Urban Renewal

Athens is pretty much the limiting case in downtown urban decay.  The whole center of town is basically in ruins — the buildings aren’t even in good enough shape to be used as squats, although some of them are perpetually under reconstruction, perhaps because of a residual application of slumlord laws.  The hill Areopagos is all weeds!  used to be nice houses there, churches, now it’s just a bunch of economic refugees with cameras wandering around looking at fallen down rocks.

After a day of concerted hiking around, I can now strike the Parthenon off my to do list.  I loved that Kodak ad campaign: “Turn your dreams into memories.”  Forget about the shrieking children, the comfort-index corresponding to the inside of a hot melt glue gun, the possibility that you might be appreciating what you are seeing or enjoying what you are doing, just keep that old dream-to-memory assembly line racing at NAFTA speed.  Now that the Parthenon is a memory, next up, I suppose, would be “moments on the Hudson River Line”.  Do they even still have a Hudson River Line?  Wouldn’t it all be Amtrak by now, or the tracks torn up to be Stoas and Temples?

I wish that the Archaeological Mavens would decide what they want to do with the Acropolis.  There are many approaches — the mounds of original dirt approach, such as Elba and Hattusas; the complete rebuilding approach as with the sections most touristed of the Great Wall; the partly rebuilt with story poles such as you see in the Colosseum or Machu Picchu — the Acropolis is at the moment aesthetically and intellectually unintelligible.  And it’s not the hordes of tourists, in this case.  It’s just there are cranes and scaffolds everywhere, and heaps of marble blocks (it seems to be a custom in many places to have random pieces that wouldn’t fit in a roped off area.  Maybe they are awaiting suggestions from the passers-by?).  The Temple of Athena Nike is either back in the shop for repairs or so draped in plastic I didn’t notice it.  Athena Nike doesn’t seem like the sort of thing you’d overlook.

And the Museum is closed.

So what are they aiming for here?  The Parthenon in its original form, like the copy in Nashville, Tennessee?  The perpetual work in progress look?  They don’t even have that.  There’s nothing to look at but confusion.  The guests take pictures of each other with their cell phones and leave.  It would be nice to come back here when it’s ready for its close-up.

The Acropolis ticket gets you into a lot of sites.  The Agora is much better.  It has an air conditioned museum.  Some poor little girl was being tended by her parents for the heat.  Eventually an ambulance showed up.  I hope everything is all right.  You really have to remember to drink at the Burning Mans of the world.

The Kerameikos is not to be missed.  It has an air conditioned museum AND a cemetery.  The Themistoclean walls require considerable imagination.  It will be so cool in museums of the future when you have goggles that will reconstruct them for you.  Nobody will have to think at all.  The thing that I thought about in that museum was Sumptuary Laws.  How many of you remember on a daily basis, that there were limits in most civilizations through most of history on how much you could consume?  It’s terribly un-American: not since World War II has there been any effort other than flatly declaring some things illegal.  But the gravestones in Athens got bigger and more elaborate until Demetrios of Phaleron banned elaborate stelai outright.  I wonder how much of his thought process is recorded, how he modeled the situation?  After that there were simple gravestones, which are assembled in serried ranks behind police tape for the all important graveyard desktops.

Furthermore, nobody in Greece calls me Santa, let alone ZZ Top.  It’s different without Dave.  Two of us constitute a tonsorial movement that must be reckoned serious.  I alone am just some weird guy, who is mocking Orthodox priests potentially by appearing partly out of costume.  My black Roland Hedley vest does not help, perceptually.