They call them “Police States.” No, they’re not places free from crime. They’re places where the crime is that no one is free. Freedom does not exist. There are no choices. Instead of true government, Police States are run by those who have the most power, which means, of course, control of the military. Those in power always keep it until they’re forced to relinquish it. The United States has a sordid history of supporting and backing these sewers of human rights. Mubarak is just another in a long line of human latrines who acquired obscene wealth from the United States while oppressing and tyrannizing the citizens of his own country.

In 1983 I crossed Bulgaria by train without a visa. It was a terrifying experience where my own ignorance nearly got me into a serious, life-damaging jam. Pure luck, Baksheesh in the form of American dollars and the intervention of a Turkish woman saved me. I watched mile after mile of barbed wire and lookout towers go by before the shit hit the fan.  I was fortunate.

 Several weeks later I again saw the militarized fist of oppression at work. This time it was Egypt. This incident was actually quite mild, compared to Bulgaria. Not terrifying at all. A little anxiety. Some concern for the Egyptians involved, yes.

The Egyptians – four university students –  had broken a strictly enforced law by speaking to three tourists (myself and an Australian couple). We were chatting outside the station when the police came out of nowhere and arrested the four students. The three of us didn’t understand. We tried to protest. As they were taken away, one of the students told us to be outside the National Museum at 5:00 p.m., about an hour later.

When we met them they explained that it was against the law for Egyptians to talk to foreigners. They had been taken to the local police station where they immediately paid the standard fine (bribe) and were released. If you don’t pay the fine? We asked them. Trouble, they said, without elaborating. We followed them to a student café and talked late into the night.

Mubarak’s gone and there’s talk of democracy floating around, looking for its memeness. The military says it wants democracy, Israel peace. What kind of democracy and what kind of peace remains to be seen.

A beautiful country with profound treasures. But the Pepsi tasted like battery acid.

 Mohamed Bouazizi?  Name ring a bell? It should. He’s the match that started this freedom fire raging. Dec. 17, 2010 he performed self-immolation in Tunisia. Started a brush fire of thought that toppled Tunisia and spread to Egypt, a conflagration of memes in the First Digital Dynasty.

How did it happen? January 25, announced as a “police holiday” in Egypt turns into mass demonstrations, and only 17 days (!) later Mubarak is gone. What happened?

In a word: Words. As Hamlet says, “Words, words, words.” And, as he might add, were he living today: “Images, images, images!”

Images, especially when the same ones are shown simultaneously and then repeatedly (how often? how many times? Come on somebody, study this!) throughout the world create Godzillian memes.

Memes (imagine thoughts that go subconsciously viral, like a video on Youtube) become particularly powerful when the language of an event becomes exhausted. How does the “language of an event” become “exhausted.” That’s easy. It’s when there’s nothing more to say about the event (or occurrence, or moment, catastrophe, etc.), but there’s still a huge demand for people to say something about the event.

Cairo may be the noisest city in the world! Magnificent cacophony of life. My hotel here was right in the center of it.

Or, to put it another way, when the viewing and listening and reading public becomes ADDICTED  to an event, and the creators of the addiction (media) run short on fresh supply, the addicts get sold a weaker and weaker drug – one that says or shows the same thing over and over. And it’s that repetition that often becomes the event. The repetition creates its own  power. Sure, it’s Orwellian, good old 1984 stuff.

 Those homo sapiens possessing a subconscious are particularly susceptible to these viruses. Once a meme reaches the subconscious level, it owns the conscious being it inhabits.  

