Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Good Support is Hard to Find

Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest I’ve had no shortage of exposure to open-air markets.  Everything from the flying fish at the world renown Pike Place Market in Seattle, to the body odor and patchouli stank of the famous Saturday Market on Portland’s waterfront, and of course MY personal favorites- the local Farmers Markets.   These local markets are popping up everywhere, and you can buy anything from fresh produce, locally made wines, handmade soaps, organic dog treats, fresh cheeses, baked goods, and whole assortment of arts & crafts.  I am a big proponent of eating local and keeping revenue in one’s own community.   Ahhhh the sense of community, a sentiment that can consume me at times, especially on these crisp mornings at the market as I feel the weight of an over-complicated world sloughing off my shoulders.  Oh and don’t even get me started on the never-ending free samples for my insatiable appetite and stretched out stomach.  If I’m walking back with my tummy full, my puppy tired, and my reusable shopping bags crammed with purchases- it has definitely been a successful morning (and my inner-hippie beams with pride).

There is something primitive, grounding and energizing about an early morning stroll through a local market, and it has become almost a sacred ritual for me. This is true for me in the States, but also abroad as well.  Greece is no exception, and I’ve quickly grown quite fond of the weekend market near the old harbor in Chania.   One difference I’ve noted is the pace. Things are not as relaxed as the markets back home. In fact, it is one of the rare occasions you see native Greeks moving fast at all.   Greeks don’t seem to do anything with a sense of urgency (maybe their laziness contributes to the low crime rate??).  Perhaps their view of the market is unlike ours. For them, the markets are a competitive way of life, with much on the line- not just a trendy, self-righteous attempt to embrace sustainable living and to be environmentally friendly.

This weekend I entered the market from a different entrance than normal.  Typically I enter to a dizzying array of fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheeses, wines, honey, olives, fresh fish, and the like. However, from this entry point, I encountered textiles, clothes, dishes, and undergarments being sold like they were straight from the farmer’s field. I chuckled as I watched the women pick through the tables, and hold the bras and panties against themselves trying to decide if the size was right. Quickly, I cringed as I flashed back to my early years of bra shopping, when I would just grab bras I liked in the size I deemed would be the best fit.   As my thoughts rolled forward, later into my teen years, I recall my grandmother taking me bra shopping at Nordstrom. Here the floodgates of ta-ta support were opened before me!

It was in the Nordstrom’s Intimate Apparel department where I learned that there was a correct way one should be measured.  Now, I don’t think anyone actually enjoys being “fitted” for a bra, as it is rather embarrassing. You stand there, bare chested, while a stranger sizes you up (no pun intended).  You awkwardly ask yourself, “Umm, should I lift my head, square my shoulders, arch my back and proudly push my girls out in a pose… hold out a tip jar maybe, while trying to convince myself I’m only doing this to ‘pay for college.’ Or do I look down sheepishly, slouch my shoulders and pray to God this ends as quickly as possible without an accidental nipple graze?” Thank heavens the middle-aged woman at Nordstrom was more of a mother-type, and didn’t make the experience any more traumatic than necessary.  
Until this weekend, I was convinced that it was Victoria’s Secret who held the gold medal in the “Worst Place for a Bra Fitting” category.   Sure, you are drawn to the Pink VS stores because of the trendy lines, variety, and oh-my… the body products! (Yes, please!!)  Unfortunately, once inside you are usually forced to deal with the inept sales staff who are less interested in fitting someone correctly, than they are in who they are meeting for happy hour after their shift, or what they are going to buy with their employee discount (yeah, snatch, I know your boobs went from an “A” to a “D” when you strapped on that three inch memory foam this morning –who are you trying to kid?).   I once had a VS employee suggest I buy a different size because they were out of the size I needed! I shudder, knowing that if Ms. Nordstrom would have gotten wind of VS’s suggestion, her life might have prematurely ended in a measuring-tape-hanging-accident.

So here I am, standing in an explosion of bras in a humid Greek outdoor market, when I notice who is selling these wares. The man sitting behind the tables is dripping sweat, hairier than Sasquatch, and just happens to be wearing dirty pants and a wife-beater tank. It is more than I can bear.  I immediately promise myself I’ll become a braless, unshaven, patchouli-drenched hippie before I ever let a man whose breast are bigger than mine sell me such sacred vestments.   I knew I’d miss comforts of home, and those who know me can imagine how much I miss Nordy’s, but never in a million years would I have guessed I would find myself longing for the incompetent college drop outs at VS… and their misleading memory foam.

Here are a few more iPhone photos from the market

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Moon-Spinners

My best friend, Nicole, and I have had many mischievous adventures together over the past two decades.  We have never lacked reasons to play detective or sharpen our reconnaissance skills (referred to by some as stalking).   So when her mom made a trek down from France for a visit, it should have come as no surprise that she channeled her inner Nancy Drew and had the urge to play sleuth as well.

