Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Adventure Continues

[In case you are a first-time Reader, you will want to read the previous post, of which this is a continuation.]
The next morning I got up and went out for breakfast. I was very stiff, and ducking under the low arch between my room and the toilet had not been fun, so I stopped at the first open place that looked like it was serving eggs and toast. My Policeman walked in and sat down a few tables away, and of course, tipped his hat. He looked a little bedraggled, as though he had been up all night. I had my eggs scrambled, and three cups of coffee. My Policeman had coffee. As I passed his table on the way out, I said in English, "I am going to the museum now, so you needn't rush."
He smiled and tipped his hat.
I was halfway through the museum and its wonders, including a magnificent 18th-century crystal chandelier that had been brought up the mountain on the back of a donkey, when I remembered it was Monday. No museum in Greece is open on a Monday, so this was remarkable. Equally remarkable was the fact that I was the only person in the museum other than the guard who had given me a ticket in exchange for a look at my Deltion (a free museum pass given out at that time to scholars). Very odd.
My Policeman was on duty at the museum steps as I left. He tipped his hat.
I decided to go shopping and have lunch before my appearance at the Police Station at two o'clock that afternoon. I wandered through town, bought a tourist guide to the archaeological dig I planned to visit the next day, had an excellent horiatiki salad and a bottle of Demestika, inspected a stall selling fish and another selling vegetables. Wherever I wandered, eventually I spotted My Policeman, and he always tipped his hat. I was tempted to ask him if he was following me, but it was pretty clear by now that he was, indeed, My Policeman, and I would find him on a corner, across the street, or two tables away, ready to tip his hat when I spotted him. I speculated a bit on why I should be the object of My Policeman’s attentions. Almost certainly it had to do with my fall and the subsequent events, as the anger of the mayor and the sternness of the Colonel of Police definitely pointed to this. However, I was in a country governed by a totalitarian dictatorship, albeit one friendly to the U.S., and that alone was enough to make me just a little apprehensive. I had all the proper papers, including a document that permitted me to stay in Greece longer than three months, and these had been duly inspected by the Colonel early on in the proceedings. The permission slip listed me as a Professor of Archaeology; this was not a legitimate title, although I was indeed at the time professing archaeology in connection with my dissertation. Maybe this error had been discovered, and I was under surveillance because of it, an error purposely made by the charming middle-aged bureaucrat issuing the document when he couldn’t think of anything else important enough to call me. As he pointed out, everybody in Greece is a student of archaeology. I, working on a dissertation, was clearly superior to those dilettantes. Doubtless I would find out very soon what the score was.
The Colonel was already in his hat at his desk when I arrived, exactly at two o’clock. He greeted me with a solemn nod, and indicated the chair opposite the window wall. I sat down and looked around. There was now a row of chairs against the window wall, and seated in the second one from the desk was a skinny, droopy-mustached man in a rumpled brown suit, wrinkled shirt, and badly tied four-in-hand tie. In a chair further down the row sat a spotlessly clean middle-aged fellow, also mustached, dressed in the open-collared shirt, jeans, and sandaled feet of an animal-driver; he had, however, an air of authority about him, and he was obviously a cut above that occupation. The room was electric with expectancy, and I wondered who or what we were waiting for.
A policeman (not Mine) came in next, dragging along the man who had been running the animal I was thrown from, and who looked very frightened. He sat down in the chair at the end of the row, and stared at his feet, which were clad in dusty sandals and looked like they hadn’t been washed in several weeks. In fact, all of him looked like that. It was a marked contrast to the other driver, who now leaned over to say a few reassuring words to the newcomer. It didn’t seem to help much.
The Colonel was looking as official as possible with his hair sticking out stiffly from his hat, and said something about “the judge is a little late” to the man in the brown suit. “Still finishing lunch, I imagine,” Brown Suit replied. “You know how he likes to eat.” I tried not to show I understood this, as it seemed to me that my not knowing much Greek would be crucial to my part in whatever was proceeding. No one had spoken directly to me yet, and in fact I felt invisible, until Brown Suit said, “Is this the koritsi?" (A woman of any age can be referred to as a koritsi, which means “little girl.” I was 40, and used to it by now.) The Colonel nodded and looked pointedly at his watch. “He’ll be here,” said Brown Suit. “Don’t worry.”
Five minutes later, as we all sat in silence, the door flung open and a large fat man lumbered into the room. Everybody stood up, so I did, too, albeit stiffly. The Colonel and Brown Suit shook the newcomer’s hand, and he sat heavily in the first chair. Everybody looked at me. I looked back.
The Judge, for it was apparent that this was the newcomer, looked so much like Sidney Greenstreet in a Humphrey Bogart movie that I wanted to laugh. He wore a white suit with a marked gravy stain on one lapel, white shirt and tie, and to top it off, a white Panama hat. Brown Suit now took on a Peter Lorre-with-mustache aspect, and I waited for the rest of the movie to unfold.
I was asked to tell my story again. I did, in English, while the Colonel translated. The Judge asked a question or two about the number of animals I had seen. I answered truthfully that I thought I saw two in front of me, but I might have been mistaken, as the circumstances were rather hectic. The Judge looked even more like Sidney Greenstreet as he nodded at me and leaned back in his chair. I managed not to laugh, thank goodness, as this was a legal proceeding, and a man’s future was in the balance, as it happened.
