Κυριακή, 19 Νοεμβρίου 2017

One for the road pt. 2: Sweet life


  The park was about a couple kilometers away from Jessica's apartment, but she didn't mind walking that much. She wanted to clear her head anyways, she thought the best way about it was to walk in the "not-so-woken-up-yet" town of hers. Growing up in a different country, before moving to study abroad, created this weird conundrum for her; she didn't feel like she belonged anywhere in particular, like she didn't have a place to call home. The house she had grown up with she wasn't really fond of and the place she was staying currently was too recent to create a connection with, so instead of having two homes, she had none. Like a traveler who is between connecting flights, lingering in the airport terminal for a while until they eventually board their next plane. Her world was one gigantic terminal, and since she didn't have a particular destination to be at, she just sort of lingered.

  Shuffling through a couple of songs that didn't quite fit her mood she stumbled upon an old favourite of hers, Frank Ocean's "Sweet Life", who she discovered by accident. She was travelling to Germany to spend Christmas with her godparents in Berlin, for which she had a connecting flight through Amsterdam. Her flight was the morning after, so she had almost a full day by herself. She booked a small room in a cute little hotel she had found online, and when she arrived she left her stuff and run right out to not lose any precious time. Visiting Amsterdam was one of the top things in her bucket list, even if it were for just a day, so she figured it'd be a nice opportunity to go for a walk an see some sights. Not missing, of course, were her white on-ear headphones, same ones she's had for the past 5 years, a graduation gift from her parents. Walking through the quite cold, Christmas - decorated capital she couldn't hide her amazement of the buildings and architecture of the centre. She was so used to plain old roads and houses you couldn't tell apart, seeing a city that is almost literally floating on water was something extraordinary for her.
  After some exploration and picture-taking in the beautiful canals of the city, she decided to treat herself to a nice hot meal before heading out again. The place was swarming with Argentinian steakhouses and Italian pizzerias, and being a college student she'd have the latter every other day so she chose the former for a change. There, a clearly-not-Argentinian-looking dude welcomed her with a smile on his face and sat her at a table overlooking the local cinema. Table for two for one; Jessica hoped she didn't seem too sad about sitting by herself in a strange city. The beer was cold, the steak was great and the restaurant was playing some weirdly out-of-place tunes which surprisingly fit her music tastes. Eating Argentinian steak while drinking Belgian beer in a what seemed like middle-eastern-ish decorated restaurant in the heart of Amsterdam and listening to old-school hip-hop was something she would have never imagined doing, but there she was. After some funky Biggie songs and chill Nas "Illmatic" beats when something newer, less well known caught her attention. It was chill and had a great vibe behind it, some sweet male vocals as well. She liked noticing small stuff in her songs, like the mellow guitar rhythm or a gentle drum beat that just elevates a song to greatness. Interrupting her delicious dinner she tried to get the attention of the waiter.
  "Excuse me!" she exclaimed, raising her hand.
  The waiter took notice of her immediately and approached her table in an instant. "How can I assist you?" asked the mustached man that kinda looked like a young, less muscular Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  "Sorry to bother you but I really like the song, would you mind telling me who it is from?"
  The waiter let out a genuine laugh and stepped back from the table and into the kitchen. Jessica was baffled and kinda annoyed, as she thought that he was just being rude, making fun of her question. Just when she was ready to get up and leave, the waiter comes back with an even younger looking dude, tall, bearded and tattooed guy who looked like a guy who's last name ended in -sson.
  "This is my brother" said the waiter, "he's the sous-chef and our, erm, DJ of the sorts." he added. He left the table and let the other guy do the talking.
  "Mind if I join you?" asked the guy.
  "I don't if you don't" said Jessica, kinda embarrassed by the situation.
  "Danny" he said, extending his arm to Jessica.
  "Jessica" she replied, a bit red on the cheeks. "Sorry about this, I just wanted to know about the song you played a few minutes ago, didn't mean to create all this trouble."
  "No trouble at all" said Danny, "I quite enjoy talking to customers with good music taste." His dutch accent was barely distinguishable through his crystal clear English, Jess thought. Guy before was Frank Ocean, think it was "Sweet life" playing if I recall correctly. I can check it for you if you want." he added.
  Their flirt-ish vibe was all over the dining table but in a weird, "This is fun but we aren't gonna get together" kind of way. They both knew it.
  "No I think that's it, I vaguely remember hearing 'Sweet Life' at some point in the song. Great stuff."
  "Been a fan since Channel Orange" said Danny. "Quite a talented dude." he leaned back on the chair and got comfortable. "So what brings you here?" he asked.
  "A plane" she said without realizing she just made a stupid joke. Danny's half-smile half-disappointed grunt made her retract her statement. "Er, I mean, I have a plane to catch tomorrow. I'm going to Berlin to visit my godparents for Christmas and I just had a connection here."
  "Awesome." said Danny. "Enjoying it so far?"
  "The city is so beautiful!" exclaimed Jessica. "It's just so different than-" She didn't get a chance to  finish her sentence before the waiter interrupted her by giving a disapproving nod to Danny which caught his attention.
  "I'm terribly sorry, I have to get back to work." he said, frowning.
  "It's alright, don't worry" Jessica  nodded.
  "If you'd like I can take you for a walk after I'm done, maybe grab a beer or something " said Danny.
  Jessica considered the option for a while and she found no reasonable reason to refuse the offer, which surprised even her when she did.
  "I was thinking about going to bed early to get some rest" she said, "but thanks for offering anyways!" She flashed an awkward "I'm sorry" smile at him while he was getting up.
  "Hey, it's OK don't worry about it." He reached into his pocket and handed her his card. "In case you find yourself lost in Amsterdam in the future." he said, winking.
  She blushed once more, thanking him. After finishing her meal she left the money on the table and sighed a half-hearted goodbye to a lost chance.
  She didn't actually go to the hotel right away. Instead, she walked around the city for a bit more, still listening to music. She pirated the whole Channel Orange album using some Starbucks free wi-fi and listened to it front and back a few times before heading to the hotel; "Sweet life" had become her official theme for the trip. The next morning she left early, went to the airport and flew an uninteresting, short flight to Berlin.