 The run-up to the Super Bowl is a classic example. Everything important gets said and written in the various media within the first few days. After that, most of what you hear has already been said or written before. And it gets written or said over and over, and over. The language soon becomes exhausted because it can’t say anything new, find any new words.  At that point the language  becomes merely propaganda, a tool that creates the IDEA of the event. You never have to FORM a thought yourself. It’s been inculcated into your thinking

What happened in Egypt is different, but not. Even before January 25 happened, memes had already created the issue – no more Mubarak! The thought virus had already started in Tunisia. A tough, government-resistant strain.  As if it had already been determined. And those memes were swiftly exhausted. (Not so much if you only relied upon American media because the US never really understood how far things had gone before it started). What was left was 16 more days of those memes working overtime – no more Mubarak! until they had created their own self-fulfilling prophecy in the minds of everyone (including Mubarak) and he was gone. As I write this, it’s started up in Algeria, also Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East. Thought flues can be contagious.

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In the movies they call the photo above a “teaser.” Apt name here too.  The setting of the poem, “Keith Richards Is Still A Friend of Mine,” partly quoted above, is inside a ’56 Chevy within sight of the pinnacles, a peculiar and picturesque clustering of rock towers thrusting up from the desert floor in the middle of nowhere. A good place to go parking after a movie.  A guy’s out there with his girl. They’ve been necking for a while, but the guy’s hoping for more. Keith helps out, and the guy’s eternally grateful.

 The Chevy in the photo is the spittin’ image of one I owned, except mine was a four-door, and the colors were all faded and the odometer had about 120,000 miles on it and I had what we called moon hub caps, which I stole off of some car parked outside a coffee shop late one night  going over the Grapevine to Los Angeles. The engine was a 265 cubic inch V8 that vapor locked whenever it wasn’t convenient. Bought it off some lot in downtown Bakersfield one cold foggy evening for $295. They’re all over the Internet now selling for $40,000 – 50,000, depending upon the restoration etc. I loved that car.


The pinnacles! Last time I was out there was a few years years ago, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were out there. It looked from the distance we maintained like they had their kids with them. Keep in mind, there were some people whose job it was to see that nobody got too close. We stayed away. If it’s family, they don’t need to be bothered. When they left, I noticed that the vehicles (three SUV’s) headed north on the way to Death Valley, maybe.

 Now another time it was different. That time it involved Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, sort of the Pitt and Jolie of their time, probably bigger, actually, in star status. There seem to be thousands of stars now. Back then, ‘60’s, there were just a handful – and Dick and Liz were the opposable thumb and forefinger of the hand.

 They were making Cleopatra, at the time, possibly the most expensive movie ever made, when you consider inflation. Liz and Dick were married when they were filming the movie, but not to each other. You get the picture.

 A few scenes were filmed at the pinnacles. The tiny local airport was buzzing. The one local motel filled up and extras and other lackies were sleeping in the high school’s gymnasium. Nobody ever saw Elizabeth Taylor or Richard Burton, of course. Rumor was they flew up each day from Los Angeles.

 A couple of us cut school after lunch and headed out  in Bob’s dune buggy – a contraption that started as a wrecked  1954 Mercury with a flathead six and ended up as a chassie and seats with a cage of  metal-shop welded roll bars, dual wheels on the back and an open engine. We made our own path out to the pinnacles, but security was everywhere. We circled the whole production looking for some way past security. Finally we stopped and hoofed it as close as we could get. We sat for a while on a mound and passed the binoculars back and forth but never saw Dick or Liz. But Roman legions were everywhere.

The pinnacles are always being used in movies and commercials.A friend of mine spent a couple of weeks  playing an ape soldier in Tim Burton’s remake debacle of that Charlton Heston classic, “Planet of the Apes.” They shot at the pinnacles for weeks. The whole area was closed off to the public while they built secret elaborate sets.

A couple of us drove out to take a look one afternoon. They actually had an official visitor’s area. When we got there, I noticed a wooden box sitting on the ground next to the security building. It was about the size of a large microwave oven. An over-sized padlock dangled from the clasp, and there was a single wire running from a small hole in the box. That wire ran along the edge of a dirt road before it veered into nothing but sage brush and creosote and disappeared. Handwritten on the top of the box was the word, Phone, along with twenty or so phone numbers.

