Stephen back, for the last time, to report on ATHENZZZ
MOTHERFUCKING STATE OF THE UNION - besides MOTHERFUCKING DIKEMBE MOTHERFUCKING MUTOMBO (cospiracy theory - 9/11 would've never happened if Dikembe Mutombo were there to block the planes) taking his spot on the dais, the obvious highlight of the night was Senor Bush Junior declaring "Ballarus" a dictatorship. Well, no shit that Belarus is a dictatorship, but what's the "Ballarus" he speaks of?
Why, it's Andrei Kirilenko! Balla Rus!
Ho ho ho I kill me...
ANYHOW, some matters of janitorial business on the REAL LUKASHENKO front.
Firstly, there are some videos we forgot to put onto this hoohah.
This gem right here is from the New Years celebration in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Slav Rock never misses a beat, or it only misses one, but we'll let them get away with that. We won't, however, excuse it of the royal suckiness. Set your speakers to "lame."
And the other video is here. This one's a treat from our last night in Albania, and our last night together, when Mike was playing with the rotating restaurant (I forget how, and there's no light in the video so all reminsce is pointless), and we are both totally dead Church-morning sober.
Back to business. ATHENS!
Well, no, not yet. In another Lukashenko subplot, there is the theory of the extra camera, hinted at way back earlier in our travels, in Bulgaria. Conspiracy theorists pored over documents, and therein I was unable to unpack my clothes and find the disposable camera I bought when I separated from Mike and Louise for a day to go hiking in the Rila Mountains and Monastery in eastern Bulgaria. Mike, Louise, and I visited them together (documented in this blog entry) but I went to the mountains the day before to score some outdoorsmanship, and purchased a camera at the Monastery gift shop. I took this same camera to Athens, so Athens was on the same roll with these hiking shots.
Now, not only am I an ass-hat photographer, but I'm even more fuckheaded when it comes to disposable cameras, which lack a proper preview viewfinder. And all my shitty photoskills are totally moot when the camera is manufactured in Bulgaria, well known for importing high-quality film products, and the camera develops such stunning, sharp photos as this:
Or, when the camera manages to superimpose some orange birthday-cakish thing over the mountain landscape:
Double Exposure time:
How about more Bulgarian mountains? You've seen already, but now they're fuzzy, for her pleasure.
OK, and here's some new territory for readers here: on my Steve alone-time hike, I went off the path a little bit in order to find some hidden mountainside hermitages, now abandoned. Or, at least abandoned by humans. Check out the blurry puppy. Dude was barky mcfuckface. I'd be barking too if my MONK MASTERS ABANDONED ME.
There were two hermitages - the Shrine of St. John, and St. Luke. St. Luke's was lower in the hills, and less impressive than John's, the place pictured above. Below here is Luke's, still abandoned and at the edge of a large cove.
Here's some more of the Shrine of St. John (Ivan in Bulgarian, but for some reason they always translate it into "John." Whatevs). The neat thing about St. John's - behind the actual shrine there is small cave where St. John Rilski ("Rilski" being where the name "Rila" comes from) lived. Dude is the patron saint of Bulgaria, and he looked something like this:
And he lived in that cave, now a shrine as well, hidden up in the mountains. Those white spots between the rocks are small notes, scrawled with prayers and stuffed into the cracks. There are hundreds in those tiny cave cracks. A close up, made illegible from the blurriness.
The cave was also - you guessed it - unlit, so I needed to set off the camera flash, thus taking pictures, in order to see my way through. The results:
After a night on the mountain (in a motel, with hot water, but I digress) I returned to the base of my expedition (Rila Monastery) where I was greeted with this motherfucking cat who WOULD NOT LEAVE ME BE and just wanted my salami sandwich. Asshole cat.
And monk dudes, shown taking cell phone pictures, and thusly demonstrating the reason they left those sucky boring hermitages without X-Boxes and vibrators. Yeah I said vibrators.
Fast forward about a month and a half and BOOM, I'm in Athens.
It wasn't so simple - you see, there was still an ALBANIA to leave. Bus ride from Tirana to Athens was, well, a bus ride in Albania. Mike covered this topic already, but busses in Albania not for pregnant women, or really anybody for that matter. Especially when the people around you are saying the bus driver is "even bad for our standards," and the legless dudes begging in the middle of the road even look scared. Or when bus driver's blaring ALBANIAN POP MUSIC (think: Borat theme music) while going 100 KPH down 180 degree mountain switches on gravel roads, and you made the BIG MISTAKE of sitting towards the front of the bus so you see firsthand the terror unfolding, and everyone else in the front of the busis grasping the seat in front of them with sweaty, sweaty palms. And yes, I've cleaned the sand out of my vagina. There's less there than you think.
