Antiparos,Greece — Class, Calm,  and Nudism 

#antiparos #Greece #nudists #Cyclades 

It took my friend and me 2 hours to circle Paros with out scooters. It would have taken longer if he wasn’t driving the scooter like a Canadian tourist, holding on tightly for dear life at every sharp turn. I knew I was completely fearless and stress-free when little matters like life and safety came in a distant second to just being there for the moment. Paros is the perfect example of a white and blue windmilled island in the Cyclades.  

Then we came upon this sign 

The next day I took the 12 o’clock 2-minute fairy fairy ride to Antiparos. The 4-hour interval between fairies wasn’t surprising. Even in as secluded a place as Antiparos, the siesta rule was still in effect. The law in most places banned any excessive and /or unnecessary noise between 2 and 5 in the afternoon.  It sort of fit the schedule here. And this makes it interesting, because it’s easier to get a feel when there’s less people up and about. 

Camping sites are usually the main areas for tourism on the island and usually easily accessible to the general public. It’s no different here. The camping site is also home to the first nudist beach in the Cyclades. 


It is quite small, but very popular. I just reached this point of it and headed back, since being clothed seemed to be frowned upon, according to the manager of the camping site. 

Antiparos has a very small population and a relatively small amount of tourists. For this reason, the beaches are quite abundant and you can pretty much do what want on any beach. 

I like to see some people on the beach. It being late-August, the off season was starting. I drove around a bit till I came here. 

The water is extremely calm and clean. I decided to camp out here and take a small swim. It is never too hot on these islands,  as there are constant winds blowing. The 34 degrees seemed very tolerable. As I lay down reading my book, I slowly fell into lovely slumber. It was so relaxing. I knew where I was yet I was dreaming and sleeping deeply. After an hour, I got up and realized that the dream had ended. I was indeed on a beach in Antiparos. I went for a cold Frappé coffee.

Still trying to snap out of slumber,  I was approached by a girl who told me her name was Bianca and that she was from Belgium.  She asked if I wanted to buy her a drink. I looked at her and decided she was doing this independently so I agreed.  We chatted mostly in French. She had been there for a couple of weeks and had been inspired to paint. With September coming the following week, she had to go to a bigger European city for the off season. She had mentioned Prague, but thought it too saturated.  I listened to this confused girl and asked her if she was alone. All her friends had left the island to continue their island hopping. They hadn’t found their inspiration. 

We finished and hopped on my scooter and went to her place. It was quaint, overlooking some olive trees and some farmland. There was a steady breeze blowing in. Her room was part of a Greek family’s home. She told me they lived here year-round.  Having told her I collected paintings, she showed me some she thought were good. I picked out one in the back of the pile and told her I’d buy that one. It was an elementary piece of work that looked like water colour class. But it sort of stuck out. I sensed a tinge of despair on her face. Sort of like I was insulting the rest of her work. I picked up the painting and asked her if she wanted to eat at a nice restaurant. 

We went to a relaxing and classy place. The good thing about the islands is that you never have to dress well. At least not in the smaller islands. 

We ate and had a good time. One of the best part of my island trip was my discovery of how the most important thing in sustaining interest with others was a good conversation. In my case, it was with much younger women. I wasn’t middoe-aged, yet it felt cathartic every time I got inside the mind and body of one. It was a form of sensory communication where everything just seemed to fall into place. 

In hindsight, this may have been the doing of a relaxed mind that was able to reach whatever potential it strove for. Either way, the metropolis made it much harder before and after my trip. 

Depression Is Out of the Closet — Just Smile Back

#depression #mental-illness #lady-Gaga #prince-William 

I’m glad to see that even the Royal family gets the blues. And it’s a big step forward to see Prince William reach out with the help of Lady Gaga, who has spoken about her PTSD after being raped at age 19.  Gaga feels depressed in the morning, like many dealing with depression do. Though many celebrities have come out in one way or another,  I have never seen such an outpouring of knowledge about mental illness as in the last few days. People are beginning to understand other people. They empathize,  which is a lot more important than sympathizing. After all,  sympathy solves nothingbecause there is just emotion without proper knowledge or understanding. Empathy involves a vicarious understanding of the other’s situation. With this, you will care more and be able to empower yourself and the other. 