The animal driver was asked to stand up and tell his story, which he did in a practically inaudible voice, still staring at his feet. He apologized to me (without looking up) for not getting me to a doctor right away. This part of the events was never in question, and the driver was culpable of gross negligence in this regard. It was clear that he was frightened nearly to incomprehension, and the clean animal driver stood up and gently questioned him further about the animals. This man was in charge of all the animal drivers, and was supposed to regulate them. I was still mystified about the constant return to the number of animals, which seemed a silly thing to dwell on, all things considered, until I heard Brown Suit ask him, “You did know you should only have two?” My driver nodded miserably. “And you admit you had three?” The Judge broke in. Again, a miserable nod. Brown Suit sighed. “I will represent you tomorrow,” he said. sadly, as though it would be a lost cause.
The policeman who had brought him in came forward and took the driver by the arm, leading him toward the door. The driver started off, shuffling his feet, but then stopped and turned back. “My children,” he said, tears streaking his dirty face. “What will happen to my children? ”
This was news to Mr. Clean. “You have children? But you are not married!”
“You know,” said the driver, “my children, my animals.”
“Ah,” said Mr. Clean, “I see. Don’t worry, I will see they are taken care of.”
The driver turned sadly away and went with the policeman, presumably to jail. Mr. Clean followed them out.
As I turned back from watching them depart, somewhat bewildered by the outcome of the proceedings, I noticed everyone was staring at me. I smiled weakly, and asked the Colonel, in English, what had happened. The Judge asked the Colonel what I had said. The Colonel sat up importantly, and told me that there had just been a hearing. He repeated this in Greek for the Judge. Did I know what a hearing was? The Colonel believed we had them in the U.S. He translated for the Judge. I agreed that we had them in America, but I was not sure what this one had been about, exactly.
“Ah,”said the Colonel, “the driver is only allowed two animals by law. He had three, so he broke the law. He will be tried in court, and this will be his lawyer.” He pointed to Brown Suit as he translated for the Judge. “Also, he did not help you when you were injured. That is also against the law.” He translated. The Judge nodded, and asked what I would be doing tomorrow, Tuesday. Would I be leaving the island?
I waited politely for the Colonel to translate, and said, No, I wasn’t leaving the island until the Fortuna subsided, and in any case, not before I had been to the ruins at Akrotiri. The Judge looked inquiringly at the Colonel, who translated. I was going to Akrotiri tomorrow, I said, and after that, I would go back to Athens when I could get a ship. The Judge listened to the translation and nodded. “How long will she stay at Akrotiri?”
I waited for the translation and said I would be there most of the day. How was I planning to get out to the site? I was planning on taking a taxi. The Judge nodded, and the Colonel seemed to like that idea.
“I will see that there is a taxi for you at your hotel in the morning,” he said, “and it would be good if you were at Akrotiri all day. I will have the taxi wait for you.”
“That won’t be necessary,” I said, mentally adding up the astronomical fare for that. “I can take the bus back. And I can get a taxi in town after I have my breakfast.”
The Colonel translated for the Judge. The Judge said he thought that would be all right, that the danger was minimal, anyway. That caught my attention, and I waited for the colonel to translate, but he did not. Everyone stood up, and I recognized that we were now in recess. I thanked the Colonel for his courtesy, and left the station. I was only partway down the steps when Brown Suit caught up with me.
“I hope your injuries are not too painful,” he said in Greek, as we walked along toward my hotel. Without thinking, I thanked him in Greek for asking, and explained that the doctor had said it was nothing. He laughed. “I know,” he said, patting me gently on the shoulder, “that doctor is my brother, and he worried that you did not understand what he meant–that you had no broken bones.”
“Ah,” I replied, “that did lose something in translation, but I understood.”
His eyes twinkling, Brown Suit said, “You are a good actress. You understood everything, and pretended not to. In there,” he added, pointing back the way we had come with his head. He smiled at my embarrassment at being caught. I said I thought it was prudent, and he agreed.
“I should tell you, though, why they want you out of town. The driver has a large family, and they are afraid one of them will try to get even with you, before they know the circumstances in full at the trial tomorrow.”
“Even for what?”
“They know he will have to go to jail, and it will be a blot on the family record, and they may not understand,” he answered. “They might think you accused him falsely. But he did confess, and that willingly, so I am not so worried.”
“It would not be very Greek,” I said. "Normally, a Greek would never attack a tourist."
“True,” he said, “but the Judge and the Colonel have decided to have you followed, all the same. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Ah,” I said, “I am glad to know that was why I saw My Policeman everywhere.”
He laughed. “Well,” he said, “he could have worse assignments. Anyhow, he will have a day off tomorrow, while you are at Akrotiri. And you should take the first taxi that you spot after breakfast, because that driver will be following you, too. By the time you take the bus home, the trial will be over, but you may still be followed.”
“What an adventure a simple trip to Thera turned out to be,” I said. “It will be something to tell my grandchildren, when I have some.”
“I hope you will remember it as a good adventure,” Brown Suit said, “in spite of the fall at the beginning.” He said goodbye at the door to my hotel. I thanked him for letting me know about the surveillance, and asked him to thank his brother, the Insurance Doctor, again for me. Then I turned and waved at My Policeman, whom I knew would be waiting to escort me to dinner that evening. He tipped his hat.