 She'd been walking for around 20 minutes without realizing, and her mood had instantly changed. Her face shifted from a frown to a big smile as she shuffled to a few Channel Orange songs until she reached the park. At one moment she stopped, took her wallet out of her back pocket and shuffled through her credit cards. She takes one of them out, a black-and-gold one with red details that read "Los amigos Argentinian Grill & Tapas Restaurant" with gold letters and a "Johan and Daniel Janssen" underneath. She stared at it for a while and let out an audible laugh. "So close to Jenson" she mumbled. She put the card back in her wallet and continued her walk towards the park.


Δευτέρα, 18 Σεπτεμβρίου 2017

Blog no.25: Sing about me

Dear insomniacs,

  It's 4:47 a.m. and I have an exam in roughly 3 hours and a half, so naturally it's a great time to write some stuff, ain't it?
  I've been listening to the my Spotify-generated playlist (which I update every week with my new suggested stuff) for the past few weeks, which is mostly comprised of hip-hop and indie tracks including some really good shit I'd never have known about. It's amazing how much music there is available to us and I'm so grateful for being able to experience it and procrastinate to some amazing tracks, but you know what baffles me? Some people don't even bother searching for music! I mean I get having favourite bands and songs, I have those too, but you are able to type a few words and swim in an ocean of incredible, never-heard-before music and you choose to listen to Drake, Katy Perry or Coldplay on repeat? Don't get me wrong, I like all of those artists and enjoy listening to their stuff but don't you think it's worth discovering stuff by yourself and expanding your music tastes? Hell, even my favourite band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have so many less-popular songs that are so much better than the overplayed "Snow", "Otherside", "Scar Tissue" and the likes. "Hey" (Not Hey Oh, as an unofficial YouTube video suggested) has one of the most orgasmic solos I've ever heard, even more so than Muse's "Madness". Talking about Muse, they have so many amazing tracks (especially from "The 2nd law") which are not that well known for being too different than their usual stuff. Even Coldplay which I mentioned before have the spectacular "We never change" and the minimalistic "O", two very underrated songs from their discography.
  When I first listen to a song from an artist I don't know about, first thing I do is look them up on the internet (well, Reddit mostly), and find their most popular albums and download them in their entirety. I know I know shame on me for pirating but I'd literally be living in the streets if I paid for all the music I listen to. Point is, listening to an album in it's entirety is a whole different beast from just listening to a few tracks. Albums are supposed to be connected works of art, they tell a story, they have a certain flow to them that gets lost when shuffled and they are destined to be played beginning to end. Haken's "Visions" tells a story about, well, visions, death, dreams, time and ends with the titular track, which loops it back to the beginning. Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" talks about the effects of growing up in an uninspiring suburban neighborhood in a nostalgic, bittersweet way that takes you way way back. Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the moon" is a brilliant example of a "concept album" because it flows flawlessly, with seemingly zero interruption from one track to the other and multiple callbacks to previous tracks of the same album. But of course the album I want to focus on the most is Kendrick Lamar's "Good kid m.A.A.d city". This album got me into concept albums in the first place a few years back. In the beginning you get in the back of the white van with Kendrick and his gang and you just start rolling around Compton, getting into trouble, going through shootouts, running away from the police, trying to escape the life of gangs, drugs and alcohol and ultimately making it big. It's a perfect album, but more than that it has one of the best lyrical songs I've ever listened to, "Sing about me, I'm dying of thirst".
  "Sing about me" for shorts tells a story from 3 different perspectives. The first person is a troubled young dude who lost his brother in a gang related incident (in the end of "Swimming Pools"), who recalls how difficult it is to grow up as a poor black guy with a bad background and thanks Kendrick for being there for his brother but is ultimately shot in a similar fashion as his brother. The second person is a young girl who blasts Kendrick for mentioning her sister in a previous album (Section .80) as an example of a girl driven to prostitution, saying that he doesn't understand that it was the only way for her and her sister to live since they were in-between foster homes. She mentions that he has no right to talk about her sister because he doesn't know where she is coming from and to let her do her thing without obstructing her life, but ends up fading due to some sexually transmitted illness. Now the third person, that is Kendrick himself. Kendrick talks about how he sees himself trying to make a difference with the only thing that he has, his raps, and that he thinks about death a lot and thus he's trying to make his mark in the world by helping others. Being an influential figure, he knows that he can help people from his neighborhood by getting their stories out even if it comes with sacrificing his own image. What follows is this:
  "And I hope that at least one of you sing about me when I'm gone.
   Now I'm I worth it?
   Did I put enough work in?"
First time I heard those lines they hit me like a truck, because I related so much to what he has to say. We're all trying to make our mark in the world, to be remembered, to have someone sing about us when the lights shut off and it's our time to settle down. It is said that you die twice, once when you stop breathing and once again when your name is mentioned for the last time. It's all very morbid but very true as well, it's in our nature. I don't care about being rich and famous, I don't care about having my statue engraved in the middle of a busy square, I don't care if my name isn't mentioned in the Guinness World Records book. All I'm asking, and all everyone is probably asking is to have at least one person who thinks you're important enough to be remembered. The feeling of knowing that you've positively influenced at least one person is more precious than all the money in the world, so all I have to ask is this: Promise that you'll sing about me when I'm gone, will ya?