 When I asked the security guy about it, he laughed. “It’s the phone,” he said. The crew had come out to the pinnacles with cell phones. Hollywood and the studios would be just a button away. Except the phones wouldn’t work out there. They had to have a special land line (1!) put in. And only a couple of people had keys to open the box. All those numbers? They were places in the area that would deliver food. They were all 25 miles away.

 By the way, my Monkey Number this morning was 6,670. Like the Dow, it dropped. Google will only let you see a couple hundred of those, at most. The remaining numbers are like movie “net profits.” Somebody is telling you that they’re there, but nobody ever gets to see them: Monkey Numbers.

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I have just discovered “Monkey Numbers.” I already knew about “Monkey Points.” Eddie Murphy gets credit for coming up with that term. Monkey Points refers to what the Hollywood movie industry calls the “net profits” on a film. Producers will offer potential investors or “name” actors chunks of the “net profits” on the movie they’re trying to make. They might, for example, offer a Robert De Niro “twenty percent (or points) of the “net profits,” hoping that De Niro will imagine sugarplum visions of glorious “net profits” and agree to do the film.

But the bizarre truth is that apparently films NEVER show a net profit. Net profits don’t really exist. Even blockbusters never show a “net profit.”  It’s all in the accounting, and I would guess that at least in the last 50 years a day has not passed without some litigation over Monkey Points occurring somewhere.

(The photo? Same house as previous post, light painting. Quote found in Santa Barbara, California, on a poster. Click on the photos for a better view.)

Monkey Numbers are similar to Monkey Points. Google calls its Monkey Numbers “results,” with the lower case. Bing goes upper case and Yahoo goes with lower. I’m a Googler. For brevity I’ll stick to Google Monkey Numbers. This is about how Nights of Naked Mannequins  got the Monkey Number treatment.

But wait. This isn’t a venting, a ranting or raging. No, this is bemusement. After all, nobody cajoled me into this. I sought it out. Took part willingly. Google and the pr news releasing simply did their jobs. And did them well, I might add. For me it was an experiment. I had no illusions, and I don’t believe I was deluded.

I was simply surprised when the numbers started showing up. Then I realized that they were really Monkey Numbers, and I was amused.

On the morning before my press release went out, I Googled “Nights of Naked Mannequins,” with the quotes so it would show those words only when they appeared in that particular order.

According to Google, there were 249 “results.” That seemed about right in a pseudo algorithmic way. It actually didn’t look bad until the part of me that knows that there must be mega-trillions of things on the Internet spoke up. Ok, there’s probably more. Lots more.

In the Internet food chain I was less than plankton – not even a single plankti, I would guess. Hence the pr release: Internet presence. I needed a bigger boat to swim with minnows. Forget the sharks. That’s what I was after. And I started to get it. Within one day I was up to 469! My god! I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I was tickled by that. Guess what? Early the next day I was up to 574! The clueless giggling continued as the numbers rose throughout the day. At 10:00 p.m. I was sitting at a heady 1,210. Jesus. My naïve hope had been to reach 1,000 lower case “results.” One grand! That seemed a powerful and meaningful number when I started, even though I would still be a marginalized plankti.

The next day started slowly. Expectations had started to hover above the entire procedure and they are impatient bastards, as we all know. I awoke to 1,360 “results,” which left me feeling ok, but not giddy. And it hardly changed the rest of the day. I figured that was it. Acceptance. Ok, I was almost a plankti.

Then the next morning they started to play with me. Monkey Numbers are very playful. Numerical dolphins, if you will. Each time they explode out of the water and appear to reach a new height, you have to gasp. I gasped: 2,350! Friends again! That night it was up to 2,910. I slept soundly.

Well, honestly. How long was it going to take? You see, I started to get a little suspicious. I started to wonder, just what the hell were these lower case results? Was there MEANING in any of it? The next two days were the weekend, and the numbers went up and down. Up I could take. Down (already?) was a bit harsh. Saturday I finished off at 3,901, but they dropped back on Sunday to 3,370. I blamed the Super Bowl and didn’t bother to check that night.

