is one of the nation's finest. It has the worlds finest collection of Greek aniquities including the Hall of Mycenaean Antiquities -- a treasure trove of gold objects from jewellry to funeral masks. The chief exhibit is from the six graves of Circle A found in Mycenae first excavated by Heinrich Schliemann from 1874-76. It displays what is commonly known as "The Mask of Agamemmnon". There is also a display case of jewellry and funerary offeriings from the grave of his queen Clyntemnestra who was slain by her son Orestes after her youthful lover murdered Agammenon when he returned from the Troy wars. This is a familiar theme of several Greek tragedies.

There are also fragements of beautiful Minoan-like wall frescoes from the Mycenaean palace of Tiryns as well as a collection of magnificent gold cups.

The Cycladic collection contains the largest Cycladic figurine every found, discovered on the island of Amorgos (where I wanted to visit this summer, and didn't!)

Some of my favorite pieces of sculpture are in the Museum so it was a pleasure to go back and see them again. The bronze Horse and Jockey of Artemesion dominates the central hall. It was found with the magnificent
bronze figure of Poseidon, the Sea God, who stands as if ready to hurl his trident. Both these statues were found off Cape Artemision in 1928 in a shipwreck. There is also a big display of grave stele and funeray objects particularly the one of Aristonautes (330 BC) found in the Keramikos. It's a large sepalchral relief of an Ethiopian groom attempting to restrain a frisky horse. This si a most pwoerful piece of realist scultpure especially the finer details such as the leg muscles of the boy and horse, the expression on the boy's face and the animal's stance -- so realistic even the horse's tongue and teeth are visual as it champs at the bit.

I missed the head of Demosthenes, but saw a double-sided Herm of Aristoteles. (I think the glorious sculpure of Alexander by Lypiddus has been removed for a current N.Y. exhibit).

I would have stayed longer but my brain was boggled and my feet gave out, so I walked down Patission Street, found a Goodies and went in for a 'burger and chips. Lo and behold for the second time in a couple of months I won something! An orange back-pack (which I'll leave for Dani). Hobbled on down to Omonia Square. Plateia Omonia has been spruced up somewhat since the Olympics but it's still a dodgier part of town and has earned the reputiation in recent years as a hangout for pick-pockets and prostitutes. It's now transformed into a traffic hub where eight important roads converge, so it's always busy with traffic and pedestrians. Just off Omonia on Athinas Street and Aeolou, a meat and vegetable markets and other shops making it a popular cheap shopping area where y ou can buy everything from hardware to clothing.
(Yes, Patrick, I found the water-bottle insulators I'd been searching for!)

Came home to rest my tootsies and water the plants. Then tonight I came back over to Dinaz and we were joined at the TKA by her son Andreas. I had plans to go direct from here to the beach in the morning but apparantly the entire transit system of Athens is going on strike. (Some things never change!) so that means I'm bound to the Plaka and home. Dinaz says we're invited to her friend's beach home on Saturday though, so that makes up for it.






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