Thus ends this Greek Adventure. I have had others, of course, during my visits to that country, and I expect I will share some of those with you. One thing I left out of the first installment: How I Knew I Wasn't Dead After the Fall. My head came up from the ground and out of my mouth came two sentences.  In Greek. The first was, "pou eine o yiatros?" (where is the doctor?) and the second was "pou eine ta yialia mou?" (where are my glasses?).  I was still clutching my string bag of belongings. The glasses were found at the side of the road, thankfully unbroken, and restored to me. I had to find the Tourist Police to get to a doctor, as related in the previous post..

Friday, February 17, 2012

An Adventure on Thera

Sometimes, when travelling in a strange country, one has occasion to meet and interact with the local constabulary, and sometimes with interesting results. My encounter took place in Greece in 1973, when that country was under the dictatorship of Colonel George Papadopoulos, and on the island of Thera. When a tourist boat landed, it was the custom for everybody to rush off and claim a donkey or mule to take them up the long switchback cobblestone trail up the cliff to the town of Santorini, and hurry around town looking for lodging. 
I hired a mule, one of three animals owned by the driver (two tourist-bearing animals, a horse and a donkey in front of me were apparently his), settled my string bag of possessions in my lap, and off we went, the first in line. I was two thirds of the way up when the driver slapped the mule to make him go faster. Instead, the mule slipped; I made a circular trajectory over the animal's head, and landed hard, first on my hip, then shoulder, and finally, head. After determining that I was not dead and retrieving my string bag and my glasses (still intact, by some miracle, though I was uncertain about my body), I had to climb back on the mule and continue to the top. I haggled with the driver for a reduced rate—after all, I had been thrown, I hadn't fallen off—and paid him. Then I tried to think of how to get medical attention for the fall; I wanted to be sure nothing was broken or concussed.
Greece has a branch of constabulary known as the Tourist Police, whose job it is to look after tourists in trouble, answer questions, give directions, and other benign activities. I saw a sign pointing to the tourist police station, fortunately only a couple of blocks away, and hobbled over.
Once there, I explained my plight, and one of the policemen took me, on foot, mind you, to one of the two hospitals in town. Unfortunately, it was the insurance hospital, admittance to which I was not entitled. A doctor there took over from the policeman, and escorted me to the free hospital, luckily quite nearby. By this time the shock of the fall had worn off and the pain of it started to set in. The insurance doctor was very sympathetic, and worried, too, because the free hospital was apparently not open for business yet—the door was locked, it being about 8:30 AM on a Sunday. So he left me on the steps and went back to his own hospital to telephone for someone to come and let me in.
Eventually, a nurse came to the door, took one look at me, and escorted me into a waiting room. Soon a tall teddy bear of a doctor inspected my injuries, decided I wasn’t concussed, and gave me a shot for the pain. He told me to come back that evening at 7 PM to have an x-ray of my hip; he had no film at the moment, but he was expecting some by that time.
By now, it was 9:30 AM, and I still had no place to stay. I had to go on foot from rooming house to rooming house, back toward the center of town. There was nothing. The Fortuna wind was up, and no ships could leave the harbor. Therefore, all those already ON the island, and who had booked all the rooms, were not going anywhere. The two thousand newly arrived tourists were really scrambling to find places. I began to worry that I would be sleeping on the street with my string bag for a pillow.
I spied a barber/beauty shop at the top of a long flight of stairs. It had a porch on which a wall-eyed man was sitting in a rocking chair, looking down at me; it also had a sign that offered rooms. I looked inquiringly at the man, but he offered no comment, so I toiled up the steps, wondering how long the pain killer would hold up. I found out halfway up. One second, I was feeling OK, the next, I was really hurting. But I struggled all the way to the top. As I mounted the last step, the man said, "No room." That did it. I started to cry.
No Greek man can stand to see a woman cry, I think. Immediately, he was all concern. I told him the whole story, from three animals to fall to top step. He listened carefully, and sympathetically, and took me into the barber shop, where he sat me down in a chair in the back of the room. An old lady came in, and he introduced me and told her my story, whereupon she ran off and returned with a cup of coffee. The two of them decided that they would ask a current resident to leave so I could have a bed. I tried to protest, but they had decided. It was only a question of which one would have to go.
