The Dating Game

Total & Partial Eclipses

Thursday, September 7th, 2017 | The Dating Game, Travel | No Comments

I flew to Orlando a few weeks ago, to visit my beau-in-waiting, my Jersey-accented, deep voiced, furry-forearmed, bushy-tailed Kelley. It was our second and — as it turned out — final date, deciding afterwards that a prolonged long-distance courtship wasn’t appealing to either of us. He had flown to San Francisco several months prior and we had a wonderful visit, exploring the Sonoma Coast, watching and complaining about the new corporate purveyors of gay marketability at the SF Pride parade, celebrating our own little summer of love in Golden Gate Park…

From Orlando we drove up to South Carolina for the total solar eclipse, with an overnight stop in Augusta, Georgia. Augusta was founded in 1735 by James Oglethorpe, two years after founding Savanna, and settled by Noble Jones. Oglethorpe named the town in honor of Augusta, Princess of Wales, the mother of British monarch King George III. Augusta has a lovely tree-lined downtown with many interesting buildings from the early 19th- to mid-20th centuries. In the center of town is a delightful statue of local singer and Godfather of Soul, Mr. Dynamite, Mr. Please Please himself, James Brown, designed to encourage interaction and selfies.

The drive through South Carolina took us through dense green forests, cotton fields and many quaint southern towns. Our travel mate selected a cotton field in the middle of the line of totality, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It was a stunningly perfect spot from which to view the eclipse, the sky open with only a smattering of clouds on the horizon.

Just prior to totality, the cicadas started chirping, the light of the sun dimmed, the dog ran under the car, the clouds turned pink, and an instant twilight settled on us. The moon’s blackness created a sort of hole in the sky, encircled by the sun’s fuzzy corona. I researched a lot of myths associated with eclipses and couldn’t find anything that matched my experience of it. At that moment of totality, the darkness of the moon created the illusion of an orifice, a black hole surrounded by flaming fur, the mysteries of the universe opening for us all to penetrate.

The Good, the Sad and the Drugly

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 | The Dating Game | No Comments

There’s an episode of the Simpsons where Lisa is really depressed. She’s assigned to write a report for her class about what Springfield will be like in 50 years, and after doing some internet research, is horrified by the dystopian possibilities, which she shares with her classmates, terrifying them. One jumps out of a window, screaming. Marge takes her to a psychiatrist who diagnoses Lisa with Environment-Related Despair, and puts her on Ignorital, causing her to see only smiley faces. After a potentially near-fatal mishap, Marge takes her off the drug, and Lisa realizes that she can’t run away from her problems, and decides to face them head on.

This has been the longest stretch of singleness in my half century. J’ai le cafard. “I have the cockroach,” as they say in France. Environment-Related Despair. My doctor put me on Ignorital. I’m not seeing smiley faces everywhere quite yet, but my anxiety has calmed to a point where my navigation of the Bachelor ‘Hood is becoming a bit less overwhelming. There are surprisingly more married guys my age out there looking for extramarital activity than single middle-aged guys looking to settle down, and those of us looking to settle down have pretty much all gone out with each other already, so the pickens are slim. I get frustrated, holding out for some idea of a perfect love that very well might not be possible, but at the same time not rushing into anything.

I had a very tender, but very brief affair with my punk rocker, steering us into friendship when I felt out of synch with what he was feeling. Plus I was really distracted by Jake, the filmmaker, who eventually gave me the boot when he felt out of synch with what I was feeling. Since then I’ve had some nice dates with a sweet Urgent Care man, sweet as the hopes on which starv’d lovers feed, and a dashing Intellectual Gascon. His story is worthy of a Dumas, or Harold Robbins, but it’s his to tell, so I’ll just say that he’s had a life rich with soap opera quality dramas, foreign lands, romance, adventure, and, I would imagine, some really good therapy.

Feeling blue while cleaning out my desk, a postcard from a local realtor fell on the floor. I don’t believe in cosmic interventions, but I’ve had a crush on this guy for years, and thought, what the heck, maybe the universe is actually getting off its ass and doing something for me. So I sent him an email, laying out my appeal as humorously and non-stalkerish as I could, while also taking great care to balance flattery with tact and the possibility of his already being hitched. He wrote back, so sweet and generous, and yes, he’s married, happily, but invited me to say hello and to give him a call if I ever decide to put my house on the market.

