Sunday, February 19, 2006

Progressive Souvlaki No1

Just left Athens after spending two days with my buddy Dio. He's a drummer in a number of bands in Athens and in my opinion is a star on the rise. Dio has the same birthday as me which when coupled with being a musician too makes him the closest psychological double I've got. That means unsuccessful phone calls but when we are together we can talk/play day and's a beautiful thing and I secretly try to plant Manchester in his mind more and more to get him over here. He tells me even though the Scene is Athens is shit he still wants to change it and own the city - I can't blame him for feeling that way.

Dio explained to me the pisser of National Service in Greece when it comes to bands forming and staying alive. Dio tells me that he has been in many bands where the drummer is called up one year and then the guitarist the next. It's a nightmare. the minimum to do is a year but you can do more if you're that way inclined or if you've misbehaved. Men tend to do it after school or further education and in the very rare cases when you are much older - nobody escapes it. As Greece is in the middle of East and West you can see why they are paranoid about invaders and foreigners ....xenophobos.

The Greek Language, like French, has male and female nouns. Like the French the Greeks classify brassieres as a male word - I checked. I asked a few Greek friends what do they do when a new word is invented? How did they decide whether a computer was male or female? What about dumptrucks and polystyrene? Is there a national debate held and each sex makes their pitch for the noun? English came after Greek and Latin/Roman at luckily it could chop out some of the madness involved in the development of language. A chance to ponder on the nature of the tool a little....Most English speaking Greeks will repeatedly point out English words you speak and mention that it comes from a Greek does my head in to be final feeling is "yes well done but in 100 years Greek will be gone". English won - change your national language to Cantonese if you feel anti-British. You don't hear the Indians banging on about inventing mathematics all the time....erm...actually you do.

We go out and it's around midnight. We walk past an old man playing clarinet in the upstairs reception of a funeral parlour at midnight. It's weird. Dio tells me that he always does this and he's a local feature. I wonder if funeral directors should have two rooms - the music and the silent room. They could allow trumpeters and other instrumentalists to come in and play over the hushed dead. I'd want to be in that room if I popped my clogs. No metal though - might end up in a comedic third reach of hell.

We arrive at his mate Kostas' who is pouring out a drink. Kostas had just moved to work in a bank a couple of months ago and when we turn up he tells us the bank was held up today with three guys in balaclavas with guns. When I asked him what nationality the bank robbers were from their voice he tells me that although they spoke good greek they didn't say 'Malaka' or 'Malachia' once. Malaka is the greek equivalent of 'motherfucker' - a sort of psuedo cool punctuation in speaking and is used by men all the time. Like motherfucker it can be a bad or good word depending on context. If you only know one Greek word in a pub or club and it's 'malaka' then you'll probably understand a third of what was said all night. Kostas' boss gave him seven bottles of booze as compensation for the stress of the raid. He didn't seem stressed to me. Kostas says the raid took 1m30s to complete and the police came in 2m30s.We go out on his covered balcony looking over the city...he has a set of fantastical figures sitting on a table battlefield with burnt out vehicles and man-monsters. He's old enough to know this is arkward but I set him at ease by being interested....which I kind of am...

We get drunk and check out some live bands. The saxophone guy is good but the rest aren't so hot. Lots of English songs. I watch Dio play along to all the drummers all night and realist that his natural place is behind the kit - anything else makes him itchy.

Cities make your eye lazy - so many walls in the way means the eye muscles get no excercise of looking at the hidden horizon. My time on Naxos island has came to an end and I suppose I think of what I like about it. The long views and being able to know what weather is coming by simply checking the sky and the wind direction. Fresh fish and simple good food. Being able to find your own private stretch of coast day or night. Being miles from civilization and being able to tear about the winding roads on a crappy moped. I didn't say people there did I? The Straw Dogs/Dogville nature of islands and remote places is something that I wont miss. I much preferred Athenian Greeks to those on the island. There you go.

Greece is a funny one. She wants me to be in awe of her but I'm not. The cultural insistence on shouting about the past all the time means that the only sound in the present is echoes. It's all about today. Not to end on a bad note...and of course you can't be with a girl that long and not feel something for her and of course I do - I love Greece as much as I hate her. It's unfinished business and I suppose I want her to be in awe of me.....that's romance for you - it's grizzly and sweet.


What is Souvlaki? Souvlaki is the traditional take away food of Greece - the equivalent of fish and chips or a taco. It's a small pita bread brushed with oil, heated and then filled with pork, tomato, tatsiki and salad's cheap and normally 1.50Euro's (a quid) - most men buy two... The guy that makes them when he fills it does a final twist and it turns into a meat cornet of sorts. Souvlaki rocks.

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