Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Athens Street Style Day 1

Challenge: stay cool and covered in a windy 90 degree day in Athens.



Shoes: Target
Dress: Target
Sun Hat: Nine West
Shawl: vintage
Bag: from a subway station shop in Tokyo


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Cafe Profile: Taf in Athens

Welcome to Cafe Taf

Athens can be draining. Crowds, cars, congestion.
That's when you duck into Cafe Taf.
Sit inside to avoid the cigarette smoke (Greek smoke like the 80s).
Take a seat and a friendly server will hand you a menu and take your order. 

The cafe's modern design make me feel like it could be in any country in the world. I love this look. It makes me nostalgic for nowhere and everywhere. The coffee too, is world-class. I was impressed with both the latte and the mocha. Most Greek cafes tend to have very sugary or very strong coffee but Taf keeps it real. 

I would chill here any day in Athens. 


These guys are pros


A latte and a mocha

Menus at Taf

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My favorite Pizza in the world is in Greece




Although I ate some amazing food in Greece, both in home-cooked meals and restaurants throughout Athens and my little island, my favorite restaurant of all is Filoti Pizza in Agio Kyrikos, the capital of Ikaria island.

I remember this restaurant from when I was thirteen years old. I remember the stringiness of the cheese. I remember climbing up three flights of stairs to the restaurant. I remember that when you pull a slice away from the pizza the cheese stretches to infinite lengths.

It is the saltiest cheese I have ever tasted but the best. The tomato sauce is made form the freshest Ikarian tomatoes. The dough is soft inside and crispy on the outside, and if you order a large pizza, there is even a tiny ball of dough in the middle, something I have never seen on a pizza anywhere else.

If you don’t want to eat at the restaurant, order for delivery and a girl on a motorcycle will bring it to your door.


This is the best pizza in the whole world.



Friday, March 17, 2017

Tulsa Cafe Guide

When I found out that the annual SIETAR conference would be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma I almost didn’t go. Tulsa, as a place held no particular fascination for me, but once I made up my mind to go, I was determined to find something redeemable about this little city. Turns out, I didn’t have to look very hard. Tulsa was a happening place! I found over eight cafes I wanted to visit and I made it to six. 

In chronological order....

All About Cha
All About Cha. I had seen it from the windows of the shuttle and was impressed by both its size and aesthetic. Something about it reminds me of the cafes in Malaysia. Maybe it’s the spacious interior, or the views of the road from commanding glass windows, or the couch seating. I felt like a foreigner when I first entered. I ordered the goguma green tea latte, which is made from sweet potato and green tea. It was exactly what I wanted. Sweet potato that I have not had since Japan, and the hint of green tea gave it the warmest flavor. I also ate a Korean bento box with bulgogi. A couple western modifications to it included the iceberg lettuce salad, cantaloupe-grape-pineapple fruit pairings, and heresy chocolate.



The Phoenix
Here was another café I made it to in my first night in Tulsa. I liked the Phoenix for its totally different vibe.  The counter was cleverly made from old books. There were hand drawings on the wall. The menu was inconspicuously drawn on a side wall. I ordered a drink called “The Pearl” which was a shot of espresso with condensed milk. I had to stir it for a ling time to get it to mix, but once it did it was wonderful. I liked working at the Phoenix because the music was barely noticeable, and the table and chair were their proper height for one another.




Topeca
Topeca is probably the most famous coffee chain in Tulsa, but it was my least favorite. My lattes were unmemorable and nothing on the menu was unique or appealing. They used Monin syrup instead of homemade syrup, and I was generally not impressed by the atmosphere which felt a little to commercial.



Hodges's Bar
Hodges's is listed as a cafe, and truth be told they do serve coffee, but it's really more of a bar. I went there late on the night after the presidential election results were  announces to nurse my drunken stupor. I wanted to order coffee, but the bar atmosphere steered me towards alcohol. So I compromised - Russian Tea - basically tea with vodka. 


Coffee House on Cherry Street
My favorite café, and perhaps my favorite place to be in all of Tulsa. It wasn’t the ambiance or even the delicious Drunken Chimpunk latte I ordered (which is espresso, vanilla, milk, irish cream, and hazelnut). It’s the people. This is where the young and hip of Tulsa hang out. Finally I found them. I really liked the vibes at this café. The music was upbeat, none of the chairs match, everyone looks like they have something cool to do.




Foolish Things
This is the most Portland-esque of all cafes with a very industrial feel to the space just outside of downtown. I ordered a Fall Spice latte which was the perfect texture. The spice was also a festive blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, and others.



Didn’t make it to:

Shades of Brown (too far from where I was staying in downtown)
Doubleshot (too tired to get up early that morning)


Monday, March 13, 2017

Reading Greece through The Colossus of Maroussi




"It was more than a Greek atmosphere – it was poetic and of no time or place actually known to man." 

- The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller, page 24



Some years ago I went through a Henry Miller phase. I just had to read the Tropic of Cancer and just about everything the library would lend me. 