Sarah Silverman,  above,  is a great comedian and depressed, still taking Zoloft to keep her functioning properly. Unlike Gaga, who has a definite reason for her depression, most people are like Silverman,  who has no real traumatic event that caused her illness. And it is just that —an illness. Like diabetes or IBS. 

Clara Hughes is an Olympic hero, winning gold in both the winter and summer Olympics for Canada. This makes her one of the greatest athletes of all time. But Clara has battled with depression and still does.

When Clara came out of an otherwise padlocked and sealed closet, it was a major leap into understanding mental illness in Canada. 

It comes as no surprise to many that Sinead O’Connor was one of the pioneers of mental illness awareness way back in the previous millenium. For some reason,  it was premature and she was silenced. The media decided to focus at her outbursts as blasphemous. She had to almost kill herself,  or at least threaten to as a cry for help,  before anyone payed attention to her. And even then, they just called her unstable and continuing her blasphemy by becoming a minister herself. 

For me,  Sinead should have committed suicide by now. She obviously found a lot of love and support and used her golden voice to build up awareness through melancholy lullabies. She has become a legend in more ways than one. 

Can one of the ‘Mad Men’ be overcome by depression. Just ask Jon Hamm,  who has led the way in Hollywood. The above quote is true for many people I have come across. The truth is, you can’t help yourself alone. You need help. 

The lovely and talented Kerry Washington tells it well in the above quote,  which reminded me it’s time for a dental cleaning.  Clean your teeth, your body, your brain. But most of all,  clean your soul, the deciding factor on your happiness. 

I just love Dwayne Johnson. He is approachable, honest, polite, intelligent,  humble, and suffers from depression.  And yes, ladies, he is the sexiest man alive. He is also the highest paid actor of 2016. He is renowned worldwide. He is the Rock. And his input on the subject makes a big difference. 

Marilyn Monroe, Robin Williams, and Jim Morrison are 3 people, like millions of others, that didn’t get enough help and died. Let’s not mince words here. They died, as you will if you don’t get help. 

Talk to your doctor. Go to the clinic, even the emergency room if need be. You are NOT crazy. Like most people, you have an illness that your actions didn’t cause. You have a physical illness. Depression is as physical as cancer, diabetes, heart problems, etc. It is a disease — an illness.  It is a silent killer but, alas, it has come out of the closet. 

Montreal’s Mile Ex — The Pre-Burgeoning of an Overpriced Trendy Haven and the Pending Micro-Segregation that May Ensue 

#mileex  #trendy #condos 

Amidst the worn-down semi-dilapidated factories just south of Park Extension, east of Outremont,  north of Mile End,  and west of Little Italy, we find the minuscule area of town still unofficially referred to as Mile Ex. I give it a bit more area by including Jean-Talon street between Park Avenue and St. Laurent, which fits in perfectly with the posh condo-orgasmic feel of the place. Gary Carter Road,  facing Jarry Park is a nauseating newly-modernized street that scrapped down all decades-old mostly-vacant buildings to make way for drearily ununique condos. But other than on Gary Carter,  Mile Ex’s more populated area is something I’d love to visit as a tourist. It’s a part of Montreal’s unique character and what separates the city from the urban sprawl just north of it. There are businesses nobody knows and little dives you can have a drink at. 

This is Vogue magazine’s take on it. 

And here’s the trendy places to hang out in. 

I’ve always wanted to live in a loft. And this would have been perfect. A real 1960s style apartment next to a flour factory in the middle of the industrial park. For now, this steam punk part of Mile Ex is staying intact by its fingertips.  This illegal English sign  (signs in Quebec can’t be only in English) brings a tear to the eyes of a bleeding heart who is going to miss what he grew up with. Not that I grew up near an industrial park, but I was literally on the other side, the seamy side, of the tracks. 

