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jon_decles
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The Rhinoceros Lodge

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February 14th, 2011

Time Passes

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People persuaded me that Blogging was a necessity to my career, so I started blogging. Three blogs.

Now nobody much reads or writes blogs, except maybe politicians.

The hernia operation was amazing. A very positive experience with a great doctor at Kaiser. Instead of three months of recuperation, after days in the hospital, I was home that afternoon and up and moving by the end of the week.

I got a short story written that I have been working on for about forty years. Nobody has bought it yet, but that's a matter of niche. Editors like it, they just don't have a place for it. As Mahler said; "My time will come!"

Much angst has come and gone, and I hope it will mainly stay gone. Much could be bettered by an upturn in the economy. YOU can help by buying my books, and those of my wife, Diana L. Paxson. We both sign autographs.

This morning while I was out walking the dogs in the rain, the kids got out "Peaceful Warrior" to watch. As they are both excellent gymnasts, and it is probably the best movie about gymnastics, I was happy. I had planned on us going to the City, it being Valentine's Day, but they wanted to watch "Clash of the Titans," in the original Harryhausen, which they pronounce to be much, much better than the remake. I agree.

There won't be time to get to the City, so I am staying in, out of the rain.

As my column on my website is pitifully in arrears, and as nobody is reading here anymore, I am moving my so far incomplete travelogue there as a column. New readers make new writing. I hope that I will be inspired to finish it sometime soon. The truth is, I dream of going back to Greece, running again, seeing more stuff, and hanging out at the beach Diana and I discovered.

Meanwhile, I did join Facebook, which will not tempt me to write transient work that nobody will read. I KNOW that most of the squibs I write on Facebook go unread by most people, but there is no huge energy output involved, and I get to say hello to some people, even if by accident.

March 16th, 2010

Blogging

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I got one of those messages from myspace which I misinterpreted, so I came online to make sure my friend was ok. In fact, she had not posted since 2008. Nobody has posted since 2009, including me.


I have the feeling that blogging has been one of those passing fads. Everybody has rushed over to play on Facebook. I don't plan to. I'd be happy to finish my trip report on this, and two other blogs. Sigh.

Life is very busy.

Byron and Ana are living with me, and they are unbelievable. Byron just made Student of the Week at school (he set that as a goal for himself, and did it) and his gymnastic workout gets better every week. I can't believe the things he can do.

Ana is an excellent gymnast as well, and despite her protest that she can't read, she can and does. She has decided she wants to be a girl singer on stage.

I have acquired a hernia that needs an operation, which hopefully will come when school is out. This time they plan to fix it right. As recuperation should be much faster, I don't think i will get a whole novel out of it, as I did last time, but I should make some major progress. The main down side is that the kids will miss two weeks of gymnastics.

All the dogs are happy, the cats, and the crocuses are blooming up a storm, with a few daffodils making a show. Remodeling the Lodge to accommodate the kids is coming along slowly, which would be improved by a major influx of money. If you have not bought the latest book, you are not doing your part!

All for now. One for all. None for None. A little bit more for me....

December 1st, 2009

The Herakles Play is finished and will be premiered at the Rustic Dionüsia on December 12th.

From the first of August, not a single day left my schedule unchanged by circumstance: not until the opening of the Great Dickens Fair, the day after Thanksgiving.

The kids had the flu. I have some bronchitus. The Show Must Go On!

Herewith an example of the Old Adage: "Never Pass Up an Opportunity for Shameless Self Promotion."

We opened The Great Dickens Christmas Fair this past weekend. I am Micawber, Jon is a satyr in the Naughty French Postcards, Ana is a Fairy, and Byron is the Key Goblin (which is where your lost keys go): he gets to shoot Magic Boogers, and has invented tap dancing for himself.

And in time for the Holidays!

If I have already sent you this, I apologize. My brain is a little
foggy of late, what with so many changes in my life.

The long-awaited sequel to "The Particolored Unicorn" is at last in
print. It's called "Storm Wars!" You can take a look, and even read
the opening, by going to the link below.

http://www.Piswyck.com


Very truly yours,


Jon DeCles
and a Cast of Thousands

"The Particolored Unicorn" is Back In Print!
You can read the opening, and possibly purchase your own copy, by going to:

http://www.xlibris.com/TheParticoloredUnicorn.html

And now you can get it as a podcast at http://unicorn.libsyn.com

And, At Long Last, the Sequel, "Storm Wars!" is available. Take a look by going to:

http://www.Piswyck.com

--And Be Sure to Visit Our Website at:

http://home.pon.net/rhinoceroslodge

April 20th, 2009

At Long Last

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First off: I hate the fact that this blog requires me to misspell mine own name to log in. But that's technology. Some day there will be a wreckoning!

The good news is that the long-awaited sequel to The Particolored Unicorn is finished and finally out and available. To take a look, go to:

http://www.Piswyck.com

You can see the spiffy cover by Bonnie Callahan, who is Guest of Honor at this year's Confurrence (the furry convention), read the great blurb by Paul Magrs, who writes for Dr. Who, among many other kinds of writing, and you can read the opening of the first chapter.

Then, in your unbelievable excitement, you can actually purchase a copy, then and there!

Yes, there is one gross misspelling. We'll try to get that fixed.

Next on the agenda: finishing the shadow puppet play about Herakles, and finishing the travelogue that I started here last summer.

There is also a different novel to complete. Its about a fifth of the way done.

November 18th, 2008

I've been busy

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Just a quick note to let you know why the travelog has been in abeyance for three months: I've been busy, overworked, inundated with younglings, and am now a month behind on the book: as well as about to open in the Great Dickens Fair in no less than three consecutive roles.

I'll be back as soon as I get a chance to breath. Which won't be improved if I keep eating marshmallows.

I was worried because I had 45 messages, but they turned out to be page after page after page of drivel about Live Journal (the business) moving a bunch of big ugly metal boxes out of somebody's basement in San Francisco into somebody's basement in Montana.

Montana is where they used to train people to work on nuclear submarines. Maybe they still do.

