No Photography Droning notes – a trance-like melody – played by an instrument I can’t see, and don’t know the name of. Cobblestone paths run in rings around the gates of the ancient ruins of the Acropolis in Athens. Short trees with scaly bark, and trunks shaped like the letter S sit among hills of patchy grass and craggy tan rocks. The wind brings the scent of flowers, and the food from restaurants below. The music has caught the ears of an old woman wearing a floral headscarf sitting on a stone curb. She closes her eyes and nods her head left and right in the slow time of the music. Where is that sound coming from? It’s not a recording, it has the imperfections of live playing. What is that instrument called? It’s not an oud, balalaika, or mandolin, it’s something else. I climb a stone wall and hold the bars of the black gate on top of it and look around. The hilltop becomes visible. White pillars, long triangular roofs with carved white stone figures lounging in their corners. That bass line and intoxicating melody float through the sound of cooing pigeons gathered in large numbers under a pine tree. One green parrot has found a place among them, but he flaps suddenly and flies up into a tree. There’s the musician. He’s set up with a small amplifier in a nook of these winding pathways. I can see the top of a head of long curly hair. He has a prominent nose, and a pitch-black goatee. Ripples of notes run upwards as the song builds momentum. I let go of the gate bars, and hop of the wall. When I take out my phone to film him, he nods towards a sign in his instrument case. No photography. Fair enough. He has gathered about six people, and I become the seventh, listening to singing in a language I don’t understand, and the trance-like droning of his playing. Is there anything I could steal for my own guitar playing? The way he sounds like two players instead of one, the way the sound spellbinds strangers so quickly, so easily. There’s no sign saying who he is, no indication his work is available anywhere in the world but right here, right now, so I listen a good while, obey the posted sign, throw 5 Euro in his case, and then continue to wander the hillsides surrounding the Acropolis. Have I heard something special? Did I fall for a tourist trap? I realize I enjoyed the music enough not to care. On the opposite side of the hill, a painter is selling his work on a blanket. He has a No Photography sign as well. His work his mostly elegant suggestions of ancient Greek statues drawn in a single curving black line, with one pattern or color added for contrast and pop. He has done landscapes of the white Cycladic cities, blue domes, and flowered canopy gardens of Mykonos and Santorini as well. He is talented. He wears a brown Greek sailor’s cap that has clearly scene every season and all kinds of weather. His leather jacket and jeans are battered as well. People lounge in the sun on another stone wall. I find a shaded place under a park tree and sit down. Next to me, a woman in a long blue linen top with rolled sleeves, gold bracelets, blocky sunglasses, and pointed boots is writing in a journal with a worn-out gold-ish cover. Get my book Odd Jobs & After Hours in audio, hardcover, or paperback by clicking here. It’s about drifting down the east coast of the USA chasing one sketchy, so-called opportunity after another. I ask if she’s a writer, and she tells me not really, just enjoys capturing thoughts and feelings. Her name is Iris. She smiles with large, even teeth yellowed by wine, coffee, and cigarettes. Any tips for places to go in Athens, I ask. She tells me I’m already doing fine just by hanging out around here. I tell her of all the places I have been lucky enough to see in the past few months (UK, Germany, Morocco, and Spain) so far, Greece has been my favorite. Why? Why? All over the world, locals have curiosity about what makes their place special. It’s hard to explain. It’s a combination of the pace, the food, the climate, the people. The scenery, the history. The atmosphere. Spain must be nice, she says. No love in Spain? She asks hopefully. I grin, and tell her I was working on a farm most of the time. Explored the cities for sure, but had few opportunities to break the ice comfortably with people. She shrugs. Perhaps she was hoping for a better story than that. How can I blame her? Maybe I was, too. She’s older than I am, maybe by ten years. I find myself wondering what place Spain occupies in her imagination. How far away or exotic it is to a Greek local in general. It’s not a question I can really put into words in that moment, but perhaps all over the world, we’re sitting around longing to trade places with each other. But that’s not entirely true. Germans have told me they are no fan of the USA, and have no plans to visit. An Italian told me the jig is up and we are overrated. The woman is named Iris. She is delighted to thumb through a copy of Odd Jobs & After Hours and describes the story of the plot as very American. A roadtrip chasing work. She fans through the pages and asks what the scent on the book is. It reminds her of a rare perfume ingredient from France. I assure her I have no idea. That battered copy of my first book has been all over Europe, in the hands of so many people, but I truly can’t come up with any plausible explanation for its fragrance. She’s quite stuck on the idea though. More interested in how the book smells then anything written on its pages. Maybe there’s a lesson for me and my efforts as an author there. She snaps a photo of the book and promises to Google it later, after her shift at work, for which she is a tad late. She leaves with a smile, and a ‘nice chatting with you.’ I decide the view and atmosphere is as good as any, and daydream on that rock wall while people stroll past the valley with the Theater of Dionysius, and the hilltops crowned by ancient white temples and statues, constructing memories of how that music sounded, or how those paintings looked.