So blah blah blah fun times at the border (involving being forced to open my bag, and then the bus driver picking my bag up and then throwing it at my back), and then I made it to Athens in 13 hours (bus from Tirana usually takes 17, FYI) and hung out with Johnny, an Albanian student I met on the bus and got no picture of. We arrived at Athens at 3 in the morning and drank coffee. He was studying architecture in London and was returning back to England for school. "When I return from London, I at first forget about my strange little country I call home, but then the power goes out, and the bus drivers drive like murderers, and I remember it all very quickly." Smart man - we drank coffee in the early morning darkness in downtown Athens, while he told me about the communist regime and all the charming things they did, like public hangings.
Johnny split, and I was left to my own devices for 16 hours. Why's that? My couchsurfing host wasn't able to meet me until late, so I checked my bags and proceeded to climb to the acropolis because I was in Athens and I guess in Athens what you're supposed to do is climb the acropolis and blah blah blah. Funny thing is, I forgot to take my camera. The other funny thing was rediscovering Americans, this rare species of human known for false pretenses, greasy food, and using the word "bro." I can get with that. Acropolis was a big white shell of a building. I talked to a guy from West Orange. The view was nice, the temple was boring, and afterwards I ate some roast eggplant and spicy cheese which was straight up delish, and wandered. Wandered. Wandered some more. Drank coffee. Wandered. Wandered. Drank coffee. Wandered. Drank coffee. I talked to some Albanians who showed me how fresh their meat was, and I was able to spot Americans in a market throng. I said "throng." Cool.
Some 9 hours later I met Anastasia and Harry and another friend whose NAME I FORGET BECAUSE I AM A BAD, BAD GUEST and I didn't sleep it his place anyhow. But, you know, it was cool. We snagged some hot chocolate - mine spiked with whiskey - and chatted about art stuff. They were all photographers, which you will see demonstrated, and we jetted to Anastasia's where we played music and I spilled red wine on her floor. I was to stay with her one night, Harry the next, because she had more CS guests coming the next day. You need a big pair of balls to host a force like me. You see this force?
So how big all those balls?
Word. Them's some balls. I'll let you guess which is Anastasia and which is Harry.
Harry and I explored Athens. Harry, a photographer, insisted upon taking some pictures, which I gladly let him do since he has an eye for those little things like you know composition and shit. Whatevers. I'm a fucking lion-eye motherfucker, and we Americans invented all good art, like the blues. But as Harry and this Asian child point out...
ONE NOTE ABOUT ATHENS - amazing record shopping town. If I weren't 1) broke and 2) carrying a filled backpack and 3) really fucking broke, I would have certainly left Athens stacked to my ass with vinyl. There are small shops all over, including this little treat in Manastraki, a hyper-touristy district. This alley is more or less stuffed with vinyl, mostly metal.
But surrounding this alley are tacky souvenir shops, shoe stores, and more shoe stores. It's in the shadow of the Acropolis, naturally, but Harry said this used to be an anarchist neighborhood before Brussels waved its magic wand. The metalheads are not ones for pan-European free markets and open borders, I guess.
HARRY AND THE MORMONS. Brothers are from UTAH, USA, and they were preaching in a language Harry called "shit greek shit."
MORMONZZZ - don't tell me you can't smell the closet fag on the pocket-polygamists. Write that on your spacesuit.
TO THE MOON!!!
Cassettes were hanging from one of three bars Harry and I went to. Dude was a DRINKER. I stole one of those cassettes but haven't listened to it yet. I hope that glitter can be conveyed through the speakers.
Harry's such a good photographer, he can SUPERIMPOSE HIS MOTHERFUCKING IMAGE ONTO WHATEVER HE TAKES. Surfing through the Astral plane, Hellas style.
PICZ, DRUNKZORZ, STEVE'S LAST NIGHT IN EUROPE!!!
So f'real, Athens was cool and I wish I could've dug up a whole shitload of stuff in Greece. Harry and Anastasia were awesome dudes, I had a slayfest night-out with Harry (let's say it involved three bars, stray dogs, and me walking into the wrong bathroom), and a creepy experience to boot:
My first night there, we took a cab to Anastasia's. Anastasia and Harry were describing the Greek cabbies, how they drive like maniacs but are fun dudes and about 10,000 in Athens and every one's a hoot. But then Harry starts to describe this ONE cabbie he had who had pictures of the saints wallpapering his ceiling and listened to fascist Christian radio. Harry got into a fight with the guy, calling him a bunch of names, and guy said he'd pray for his soul. And even though the saints literally lined ALL WALLS of the cab, there were bondage porn magazines in the backseat. Lots of bondage porn.
And so Harry finishes telling this story right as we step into the cab, and what's all over the ceiling of this cab? Pictures of the saints. And what was that in the backseat pocket? A magazine with such charms are electroshocked labias, pins-in-urethras, and your run of the mill clothespinned nipples. The cabbie looked had a military style haircut, and Harry and Anastasia looked like they had just seen their favorite stuffed animal shit on. Good times in Athens.
How good? I needed to protest to prove it - there was a MASSIVE protest my last day there, but I couldn't stay for it. The goverment was a making a move to privatize the Universities (that is, all Universities in Greece are fucking FREE as it is now, and Gianni Fed wants to change that). I did what I could before catching the metro to the airport for my flight. This is me, doing what I can.