A little story for tonight.
I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been bewitched by summer moonlit nights. The most special of them all, the night of the full moon, rising behind Acropolis or shining over a beach in the Aegean,in August.
I also don’t know anoyne who has sung the August song without tears in the eyes. This song is an emotional storm raining bittersweet memories for the unbearable pain of the impossible love. It was written for the composer’s girlfriend, who died of drugs. No-one has sung it better than its maker, Nikos Papazoglou, who died of cancer today.
For me, Papazoglou, was the last of his kind. Anticipating Papazoglou summer concert would take me through the winter blues. He rarely appeared on TV. His lyrics and songs are embedded in our summer (and winter) nights, with a refined but hard truth about our day and night most inner thoughts and feelings.
I wished you had kept a lighter lit in a summer concert with Papazoglou. But this can’t happen anymore, so I send you this song in a lame video along with my poorly-translated lyrics; its lyrics a little token of love and promises you can find when bathing under the August moon, somewhere in Greece.
Kαλό ταξίδι Νίκο!
Why does the song have to be so sad?
You would think that it fell off my heart.
And this very moment that I am full of joy, it climbed up to my lips and is smothering me.
You would say “take care for the end”.
I love you, but I have no voice to say it and this is an unbearable grief.
I melt in pain, because I feel it as well, that the path we are taking is impassable
“Courage, this will pass”, you will say
How can I ever forget her loose hair?
The sand that was bathing me as a waterfall?
As she was leaning over me,
thousands of kisses, diamonds that she was giving me generously
I will go even if it’s not good for me in the end
On what kind of ecstatic moment, what kind of magic dance, could this creature be born?
From which distant star comes the light that went and hid in her eyes
and me, the lucky one, who has seen it.
In her sight, a tiny little sky, with lightnings and clouds unfolds
but when the nnight comes, it floods with light, the August moon rises
and the prison shines form inside.
How can I ever forget her loose hair?
The sand that was bathing me as a waterfall?
As she was leaning over me,
thousands of kisses, diamonds that she was giving me generously
I will go even if it’s not good for me in the end.
You see the Beagle? He extended the finger and pointed. You follow it west to the end, then turn left, straight down south, keep Cape Hoorn on your right hand. You´ll clean yourself from the most human and the most urban on the Drake. Don´t be alert, it´s a soothing katharsis.
Then tell Ernesto to turn the tip to the Weddell sea where the mighty got lost and those high in spirit played ball. Through unsurveyed waters where the horizon seizes to exist. The southern the better.
Free your eyes from the lens, let Antarctica flow and it may reach your soul. Ernest discovered that almost a century ago. For no photo will reflect the atemporality and space you would feel and grasp. The captain ordered the helmsman who dully repeated, south of 63 24´S and 56 59´W.
That evening really reminded of a multiple series of commercials. Everything seemed bright, shiny successful and guaranteed for full-frontal with great feelings; or maybe I just saw it that way; the place, the location, the people, the atmosphere, the temperature. Everything. Athens at its best. I had planned very few things, because grace and luck prevails when you meet loved ones. I had decided just two weeks in advance –after months of thinking, jumped in the plane, had an unnecessarily long and tiring trip with delays at some skies and some airport, but had finally landed. Already in March I –we- had received a sweet message inviting to a femme-fatale’s birthday, a woman juicy and succulent as a summer peach. I just could not not go. That friend alone was enough to make the trip worth; and if nothing else my learning so far is to cherish and pursue the opportunities to meet rare people.
I didn’t want to spoil the surprise, for I hadn’t mentioned my arrival to anyone but to two other jewel-friends and waited patiently few minutes under her apartment till other invitees arrived. I sneaked in with another couple and squeezed in the elevator. I was already smiling forecasting the moment our eyes would meet. And there she was, as I expected; a vision in her purple dress with her purple shoes and a big smile framed by her blonde curls. Ah, but honestly aren’t women so beautiful? How can they change from kittens to bitches and from sweet to rough? No man can achieve that unless a male chameleon.