August 25th, 2008

It might be well to say at this point that a certain amount of notoriety had attached to my fall during the race at Nemea. Mr. and Mrs. Economu had mentioned that they saw me on TV. At the dinner and performance at the De Laet's place, Dr. Miller noted that he had been by the Nemea Museum right after we had, and that the people there said to him that they had seen me. It seems that my fall was caught on camera and deemed newsworthy, so for the next couple of weeks people throughout the Argolid recognized me as 'the man who fell,' asked if I was all right, and treated me as someone a little bit special.

Late in life I have become a minor sports celebrity: and for more than fifteen minutes!

The morning after that magic night at the De Laet's, we went into central Nafplion (ok, I've been spelling it wrong: the f comes before the p, but it Greek it is completely different anyway.) We met the charming couple (Brenda Bunting and John Ilnicki: thank you Diana for taking notes!) with whom we had talked while waiting for Dr. Miller to lead us up the mountain, and decided to have a brunch together, not at the cafe where we had planned, but down on the waterfront, in the more touristy area.

Outdoor tables on the Bay of Nafplio are everything one imagines experiencing in a sophisticated movie about jet set people with enough money to do whatever they want. But you can sit there and enjoy the view, and talk with friends, for far less that the Onassis family spends. And though you just might see James Bond at another table, you would be too relaxed to get excited about it.

It is said that the water of the Bay of Nafplio is a different color every hour of the day. I think that might be true, but remember that all the colors are tints of that striking Aegean blue. Elegant ships, both sail and power, go by, and in the center of it all is the Bourtzi, a small fortress covering the tiny island Agio Theodoros.

The Bourtzi was built by the Venetians in the 1400s to protect the bay. Chains linked it to the big castle on the hill and the opposite coast as well. Later it became a home for the executioners who killed prisoners from the big castle.

For all that grim history, the Bourtzi is... Well, almost cute. It looks like a kind of getaway cottage of a fortress, a summer place to escape the attentions of the Fifteenth Century paparazzi. It might not look so cute if one were not comparing it to the huge Palamidi Castle that dominates the landscape, but as we sat there munching and talking I could well imagine some romantic Venetian couple booking it for a wedding that they wanted to be really, really private. Say, no more than eight hundred guests.

Brenda a John are really neat folks. They live in Hawaii, another of the mythic places we would like to visit, and their companionship was a perfect way to start the day. WE had much in common, and I hope that fate allows us to meet up with them again.

After we parted, Diana led me down the promenade by the bay to a travel agency, where she booked our passage on all the ferries and other sea-going vessels we were to take. Part of this sort of thing had been done by computer, but once in Greece we discovered that using the internet was not as easy as back home. In fact, it proved impossible.

The rented Greek cell phone, on the other hand, worked well and consistently. Unlike the ones in the United States, which are primarily of use to teen agers who spend hours and hundreds of dollars saying inconsequential things to one another in order to prove how cool they are, and that they can possess the latest technology. --The Stateside Cell Phone works fine so long as you have nothing important to say. The minute you need it, as for instance in the case of your car breaking down, you discover that you are out of range.

(An acquaintance of mine who is a Highway Patrol officer found himself embarrassed when his car broke down, his cell phone did not work, and he had to flag down somebody to make a call for him when that someone got to a location where a cell phone would actually work.)

After the booking Diana persuaded me that I ought to have a hat more functional than the folding petasos I had brought along. (The wind kept pulling it off.) I got a neat ball cap, but soon discovered that my head was badly abraded and that the hat was taking the skin off; so I was back to bareheaded, with Diana smearing on sunscreen at every opportunity.

Diana discovered that she had already filled the two chips she had brought along for her digital camera, so we went to a photo store, she bought a really gigantic capacity chip, and had the two chips downloaded onto a CD, then the chips cleared.

That turned out to be a mistake. The smaller chip downloaded just fine, but the larger of the two did not, meaning that we lost all the pictures from the Nemean Games. If anybody reading this knows how to surf the net for stuff like television footage on UTube, we would sure appreciate anything that turns up. If I was on television, then somebody ought to have pictures of me falling on my head, right?

Next was Epidaurus.

Our hotel was situated between two main roads, one of which led out of town to Argos, and all those other cool places, the other to Epidaurus. Diana had, at first, had doubts about our being able to fit in a trip to Epidaurus, but it was only about 34 miles, and the major difficulty was, the tourist books told us, figuring out which of the three places named Epidaurus was the right one.

For me, the 'right' one was the location of the Greatest Theater In the World, and, it turned out, we didn't have any trouble at all finding it.

The site is pretty well-developed, with a museum put up by the man who first excavated it, what amounts to a large, surrounding park, and the centerpiece, the theater, which after millenia is still in service, and which still has the best acoustics anybody has ever devised.

Hitler sent his engineers to copy that theater, but his copy didn't work. Recent research has discovered that the secret is the exact stone out of which the seats are built. The stone has the interesting property of absorbing the sound of the audience, but reflecting the sounds from the stage.

This is THE place of pilgrimage for any actor. It is said of this stage that if you drop a handful of coins from your pocket, someone in the top row can not only tell you what coins you dropped, but which side landed up. That is probably a bit fanciful, but the acoustics are truly spectacular. I spent a lot of time last year recording a novel of mine for a podcast, with earphones clapped on my head so that I could hear exactly what I sounded like as I spoke. The effect of standing center stage at Epidaurus and speaking is exactly the same. You can hear your own voice reflected perfectly, so you know exactly what you sound like. And the people all the way up can hear you, too!

Diana only climbed about halfway up the steep steps of the seating, but she said I sounded fine as I read the Homeric Hymn to Asklepios. I then went all the way up and listened as she spoke, and I could hear her, too.

Sadly, the performance season would not start until two weeks in the future, so there was no way for us to catch a performance in that most sacred of theatrical precincts.

The museum is not large, but the stuff in it is beautiful and interesting. Some reassembly of architectural members has been made there, and one can see the wonderful treatment of ceilings which the ancient buildings enjoyed. There are many statues of Asklepios and his daughter, Hügeia, as well as Aphrodite: which was surprising to me.

