Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Fishermen of Naxos

 Journal Excerpt - May 19, 1976 - The Fishermen of Naxos
During our first night on Naxos, the largest and most fertile island in the Cyclades, there was a shadow over the lower right side of the moon and, having left a love back home, I couldn't help but wonder if it looked that way in California. At the time, I considered it an omen for me and my travel companion that some intriguing events were about to unfold.

We had only been traveling for two months but had already been on fourteen boats, not counting an eight-day cruise aboard the Leonard Da Vinci which had transported us from New York to Naples for a student fare of two-hundred and fifty dollars. Especially memorable were our fellow passengers, three full Italian meals per day served by handsome Italian waiters, magnificent on deck views of the Atlantic, and a surprising encounter with David Bowie which is another story.

Alot had happened to us before we'd arrived on Naxos but we had yet to be taken out on a boat by Greek fishermen. Initially, I had serious concerns about being on the Mediterranean with Greek men as I had already witnessed the fine art of kamaki and was reading Zorba the Greek by Kazantzakis. My imagination was running wild as usual and my mother had successfully instilled a cautionary sense in me. But, after a week spent getting acquainted with the locals we accepted an invitation to go fishing off Apollon, located at the northernmost tip of the island.  In a few days, we were helped aboard a brightly painted boat and greeted by four other American women. There was Mary, an energetic blonde, and Patty, whose contagious laughter came easily and often. Then, we met Heidi from Seattle who was heartbroken having returned to Naxos, after a three year absence, in search of her old lover, Nikitis, who no longer lived there. And, finally, we were introduced to Jackie, torn between accepting a scholarship at Smith or remaining on the island with her lover, Niko. It was his boat and since I had already observed the inherent sensuality of Greek men, I could easily empathize with Jackie's difficult decision.

Our boat drifted lazily through limpid, turquoise waters as seagulls caught our breeze off the stern and floated effortlessly there as though anxiously awaiting an opportunity to scoop up fish with their pointy little beaks. Time passed quickly and before long Niko set anchor off a private cove where deep golden light illuminated the sculpted white rock emerging fearlessly into translucent water. It was growing warmer so the men removed their shirts and began to busily prepare the day's catch. The rest of us shared a bottle of retsina and joined together in an exuberant toast to Bacchus, god of wine, who Heidi explained had married Ariadne after being forsaken by Theseus on Naxos. Respectful of her recent disappointment, we all grew silent until Mary opened a jar of olives and we quickly resumed our lively conversation.

Meanwhile, Niko and the other four fishermen were preoccupied with bundling up sticks of dynamite. We stared in amazement as they heaved them into quiescent waters causing them to explode one by one, each time spraying up a fountain of water only a few feet from our boat. Dozens of fish instantly rose to the surface, their silver bodies glistening in the late morning sun. Were they dead or merely stunned? We tried to convince ourselves that the survivors would regain consciousness and return safely to the pristine depths. In retrospect, we were quite naive. Two of the men hauled in a huge net, trapping the fish, open-eyed, their slippery wet skin causing a pungent, yet oddly intoxicating odor to permeate our boat combined with coconut oil, the sweat of the fishermen, and the sweet ambrosia of spring.

We watched with curiosity as the men scraped off the scales then cut behind the gills to clean out the innards. Next, a final slice down the middle to extract the entrail. After this process was completed, we gathered up our things then climbed to a spectacular site overlooking the vast Aegean Sea, a proud and dazzling gem, stretching endlessly before us. Soon the men started heating the coals and everyone pitched in at their own pace. I offered to help Patty with the task of peeling potatoes and she quietly advised me to remove the brown spots or Niko would throw them out. It struck me as ironic that such a culinary detail would concern the same person who had just overwhelmed us with his pyrotechnics. But, what eventually resulted was a delicious feast of fresh fish, potato stew, bread, cheese, more retsina and Citro, a lemon-flavored liqueur that made us pleasantly high and grateful the next morning that we had learned from the Greeks to always include food with our drinks. We happily spent the afternoon telling stories and singing songs, light years away from earthly responsibilities back home.

Later that evening, we reunited with everyone for a fiesta at Niko's favorite taverna where he danced like a madman as waiters served him shots of ouzo from a well worn tray. Entranced, we watched as with one quick motion he'd toss the liquor back then, with dark eyes burning, he'd bite into the glass and slam the broken remains down on the tray. Each time, he'd hit the bottom of the tray with his palm sending the glass flying through the air then crashing noisily to the ground. Jackie watched her lover with a resolute expression of desire and frustration as blood dripped from the corner of his mouth. This time, I remember thinking, history will reverse itself and Ariadne will abandon Theseus.