Her eyes shined so much and she was childishly happy to see me. Bingo, mission accomplished! She took me around, introduced me to everyone, portrayed me as the precious friend; she really spoiled me and I enjoyed it, because she introduce me to beautiful people (the beautiful people). I talked to lips that waterfalled me with lyrical words and new thoughts and inspiring images, and new new new things. I briefly escaped to lean on the balcony overlooking Akropolis; the epitomy of the Athenean sky. It is simple, cities without landscape or without lookouts and miradors lack significantly, independently of the national GDP. How can you not want to see, gaze and grasp the whole city? See where others live, breathe and grow, where is the green, the gray, the blue, the corners, the rounds and the spheres; I don’t know, things like that. The heart, the arms, the legs and the head of a city. If you can’t see this and feel it, your world is as small as the dead end of the neighborhood road.
I met many wonderful people with clear eyes and good dreams. All comets and stars meeting for a night in the same starry sky. But most of all I was impressed by her parents. You know discussion you might have with people you meet for the first time; awkward and most likely empty. Empty in feeling but full of social convention. I hate those and at that night I had rightfully forgotten my plastic smile some 3000 kilometers away from the venue. My brief discussion with her mother, revealed a kind nature, a sober woman who within 3 minutes analysed to me the values of theatre and its evolution in the area the last two decades. Impressive. A speech full of passion about the apotheosis of human mind through the art shown on a stage; a stage that might be minimalistic but is not necessarily stripped of its quality. Bang! What a woman.
But most, I fell in love with her father. I will admit it wasn’t love at first site, for the father has lived his life in his (probably) 70s and life has lived him (as) well. Inspired by the easiness and rapid excitement from the discussion with the mother, I introduced myself and briefly explained how I met his daughter. Then, I stepped shamelessly on the sole verified information I had about him, namely his entrepreneurial skills. I just fired the question “You actually started your career in the post-WWII period. How was it to start in post civil-war Greece?”. Questions like that are still taboo, even after 50+ years.
“ Oh, that was difficult. You know, those were the years that for every job you would apply or start with you needed a Certificate of Social Belief (Πιστοποιητικό Κοινωνικών Φρονημάτων). Now, there was an Authority, that would sent its agents to your neighborhood, your village, the university your social circles and would question and gather information about you and confirm you are not a Communist. I happened to have the same name and surname as an uncle of mine. And this uncle –like every decent patriot- was part of the Resistance against the Nazis.”
Και αυτός ο θείος όπως ΚΑΘΕ ΓΝΗΣΙΟΣ ΠΑΤΡΙΩΤΗΣ –αυτό το σημείο, Τίνα, ο πατέρας σου το τόνισε- ήταν στο ΕΑΜ. For a split second, I must admit, when I heard the word “patriot” I got scared of the answer I would receive; having grown in a leftish environment we were not using this word a lot, and I was brainwashed with the post civil-war, post-dictatorship perception that I should not to talk a lot about these things too much outside the “red” neighborhood. But the father had more to say.
“So you can understand; I got stigmatized and there wasn’t much to do about it. You know, we were poor back then, but having good fun. Because life, I tell you, is about having fun and falling in love. We had old socks with holes, and we would share cigarettes. But we would always wear ties, because girls liked ties. I had one jacket, but I would wear this one, because girls liked jackets. Then I moved to Switzerland and from there I saw a lot of things. Different world to make business.
…business… Switzerland… Europe… post-war… poverty… fun… music… return… motherland… Dad… lips… talking…. sound… traveling… traveling…
I also visited Holland; The Hague, Rotterdam; Leiden, Amsterdam. I saw Holland at its prime time, because I went there when my prime time was on. I fell in love for the first time in and with Holland. I visited the country just when I should have done, when I was young and I was absorbing energy and beauty like a sponge. Love, you know, love. (Έρωτας, καταλαβαίνεις? Έρωτας…) There was a spark in the eyes and love in the air. You could smell it and you could see it.