It must be remembered that the theater was not the central attraction in Ancient Epidaurus. Rather, this was a sanctuary of the God Asklepios, and one of the great healing centers of the world. Think of it as a combination of the Mayo Clinic and Lourdes. There are testimonials carven in marble walls preserved in the museum, and votive statuary concerned with healing: statues of limbs that have been healed, and so forth. There is every evidence that the medical practices of the place were effective, else so many sick people would not have flocked there, nor so many provided testimony of restored health.

There were large buildings for people to stay in, and large kitchens to cook for them. A good deal of the treatment consisted of making sure people ate a healthy diet, drank plenty of pure water, and got good exercise. There was also a good deal of counseling by the priesthood, no doubt much of it about lifestyle and its effect on one's overall health. All this, however, was preparation for the main event, which was a personal encounter with the God, which took the form of a dream.

A special building (the Abatos) was set aside in which the patients, having undergone preliminary treatment, were set to sleep. In this sanctified sleep, the God would come to the patient and advise him or her on what was needed to effect a cure. Sometimes the advice seems to have been common sense. Sometimes it was downright wonky. But it seems to have been effective, and the reputation of the work at Epidaurus continued high until it was first destroyed by Goths, and then thoroughly ravaged by the order of Theodosius II, one of the fanatical pseudo-Christian emperors of Rome.

When one thinks of a modern hospital, or even of Christian healing sanctuaries, the images of a theater or a sports complex do not immediately spring to mind. Yet Epidaurus featured both the facilities, and a look at the cultural ideals of the Ancients reveals the good sense of these inclusions, and perhaps points to some good ideas for our own troubled times.

The theater of Ancient Hellas was conscientiously cathartic. That is to say, one went to the theater to be purged of a great deal of built-up negative emotionality. In short, it was a ritualized form of major stress reduction. Whatever problems life might be presenting, at least the average person did not have to contend with the horrors of being born into the families of Atreus or Oedipos. The tragedies were meant to wring every bit of agony out of the members of the audience. Beside the tragedies were presented the satyr plays and comedies that restored the spirit, and a lightness of feeling, to one's life.

Current research indicates that the best treatment for depression is not another regimen of risky drug therapy, but straightforward intense exercise. (The very opposite of sitting in front of a TV watching sports, which only serves to pump up the epinephrine without releasing it.) A palestra, a gymnasium, a running track where, in addition to regular exercise there were regular (every four years) competitive games in honor of the God: all these were no doubt excellent additions to a lifestyle designed to restore health.

One wonders how many ailments treated at Epidaurus had their roots in bad eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle, or any of the other bad ways of living with which we are once again saddled today.

The running track at Epidaurus is now usable, and they are working at restoring the tunnel through which the athletes entered for the competition. The track, we are told, is now used for such competitions as special high school meets and the like: but as the restoration continues, one might consider whether Dr. Miller's work at Nemea is having a greater effect than he planned.

And speaking of restoration: there is a wide-spread practice coming into fashion in Greece of partial restoration of buildings that have been thoroughly excavated, so that people today may have some idea what the Ancient buildings looked like in their glory days. We have mentioned the restoration of columns at the temple of Nemean Zeus. At Epidaurus there are two notable restorations underway that may soon make this one of the most spectacular sites to visit in all of Hellas.

The Themyle (or Tholos) is one of the most exquisite of Ancient buildings, and we know a great deal about its physical appearance. There is a great deal of speculation about the underground maze (it's not much of a maze) and what its meaning might be. --The maze is pretty much what is left intact of the building. --But in order to let people have some idea of what this magnificent building was like, they have undertaken an at least partial restoration, with the base and part of the columns already in place.

Nearby they have begun to put up the columns of the Abato, so that one can already get a good idea how big it was, and what it looked like.

And there is also work on a Propylon, a formal entry gate by which the new patients might come into the place where they would be staying. We see the logic of having new patients arrive through a very impressive entry in the grand lobbies of modern hospitals: an edifice designed to build confidence in what is to come.

There was also a temple to Artemis here, and a great deal else.

Even if you can't see a play at Epidaurus, this is a place well worth visiting. Take the trouble to buy a tourist book, so that you will know what you are looking at, and then marvel at what wonderful things people built without power tools,

***

It was to be our last night in Nafplion, so we had dinner at the romantic taverna again. It was late enough there were other people there, apparently large families, and we knew we were going to miss it. We asked about the recorded music, but our host said it was a mix tape his son had put together: he couldn't tell us what to look for in stores.

I think maybe that was the night we bought a bottle of good Nemean red wine for the Economus, but it might have been another night. In any case, they got the bottle, and we prepared to depart on the morrow.

I regret not having gone swimming at either of Nafplion's beaches, or climbing the 999 steps to the Palamidi fortress/castle, and seeing all the city's more modern history. I would love to go back to Nafplion anytime, for an actual vacation. It is what I always imagined the Riviera to be like, but without all the stuffy rich people.

A wonderful, wonderful town.

August 11th, 2008

I think it was about five years ago.

Each summer (for a while) I did a weekend on Angel Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay, in my most celebrated role as the young Mark Twain: in conjunction with the Victorian House Tour, an opportunity for the public to visit some of the houses which are being conserved by the simple expedient of having the park staff live in them.

It is downright shameful to see the decay which has set in due to neglect of this powerfully interesting historic site: but there is hope, as the park struggles to preserve some of San Francisco's most historic buildings.

Mark Twain came to the island during the Civil War in his role as reporter: to examine the newly refurbished defenses. Many of those defenses are long gone, but it was my pleasure and privilege to paint them with words for our visitors, and help them to see what it was like in that bygone day: and, there are some of the buildings of that period still standing, one very much restored by a couple who devoted great time and energy to the project.

Mark Twain was not alone for these tours. A great many costumed docents were on hand to show people through the houses, to serve them food of the period , to bake bread in the Civil War period bakery, and to teach general lessons in Living History.