This will be the future home of the Science Faculty of the University of Montreal. This will put the new student population officially in the town of Outremont, where other parts of the university are. But the area that will be affected by this will be Mile Ex and perhaps Park Extension or Little Italy. 

Getting away from a poor neighbourhood is only good if everyone in that neighbourhood profits from it. If not, it remains a ghetto or,  worse,  it causes sprawled segregation, where there exist pockets of poverty in most areas of the city surrounded by trendy, rich, and posh areas. If this condo fad moves north, Park Extension will be affected by it. And what will the citizenry do? It’ll be further separated and its opinions will become almost worthless. Its ballot box privilege will be nullified due to their eventually being a small minority of working class people amongst a sea of higher earners. 

Here on the corner of Beaubien and Park, the proof is in the pudding. 

I love trendy and classic and posh and all the rest of it.  But not at the cost and toil of others. 

All this to say that we need to keep our Park Extension borders intact. 

Ios, Greece — A Hedonist’s Santorini  

#Ios #hedonism #party #greek-islands 

After having overstayed in Santorini,  it was a relief to be stopping off in Ios for some brain cell relaxation. It was awkward for my buddy and I in Santorini,  where we stuck out like 2 swollen thumbs being 2 single guys amidst crowds of mostly – young couples. It had been beautiful. We had taken pics from all over the island traveling with the scooters we’d rented. It had been classy and clean. A bit overdone and too touristy. 

I got off at the small port. My  friend had continued on to Athens. Ios is a miniature, very miniature,  and less stressful version of Santorini.  I knew to speak Greek to one of those girls with a sign saying  “ROOMS TO LET ” or “ZIMMER FREI”. You also need to make sure she has a trusting face. She’d have to look wholesome,  an island native preferably. There’s nothing that can ruin a trip more than subpar lodging. Ios gives you no time to complain and you really need to just ask the location,  bed size, and price.  I picked the right girl. One that looked traditional and a native of the island. She tried looking me in the eye and gave me a good price for a room at Mylopotas, which is a nice quiet part of Ios where the beach is there to enjoy for the day.  I always like staying away from the chaos. In this case, it was about 5 minutes on the scooter away. 

The room was in front of the beach above. 

There are amazing little places belonging mostly to hotels that you can hang out at by renting a chair and /or buying a drink. This is one of the most relaxing places by day. Bar none. 

Another good thing about Ios is how easy it is to meet new people almost instantly. It seems people are all looking for the same thing. In general, it’s relax by day and party all night,  uninhibited.  And what happens in Ios stays in Ios. 

I decided to lounge on the chairs above and asked the girl serving me where a lot of people go during the day. She mentioned this beach,  Kolitsani beach,  and renting a scooter to go up the steep mostly-sand-covered hill. I decided to do all three. 

The beaches on the island near the main town  (almost always called Chora on each island) were pretty barren till after noon due to the hedonistic partying that took place every night.  I had a ridiculously cheaply-priced good-quality lunch and rented a scooter. I went to Kolitsani,  a nude beach. There were a couple dozen people here and I decided to enjoy this from a veranda overlooking the calm waters. 

I needed to relieve myself from the heat so I went for a dip. There were so many nooks and crannies that hid half the population of the beach. Uninhibited havens,  I’m sure. What I loved the most about the whole day so far was the almost dead calm of the island. Even Chora was quiet when I went souvenir shopping. 

The island has no real tourist attractions. Everything you may find interesting is bigger and better on a neighbouring island.  Except the nightlife. 

I took a 2-hour siesta and woke up hungry. I went to a nice taverna and had some delicious fish. Again, cheap. Then off I went up the hill from Mylopotas to Chora. It was still early. I met the girl serving me coffee in the morning along with a few more people. She was from Belfast. I’d never met anyone from Belfast before. The British clan showed me the hotspots. I don’t drink, but they started to. Heavily. Especially the guys. It was club after club after club. People started losing each other slowly but surely. But you eventually fall in with another group.  And so on,  till about 6 in the morning. I decided my limit would be 2 o’clock. I managed to have a Swiss girl of Italian descent come back to Mylopotas with me. 