That’s what worries me about the young people today. I walk on the streets and I see no love. Youngsters are not interested in each other, how is this possible? They are not interested in falling in love and their eyes are lifeless and sparkless. I just don’t get it. Youngsters not going after love (mumbled and shook his head). The world has change and I don’t know where it is going”.
Monologue. I was swept away and left speechless, still surfing on the echo of his words, dancing his line of arguments, levitating by this deeply political discussion. The father was flower-power. In his 70s (?) still advocating the power of love as a life energy and panacea to civic problems. I tried to think of the last time someone talked about love as idea with such passion. I couldn’t think of a single instance since The Symposium of Plato, and that included teenage promises. I wanted to hug him and fuse my brains with his, get his energy and see the world forever through his loving eyes.
PhD and constipation: a comparative study of the dark side
You eat and eat and eat. And you go on eating. At the beginning heavy stuff, because little did you know. Specialized papers, cutting-edge communications, complex carbohydrates, heavy proteins. And you like it. You have a big fat plate of unknown tastes and you shove your face in it, devouring food like a pig in first youth.
Noone is there to advise you; eat this, leave that. You just stuff yourself, your brain malfunctions, your kidneys hurt, your liver fails; and you go on reading incoherently, in swirling learning bulimia.
You like it, only that you observe that you stop shitting. Yeah, you used to shit regularly, nothing of really significant value (or volume) but it was regular. Not anymore. At the beginning the frequency reduction is not alarming. A conference here, a conference there, an abstract, new ideas, a paragraph or two, an experiment that seems to work.
So you like it. And you keep eating. And you start shitting less, sort of an inherent terror of facing the write-up, translated in sad anal retention out of fear of a potentially foul result that just won’t come out. You wait and wait, and as the time goes, the pain grows. And as the pain grows you don’t even want to eat anymore. You just stop eating, and you try to digest the last bible-paper you read, that puts things in perspective and your research at the level of two centuries ago. Food has started to disgust you and you are constantly googling the last-minute flight availability to a place as far from universities as possible.
At some point, either because the budget finishes or because life takes its toll, you start farting. Nothing consistent, very small, tiny farts, in the shape of abstract pages, table of contents, pretentious page numbers.
Small and coward farts. Bit of introduction, copy paste theory chapter, some equations you plugged in matlab centuries ago. Ready-made. But the big fat shit everybody expects you to produce after all these years of eating, won’t quite go down the porcelain haven of the lavatory.
Then you start farting bit less, but bigger ones. The really smelly and not-so-loud. Little by little. Experimental setup. New output. Nothing more. At the next stage, your bowel movements are non-existent. The pain is unbearable, especially when all others enjoy life as summer approaches. You keep on typing, 1 word/hour, you delete 2 words/minute. Your rectum hurts so much that the small farts that come out with some liquid is not from the juices of your shit (for it is drier than Sahara on a sand-stormy day), rather than from internal bleeding of shearing the sensitive anal wall. Your brain is just exploding and you want out. Out of your own skin. Conclusion chapter. Recommendation. Bull-and I only wished-shit. You print it just to tear it apart.
You have reached your limits. Your constipation is playing games on you and it is becoming chronic condition. You are afraid you will never find redemption after so many years of endless scientific carbohydrate consumption. You are scared shitless -sarcasm- they will find you there, lying pulseless on your keyboard, landing strip for the shitflies amidst a mountain of scientific papers and a landslide of fart-chapters.
Until one day you blink.
Survival instinct hits.
You take a decision.
You take THE decision.
You are going to sit on that toilet bowl, you will tamper with your very own asshole if necessary, you will do all it takes, until you manage to shit that shit out. The pain is unbearable, you have cried many times, but now it is a moment of fight. Are you a Man or are you a fucking Mouse?