I have a few internet inamorati whom I’ve never met, some married, others just lonely. We have very lively discussions about art, our travels, our desires… We send each other titillating pictures and describe imaginary couplings and have even at times expressed love for each other. They’re just pixels, we’ve never smelled or touched each other, or heard each other speak. And yet they make me so happy. I imagine I’m fulfilling some desire that goes unexpressed in their marriages, a virtual courtesan. For me, I’m able to experience an authentically intimate exchange, uninhibited by the distractions of headaches, crabs…

Bob came to visit over the holidays and shed some new light on my Environment-Related Despair. I realized that our complete compatibility has been diverting me away from consideration of anyone deviating from our now blissfully idealized relationship. Despite our compatibility, I left Bob because my desire for something else was too much of an impediment to our continued success as a couple. Since then I’ve been driven by a desire to have it all. I want Bob Hoskins and Bob, complete physical and intellectual compatibility. Sure it’d be great to have it all, but if I can’t have both, passion is the one I can’t do without—I can always read a book. Jake and I have had many lively discussions about not being able to integrate these disparate needs and desires into our relationships. This was the particular problem in our brief exploration of possibilities with each other. He felt like he needed someone like me, but he wanted someone quite different physically. Maybe someday I’ll be Wilford Brimley, but for now I’m but a thin shadow of this particular ideal. I had to accept and respect this. We’re actually looking for the same thing. And, as it turns out, frequently the same guy. We now work as a team, sharing prospective leads.

I’ve committed to 6 months on the Ignorital, actually looking forward to the smiley faces, but also not quite ready to face the idea of 50-something spinsterhood head on.

My Punk Rocker, and Some Notes on Jake

Sunday, December 18th, 2016 | The Dating Game | No Comments

I had a date last night with a punk rocker. He fronts a band whose name brings to mind an eastern European metal group. His band is actually named after one of the Golden Girls, camouflaged by an umlaut. And despite his bouncer façade, he is the sweetest guy who ever lived. Everything about him is soft, from his body to his touch to his lips to his lilting, almost lispy voice. He busies himself with craft projects and cooking, listens to public radio and answers simple questions with long rambling narratives that steer this way and that, taking his incredulous listener on unexpected journeys that somehow, and long after you’ve forgotten what the original question was, wind back to an answer. A completely delightful date and a firecracker of a lover.

Meanwhile, I can’t seem to shake Jake out of my head. I resist the urge to blurt out that I love him already–hesitant not because I’m unsure of my feelings, and, despite evidence to the contrary (like everything I say), I am aware that love can’t be projected onto someone, that it does need time to develop on its own. But still, I feel, and I feel. My hesitation, and indeed my interest, stem from knowing him so keenly already. I’ve looked at his films, read one of his screenplays, his poetry. In the few works that he’s chosen to share with me, the older man who most passionately captures his engagement is aloof, distant, unavailable. His most vulnerable and articulate character is brutally abused by a younger man, a tragic victim of his expressed desires.

Terry Gross interviewed Woody Allen a few years ago, inquiring about the relation between his private life and his art. He seemed oblivious, firmly denying any connection. In his films, Allen’s characters each show such a keen sense of self, questioning and examining their motivations and desires articulately and passionately. I just wasn’t buying it. Jake’s characters are similarly introspective, yet Jake seems to know where he is in his art in a way that Allen won’t admit to. Jake has spoken of his fears of vulnerability and commitment, but I haven’t heard about or experienced much of his passions. I see them in his art, and thus a sort of ennui has settled over me, as my pitches to be considered an object of his desire seem so artfully deflected.

In early Renaissance painting, the saints are given blank expressions, so that the penitent may project his or her emotions onto the canvas. Jake’s beauty and guardedness present a complex medium onto which I’ve concentrated a lot of perhaps unrealistic romantic aspirations. I honestly don’t know yet what can happen off canvas, but the picture I see beguiles and entrances me.

