Σάββατο, 9 Οκτωβρίου 2010

Ουτρέχτη 03:28

Η ταπετσαρία στον τοίχο που είχα προσέξει από το πρωί πως πάει να ξεφλουδιστεί, ξετυλίγεται τώρα προς το μέρος μου, στην αρχή απειλητικά και μετά σαν φιλόξενο σεντόνι που με αγκαλιάζει ενώ περιστρέφομαι. Μόλις είχα γυρίσει από τη μεγάλη βόλτα και είχα νιώσει το πεζοδρόμιο να λιώνει κάτω από τα πόδια μου, τις άπειρες δυνατότητες κίνησης μέσα στο χώρο και τα αόριστα χάχανα των περαστικών που ανεβοκατεβαίνουν σαν σε ράγες τον κεντρικό δρόμο. 
Από το διπλανό δωμάτιο ακούγεται ένας υγρός ρυθμός, στακάτος που με αφήνει να χαθώ μέσα του, ενώ στο ταβάνι έχουν ήδη αρχίσει να διαγράφονται τα σχήματα αυτού του ταξιδιού. Μία σειρά ρόμβων που εγκιβωτίζονται, κάποιες κουβέντες από εφηβικούς έρωτες και διάθεση απογείωσης.
Οι σταγόνες στο νεροχύτη έχουν γίνει κρότοι και με καλούν. 
Αύριο θα δω ξανά την πόλη. 

Δευτέρα, 5 Ιουλίου 2010

Exit France-Enter Spain

Finally my boarding time had arrived. I was due on the old TGV for Montpellier, where I would board the Talgo to Barcelona Estacion Franca. The quick trip to Montpellier was a beautiful experience. Though the trip lasts only a little more than an hour, the terrain is varied. The train goes past agricultural farms, villages and bridges. It is one of the most beautiful scenic train routes in Europe, only compared to the routes between Athens and Thessaloniki, Miranda del Evro and Bilbao, Leon and A Coruna, Rome and Bologna, most of the Scottish Rail Highlands routes, and the ride between Narbonne and Barcelona. Montpellier itself is a beautiful small town, very traditional in its looks, but also modern. I only wish I could stay longer, but unfortunately I had to make a 15 minute dash to the ticket counters and back toward the lines, to buy the ticket and catch the connecting train to Barcelona. In the end I arrived at my seat with a sigh of relief. It was not as movie-like as my connection in Milan, but hell it was frantic.. Once I had boarded the train, it started to move. I was at the nick of time! I was rolling again towards Barcelona. Again I was looking around with awe. The scenery of the south-western coast of France can be breathtaking. As the sun was striking noon, we were passing through sandy beahes, lakes , marinas and coastal towns. The water looked crystal clear. Near the afternoon we had finally reached Narbonne, and I was reliving the my past trip. Now the train was drifting into the mainland, getting ready to start crossing the Pyrinees. Soon we where into Perpignan, in the French part of Catalunya. I was listening to Fermin Muguruza, the illegalised Basque singer yelling Maputxe , when we had finally arrived at the border crossing of Portbou. As the train was slowly progressing toward the Spanish part of the station and a border patrol was checking us, I watched a group of Morrocan, Senegalese and Mauritanian immigrants where sitting at the blazing sun, handcuffed, desperate and scared. Fortress Europe on the rise, that is. Instead of what is written on the Statue of Liberty, what European governments are saying is, “I do not care what happens to them, as long as they do not step on my soil”. And, Southern Europe being the frontier, this is what one can see on it’s borderline. Houndreds of hopefulls, in a desperate dream of finding a way out for their future. People who are almost doomed in their homelands, trying to make it for a breakthrough. And in the process, some of them being caught by authorities and thus facing an uncertain future. Meanwhile the train has been handed over to RENFE, and we are now crossing through the Catalan landscape towards Barcelona. I see familiar names and places passing by. Girona, Figueras.... Amparanoia are playing Buen Rollito through my earphones, and I am reaching Barcelona, to chase away the ghosts of my last stay there…..

