One of the things I was looking forward to most when it came to my Greece trip was something that was happening before my trip— my dad’s visit to Essex! I’ve lived in this town for 9 years now and have built quite the community around not only my business, but also a community of friends (who are better known as family at this point). Although there have been small encounters of my actually family and my Essex family, it was important to me that my dad spend some quality time on the Island of Misfit Toys to truly understand what being a part of Essex is like.
When my dad arrived, we walked down Main Street. A lot came back to him. He and my mom lived in Deep River about a million years ago, and it was in Essex where they brought my oldest sister into a bar (what currently is the River Museum and what used to be a saloon- — the name escapes me). They brought Kathleen into this bar and a couple said to them, “Who brings a baby into the bar?” and that quote has lived with us for 40+ years and is stated at the most inappropriate times possible.
My dad came into town at a perfect time to be able to meet just about everyone — on a Sunday afternoon in April. This means that the Frostbite sailors who just spent the last 4 hours on the cold water were ready for their afternoon beverage and the locals who didn’t sail (or pretended they did) also showed up at the same time.
It was a whirwind of “hellos,” “nice to meet you,” “This is my dad!” or (from the locals) “We try our best to keep her out of trouble.” LOL. My dad even got caught up with the current events from the previous Friday where I showed my true Irish colors that resemble the same tone as one might see in Jameson whiskey.
And of course, after meeting all the local folks it was time for him to spend some time with my number one girl: Pixel. Yes, they have met, but they haven’t bonded and yes, it’s a dog, but this was very important to me. As I packed in the other room from them I heard whispers of “Good dog,” “Come here,” “Who’s a good puppy?” and I even caught the two of them snuggling with their eyes closed on my couch. THAT, my friend, is what I call peace. The number one man in my life meets my number one girl and all is well.
The next morning we got up, got going and went to Boston. The plane ride was a breeze and get this –- I had the seat next to me OPEN! Open for me to sleep, play, eat,read, lounge or whatever activities I wanted to do! Isn’t it funny that in a world where we all crave land, property, or whatever else you want to call what the bank owns, a place of our own and you give me an extra plane seat next to me that took up about 3 square feet and I feel like the queen of the universe.
When I got to Athens I had a driver there ready for me because my friend from Essex, Kykos, spends a great deal of time in Greece with his family and he hooked a sister up! The driver was so sweet and told me in his broken English that the photo he had of me in order to find me at the airport “did not have blue hair color in it.” We drove for about 30 minutes to the place I booked on AirBnB ( AirBnB is a place where people rent out their houses, studios or apartments to travelers) and every half mile that passed by in those last ten minutes, I kept saying to myself- please don’t stop here, or here, or here and when we arrived I think the exact words in my mind were- DEFINITELY not here! And that’s where the car stopped. I wish someone had a photo of my face because I could see the driver’s reaction to my face and I thought wow – one of us is really nervous. Well, it wasn’t him. I said, “Is this area ok,” and he assured me it was.
I met the owner of the apartment I rented and he couldn’t have been nicer, but the building was crumbling, there were no lights in the hallway and a night’s’ stay in the hotel of The Shining would have been a warm welcome compared to where I was. Oh, the power of photography- — the online listing was like a match.com date that looked nothing like their profile photo and then you sit through the first 5 minutes of the date trying to figure out how to get out of it. However, I did trust my driver and I allowed myself to be uncomfortable but confident (a tough balance!) .
I spent that afternoon getting lost, very lost, in Athens. When it comes to directions I’m like the husband you never wanted: I will get lost and lost some more before I ever ask for directions in a foreign country. To me, it’s like a game and asking for directions is simply cheating. Here is what I will say about the Athens: It is in shambles. It’s falling apart at the seams, and then some. What you read online or see in the news doesn’t compare to the city I saw that day. Police in riot gear, graffiti everywhere, trash everywhere, buildings crumbling from the top down, BUT there was an authentic energy. Usually when I visit a new city I put my headphones on, walk, and take in the feeling the city gives me. Athens made it clear to me that it was hurting, it expressed its sadness to mein a very deep way, but it also reminded me that as bad as things were, its core was a stunning, historical, genuine, beautiful city. It’s like meeting someone who was once sober and then became a drunk or a drug addict. You knew, deep down- and also still somehow within them, the good, the real, the genuine was there, but right now it had a facade of depression, sadness and fear.
Not once while I walked for hours on end did anyone beg for money, or for a sale of their goods or make me feel uncomfortable in any way. I did have my headphones on at first until I realized Athens had it’s own music. Although it may have been faint, it was there. And the more I allowed myself to hear it, the louder it got. And it made me realize that sometimes you have to stop and listen to what’s surrounding you and understand you are finally hearing what you wanted and seeing what you were looking for in the first place. Sometimes we look too hard or listen too closely to realize the sound and sights we are trying to find are right in front of us. We don’t even have to search, we just have to listen and look.
Todays blog post is brought to you by this song- https://youtu.be/SFsHSHE-iJQ
Below is a photo from my room, Pixel’s greek boyfriend, a random cat eating out of a cat food bag that someone left for her and some of the beautiful art work on the streets of Athens.