Monday, May 17, 2010

Lordy Lordy I feel 40. or... salvation through the purchase of a coffee mug

Not that 40 is a bad age. On the contrary, according to my grandmother, a wise and wonderful woman who was a pioneer in four hundred different ways than I could ever be, 40 is the prime of a woman's life.

But I feel I've aged ten years in the last ten weeks. There will be another strike on Thursday. Some clients I"ve been emailing back and forth for the last month, who had finally settled on booking tours with us, got skiddish and changed their flights, cancelling some of our plans.

I finally see the error of my ways, being a cheap traveler these many, many years. Stuffing bread from breakfast into my backpack for lunch, avoiding showcase sites due to admittance fees, I've been awfully Scroogey when it comes to tourism. I'm finally seeing how it can hurt, even if you feel smart while you're doing it. If you've gone to see a country, if you're enjoying it, show it a little love. Spend a little money. Not at the supermarket, on tin cans of tuna and bottles of milk. Just give. It will come back to you.

Now that it's aside, after the email from my Hong Kong tourists who are prematurely freaking out about the strike that hasn't happened, I needed a karma boost. I decided it was gift buying day. Our poor little office, which was such a success in it's arrival, has gone neglected for over a month now. We use it as a place to stash our stuff while we go across the street to the coffee shop. We use it for the fantastic, high speed internet, but we have not yet really used it as an office.

Today I decided I would.

I got there at nine. Stashed my stuff, tidied my desk, cracked open my laptop and got started. Hmmm. What does the world want of me today. I decided it was time to stop spending so much money at Deseo's coffee shop. It was coffee mug buying day. I went to Public.

Public is one of these book, electronics, artwork, toys, tourism supplies, notebook, pens, rubber doohickies you stick on your desk, clever post it notes, fancy flash drive kind of stores right on Syntagma Square, the main square of the city. They have just launched a line of new products from "BREATHTAKING ATHENS," a fresh, modern way of looking at one of history's oldest cities.

Breathtaking Athens has produced one of my favorite short films ever.

I watched this film the first time when I was in Houston over the holidays. I got misty-eyed with homesickness for Athens. Now that I'm here...well let's say I'm not so nostalgic. The film, however, still makes me proud to have chosen it for whatever we can call it. Home, base, battleground...

Anyway Breathtaking Athens has produced some fine looking coffee mugs.

Now looking at the photo here, you can see that the designs are modern and fresh. You can't see, however, how fantastically shaped the coffee mug is. It's fat and deep, but without being the obnoxiously over-sized variety that feels awkward in your hand. A good coffee cup is something I just cannot resist, not with my frugal head nor my teenie-weenie budget. So what do I do. I buy three. One for each of the team members that will be using the office. George, Steve, Myself.

Which turns today, an average Monday with freaking out Hong-kong Tourists and irritated bus and taxi drivers who had been depending on this file taking turns dialing my number to berate me with questions I couldn't answer... this day turned into GIFT DAY.

It started with the three coffee mugs then quickly morphed into my hunting for the diary of Frida Kahlo to offer to Despina as a thank you for her abundant energy on our secret mission on Saturday. (after reading last night's post we realized we had a common goddess of painting)

I couldn't find it. Apparently Athens is not as keen on Frida as, say, San Francisco or Austin, Texas, but they did have the soundtrack to the film which I snatched up.

Wandered over to Melilotos to find a happy, buzzy, busy kitchen with a metal counter full of tickets and everyone rushing about, pounding meat, chopping fruit, tossing salads. Despina was pivoting like an NBA pointguard, answering phones and stapling orders to plastic bags.
"Hello Paige! Παρακαλὀ" (answering another hungry telephone client)

When I offered her the cd she first rejoiced, then scolded me for buying, and finally put it on her computer's player. The sounds of a Mexican Cantina accompanied the wild, rapidamente tempo of the kitchen workers.

Hmmm. Mexican music in a kitchen. Where in the world does this remind me of?

Flashback to a 24 year old version of myself sitting in a booth, smaller than Despina's table, taking phone calls for an Italian American restaurant called Angelos on the east side of Dallas. Who was in the kitchen but a team of fast-working Mexicans, slopping spaghetti into bowls that Salma Hayek could take bubble baths in, throwing giant pizzas into ovens and generally determining the success of the entire place. Even Italian food is Mexican in Texas. They played their music, they sang along, they put that joy in the food and the people kept coming back, demanding more.

The difference was that it was also a restaurant where people sat and only occasionally did the phone start ringing at the level I witnessed at Melilotos today... so I was free to observe the chaos from my stool, drawing it into my sketchpad. Really if it hadn't been for a billion other reasons, I would have kept that job much longer.

So today a bunch of Greeks unwittingly ingested Mexican juju. I wonder what was the effect? They went home and painted their walls turquoise and coral? They had an intense craving for peppers?

After a fair bit of sitting and observing the chaos (alas, without my sketchpad) I was called away to more troubles in Hong Kong, but not before Despina presented me with a challenge.

She had taken a gander at my brochure which much like my website ( has a distinctively ancient Greece appeal.
"Some of us feel we must stop relying on ancient Greece as our legacy. We are always looking back and will never move forward."

It's a valid point. On the other hand, most people are attracted to Greece because they feel that the mythology is partly theirs if only by over exposure. Still, the challenge...

"Paige, why don't you try and present Greece in a way that's more modern?"

I guess a little like my coffee mugs.