Soon a customer came in, looked me over curiously, and inquired of the barber what I was doing there. The barber introduced me and explained. The customer asked me a couple of questions, then grabbed the phone and began shouting into it. I speak a little Greek, and I could tell he was repeating my story, and he was angry about the way I had been treated; the mule driver should have seen to it that I had medical attention, and then the Tourist Police should not have just abandoned me at the wrong hospital. And I should have been helped to find a room, under the circumstances. He was the mayor, the barber explained, and he was determined to do right by me. And he had the authority to do it. I was to wait at the barber shop until an escort came for me.At this point the old woman returned and guided me into the beauty parlor part of the establishment, as one of the regulars had come in and objected to a woman in the barber shop. I sat and drank my coffee, and wondered what would happen next. I was really in pain by this time; moving any part of my body hurt, and I wished I had thought to pack aspirin in my string bag.
Within half an hour, my police escort arrived. The mayor barked instructions at him, and told me I was to follow him to the regular police station, not back to the Tourist Police. It was a slow and painful walk of four blocks. The policeman (whom I came to know as "My Policeman") opened the door to the police
station and motioned me inside. It was a simple room, with lots of windows on one side with a bench underneath, a large desk in front of a wall with a door, and a couple of plain wooden chairs against the blank wall opposite the windows. The obligatory portrait of George Papadopoulos hung behind the desk. My Policeman pointed to one of the chairs, and I sat down, gingerly and slowly.
My Policeman knocked on the door, and a few seconds later it opened and a tall, handsome, hatless man strode into our presence. He sat down at the desk, and rummaged in one of the drawers, removing a peaked officer's cap; this he jammed on his head, causing his Beatle-length, luxurious hair to poke out all around. It did not seem the appropriate time to giggle, so I suppressed my immediate reaction to this man, who now regarded me sternly.
"I am the colonel of police," he said in flawless English, "tell me your name and what happened."
             I repeated my story once more, in English this time, explaining about the three animals and my fall, and the Tourist Police, the hospital, the barbershop, mayor and all. I did withhold my haggling over the price, as it added nothing to the story. The colonel asked if I knew the name of the driver, and I said I didn't, but he was the first in line when I raced off the ship. The colonel nodded, and asked how long I planned to stay on Thera. I told him several days, as the Fortuna would prevent the ships from leaving, and I wanted to see the dig at ancient Thera and the museum in Santorini. He already seemed to know I had no lodging, because he asked if I could stay at the hospital. I said I didn't think so, as this had been discussed between the doctor and the nurse, who determined I wasn't injured badly enough. He picked up the telephone and called the hospital to verify this for himself. As I expected, the answer was no. 
            The colonel glowered at me, and asked for my identification papers, including my passport and my visa, if any. He looked these over, handed them back, and told me to wait there while he sent My Policeman to find me a room and incidentally investigate my story. Then he removed the peaked cap, put it back into the drawer, stood up and marched from the room. My Policeman tipped his hat and left me alone in my chair.
An hour later he was back, nodded to me, and knocked on the door. He said a few things I couldn't hear to the door opening, and soon the colonel was with us. He performed his hat routine, and looked enquiringly at My Policeman, then at me, and asked, in Greek, "Did you find the driver? Did you find her a room?" My Policeman handed him a piece of paper, and told him that I had been truthful in my story, that the driver, Damigos, had indeed been running three animals. "Then there will need to be a trial," the colonel said, still in Greek. My Policeman nodded. The colonel looked as grim as possible with his hair standing out over his ears like a fringe. "And we will have to have a hearing. Tomorrow." He made some notes on a pad on the
desk and turned his attention to me.
            Now at this point, I decided that, although my Greek was pretty good for most purposes, perhaps it would be a Good Thing to seem as though I was unable to speak or understand more than a few courteous greetings; I had not spoken Greek to anyone, not even My Policeman, since I had explained my plight to the mayor, so I thought I could carry this off. "He," the colonel said, pointing to My Policeman, "has found you a place to stay." He consulted the paper My Policeman had given him. "There is a room out in the country, which you can have to yourself. And, there is a bed in a place in town, but you will share the room with
three Danish girls who have agreed to let you stay with them. I strongly urge you to take the room by yourself. And I urge you to leave the island as soon as possible."
"But sir," I said, ignoring this last remark, "that would be most difficult. I am to get an x-ray tonight at the hospital, and I might need some help with the pain in the middle of the night. Also I will need to be near taxis to get to the excavation. I think it would be better to stay with the Danish girls."
The colonel sighed heavily and with a look at My Policeman that clearly said "Women! Tourists!" nodded at him and told him to escort me to the rooming house with the Danish girls. Then he said to me, "And you, please be here at 2 o'clock tomorrow afternoon."
With that, the colonel removed his hat, put it into the drawer, and without so much as another glance at me, went through the door behind the desk.