One evening, after all the guests had taken the ferry back to the mainland, I fell into conversation with a woman who had been hosting at Quarters Ten, the elegant Civil War officers house which had been floated out from the City on a barge and drawn up the hill. Somehow the topic turned to the word 'arete,' which she assumed I did not know. I laughed, and assured her I did know it, and that it was very important to me.

"Well," she said, "are you a fan of football? You see, a school friend of mine made great use of that word in her memoir of her father. The word was very important to him. You might have heard of him: Y. A. Tittle?"

I assured her that though I am not a fan of American Football, even I knew the name of the man who has been argued to be perhaps the greatest football player of all time.

The conversation wandered, as it does at the end of a performance day, and I filed away the information with the intention of looking up the book.

In the Summer of 2007 I discovered that a talk was to be given at Boggs Mountain State Forest by one of our most illustrious residents, Mr. Don Emerson, on the history of the town of Cobb, and its glory days as a resort area. Mr. Emerson was instrumental in the building of my tea house, having provided me with permission to hunt and cut a madrone tree on his land, to use as the post of the tokonoma; so I was interested first to hear him speak, and second to know more about that romantic period when people traveled all the way from San Francisco for a week or two of relaxation in the mountains.

It was a fascinating talk, including the information that up until the early 1920s the last leg of the journey was still made by stage coach.

At the end we were shown a whole table full of photo albums and individual photos of the history of the area.

"...and here," said Mr. Emerson, pointing to a photo of the crowd in the dining hall of the old Hoberg's Resort (where Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and later, Jefferson Airplane, all played) "you see a picture of Y. A. Tittle. And here he is again, golfing of the new golf course we built. He used to come up here all the time."

Hmmm. Time for another mental note about that book.


So here we were, in Greece, in the Summer of 2008, at Dr. Stephen Miller's house (you have already perused the party) and I was introduced to Mr. and Mrs. De Laet, who were to host an artistic event at their home the next night.

Mrs. De Laet, Dianne, had been instrumental in working on the musical and performing aspects of the Nemean Games in 2004.

You can imagine my astonishment when a little later Dr. Miller informed me that she was the daughter of Y. A. Tittle, the famous football player, and that she had written a book weaving her memoir of growing up as his daughter with the Greek myths.

In the words of Mark Twain: "I was floored!"

Thus we return to the main narrative, as Dr. Miller leads our expedition away from Argos and into the Valley of the Inochos River, and finally up a winding dirt road into the Artemision Mountains.

***

The orchards in this part of Greece bear the look of hard times. There are many abandoned farm houses, which, being made of stone, have held up much better than buildings of similar age in California, where they will have been built of wood.

One had no trouble understanding that the road on which we were traveling was a hundred years old, and probably built for donkey carts. Our procession teetered precariously up, then finally came to the house, where many of us parked precipitously along the edge. (Did I mention that Hellas is mainly vertical?) We had to park that way because a truck needed to pass us to make a delivery!

We went up an outside stairway to the living area, which is, of course, the top of the house. The bedrooms have been built where the sheep pens used to be, downstairs.

The De Laets told us that they had bought the old house from the brother of a friend, and with the help of excellent Albanian stone masons, were restoring it.

You can see what it looked like early on, and the breathtaking view, at the following website:

http://www.aretepoetics.com/elagaia.html

I can assure you, it is now something of an artistic masterpiece, and the threshing floor is usable at a theater already. (You can see the stone wall that holds it up in one of the photos, and the round, flat area as well.)

The house is called EleGaea, and it is meant to be a place for the performing arts.

It is.

Dinner was served on the upper terrace, and I made bold to corner Dr. Miller with my mental list of the questions from the day before.

New information included the clarification of something I had previously misunderstood.

The dusting with various forms of fine earth did not take place over the olive oil, but rather, after the bath.

"I remember," said Dr. Miller, "when I was young, and one went to the barber, the last, finishing touch was to dust one with talcum powder from a fine bristled brush. That is what the dust was about. One tossed it in the air and walked through a fine cloud of it. It was done in a different room than the oiling."

I remember that dusting also.

"Okay," I pressed on, "What are all those chambers under the floor of the Temple Of Zeus about? Some sort of initiatory system?"

He smiled.

"Actually, they are just economy. The upright blocks are the same thing as floor joists in a modern house. They support the floor, but you don't have to use materials filling in between them."

Finally I mentioned the small fire in what I thought to be a possible adyton.

"Well, we are puzzled by that chamber, and of course we have no evidence to tell us what it was, as yet. But the fire... Well, I told the people kindling the torch to light the fire on the altar. Of course, the altar for that temple is the long, thin one in front. But in a Greek Orthodox Church, the faith in which most people here have been raised, the altar is inside the church, at the far end from the entrance. There being no altar there that they could find, they went down to a place where they would expect one to be, and lit the torch there."

It is well for those of a mystical bent to remember Solon's Seventh Tenet: "Make Reason Your Supreme Commander."

That time sitting on the wall, drinking wine and talking casually with Dr. Miller, was one of the high points of the trip for me. In all our previous encounters he had been so busy, so much at the center of things, that I felt as if I were imposing. Here, at sunset, I discovered him to be what I always suspected: a really nice guy.

Then it was dusk, and time for the performance.

Diana and I seated ourselves in the second row, on folding chairs, and watched as the lighting was tested and the sound system prepared. We didn't know what to expect, but what happened next was about as far from anything we might have expected as could be imagined.

Dianne Tittle De Laet is truly a Renaissance Woman, accomplished not only as a writer and poet but as a concert harpist, a sculptress, a performance artist, and activist in the cause of Peace. She has established the Arete Foundation, is exhibited in many art galleries, works with friends in a gallery of her (their) own in Redwood City, and goodness knows what else. Do a search for her on the net and you will be as dazzled as I was.

Near the opening of the performance I was downright pixilated to see a the Quail Dance from a Japanese Kyogen comedy.

Imagine that! After all my years of studying Cha No Yu, I saw my first Kyogen in the Artemision Mountains of Greece under a full moon rising over the Inochos Valley.

The heavy, central body of the work was drawn from writings by a hired soldier who was assigned to accompany the Cherokee on the Trail of Tears. This was part reading, part dance, part song: Cherokee song, as well as some pieces from other languages, and it was heart-breaking.