A very French overview, thank you!

As I was leaving France, Nicola Sharkozy was reaching yet another all-time low in opinion polls. Since then, Sharkozy has not reemerged, and he seems to be sinking further deep. While his popularity is still sinking, attacks left and right and unpopular decisions make him even more vulnerable to the public’s eyes. Then and now are virtually unchanged. The criticism remains virtually the same, with Sharkozy coming under attacks for racist politics, corruption, cohorting with African Despots and, of course, leading a provocative lifestyle while the public has to battle set-after-set of measures by means of spending and wages cuts and privatisations. Thank god that French Unions still maintain their fighting traditions. On the other hand the political figures of the Left, though maintaining a militant form of speech, they are usually turning into reformist proposals, and mild criticism of capitalism when ti come to publicly expressing their ideas or drafting a political program.
Yet, despite the fact that the popular right is at a loss, the far right doe not stand to gain. And that is because Sharkozy stole part of its audience by putting racist and nationalist ideas in the centre of his politics. Despite it all the ones that make gains are on the left. And while the left itself has significant gains to show, the most of them turn towards the centre left . And that does not have to do with the question of ideas. That has to do with proof of being the lesser evil, i.e. the Socialist Party. And this does not really go without consequences. Recent mistakes and the emergence of the NPA (New Anticapitalist Party) and Olivier Bezancenaut, made the Socialist lose some face in the polls. Yet, for the NPA to become the government, or a widely heard voice in France, there are bold decisions that have to be made. A carefull plan on alliances, a clear and steady political programme, and putting forward strong socialist ideas. This, however, remains to be made. It seems as if the politics of the major players in NPA, have to do more with communicational tricks than political substance. But activism without providing a political program does not constitute a political answer, some groups within the NPA argue. Yet the party elite seems oblivious to these voices and the party does not take steps to produce anything but appearances of its leader on strikes and demos. As if politics is only a matter of PR, and not of communicating your ideas to the public.
And with the economic crisis looming over France, noone knows what will happen next and how……

Rainshowers and Politics-This is Ghent

The view after leaving the St Peters station does not do Ghent any justice. In fact the first buildings you encounter look pretty dull, especially in the middle of the night. Nothing was moving in the streets, and, thank god there was Burt with his van, who was available. So we crossed the town to the place where the social meeting was taking place, in order to find the Greek and the Cypriot delegation. when we reached the place, they where already gone, and en route to the student halls where we were lodging in. Another jump on the van, and off to the halls. There, since I did not have any key whatsoever to the room, I had to wait for some more time, for my roomie and the rest of the group to arrive. While I was waiting near the tables, a group of Americans was partying on the floor. They offered me a drink and a way to come into their company, but I had to refuse politely. I was too tired from the two-day trip, and I needed a lot of sleep. After a few more minutes of waiting, the greeks had arrived, and I was sleeping next to my designated partner.
The morning came with a shower of rain. And , along with that, we had to walk a few kilometres into the center of Ghent, to reach the place where the conference was taking place. And, due to me being awfully late in waking up, we had missed breakfast. Bad bad bad. I had to endure about 15 people staring at me. We walked through the heavy showers, got lost on the way, but finally made it to the building, with a sigh of relief. That was the end of our troubles. We arrived just as the procedures where starting, and the other delegations where coming in. Among us we had a few of the “stars “ of the conference. Lucy Redler, a member of the local Parliament of Berlin, with SAV and WASG, Peter Taughee the Secretary of the Socialist Party in England and Wales, members of the SSP,people from Socialist Resistance in Kazakhstan, Shiri from Sri Lanka, and, last but not least, Joe Higgins, then TD representing the Socialist Party in Irish Parliament.. The conference was a good paradigm of the way the CWI behaves internationally. Open, democratic procedures, where all opinions are heard, and disagreements are taken into account, sometimes even answered when there is an answer to counter them, or adopted as proposals when they are solid. Splits are uncommon, since decisions are discussed extensively in branch meetings (in the beginning), and slowly move their way into the central committee, so that every angle can be discussed and covered, disagreements and problems can be solved. And this means few people living the organisations, and the danger of splits being minimal, since members take a decisive part in decision making, not just being “forced” to listen to directives from the top. In this conference , all important matters are discussed, but, more seriously, members from different countries share experiences from fighting the good fight, and methods of intervening in movements, workspaces and schools. The same goes with propositions and working around campaigns. What you see in this conference is the core of this international. People from various backgrounds who are taking up organizational tasks, or play a certain role in movements, trade unions and coalitions of parties and organizations. And this because back in their workspaces they are recognised as good fighters with solid ideas and good-working proposals.
All this conference work left me small amounts of time to cruise around town and get its feel. But, on the other hand, I think that I got a lot of its atmosphere. Ghenk may have a surreal weather (all four seasons appearing within the day, Vivaldi would go mad if he was living there), but is not, by any means , dim. Though it is a typical Flemmish place, the population is mixed. There are Germanic people, Italians, Arabs and Congolese living there. Plus it is the city with the biggest population of Turks in continental Europe, bar Germany. In one instance a group of Turkish men approached us with the intention of selling us contraband merchandice, but they where , almost instantly, leaving with a negative response. The food around is excellent, especially if you are fond of beer and French fries. Mind you, French fries are actually a Belgian trademark product, they are not French at all. As for the beer, Belgium has a tradition for Monastery-type brands, and a speciality for blended bears. Forbidden Fruit, Hoegarden, Duvell and Lucifer are the most recognised brand names around.