My Policeman led me through the streets of Santorini to the rooming house. I was shown the room by the landlord, and gratefully put my sakkoula of belongings on the bed indicated. The Danish girls were not in evidence, but I assumed I would see them at some point to thank them. I followed the landlord's instructions on how to get to the toilet, and then set off to explore Santorini. I discovered that I was very hungry, so I found a restaurant that looked pleasant, went in, and sat down. I ordered a horiatiki salad, my favorite lunch in Greece (a simple dish of tomatoes, cucumber, Greek olives and feta cheese, smothered in olive oil) bread, and a small bottle of Demestika white wine. I figured any buzz from the wine would wear off well before I got to the hospital; I would even have time for a short nap and dinner.
On my way back to my room, I noticed My Policeman sitting in a kafeneion across the street, and smiled. He tipped his hat. I thought nothing of this, as Santorini is a relatively tiny town, and one is bound to run into the same people from time to time.
            After my nap, I wandered around for a while, checking out the town, buying some aspirin, locating the museum, and scoping out someplace reasonable for dinner.In Greece at that time, you could go look at everything the restaurant had to offer, arranged for your inspection in the back, by the kitchen. That was so the unfamiliar names of dishes on the menu would not cause a problem for foreigners: One could merely point to the dish one wanted, and that was that. I don't remember what exactly I chose that evening, but it could have been an eggplant dish, a stuffed tomato, or perhaps pastitzio, a noodle dish reminiscent of macaroni and cheese, but made with ground meat. I picked a nice, clean, brightly lit establishment, and chose my meal from the array of dishes displayed. My Policeman wandered in and took a seat near the window, tipping his hat when he saw me.
When the time came to go back to the hospital, about a mile away, I considered taking a taxi, but I had noticed that walking apparently helped ease my banged-up muscles, and as I was not in a particular hurry, I made my way there on foot. Every once in a while I would see My Policeman, on the opposite side of the street or on a corner I needed to turn. Each time we made eye contact, he would tip his hat. In the hospital, the Teddy Bear doctor led me into the room where his X-Ray machine stood. It was a most interesting contraption, unlike any machine of its kind I had ever seen, on a frame of one-by-four lumber bolted together. The doctor patted it fondly, and explained that he had made it himself from parts he had scrounged here and there. But, he assured me, it worked very well. Then he arranged me against the machine in order to x-ray my hip, the portion of my anatomy that had hit the ground first. He did not have a
lead apron, but he didn't think that would be a worry as I wasn't pregnant. He took a couple of pictures, and while he was doing that, mentioned that he had to have the film smuggled to him by some accommodating U.S. Navy corpsmen, who delivered it on their twice-weekly helicopter run to Thera. I felt guilty about having the precious film used for my benefit--I envisioned some poor Greek child with a broken limb unable to get an x-ray because of me. The doctor said that was not a problem, as in a real emergency, he could get a friend at the other hospital to steal some film. This kind of attitude is known as "systima hellinico"--perhaps best translated as "the Greek Way."
Another man arrived on the scene, another doctor, as it happened, from the insurance hospital down the street. He had been pressed into service to explain to me in English what the x-rays showed. Teddy Bear Doctor went to his darkroom to develop the film, and Insurance Doctor stayed with me and said in a most sympathetic tone that my injury was most likely "nothing," in spite of the magnificent bruise that had been revealed during the x-ray process. Teddy Bear Doctor returned with the results, and the two of them conferred over the picture, agreeing that nothing was broken. The Insurance Doctor repeated, in English, "It is nothing," several times to be sure I understood. I wasn't sure I agreed entirely with his diagnosis, but I understood that he was trying to tell me nothing was broken. Rather than embarrass him by repeating in Greek what I thought he meant, I nodded and thanked him. He left, and I asked Teddy Bear Doctor how much I owed him. He was most unhappy to take any money from me, as I looked (by design) like a poor student travelling on a shoestring, but I finally wormed out of him that he paid for the film out of his own pocket, so I was not to worry. In one of the strangest bargaining encounters I have ever had, I finally got him to agree to take the cost of replacing the film, which turned out to be a whopping $6, which he asked for in U.S. dollars., if I could manage that.  Professing to have no other American money, I insisted he take the $20 bill I had tucked away for emergencies. He thanked me warmly, though he was clearlyembarrassed about the enormity of the transaction. I thought I had gotten a bargain.
As I walked down the hospital steps, I noticed My Policeman lurking over a newspaper box on the corner. When I passed him, he tipped his hat. I went on back to my room, where I finally met the Danish girls and was able to thank them for their kindness. I went to bed and soon fell asleep in spite of my aches and pains.