As the soldier told of the suffering of a Christian Cherokee woman who gave her only blanket to keep a sick child warm, and who died of exposure. along with so many others, I am sure there was not a dry eye in the house.

I do not believe that people have any need or reason to be cruel to each other, not in the name of anything. I think that at the heart of all this cruelty is the perverse Prokrustianism that seeks to trim our souls down to a single one-shape-fits-all kind of existence. That, and nothing else in today's world, is the root of evil.

The performance ended and there was much applause. If one has a chance to see any of the work of this wonderful woman, I recommend that one do so.

The pain seeped away, the night softened, and we all said our goodbyes. I managed to get a moment with Mrs. De Laet (her husband is as tall and imposing a figure as she is, but he stands back, no doubt in the same awe that the rest of us feel) and told her about the inevitability of our meeting, ever since that day five years ago when Mark Twain sat down for a cigar on the back porch of Quarters Ten, during the Civil War.

Then it was time for the scary scramble down the mountain and back to Napflion.

August 10th, 2008

Monday morning started with a trip to Tyrins.

I am still jazzed by our usual route during our stay in the Argolid. I mean, we had a choice of going straight, to Argos, or turning at Tyrins, on the way to Mykenae and Nemea. This is the heart of Mythic Hellas, the place where most of the good stuff (in the literary sense) happened, and there we were, driving it as if the signs said 'left to Oakland, right to Berkeley.'

Homer was impressed by the walls of Tyrins, and so were we. It was easy to see why the more recent of the Ancients assumed the walls had been built by the Kyklopedi. This city, like Mykenae, goes back way before the Trojan War. This is the realm of Perseus, the time before Herakles.

It is on a hill, rather than a mountain, with flat planes surrounding it and the sea not far away. The museum was closed (it was Monday), but we were able to trudge around the site and try to imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. This site was important to our excursion, as it plays a vital role in Diana's next book "Sword of Avalon."

The famous "Sheep Gallery," so named because for untold ages local sheep sheltered there, and burnished the immense rocks smooth, is not open for one to enter (a bit dangerous), but you can look down it and wonder at a hallway like that, still really functional, after more than three thousand years.

The megaroon had something else built on top of it, possibly a temple, after the fall of the Palace Cultures, but it is clear enough to determine that it is pretty much like the one at Mykenae, both in size and layout.

Tyrins was inhabited for a very long time: long after the fall of the Palace Cultures and the end of the Heroic Age. The site is lit at night, but it is grown up and weedy, revealing less of its splendor than the photos taken at the height of its excavation. In a country like Hellas you can't blame the government for not spending more on it: there is stuff all over requiring money and work.

If the recovery of Ancient Hellas were properly funded, the whole of Greece would consist of full time archeologists and presenters, and there would not be room for all the tourists who would flock there.

Study up some on Tyrins: it is just as interesting as the other sites, but has not had so many plays written about it.

After Tyrins we headed back to Mykenae, to see the Tholos, possibly a tomb.

There seems no evidence that it was ever closed up, and whatever it was used for remains a mystery. It is in pretty good shape for something so old, and the fact that people built it at all is a miracle. The stones are more neatly cut than those in the citadel, and though the bronze bosses that decorated the ceiling are gone, it remains beautiful. In shape it is somewhat conical, rather like the taller of the crowns of Egypt.

It's orientation is typically Mykenean, with a chamber to the right as you enter, in the same position where the throne of the King would be in the megaroon. This small chamber cannot be entered, for safety reasons we guess, but could benefit from lighting. It's too dark to see into it.

The entrance to the tholos, and the entry passaage, with its huge, finely cut stones, is even more impressive than the Lion Gate at the citadel.

From Mykenae we continued to Nemea, and though the museum was closed (Diana has now forwarded me the notes on our actual, versus our projected, itinerary) we finally got to see the site.

At the gate, the woman behind the counter said: "Oh, you are the man who fell in the games. I saw you on television! Are you all right?"

I was surprised to find that my run had made it to television, and I assured her I was recovering.

The interpretive signage at the baths was exemplary. What books seldom tell you is the details. I learned, for instance, that the scraping off of post-exercise sweat was done in one room, and that the athletes then descended to a low room with sinks, where they took buckets and sloshed each other clean. Once clean, they then climbed up to the various pools in which they could soak in waters of different temperature.

In fine, the system was pretty much like that in a modern Japanese bath house, though without the high temperature hot tubs.

There is not much to be seen of the temenos of Opheltes, and as yet one cannot take a close look at the hippodrome, or that part of the dig.

But the temple of Nemean Zeus is spectacular. Work was continuing on the restoration of columns, and we were able to take a close look at the remains: which look prompted many more questions that answers.

At the back of the temple was a stairway leading down into a basement-like chamber, and under the main floor there appeared to be many other chambers. The basement-like part occupied a position pretty much the same at the adytion at Delphi, and my mind immediately connected the fact of Oracles of Zeus to its possible use.

There was also evidence of a small, fresh, fire there.

The Sacred Grove, which I knew to have been restored, based on evidence from the past (the original grove was apparently planted with trees from a nursery, in pots) was something of a surprise. I remember asking Dr. Miller once what kind of trees had been planted there, and he had mentioned cypress: what in California is usually identified as Italian Cypress but which, in fact, are a prominent feature of the Greek landscape as well. There were a couple of that kind, but there were more of another kind which I could not identify: wider spreading, but growing just as tall. --They are all pretty tall now, and it gives one a sense of how much time has passed since this work began.

The remains of the unique, long altar in front of the temple were especially interesting.

Diana went in search of the restrooms, across the beautiful, manicured lawns, then we headed out, stopping first at the electrically-cooled water fountain on the porch of the museum to refill our water bottles. There were folks inside, I guessed graduate students, continuing the never-ending work that archeology requires, and it seemed as if we set a good example, as a number of them came out and filled water bottles as well. Some, as I recall, were Americans, some of whom I might have met at the annual Nemea lecture. If so, they seemed kind of shy for Berkeley folks.