You strain, you push, your eyes can barely stand the pressure, your sphincter won’t cooperate, but you envision the light at the end of the smelly tunnel. You have the will to prevail, to shear the fabric of time and space and in what seems to be eternity you manage to produce a bloody steamy thesis book, still covered with the placenta of the infant doctor of philosophy.
And then silence. You light a mental cigarette. There it lies, and there you lie next to it. Loving it and loathing it, just like the mother looks with endless love and hate at her wrinkly stinky ugly newborn. And contrary to children, it will neither leave you, nor do you run the risk of it dying before you. You feel relieved and life has just started making sense again. The birds are singing, the sun is shining, you still have friends and it is again guilt-free to enjoy your free time. It is the beginning of the rest of your life, and no matter what you do, you’ll never have to call it a PhD again.
Trust me, I am a doctor.
P.S. This is for Lu who is at the final stage of writing and all fellow PhDs. The text is an elaboration on an idea I communicated appropriately upon submission of my manuscript.
To close you in that golden cage, I wouldn’t. Many at times have suggested what a golden cage is and this one is pretty accurately. Firstly because it is a cage. To ghetto us from them and them from us. And secondly because it is golden. Golden taps, golden doors frames, mirros, golden lamps, golden handles. I walk in the solemn rooms and I hear the echo of my breath. First you will walk in a filthy room, torn carpets, coffee-like stains in the walls, old scrapped marble, to be fingerprinted and photographed. They say something, you don’t get it, right-left-thumbs, tapping on the camera, you look. Flash! No smile. You don’t give it and they don’t expect it. Cross the borders. McDonalds.
I open the cupboards one by one. Five packages of cereals, all at 375grams. One box of chocolates, at convenient sizes of 30 grams. One box of sneakers. One box of kitkat. Coffee, tea bags, instant cappuccino. Two kilos of sugar. Six tins of baked beans. Six tins of tuna. Two kilos of Danish cookies, six boxes of springles chips, two paprika, onion-sour cream, cheese. Fridge. Three liters of milk, five jars of marmalade, two loafs of fake toast bread, two packages of fake cheddar cheese slices, four yoghurts, four liters of juice. Six packages of instant noodles. Soft drinks. Fruit bowl on a small table in a vastly barren echoing kitchen. Water bottles. Steel door.
Door after door, sealed with more steel doors, I enter the panic room on the first floor to check the supplies. Tins, rope. Turn your mobile in silent mode if they come. The possibility of something happening during this period is minimal; we are all friends currently. Airco. Everywhere.
Olive Group’s Security Operations wing deployed security teams led by ex-special forces soldiers to guard employees and assets. Additionally, Security Operations personnel trained and mentored local national guards to enable them to carry out close protection tasks either independently or as part of an integrated expatriate/local national team.
The procurement and selection of a fleet of low and high profile armoured vehicles, all of which were fitted with tracking systems. This enabled vehicles to be tracked at all times, and dedicated rapid reaction teams to be deployed immediately in the event of a panic button being activated.
The provision of secure accommodation, including catering, high speed internet communications and all other life support essentials.
The coordination and management of convoys for the movement of extremely high value equipment. This entailed liaison with local and national government to enable the utilization of military ground and air support. All convoys managed by Olive Group had full tracking systems embedded, as well as a sophisticated medical response capability.
The provision of detailed crisis management and business continuity planning, designed to enable the client to continue operations, meet project timelines and work to budget when its competitors were forced to halt operations as the security situation deteriorated.
“Olive’s ability to keep our key personnel in country at times when other organisations were forced to evacuate their staff meant that our productivity increased compared to our competitors. We become notably more popular with the local government and national ministries by being able to demonstrate commitment to them. This was down to Olive – their support was far more than that of a subcontractor. They became a mission critical part of our organisation and one of the most important parts of our entire business strategy. ” Client Quote
(full text from here and your homework here)