To be continued. Sorry there aren't any pictures; after the fall, I was afraid to use my camera until it got checked out at a camera store in Athens. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sometimes You Just Gotta Have Fun!

My last boss owned a rubber stamp business--still does, actually. She is Shirley Rainman of Make An Impression. It was grand fun working for her when she had a retail store--if you have to work retail, a rubber stamp store is a great place to do it.

One of the things we did for the store was make samples; can you imagine having to make art all day? What a chore--NOT! Well, now that Shirley has no store front, she has to make her own samples. So she gets to have all the fun (not to mention all the work). Shirley also designs a lot of her stamps herself; she has a very popular line called Punch-Ins, which she demonstrates and sells at rubber stamp shows and conventions all over the country, and sells wholesale to stores. This year, Shirley wanted to do something new, and came up with a really cute line of pantins she is calling Jumpables.

Teddy Bear Jester Jumpable
We meet for coffee once a month, Shirley and her former employees, and last month she brought sketches and some examples of her Jumpables to show us. What fun! We talked about what characters she could add to the teddy bear jester she had been selling for years, and the little girl and sock monkey. This month she showed up with bear, girl and sock monkey, AND a frog and a little boy.

Sock Monkey Jumpable

My personal favorite is, as anyone who knows me will immediately guess, is the sock monkey.

Shirley is busy designing accessories to go with her Jumpables. The little girl has a pocket with a note to put in it, and there are wings to make angels out of any of them. Shirley made a little girl angel to show us this month at coffee. We played with the Jumpables and had a great time thinking up accessories for them.

Girl Jumpable

The Jumpables will come in a pack with the stamp to make them and the complete instructions for jointing them to make them jump. These illustrations are all taken from Shirley's instruction sheet, with her permission; of course they are all copyrighted by Make an Impression.