Monday morning was a shock. Truly a shock. 4,130! We were going up again. By the end of the day it was 5,160.  But now it was a roller coaster. Tuesday morning back down to 4,310. Then it  dropped during the day (shit!),  down to 3,870. Ok, I thought, we’re reached a hovering area, a range. I was all right with that. Wednesday morning was nice, up to 4,816. See, I told myself, you’re hovering. Not bad. Then, I checked it in the afternoon. I couldn’t believe it: 8,810. And it’s been there all day. In weaker circumstances, I might have panicked, fearing a huge drop soon.

But no. After some research and thinking, I believe that I’ve got their number – their Monkey Number – figured out.

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The Super Bowl is over. Next season for the NFL is still iffy. I am going to stay away from the bargaining BS. I was a union member for many years. I spent my time at negotiating tables. All nighters around a huge table in some freezing Quonset hut while the bitter wind howled through the vents. Knowing those bastards up in their swank office were lying to us. No thank you.

I will say this, however: The players in the NFL are rich slaves. The NFL is made up of 32 plantations, most run by Simon Legree wannabes. The non-profit, community-owned (let’s hear it for Socialism!) Packers being one principal exception, with the Steelers running a fairly enlightened plantation themselves. The amount of money in the equation does not alter the human dynamic.

 Curt Flood: May we never forget!

 Christ, I can’t believe I almost went down that thorny path.

 How fast is a meme? On ESPN and the general sports media I’d say memes (or ideas or thoughts that become imitated and/or replicated) run the viral (as per Malcolm Gladwell) 40 yard dash faster than they do anywhere else humans are connected.  A true academic cultural scientist will someday monitor and chronicle the words used during periods of heightened communication – such as a Super Bowl. A concordance, sort of. I miss the old days when people covering such events actually asked questions, at least ones that did not begin, “how does it feel . . .”

Oh, yes, the image above was taken just outside that charming desert village of Ridgecrest. A photogenic concrete ruin of a house. Once again, this image began as “light painting” photo taken early a.m., couple of winters ago. Quote is from Hamlet. Yeah, he sees a ghost, and then he becomes dysfunctional. But Hamlet does tell the audience how he feels. He does that several times, which creates a suspicion that perhaps Hamlet wasn’t written by Shakespeare but some moonlighting sideline reporter or talk show host.

Here’s a story. Exactly one week ago I released a “press release” about Nights of Naked Mannequins, which is currently the bestselling book on our block. This “press release” was an experiment. I was looking for something very cheap to create more online presence, as they say. I was somewhat surprised to discover how many online companies there are that specialize in distributing releases.

I checked out several websites. First, let me say that it was appalling how poorly edited most of these sites were! Egregious usage mistakes abounded. Typos and spelling mistakes seemed to be mandatory. It was discouraging.

 Eventually, I settled on one company whose site was clear, direct, easy to navigate and almost free from mistakes. They offered four basic categories of press release, and each category was thoroughly explained. I finally settled on the category that would cost about $130.  Ouch.  Among other things, it indicated that the release would be “sent” to 6,500 newspapers in the country. Ok.

Writing the release was the easy part. I had a genuine story with at least some inherent worth and interest. It had to do with what I discovered while doing some research for the book. In the book I use quotes taken from four films in the “film noir” genre. I culled those four from nearly 30 quotes.

But I soon discovered a problem. Many of the quotes didn’t sound right to me Not quite how I remembered them. I started the research on the internet, mind you. And these quotes, as you can imagine, were repeated over and over. Still, they didn’t sound right. Then I bought a few books. The books mostly matched the internet.

I figured there was only one way to find what was right. I started renting and buying the DVD’s and watching them while I listened with headphone. At the crucial time I played the DVD’s over and over, to be absolutely certain. What did I discover?

