Friday, 1 May 2015

Helmets and Greece

 Greeks are pretty tough folks (men and women).  If you stand around and take a decent count over an average day.....out of a hundred motorcycle/scooter operators....roughly sixty will be riding with no helmet.  Greece is OK with this.....being hard-headed is a Greek tradition.

I noted after a week there in Athens....that I hadn't seen a single motorcycle accident. No, not a single one.  No guys hit by a one running off some guy smashed flat by a garbage truck....nothing.  In fact, I didn't even notice a drunk Greek on a motorcycle.  Everyone seemed to know precisely what speed was safe and what was acceptable.

Now, I's a statistic that folks don't think about much.  In all of Athens, I'd take a guess that out of 789,000 least 100,000 folks ride scooters/motorcycles daily.  If you do the math and various means they are fairly lucky folks.

On the subject of scooters.....I'd also make this observation....people aren't picky.  I probably saw at least a hundred brand names.....some South Korean and Chinese models were out there.

The most interesting observation?  I noticed that cops rode on some occasions with two guys to a bike......getting the second guy to some accident or violation episode.

Old Buildings

 No matter where you go in Athens, Greece.....there are old buildings standing there and almost ready to fall in.

This was one of those buildings....around the Karameikos Cemetary (tourist area of town).

The roof?  Yeah, it's already caved in.  Grass growing on the first floor?  Yep.

The odd thing is that it's on a fairly traveled street and you could tear down the structure and put up a bakery or coffee shop.

If a guy spent a week walking around, I'd take a guess that you'd see around 500 such structures in town like this.  Maybe it's a ownership issue or just a court thing where folks argue about who gets Uncle Joe's old rental property on such-and-such street.  I don't know.....maybe it's just the the way that things work there.

Worrying about something falling over?  Well.....they do put up a marginal catch-net and if it's just a stone or'd be ok.  I'm guessing they don't have big wind storms like you have in Germany or the US.

Jury Duty of the Old Days

Just an odd thing I noticed in one museum at Agora.  

Around three-thousand years ago in 'civilized' Athens Greece.....if you were a property owner and free had rights and responsibilities.

One of those responsibilities.....occasionally involved you being ordered to some town square and a jury being formed up from outstanding citizens of the town.

As you'd notice in today's world.....there's be arguments over fairness and the selection process.

In those days....of ancient Greece....a guy sat down and thought about fairness and eventually devised a jury duty process.  A stone-mason got called in, and told to chisel out this unique (19 x 11 spots) and a piece of paper would be in each with a black or white end.  You'd walk up.....draw your paper....and if black, then you were sitting on a jury for today.

Questions to get you disqualified from a jury?  No one says much over the Greek routine, and I kinda doubt that anyone could come up with justification to deny himself or some guy on a jury.  If kinda served.  But on the other hand.....I doubt if any Greek jury meeting took more than eight to twelve hours, and maybe five or six witnesses.  You could probably utter the word "liar" out loud if you didn't believe his story.

Oddly.....the stone method worked. For this.....we need to sit back and ask ourselves if our lives have improved over the past three thousand years.

Greek Strawberries

When you walk around the streets of Athens, Greece....there are plenty of street dealers.

Most have gimmicks.   Some big talker out front.  Some gal in a skimpy blouse.

I came upon this one guy who had spent a fair amount of time that morning as he set up his stand.....organizing strawberries. It's the kind of image that you stand over and admire.

There's probably thirty minutes of effort put into this strawberry display.

How many does the guy sell per day?  Unknown.  Maybe the whole trailer is gone by close of business and he starts fresh in the morning.

Fresh?  That's the curious thing.....most all strawberries you come across in Greece are locally grown, and have a naturally great taste to them.  I've come to notice some of those you buy in Germany.....have a non-descriptive taste to them (like they were grown in some Dutch glass-garden warehouse operation).

An artist at work?  I have to say that I stood there for two or three minutes admiring the display and the effort of the guy.


No matter where you go in the world.....there's WD-40.

This past week, I was on vacation in Greece.

I passed by a little mom-and-pop 'Home Depot' operation in Athens, Greece on some side street.....and here was WD-40.

I suspect there's something about the name, and the way it's marketed around the world.  A guy will buy a can and that's all he needs for the next five years as he sprays here and there for some remarkable oily situation.

I could probably walk into ninety percent of homes and ask the guy if he had a can.....and he'd grin for a moment and admit he's got one in the basement or garage.  His wife?  She'd ask what the heck WD-40 was and just say look in the garage.

Thugs, Hoodlums, Martyrs, and Baltimore

I've been on 'holiday' in Greece for a week, and the only English network available at the hotel....was CNN.  Naturally, the Baltimore riots are just about the only thing that CNN covered beyond the Nepal earthquake.  So, I sat and watched report after report.  After a while, you turn off the TV and you ponder.  Observations occur.

First, these are basically two-star hoodlums.  We have them in Germany and England as well.  They come out.....get active for a couple of days....burn off steam....destroy police vehicles....engage with intent to harm the cops....destroy public and private property.....pretend to have some agenda but it rarely says much of anything....and then retreat into the shadows.

Second, hoodlums can be of limited varieties.  If you look rarely find any Latino hoodlums.  The days of religious hoodlums ended around 1700 (after the Thirty Years War).  These days, the hoodlum trade is made up of blacks and anti-capitalists.  Women rarely fall into the hoodlum profession.  I'm not sure why.....maybe they've got other priorities in life....demand nearby toilet services which never occur for a proper riot.....or just think it's stupid to destroy property. Based on video of the Baltimore riots.....I'd take a guess that it's ninety-percent male.  I also noted that you just didn't see any guy over the age of forty, which is typical of most Germany hoodlum events.