We saw 2 groups of Swiss having a fight with each other.It seems German and Italian Swiss hate one another. Giovanna knew all about this and told me to press on the gas so that she doesn’t get seen by either group of clowns, as she put it. 

There were people drunk on the street. Others were cuddling. Others dancing. We saw the town postman treating his friends. Giovanna told me he hardly delivered any letters. 

Three days and nights were enough. People appearing and disappearing without making  appointments made the stay seem longer and it was certain more fun and stress-free. 

If you’re looking for a place with no tourist attractions but with great beaches and nightlife, then Ios is certainly for you. But only if you’re open-minded. 

Happy Orthodox Christian Easter 

#Easter #Orthodox 

Every four years,  Easter falls on the same day for all Christians; which makes this post a bit less special. Unlike other Christian religions,  Easter is the most important holiday on the calendar for Orthodox Christians. And the setup for it lasts 40 days, or what is called Lent. The more devout fast for the entire period. The fast is veganism,  with the exception of fish. Not only is it allowed, it is encouraged. 

Above is a tree trimmed like an Easter egg in Moscow. Eggs are everywhere. Coloured eggs are part of tradition. 

These eggs from Serbia represent tradition,  culture,  and religion. Serbs take their eggs to church on Good Friday and the priest “blesses” them. They then get eaten on Easter. 

 

Greece has many traditions. Fireworks is among them. In Kalamata, the Saitopolemos exists where participants hold pipes and have the fireworks come out of them while they are holding them. This is said to represent the 1821 victory and freedom over the Ottoman empire. The sound of the fireworks popping made the horses scared and start stampeding,  allowing the Greeks to win. True or not, this is a very dangerous activity. 

What a way to end the Holy Week. Even heads of state are seen rejoicing. 

While the egg is big at Easter, the egg on top of the Easter pita  (pie) is kept in the house all year round in some Orthodox countries. 

Happy Easter to one and all. 

Three Young Sinners on Their Way to Confession 

#communion #easter #good-Friday #sinners 

We got up a bit late that Saturday. By the time all three of us met,  it was about 11 o’clock.  Pete and I were up late the previous night as had become our Friday ritual. We were now in university  and loved the perks of social engagement more than the opportunity to broaden our horizons. My cousin Perry was still 16 and was forced by his mother to join us. So there we were; we were going to the big church to receive communion. Pete had even fasted for the Holy Week. But beer didn’t count. 

The crowd at the two popular churches had formed a queue all the way to the sidewalk. Pete asked some girls  (it was always girls) how long they’d taken to receive communion. They said over an hour and a half. Pete looked at them. “Does it hurt standing and waiting on 3-inch heels?” My cousin couldn’t stop laughing at how good Pete was at starting conversations with the most inane and mundane lines. The girls actually answered that question,  Pete got a phone number,  and then took a deep breath at the thought of waiting in those long queues. 

“Isn’t Agia Sofia open,” I asked. 

“We can’t go there. It’s those weird old calendar Greeks. They haven’t progressed, as my mother says, Pete said half-hesitantly. 

Perry broke the tie and off we went to the old calendar church. The doors were open. You can hear low voices in the background. “Hello? Anyone here,” Pete said in a slightly pitched voice with his hands around the sides of his mouth. 

“Wait in line, please,” the old priest said, “I’ve got one sinner ahead of you.” We wondered if we were sinners. This priest was very old school. I remember my mother paying him  $20 to bless our house a few months earlier. He threw holy water on my Ozzy Osbourne poster and said “even a big devil-worshipping sinner like this guy can be redeemed.” 

Perry looked serious and prepared to receive communion while Pete and I knew it wouldn’t be that easy. So Perry went first. A 20-second event took about 10 minutes. The old man had told Pete and me to wait for him while he “redeemed” Perry. “What’s this fucking idiot doing to the kid,” Pete said, somewhat concerned while still smiling. We were sitting on individual pews and I didn’t care how long it took. Until Catholic priest stories came to mind. Just as my concern was rising, out came Perry, looking as if he’d read the riot act.