That’s what my press release was about. I discovered that nearly all of the quotes were inaccurate. And I wrote the release about how they were inaccurate and how the internet, at least in this case, was not very reliable. Naturally, the focus of the story was Nights of Naked Mannequins and the use of film noir quotes.

As I indicated before, the company distributed the press release a week ago. The result has been interesting. But that’s for tomorrow.


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The quote in the above photo is from Wallace Stevens, a major American poet of the just departed century. Stevens was an executive for an insurance company and by many accounts kind of a prick. Certainly not the loft-lurking beret-clad chap that is the poet cliché. He had money and he knew what to do with it. He also had a brain and could do wonderful, creative things with that.

 I was amazed to discover only very recently that a bust of  Stevens’ wife, Elsie, was the model for the coin known as the “Mercury” dime that was issued 1916-1945 . Imagine that! Some poets are more equal than other poets.

 The photograph was taken about 6:20 a.m. two Januaries ago in a small town called Ridgecrest, CA., which sits in the high desert region of California, oh, 160 miles from LA.  Recently, I went back to try to get some more shots like that. Unfortunately, there’s a Beanster’s/Pizza Factory in the way now.

 I sometimes carry a copy of Stevens’ collected poems with me. It’s my iPhone, PDA, gizmo, whatever the hell you want to call it, all between the pages. A world for the mind. It’s quiet and doesn’t ring or jiggle and never forces me to multi-task.

 I am not, by the way, a big fan of most of his poetry. But what I like I will embrace to the grave.

“It can kill a man.” So ends one of his poems called, “Poetry Is a Destructive Force.”

 At the age of nineteen I bought my first two books of poetry. Up to that time I had lived mostly below the belt, driven by quite primitive modes of behavior. A jock. But something happened as a sophomore in college. Who knows? Hormonal trickle down theory?  But I walked out of a Pickwicks bookstore in Bakersfield one day with two books: “A Coney Island of the Mind,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the collected poems of T.S. Eliot, Faber and Faber.

 I don’t read the Ferlinghetti much anymore, sad to say. But I still love the cover, and the title.  If I can’t find the Stevens, I often carry Eliot around with me. Sometimes it’s Yeats. If I can’t find them, any nice anthology will do.

 My most cherished book of poetry is a hardcover edition of Down at the Santa Fe Depot, 20 Fresno Poets. It’s autographed in the back by all 20 poets! It was printed in 1970, and I know that at least two of the poets, sadly, are dead. I have never known any of these poets, even though I lived in Fresno at that time and attended Fresno State concurrently with some of them. I saw some of them read, and I own or have owned many of their books. I have one truly fond memory (which I hope is both accurate and true) of one of the poets, Dennis Saleh, reading his poem, “Frankenstein’s Journal,” one night inside the old administration building of Fresno State.  A couple hundred students (and some faculty, I think) had taken over the administration building and we were waiting around for the police or worse to come and evict us. They never came.

 I found the hardcover (I also have the paperback) edition on ebay. Just poking around, I think. I won’t tell you how much I paid for it, except to say that it was far more than any other book I’ve ever purchased.

 The very first “famous” poet I ever saw read was Galway Kinnell, when he came to Fresno State. At least he was famous to me. He read “The Bear,” still one of my all time favorites. Philip Levine was at Fresno State, of course, but he wasn’t “famous” at the time, although he was becoming so and would certainly become “famous,” if a poet in America can ever be considered “famous.” I have been a faithful purchaser of Levine’s books since I was nineteen. I have a copy of what I believe is his first book, On The Edge, printed in 1964 by Second Press Books. “To Charles Edward Eaton, with thanks & best regards, Philip Levine” is written in the front.

 I leave you with this image, also taken near Ridgecrest, also on a cold winter morning. The words are Sylvia plath’s. From the poem, “Kindness.”

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 (Note: No, I didn’t screw up.  I purposely tucked some pics of Greece into this. Not because I don’t like Fresno – I love the city! But I don’t have any pics of my old habitat, sadly. Consider them pleasing distractions.)

