The pure heart, the true heart, the path we know is real

 

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      The music is rembetica … the old style Greek folk music from the days when they smoked narghiles in the coffee houses, and were the hippies of their time. Their music was about the ecstasy and treachery of love, what they smoked, how they lived, their oppression at the hands of the police, and the mysteries of the universe. The old musicians were outlaws who lived for their music, and the ones tonight are not much different.
      It is a music so out of time, so pure and purely Greek, and yet so much mingled with the wail of the Mideast, that it tears at the soul and sends out the scent of a different world that calls for adventure, sadness, great joy, and astounding sex.
      We are under the stars at a restaurant near the sea, and tonight is rembetica night in the tiny village of Christos. There are a hundred of us at the long tables that have been brought in and jammed together on the patio for this event.
      The bouzouki player looks like Elvis gone to seed, but he sings and plays in the old style, with sounds from the east, and improvised riffs that are pure Charlie Parker in their intensity, style, and freedom. 
      The band tunes up, striking experimental riffs up and down the necks of their instruments until, with a nod from Elvis, the slick haired bouzouki player, they suddenly tear into a tune so driven that a fat little baby boy, no more than a year and a half old, stands up and begins rocking in perfect time. His hands move up from his sides, and he begins to stir the air with them. 
      Halfway through the second tune, the waiter arrives with a liter of local red wine, baked cheese, tzatziki, grilled eggplant, salad topped with a huge slab of feta, and a plate of roasted wild goat. We are so far back in time, that seated with us is our friend, Athena, and a couple of tables away there’s a Ulysses, two Platos, an Aphrodite, and a Helen. I’m surprised there isn’t a Dionysius sitting next to us. This was the island of his birth, and the place where wine was invented. It’s his kind of party.

Gassed in Athens

teargas

But the smoke from the tear gas made its way into the tiny crowded room and there was no relief. Finally we realized that the only escape was to force ourselves out of the room, through the restaurant, into the street and away from the scene. The manager held us each by an arm as we opened the door. I glanced to my right and saw a smoking gas canister five feet away. We were hit even harder this time and almost overwhelmed.

The Christmas Survival Suit

Christmas-1991-40

      When I picked him up off the southeast tip of Bowen Island, the old man was half-drowned. Even though he was mostly submerged, I could tell that he was big, and I knew it would be tough to get him out of the frigid December water of the Strait of Georgia. I started up the engine, unpacked the lifesling, threw the yoke overboard, and motored around in tight circles until I was near enough for him to maneuver himself into it.

Annamaria and The King of Severance

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      We were told we needed a firecracker, but what we wound up hiring was a genuine nuclear weapon. What the hell was I supposed to know about marketing people? I’m not a fucking salesman.
      I was sitting at the helm of a company with a product that was ready to ship, money in the bank, and the most finely tuned engineering crew I’d ever seen, and all the venture capitalists could say was that we were a disaster because we hadn’t yet sold anything. According to them, we didn’t know how to get out of our own way to make money.
      “You’re a bunch of engineers, Bob,” they told me. “You better find yourself a marketing guy right away, or we will,” Their threats slammed into me like bullets. “And while you’re at it, hire a marketing junior to work with him. Just make sure you hire the junior first so that there’s never a question about who’s really in charge. You are the one who’s in charge, aren’t you Bob?”
      Back in Winnipeg, people don’t talk to each other that way. Pressure’s one thing, but being an asshole is an entirely different matter. We may not always be quiet and polite, but we don’t snap out commands as if we were in some sort of high tech Marine Corps. It’s different, though, in Silicon Valley, where the clock ticks faster than anywhere else on the planet, and there’s no time to be nice and even less inclination.

Somewhere Else

Chapter I
  
The Flight to Ikaria

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      On the airplane, on the first leg of our trip back to the land, we live on Nyquil, sleeping pills and tea. No one wants to sit near us, and the poor woman with the window seat has her hand over her nose and face as if that will protect her. Good luck! It took a month of sullen rain in Vancouver to produce this cold, and it’s not to be defeated that easily. We’ve hacked and coughed our way through the last week, and by the time we got to the airport, our colds were in full gear, but there was nothing much to do but get on with it.
      Who knows how many people in our path we infect? The noisy ones two seats up from us deserve it, but the rest are just collateral damage. Regardless, we are going back to living a peaceful existence, in tune with nature, no matter how many people we have to take down along the way.
      In Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, Mina slumps in a seat, draped, face first, over her carry-on, hoping that there are no vultures in the airport looking for a fresh corpse. I wander in circles, searching for mint tea, cough drops, chicken soup, and a new book. We’ve put aside our real problems, and focus on the colds that have us dizzy with fever. Last we’d heard, a resolution to the money market issue was being formulated by a team of lawyers and accountants, with the assistance of the major Canadian and International banks. A likelier band of villains has never been gathered, but nevertheless we believe that our money will come back to us, because we can’t allow ourselves to contemplate anything to the contrary. Or, at least, not out loud.

Athens Wall Art

 

General Pizza


General Pizza

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      I was hiding behind a big Maple when Gold noticed me. Three days into a new town, in a new state, and damned if I didn’t find him right down the street. His hair was now all grey, and his shoulders a little more stooped, but all in all he didn’t look too bad. It was the first time I’d seen him since his funeral.
      That’s the magic of waking up in a new neighborhood. You never know what you’ll find. It was certainly true of the move to the town in Massachusetts. Cindy and I didn’t know anyone the day we moved in, and had no idea where we were, nor even how to find the supermarket. Didn’t matter, anyway. The first night is always pizza delivery.
      The municipality in which we’d just planted ourselves was different from any place we’d previously lived. The Yellow Pages had only one listing under the pizza category. It was a full page ad, that contained no menu and didn’t give away a thing. There was just the photo of a delivery truck with a sign on the side that read, General Pizza – Order what you like. Phone 111 pizza. I expected the worst, because the stuff they make in most places is terrible. It’s as if they construct it based on a picture they’ve seen of a pizza, without ever having tasted one. Maybe that’s why we move so often.
      Pizza gives you the sense of a town, whether it’s thin crust, Sicilian, or whole wheat. It can be minimalist and elegant, like the great pizza of Boston, with crisp edges, and simple cheese with a leaf or two of fresh basil, or more elaborate like the king of pizzas from New York street corners, where the sausage bites just right, and the crust is baked on salt.