It was our last night on Naxos and only a half moon was visible as the haunting strains of a violin accompanied by a santouri and lyra filled the sultry night air. As the sky slowly darkened, we celebrated these fleeting, new found friendships, our parea, with shots of ouzo and apple slices. Then, we danced through the star filled night around and around, our sunburned arms holding each other up, our young hearts desperately hoping  the music would never end.

Friday, September 16, 2011


Watercolor on Paper, 1976

Painting - I was inspired by the stark white architecture in contrast to the bluest waters I've ever seen.

Journal Excerpt - May 8, 1976
      We've been in Greece a week now. This island is beautiful. Narrow winding streets, cobblestones. So much white its blinding. The God of Apollo rides in the wind and water; bathes us with light. Paradise and Super Paradise! Nude beaches. Exercise, sun and more exercise. Not very much food these days. Quite a change from Italy. Warm spring nights; the fading smell of tanning lotion and other spring nights filled with a lover's smile. Barbecues and being waiting on like a queen. I must wait on myself these days. Feel my own bones.Get stronger.
     I could lose reality here; mesmerized as the windmills turn gently with the breeze. White cloth flapping like a sail, held fast, forever turning. The old Greeks singing out their wares as they lead a donkey overladen with hanging baskets through the narrow streets. Onions and spinach leaves are about all they have to offer-not much fruit here. We've been eating with thirst the sweet oranges and Greek salads for dinner. Last night we went to Spiro's (on the water) and had octopus. I enjoyed it as I never thought I would. Ah yes-do as the natives do.
     Our place is nice. Hot shower, sundeck and quite clean with maid service. It amazes me that these people work so hard as it amounts to only $1.50 per night for a room. They're constantly white washing and scrubbing. A bit more standoffish than the Italians.

From our balcony over the Adriatic
I watch a black cat's shadow creeping slow
hovering and sliding against white stone
as a meteor falls out of the sky

I watch it move stealthily as an apparition
over broken cobblestones until it stops
to arch its back then howls an ominous
haunted song

This spectral creature cast a spell over me

And I remember a town now far away and
long forgotten where a black cat crossed
my path and before I could move to the
other side I broke my sandal strap.

     Yesterday May 7th we sent alot of postcards and letters out. Another desperate attempt to get mail in Athens.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Train Ride to the Ancient Greek City of Selinunte on the Coast of Sicily, Italy

Journal Excerpt - April 22, 1976

The train ride to Selinunte, an ancient Greek city located on Sicily's southern coast, was quiet - we read most the way. When we got off the train people stared and several men attempted to find us hotel rooms. Finally, with no luck, we decided to return to the station and wait for the next train, frustrated with full bladders.

Suddenly, a girl came running up to us yelling, "Selinunte! Selinunte!" We both shook our heads as she and the people with her helped us into their car. We told them we wanted to stay in a 'pensione economique' which turned out to be their home and an incredible experience.

They treated us with such hospitality, as if they'd known us all their lives - a mother, father, sister, brother, and two friends. We were well fed and well cared for, "Mangia! Mangia!" they kept saying.

Cetty puzzles me and Nicholas amuses - he's so full of life and mischief and, unlike his sister, seems to have been allowed more space to explore himself.

After having talked to Cetty (we had been hoping to find an Italian woman to ask questions about the men and their attitudes). We learned that it is highly expected that the woman be a virgin when she's married and, afterwards, should the man choose to go out with other women the wife may often excuse this behavior in her own often by simply acknowledging that, "He's an egotist!"

The man's job is usually one of financial support and the woman's of child support. Not to say that the man isn't a good father or the woman a good worker but rather that their established roles are usually accepted.

Our trip to the visit the archeological site of Selinunte's ancient, stone walled temples was a highlight of our travels. It's so undeveloped you can really get the feeling of what it must have been like more than two and half thousand years ago. Wildflowers were growing everywhere and seeing these monuments situated by the sea was extraordinary.

April 23, 1976

The train ride from Selinunte was beautiful. The hills rolling magestically in green, brown, darks blending with lights. And, flowers everywhere! The small flowers covering the hillside were the most lovely and came in variations of yellow, purple, blue, and red all blending together to make a family. I'm glad now we came to Sicily and our course seems to make sense; having come from Naples - down around the boot. And, we kicked the boot!

Sicilians are a proud people and it is important that they distinguish for the visitor that there is a difference between Italy and Sicily which they regard as a separate country with its own language, attitudes and, in some ways, lifestyle. Of course, the north and south retain their animosity towards one another in a more class conscious way.

I found it interesting to observe the small town train stations. Oftentimes, people on the trains will hang out the windows to ask for 'aqua' from a nearby pump, to talk to those standing in the station or, as happened yesterday, to purchase food, i.e., the man who bought some sweet smelling onions.

