Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Euro tour update #18, Athens, Greece

I awoke to people yelling "We're at the beach!", stumbled out of the van, and peered out through sleep-crusted eyes at a beautiful white sand being gently lapped by calm, clear, blue ocean. The sun beat down on my shoulders like I have never felt. I am going to burst into flames. I rubbed my eyes and looked for shelter. Ahhh, there we go. A giant straw umbrella offered a little bit of unoccupied shade a few feet from the water. I ran over, under, curled into a fetal position, dug my hands into the large-grain sand, and fell back asleep. After a time I sleep-walked back to the van where it seemed most everyone was eager to get to Athens. (It's like, kind of a famous city or whatever.)

We waited for awhile, baking like cookies in our seats. "Where is everyone? Let's go!" A few feet from where we sat waiting, 2 Dead Vows guys lounged in the blazing sun. I went over to let them know that everyone was about ready to go and psyched to spend time exploring Athens. Hell-Bent gazed out at the ocean. "Yeahhh, well I'm pretty comfortable here." Oh, well shit. Hold the presses, this dude is comfortable. Eventually we all piled back into the van, some of us- not yet fully awake- had, as was the usual, already become annoyed.

At a gas station I found a variety of stuffed grape leaves and eggplant (in a pull-top can, ready to eat), and stayed awake long enough to devour a dozen or so olive-oil soaked dolmas. I fell quickly back asleep and woke up as we were driving through Athens. I tried to summon every memory I had of Athens from history class. Very little emerged. Shit. I even made flash cards.

Despite my ignorance of the exact events, people, and just about everything else, there was a feeling I couldn't ignore in Athens, even just in viewing it from out the van window. It felt like being in the core of civilization. The old, white buildings, their columns reaching beyond my scope of vision, ancient stairs climbing towering buildings that blocked the sunny sky above. Graffiti covered everything, everywhere. Personal and political, the sentiments of the city were scrawled on the walls in a multitude of languages. Despite that Athens seemed fairly clean (not like, say, Philly, where heaps of trash lay rotting in, on, and around almost every street), it felt almost dingy. Like it was Greece's favorite pair of white canvas shoes, worn to death, having walked through the ages, but still managing to look as good with cut off dickies as it did with togas.

We met up with Jim, the promoter, outside the club that was strangely named "Texas" ("Dude seriously we came all the way to Greece to play in TEXAS?") He said the magic words ("You hungry?"), which lead to a cafe where we ate "Greek junk food"- which was to become both our obsession over the next two days and a life-altering event. See, this "junk food" was so fucking amazing that I couldn't put it down to take a photo. Imagine this: a fresh made pita (not pocket like we Americans are used to, but a fluffy, doughy face-sized circle of soft bread), warmed on an oiled grill, filled with fresh sliced ripe tomatoes, paper-thin onions, fresh parsley, and.... are you sitting down? FUCKING FRENCH FRIES.


I could build monuments to this sandwich. I could paint beautiful portraits of it. I could get stranded on a desert isle and be happy to have it as my only company. Oh french fry sandwich, we adore you. Come back to us... come back to us.

Back in Texas, we noticed something strange. The entire club was dedicated to the movie "Sin City". Stills from the comics were blown up and wall papered over the entire place. A giant still of Elijah Wood as that creepy dude in round glasses was printed over 2 giant, swinging doors that lead to the "WC" (bathroom, remember?) I went to the bar to get a soda. A dude with half his head shaved and manicured, black fingernails handed me my sprite. Beside the merch table there was wallpaper with a life-size photo of a windblown goth girl.

As the night progressed we learned that Texas was actually a goth club. Had we not been told that we eventually would have figured it out by the synthetic pink hair and furry leg warmers paired with vinyl skirts that wandered in and out (staff?)

Before the show started Dave got some (more) french fries at a place next to the cafe we had been hanging out at. He came running over to me demanding that I try them. There was something on them, a green herb of some sort. I took a bite. Holy shit... oregano. The heat of the fries had warmed the spice and the result was... words, I don't have them. Let's just say I don't plan to eat fries without oregano ever again. Pierce and I each went to get our own herbed fries, then headed back to Texas to play.

The stage had an awkward fence around it, kind of a mini-barrier. For someone as short as me this was kind of a bummer, but, as always, as soon as we started playing I forgot about it and had a great time. At one point I looked out and saw Peter, our driver, moshing. The crowd in general was pretty chill, I kind of got the vibe that they hadn't seen many bands like us before. People nodded, and watched intently, and after it was done we were swarmed by thankful and supportive words. It was a really great feeling. Not every scene is the same, and I like that. I met someone in Finland who told me that he felt a bit "Americanized" by hardcore, and I've thought about that a lot ever since. I've stopped going into shows in foreign places expecting it to be like a show at home. Why would it be? Why would I want it to be?

We stayed with a very nice kid in his flat on the outskirts of Athens. He said the magic words and we all went marching through the streets in search of more fry sandwiches. "This is the best place for it in the whole city" he claimed as we walked into a shoe-box sized Kebab joint. He was right. Jim had bought us our sandwiches earlier, so here we learned yet another delightful fact about this food-of-the-gods- they only cost 1 Euro each. We bit into our first sandwiches on the trek back to his apartment and realized that one sandwich each was surely not going to cut it. Life is short, and our time in Athens was even shorter. We went back for seconds and thirds, which brought us to 4-6 servings of french fries each that day, with no stomach aches, and not a single complaint.

Athens Day 2.

A show fell through in Macedonia which left us with a day off to explore Athens. Can't exactly say I was bummed. We woke up to more miscommunication (or lack of communication) from our tour mates, who had decided that we were all going to the beach then to Jim's house (where we were staying that night) in northern Greece. After we reminded them that we couldn't go to Jim's house until 2 am when he got out of work (the always-thoughtful Hell-Bent suggested we call him, ask him to give his house keys to a friend who would then meet up with and give them to us, so that we- 9 people he barely knew- could sit in his house, alone...), we decided we'd split up and meet up in the evening.

Kingdom went to do historical stuff, Dead Vows went swimming. We hung in places where such little characters in time as Plato and Socrates used to kick back in their togas and philosophize, we saw an ancient Greek village that had be unearthed and preserved under a clear floor, and we took pictures of stray cats living on the ruins of the Parthenon.

This was the hottest day I can ever recall. The sun felt like it was inches from the earth. I bought a parasol from a vendor and even in its shade, I felt like I was made of sweaty lead. How are my legs so heavy? We climbed centuries-old stairs but after a time I cared little of headless statues, or pillars, or excavated graves (which, actually, I found quite distasteful. "Here lies a little girl still in her grave, which was found in a field, covered in rocks that were believed to protect her in the afterlife, layed by her family.") In the end, our thirst for liquids outweighed our thirst for knowledge, and we trudged down the hill from the Parthenon to the newly built Greek Museum, where we were met by free, ice cold glasses of water.

After we met up with Dead Vows, we grabbed some more french fry sandwiches. We reached Jims late and fell asleep as the sun was rising. In the morning, it was more grape leaves. The grocery store we were at had two options for orange juice, both 100% juice, both in identical packaging. I asked Jim what the difference was. "One is made of Greek oranges, the other not." Wanting to have a much Greece as possible in my last hours there, I grabbed the Greek juice, and drank it all the way to Macedonia.

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