The priest said that the boy had confessed and we needed to confess as well in order for all of us to receive communion. I was next. 

“So have you sinned a lot? ”

“Hmmmm….. not that much. What do you mean by sin? ”

“Stolen. Lied. The works. ”

“I guess I lied ”

On and on we went, all of the ten sins. He even asked if I coveted my neighbour’s wife. 

“Do you do it? ”

“Do what? ”

“You know. With girls. Or boys. That’s worse. ”

“With girls, ” I said. 

“Do you play with it? ”

“With what. ”

“You know. To relieve yourself, ” he said and made the motion with his hand. 

“Sometimes. When I don’t fornicate.”

He stopped and leaned forward from his pew across mine and looked me in the eyes and said  “you’re a bigger sinner than I thought. ”

I had no time to react as he said “but I’ll give you communion anyway.”

Pete went in. Perry looked sad. We were asked similar questions. Pete came out snickering. “What an idiot. He’s probably a child molester who’s going to sin after we leave. ”

While this true story of a Saturday before Christmas is true, I want to point out that I didn’t think the priest was abusing anyone. He just thought he was doing his job. And I believe that most priests, like most people, are decent human beings. So please don’t judge Good Saturday and the Greek Orthodox church by this anecdotal story. But it has become a mainstay, almost lore. 

The moral I guess would be to stop trying to take shortcuts. Either way, I hope everyone has a great Easter. 

Ted’s Optimal Breakfast Sandwich 

#apple-butter

Apple butter was something I fell upon a few weeks ago. It is very healthy and not very sweet. Make sure you get an organic brand with no sugar added. It takes over 12 hours to make your own apple butter that would not be much different in this case. So just go with the healthiest one you can find. The calorie count is relatively low. 

Organic cashew butter is the next ingredient. This is the best of the nut butter choices because of its smoother texture yet stronger overall taste. It is also sweeter and tastes burnt. 

The next ingredient is half a pear cut in even flat slices—they should be as long as possible. 

Still a foodie fad,  Manchago cheese is a strong, hard cheese from Spain. It needs to be used in small portions because it may be overwhelming to your palate otherwise. 

Spelt bread has the perfect hard texture needed for this sandwich. It can be replaced by any hard bread. A baguette may also be used cut sideways. 

Slightly toast 2 bread slices and spread a tablespoon of apple butter on one slice and 2 tablespoons cashew butter on the other. Alternately,  you can mix the 2 butters together in a small bowl and evenly distribute them on each slice. 

Put half of the pear slices on one side and the other half on the other. The Manchago should be put in the middle of the sandwich.  Slice and enjoy. 

Let’s Get Rid of Americano Coffee and Also Ban Starbucks 

#ban-americano #Starbucks #espresso #greek-coffee 

When I am in Greece I love having Greek coffee. The aroma of the freshly scissored paper bag the coffee was in can still be tasted in your cup of double medium. This is a staple food for Greeks,  who usually include it as part of their light breakfast, which often includes Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts. The “barrista”, in this case anyone who can make a cup of comfort food coffee, serves you the coffee with the remainders in the traditional tin “flijani” it was heated and brewed in. There’s a rich history behind this coffee; even a fight over whether it should be called Greek or Turkish coffee. The Ottomans took it as theirs and almost all their foreign colonies, like the Balkans,  call it Turkish coffee. I call it Greek coffee without having looked up its history. Just ask my friends how much I insist they call it Greek. 

Then there’s my all-time favourite brew — the double espresso long in my case. This is espresso in 2 shots with a bit more water. I break Italian tradition by taking not with just one, but with two sugars.  My OCD usually forces me to have one Stevia and one regular sugar. The Stevia beats the purpose in its bitter aftertaste,  but it cuts the unhealthy sugar level by half. I just had my double dose as I write this, and I’m ready to conquer the day. This coffee is not easy to get right. You need extraordinary beans and experience. The major difference between a good and bad espresso is in the type of bean used. I haven’t been to an Italian establishment, here and abroad,  when the espresso hasn’t been exemplary.  Like the Greeks, it’s a cultural sense of pride. 

