Week 1 – I Am Arriving
by H D Thompson
The best thing about being in Greece is I already have the shoulder hair to fit in.
Everyone in Athens is ridiculously attractive. Even the homeless people are an easy 7. I buy ice-cream from the descendants of Greek gods and am in bliss.
There seems to be little to no rules here. A man stopped driving down a one-way street, put his hazards on, and got out of his car to buy some cigarettes from a vendor. The cars waiting behind him didn’t honk or yell, no one seemed to think this was in any way an inconvenience. I want to get to a place where someone else’s selfish incompetence does not impede my day. I am not there yet, but one day.
Wandering around the brambled streets of Athens my favourite sight is the elderly locals, halfway up a hilly alleyway, hunched over, one hand propping up their sweating, panting bodies, and the other clutching a cigarette. They huff away as if the cigarette is the only thing that will get them up their colossal ascent. I adore them. One such lady said something to me in Greek, which sounded like the phrase for “good morning” but I couldn’t remember it so I mumbled incoherent words back at her, hoping her hearing was deteriorated and selective.
The place we were staying in Athens was above a fruit market, which was handy for buying fruit. I have a hunch you are meant to buy in bulk though for when I went to buy one piece of fruit they scolded me for the pitiful transaction. At one stall I went to buy one peach and even though the sign says it was €1/kilo, the man asked me for €1. I had enough evidence to cause a stir, but I could not argue with him because he was the most beautiful man I had ever seen up close and I couldn’t believe someone who looked like that was speaking to me. I will always let myself be undone by beauty. It will be my downfall.
At the Acropolis in a cluster of ancient pillars, surrounded by signs saying “DO NOT TOUCH”, a man unpacked the contents of his bag on one of the pillars and immediately got reprimanded by the woman nearby whose job it is to scold people for touching ancient things. Her job is to sit and yell at people all day. I think I envy her.
A man was walking around with a selfie-stick repeating the phrase, “GoPro take photo”. He said it so often I couldn’t tell if it was not working, if he wanted that many angles, or if it was simply all he knew how to speak. The more he repeated it the more it sounded like ugly poetry.
I have decided that instead of taking photos of monuments I will take photos of people taking photos of monuments. It is a very entertaining and important mission.
I saw a man with a baby on his shoulders walk under an olive tree without taking into account the baby on his shoulders, and he got yelled at by his wife for endangering their young. Through all this the baby seemed unphased. I wanted to high-five it but it was a baby.
Against the base of a tower in the Agora a group of tourists took a selfie against the base. The photo would have just come out with a white background; how will anyone know they were really there? They could easily lie about their whereabouts and everyone would have to take their word on it. Seems a bit ripe, tbh.
There are Spartan soldiers clustered around, performing on request. One of them was ripped to hell, which makes me wonder: did he get the job because he was that well put together, or did he have to maintain his body for this job? As I ponder this one of their lost soldiers could be seen crossing the road toward us in a crowd of fat tourists with selfie-sticks and maps. He looked so lost, yet so at home.
All of the ancient statues have such perfect butts. What was their squat regime? Possibly it was because they had to walk everywhere and there are also so many steps. I am hoping I achieve butt perfection by the time I visit everywhere.
I find myself enamoured with an old house next to the entrance to the ancient Agora. It is three stories high and stunning in that run-down kind of way. Who lives there? If it is abandoned; why? There is a cup of 2% yoghurt at the base of the house by the fence which only furthers the mystery. It is like a Greek Grey Gardens and I must know its story.
On the second day I got blisters and had to buy a pair of thongs, which was harder than anticipated. In the tiny corner store of Nafplio I asked and pointed and the man and the lady laughed at how big my feet were, handed me a small pair of ladies thongs and continued to laugh as I paid my €2. I failed to see what was so funny, but I laughed along as though I did.