If this were a movie, you’d be looking at a flashback. The old guy sitting on his bed at the Grande Bretagne would get out his Coolpix 7900 and check the photos he just snapped. You’d get a close up of one of the images, fade out, fade in and suddenly the bed isn’t in a room of the Grande Bretagne. No, when the guy wakes up, it’s in a dumpy, tiny apartment not far from the college, and it’s close to midnight. He bolts upright. If he doesn’t hurry, he’ll be late for work. And Jesus! His wife is gone. No, wait, he doesn’t even know her yet. Fact is she was only born a year or two before this. He’s dozed off because he dozes off all the time now. He’s working six nights a week as a janitor and can’t get any sleep during the day.

This is the Hotel Grande Bretagne. The cow? Street art. They were everywhere.

The guy is early twenties. He’s got a BA, bunch of graduate units but things are not looking good. There’s a big war going on. It’s been going on for about five years at this time, and it will go about five more. His government needs men to feed the war. One hundred die every week. It wants him. It’s called the Selective Service, and he’s already passed two physicals after they called his number (#55, in the first draft lottery).  He should be gone. But he’s crafty. Using a book called, The Draft and You, by Leslie S. Rothenberg, he’s taking every formal and informal appeal open to him. It will take him about two years. Eventually his Congressman, Jerry Pettis, (R), San Bernardino, CA., will step in and he’ll end up with a Congressional deferment secured through the Surgeon General’s Office. The next year The Congress will abolish the Draft.

They were all over the place. I've forgotten what they were for.

That’s kind of back story.  I was a night janitor at a department store called Weinstocks. In some ways it was a great job. The store was three stories high. It had a restaurant on the ground floor.  We cleaned that first. One of the guys had been a short order cook, and sometimes – when the inventory was up – he would cook us a light breakfast, eggs and toast, to start the night off. After that we would do separate jobs in the store. We rotated. Except Jerry. Nobody liked Jerry because he was always complaining. The foreman put him on permanent bathroom duty.

Ah, Santorini. Waited 26 years to get back. Touristy but still beautiful.

The worst job was cleaning all the ash trays. Oh, yeah. People could smoke anywhere in those pathetically unenlightened days. There were over 160 (!!) ash trays in the store. They were on pedestals that came up about waist high. The trays were about the size of a small cereal bowl. Smokers pushed a little knob and the top retracted so they could snub out the butt. The poor SOB doing that job had to empty and clean out every last one of those trays. Your hands would turn a sickening yellow from the nicotine, and even before lunch break your clothes, hair, hell, your whole body reeked of cigarette smoke. Christ, was it awful! Finally one of the guys who smoked himself said he would take over the ash tray duty. He was tired of the rest of us bitching.

 Most of the time I cleaned the second and third floors. I vacuumed and emptied the trash bins. It was mindless and easy. The best part of the job was the book store. It was actually just a large nook across from the restaurant. But what books! I worked there six months. Once I got my routine down, I could finish my vacuuming in about four hours. The rest of the time I would hide out and read in the changing rooms. I grabbed books whenever I wanted and made sure they were back on the shelf before we clocked out. Remembered reading: most of Herman Hesse (he was big then): Journey to the East, Steppenwolf, The Glass Bead Game, Siddhartha; Operation Over flight, by Francis Gary Powers; some Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury, The Reivers, The Hamlet; Fitzgerald: Tender is the Night; Roth: Portnoy’s Complaint, Goodbye, Columbus, Mailer: Armies of the Night, The Deer Park; plus lots of poetry from anthologies, like Mark Strand’s classic, The Contemporary American Poets (my bible back then). That little nook was better than most book stores you find anywhere now, even in some modest cities.

 But I’m digressing. This is about the book, Nights of Naked Mannequins. And this is where it started. In Weinstocks, over 40 years ago.

The view from Oia.

