Greeks don’t know from a bagel, but on almost every street corner in the center of Athens you’ll find stands selling koulouria, a sesame seed-sprinkled bread stick-slash-roll. Athenians grab them on the go for a quick breakfast in the early morning while they’re fresh. But don’t be turned off if you see some still for sale after lunch – by afternoonÂ theÂ koulouria somehowÂ morphs into a satisfyingly crunchy snack.
The interesting thing about traveling with a youngster is that they don’t necessarily see things in the same way. For instance, you might want to talk about the architectural tricks employed by the ancients to give the Parthenon the appearance of being perfectly symmetrical, while they want to talk about why there seems to be so many stray dogs lying around the monuments, or how cool a particular piece of rock looks, or a line of ants. It’s a learning curve.
Couples traveling together to Thailand this month can speed their way through the traffic at Bangkokâ€™s Suvarnabhumi Airport faster than you can say, â€œno tuk tuk, no massage.â€ Register at one of the â€œAmazing Thailand, Amazing Romanceâ€ counters â€“ located on both the East and West concoursesÂ â€“Â by providing some basic information and receive a heart-shaped sticker and a key chain with the Thailand tourism mascot, Sook Jai, which entitles couples to use the â€œpremium laneâ€ for a fast track through the notoriously congested immigration process. Befitting a country known for its embrace of a third gender, theÂ program applies to same-sex couples, too. I think I feel an emoticon coming on.
In a city full of unremarkable architecture the small red brick building on Front Street is an unassuming as they come. The facade belies the miracle of alchemy happening inside. Served piping hot and without any frills, Gus’s punctuation-impaired fried chicken is no joke. I always thought I understood fried chicken and just didn’t like it. I was wrong. I’ve never had proper fried chicken until today. I don’t know what it is – the cayenne in the coating, the cooking in peanut oil – and frankly I don’t feel compelled to have that mystery revealed. I’m just happy knowing that it exists somewhereÂ – and like the girl who’s had her virginity taken I think a part of me will always secretly pine for that tremulous taste of my first liaison with Gus’s moist and meaty bird, his hot and spicy crust.
Many years ago a good friend of mine copied out the following passage and tucked it into a Christmas card. Was I going through a particularly difficult crisis of confidence at the time? Perhaps; I can’t really remember. What I do remember was how clear and strong the writer’s voice rang out.
I’ve kept it tucked in my wallet sinceÂ – it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
“There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You have to keep it open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you…..No artist is pleased…..There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” — to Agnes DeMille from Martha Graham