Your chosen existentialist,
Stelios Zesiades

Παρασκευή, 23 Ιουνίου 2017

Blog no. 24: Films & music

Dear, uh, listeners?

  This one's for music (again) so let's just say the greeting makes sense, yeah? Great. Two days ago was international music day as I found out, and I can't simply let that go unnoticed because if you're not gonna celebrate music what the hell will you ever celebrate about? I wrote a piece in greek for an online magazine a year ago, so allow me to slightly plagiarize myself and translate some of it for this one. Oh and since I'm a huge fan of music and I like to consider myself a cinephile, it made sense to write about them both, so here goes.
  You see, those two mediums are so closely intertwined, nowadays even more so than in previous decades, so you can't have one without the other. Even the absence of a soundtrack is, in a sense, an artistic choice some filmmakers use, with the most concrete example being the complete lack of background music for a large stretch of the Coen bro's "No country for old men" duration, which made everything so realistic, grounded, bleak, giving a sense of dread, making us scared of the things the ever-menacing Javier Bardem (and his equally menacing haircut) would do to get what he wants.
  On the other side of the spectrum, there are others that literally hang from their soundtracks as if it were their lifeline. Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Jaws wouldn't be nearly as good as they are without John Williams' incredible scores, "The Lord of the Rings" wouldn't be nearly as epic as it is without Howard Shore's bombastic compositions. Einaudi's score for "Les intouchables" and Tiersen's "Amelie" one are basically front and centre in every "listen while you're studying, start contemplating life instead" playlist. Abel Korzeniowski's score (whose name I definitely did NOT have to Google) made my heart fucking pound during last year's "Nocturnal Animals" and I'm not ashamed to say that I shed a tear or two at the end of the second Pokemon movie, when the beautifully simple ocarina melody was played during Lugia's revival. Hell, even forgettable or mediocre movies like "The Notebook" and "Remember Me" are elevated considerably solely on the merit of their incredible soundtracks.
  Whenever you're listening to Simple Minds' "Don't you forget about me" the image of the criminal's fist from "The Breakfast Club" immediately jumps to your head, "Mad World" takes you back to Jake Gylenhaal's manic laughter from "Donnie Darko", The Do's "Dust it off" makes you gaze into "I Origin's" protagonists' beautiful eyes, and Debussy's "Claire de lune" puts you next to "Ocean's Eleven" and in front of the Bellagio Fountains. More recently Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" made me tear up during the not too shabby Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2 but that might be because it's a really really good song regardless. Tarantino, amongst others, is a master of making a song get stuck in your head and connecting it with his movies and his smug face. Django's "Freedom", Reservoir Dog's "Stuck in the middle with you" and "Little green bag", and Kill Bill's "Twisted nerve" are some of the songs you'll find in my playlist from that stupidly eccentric, brilliant dude's filmography.
  Other directors more recently found some very inventive ways to fit their soundtracks into their movie's narrative. Matthew Vaughn, known for his extremely violent action scenes, manages to blend blood and mayhem with odd music choices in "Kick-Ass" and "Kingsmen", making the scenes jarring, ridiculous and, above all, hella fun. Hans Zimmer uses Edith Piaf's "Je ne regrette rien" as a literal tool for his characters to time their "kicks" in Christopher Nolan's Inception, and utilizes various slowed-down versions of the song in most of the film's soundtrack which is a brilliant way to represent the whole "time slows down in dreams" concept. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross worked together in Fincher's "Gone Girl" in a way that differentiated the dreamy sequences of Amy's diary to the grounded and mysterious scenes of Nick Dunne's attempts to find the truth. In Wong Kar Wai's "In the mood for love", the same song is being repeated throughout the whole movie, but the duration of it is analogous to the closeness of the two main characters.
   There's just so many examples but, being a *cough* responsible *cough* university student, I will spare you the details so I can actually pretend to study for my exams. Either way you can all make me and yourselves a favour and pay attention to a movie's soundtrack, it might just make you understand movies a bit more and make your music collection grow a bit bigger.