Nevertheless Ghent is picturesque, and its downtown area has no resemblance to the monstrosities around St.Peters. It is full of small-time bars and shops, that live off the students living there. Ghent and Leuven are famous for their Universities. Yet Ghent is also some sort of a stronghold for Flemmish Nationalism. Ethnic tensions in Belgium are on the rise. The French-speaking South is going into an economic crisis, while the neuvau-riche Flemmish North is very prosperous. And the Northerners want autonomy by way of a loose confederation between the three states (Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels), so that they do not have to pay for the newly poor South. It is the victor’s nationalism, a bourgeois us and them, like the type of nationalism Angela Merkel is trying to awaken now in Germany. We are cool, they are bums. This was shown when, one night after exiting a bar and moving towards our home, a Flemmish nationalist stomped on one of our comrades. Thank God the cops arrived in time, and Belgian police have a very strict policy on law and ordrer. whoever breaks it, be nationalist or anarchist, rich or poor, is arrested. Same thing happened when tensions between members of the cwi and a neofascist group rose one day later. Though they where having batons as part of their uniforms, they never got to use them. The Police arrived swiftly and apprehended them for carrying illegal weapons! Could one see that happening elsewhere? Furthermore this surprised all the Israelis, Greeks, Swedes, Cypriots and Russians within the group. If this was happening back home, the Police would surely turn a blind eye on them, if not openly support them. The police arresting them seemed to be too much of a far fetched scenario. Meanwhile even the Swedes where getting pissed of at the weather. I have not seen as much rain anywhere else, to speak the truth. The days passed, and I was starting to get tired and short-fused. Though I had fun, the weather was getting to me. I needed to return to Spain. So I decided, that the day after the end of the conference, I would jump on the first plane available going south. Spain, Italy, Southern France, Portugal, I don’t mind. On the last day we partied hard, I almost drunk like a bore. After that we left for our last night of sleep. At noon we left Ghent for Brussels, where I would leave the rest of the group and go my way into Spain again.

