Travels: Greek Isles

A few months ago, me and my three closest girlfriends were in discussion over booking a girls’ trip to Greece scheduled for the late summer. They were only starting to plan their trip, when I hesitated on the initial invitation and ultimately declined due to scheduling conflicts with my personal life (i.e., fluctuating job status, moving apartments, etc.). Call me easily influenced, but once they actually booked their flights, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a trip with my dearest friends. (See: classic case of #FOMO.)

We’re going to Greece!

Santorini, Greece

Our itinerary is set, accommodations are booked, and now it’s a simple matter of showing up. In late August, from San Francisco, we’ll arrive in Athens and take ferries to Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete.

At each island location, we booked an AirBnB for 2-3 nights. Last month, we sat in a room all together: four girls, four laptops, each searching for the most beautiful (ok, and affordable) house on AirBnB with stunning views. We are still waiting on purchasing our ferry tickets, which don’t seem like an issue to book the day before or day of the voyage.

Crete Harbor, Crete, Greece

In all of our research so far, we know that we won’t be disappointed by what the beautiful Mediterranean will have to offer. None of us are staunch planners on vacation, so we’ll likely roll with the good times as they come. With about four weeks left before this holiday, I’m eager to learn what else there is to discover.

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In Spite of Sirens

It’s approaching midnight, almost quiet near Haight Street tonight. From time to time, I hear people’s footsteps beyond my bay windows that face the front street. I imagine a younger man, energetic and adventurous to roam the neighborhood in the dark. I wonder if he is just now coming home, whether he was on a date or with his pals, and where they might have eaten dinner before saying their evening’s goodbyes.

No sirens tonight. No ambulance, police, or fire truck sirens, of which I could never distinguish. For these sounds, my curiosities lived differently. Urgent sirens send echoes off buildings and into all corners of our city to alert emergency response. Unlike footsteps, I don’t try to imagine anything with sirens. I stay away. I send my good graces, and try my best to fall asleep with gratefulness and the warmth of blankets.

I fall asleep thinking of a stranger who walks home excited to call his date tomorrow afternoon.

“We’re normal ordinary people, just like everyone else.”

“Everyone may be ordinary, but they’re not normal.”

“Yes, there is that school of thought,” I said. “But there’s normal and then there’s normal. I mean the kind of normal that can sit down next to you on the train and you wouldn’t even notice. Normal. We eat food, drink beer — oh, by the way, the sandwiches were great.”

Haruki Murakami, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World

Currently Reading: Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World (1985)

Hardboiled Wonderland

Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Amazon $10.99

One defining character trait about myself is that I am a creature of habit when it comes to my book selection. For the past five years, I’ve been reading mostly the works of Haruki Murakami, a Japanese author and clear lead-running favorite on my bookshelf. To date, I haven’t kept track of how many of Murakami’s novels and short stories that I’ve read. (Though, a quick browse through my Goodreads will shed light on this metric.) And I’m determined to read them all.

It’s a delicate matter though. Timing is important when selecting a new book to read. For instance, I read Norwegian Wood during a difficult break-up and then Kafka on the Shore while questioning my career (and life) direction. Both novels colored my life with much-needed perspective to my then-life situation. On the other hand, I bought a copy of 1Q84 years ago, and still, it sits on my bookshelf unstarted and unread for lack of any good reason. It’s neatly categorized in my mind as a novel “to be read under the right circumstances,” and so far, time hasn’t allowed for its entrance.

After spending the first half of this year reading a few popular books (Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians series and Dave Eggers’ The Circle), I craved a return to go back to the transcendent magical realism aesthetic, the style for which makes Murakami famousOn my most recent trip to one of San Francisco’s bookstores, Booksmith, I perused the “M” section of the fiction shelves.

I could probably close my eyes and choose any of Murakami’s books to be satisfied with. But, while at Booksmith — and this is my favorite part of bookstores — I love reading the store’s staffers’ handwritten notes, typically affixed below their respective books, that summarize in detail why they recommend this book, what makes it remarkable, and why you, reader, should absolutely read it. Maybe I’m a sucker or easily convinced, but I take these notes seriously!

Coming across and reading the notes on Murakami, I decided on Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World as my next read. The note provided context to the book. Reading the bookstore note and conducting research on my own, I learned the following:

Murakami has, in multiple novels, written dual, concurrent and intersecting stories. In keeping with this style, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World are separate stories. Each chapter or couple chapters alternate the storytelling. (Some literature critics identify this style as a defining characteristic of post-modern literature.) Both narratives together create this singular novel. This novel is particularly special because it is Murakami’s favorite and Jay Rubin’s favorite. (Rubin is my favorite Murakami translator.) The bookstore note also indicated that Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World, written in 1985 and translated to English in 1991, is one of Murkami’s first books to define his signature style.

To date, I’m fifty pages into the book, and at risk of confirmation bias, I regained the feeling of a cyclical process of disorientation-recalibration, one most similar when I read Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Sputnik Sweetheart for the first time. This book is one that stands on its own though, and while I’ve only scratched the surface, and if historic trends continue, I can tell that it’ll be one hell of a trip.

“I really like you, Midori. A lot.”
“How much is a lot?”
“Like a spring bear,” I said.
“A spring bear?” Midori looked up again. “What’s that all about? A spring bear.”
“You’re walking through a field all by yourself one day in spring, and this sweet little bear cub with velvet fur and shiny little eyes comes walking along. And he says to you, “Hi, there, little lady. Want to tumble with me?’ So you and the bear cub spend the whole day in each other’s arms, tumbling down this clover-covered hill. Nice, huh?”
“Yeah. Really nice.”
“That’s how much I like you.”

— Haruki MurakamiNorwegian Wood

Philz Coffee — Market Street, San Francisco

Noteworthy:

  • Natural light flooding through these floor-to-ceiling windows
  • Plenty of tables for working, couches for lounging and napping
  • Good music playlist (anyplace that plays Daft Punk at 12:45pm is cool with me)
  • Outdoor patio despite constant overcast
  • View of the Ferry Building and Bay Bridge
  • Cool, young people who are considerate and quietly working