Your friendly know-it-all,
Stelios Zesiades.


Τετάρτη, 14 Ιουνίου 2017

One for the road. pt.1: Flight of the navigator

  Jessica was ready to join the others for a few beers at the park. The clock read 4:26, she was melancholic, lonely, and it was a hot summer sleepless night so she figured a beer might have helped all that go away. She jumped out of bed, wore her red shorts and a black sleeveless shirt which had a negative space bunny printed in the middle, grabbed her phone headphones and keys and left as if she was late for something. She wasn't late though, people aren't often late at 4:26 a.m. unless they have a plane to catch or a drunken friend to drive home.
  Walking out of the apartment she stopped at the front door mirror for a second, Pink Floyd's "Fearless" echoing from her headphones. At first she tried to fix her hair, but as she moved closer she just stopped and gave a long, wide-eyed stare. It wasn't a stare to check if she looked good, no, she didn't care if she looked good at the time. It was more of a glare, her eyes fixated at her own reflection. "What the hell are you doing?" she whispered, looking at her sorrowful eyes. "What the hell are you doing." she repeated, her eyes watering up. She took a tissue from her back pocket and wiped the single tear dripping from her right eye, sighed loudly and in one quick motion she opened the door and left while fixing her long black hair underneath her white over-ear headphones.
  Gambino's "3005" queued up in her playlist, but she wasn't feeling it at the moment. She wanted something to fit her mood, the kind of mood you have when you're walking alone in the break of dawn, before the city has even woken up. She chose the same artist's "Flight of the navigator" and kept going, feeling each vibration of the gentle acoustic guitar run through her body. She remembered the first time she heard that song: it was during an exam period a few years back, her future ex-boyfriend was sitting at the studying room in the weirdest position, his feet dangling from the side of the table next to his laptop and his notepad sitting on his legs. He was holding a pen on one hand, fidgeting with his fingers. He suddenly drops his pen, lets out a mild "fuck" and turns around to see if he can reach it without disturbing his sitting position. Jessica picks the pen up and hands it to him, giving him a smile and a nod. He mutters an inaudible "thank you" while smiling back, takes his feet off the table and takes his headphones off to turn to Jessica.
"Have I seen you somewhere?"
"Chemical engineering major?" she asks.
"Nah, electrical" he answers. "Tried that too but was out of my element." he adds
Jessica lets out a genuine laugh, "Oh god you're one of those" she smiles.
"What, an electrical engineer, or a guy with a good sense of humour?" he smiles back.
"Not sure if you'd fit in either category to be honest." Jess says playfully.
"And you're in?"
"Well, chemical engineering if that wasn't so apparent."
He facepalms for a second, and extends his arm to Jessica. "I'm Nick by the way. Wannabe electrical engineer, bad humour specialist and quite stupid to be frank."
"So is it Frank or is it Nick?" she asks while shaking his hand. "I'm Jessica" she adds.
"Well Jess, I see you're ready to join the bad humour club."
Both of them seemed quite into each other at that point, and they both knew it but nobody wanted to make a first move so early after they met.
"So what are you listening to?" asks Jessica to break the bit of awkward silence that had formed in the past half a minute after the handshake.
"Childish Gambino" answers Nick while turning to his laptop to navigate his music files. "You know, the guy from Community."
"He makes music?" asks Jessica, quite surprised.
"Not only that, he's amazing. Wanna listen?" he asks.
Jessica takes her chair next to Nick's and lets him put his over-ear headphones on her head.
  She's thinking how great the song is, while Nick is staring directly at her with a big smile on his face, the kind of smile you have when you introduce someone to something you're sure they will enjoy. After the song ends, she sits there and stares at Nick for a while, not saying a word, and Nick himself staring back and smiling contently.
"Wanna go out sometime?" he says all of a sudden.
Jessica smiles a wide smile and answers playfully "As long as we get to listen to some more of that stuff."
"My headphones are an extension of my head, so you can bet on that." he says. They exchange numbers and facebook profiles and Nick turns back to his laptop to continue studying. "If you have your own headphones we can study together and start listening to my stuff right now," he says. Jessica pulls her red in-ear ones and hands them to Nick, who plugs them into the audio splitter and resumes his studying position, Jessica taking her own next to him. He played "Flight of the navigator" a few more times during that studying session and the song made it to Jessica's own playlist in a matter of a few hours.
  Two years later even though she and Nick had broken up a while ago after dating for half a year, the song was still in her playlist and every time she listened to it she was reminded of him and how much fun they had together at the short period they dated. She checked her phone and scrolled to find her last conversation with him. It was from February, Nick had wished her a happy birthday and they exchanged a few messages before returning to being mostly strangers. She felt sad knowing that a person she shared all those memories with, and who knew her so well was now a stranger. She typed his phone number and put her finger over the "call" button but then she remembered: she was the one who broke up with him, and she was the one that didn't want them to keep in touch. She hoped relationships were easier than that but alas, they're not. She deleted the phone number, changed the song and moved on.