 First cause: The store’s second floor was entirely women’s clothing. I don’t remember there being anything else, and I vacuumed those floors for six months. It was brain-numbing work. My mind would drift. Reveries galore. Seemed I was always pushing the hose of the vacuum around the feet of fashionably dressed young wo . . . I mean mannequins. Anyway, one night I got a surprise. I was sucking up dirt in lingerie when I backed around the corner of a counter and bumped into something. When I turned, I found myself confronted by three or four naked mannequins. Their arms were raised in a pose. For one brief, paranoid moment I had the idea that they were accusing me of something. A brief moment, nothing more: I turned back to my cleaning.  They were there to sell merchandise. Someone would be in before the customers to dress them and make them look pretty.

 Aye, the rub. There it was. I had just stepped into a sort of coven of commodification. A quick glimpse into the erotic soul of merchandise. Yeah, a pretty mundane revelation, right? But I was young, it was late, and this was a long time ago. For the rest of the night profound thunderclaps thumped my brain.

Looking out over the caldera from the rim.

 I was steeping in Sartre and Camus back then: if existence precedes essence, it must follow that mannequin precedes merchandise. Given that I was nothing else but what I made of myself, what could be said of a mannequin? Were the mannequins also condemned to be free?

If there is no “reality” except in action, then the mannequins were relegated to “quietism.” That was clear.

So, a few years later – again late at night – a couple of unlikely synapses joined hands in thought.  I turned on the bedside light, picked up a pencil and scribbled the opening lines from Mannequins’ titular poem:

Three a.m.

and my hands

as I knew they would,

leave their cleaning to begin another rape.

 What are you doing? Asked the woman lying beside me. Nothing, I said. And there followed a moment ominous for the particular kind of silence that filled it. Then she said, See, that’s what I’m talking about.

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Reality is not what it is. It consists of the many realities which it can be made into. Wallace Stevens

 This story and some of its reality starts in Athens. First time I saw Athens was 1980, and what a bumpkin I was! Gosh and golleee everywhere, jaw flapping on my sternum. Getting by on less than $5 a day!

 Stayed at a place called the Orion, way out near Strefi Park. It’s now a one star place. In 1980 it was a category D pension. Wonderful place: the first time you have breakfast on a rooftop with a grand view of the Acropolis in the distance, well, it’s something you don’t forget.

 That was pre-internet, of course. I carried one budget travel book, Frommer’s naturally. Now it’s hard to count the number of times I’ve been to Athens and the world is all made up of pixels.

 But by the year 2006 I realized that I hadn’t been back to Greece in a long time. That plus the fact that my wife had never been there finally kicked us in or tourist slats. I spent most of the spring of 2006 cruising the streets and byways of Athens online before we got there. The islands too, of course. I discovered a great site run by a guy called Matt Barrett, and I lived a little bit in his version of Greece every day. I would recommend it if you ever plan to go to Greece.

 You see what’s happening here, don’t you? I’m getting stuck on the Greeceness of my Greece. The Greece that I know, that’s mine because the memories of it are strewn about my mind like ruins. I can wander through them and reinvent my journeys there, indulge in the reveries of Greece.

 So, I’ll have to strap myself to mast of this computer and get down to it, to my visit in 2006. Where it all started.

 They had huge demonstrations and riots in Greece that summer. They didn’t get as bad as the ones during Christmas time 2009, but they certainly sharpened the edge on everything. In a distant life I was once a photo journalist slash other things. Made somewhat of a living taking pictures. But that was back in the day when I carried self-loaded rolls of Tri-X, ASA 400 film. Bought it in bulk quantities, 100 feet at a time. I was still clinging to the antiquated film mode through 2005! Finally, in 2006, I bought my FIRST digital camera. A Nikon Coolpix 7900, for the record. It was an antique about two months after I bought it. Great little camera. I took it to Greece, shot thousands of images and didn’t have to carry a single roll of film.