Our conversations of ancient Greek mythology, Venetian architecture, biblical history, and infamous WWII battles, soon led to movies and TV shows filmed in the area.    Being a Disney buff, she knew the 1964 movie The Moon-Spinners was filmed on the island of Crete.   I had never seen the movie nor had I read the preceding Mary Stewart suspense novel on which it was based, but I’m a sucker for a challenge. Plus, I had watched Pollyanna and Parent Trap religiously as a child (clearly there was no cable in my house growing up) and I couldn’t imagine the movie that made everyone fall in love with Hayley Mills could be a complete disappointment.  Having names like Walt Disney and Eli Wallach attached to the movie didn’t hurt either.  Terri and I found ourselves spending a morning scouring over blogs, forums, and web-pages in search for any information we could find concerning the exact location of various scenes and seeing if we could match it up to a location on our map.   This proved to be difficult as we ran into a shortage of available information on the filming sites. This could be because the movie was filmed almost 50 years ago, and a contributing factor might be that the movie was never a box office hit. Luckily, we caught a major break when we stumbled across a blog posting by a guy from Tennessee named Jerry Maloy

Jerry had an advantage. For one, he had actually seen the movie, but also he had spent quite a bit of time researching prior to his visit to the Eastern coastline of Crete. His hard work paid off, and arrived in Greece with the movie’s shooting schedule in hand, thanks to a favor from the Walt Disney Archives staff. To give credit where credit is due, Jerry’s enthusiasm and hard work were pivotal in our journey’s inspiration and success.

Armed with a map and anticipation that would rival that of a treasure hunter we set out on the 2 ½ hour drive along the coastline of Crete towards Agios Nikolaos. Thanks to our new BFF Jerry, we knew for certain that Walt Disney himself, and the cast and crew stayed in Agios Nikolaos at the Minos Beach Art Hotel while filming.  We stopped by this hotel, and the gracious staff gladly pointed us to a table with several leather-bound guest books dating all the way back to the 60s.  Just a handful of pages into the very first book lay the signature of Walt Disney himself, and a few pages later a signature and inscription from Hayley Mills as well. 

Just a few kilometers outside of Aghios Nikolaos is the charming town of Elounda, where the majority of the movie was filmed.   The site of the Moon-Spinners Inn is now the Vritomartes Taverna, and after watching the movie I can tell you it, to this day, very much resembles the Inn.   While in Elounda we stopped for a smoothie and showed the waiter a picture of the three windmills from the opening credits.  He smiled and said something in Greek while motioning towards the sky, then in broken English said, “Moon Spinner.”  Ahhh, “yes!” we exclaimed and asked him if he knew where they were located.   He pointed us towards the east, we walked about a mile and… there they were, we beheld what is left of the remaining windmills.

Below are some photos of the locations we found from the 1964 movie, The Moon-Spinners.

The Shower is Dirty but the Ceiling is Bleached

Living alone can have its advantages.  Sometimes it’s nice to be able to be 100% selfish, lazy, or goofy ridiculous without any witnesses.     I certainly do not object to complete control of the bed, television, music, and how things are stored and decorated.   It is also rather enjoyable to lie on the couch eating peanut butter and chocolate chips directly out of the jar while watching back-to-back Friends reruns in my sweatpants without any fear of being judged. But who am I trying to fool? I’d do those things no matter who’s around, and to be honest, not even Al Qaeda moving in with automatic weapons and a hijab could stop me.

Just as living alone has its “pros” list, it very much has an equally compelling “cons” list.  

Case and point: 4:57am.

My alarm was blaring. It had been sounding its fury for a few minutes and I was just starting to enter stage three of my daily wake up ritual. Stage one is, “Why does my awesome dream have a siren sounding randomly out of the blue?” Stage two is flat out denial. As I am dragged into stage three, referred to as “coherence”, I have found I must immediately turn on a light or the television- anything to stimulate my brain and prevent the dreaded, “how did I fall asleep again?”  In these instances I rely on the trusty inner panic of, “Oh sh**, I’m going to be late if I don’t get out of bed now!”  My final fail safe is the slap of a paw across the face as my dog gets irritated by the alarm racket I’m soundly sleeping through.  

On this particular morning, “coherence” quickly met “panic.” Not the panic of, “What time is it? Am I late again?” Rather it was a more sinister panic that gripped my heart like a vice and refused to let go. I had flailed to turn on a lamp, struggled to open my eyes, only to be rewarded with horror. The first sight my brain registered was enough to turn my stomach into an Olympic gymnastics vault…

A large ominous silhouette was spookily cast across my ceiling.   I would have given anything for it to be Peter Pan’s missing shadow, but alas, this dark devil belonged to a giant evil bug. An intruder. A monster of the night. A stealthy stocker no doubt attempting to turn me into prey. This particular insect/beast of terror was a specimen I had never encountered before. It was a species with, in my estimate, about 18,000 legs. 18,000 too many I might add.  Beyond the sheer horror of the leg count, I recall that it was the fiery reddish/orange/iridescent creepiness that launched me from my bed onto the floor. Great way to start the day, I know! Making matters worse, I smashed my knee into the corner of my nightstand on the way down. Word to the wise- when attempting to escape with your life, a painful knee injury never helps.