The Dating Game continues…

One Little Indian

Monday, December 12th, 2016 | The Dating Game | 2 Comments

It all happened so fast. I had just settled into bed when he texted, said he’d be over in 45 minutes. He arrived, we met, we kissed, he said “Let’s get naked,” and then after an hour and several emissions, he was gone.

I was very nervous, almost trembling as I met him at the door. His dark hair was shiny, like superhero shiny. His round dark eyes looked me up and down as he followed me up the stairs. He beamed this incredible smile at me and said in sumptuously Indian-accented english, “You are really quite handsome. Many guys don’t look like their pictures, but you look better.”

We’d been chatting and teasing each other for months, but somehow the time to meet had never been right. He’s married. His husband doesn’t know that his lover has what I assume are a profusion of playmates. He says they’re happily married, just that they don’t engage in intimate relations anymore. Or, I wanted to add, honesty. But hey, whatever works, I’m not one to judge. Or usually participate in any sort of deception… but there he was, this beautiful Indian man, almost all butt, out of which sprouted soft furry legs and arms and a mini Tom Selleck mustache and a smile that almost glowed in the dark. In short, pushing a lot of buttons.

I’m generally a very nervous person when it comes to intimate relations, preferring to engage in them only after lengthy courtship rituals and detailed examination of all previous relationship experience and film knowledge. And there I was, really enjoying getting to know this delightful man when the “Let’s get naked” comment came. I didn’t even have time to respond, he was suddenly in my bedroom, pulling items from his little bag and arranging them in a row on my nightstand: a bottle of lubricant, a single condom, a bottle of poppers (“I hope you don’t mind?”), and a small towel. He asked about my HIV status, if I was on PreP. He ripped off my clothes and glued his eyes to my central nether region, glued pretty much for the entire experience. When he asked if he could slip his prophylactic on me, I asked if he minded if I used my own, which, I didn’t say, are more comfortable and I know where they’ve been. With a sweet smile he said,  “I would prefer if you would use mine, please.” I remembered a demonstration by my friend Kimberly in college, putting one over her whole head, and said with a smile “Sure!”

When kissing, he tasted of Manny, a flavor sensation from 32 years ago. I just wanted to stay there and be in that kiss, to savor the memories from that first taste of my great love, now dead for 24 years. I really didn’t have time to stay in those reveries, for my Indian had a plan, and this plan included twisting and positioning me for his maximum pleasure. I made no objection to his orchestration, I was on a roller coaster careening through an amusement park of sensation. Suddenly, immediately after his second finale, he jumped up, beamed that lovely smile at me and said “I have to get back to my dog,” threw on his clothes, packed up his items from my dresser, hugged me, and was gone.

That Danged Spice of Life Again

Monday, December 5th, 2016 | The Dating Game | No Comments

I’m in love. At this point, it’s just the idea of love that I love, but the idea has settled with such theoretical precision on the person of one particular person that I shall momentarily give in to the rush of hormonal giddiness and dance through the fields singing, with Mitzi Gaynor’s voice, of Kansas in August, blueberry pie, and the Fourth of July.

I met him online, let’s call him Jake. He’s an artist, a filmmaker, beautiful–beautiful in the sense of coming very close to a kind of Bob Hoskins perfection: furry, stocky, but tall, handsome, a bearded and bespectacled balding Gary Cooper playing Bob Hoskins, and with a deep baritone voice accented with a slight stoner giggle. Over Burmese food we talked of the current state of queer cinema, our art, the magic of “Moonlight…” We talked of our respective commitment issues–his avoidance of anything remotely resembling commitment and my enthusiastic embrace of committing my life to an eternal single but ever elusive love. We found mutual ground by committing to spending at least the rest of the evening together and proceeded to explore the horizontal possibilities of love in the afternoon.