The Phalanx

Starting Up

So . . . naturally when the demonstrations started up, my instinct was to rush out to the streets and start clicking away. My wife, however, had a slightly different instinct, one significantly more prudent. Bless her, though.  Within seconds she was trotting beside me uttering choice expletives and comments about one of us re-living the ‘60’s while I got caught up in the nostalgic street drama right outside our hotel, which was at this time of our trip the Hotel Grande Bretagne, right on the corner of Syntagma Square across the street from the Parliament. (A disclaimer: No, we can’t afford to stay at either the Electra Palace or the Hotel Grande Bretagne! Those are five star digs. We have a sort of two star income, but we save a lot so most of the time we can fudge up to three star travel. But I had gotten lucky. A nice chunk of money came out of almost nowhere while we were planning the trip. I used the whole chunk on the trip. Not a single regret.)

Thoughtful message from our hotel

My wife and I joined the fringe of the hubbub as it swirled around our hotel. Before we reached the corner, we could hear the barrage. At first we thought it was gun fire. There was a moment of pause, let us say. I, for one, took full advantage of the pause. A peek around the corner, however, revealed that the “gun fire,” was actually the sound of bricks, half full water bottles and other weapon-like debris crashing into the clear plastic riot shields wielded by the police. Caught up in the roiling mass, we were swept along to the next corner. Suddenly, a young woman in front of us dropped to the ground. Before we could even respond, we knew why.

This stuff makes a helluva noise when it hits the shields carried by riot police!

 I hadn’t had a whiff of tear gas since, yeah, the ’60’s. And a whiff was all I needed. Wife and I in total agreement: grabbed each other’s hand and scooted through the throng to the nearest sidewalk and slipped back around the corner where we could breathe. “I hope you’ve had enough of this,” she said.

Just a tip of the melting iceberg: 10,000 more behind them

 A simple nod sufficed. But it was strange. When we got back to our room (#155 – ground level with an uninspiring view of the courtyard), I hardly thought about the chaos going on outside. The keen spritzes of adrenaline propelling my thoughts were triggering forty year old images from another lifetime. Riot endorphins? I sat down on the bed and and flicked through my images until I came to the mannequins. We could still hear shouts and loud pops that still sounded like gun shots, but my mind had taken a ride on a segue.

No riots: obligatory shot of Acropolis, from roof of The Electra Palace

 Ok, I’m taking a break here. Uploading and placing the photos is driving  me nuts. I had hoped for something more artistic, the text wrapping aesthetically around each photo with some commentary about its relevance to the pretentious arcing narrative going on here. I’m going to have to work on this some more.

The segue? From Athens we make a logical leap back  to Fresno, CA. A long time ago.

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Let me introduce the women bannered across the top of this. That photo was taken in Athens, Greece, in 2006. Let me get more specific: June 12, 2006, at 10:43 pm, info courtesy of the tiny Nikon point and shoot I was carrying. Wife and I had checked into the Electra  Palace Hotel at about nine and decided to take a stroll. Turned into a memorable hike! I had forgotten that Athens goes up and down, that it’s definitely not a flat city. We were strolling, nay hiking, up Ermou Street almost to Syntagma Square when I noticed the women behind the glass. Instinctively, I snapped a shot, and just as instinctively my wife asked me what the hell was I doing?

That’s where the strangenes started. The strangeness being the book that would eventually come from the inspiration of that photo of naked Greek Mannequins, the book that is the story of this blog.

Below is the complete photo. Back at the Electra Palace, I almost deleted it. The viewing screen was too tiny. I couldn’t tell if it was worth keeping. Without the photo . . .?

Part of the story is that this is my first attempt at anything like a blog, and I’m really doing digital bumper cars here. I will spare you the sordid details of how long this particular entry has taken me.

Fortunately, my wife is  very good at this stuff. But, you know, I have to go through the male ritual of pounding and screaming at the computer before I defer to her magic.

Anyway, I’m at the end of manageable patience. This story of the story of the book will continue . . .

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