Archive for January, 2019


Metal Butterflies are uncomfortable

metal butterfly_1

Art? Furniture? who knows?

There’s no comfortable way to sit on a metal butterfly.

Hang on, I suspect I need to clarify that first sentence.

To do that I have to apologize upfront that I’m going to be vague about some things. The family has been in a bit of crisis, but it’s not my story to tell. Everything will be fine, but it’s been a stressful week or so, hence my lack of continuation for the little series of Greek blog posts.

This crisis has required me to spend copious amounts of time in a local hospital. I don’t know how often you’re in hospitals, and I can only pray that the answer to that is very rarely, but hospitals don’t have a lot of empty space.

Whether there are waiting rooms, cafeterias, coffee shops, gift shops, or anything else is beside the point because what there really isn’t is a lot of, is privacy. Even at night, when the amount of people in the building is reduced significantly, there’s still not much privacy. After hours I’ve wandered down to the cafeteria, empty save for the soda machines where they sell my brand of iced tea (know where your favorite drink vending machines are, folks!) but even then, there’s usually one or two people on lunch break for their night shift.

So with that in mind, the hardest thing to find has been even a modicum of privacy. You can though, and I have discovered the last two weeks that every hospital has nooks and crannies which are empty or at least less heavily trafficked.

There’s a spot here in the hospital where two hallways collide somewhat awkwardly, and while it’s not completely quiet, it’s relatively low-traffic.

I’d sit on the floor, but I don’t have to because someone thoughtfully placed a bench there.

Hello Butterfly Bench!

metal butterfly_2

More form than function, also the antennae poke.

The bench is more art than practical item. I don’t want to sound ungrateful because again, it’s this or the floor, but there’s no actual way to sit on this thing comfortably for very long.

As you can see by the picture, the “wings” curve back and away from the seat. So when I sit on it, the whole thing makes me look like I have wings and am some sort of pudgy wood-sprite dude.

Which, cool, I always wanted wings, but also ouch, my back hurts.

dad moon butterfly


It’s pretty quiet there though, and aside from the chapel – which I forgot to mention earlier is quiet, but also not really somewhere I’m going to make a phone call or something – about the only place you can be where you can be alone, at least consistently during the day.

Still, I have questions, such as given the discomfort one has sitting on this bench, how did it come to be here in the hospital? It’s far more form than function, and it’s in such a random place it’s hard not to think it was donated and everyone looked at it with a sort of weird smile on their face and said “Gee, it’s nice….. Thanks?” and then had no idea what to do with it because: totally impractical to actually sit on.

So they found some random corner of the hospital, moved it there and said “Done.” Which was brilliant because you can tell the artist that it deserved its own special place whenever they came to check out their work.

Still, I’m grateful it’s here because it’s somewhere to sit that isn’t in a hospital room, and somewhere that, during the day, you can go and be relatively alone with your thoughts, call a friend for support or sit and contemplate the reality of a metal butterfly bench.

Plus it brings a little bit of whimsy to what can be a scary place.

And I have to be honest – uncomfortable as it is, the metal butterfly is really good at the other stuff.

PS – As I was posting this, I realized a fatal missed opportunity – which is like a fatal flaw but different – as I could have referred to this bench as the Iron Butterfly and then pulled in clicks from all the aging Boomers who remember the band from the late 60s, but I suppose they will have to come and settle for the video below.

PPS – Also Metal Butterfly is the name of my new throwback hair metal band. Our first album will be titled “Uncomfortable Butterfly Bench” and be an hour of guitar harmonics and rapid drum beats.

PPPS – I lied, there is no band. Sorry, not sorry.  




Greece is the word – part 2

Crete countryside

We saw a lot of spectacular countryside in Greece. This island (on the island of Crete) helped defend Crete

For part one of this series, click here.

So, the clan is back from Greece, but I’m still catching up on posts.

While in Greece, aside from the general discomfort with being uncomfortable, the other challenging thing was about trying to avoid cultural missteps.

We went into the trip I think, as a family, with the assumption we’d fuck up somewhere. It doesn’t matter how careful you are or how well prepared you are, unless you’re a robot you’re going to mess up.

I’m actually sure there are cultural issues for robots to step in as well but luckily, I don’t have to worry about those.

I think it’s important to acknowledge both that you can and should try to adhere to the mores and expectations of another culture as a visitor, as well as understand you will also fail at times because you just don’t know any better and give yourself a little break.

When we left for Greece, I was worried about simple things like driving rules and tipping – which is much different overseas, since waiters and other people Americans tip are paid better. As that’s the case, expectations for tips (when they are there at all) are much different.

What I learned while traveling is that there are much more subtle cultural things to be aware of.

Cheese Tour

Even after a tour at this cheese factory, they broke out the raki.

For example, when we visited Crete, at the end of every meal – and ore than a few tours and stops on those tours – we were given small shot-glasses filled with what is called raki (pronounced rocky as in Balboa), an alcoholic drink usually given after a meal.

What I learned not soon after arriving on Crete is that it’s impolite to not accept the raki or not drink it.

Now, not doing so isn’t the end of the world (and a few times, after multiple stops and six or seven shots, I was pretty sure I’d have to refuse the next one) but it’s one of those little things that, knowing it going in, gives you the opportunity to figure out how to deal with it ahead of time without insulting someone.

Also, and this circles back to something I said in the last post, I also felt (self-imposed) pressure to learn a little Greek. It seemed like a polite thing to do, to at least be able to say basic things like yes, thanks, you’re welcome, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and so on.

raki empties

We saw a lot of these after meals on the island of Crete.

You don’t have to – and I was surprised how many people spoke English – but it doesn’t take much effort, especially with a smartphone that can look things up any time you need it to.

I’m sure we messed up, though I’m not sure I know of a specific time, but nobody was unkind or harsh if we did. A lot of that was probably because we were dealing with folks who deal with tourists every day, but even regular folks we met while out and about were very nice.

As I said in the last post, as an American abroad I – and several others in my group – were keenly aware of the sometimes-poor reputation of Americans traveling abroad and didn’t want to be “those guys.” On top of that, I had the chance to show my kids how to be respectful of other cultures, especially when traveling.

Hopefully that will a lesson they carry going forward wherever they go, because whether you’re traveling across the Atlantic to Greece, just hopping the border to Mexico or Canada, or just visiting another part of the USA, people live different lives in different ways.

Appreciating and acknowledging that seems like the least you can do when you’re away from home and visiting someone else’s.

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Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages