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Nick Tselepides

Impressions of Athens, June 2nd, 2004

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Cafe1.jpg

Yesterday, I had to run to a Ministry of Education Bureau to apply for the teaching hours I want for next year in a new school. Finished in 15 minutes with the red-tape and went across the street to the very old cafe opposite Athens City Hall. Cheapest cafe in the square, and the most interesting as the customers come from all walks of life, mostly old Athenians from working classes, many retired old men wearing short-sleeve shirts and well-shaven, some younger men and passers-by who stop for a refreshment in the heat of the day. The other day, I noticed a thief at this same cafe, sitting next table, about 35 or so, who had had bunches of stolen watches, rings, and bracelets wrapped in yellow kitchen-roll paper and kept taking them out from deep in his jeans pocket and resorting them by smaller groups into pieces of tissue paper, 5-6 per group, and redistributing them in other jeans pockets, each time having to stand up to put them deep in one pocket. Ordered his coffee in a loud voice and paid it.

Yesterday, same cafe, father and daughter, cute girl of about ten, and Greek worker next table

engaged in conversation about everything. Across from them, 3 retired men, 60-70, each at his own

table, new shoes, paper to read forgotten folded on the seat, neat-looking, enjoying their free time after who knows how many years of work. At the next-door cafe, double-price compared to this for coffee, beer and the rest, 6-foot tall lanky Greek blonde girl, about 27, hair done in a bun, orange top with thin straps under which the nylon straps of her bra showed (cannot ever align them properly so that the top strap covers the bra strap), black pants ending 20cm above ankle, make-up, coming and going with the orders, and stirring desire in all men customers. For 20 years I have resisted

sitting in that cafe--today I came close to sitting there just to talk to her and see her eyes up-close, hear her voice, see if it all fits the image.

The classical aesthetic: visual contact with the object creates the desire to have the object,

consume it, or be part of it—true in the time of Plato, still true everywhere today—the basis of all classical art and sculpture too.

Humanity going by--Egyptian, Russian-Greek, Arab workers. Women in pairs. Suddenly a beauty I

had noticed in the ministry walked past, having also finished with red tape there. Gazelle-like, with a light gait, looks as if she would crumble and melt if touched lightly. Why do women always shake up men? The Chinese lesson: A young man looking at a girl is like an old man looking at his flowers.

Characters. Pensioners: Old man with straw hat, short-sleeve shirt, worrybeads, trimmed

moustache. Arab in white beard and Arab head-dress and in Sunday boubou robe, white with

knitted ornamental lace, sitting with younger men in normal clothes.

Isolated 40-year-old Greek, red-haired, so neat-looking in American-style clothes he looks a misfit here. Suddenly, three “business executives’ walk past, all wearing beige jacket and tie, grey pants, one holding paper dossier, robot-like walk and mind probably. A BMW motorcycle, black and large, with a tall and slim Greek woman on it, long black hair down to her elbows, enters the street and leaves it as suddenly—the girl looking like an Amazon riding a wild horse, and worried, as if she was looking for someone who had not turned up

Thirty minutes later. Red tape again—at the Cultural Section of the City Hall, I get a piece of paper stating the documents one has to present to get married outside the church,--civil marriage—for our daughter. Walking out, I stumble again on the gazelle I saw at the Ministry and at the café later. Same gait, this time she is drinking water off a plastic bottle. The natural thirst of the body. Whose

body.

 

In the metro I notice that there are four policemen, armed to the teeth and wearing bullet-proof jackets, at every station. Yesterday they announced the security measures for the Olympics go into effect. Today, with all the cops, not a single immigrant is to be seen walking in Athens. Their papers expired the 30th of June, today 2nd of June. Those beaten by the crazy red tape are in hiding. Stopped, they put them in cells with 20 people each—men and women apart—and at 3 o’clock in the morning a van pulls up by the jail and an enterprising Greek sells plastic bags full of food for breakfast, carried to the cells of the girls by other girls, usually Russian,Moldavian,Bellorussian,Ukrainian, Romanian and Albanian prostitutes working the bars of the local area, while he waits for them to come back down and drive them to the bars and collect his money for the food. I saw all this one night when I had to drive at midnight last Saturday night and pick up a Russian girlfriend of my wife who had been taken there by mistake as she had forgotten her papers at home. Talked to the guard downstairs for 2 hours while they waited for her security clearance, and then released her. He provided a lot of this information I knew nothing about.

 

As long as there is human misery, someone will always make money out of it---from politicians to lawyers to street peddlers like this one. The girls in these jails are not penal cases—they are just without a permit to stay and are awaiting deportation, the Greek state feeds them three good meals a day, but they buy de-luxe extras for breakfast, French croissants, German fruit juices, Spanish cakes and candies, Italian industrial cakes and other related imported poisons. As someone said in a book, prostitutes and plumbers in the U.S. make more than 100$ an hour while others sweat for 5 times less for 8 hours. Same here. When on the 1st of May Poland joined the European Union, all Polish girls and men in these “temporary detainment” jails were released in one hour, as they had become citizens and needed no permits or papers but their passport. No one brought breakfast food for the detained men...

 

The painting gives you an idea of the cafe...

 

Maybe stop here, and wish all the American friends reading this a happy 4th of July.

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Hi Nick

 

Thank you for the 4th of July greeting, and your "painting of words", plus the wonderful painting itself!

 

Pete

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Nice painting Nick!

 

Happy 4th of July! :D

 

Here's a Photoshop I made to commerate the occassion...it's dedicated to the men and women of our armed forces who safegaurd our freedom and way of life. God bless us all! :)

 

july4.jpg

 

Size is 1024x768 so you can use it as wallpaper if you like. :)

Edited by Falcon Six Two

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