The right guy just doesn’t come around every day. This guy’s the right guy. Well, except in the many ways that he isn’t. We clicked so instantly and easily. Can he not see this? Or does he click like this with everybody? I can see us having fun for the rest of our lives, I see us traveling and making art together, I see our lovemaking constantly evolving and deepening, I see looking into his eyes every morning…

But, alas, I’m not for him. It’s not so much that I’m not the right one for him, he just can’t deal with the idea of only one of me, for, like Tony Soprano, he likes a nice variety of… well, now that Donald Trump has denigrated the word, I just can’t bring myself to say it. He just likes a nice variety.


Tuesday, April 12th, 2016 | The Dating Game | No Comments

Oh good lord, how did I get to be 50? And balding and gray? Bob would make we laugh when he’d say that in his 20s he thought people over 50 never changed clothes. And now, here I am, wearing the same clothes as yesterday, genuinely puzzled about how I got here so fast and really not looking forward to colonoscopies and erectile disfunction.

For my birthday weekend in November I took my bears to the Russian River to celebrate my impending decrepitude with lots of great food, wine tasting, romps through the redwood forest and saunters along the Sonoma Coast. At Dick Blomsters in Guerneville, while savoring the last remnants of Korean Fried Crack on my fingers, our jolly waitress dragged everyone from the bar next door to sing happy birthday to me, a drunken “Happy BIIIIIRTH-daay dear in-dis-tiiiinguishable slurred naaa-aame, HAAAA-py biiirth-day toooo youuuuuuu.”

Back in town, I arranged for my annual physical with a new doctor, as my old one was not available, out of town indefinitely to take care of his ailing mom. When the bushy-bearded bear porn star doctor stepped into the examination room, I audibly gasped. This vision from the depths of my fantasy life was going to examine my prostate? I blushed and giggled through the exam like a little girl, and upon leaving nervously knocked over a file of papers and, both of us reaching down to collect the scattered documents, bumped heads with his and looked deep into his beady brown eyes as we both stood up, rubbing our heads amidst more of my nervous giggling. On returning home, and on a hunch, I checked GROWLr and there he was, shirtless, shamelessly furry, his head on a pillow, waiting to take me in his arms, my Doctor of Love… I momentarily breached doctor/patient protocol and sent him an innocuous text message that said “Hey, you look familiar (winking smiley emoticon)” He replied with a smiley face emoticon. But why couldn’t I have left it at that? I won’t tell you what I texted next, but like a true professional or someone realizing his patient may be a stalker… he responded with silence.

Since then I’ve dated a little, and there’s a new Greek on the horizon, and an Italian, as well as a dashing attorney in the picture, and the eternally out-of-reach Mr. Darcy seems to be single again, and that sexy Republican pops in and out of town every so often, but generally I remain in relationship limbo. Which I didn’t want to be going into my 50s, remember? But actually, it’s sort of hard to find a 50ish year old husband. First of all, and if he even lives in the same hemisphere, he’s single for a reason, and usually it spells trouble, like he’s never been in a relationship, or, like me, he’s been single for so long that any real person must compete with the fantasy man that he’s spent the last decade constructing. And then there’s all that logistical mess, like moving, not pooping alone anymore, his clothes on the floor, and he’s going to break my 100 year old morning tea mug I know.

The swinging bachelor of the 1970’s always ended up a kind of sad figure–alone with his gold necklaces, Mennen Dry look and tuft of chest hair. I would be more than happy to end up with that guy, but I really don’t want to end up being him.

Last Tango in Tinos

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 | Art, Gay, Stavros, The Dating Game, Travel | 2 Comments

Stavros, Dean & Mike, and I spent a few days on Tinos last week, one of the larger islands in the Cyclades. Tinos isn’t on the radar for many non-Greeks, and perhaps because of this, the island feels somehow less corrupted by tourism. The Venetians controlled it until 1715, long after the rest of Greece had fallen to the Turks, and a legacy of the long Venetian presence is a mixed Catholic/Greek Orthodox population and elaborately designed dovecotes that dot the entire island. There’s a thriving marble folk art industry. Every door and window on the island has a carved marble transom, each house incorporating some marble decoration or detail.