Τετάρτη, 24 Μαΐου 2017

Blog no. 23: What plan?

  Have you ever ridden a bike with a friend on a rocky road with no regards for safety, him yelling to "hold on" at the top of his lungs and you knowing that it's gonna be a bumpy ride which will probably end up badly? Yeah, that's life for ya.

 I came to a realization the other day that I have no idea what I'm doing, and that's OK, because nobody really does. Some might think they know what's up, some might pretend they do but in reality, most of us are just winging it. Like a good choose-your-own-adventure book, we just make choice after choice, day by day, hoping we don't fuck up and regretting it at the very usual occurrence that we do eventually fuck up. You can call it Murphy's law or just bad luck, but making the wrong choices and getting punished for it is perfectly human and will happen a lot, so you better get used to falling on your ass. Thing is every time you fall on your ass it's a lesson to be learned, so by the 100th time you will have ass muscles strong enough to support your fall and make it a bit less painful. Or, y'know, put a damn pillow underneath if you are that prone to failure.
  Personally, I feel like the world moves faster than my ability to comprehend it. I feel like I'm in a perpetual state of catching up. I think I understand how things work and the status quo suddenly changes and I'm so lost I can't even understand myself sometimes. It's no use to try to wrap your head around how things work really, the world is evolving so fast by every passing moment that you can't actually keep yourself up to date. It's like an NVIDIA drive in that sense, there's always something new you have to account for, something different that fucks the whole system up. One of the most important traits you can have nowadays is the ability to adapt; without it you're just a 20/30/something-year old model running on outdated software.
  Planning for things has never been my thing, partially because I'm really really bad at it and partially because it's not my style. Even when I'm forced to think ahead, I'm the sort of guy who will lay down a very elaborate and well drawn plan, will write exact times and dates for each step of the plan, and will abort everything once the first step is not accomplished, making the whole thing crumble in a wreck of regret and missed opportunities. That's why I don't do New Year's resolutions anymore, I always fail them within the first week. I'm envious of people who can make a plan and stick to it, they are the kind of people that I would like to have in my lab assignments so I can have somebody to encourage me to follow said plans. Then again, isn't it a bit restraining to be forced to follow a certain path, whatever the circumstances might be? In a basketball match the coach lays down the positions and job of each player before the game, but once his team is trailing by 10 with 1 minute to go, it's all back to the drawing board with some impromptu, hopefully game-changing play. A friend of mine decided to write down some short term goals for herself 3 months in advance, with some of the bullet points being romantic relationships and mental state, so I asked her quite nicely: "How the fuck do you plan on these things in advance?" Short answer: You don't. Long answer: You really, really don't.

  It's fine to plan stuff that you can actually mostly predict like your financial state in a few months, but after a certain point planning about easily variable stuff, forces you to act in a very unnatural fashion. When you're forcing situations that should not normally be forced, you're setting yourself up for failure. This even applies when talking to people: it's perfectly reasonable to think before you talk if you're afraid of saying something stupid, but when you're close to someone isn't it better to just, you know, talk? 

  We had this exercise during my trip in Madrid where we had to make a short presentation about ourselves so that they could tell us what we could fix about our body language and since none of the stuff I said were practiced or pre-planned, I said some truths about myself that I hadn't really thought about before. Since my mouth was running faster than my brain what I said was pure improvisation, and I realized how I perceive myself unconsciously. I mentioned in an earlier post that when you stop thinking about stuff, that's when the real thinking begins. I still very much stand by that belief, but now I also have personal experience that it's actually true.

  When I write stories, blog posts, poems or even when I'm doodling something on a piece of paper, I never think about what I'm doing until I'm halfway through. I don't put any thought on what I'm writing, I just lay my hands on the keyboard and let my fingers do the talking, and that's why all this is so real for me. That has always been my goal really; if I can't be real myself, why should I expect anyone else to be? Here's the thing though: if people like the real you, you know you've done a damn fine job. And if they don't? Well you can't make everyone happy, can you?