Diana navigated us toward Argos, down a road we had not yet driven. It was a wide, heavily-travelled road, and we passed through both open space and small towns. As we were passing through the small town of Fiichtia I suddenly frightened her out of her wits by pulling a radical U turn across traffic, swerving back around a tree, and screeching into the parking lot of a statuary store.

"Honey," she began, out of breath...

But I was already out of the car and standing in front of an eight foot high marble rendition of the Zeus of Olympia.

"It will never fit in our luggage," she opined, catching up to me.

--But there were other, more, giant statues, and a whole store just chock full of stuff, into which I was bolting. I had discovered The Mother of All Statuary Stores!

As it was air-conditioned, and we were pretty much alone, Diana quickly got into the browsing. She guessed this must be the place from which everybody else in the country got their supply. There was everything from copies of the most ancientest to the relatively modern. There was a whole bay devoted to gold, both jewelry and reproductions of cups and plates and the like from Ancient Mykenae. Diana liked a couple of cups with scenes on the sides, and they would have been very practical for carrying in luggage...

But they were GOLD!

The e-dress of the store is www.amforeas.gr

I have not visited the site yet. I don't dare!

And this, it turned out, was the branch store.

Diana said the life size copy of the famous bronze athlete who may be catching a ball, would definitely not fit in our luggage.

There were copies of statues I've never even seen in pictures.

We found the chief object for which I had been questing, a fairly large, archaic shaped, geometric painted, with horses, kantheros. Diana figured we could buy anther piece of luggage and make it a carry on. We headed for the counter.

A tour bus arrived, and way over a hundred people swarmed through the store. The poor folks who were trying to sell became frazzled. We waited, discovered that they really, really don't like to ship, as it costs so much, and got our kantheros, neatly wrapped in lots of bubble wrap. We returned to the Fiat (llooking back sadly at the giant bronze athlete and a smaller marble of Zeus and Ganymede that I have never seen) and headed, once more, for Argos.

Our plan was to stick to the outskirts, make our way to the two akropoli, see them, see the theater, then loop around (the map made it look a lot like a ring road) and get back to the place were Dr. Miller would meet us.

We now have a new saying in our family. If something is damned near impossible, and probably not worth attempting anyway, it is 'Like Driving In Argos."

There are the standard brown signs, but they don't help. We kept getting lead out of town in the wrong direction. We gave up on the akropli and tried to just get around the town and back where we wanted to go.

The tourist books warned of 'complicated and confusing one way streets.' They did not mention that the one way streets are like the paths through the Old Forest in Tolkein; they keep changing and moving as you are traveling them! They become narrower and narrower, even by Greek standards.!

Finally, there we were, in a narrow, cobble-stoned street, at a sort of Y junction, and suddenly, straight ahead, there was a huge truck, filling the space entirely. To our left there suddenly appeared a beautiful young woman with red hair (there are just about no redheads in Hellas), riding a motor scooter: which was sufficient to block that way. (We later reasoned that this was a particularly capricious way for Hermes to tell us that He was still with us.)

Have a mentioned lately that I still did not know how to put the car into reverse?

I struggled, I fought, I prayed to Hephaestos.

Nothing!

Abruptly the driver of the truck open his door, climbed down, and strode toward us.

He pulled open my door, reached across, and put the car into reverse for me: showing me carefully that one was not to pull up on the gear shift itself, but on a small ring located inside the leather sheathing of the shift. A feature I had never before seen.

Instead of saying "Efkaristo," I stammered "Parakalo."

He smiled slightly, that sort of 'stupid tourist' smile, and headed back to his truck. I backed up, the red haired young woman wheeled around me, I went down the way from which she had emerged, and the truck went where we had been.

I followed one way streets through the maze until, amazingly, we emerged in front of some ruins. I parked.

The ruins were un-prepossessing and surrounded by high fences. A Roman theater, I think, and possibly a temple. There was a restaurant, however, and though the man inside spoke no English at all (he was really surprised to see anyone walk in the door at that time of day) we managed to order moussaka and a frappe, I think.

Refreshed, we got back in the car and attempted our Escape From Argos.

We managed to circle the town, got back to where we were supposed to meet Dr. Miller, and parked in front of the landmark nursery, an hour early. Moments later another American couple we had met the previous afternoon arrived, and the men chatted and the women chatted, and we avoided looking straight ahead into the alien geometry of the streets of Argos.

I have to apologize for not remembering their names, right of the top of my head. I don't do that well, and as I write this, Diana is off climbing Mount Shasta. They were really nice folks, and we look forward to meeting them again. We did, in fact, have breakfast with them the next day.

But others arrived, Dr. Miller arrived, and we formed our caravan for the trip into the Valley of the Inochus river.

--But this point it becomes necessary to indulge in a five year flashback, and a side trip into the world of American Football.

August 6th, 2008

After the bleeding, after the dehydration, Diana and I slept in late on Sunday morning. With all the cuts, abrasions, and general gore, Diana had to help me take a shower. I think that day got muzzy in my memory, because in asking Diana what we did (she took notes) I discovered that I have made some mistakes in my narration.

Looking back again, and reaccessing my Random Access Memory, I discover that the day I thought we had devoted to Mykenae was actually a day when we got there late, and spent time instead going through the chachki shops.

So...

On the Sunday we got up late and rather creakily and got on the road around noon. We had leftovers from the box feast at Nemea, went to Mykeknae, toured the museum, climbed the akropolis, and came down too late to see the tholos tomb, otherwise known as the Treasury of Atreus, etc..

We got to Nemea too late to get into the temple site or the museum, so instead I drove us over the mountain to show her the Temple of Herakles, and as much of the long race route as was practical. On the way back out the dirt road we encountered a farmer's truck off the road, and I got out to see if anyone was injured. There was nobody in the truck and I called out, and the driver appeared from the other side of the road. Though he had no English, he indicated that we might pull it back on the road.

It was a small Japanese truck, and we tried, but my long-term groin problem (the doctors tell me it is not a hernia, but an 'end of season football injury') prevented me from being any use. The driver made clear that he had called for help on his cell phone, and we headed out, just as someone bigger and stronger arrived.