The train yesterday was only two cars; no one bothered us and we were left to gaze in wonder at the magnificent scenery rolling past us in glorious colors.

The bus ride up into Agrigento is one I shall never forget as we were the only women among a few middle-aged, and quite jolly, men. English music was blaring and Italian words flying around accompanied by the usual disorganized chaos but we finally got there.

I cleaned out my art supplies - in the plastic bag where I keep them. Charcoal and purple paint had made quite a mess and made me realize that I must start my artwork again.

Sicilia in the springtime is graced with the smell of flowers, air pure with the gaiety of children's voices. But, in some ways it is special, holding an old world flavor to be equaled in no other place. While riding the trains or even in the busy sections of towns (ie., Agrigento) it is not uncommon to see the old men with their donkeys laden down - carrying goods from the farms to the markets. Everything is so green + fertile.
I would have to say the 'real' Italy for me began as the train pulled onto the ferry and we made our way across the Strait of Messina  to what was about to be the most enlightening part of our journey.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Souls of September


Mixed Media on Canvas, 2001

 Exhibition: 2002, REACTIONS, Global 911 Project, Exit Art/The First World Gallery, New York, NY 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Paris Landscape

View over weathered bookstall, Paris, France, 2001

I was interested in capturing this unusual perspective of a seemingly
bleak, rugged terrain leading towards the Eiffel Tower.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Figurative Paintings and Drawings, 2009

Graphite on Paper, 2009
Watercolor and Ink on Paper, 2009
The Faithful
Mixed Media on Paper, 2009
Watercolor and Ink on Paper, 2009
Watercolor and Graphite on Paper, 2009
American Dream
Graphite and Crayon on Paper, 2009

The Last Tower
Acrylic on Board, 2009
Resilient Nature
Watercolor on Paper, 2009
Tipping Point
Mixed Media on Paper, 2009

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Moveable Feast

I took this photo in April of a man sitting under some blossoming trees beside Notre Dame
as I wandered around  Paris lost in every moment of adventure and discovery...

I just re-read Hemingway's, A Moveable Feast after thirty years. I was motivated to revisit his expatriate experience of the 20's in Paris after visiting the Steins Collect Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde exhibit at SFMOMA as well as the Gertrude Stein exhibit at the SF Contemporary Jewish Museum.

As an artist and writer, I would have enjoyed living the expatriate life in Paris during the 20's and 30's. Reading the book was a much different experience this time than three decades ago. But, the last paragraph rings as true for me today as it did in the late 70's:

"There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy."
                                                                                Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

In Memory of Deborah Nourse Dubs

Escape from Dubrovnik

Journal Excerpt - June 17, 1976

This day will remain in my memory forever. The four of us had the whole day to play until we had to catch the boat to Dubrovnik. Wine flowed like a waterfall; eating peanuts on the dock and Jim surprised us with sugared donuts from the bakery - to my amazement they had holes in them! In Greece?!? After awhile, time started moving faster - souvlaki, more wine, and ouzo! Time unimportant but so important! The boat would leave at eight o'clock. Rushing around getting passports stamped; buying more peanuts and wine. And, yet the hilarity was only beginning. Jim and Joran came on the boat to say their goodbyes but little did they know that they were going to Yugoslavia along with us and had left their passports back in the tents on Pelekas Beach. Perhaps, it was the ouzo or Jim's half-assed statement that he would need to be more intelligent than the woman he married that pushed the boat off for Dubrovnik without so much as a second announcement. We barely heard the first! The only horns blowing were in our heads as the docks of Corfu slowly began to crawl into the distance. What an adventure! It must be such spontaneity as this that is the fruit of life. Running frantically through the boat's corridors in a futile attempt to find a room while trying to hide from the authorities. Finally, Jim and I spending the night in one of the lifeboats hanging over the Adriatic as we sailed towards the medieval town of Dubrovnik on the Croatian coast.

Our boat docks in Dubrovnik - June 18, 1976

Mood - a bit on the nervous side contemplating our friends escape from the Yugoslavian police - communist state; all somewhat dramatic in my own mind. We disembarked without Jim and Joran after giving them a location of where we could meet and saying our goodbyes one more time. The authorities checked our passports twice and then we walked over to the exchange office for money and waited. After about an hour we were coming from the Tourist Bureau when I looked across the street to see Jim and Joran walking carefreely and smiling wide - free!

Sometime later I received a letter from Jim explaining that he and Joran had been captured by the communist police and imprisoned. He then went on to describe how he had made a guitar out of the bedsprings in his cell. I was upset to hear that he and Joran had endured such difficulties, especially in a communist country from which they might not escape. After our return to the states I received a letter from Jim. He was back home in Woodland, Washington. I was so relieved that he was safe! Later, he called me in San Francisco and admitted that he'd made everything up. At the time, I was angry and our brief relationship ended. But now, decades later, I realize how foolish and gullible I was back then and but will always have great memories of that adventurous time.

