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So, it’s the fourth of July.  I was up late last night, partially because the boys went out somewhere together and didn’t get back until ten thirty, and I find it kind of odd being in a silent house by myself.

And yes, that does  mean I usually go to bed before ten thirty.  In fact, I usually go to bed before nine thirty, because I get up at four thirty in the morning, and earlier on days when I have an eight o’clock class.

But the being weirded out by being along in a silent house thing bemuses me a little.  For most of my young adulthood, that was my favorite way to be in the world.  I had an apartment by myself–several apartments over the years–and no television set.  I had a small stereo, but I played it only very late at night and n ot very often.  Mostly I just like being by myself in the quiet.

In the apartments I had my worktable–my worktable goes whereever I settle for a while; it’s moved continents–but during this same period I took off for Greece several times on my own, and I was the same way there.

I used to stay at this place called the Achilleus Hotel, on Lekka Street, near the Syntagma.  It was cheap and convenient to my favorite parts of the city.

The Syntagma is a square on one of the main traffic arteries in the middle of the city.  There are cafes there with outdoor seating, which I’d use even in the winter.  Winters in Athens tend to be very cold and very wet.

But the best thing about the Syntagma is that you can walk to the Acropolis from there–or I could at 26, at any rate.

The Acropolis is on a steep hill and the Syntagma is at the bottom of it and a bit along into the city.

But only a bit.

The first time I walked up there I did it without a plan and without really much thinking of it.  I left my hotel, walked to Nikkis street to my favorite restaurant, finished eating and walked out again.  Then I looked up and there was the Parthenon,  high above me, and I thought that if I just kept walking in that direction I’d probably get to it.

It was probably a stupid move. I didn’t know the city except as a tourist, and even as a tourist I only knew that one small part of it. Anything could have been in the neighborhoods up there.

As it turned out, what was up there was a section of the city called the Plaka,  the oldest part of the city and the one that has been longest inhabited.

In those days–and for all I know, still–it was a crazy rabbit warren of tiny, narrow streets lined with everything you can think of:  open air market stalls; little restaurants; small apartment houses; high-end art dealers…

I bought a lot of things in the Plaka once I discovered it.  It was a fifth the price for useful household articles, like bottle openers.   There was also a truly astonishing amount and variety of food, with no concessions made to the tastes of tourists, American or otherwise.

On the Syntagma itself there was “Pitsa” (transliterated just like that) and an “American Roast Beef” sandwich place.  In the Plaka there were restaurants the size of postage stamps and street vendors selling goat meat souvlaki and thiplis with so much honey on it you could use what you didn’t eat to take a bath.

(I had one of my Personal Best All Time Embarrassing Moments over the thiplis.  I went out looking for some on the night before Christmas Eve, wanting to have some for the hotel while I sulked.  I had come to Greece that time with a return ticket for Christmas Day itself and then, at the very last minute, was informed by Olympic that of course they weren’t flying that day. This required one of t hose endless conversations, half in Greek and half in English, that leave both parties glad they aren’t face to face and armed.

At any rate, Olympic Did The Right Thing and got me a seat for Christmas Eve, and I was annoyed at having my schedule upset.

So I went out into the Plaka to get some thiplis, and all of a sudden I couldn’t remember which way the conversion from pounds to kilos went.   No matter how often I tried, I couldn’t remember whether pounds were heavier than kilos or kilos were heavier than pounds.

I ended up deciding to be safe, since this was what I was going to eat instead of dinner, and bought two kilos of the stuff.

I had to leave three quarters of it in the room for the maid.)

The point of all this rambling is that I was alone in Greece that December, and I was happy to be alone. 

A friend of mine came through during an early part of my stay and I was happy enough to see her for the couple of days she was there, on her way to Israel, but I wasn’t sorry when she left.

My hotel room had a window facing the very narrow street and just across the way was the barracks for the Tourist Police. My room faced their television room. When I left my window open and they left theirs open, I could listen to the sound of Jimmy Cagny movies dubbed in Greek almost all night long.

Since that was in the days before VHS, I have  no idea how that worked.

Maybe Greek television was having a special Jimmy Cagny Movie Week.

I don’t know what’s happened to me in the years since, but I find that I no longer really like the feeling of being alone and quite in the house. 

Some of that must be having lived so long now with children.  No noise at all no longer feels natural to me. Instead, it starts to feel like something creepy, as if Jason or Freddie might be wandering around the house.

Of course, the boys eventually came home, since they’re both here for the week-end, and there was noise in the house again, mostly about how one of them is mad at the other for not liking some movie they’ve both seen that I’ve never heard of.

This is what their conversations are usually about.

Of course, by then it was only ten thirty or so, and I could have gone to bed and gotten some sleep, except…

There was too much noise.

Around eleven, our road erupted in fireworks–unplanned, incoherent and decidedly loud.

They made fireworks illegal in this state a few years ago, but that seems to have had no effect on teen-aged boys with decent wheels and enough gas money to get them to and from North Carolina.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.


Written by janeh

July 4th, 2013 at 10:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses to 'Fireworks'

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  1. Happy birthday, America.


    4 Jul 13 at 11:16 am

  2. Quiet evenings can be nice–me and someone else, each with a good book. Silent evenings are something else and vary. After 23 years of living at home with little control over the TV and half a cozen or so noisy siblings, I was really good with silent for the year and a half I had it. After 26 ears of quiet evenings of marriage and offspring, silent evenings were something else, and I started hitting the CD and DVD players. Coming up on four months as a boomerang child, I think I could cope with silence again–if I could find a way to get any.

    Conversions. Well, at least you didn’t kill a space probe, wipe out a vacation’s spending money–or, for that matter, Eat $6 ice cream cones without realizing it.

    I’ve never been to Greece, but I used to work the Romantische Strasse pretty hard–the Plonlein and postage-stamp bratwurst and brotchen stands in Rothenburg, and a little eatery further south built when they were bridging the Danube in the 12th Century. Of course, in parts of the Med, that’s modern construction.


    4 Jul 13 at 1:12 pm

  3. Oh. And thanks, Mique.


    4 Jul 13 at 1:13 pm

  4. I guess it depends on both your personality and what you’re used to. I’ve always liked living alone – and the longer I’ve done it, the more I like it. Even need it, after dealing with other people during the day.

    I attended something today with a visiting American leader who said she was glad to be somewhere on July 4 where they didn’t set off fireworks until 4 AM! Fireworks are becoming more popular here, but I took against them as a child when I was frightened by the noise the first and only time until I was well into adulthood that I encountered them. I still don’t bother with them, or looking at them.

    Anyway, happy fourth of July to the rest of you.


    4 Jul 13 at 4:53 pm

  5. I moved from my parent’s house, to living with roommates, then to living with & marrying my first husband. When we split, I had a week-old baby, and although I lived with only my son for almost 9 years, I was alone for only short periods of time while my son visited his grandparents or his father.

    Then I married my present husband, and even when he went on business trips, there were always the kids. Still the kid, who is now 27, and paying rent, but will still be home after work every day. So I get rare stretches where there are no other humans home.

    When I was younger, I found out being solitary was just fine, but I tended to work far too much. Didn’t come home if there was no reason to. Nobody to talk to is boring.

    I do better with a partner to interact with daily.

    Happy Fourth, all. :)


    4 Jul 13 at 5:46 pm

  6. I love being alone, always have. Before I was married I lived alone and liked it, a lot.

    Of course I haven’t done it for more than a week or so since 1986, but I don’t think I’ve changed my mind.


    4 Jul 13 at 7:03 pm

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