Most people make the pilgrimage to Tinos to visit the church of the Panagia Evangelistria, or Our Lady of Tinos. It was built on the spot where a miraculous icon with healing powers, thought to have been made by Luke the evangelist, was found in 1823. A few years earlier, Our Lady appeared to an elderly gentleman, telling him to wake up and dig up the icon. He told a local priest of his vision, but they both agreed that it may have been the devil in disguise, so best to proceed with caution. Mary kept appealing to this guy, disrupting his sleep to no avail. She finally moved on to a local nun who was a little more receptive to her directives, and bingo, she led some guys with shovels right to it. The icon was found the day after the creation of the modern Greek state, so Our Lady of Tinos was declared the patron saint of the emerging Greek nation, and the construction of the church was its first large architectural project.

On the feast day of the Dormition of the Virgin (August 15), penitents crawl from the port up the hill to the church on their hands and knees as a sign of devotion, many seeking to be healed in some way. There are carpeted crawl-ways leading up the hill, and, at the top, a ghoulish statue of a crawling believer with outstretched arm and no face. It really freaked me out, the statue, reminding me of the Ghost of Christmas Future, the one who finally spooked Ebenezer Scrooge into buying that Christmas goose and new legs for Tiny Tim. The icon is displayed in the church under a mound of glittering jewels. I stood in line to photograph it, everyone in front of me kissing it and praying feverishly, but when I finally got there, I just sort of stared at it, not really able to comprehend what I was looking at, a mound of shiny baubles under glass. Beyond the reproduction icons and plastic holy-water bottles of the main town, ah, the magic begins. Great food, villages unspoiled by time, dramatic landscapes, fantastic beaches, charming little museums, and people living off of and sharing the bounty of the rugged landscape.

We stayed in an apartment overlooking the bronze-age acropolis of Vryokastro. Starvos and I ascended to the top of the acropolis early one morning, to see the sunrise, and got in the way of a humpy hunter chasing a cute little bunny, who seemed annoyed to see us in what was clearly his domain, shotgun shells strewn here and there along the path, his hounds barking and howling, just like a Bugs Bunny cartoon. I like to think that we saved a bunny that day.

In Kambos is a museum devoted to the work of Costas Tsoclis, an artist who creates paintings and sculptures saturated in antiquity and nostalgia, and that often extend beyond their frames. Outside he’s created a fabulous and whimsical large-scale semi-abstract depiction of St. George slaying the dragon. Inside are several room-sized painting installations. The museum is so well designed, that even the bathroom window frames a poetic installation, a single cross leaning against a corner of the empty back courtyard, blue skies and a single cloud above. The only restaurant in town was run by a man named Stefanos, an older gentleman with a wide and toothless smile, who served up cuisine of ingredients entirely home grown, including these fantastic fried wild herb “horta” balls. We ate at his son’s restaurant in the main town a few nights later, and it was just as delicious.

Driving north across the center of the island, we turned a corner and suddenly it seemed like we were on the moon. For as far as we could see, the entire landscape was filled with giant boulders, as if someone dumped a bag of giant rocks everywhere. In the center of this tremendous cyclopean rock-scape was a quaint village, Volax, with all of its houses built into, onto or around these massive stones. An artist covered the doors of vacant houses with handwritten transcriptions of various Greek poems, giving literal dimension to the weirdly poetic experience of the village.

I climbed Mt. Exobourgo one day, site of a crumbling Venetian fortress, the administrative center of the island from the 13th to 18th centuries, while Stavros slept in the car. Standing for 500 years or so, the fortress and town inside were dismantled by the Turks in 3 days.