Dr. Stephen Miller had asked us to come up to his house for coffee, and we followed his instructions through Nemea and up the hill.

I had heard about the house from a mutual friend, but it was still a surprise. Greeks usually build upward, vertically. Dr. Miller and his wife Effie have build vertically and horizontally, up and out, so that the top floor is more like a California ranch house, with wings. It is easy to spot from anywhere in the town, and is quite beautiful. The entry is on the top floor, with parking space up there (outside) as well, and when you enter you are struck immediately by the view. You look across the living space and through a window, and there you see framed the Temple of Zeus, now with eight columns rather than the three standing from antiquity. It is the centerpiece of the Valley of Nemea, and it manages to be both spectacular and subtle at the same time, residing amid the gentle green of the vineyards and homes that surround it. Residing, rather than dominating: a wonderful distinction.

The Millers led us into the library, where they have a large and long table with chairs, somewhere between a formal dining table and a executive meeting table.

Diana asked about a good book on the flora and fauna on Ancient Greece, and soon she was ensconced with the recommended tomes, while other guests arrived.

I am sure I have sung Dr. Miller's praises as an archeologist many times. He has the rare gift of doing important work and making it explicable to those beyond his field, without condescension or becoming a popularist. It might be well to note that both the Millers are consumately graceful persons as well, a thing not easy for people in the complex and difficult world of academia. It seems singularly appropriate that in retirement (which means spending the rest of his life cataloguing and writing books about the many years of work he has done at the site) they have the privilege of looking out each day on the results of a life well spent and the beauty that life has wrought (though not, as I am sure Dr. Miller would append, without a huge amount of help from many, many others).

Mrs. Miller brought in a large tray of chocolate-covered baklava and coffee, and then announced that it was a surprise party: for us, the guests, because although Dr. Miller knew it was his birthday, the rest of us did not.

Of course we sang the song (not the Berkeley version) and the conversation ranged hither and yon, and then it was time to leave. We were invited, the next night, to a performance at the home of one of the guests, which invitation we happily accepted. It was to be a Monday, and all the museums were likely to be closed. (Well, they are usually closed, but sometimes they are not..)

As the area of Argos is posted in all the tourist books as a place NOT to drive, and as everyone expected to have trouble finding it, Dr. Miller was to meet us all and lead us in caravan.

From the home of the Millers we made our way back down to the stadion, where a 'cultural event' was to take place.

This turned out to be a large pageant about Nemea, with many Goddesses and personified ideas and places communicating with the Goddess Nemea. It had amplified music, which was very good, and featured rhymed verse, something apparently unusual in Greek. We thoroughly enjoyed it, even without being able to understand the text. It is a mark of good pageantry that people be able to understand what is going on, even if they can't hear the words, and this criterium is especially important when many members of the audience may not have the language of the piece. As I believe most of the people in the audience may have been local, this excellence of the presentation was really good for us.

I do not have the name of the composer at hand, but then, being dropped into a dazzling variety of musics by performers famous in Greece, and in the rest of Europe, was both a joy and a despair. The composer was famous, but how was I to absorb it all, short of coming home with hundreds of CDs?

We made our way back to Napflion, and to the wonderful taverna that Mr. Economu had recommended.

Many of the eating establishments we visited on our trip hand the customers, as a matter of course, a little cardboard folder with information about the place you have just eaten: and a map, so you can find it again. This is a wonderful idea. Without the little folder I would not be able to tell you the name of the place.

I may not be able to tell you even so, because the folder is in Modern Greek: but here goes, with my ham-handed translation:

Koütoüki "To Parelthon"

It is located on Profiti Ilia, just off Xar. Trikoüpi, which runs between the main road to Argos and the main road to Epidauros.

I cannot recommend this place, and the wonderful family running it, too highly.

I think it was here that we first had lamb Kleftos (sp?), where the lamb and vegetables are wrapped in paper and slow-baked, but I am not sure. (The dish has great historical significance.) We had several deserts, on different evenings,, none of which were standard and all of which were great. We also had mezes, and Greek Salad, and ouzo. -Not on this night, but over the course.

In fact, the only thing we had that I didn't like was a Greek specialty of what I took to be kidneys roasted in slices on a spit. Unlike Mr. Leopold Bloom, I do not relish the inner organs of various animals. (Too high in iron for a person with my degree of Elf blood.) Diana liked the flavor but found it tough. I think its called Kokoretsi, but we kept leaving the phrase book back at the hotel.

I am sure we had some wonderful mutton at this place as well.

A least one day of our stay in Napflion was spent running around town looking for things like the bank, the tourist office, and a place where we could make our reservations on various ferries and high-speed catamarans, all ocean-going vessels. That would have been the day when we first saw the little fort on an island in the middle of the Bay of Napflion. That might have been the morning when I thought we had toured Mykenae, but hey, it has been a month. And all in all, the narrative drive seems, in the long run, more important than the exact order of the expedition. Such a scramble would not do for Archeology, where the exact order and location of every detail is vitally important, but it may serve for literary communication.

We retired, looking forward to Monday, and the performance, and whatever else we could fit in.

August 1st, 2008

I really do not have any sense of what a kilometer is. I don't mean intellectually, I have a pretty good idea of it that way. It is the gut level that leaves me wanting. No feeling for it. I have to translate with my brain, rather than feeling how much distance has passed or how much there is still to go.

The line of busses went up, and up, and through open country, and past apricot orchards (if I recall correctly) and there was a winery, and there were vinyards. We went long a ridge, and then down into the town of Kleonia, where Herakles first took the Nemean Lion after he had slain it.

The reason for this was that on his way to slay the lion, Herakles had stayed at the house of a laborer named Molorchos, in Kleonia. Molorchos wanted to make a sacrifice, but Herakles told him to wait. If he, Herakles, returned safely, then they would make the sacrifice together, to Zeus the Savior. But if he did not return in 30 days, then Molorchos should assume he was dead, and sacrifice to him as a hero.

