Cats of Greece

Enzo

I’ve never really been a cat person. My mother didn’t like cats because they walked all over counters and tables and my brother is allergic, so there were no cats in our house other than the kitten I hid for a couple of days in my closet when I was six.

Enzo, of course, changed things when he took up residence in the DelSo last year. He is the sweetest cat ever – unless you’re a mouse, in which case he will catch you and proceed to torment you until you squeak for mercy. That kind of makes him a perfect house cat, though, doesn’t it?

I had been told that there are cats everywhere in Greece, but nothing really prepared me for the presence of beautiful cats and kittens most everywhere we wandered. They frequented the same tavernas and cafes we did and, in general, seemed to come and go wherever they pleased.

“My” Paros cat

There was one cat that became “mine” for the duration of our stay on Paros. He seemed to have a fondness for the narrow street near our AirBnB and after noticing him the first morning, I came to expect to see him daily. One morning he wasn’t there when I left for my early walk and I was very relieved to see him in his spot upon my return.

Here are some of my other favorite felines.

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Love them while you have them

Traveling with my 20 year-old son made for an interesting trip. Because of the time he spent in Thailand last year, he has some experience with having to navigate his way from destination to destination. He may not have the same intuition as my oldest son when it comes to transportation, but he has grown to be helpful and developed some useful skills.

I’ve jokingly remarked a couple of times (maybe even to you, specifically) that the best part of our recent vacation to Greece was having someone with whom to day drink. With some sobering up reflection, I now recognize that what’s going to remain with me, even longer than the 5lbs of feta and dolmas I brought home, are the moments we spent talking, sharing thoughts, making decisions together (rosé or white?) and spending hours and hours outside together, under cloudless blue skies.

Over the years I’ve witnessed too many friends lose a child, most frequently, a son. I grew up in a town where a number of my peers died being physically reckless in a way different than today’s young people. Usually it was a car + alcohol + speed situation, not exactly the same kinds of substances to which our country is experiencing an epidemic of abuse and addiction to currently.  Narcotics have always been way too scary to mess around with to me, which initially made overdoses so incredibly shocking. Now, though, it is my presumed cause of death when anyone between the ages of 17 and 30 dies suddenly.

A few former colleagues of mine have lost children suddenly and at least one was directly related to substance abuse. That mom told me something that will always stay with me. In my whole life, I might have experienced two other instances in which words have had the same profound impact on my heart and thoughts. What she said was revelatory:

All you can do is enjoy them while you’ve got them.

During times of frustration with my sons, I’ve reached for that truism frequently. It helped me to accept that I couldn’t make my sons do, or not do, really much of anything. Whether it was attending classes at the High, writing a thank you note or washing their hair, it was on them. No amount of time spent arguing or in disagreement could force any of my children to do what I wanted them to do, if it wasn’t what they wanted to do. They are their own people.

After my friend’s loss and the lesson she gave to me, I  remember thinking “if something really horrible happened to my kid, I wouldn’t want his last interaction with me to have been a heated exchange about why he hadn’t handed in a required assignment for school.” I’d much rather it be a quick “love you” at the end of a call or text. I learned I needed to let some things go.

On Naxos Island, my son and I rented bikes for the day and rode about 20 miles to the beach and an abandoned hotel project that had become a destination for graffiti artists.  After we were fitted for bikes and provided with helmets, my son clipped the strap on his together and hung it on his handlebars. I said, “you’re not wearing that?” And he said “No.” I bit my tongue, clipped my helmet on and told him to leave his helmet behind if he wasn’t going to wear it. My helmet remained firmly in place on my head for the duration of the ride.

Over the course of the day, I suggested once or twice that my son might want to hit the sunscreen. He declined. I rubbed on my second or third application of the #30 spf I had purchased in Athens without comment. His decision. His eventual sunburn.

There comes a point in a parent’s life when they have to let go in ways that may be frightening, especially when their child’s approach is completely contrary to what they themselves had spent years teaching their offspring was the right or best or appropriate or safe way to conduct the life they had been given. It’s part of the process of separating from one another, isn’t it?

I returned to Albany last week to hear of the death of the child of a neighbor I had when I was in high school. Again, a son.  My assumption about the cause of the young man’s death was, unfortunately, correct. My heart hurt for those left behind.

Finding one’s way through life isn’t easy, despite the maps with which we are provided.  We hope that our children make good choices, but when they don’t, we can only wish for the consequences to be negligible – a sunburn at worst, certainly not the loss of their young life.

Love and enjoy them when you have them.

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Filed under aging, Boys, drinking, family, friends, Greece, musings, Observations, relationships

DelSo & CivMix

I’ve been doing this DelSo thing for what will be a full decade come December 9th. Wow. I don’t know how that happened, but, I’m also unclear how it is even possible that I will retire in less than 6 years. Boom. Just like that. Incredible!

Over the years, I’ve written about lots of different topics and there have been times that I’ve offended people. I’m aware. What does sometimes take me by surprise, though, is when someone references something I wrote and it’s a person I never imagined reading my words. Wild and gratifying in a way parenthood is most definitely not.

Relationship angst and posts about food and travel are usually the most popular subjects and find the largest readership. Everybody loves a little indulgence and drama, right?

I’ve removed only one post ever, upon request from someone I’ve known a long time. I regret deleting it and would be hard pressed to do that ever again.

There was one post which I significantly modified to add anonymity to the identity of a friend who had died after years of struggles with various substances. Editing the post didn’t change the fact that he was gone.

Often, the posts that vex me the most when I am writing them, are the most audibly received. I get comments or shares, which is particularly welcome when I’ve hit the Publish button even though I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the final product.

I know I make people uncomfortable at times with my positions, or the degree to which I share my personal shit, but what I put out belongs to me – my impressions, my thoughts, my trying to understand the only life I’ll ever have. My truth.

In the past 8 years or so, I’ve been gratified by the opportunity to write for other platforms – both print and digital. All over Albany totally provided my first exposure through their weekly “What’s Up In the Neighborhood” feature and I’ll forever appreciate Mary and Greg for the support they provided to me. I wrote for two Hearst Times Union hosted blogs and have also contributed photos to their website.

It’s been fun to write for other “projects,” but I’ve always maintained my distance and refrained from aligning myself exclusively with an alternate web interface. I’m DelSo Silvia.

A number of months ago, I was approached and invited to write for a new website sort of envisioned as a second generation All Over Albany/Metroland love child. Interested, I agreed. Here’s what I’ve published over there most recently, at CivMix. Maybe you want to check it out? Post a comment? Give a follow?

One thing, remember that the website is still in beta. The site will grow in options and performance and, hopefully, interest to you, DelSo readers.

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Going to the bathroom in Greece

Before I came to Greece I imagined it, in all honesty, as kind of dirty. I don’t know why that was my impression, but I kind of pictured it as sort of casually maintained. Maybe it comes from being raised by a German who presented my brother and I with our own shoe shining kits when we were in primary school. Who knows?

Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The cleanliness of Greece puts America to shame. Streets and sidewalks are regularly swept and even mopped. There isn’t garbage or trash strewn about and things are just plain tidy. But, the bathroom customs are a tad different, in case you are as unaware as I was until recently…

In Greece, toilet paper is not deposited in the bowl when one is finished with it. Instead, there are closed bins next to toilet in which you toss your used tissue. Kind of gross, in a way, but practical because the waste pipes are apparently much smaller than those in the States. I certainly didn’t want to be responsible for backing up a toilet and it became increasingly more routine for me to abide by the local customs as the days went on.

Picture for a moment what you might encounter in a public restroom in the States, maybe in a restaurant. Often something essential is missing – toilet paper, hand soap, or perhaps the means to dry your hands. Or perhaps the stall is simply filthy with the smell of urine, or worse, assaulting your senses when you enter the bathroom. In Greece, on three islands and in Athens, that was a situation I never encountered. Not once.

Now, take this to another level and consider the state of the bathrooms you may have needed to make use of at a beach…In my experience, they are generally pretty damn gross. Take that dirty, smelly situation as described above and add sand to it. A lot of sand. Everywhere. Now, look at the photo below. That is a bathroom at a beach taverna where we enjoyed lunch in between naps on the sun beds and swims in the Mediterranean. Immaculate.

Here’s another example from the Blue Star Ferry between Paros and Athens. While there was a stall out of order, there were plentiful options of which to make use, the bowls, sinks and floors were clean and there were real glass mirrors and hand dryers that functioned. Amazing.

We can learn more than a couple of things from the Greeks – their deftness with phyllo and the use of oregano when cooking and how to create a beautiful, unique village despite every house being painted white. Maybe we could just start, though, with bathroom maintenance?

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If I told you I missed you, I was lying

Wait. Maybe that sounds harsher than I intended. It wasn’t actually a lie when I said it, more of an attempt to say the “right” thing. Because when we travel away from our family and friends and lover, we’re expected to tell them we miss them, aren’t we? It provides some sort of consolation in our absence and verbally demonstrates the importance one places on their presence in your life. It’s what people do.

But…

The truth is, that when I’m away, I’m gone. I’m in some other place, hearing languages I don’t know, smelling scents that make me turn my head to locate the source, seeing things I’ve never before imagined and tasting foods that literally make me moan. I’m walking roads made of marble, swimming in remarkably warm and blue waters, and feeling the sun on my back and the wind in my face.

I’m absorbing as much as I can of the place where I am so I can carry it home. Where I will share it, with those that I love who were not with me for this most recent adventure. So, when I say “I miss you,” what I’m really saying is “I’m sorry you’re not physically part of this marvelous experience, but, I am. Completely.”

Love, Silvia

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The perfection of Paros

I’m not sure how we got so lucky with this trip. I mean, the weather has been unrelentingly sunny and hot, the food fantastic, our accommodations comfortable and the transportation between islands pretty much flawless. What more can one ask?

Since we are now on our final island before our return to Athens, then home, I feel like I can make a comparison between the three we have visited, as limited as that may be. Naxos was lovely and our apartment was very well located. I love the streets of the old city and the views from our rooftop. The activities we did there were pretty chill, a hike of sorts and a bike ride that some may refer to in the future as the Bataan Death Ride, but we really didn’t do too much beyond walk, eat and drink. Perfect start to any holiday as far as I’m concerned.

Mykonos was definitely an experience. We stayed in a lovely hotel, lounged by the pool and had a terrific dinner on our one night on the island. While I’m happy we went and got to see a small part of the island, I think it’s safe to say that I don’t feel a pressing need to go there again. The beautiful and rich people can enjoy it, because I’d much rather spend more time in Paros.

Paros is simply lovely. It isn’t as hilly along the port as the other two islands and I can almost imagine actually taking a run here, if I were an early morning runner, that is. The beach we went to yesterday was great and a deal (10 euro for two sun beds and an umbrella) compared to Mykonos where the same set up would have cost 26 euro. The buses are frequent and cheap and will get us where we want to go today – the beach again, followed by the Byzantine Trail for a hike. Our airbnb experience last night, a farm to table meal, was fantastic (more details to follow) and the bakery around the corner is completely responsible for my rounded belly courtesy of their delicious pastry.

This island is chill and gorgeous and I’m hoping to make it back here for a longer length of time. My dream would be to house sit for a couple of months and really explore this place. Retirement is in my sights and I’m getting some really good ideas about how I’d like to spend it – and where.

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Mykonos moments

When I was planning this trip to Greece, a challenging task because there are so many options and I knew nothing, I struggled to choose between Mykonos and Santorini as our indulgent (read: expensive) island. Ultimately I went with Mykonos because I thought that party atmosphere was more appropriate than a romantic setting when traveling withy son. Perhaps, Santorini will be a future excursion with a travel partner to whom I didn’t give birth.

The ferry from Naxos took nearly two hours, a bit longer than the official ferry schedule claims. We were on a small boat, but the trip was much more comfortable in significantly calmer waters. Upon arrival in the old port, we found our way to a water taxi (4 euro r/t) and made it to Mykonos Town in less than 15 minutes.

Our hotel, Ilio Maris, was a short walk through narrow and winding streets followed by long hill. The sidewalks are pretty much nonexistent, but the traffic is so heavy that no one is moving particularly fast and it was daylight. The hotel itself is very, very nice. Simple, clean, with terrific amenities including a pool and an extensive buffet breakfast included. And the view – panoramic and gorgeous. It was, by far, the most expensive (~$250) accommodations of our trip, but I rationalized that it included breakfast and I’ve spent that same amount for a night in NYC. Carpe diem.

We spent the afternoon relaxing and napping by the pool and sipping glasses of cold white wine. And water, lots of water. In the evening, we walked down to a recommended restaurant, Kounelas Fish Tavern, where we very much enjoyed a couple of small plates including grilled octopus with fava bean purée and a shrimp dish with tomato sauce, feta and bell peppers, along with more tasty white wine. With the flavor of the complimentary shot of liqueur on my lips, we made for the nearby port to capture the evening’s sunset.

Both of us were feeling pretty giggly from the wine and were happy enough to walk around people watching. We grabbed some gelato and wandered taking in the shops, smells and apparent wealth of many of whom we encountered. The people here are beautiful, but not necessarily without effort, and my son sagely noted, “Mykonos, I see what you’re all about.” After an hour or so, we agreed we were content to return to our room for the night, where I promptly passed out fell asleep.

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