Overheard in the ancient ruins of Epidavros – “Take the stairs. The best stuff is always up stairs”
I entered an old part of the ruins and people started shushing others. I didn’t know what was going on but the second I heard someone new walk in talking I shushed them. It felt good to have so much power.
In the ancient theatre a tour group stood in a circle and clapped in time while pulsating in and out in cyclonic rhythm. It was unnerving but hypnotic. When they were done everyone applauded, though it felt more out of necessity of being in a theatre than having actually enjoyed the show.
In the modern town of Epidavros a handsome street cat approached us, and Gemma and Rachel fed it. Then more beautiful street cats surrounded us out of nowhere. We shooed them away and they didn’t seem to mind. They seemed like the attractive members of their gross family that they sent out for scraps, which to me seemed like a good business plan. I begrudged them nothing, and I envied their glamour.
The lady in the apartment across from us in Nafplio had been cleaning the same window for about 20 minutes. Perhaps she is enamoured by her reflection? Perhaps she despises it.
In the ruins of Mycenae a group of large Aussie tourists complained about how many steps they had walked, with one of them wishing she had a Fitbit to count them. One suggested 11,000 but she was sure it was more like 20,000. I wanted desperately to push them down the ruins and watch their corpses crumble.
In the Napflio town square a group of young boys riding around on mini quad bikes aimed their trajectory at wandering tourists then honked at them as if they were in their way. I loved them, and wish them well.
A group of teenage girls stood around the queen bee while she showed off the zip pockets of her new jeans. It was so pure and innocent and from one of their iPhones played Beyonce’s Run The World (Girls).
While taking notes in the square an old man asked me for a lighter and I made friends with him and his two mates. We drank Ouzo and I got so drunk I got lost walking home. It was sublimely Greek.
At the top of a mountain in the middle of 34 degree heat, I tried to get an ice cream from a shop and was informed that the ice creams had stopped because summer was over. This despite the sweat pouring from everyone’s head. They also charged 50c to use the toilet. I hope they burn.
Walking down the 913 steps of the Palamidi fortress I slipped on the marble in my sweaty thongs, and a shirtless greekman caught me in my fall. I should have been concerned about the fall of death but I was too busy being flustered by a greasy torso.
A bell tower chimed at 5:13pm despite that not being any time of particular note. It felt very Greek, though I have no idea why. Now I wait for thirteen past the hour for bells, but nothing happens.
On the first day in Athens while waiting for Rachel to fly in I killed time by attempting to make friends with the locals. I do not do well alone in social situations so I turn to the wonderful world of dating apps and ask for a local to show me around. After about an hour of deflecting penises I got a young local lawyer who offered to show me around town and buy me a drink. I learned a lot about the different suburbs of Athens. He had a lot of distaste for the poorer areas, scalding the “poverty minorities” because they had nothing else to do but cause mischief because they didn’t have jobs. I didn’t have enough investment in this acquaintance to have a discussion with him about the nuances of lower socio-economic lifestyles, so I let him speak and didn’t argue. One fun thing to do in Athens while killing time is to patronage a hotel that rents by the hour. My new friend offered to do so, and going with my new mantra of saying yes to adventures, I agreed. I had never felt so cheap and alive. The room was literally just a bed and a shower and there were mirrors on the roof. While I was lying down staring up at myself, I told my new friend to keep doing what he was doing – I just simply had to reach for my phone for a photo. While he was renting the room at the desk I quickly googled the Greek phrase for “I’m coming” as a polite gesture of the moment we were about to share together. When the moment arrived and I said it, he giggled at me. What I had actually said was “I am arriving” and he seemed to think that was funny. I did not know this and took it as a review of my performance, which is very distressing especially when you’re looking up at your reflection on the roof above you surrounded by purple sateen linen. I took one of the free bottles of water that lay in the sink as I left, because I knew I had a lot of activities ahead of me. Maybe with sateen and mirrors, maybe not, it all depends on what I say yes to I guess.