Παρασκευή, 21 Απριλίου 2017

Something borrowed

"Where did you find this?" asked Cara. She walked towards me wearing a long white sundress with pink-and-yellow stripes, her straight long hair covering part of her beautiful face. Where did I find that jewel? I honestly couldn't remember by the time she approached me and tapped me on the shoulder.
"I...I think I just found it on the floor by the post-office." I replied awkwardly. "Is it yours?"
"No but it's strangely familiar. Is it a necklace or something?"
I held it in front of Cara and I to examine it briefly. Our eyes reflected its silver-ish glow and scanned it quickly front and back. It reminded me of the sort of treasures Nathan Drake would find in one of his adventures in Shambala, it was very decorated for such a small piece of jewelry. It had beautiful blue details and on its sides there was some sort of writing which we could tell was not English or any latin-based language we might have been familiar with, but a rather strange string of symbols we'd never seen before.
"Think it's Chinese or something?" I asked Cara.
She grabbed it from my hand in one quick motion and passed her fingers through the engravings. "Nah, I don't think so. If anything it's probably hieroglyphics: see that feather-like thingy and the ring?"
"You mean the cursive T and the incredibly round O?" I answered sarcastically. "I see them."
Cara gave me a mean glance and rolled her eyes, as usual. Whenever I made one of my stupid jokes she would look away as if someone was looking at us and she'd feel embarrassed of me, which should normally make me feel bad if it weren't accompanied by that cute little smile of hers. God, I swear that smile made my heart skip multiple beats.
  The way she looked at the jewel with her big brown puppy eyes made you realize why half the school was in love with her back then, and the rest of her made you ask why the other half didn't. She touched every inch of it carefully with her silky fingers, almost caressing it, trying to make it speak to her. I couldn't but stare at her more than the weird-looking relic we'd found.
"Do you think someone will be missing this?" she asked.
"This old thing? She's probably resting in a sarcophagus wrapped in towels and stuff."
She gave me a legitimate laugh and punched me lightly on my arm, and I let out an extremely fake "ouch" noise to see if I catch another glimpse of that smile.
"We could take it to a police station if you want." I suggested. She tilted her head to the side and held a blank, silent expression. "Or we could take a picture of it and ask around on the internet first. Who knows, maybe it's magic." I added.
"YES!" she exclaimed enthusiastically. "I mean yes, that's a good idea." she said in a more serious tone, clearing her throat.
  We walked towards our bikes and started pushing them back home to appreciate the amazing weather we were gifted with. My house was a 30 minute walk from the promenade and Cara's wasn't much farther than that. I noticed that the beach was empty as we walked by; even though it was rather hot for an April afternoon people were still weary of the sudden storms we had had in the past couple of days and preferred to stay at home for the time being. Seeing it so empty and calm was very rare and eerie, so I suggested we stopped for a while to catch the sunset. Cara was instantly on board with the idea, her being a sunset enthusiast. To be fair, who isn't?
  The beach was a large stretch of gold sand and a stone wall on the back that led to the promenade. Cara took of her shoes and set them on the side and her bike against the wall. She took a moment to appreciate the wet sand on her toes, letting it sink her bare feet a few inches while trying to maintain balance. The necklace took place on her neck while she was playing with the sand. I sat on a beach bed I found laying around and after looking over at her playing like a small child, I closed my eyes and leaned back. It reminded me so much of my teen years, when we used to come with our families and once the sun was down me and Cara would lay on the sand, look up at the starry sky and make up stories with aliens and space cowboys and whatever our then imaginative younger selves would come up with. We would talk about life, the universe and everything and I swear at least half of it made sense. Nowadays we didn't really have time for that, being busy with the university and whatnot, so occurrences like this one were to be treasured.
  Suddenly I felt her lips on mine. I opened my eyes slightly and saw her shadowed figure standing on top of me, and her leaning gracefully against the bed, messing with my hair with her free hand. For a second I flinched; I wasn't expecting that, no matter how much I wanted to I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize our friendship because I didn't know how she felt about me. I always thought there was this more-than-friends quality about our time spent alone but I was too afraid to do anything about it, and then I didn't have time to do so. It was the first time we went to the beach after those warm summer nights. It was the first time I felt she wanted me back. It was the first time we'd ever done something like that. It was my first time kissing a girl.
"Emily?" she said. "I..I didn't mean to..."
Before letting her finish her sentence I pulled her towards me and kissed her back, and then she hugged me and smiled playfully, before lying next to me and wrapping herself around my arms.
  We sat around that bed and talked and kissed and laughed all night. She confessed that she always liked me but her parents were too strict and she wasn't sure if they would accept her if she came out back then, so she hid it from everybody until now. Her eyes filled up telling me, but she was determined and hopeful that they would accept her for who she is, just like my parents accepted me. And when I held her in my arms, she knew everything would be okay.
  I had forgotten how good it felt to be around her and to finally find out that she actually likes me back. I had given up on the idea long ago but now that it actually happened I wasn't sure whether to believe it or not. Nobody knew if it would last and nobody really cared. We just had each other, the stars and the sea. At that moment we had everything.
  During one of our kissing sessions the necklace fell next to the bed and got buried under a thin layer of sand after a soft breeze. The next morning we left holding hands, heading to Cara's house to confront her parents and had forgotten all about it. I still don't recall where I'd found it. Maybe it was magic after all, passed on from a mysterious ancient tribe to make people's dreams come true. Maybe someone else will find it and it will help them too; all they have to do is look for it. The ones who do are the ones who want it more after all. 

