Friday, May 27, 2005

MIA-and there's certainly been lots of it

It's been a while since I posted, and that's because today's the first day after weeks that I have access to a decent internet connection. So to take stock of what's happened in the meanwhile:

The folks incharge of housing for my university are some pretty evil overlords. Every summer, they manage to evict us out of our apartments on some excuse or the other, setting in motion the painful process of stuffing all our earthly posessions into boxes and moving the goddamn monsters in and out of temporary dwellings. This year, I moved in bag and baggage into S' tiny little studio apartment, and the place is not pretty. There are boxes everywhere, we manage to stumble everytime we move, and it's almost like we're living in some warehouse hideouts. Hopefully things would be better when we manage to move most of the boxes into some temporary storage we managed to score.

Finally, if all goes well S might be joining the System soon, becoming another cog in the machine, another brick in the wall. I keep telling him that it's not as dire as that, but then he's become used to an extended vacation over the last year and a half, and it's hard to brace yourself up for a 9to5 routine for the months to come.

It's been a wonderful 5 years, but I don't know how long I can keep the good times rolling on. Some day, I have to wear the clown suit, get my degree and get the hell out. The pressure's been building up from all quarters including parents ("so when are you submitting?" submitting!!! whoa whoa hold on Mum!), advisor ("you really should think of graduating by next summer") and even friends ("heck, if you don't graduate, what hope is there for me?"). Which means, a lot more time devoted to devouring research and regurgitating it in thesis form. Less time for lotus-eating.

But I've also resolved that there are a few extra-curricular things that should carry on regularly regardless, including visits to the gym and my blog. And some bedtime reading. Which has really been looking up in the past two weeks, in which I finished reading Early India by Romilla Thapar and the two Persepolis volumes by Marjane Satrapi. Both are highly recommended. I had heard many stories about the early years of the Islamic Revolution by Em, and to see them being brought to vivid graphic form by Satrapi was amazing. She is truly a master chronicler of the last two decades and a half of life under the Islamic Republic in Iran. A few of the pictures in the book are so stunning that they can be independently be considered works of art.

So that is indeed what occupies my life at present as I look forward to the joys of LA in summer. Great weather (not today though, we are getting early June gloom), concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, the Artwallah festival, hopefully some wine tasting in Santa Barbara a la Sideways, etc. etc.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Easter egg champion was humbled, but she had a great weekend anyway!

Ok, boyfriend says after Easter day has come and gone (the Orthodox Easter by the way), you shouldn't say Happy Easter (or Kalo Pasxa in Greek). You should instead keep saying Xristos Anesti (meaning Christ has risen), which you started saying in church on Saturday midnight, after you were jolted out of your Tom Hanks gawking by the booming voice of the priest. So on Saturday we went to the gorgeous St. Sophia Cathedral in LA to celebrate the Orthodox Easter. S thinks the place smacks of its Hollywood patrons, and certainly it looks more flashy than churches in Greece. Even the colour scheme and iconography is more Renaissance than Byzantine, with tones of pink and blue rather than brown and sepia.

And for once we were in time for standing room inside the Church to clearly see the ceremony, which is solemn, sombre in the beginning with hymns alternately in Greek and English. The final stage is magical, when the lights of the Cathedral are dimmed and the place is made almost dark. Then the light that emerges from inside the altar (in Orthodox churches the altar is partitioned off by a screen) is passed around for people to light their candles with. Suddenly the church is filled with hundreds of candlelights and at midnight the priest proclaims Xristos Anesti - the moment of Resurrection (Anastasi in Greek). Once we emerged outside, the church foyer was full of the buzz of greetings and much kissing and hugging.

For even otherwise non-religious Greeks, the church is a great social network, and gives an excellent opportunity to catch up with people you wouldn't see for the rest of the year. Many of S' friends don't make it inside the church at any point during the ceremony, but use the foyer to meet up old friends. And once we had rounded up all the components of our large group, we made our way to Sofi's, one of the few restaurants open all night to serve church returnees on Easter midnight. It was a very fun meal, with S, Soto, Urmi, Illy, CK, Em and friend, E-M and boyfriend with two friends, all sitting at the same table. The place was full, and buzzing with life at 2:00 a.m., when we had barely started digging into our appetizers.

Interesting sightings for the night:

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson at the church (must confess I did sneak peaks in their direction, even as I was enjoying the choir's excellent singing).

Sakis Rouvas at the restaurant - He big in Greece, and his third place in last year's Eurovision was all that the middle-aged Greek mamas in LA could talk about (I was at a table with a bunch of them once, so I should know :) ). Me thinks he looks much better in person, which is always great for a celebrity.

The Bong-ness of Urmi and I got us acquainted with Nishat Khan, who I later found out is late Ustad Vilayat Khan's nephew, besides being a great sitar player in his own right. Oh, I think Ustad Vilayat Khan was a divine sitar player and now I need to hunt Nishat down just to gush about it.

We reached home at almost 4 and the next day trekked over to the St. Sophia grounds for the Easter picnic. Alas for S there was no lamb on a spit, just charcoal roasted lamb chops and lamb souvlaki, poor substitutes for the traditional grand Easter feast of spit roasted lamb and oven roasted potatoes. It's amazing how accomodating the Church is of all these festivities, with a live band playing Greek sentimental favourites, a dance floor, food, and alcohol of choice (limited to ouzo, wine and beer). I always think it's great that people of all ages join in to dance the folk dances with equal joy.

The day was rounded off with a visit to a club where mostly young Greek-Americans had gathered to celebrate Easter. The club had a section that was almost like a private room, once inside you could look outside into the entire bar and lounge area, but you could also draw the curtains and make it as private as you wanted to. S, Soto and I were checking the space out, when we saw an older man (early 50s) with 4 reasonably attractive girls in their 20s. After a round of some pretty fancy looking champagne, he proceeded to slap the girls one by one on their butts! Later older man disappeared into the unisex bathroom with two of the girls for nearly 15 minutes! Just when S and Soto were melting with envy, they found out that dude was actually a musician known to E-M. Damn, some musicians have all the fun.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I'm on a picture roll. Finally, here's one of Napoli. I'm a terrible photographer, otherwise a better angle would have shown the stunning effect of the city almost precariously hanging over the sea. It's a gorgeous underrated place, well worth a visit, and close to some of the most amazing ancient Roman ruins.