Corfu (Kondokali)

 Journal Excerpt - June 13, 1976

There's been a full moon these last couple of days; and I'm feeling, as usual, a bit restless, tense, irritable, excitable - an intense bit of everything. Looking forward to Dubrovnik and, of course, today. Left Corfu town for the youth hostel here. Our first night was crazy. Lots of young people dancing beneath a full moon. I could see the reeds of grass shadowed before the sky - old moon making silhouettes of my friends. Switzerland rode his bike all the way here. And, to India. The French girl was so nice. Suggested Montpelier for art school, said Aix has a lot of cultural events but now is mostly bourgeoisie and students. I'll just have to see when I get there.

Yesterday rented motorbikes and explored the island. So incredible! Ahhh, yes...Shakespeare, you had it right when you wrote the Tempest. I commend you ever so highly. Here's to Prospero and here's to Ariel! Olive trees, cyprus, and lovely ferns. The water, crystal clear. Rock like a God jutting out into the indigo depths. I felt so like a bird winding down around the mountain paths - at times it was a bit rough. I loved it! The beauty assaulted my senses; my senses gave way and I could breathe, at last, the sweet breath of freedom.

          "...take off these clothes, leave your boat for the winds to play with, and swim for your life
           to the Phaeacian coast, where deliverance awaits you."
                                                                                           Homer: The Odyssey, Book V

Friday, September 2, 2011

Letter from Naxos

Afternoon in a Greek Cafe
Charcoal on Newsprint, 1976

Journal Excerpt - May 1976

Last night there was a shadow on the lower right side of the moon. I had never seen that before. Was it that way in California? It is so beautiful here on this island. I like it much better than Mykonos. Not so "jetsetty". I feel like I'm in the 'real' Greece here. A few tourists - but not so many. I'm hoping to get a chance to go out in a fishing boat and watch how they work with the nets. I love the fishing boats - they're so colorful.
Right now I'm reading Zorba the Greek by Kazantzakis. I've only just started it but its quite good. I've heard of him before but never read anything by him. He's excellent. Also - since we may be going to Crete its a good book to get me interested in that particular island. Did you ever see the movie? If you are reading any books you think I'd like please tell me and I'll do the same. I just went to look for Fruits of the Earth by Andre Gide that I told you about before and realized I traded it in for Zorba...

Anyway, there were some good poems in Gide's book that I wanted to quote. Oh well, I'll make up my own short poem on impulse...

The moon is a lady
     all dressed in white
her lover, the sun,
     who hides from the night
Oh, how shall they meet
     should this go on?
When each has a different
     concept of dawn?

For some reason I can't stop writing. Oh! I know what I was going to tell you. Old men. You'd love watching them - the way they sit around in these funky old cafes and play cards, drink retsina, and gossip. They're great - so much character. I wish I could get more 'people pictures' but I feel sort of strange going right up to someone and sticking a camera in their face.

Life is so cheap here, I don't believe it. Our room is only $1.50 a night and we pay the same for a good meal of fish, salad, and wine. I could see living on an island like this for awhile but I'm too curious about what's around the next corner.

Today we took a paddle boat out into the water. You know, the kind that you steer with your feet? It was so much fun - great exercise!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Headless Man in Brittany

Brittany, France

Bus Ride on Crete

Excerpt from Journal - May 26, 1976

How to Use Greek Worry Beads

As in Italy, there's often two men in charge of the bus - one who drives it and the other who collects the fares and stacks luggage. Greek bus drivers don't honk as much as Italian bus drivers and they don't drive as fast which still means don't look down if you're sitting by a window. But, the real difference can be found at the front of the bus! Usually, there is a small, religious altar in the upper right hand corner in a glass case. From a mirror hangs a variety of dingo balls, toy parrots, faded photographs of the driver's family and worry beads (see video) in every conceivable color. It's an exhilarating ride as the bus careens over death defying mountain roads and, as you're catching your breath, oddly entertaining to watch the driver's memorabilia swing from side to side.

On a less rocky road, the driver will often attempt to find a radio station but usually to no avail. A tape maybe? Even those sound loud and scratchy but lend a special flavor to the trip and take one's mind off the absence of a protective guard rail. While traveling in such remote areas, you get desperate for music of any kind. But, all things considered, I've really enjoyed the bus rides in Greece, especially on Crete. After walking a few kilometers, its a pleasure to sit back and play with your worry beads assured, once again, that your destination will indeed be reached - if you're lucky.