Friday, September 18, 2009

Can I Go Back Please?

I used to think that a two week vacation was a luxury of the highest order and, at the end of it, I was always ready to hit the ground running. Am I aging? For whatever reason, I can't seem to get it together since we've gotten back from Greece. I could have stayed much longer if my burgeoning tummy could have taken any more feta cheese!
There's a glorious freedom in going to bed without any pressure about what's happening the next morning. Eat dinner at 10 with the locals? No problem. Sleep til 10 and then read in bed. Perfetto! I even hesitated to book a day trip to Delphi just because I didn't want a wake up call at 7. (glad I didn't cave in to that)

More than the issue of rest though, is the growing unease, a sense that I don't really belong in this country anymore. The respite from the news, the deliberate avoidance of newspapers while in Athens worked for a while but Don kept teasing me with his iphone and sure enough, one evening as we sipped our wine on the balcony of our villa overlooking the bay at Heronissos he took a quick peek at the headlines. That was the day that our illustrious educators had decided that it would be detrimental to our kids to let them hear the president of the United States tell them to get ahead in school, follow their dreams and excel. Wow, subversive! I simply hung my head and cried.

We met a lovely duo, two women from Birmingham, England, with whom we felt a kinship on many levels and had some delightful talks with. They asked us, ever so politely, "what's wrong with you Americans?" We had no answers. Now Don's just come in to tell me that Nancy Pelosi broke down in an interview yesterday about the vitriol that's being spewed in the right wing media. I went online to see how she handled it and what she said was absolutely so correct. Who knows what kind of unbalanced people are out there just waiting for the right moment to do violence.

This brings me to the books that Library Journal sent for me to take on vacation. Two books and two reviews. I was feeling the pressure. As you know, I can't say too much until the reviews are published but I'll just mention that one of the books was ok, well written but peopled with characters I didn't like enough to spend vacation time with. The other - oh! Go right out and get yourself on the wait list for Barbara Kingsolver's latest - first novel in 9 years - The Lacuna. I couldn't put it down. Fair warning, her politics are as left wing as mine. She may actually be a little more hopeful though.

I finished Jeffrey Deaver's The Bodies Left Behind, one of the best cat and mouse games I've ever read - I mean, listened to. Whew! This is a stand alone, not one of his Lincoln Rime books. It begins with a bang and doesn't let up and introduces one of the pluckiest, toughest new heroines I've met in a long time. One wonders, if put in a similar situation, outrunning two gunmen in a state forest at night, how much of our Girl Scout training we'd remember and utilize. Brin McKenzie did it all. See if you can guess who the real bad guy is!

I'm also listening to Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Angel's Game, a prequel to the well loved Shadow of the Wind, which I had the distinct pleasure to read while in Barcelona two years ago. Much of the action takes place on and about the Ramblas and it reminds me of our time in Athens and how similar the Plaka area of that city is. Don and I would stroll out for supper around 9pm and after a carafe of the local wine - never buy special - and a youvetzi or moussaka, we'd walk hand in hand smiling at everyone. No Greek? No problem. We made lots of friends. Can you think of any American city at all - maybe Miami? - where everyone goes out after dinner just to stroll the streets, peer in trinket shops, pick up fresh flowers or a baguette for breakfast?

It's such a different life. In Italy it's called the "passagiata" and it happens every evening. School? Doesn't seem to matter. Fathers and kids work the corners selling their wares to tourists, friends greet eachother and every conversation sounds like an argument with the gesticulating hands and loud voices. But don't you dare expect to buy anything at 3 in the afternoon. Except for the restaurants, all is closed and the siesta is still sacrosanct. No wonder Europeans have a greater life expectancy!! Not to mention health care - but that's another story.

I'll see if I can load a few pictures here in the next couple of days. You'd think I'd be better at this by now, wouldn't you?

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