Κυριακή, 4 Απριλίου 2010

Belgium hangover trip

As I boarded the sleeper to Madrid, the drugs had begun to wear off. Reality was rapidly coming back with a force that resembled a slap across my face. After an almost surreal conversation with a crazy old geezer waiting at the concourse of the small railway station for something (perhaps his kid), I had decided that me and madness we’re through for the moment. But the return to reality was becoming more abrupt and painfull than whatever I had thought of . The effects of a hangover from a multi-drug binge can be a heavy one. It is not like feeling as if you have to digest a brick, or the pains of a going into some sort of a detox shock. No.The burden is psychological. You feel down. Out of energy. Angry. Grumpy all the time.. You need a way to get fixed. You need sleep. So I slept. I slept all the way into town. As if tomorrow there would be no chance of rest for wicked souls like mine. I woke up half jaded as the train approached the Chanmartin Station. I left my bags there, along with some of the food, and went to downtown Madrid to find a way to spend the next eight to twelve hours. This proved without any effort, and the next thing I knew, night time had arrived again, and I was ready to enter the takos of terminal four to board my Virgin Express flight to Brussels. The journey tourned boringly uneventful, in the way only trips with low-cost carriers can be. Nothing to do nowhere to go, yadda yadda. Pay per can alcohol. No sleep ‘till Brussels.Left turn to see the lights of Bordeaux. Then head-on to Belgium. Hurrray!. Finally arriving at Brussels at slightly before 11 in the night, I was happy to find that the I had narrowly made it to the last train into Ghent-St Peters station. Then it was an hout and a half of train journey in the middle of a pitch-dark night….

Fear and Loathing in A Coruna

As I reached the station, I realized that Paldi was not there. As usual I supposed that it had to do with the way Spaniards see their appointments. Time is relative. So I waited for a while. After a quarter of an hour of waiting I called him. No answer. Another hour was passing and my friend was nowhere to be found. Bummer. I walked down the main avenue and entered the first hotel I could find. Thankfully it was not fully booked, so I could spend the night there. Outside it was getting cold. Freeze-your-arse-out cold.
At four in the morning a call came. It was Paldi. He was sounding obviously drunk, so I just told him to come meet me the next day. I checked out, the next morning, and found him waiting by his Citroen C2 . We had a full ride around town to do, and he wanted to show me the traits of the place. La Coruna is situated in the northwestern corner of Spain, at the coast of the Atlantic. About 50 kilometres away from the city lies the cape of Finnis Terrae, the end fo the western end of the Roman Empire. And dead ahead lie the States.
The first stop was a Cuban bar, situated right on top of the port’s entrance. The walls were covered from corner to corner by Cuban flags and pictures from Che’s and Castro’s days on the mountains of the Sierra Maestra. I grabbed a bottle of Estrella Galicia, the only lightest thing served there, since they do not sell either coke or pepsi! Now that was cool. Then we got back in the car to drive to his mother’s place. She had made us cod with gazpacho, a plate that is very common in these areas. And the we left our things in Paldi’s place, to have a swim right under the tower of Hercules. The tower, as it is said, was built by Hercules himself, out of the bones of a monster he slaughtered in the aerea, and, now serves as a lighthouse. The rocks under it serve as a perfect place for swimmers, or youngsters lazing around.
Before I knew it I was swimming away from the coast, and into the cold breeze, then back up. The swim was a relaxing experience, before the hardcore partying that would go on in the evening. The Greeks were inbound from Portugal, and we where going to meet them in the evening. They would call as soon as they reached Spanish soil. For the time being preparations needed to be made, that had to do with our supplies for the night. So we stopped by this apartment, in downtown a Coruna to buy some stuff. The stuff was a fairly good quantity of pot, and the apartment was something in the midway between a drug den and a homegrown plantation, using top-notch techniques to produce weed. Ionisers, air vents, fans,artificial lighting and other high-tech gadgets were used, in order to satisfy the needs of the local trippy scene. Of course all these comes at a price, but weed and coke are especially cheap in Spain, and a lot of people in the region work as small-time merchants in order to gain some generous pocket money.
While we were moving out of the apartment, the call came in. The greeks where reaching the bus station within the hour. So we mounted the Citroen again, this time being followed by two of Paldi’s friends in an ageing Renault 5. I had seldom seen the guys in Cyprus, and had not seen them for some time either. And, as one can imagine, they where totally oblivious to my existence in the area. So the surprise was enormous. We turned back toward Paldi’s place, and prepared for the trip’s first party. Things were turning, slowly, hardcore.
The first party was a goodbye party of sorts. The girl hosting the party was leaving for the Basque country in some sort of an exchange students scheme that was happening across Spain. The menu included a whole load of cod, drugs, and Galician Sangria (wich, among the traditional material includes vodka). Among the attendees were several of Paldi’s friends. These included Maldini, a huge rasta-man who walked with the help of a cane, courtesy of a drunken meeting with some water-polo athlete (no resemblance to the former captain of AC Milan whatsoever), the all chilled out Paulo, and this crazy guy who, after some drugs, could recite all of Marlon Brando’s monologues and lines from the Godfather. The crazynesswas starting to kick in, when we moved towards one of the areas best bars, “El Clandestino”. After some glasses of coffee liquor we were all sobered up, and ready to go to sleep.