Pyrgos, on the north central side of the island, is one of the island’s largest villages, with several museums devoted to marble art and production. The houses and streets seem to be interconnected physically and visually, as if carved from a single block of marble. There are so many villages to tell you about, each with its own unique character, charm, and history, but enough already.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Stavros and I had decided the week before departing for Tinos to be just friends. Once on Tinos, we further decided to start seeing other people by seeing the same guy, and at the same time. His name means “sugar” in Greek, and he is as sweet as they come, a sort of furry Greek Mighty Mouse: short, muscular, carpeted in fine hairs, laughing and smiling. He’s married, to a woman, and has children, but he eagerly jumped into our four arms. He was tender, passionate, and talked to us for hours, so free with the details of his life on the island. I remember looking at Stavros across our Mighty Mouse sandwich and seeing someone different, someone I hadn’t seen before, my boyfriend being passionately engaged by someone else. I felt for a moment as if I were an intruder, but then Stavros looked into my eyes, kissed me, and suddenly I felt like we were celebrating not the end of something, but a new beginning. Remember Audrey Hepburn at the end of Roman Holiday, returning to her duties as a princess? On the plane now back to my life in San Francisco without Stavros, invoking Audrey when asked about my favorite island, I say “Tinos,” Tinos without hesitation, glassy-eyed and with memories that I’ll cherish forever.

Greece and the Newly Single Girl

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 | Stavros, The Dating Game, Travel | No Comments

I recognize him immediately, that guy who is just not the marrying type. He’s in his mid-40s, extremely handsome, never married, but he talks dreamily of marriage, spending lives together, dish patterns… I am drawn to him like bees to pollen, sure that once he samples the depths that are possible with sustained intimacy, he’ll blossom into that other guy, the one I’m certain I’ll be with forever. Then one day there’s the guy I recognized at first—the one in the wheelchair that I shoved down the stairs to make way for my fantasy—that guy who isn’t quite ready to settle down or explore perpetual commitment. Just not the marrying type at all.

I’m in Greece, visiting Stavros and traveling around with him and my buddies from San Francisco, Dean & Mike. A few days after our arrival, Stavros announced that he and I would be better off as just friends, apparently misreading my busyness and distraction over the past few months as a lack of interest. I wasn’t sure at first if it were a pre-emptive breakup based on misinformation or a genuine desire to reposition himself in the relationship, but our subsequent conversations have clarified the urgency for both of us to embrace a different kind of companionship. In a way there’s some relief on both sides. We like each other so much and have so much fun together, but he’s focused on a career that’s going to make being together a challenge. And there are those 6,000 or so miles between us. Or maybe we both knew from the beginning that we wanted different things? It’s painful and uncomfortable, but, but… actually, but nothing, it’s just painful and uncomfortable. I don’t like the idea at all of being 50 and single, so my suitors better start lining up, the twilight of my 40s is quickly slipping into the darkness of 50ness. But, soft! what hairy forearm through yonder window breaks?

Greece, on the other hand, has been a delight, and despite breaking up, Stavros and I have had a great time together as usual. Except for that brief moment when we tried to drown each other in Ormos Giannaki. We’ve been toodling around with Dean & Mike, showing them Athens and beyond, bonding with antiquity as well as the vibrance of city and village life. We visited Mycenae and the remarkable Tholos tombs there, then spent a few days with Yorgos & Filios at their getaway in Methana, then the theater at Epidavrus, the beach and ruins and Tomulus of the Athenians in Marathonas, the Temple of Poseidon at Sounio… I’ve written about these places before so won’t bore you with details, but stick around for some more entries about the rest of the trip.

So let the Dating Game begin. I’m currently accepting applications from eligible bachelors. If single and furry and slightly over-the-hill and planning to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope with your name and shoe size to Sanfranchrisko, San Francisco, California.

A Crop of Lips

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 | Stavros, The Dating Game, Travel | No Comments

I visited the Acropolis yesterday, completely wowed by the intensive reconstruction and restoration work that’s happened since my last visit in 2001. It’s like the ultimate jigsaw puzzle up there, chunks of Parthenon everywhere, slowly being fitted into place. I managed to arrive just as everybody else did, at the time that every guide book says to avoid, late morning before lunch. The place was packed for an hour, and then everyone scurried down the hill to his air-conditioned tour bus.