The Colossus of Maroussi was the third book of Miller's that I read. Despite being commercially unpopular it was his (and my) favorite work. As typical of Miller, he wrote in a combination of memoir and fiction, blurring lines between reality and fantasy. Much of the book was inspired by Miller's 1939 trip to Athens and island of Corfu, where his friend and fellow writer Lawrence Durrell lived. 

The below excerpts are some of my favorite quotes from the book, phrases that evoke images of Greece to me, even though almost eighty years have passed since Miller's visit. 




"I am glad I arrived in Athens during that incredible heat wave, glad I saw it under the worst conditions. I felt the naked strength of the people, their purity, their nobility, the resignation." 
- The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller, page 12








"Here and there, where the vaporish clouds have rolled a part to reveal a clump of trees or a bare, jagged fang-like snag of rocks, the reverberations of their haunting melody saying out like a choir of brass in an orchestra. Now and then a great blue area of sea rose out of the fog, not at the level of the earth but in some middle room between heaven and earth, as though after a typhoon." 
- The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller, Page 20








"It is something of a phenomenon, the city of Athens. It is still in the throes of birth: it is awkward, confused, clumsy, unsure of itself; it has all the diseases of childhood and some of the melancholy and desolation of adolescence." 
- The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller, Page 44








"We sat on deck watching the sinking sun. It was one of those biblical sunset in which man is completely absent. Nature simply opens her bloody, insatiable maw and swallows everything in sight. Law, order, morality, justice, wisdom, any abstraction seems like a cool joke perpetuated on a helpless world of idiots. Sunset at sea for me is a dread spectacle: it is hideous, murderous, soulless. The earth may be cool but the sea is heartless. There is absolutely no place of refuge; they're only the elements and the elements are treacherous." 
-The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller, Page 69









"There is no trace of ugliness here, either in line, color, form, feature or sentiment. It is sheer perfection, as in Mozart's music." 
-The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller, Page 76






"In Greece one has the conviction that genius is the norm, not mediocrity." 
- The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller, Page 83








"In Greece the changes are sharp, almost painful. In some places you can pass through all the changes of 50 centuries in the space of five minutes."
- The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller, Page 146







"I see the miniature islands floating above the surface of the sea, ringed with dazzling white vans; I see the Eagles swooping out from the dizzy crags of inaccessible mountain tops, there somber shadows slowly staining the bright carpet of earth below; I see the figures of solitary man trailing their flocks over the naked spine of the hills and the fleece of their beasts all golden fuzz as in the days of legend; I see the women gathered at the Wells amidst the olive groves, their address, their manners, they're talking no different now than in biblical times; I see the grand Patriarchal figure of the priest, the perfect blend of male and female, his countenance Serena, Frank, full of peace and dignity; I see the geometrical patterns of nature expanded by the earth itself in a silence which is deafening. The Greek earth opens before me like the book of Revelation." 
- The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller, Page 241

Thursday, March 9, 2017

First National Cemetery in Athens






In Greece most people don’t stay buried for long. Due to the limited amount of landing and overcrowding in existing cemeteries, bodies only stay buried for three years. During this “grave rental” phase the body is buried whom in the ground and a ceremony is performed by the Greek Orthodox church. 


Once that time is up the living relations must return to the gravesite and with the help of cemetery workers, dig up the grave and move the bones into a small box to be kept at home or in a communal ossuary.

The idea of keeping the bones – not the ashes – in a box is much more similar to the burial procedures of Japan, another country with too little space for its dead.




A permanent burial spot can cost upwards of $200,000 USD ($175,000 Euros), and that’s not even including a tombstone, mausoleum, or other sculpture. Therefore, one can easily understand how everyone buried in the First Athens Cemetery, which grave plots the size of a studio in Athens, are probably all wealthy or famous folks.



Due to the celebrity factor, and the sheer splendor of the artworks in this cemetery, it has become more of a tourist attraction that other such places around the world. Though on a hot weekday in late summer, I was the only person besides the cemetery works and a funeral party, the cemetery has tons of reviews of tripadvisor and seems popular with tourists.







I imagine that the Greek tourists come to see the tombs of famous actors, politicians, and singers like Sophia Vembo, but the foreign tourists come for the sculpture. Artworks of the tombs spans the entire history of Greek art, which sculptures paying homage to ancient Greece, the byzantine era, art deco and art nouveau. Just about every kind of art that has existed in Greece in represented in this cemetery. I took great pleasure walking through centuries in this short mid-day stroll.











































Perhaps the most famous of all sculptures in the Sleeping Woman, by Greek Sculpture Yannoulis Chalepas. Completed in 1877 to immortalize 18-year-old Sofia Afentaki who died of tuberculosis, the sculptor Chalepas was a mere decade older than his deceased subject. This work is startling for another reason, in that it was Chalepas’s last work before he succumbed to mental illness.







I had the great opportunity to witness a funeral process, which I have an audio recording of here.




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