Δευτέρα, 13 Φεβρουαρίου 2017

Blog no.22: Wanna go to the movies?

Dear film enthusiasts,

  Yesterday was international cinema day and thus I'm a day late at this, but since I've been *cough* busy with studying *cough* I figured I might as well do it now. "Buy the ticket, take the ride" says Hunter S.Thompson in the trippy "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", and that's what you get yourself into whenever you step a few metres behind the big silver screen.
  We all watch movies, film buffs or not, even the least enthusiastic-about-film people have probably seen a bunch of them. Most of them download the majority of the films they watch and I won't be the kettle and call the pot black, if pirating was a crime I'd be facing several lifetimes in prison, and then some. Thing is, going to the cinema is just a much better way to go about it if you want to see a movie, because you're not just watching it, you're experiencing it.
  I find it hard to rate movies I have seen at home because I don't think I'm doing them justice at all. You always have a distraction, chatting on Facebook during the slow parts, probably pausing and unpausing every so often to grab a snack or take a bathroom break and you never really experience it the way the director meant you to experience it. Every time I watch a Tarantino at home I can feel Q over my shoulder, judging me for looking elsewhere instead of watching Pitt scalping a Nazi or Travolta and Thurman doing the twist, I can almost hear Fincher yelling at me to put the damn phone down and carefully study the hundredth take it took Gyllenhaal to get the shot just right, and I can see Linklater's disappointed look whenever I pause one of Delpy and Hawke's intimate conversations. Submarine got it exactly right: "How do they know? They just do."
  I dated this girl last year, really great and a film enthusiast, much like me. She was probably one of the biggest influences in me becoming so passionate about movies because she didn't just like them, by the (paraphrased) words of Anton Ego, "She adored them." Most of our dates included watching a movie or two, that's how we actually started dating in the first place, and it was always a treat. One of the best movie-going experiences I have ever had was watching The Nice Guys with her, in a cute little open-air summer cinema in Plaka, Cine Paris. We weren't doing so hot as a couple due to external turbulence and were kinda distant at first. It was mid-May I think, and the movie was starting at 8 pm sharp. We grabbed my favourite beer and some popcorn and took our seats silently, waiting for the movie to start. The sun was still creeping above our beautiful view of the Acropolis as the movie was starting. Half-way during the movie we watched the sun set from the west to give way to a lovely summer-ish night and light breeze, and half-way through the hilarious Crowe-Gosling induced shenanigans my girl and I were holding hands, laughing our asses off, kissing during the break, enjoying one perfect date. It's like all the problems we had and all the distance between us had vanished. How could they not, really?
  One of the reasons I love Athens is because of the cinema culture it provides. Coming here I wasn't much of a film buff, I watched movies regularly but I never thought of anything beyond that, watching them was just a past-time whenever I was bored gaming. Growing up in Cyprus we didn't have a lot of cinemas, just a few big multiplexes that showed the latest blockbusters so when I came here I was introduced to a whole new world of small, one-screen theatres, summer cinemas, community theatres and film festivals. It blew my mind how many movies from all around the world I could watch, not just Disney-owned properties (which to be fair are quite good in their own right). It's mind-boggling how much choice you can have here, and I imagine how much more there is in bigger cities all around the world. We're so lucky we're able to experience all these things, but unfortunately not a whole lot of us care.
  A few months ago I got into the habit of going to the movies by myself. I just got really tired of having no company after breaking up twice in the span of a year, and since most of my friends aren't huge on the whole "going to the cinema" thing I have going on, I figured I might as well try it on my own. It was pretty awkward at first, I had never done something like that because it seemed such a lonely, desperate thing to do and frankly, I was a bit of both. I went to see La la Land for the first time and I was so damn emotionally invested by the end of the movie, I was literally speechless for a few moments after the end title, and I had the luxury to just sit there by myself and contemplate my feelings for a bit. I didn't have to scoff, laugh, comment or get up immediately, and so I did none of those things. I just sat there for a bit until the credits rolled, stared at the screen for a while, and then took all my stuff and quietly  got out of the room. It wasn't sad or lonely, it was just very, very real. I watched a bunch of movies by myself after that, Arrival, Nocturnal Animals, Patterson, La la Land for a second time from the top of my head, and all of those were amazing experiences on their own.
  Looking back, I'm really disappointed at myself for being scared to do this earlier. I realized that it's not shameful or desperate to go to the movies by yourself, and that sometimes it's okay to spend some time alone. It's not awkward unless you make it awkward, and showing that you know what you're doing and that you're not afraid to do things alone and take some time for yourself is a fantastic trait to have. That being said it doesn't always have to be so profound, going as a group is always a fun ride. Just gotta find that group that tolerates your snobby "film-enthusiast" ass.

Your friendly avid movie-goer,
Stelios Zesiades.