Boy Jumpable
Frog Jumpable

The Jumpables will be available soon on the Make An Impression web site, where you can also see the Punch-Ins.

And Shirley and her husband, Link, will be appearing at several rubber stamp shows this year. Look for them at the following places:

March 3-4 Mesa AZ
March 10-11 Carson, CA
March 24-25  Portland, OR
April 14  Sacramento, CA
May 19-20 Puyallup, WA

You won't be disappointed!

Until next time, Nan

Friday, February 3, 2012

It Was About This Time Of Year

My mother called from California and asked me what I wanted for my birthday (in June). It was 1970--seems like forever ago, now--and I had just finished a major qualifying paper for my PhD on Space and Perspective in Art. So I said, "I want to go to Europe and see all the art I've been writing about in the flesh--pictures are OK, but I want to see if my ideas and conclusions were right." I expected my mother to say, "That's nice, dear. But what do you want for your birthday?" Instead, she said, "Fine. Where do you want to go?" In for a dime, in for a dollar, I thought, and told her. "Greece," I said, "Athens; and Florence, Italy, and Amsterdam and London." "All right. When do your classes end?" I told her. Next thing I knew, she had had Cook's Tours plan our trip--to Greece, Italy, The Netherlands and England. I have always regretted not throwing in Paris and Berlin; but she threw in Copenhagen, a place she wanted to go. Fair enough. The only problem with the trip was that Cook's, who should have known better, considering it was supposed to be a study trip to see musea, had us traveling on weekends and having our first full day in a city on Mondays; back then every museum in the world was closed on Mondays, and in Amsterdam they were closed on Thursday afternoon, too. But it was a fabulous trip, and took six weeks. I was happier than a pig at high tide or a clam in clover. Even with museums closed on Mondays; churches were not, and there were lots of those to see, too.

We started in Athens. Mother took a cruise from there to the Greek Islands, but I stayed behind to explore the ruins of the Akropolis and the Agora and the National Museum. One of my professors had arranged for me to meet a friend of his who was kind enough to show me Piraeus and other places in Attica, and to celebrate my birthday, drove me to Corinth to see the ruins there.

This is what I missed by not going on the cruise: Mother in Lindos, riding a donkey. And obviously having the time of her life.

I, on the other hand, was having the time of MY life back in Athens. Chris, my professor's friend, was a wonderful host, and took good care of me. He was also fluent in English, and knew quite a lot of Greek history, too.  I wrote a poem about my birthday trip.

Autobiographical Note

We drove to Corinth on my birthday,
passing Salamis; you explained
about the Persians and the Old Greeks
and how they fought a battle there.
You chatted on, not guessing
my silence was not just attentiveness.
I knew the names, had heard the tales
before; these and other stories
of heroes, splendid and victorious, not all historical.

You and I are friendly strangers;
I do not expect you to know
that wherever I have travelled
I have been coming here.

I am one with rocky places near the sea:
my spirit, like a stubborn poppy, clings here
nourished by what exists in the memory of these stones.
I cannot promise you will understand
or share with me these visions;
still, from our separate ways
of looking, while we look together
you perhaps will recognize
that wherever I have been
I have been here.

It was published in a journal called Swift River. Whenever I give a poetry reading to a new audience, I include it as my first poem. It really tells a lot about me. I have written many poems about Greece and the Greeks, ancient and modern, and often put them into chapbooks, which gives me a chance to practice my book making skills.

Here's another one of my favorites:

Being among the Lacedaimonians
I asked about the Spartan boy
who let the fox gnaw him apart
beneath his scarlet cloak
while he stood silent.
Was that right and good to do?
I wondered, and they said
even with his guts spilled out
and half chewed, even like that
he represented all they thought noble and fine.
But they couldn't explain why it wouldn't be better,
even for a Lacedaimonian,
to kill the fox.

And another:

Oedipus at Kolonos

Not only by a pointed instrument
does self-inflicted blindness empty eyes;
but by the flatness, dullness of the life
that presses forward on a tiresome road,
unbending and unsearching, neither left nor right
appealing to the senses. Not to find
what lies on every hand to be discovered,
tasted, savored honey-sweet or bitter,
must be in fact more terrible than dark,
more dreadful than to journey on by sound
and follow patterns made by sticks that tap
before, and conjure images of smooth round stones.

That's it for now.-- Nan