The story of the slaying of the Nemean Lion is familiar, so I don't have to retell it here. What is not so familiar is that Herakles carried the corpse of the lion, once he had killed it, back to Kleonia, where he found Molorchos ready to sacrifice to him as a dead hero. Instead, they made the sacrifice to Zeus, and then Herakles took the dead lion to Eurystheos.

That is why there was a substantial temple to Herakles in Kleonia.

The road through modern Kleonia winds downhill past houses festooned with the ever-present orange trumpet vines and pink oleanders, past a large and beautiful church, past small businesses, past tavernas where people sat having their afternoon frappe, past more houses, and down still further.

We left the town and continued into the countryside. I was beginning to wonder just how long (subjectively) a kilometer might be when the busses came to a halt and we were disgorged by the side of the road. The crowd of us was led up a dirt lane through what I think were probably olive orchards, then down a side lane, and thence to the ruins of the very substantial Temple of Herakles.

The Greeks and the Germans quickly found the shade. The rest of us wandered around marveling at the remains of wonderful architecture. My acquaintance from earlier in the day, the Sports Historian, was also running, and we talked about divers things.

The same man who had administered the oath in the morning got up on some high stones and began to speak in Greek. The poor man now looked so frazzled from his work load that I did not wonder he seemed a bit harsh.

Some rude people cried out: "In English!"

He patiently plowed on, and then a young woman I had met on the bus stood beside him and repeated everything in English. I think she was part of the archeology team.

We had the oath administered, we were told there would be water along the way, and then we crowded together for the start: and started!

As we ran by a pallet of bottled water we each grabbed one, turned left, and headed up a dirt road: a different route than the one by which we had arrived.

The real runners quickly distanced themselves from those of us who were not. But so far I was staying with the pack.

Only the road went up, and up. There was more water, and occasional things made of stone that one wanted to stop and look over, only it was a race, and one kept going.

My historian friend pulled ahead. The young woman who had translated pulled ahead. I began to take walking breaks more frequently. I am guessing I was now three quarters of the way back, with old folks and children behind me.

We came to the first houses. People of all ages had chairs in front of their houses, still on the dirt road, and bless them, they cheered every one of us.

Pavement appeared, and then we were back in the town, about in the middle. People in tavernas cheered, and though I could barely breath, they sure made me smile and wave.

More water. The roadside was littered with empty water bottles. The real runners grabbed a bottle, chugged it, and tossed the bottle away. I realized that I was probably drinking about a third of what other people were drinking.

Past the church, hairpin turn up and back, through more houses, more cheering, and finally, still going uphill, I left the town. About this time a bus pulled up beside me and the driver ask: "Are you all right?"

I smiled and waved. I realized this was one of the busses stationed along the way for people who just couldn't go any further. Some of the children who had joined the race were aboard.

I kept going, more walking than running, and noted the really interesting flora that grew in various piles of stone. Were those ancient or modern ruins? I wondered.

A policeman came by on his motorcycle.

"Are you all right?"

Smile, wave...

A little bit of downhill, and a fork in the road. Another bus there, more water, and a man waving us to the right: and uphill.

"Are you all right?"

By now I was moving alone. There were still people behind me, but I think we were all walking. The great crowd of real runners was long gone, up ahead.

I passed the winery, and got into a stretch of road with woods on both sides; and realized that I really needed to relieve my bladder. I heard no sound of cars, so I moved to the side of the road and did just that.

Oh-oh.

My urine was the color of black coffee!

My first thought was that I had done some internal damage when I fell in the first race. Maybe my kidneys were crashing. The second was that maybe all those others knew something I didn't in chugging so much water.

About then the road started to descend into the Nemea Valley. I could have started running again. But considering the prospect of internal injuries, and that there was nobody visible behind me (though I could hear voices a way back) I decided to walk.

I passed the little park which has been built where the ancient spring flows. Only it was not flowing, and needs repair.

I passed the churchyard, all pristine and mainly white with graves.

Finally I entered the site of the stadion, left my shoes in the locker room (we were allowed to use shoes for the long race, though we ran barefoot in the stadion), ran through the tunnell, and made a lap around the track, to end before the altar of Nemean Zeus and Demeter. I said my thanks, then went to look for Diana.

Others came behind me. So, once again, I was not the last.

The games were over, and the ceremonies commencing. The winners had headbands and palm branches, and were called forth to receive their victory crowns of wild celery.

When it was done I spied Alexandros in a little knot of people, and took Diana down to meet him. He was easy to spot. He had on a tee shirt, on the back of which it said: "Alexandros the Great." Diana agreed that he really did look like a Hero, and he smiled shyly. We asked if he would be at the dinner, and he said no, his girl friend wanted to go home and... Well, we understood.

We were young once ourselves.

As we were filing out of the stadion I found myself surprised by being approached by several handsome young men. One said: "I want you to know how I honored I am to have been in a race with you." Another handed me a handbill as said: "We are having a race on the beach at Marathon, and we would be greatly honored if you would come and compete with us there."

I was floored. Flabbergasted. These young athletes were treating me as if I were something special, when in fact, I had gone down, and come in near the end.

Talk about mixed emotions! I was almost speechless. Our schedule would not allow me to participate, but they really seemed hopeful that I somehow could. I was humbled by their kindness, and got a funny feeling of pride that they had noticed me at all.

We headed into the town of Nemea (a short walk), where there were box dinners of Greek food. No small feast this: the box dinner was as varied as a Japanese Bento, but designed to fill the bellies of athletes.

There was also plenty of wonderful Nemean wine. In case I have not sung the praises of Nemean wine already, hear me sing! Where ever you are, seek it out! The reds are spectacular!

We had made the acquaintance of a British couple on the hillside (well, Diana had, and introduced me), and we ended up teaming with them on a bench on the corner. We ate and drank, me rather sparingly because I had to drive, and eventually there was nobody left but us, and the table where ( I think he was the Governor, or the Greek equivalent) and the locals were partying.

We made our way to the parking lot, and after several prayers to Hephaestos, got the car in reverse and headed back to Napflion.
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