The next morning came quite easily. We woke up, took a hit from the bong and then proceeded to start the day. We took a walk around downtown, to check out the Medieval fair. Galicia has more of a gaelic tradition, than a traditional Spanish or an Arabic one. The Gaelic influences are also prominent in Gallego, the local language, and a lot of Gallegos can pas as Irishmen or Scotsmen. Take for example Fide, Paldi’s best friend. This tall rastaman probably can’t speak English, but he can easily pass as an Irish hippie, because of his complection. In the evening Paldi uttered something about finding cheap coke for all of us. Of course we went head over heels for that and quickly found out that it took less than 30 euros to buy about 4gs of coke. The craziest thing about it was it’s purity. It had been cut up, but it was still about 70% pure, while in the rest of Europe you can buy about one g of 40-50% pure for the same price. Overall it was about 60 euros for four g’s of coke and a small egg-shaped block of uncut mary-jane. Yummy. Two hits later we we’re at the station to pick up Caro, and then straight up to the Recuncho de Maite. This is probably the town’s craziest tapas bar. The single waiter there, takes orders, polishes tables, prepares dishes, and serves all the customers altogether at a breakneck pace. The secret of his powers was revealed to us when one of us noticed him disappearing every once and a while in the bathroom. The guy was a cokehead. Hints he made at Paldi turned our assumptons into a clear conclusion. “Won’t they taste anything else of our traditional tastes and pleasures ?” He asked Paldi. Of course Paldi played along and said that we were going for a second round of tapas, with different ones at hand. But then the guy explained “Any of the “other” pleasures? Bingo! The guy was a total cokehead for sure! No explanations needed! The night ended, again, in Clandestino, though things were kind of blurry and my memory can play games about that days incidents. All I can remember from the moments after arriving at clandestine, was, me and Caro waking up early to go and get some coffee and breakfast the next morning. We were all in anticipation of the big party of the next night. Fide was leaving for Brazil, and all of his friends where throwing a surprise party for him. But first of all we needed to buy souvenirs, before the party. So we went back into the Gothic fair. Some bought perfume sticks, some biological soap, some just bought sweets in order to fight the Munchies. Kay and Kabale bought also some Deportivo T-Shirts, utilizing the 70% rebajas at the stores. The noon and afternoon passed smoothly with hits of mary-jane and alcohol, while Paldi provided us with a new shipment of coke and weed. Right now everything was turning all fear-and –loathing. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Tune in , Drop In , Cop Out. Come get high with us, kiss reality goodbye. Take the trip, fly in the sky with Lucy. All this. And then the night was slowly coming in and I was getting anctious. Would my last night in Galicia turn into an orgy or not? And how would it mellow out. The next night I had to grab an overnight train to Madrid, then loiter around town for a zillion hours, the catch a plane to Brussels, and then take the next train into Ghent…..some long hours of travelling.