As I cowered on the floor, it occurred to me that bugs inside are like evil b*tchy girls (or the stereotypical church women); they are the most dangerous when you turn your back on them and walk away. What to do? What to do? What to do?   I determined that it was far too risky to try and kill it while it was still on my ceiling. So much could go wrong.  It wasn’t hard to envision 80,000 little loathsome legs descending onto my face, and feasting on my eyeballs before crawling up my nose and taking over my brain. (I’ve never lacked for an imagination, but it was working against me here.) Another risk I could not afford to take was that the little demon would drop onto my bed and somehow become lost in the sheets, or worse- escape altogether.

I decided the best approach would be to spray it with pesticides. Poison, yes, such a helpful friend! Then, once the evil insect dropped from the ceiling I would beat any remaining life out of it with my weapon of choice- a nearby Nike running shoe.  My dilemma was finding the bug spray before the villain retreated to attack another day, or worse- multiply. Realizing I couldn’t watch it and gather my arsenal at the same time, I quickly sprinted towards the garage as fast as my two legs could move me (by the way, it is totally unfair to be at a 17,998 leg disadvantage).  Arriving in the garage in a huff, my heart sunk as I discovered my trusty stock of pesticides and bug killer was empty.  What are the odds?  I usually rank these items as top priority essentials on my shopping lists, far above optional luxuries like toilet paper and laundry soap. The only bottle I could find was KaBoom, a shower cleaning spray.  I had zero interest in polishing the heinous creature up and sending it on its way with a shine, but I figured KaBoom had to be fairly toxic. My experiences in scrubbing with this chemical warhead in a spray bottle had always left my eyes burning for hours. It would have to do!

Desperately wishing I had paid better attention in Physics, I tried to determine how much liquid force would be required to catapult the glowing attack bug from my ceiling, safely past the bed, down onto the floor where I could instantly crush it to its final death.  My fear of the 2 ½ inch monster dropping onto my bed almost left me paralyzed. This nightmare scenario was definitely keeping me from acting too hastily.  What were my options? What was I dealing with?

Growing concerned that this unidentified creepy crawler might possess some sort of superpower (or Go-Go-Gadget talons), I thought it would be wise if I did a little research on my new-found foe.  Grabbing my computer, I typed a description into the search window. This did not help matters. My search brought up a host of horrible identities and factoids, options worse than even my overactive mind could produce.  Concluding that whoever said, “knowledge is power” was gravely mistaken, I decided to celebrate raw violence and return to my previous plan.

Showing the nimbleness of a ninja warrior, I strategically aligned myself for the perfect shot: deftly placing one foot on my windowsill and the other on my footboard. Why all the effort you ask. Simple, I had to be high enough to ensure that the force of the spray would effectively project the repulsive rascal across my very off-limits bed and down to the ground. This was a key element to my freedom fighting plot.

Sighting in my target, I pulled the trigger and began to spray the ceiling with a Rambo worthy battle cry.  However, much to my dismay it darted behind my light fixture… The bastard! No worries, this only momentarily foiled my assault.  I quickly repositioned to the top of my dresser and fired off a few more well-placed sprays. This had the desired result. I gleefully watched thousands of legs squirming in the air as it did a movie-quality slow motion fall from the heavens. A nano-second after it made contact with the ground, whatever remaining life it had was quickly (and brutally) extinguished with a swift blow. The last thing my vile assailant saw was a giant Swoosh descending down on it with the force of a sledge hammer.

Sure, my duvet cover is bleached, I’m most likely going blind, and that bug’s eerie purple insides are grounded into my (new) carpet- but hey… I’m wide awake.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Road Less Traveled...Beautiful Balos Beach

Balos beach is a must see if you ever have the opportunity to visit the Greek island of Crete.   Balos is located on the northwest tip of Crete, along the Gramvoussa peninsula.  Many travel books and websites discourage driving to Balos, and recommend taking one of the many small boats or ferries to Balos/Gramvoussa instead (departing from Kissamos).   Regardless, the drive is very doable if you are patient and take your time.  The road is very steep, bumpy and unpaved the entire stretch once you pass the entrance.   But he coastline views along the way are breathtaking!!  The hillsides are covered in thyme, wildflowers, oregano, wooden beehive boxes, goats and no shortage of dust!   The drive takes around 30-40 minutes.

The sign above totally lies!!! It is a solid 30-40 minute walk and it is not for the faint of heart or anyone with an injury or medical condition.  

The view you have while hiking is awesome!!  The lagoon is visible for about half of the hike and will beg you to take its picture time and time again as you walk.

Umbrellas and two chairs are 7 euros for the day.  There is a snack bar and taverna on the beach but nothing else.   The big ferries arrive mid afternoon and the crowds descend like herds of cattle.   If you drive, you have the luxury of enjoying the beach for hours without anyone else around - fabulous!