While Stavros has been at work out of town the past few days, I’ve turned on GROWLr, the iPhone hookup app that is my principal means of communication with my slutty friends around the world—seriously, to talk to my friends. If I were a different kind of bunny, that is, a hussy, I would be entertained daily by quite a number of almost desperately available Athenian men who text me throughout the day offering all sorts of varied opportunities for live bunny action. Two cab drivers, perhaps independently of each other, each asked to pick me up in his cab, one for a particular activity in the car itself, the other for a get-to-know-me rendezvous with his boyfriend. I thought it might be the new-kid-in-town syndrome, but actually, I think it’s just that they’ve all gone through everyone else in town. Oh. The new-kid-in-town syndrome, then. It’s certainly nice to be getting all this attention in my steadily-advancing state of decay, but I’d prefer a crop of marriage proposals tossed at me all day, instead of all these pictures of Greek underparts.

Chrissy always gets mad at me for chatting with these strangers. “You don’t have to respond,” he’s always telling me. I was raised in the south, where my friends all called their dads “sir,” I just find it hard to be rude. “Thanks for the nice picture of your substantial appendage, handsome, have a great day.” This response invariably is followed by “You’re welcome, stud.” And that’s that, end of conversation.

Today I had coffee with a new friend, Costas, a really sweet and gentle soul, who seems a bit frustrated by the ease of sexual possibilities around town and the difficulty of securing more substantial commitments. We talked about our various relationships, past and present, the current financial crisis, and racial unrest in Athens.

The neighborhood I’m staying in has a large percentage of African immigrants. Most people I’ve spoken to about it are negative about their presence, citing falling home prices and shuttered businesses in the neighborhood, crime, drugs, white flight. I can’t see the negative stuff, though, I see really beautiful people who probably suffered horrendous atrocities in their country and are now forced into degrading menial jobs, if they get jobs at all. I haven’t seen a single black person in any visible job—except selling trinkets near the Acropolis or on the beach. Now I’m speaking in almost complete ignorance of the day-to-day reality of the immigrants, and am confining my observations to a fairly limited area, so don’t go quoting me anywhere.

For the past three nights, outside of Stavros’ apartment building, the Golden Dawn neo-fascists have gathered, loudly, and taunted the neighborhood black guys, sometime chasing after them with pipes. Car windows have been smashed, fist fights have broken out. I and all of Stavros’ silver-haired neighbors gather on our balconies in our underwear to watch the activity on the street below. I have no idea what’s going on, as Stavros has been away since the nightly gatherings started and I don’t understand the Greek screams, like watching a foreign action film with no subtitles. Tonight they broke into an African cultural center below my balcony window and destroyed it, while the neighbors and police did nothing.

I leave Athens on Friday morning, heading back to San Francisco. I’ve become so enamored of Stavros, enjoying his wit and delightful presence, his grand beauty, his scrumptious Banoffee, his sort of trumpet-sounding melodious voice. This must be what it feels like the night before going to prison, the last taste of pleasure before isolation and deprivation.

The Stavros Chronicles: Schinias

Thursday, September 20th, 2012 | Stavros, The Dating Game, Travel | 2 Comments

Marathonas is the site of the famous Battle of Marathon, when the Persians were defeated by the considerably smaller Athenian army in 490 B.C. The 192 Athenians who were killed are buried in a massive burial mound, surrounded by olive trees, not far from the ancient battlefield. Actually, pretty much everything in Greece is surrounded by olive trees, but here, it’s particularly poignant to see a source of sustenance so close to those memorialized. Marathonas gets its name for the Greek word for “fennel,” and means “a place with fennel.” The long distance race, marathon, gets its name from the town. Legend has it that a single runner ran the entire distance from Marathonas to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated. Another legend says that he ran from Athens to Sparta to seek help. The legend about the announced triumph over the Persians is the one that seems to hold the most traction with the public imagination, but whoever did the running and to where, it was quite a hike.

Schinias Beach, near Marathonas, is a long stretch of sandy beach surrounded by whispy umbrella pine trees, about 45km northeast of Athens. The water is tranquil, the sound of the wind in the pines mesmerizing, and a few nudists are kind of tucked away in the shrubbery and sand dunes, adding to the sensory experience.

South of the beach, there is a temple dedicated to Egyptian gods, currently closed due to archaeological excavation, and a museum with artifacts and sculpture from the area, which I hope to visit before heading back to San Francisco—if we make it back to the beach. With just a week left on the trip, I’m kind of content just to stare at Stavros, my favorite visual experience.

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