Third, hoodlum riots can start up because of a good martyr situation.  Most folks can't define I'll give you the simple basic wording: a guy who was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and met up with a misfortune act.....which usually leads to death by the authorities or cops. The dead guy then becomes a symbol for the hoodlums.....who can base their violent acts on the poor martyr guy.

Some famous martyrs?  Athanasios Diakos (famous Greek martyr from 1821 who was killed by the Turks.  He'd been offered various deals to just surrender and he refused.....noting at the end that he was Greek and would forever be Greek), Socrates (he made some unfortunate negative comments against the Gods, thus showing disrespect, and the authorities had to make the religious guys happy by killing Socrates....note: Socrates drank the poison willingly to demonstrate principal), and Joan of Arc (leading the French army onto victory but turned into a problem for the Catholic Church).

These recent martyrs within the last couple of years?  Trayvon Martin.  He's the kid who was suspended five times from school for unknown activities, a problem-kid who'd been sent to live with dad, who encountered some "white-Latino" and some conflict occurred, with Martin ending up on top of the white-Latino in an assault type position, then shot dead.

Micheal Brown?  Another kid who seemed to have money for marijuana but not enough money for cigars which had to shoplift and steal from some grocery.  Upon leaving the grocery and walking home......he and his associate decide to walk down the middle of some street (on the line), encounter one cop, engage in a short discussion, determines the cop disrespected him, and joins into some type of episode where the cop shoots him in the back.  Oddly, the autopsy shows Brown standing in front of the cop and in a higher position very close to the cop.

Eric Garner?  A guy whose entire profession of supporting his family is to sell loose and untaxed New York City smokes. Arrested on numerous occasions for the same type charge.....for some odd reason stood his ground and refused to be arrested peacefully (there's even another charge for disrespecting a cops arrest but why even bring that up).  The cop puts a choke-hold on the guy....rather than tasering him.  The fact that Garner was not in fabulously great health should be part of the story, but it's kinda left out.

Freddie Gray?  A guy who got a check each month for a lead-paint episode as a kid.  Freddie had almost twenty arrests.....mostly for drugs.  His health?  He had asthma.....which might be linked back to the lead-paint business.  On his final day of life, his martyrdom starts with Freddie in a drug-purchase area when the cops do a sweep.  Freddie runs.....gets arrested....tossed into the back of a holding vehicle.....has a asthma attack and asks for his inhaler.  The cops don't say much but apparently Freddie doesn't get his inhaler, goes into convulsions in the back (either from the asthma or the drug he ingested).  Freddie knocks himself around, suffers spinal injuries, and dies.

It's hard to make a real martyr out of these four guys, but for the sake of the argument.....they will serve some purpose.  Perhaps like Joan of Arc or any number of a dozen Greek martyrs.....each will get a statue some day.

Third, the cops.  In 1965.....a cop had four potential threats of a marginal nature to face each day.  Drunks?  They were typically friendly and cops on some occasions would just drive the drunk home (we were actually that friendly at one point).  The weed smokers?  These were the guys who just wanted to talk and talk and talk.  Cops would just toss them into the tank and let the court system work as intended. The crazies?  Cops were a bit worried over them because you just couldn't be sure of the end-game.  Finally, the crook?  Yeah, these were guys who'd rob a gas station for a hundred bucks.

Today?  The cop has a strange element that arrived in the 1980s.....drugs.  Between PCP, meth, bath salts, cocaine, and a hundred-odd sit there as a cop each day and review your reaction situations if "X" occurs or if you engage some whacko with a machete on PCP.  Just because he's doped up......he's a potential martyr.  Hundreds will riot because of the death of a whacko on PCP and waving a machete in the air.  That's how silly and how disturbing all of this has become.

The new cops of today?  They look more like military MPs than regular cops.  They can't behave or act like Andy Griffith of Mayberry because they'd be dead within the first year of employment.

Finally, I come to Baltimore.  You can draw a six-block circle with a green marker on the area around the harbor and the baseball stadium.....that's the only safe place in Baltimore for you as a  tourist.  If you go anywhere else in the's dangerous.  Drugs?  You can buy any drug you want....even LSD and heron.  The city leadership?  They concentrate on the protected area near the harbor and sell convention opportunities at the nice hotels around the harbor.  Ever since drugs arrived in the 1980s....the city leadership has staged a weekly round-up of drug thugs as their gimmick of choice......showing they have control, when they don't have control.

How many companies have made a decision to set up shop in Baltimore in the past decade?  Few if any.  Heading further west.....a hundred's a different story, with various companies setting up shop and doing business in DC.  Baltimore as a dying.  The remaining cops will protect the green-zone, and try to fake the public enough into believing it's still a legitimate city (it's not).

The mayor of Baltimore?  She was on some fast-riser list and would have gone onto some senator status quickly, and maybe within ten years been on someone's presidential candidate list.  Her actions over the past week?  Probably enough to stall those plans.

To sum it all up.....we've arrived in a new world where hoodlums, martyrs, and thugs are part of the society.  To be honest....the modern martyrs are fakes but that's our own undoing.  The icing on this cake is an active news media which turns some hoodlum episode into an epic news piece.....kinda like a Greek opera with numerous characters and some fat lady singing a woeful song near the end.  And we treat it like entertainment (something that Socrates would just shake his head over).