P.S. Since it's Valentine's day and all, I might as well list my favourite romantic movies:
1. Before Trilogy
2. La la Land
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
4. Wall-E
5. The Lobster
6. Tangled
7. When Harry met Sally
8. Amelie
9. Crazy, Stupid Love
10. Definitely, Maybe

Honorable mentions: Casablanca, Music&Lyrics, Roman Holiday, In the Mood for Love, Blue Valentine and many many more. 

Κυριακή, 8 Ιανουαρίου 2017

Blog no. 21: The airport shuffle

Dear travelers,

Whenever you're planning a trip what you have in mind is always what you'll pack before the trip and what you'll do during the trip; never what you're doing inbetween.
  You see, the airport shuffle as it's going to be known for the remaining of this blog, is the transitional period between the time you arrive at one airport and the time you leave from the airport of your destination. It can be somewhere between 2 hours to a whole day if you have a connecting flight with a long waiting period, and it's a time where you're practically a ghost. You don't have any responsibilities, you have nowhere else to be at so you just sort of linger, wandering around because nobody will look for you, for a few hours you are neither here nor there, for a while you just don't really exist. I've been in this situation many times and I actually enjoy it, as unconventional as that sounds. It's a time where I can do whatever I want without "wasting time" because that time is practically wasted already.
  It's endearing, really, sitting around at the airport and just watching people come and go, trying to figure what their destination is and what they're thinking about. What baggage do they bring along? What's their story? You just observe with keen eyes, trying to figure everyone out. You're so into it that you forget your own baggage, your own destination, you forget all about your story. Maybe that bearded dude is flying to England to propose to his girlfriend. Maybe that Asian-looking lady is flying to Germany for her job interview in a law firm practice. That couple is probably going over the Atlantic for their honeymoon in Cuba. That sad-looking middle aged guy might be visiting Italy for his father's funeral. That annoying group of kids might be playing in the junior international handball finals in Sweden. And while you're doing all this thinking you're invisible, so you can keep on doing your thing and nobody will even notice (unless what you're doing is bumping into people and calling them names and stuff).
  I've met a lot of interesting people in airport shuffles, I've fallen in love multiple times with beautiful strangers I never talked to, I've listened to songs on repeat so that my trip would have an official theme song. "We Believe" by Good Charlotte was the one when I was stranded in Mallorca for the whole night with no money and no food, "Sing about me I'm dying of thirst" by Kendrick Lamar was my jam when my flight was postponed for an hour in Stuttgart, "4 da squaw" by Isaiah Rashad was played a lot during my overnight stay in Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam a few days ago and "Chasing cars" was the song that started it all, after my 5-day field trip in Salonica, 8 years ago.
  My favourite airport shuffle story though, is the one with Sofia from Chicago. So, one time I met this girl who was in my bus on the way to the airport with her friend, sitting right in front of me for the whole ride. She was really pretty, had this great smile and beautiful green eyes but I was listening to music, too shy, and too into "The Great Gatsby" that was in my hands to talk to her and her friend. After a while I took my headphones off to seem more approachable and she immediately asked me if I was enjoying the book, so I told her that it was great. She asked me if I got to the point of the huge party in Gatsby's house in which I replied that indeed I had, and she told me that was so wild. We talked for a while and she told me that her dad was from Chicago because I noticed she didn't have the traditional Greek accent when talking in English. When we arrived at the airport I was still a bit shaken because it's not something that happens often to me, a pretty girl talking me up is quite the rare occurrence, so - the idiot I am - I didn't continue the conversation. At that point she came close to me and grabbed me by the arm as if we were going on a date in some fancy restaurant. She leaned in and almost whispered in a very cute voice "My name is Sofia, and my friend is -" actually I don't remember her friend's name, silly me. "My name is Stelios, nice to meet you" I replied. We were both supposed to check in so I told her that I would check in my flight and we could meet somewhere afterward to continue the conversation. After what seemed like an eternity, Sofia wasn't at her check-in and I figured she was done before I was, so I started looking for her. I searched everywhere, walked every inch of the (admittedly not very big) airport but she was nowhere to be found, so I convinced myself that it was never gonna happen and, defeated as ever, I crawled through the security check and went on to my gate to painfully wait for my plane to depart. A few minutes before my departure I see her and her friend boarding their plane; their gate was right next to mine and she was sitting right there for the whole time. When I finally found her it was too late, so I just called her name out and waved her goodbye.
 Even though the story doesn't have a happy ending it's something I will remember it for a long time (and if I meet with Sofia again by an incredible amount of luck, it'll be a love story to write home about). Not every story has a happy ending unfortunately, but the ones in airports have a definitive beginning and end. The whole "it's not the destination, it's the journey" thing is amazingly true, although that shouldn't take away from the fun you'll have at your actual destination. Here's the thing though, you just know that whatever happens in an airport stays there and, you see, being in an airport shuffle is kinda like being in a vacuum; everything that happens is isolated from the whole world, and much like everything else around you, it just sort of lingers.

Your friendly airport-shuffler,
Stelios Zesiades.

P.S. Don't be afraid to travel solo, you might just make a memory or two.