As the night progressed final preperations were being made. I had raided the nearest supermarket to grab the necessary feeding items for the trip. Bread, doughnuts, jamon, chorizo, cheese. A bocadillo always comes in handy. After the food was prepared and stored, we all left for the beach. Yeah, it was a beach party, on the Atlantic Coast. A campfire was lit, and some sort of grog was being prepared in a kettle hanging above the fire. From what I heard it was some local drink of sorts, a real knockout. Meanwhile booze was flowing around, there was drummers and guitarists jamming around the fire, with people dancing ecstatically around. Meanwhile the joints were moving around one after another. And in the middle of all this, Kay was making an attempt to pull on some girl named Alicia something, failing simply because along with his natural charm, he was not equipped with any knowledge of the Spanish language (except perhaps the phrases hola, que tal, bien, yo soy Kay, encantado, rebajas), the only language Alicia knew. And of course when the only two translators available (that was me and Paldi) are wasted things tend to be hectic in this sector. Anyway things where slowly taking a turn for the insane. Paldi was turning nuts, and apparently so was Fide. I was drifting into some post-orgasmic chill. Energy sprouts where coming out of my body. The rest, weary of attracting unwanted attention, and wanting to dance to something more recognizable than a jam session, decided to move to Mardi Gras, a cool downtown bar, situated close to the beach.
All was cool in the bar. The speakers where blasting funk, soul and rock’n’roll music, and everybody was in an exceptional mood. I found myself dancing the funky chicken on top of one of the PA systems. And then some nimrod decided to dispence a canister of teargas. That was a foul move. I have had a lot of incidents involving teargas, in demonstrations, but also one when a similar nimrod dispensed a canister inside a coach in downtown Benicassim. Really evil stuff. So there was only one initial response. Everybody out!. So we left the bar, but I was thrilled to see that the vibes where high. The rally point was the at the fountain in the square next to the bar.
There happened the unthinkable. Suddenly people from our party started moving around other parties and calling them to join in to share whatever they had with us and whatever we had. Suddenly there appeared a whole galaxy of pills, wads of coke and weed. I was smoking, snorting and gulping down everything within reach, like everyone else did. Things were getting tense. Paldi and Fide where becoming paranoid. In a split second, , what started as a prank inside the fountain, had evolved into a double headlock, and then onto a fierce one-on –one duel. While the two where exchanging karate chops and dropkicks inside the fountain, everybody else had formed a chorus around it, singing the “Star Wars” theme. I was watching the spectacle, experiencing jolts of rapid chills caused by divine ecstasy caused by whatever I had consumed.
The night ended with us dancing erratically to some Spanish rock and ska music, at another bar dedicated to this music only. Apparently things between Paldi and Fide had turned back to normal, since they where talking and hugging again in the hamburger joint later. In the noon we left for some coffee and weed again. The last stop before the station was a coffeehouse downtown. As the last joints where coming around, we saw a guy snort coke in public. Since coke, e’s and weed are so widely used in Spain by almost every layer of the working class and the students, there is an endless stream of demand for those. Police tends to ignore people passing on drugs to tourists and locals, as well as users of light drugs. There are very few junkies in Spain. I spotted one of them in Madrid, and one in Barcellona a few weeks later…It turned out to be the same guy, who was an Italian! Drugs come into western Europe via Spain. If it is weed, one of the most common routes is from Morocco via Southern Spain and on to the North, while the Colombians use Galicia and Amsterdam as their two first ports-of-call in the continent for Cocaine. This leads to very cheap drugs being dealt in almost absolute freedom to a quite vast market. Frases like “the Moroccan just dumped the turd” and “the ship has come to port”, are very commonly heard on phonecalls before drug tradings..

Leaving it all behind, I was boarding a train to the suburbs, to meet the sleeper to Madrid….