Then there’s the Americano. So many “hipsters”, in an effort to be cool, trendy,  and creative,  have opted to destroy and tear apart the essence of the espresso.  They fix the espresso and just add water until it looks like a run-of-the-mill Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts coffee. It is a bastardized marriage of perculated meets a dollop of cheap espresso. The resulting taste is water with some coffee in there somewhere. Unsubstantiated rumour has it that this started off in WW2, when the British army had to ration their coffee,  so they just topped what little they had with water.  While the British army can be excused,  you can’t. You cannot tell me you like drinking bitter hot water. If you are,  you probably just have coffee to be cool. 

It probably also means you’re a big fan of Starbucks. Starbucks has been  “reinventing” coffee. Don’t get me wrong,  I actually enjoy the Starbucks market niche. It was all the rave back in the day to buy a book and have a coffee and WiFi all under the same roof; like buying a subpar computer table and having Swedish meatballs. But why doesn’t Starbucks serve traditional fair as it should be served?  Why do they not understand a real coffee drinker’s needs. Simple.  Real coffee drinkers don’t go to Starbucks. The allure has faded for me and their sole primary target now is people who just want to seem trendy or cool. These are people who have no idea what a real coffee is.  They just think there’s coffeemakers and Starbucks. They buy expensive machines making mediocre coffee. 

Coffee is not a fad. It’s a cultural activity that needs to be savored and enjoyed. For this reason,  we need to empower these Starbucks worshippers to demand their espresso and their Greek. They need to be forced to learn the difference between hype and reality. Next time you see a hipster, take them to the heart of little Italy and blackmail them into trying the espresso. You’d have done them a big service at the end and Starbucks would be on its way to being extinct. 

One can only hope! 
To be used with the explicit consent of Ted Kouretas 

Avocado Sushi — Great Tastes on the Lakeshore 

http://www.avocadosushi.ca
I always like out of the way places to dine at. For the most part,  all the junk and fat food seems to be downtown. The little gems are always on some tip of the island or other.  The Pointe Claire village has revitalized itself in the last few years. Perhaps the major reformation has been its quaint restaurants and coffee shops.  

I found out about Avocado Sushi from a friend a few years back. It’s been open since 2012. That’s considered a small feat on its own in these days of constant change . Going into its 5th year,  the restaurant has found more than one niche customer market. It is popular among the trendy, the university students,  yuppies,  and foodies alike. 

I walked into the Nantucket style setting and gave the birthday cake to a very friendly young man who was glad to keep it in the fridge for me till the birthday girl got surprised. I knew my niece had discovered sushi and hoped she’d enjoy this special outing. 

Our reserved table for 4 was near the door. We asked for another one and we went a few tables away to the other side of the restaurant. The young man was polite,  yet a bit apprehensive as he re-sat us. This is a very small place. It’s a lower duplex redone. Very calm and excellent for many occasions. There is one toilet and only one person of either gender can go in at a time. It looks like a very clean version of a somewhat large house bathroom. Very clean. 

The choice is limited. This is good. I was expecting 4 traditional papers with pencils to check off your sushi pieces but instead got one plastic menu where you need to add everyone’s pieces and put the right number in the square. Maybe it takes some getting used to,  but it confused us and the man had to come back twice. He spoke to me as if I knew nothing about sushi. Blame your menu,  dude. 

I loved every piece. The eel was perfectly cooked and sauced. There was no dynamite on the menu but the rainbow was a sufficient replacement in terms of the piece of the night. 

The cake came out and the young man started singing Happy Birthday till we took over. It seems this place is too good for this kind of distraction. 

Food 9/10

Service 8/10

Atmosphere 9/10

Neighborhood 10/10 

Strongly recommend.