Someone in our block of apartment buildings is waging a war against the neighbourhood. His weapon of choice is a recording of maniacal laughter that lasts approximately 20 seconds and then ends with a cheery woo woo! This person, whoever he is (we refer to the culprit as a he, but don’t know for sure) plays this recording randomly throughout the day, sometimes in 15 minute stretches, play and repeat, ad nauseum. Everyone generally ignores it, but recently he’s taken to playing it late into the night, and at two in the morning, his neighbours aren’t as forgiving. The cops have been called twice and we don’t quite understand why they can’t do anything about it, but usually it escalates into amazing screaming matches, everyone spouting off their opinions from their respective balconies. So far this mysterious man always has the last (recorded) laugh.
A few days ago we walked from Kypseli to the top of Lykavittos Hill. It’s the highest point in Athens and a fairly popular tourist destination, but at dusk it’s not overrun. It’s peaceful, actually, and quiet. No car horns honking or creepy recordings of evil laughter. You can get a drink at the bar or you can simply sit near the church and marvel at the view of Athens from the top of the hill, an impossible tangle of squat buildings interrupted by the occasional splotch of green park, the sea way off in the distance.
We returned a few days later for a different reason. At the last minute we’d purchased tickets to see Rufus Wainwright play at the Lykabettus Theatre. Neither of us were huge fans, but we had a hunch that the atmosphere would be perfect for live music. The first half was a performance of Rufus’s latest album, a song cycle that included him slowly marching onstage wearing a 17 foot feathery cape. Visuals were projected on a screen behind him and the audience wasn’t allowed to clap between songs. Something about the constant stream of music and the night sky made it easy to sink into the songs.
The second half was my favourite. He emerged (sans cape), this time chatty and charming, playing older material. For his finale he covered one of his mother’s songs. Kate McGarrigle passed away from cancer in January, and watching him play was intensely moving. “The Walking Song” is a love song Kate wrote for Louden Wainwright. It’s the sweetest song, despite the fact that their marriage ended horribly. The bittersweetness of that combined with Rufus singing it as a tribute to his mother while still obviously grieving her death was powerful. There weren’t many dry eyes around, at least not in our little corner of the amphitheater.
The show ended after midnight and we shuffled out quietly.We walked back down the hill and found a taverna with hanging vines in the courtyard and ate eggplant imam and roast pork with mushrooms and drank white wine and decompressed. One of my favourite things about Greece is that you can wander into any restaurant after midnight and there’s not a question whether or not they’ll still be serving dinner. Of course they are. A stray dog also showed up and he must’ve been a regular because the owners had a little baggie of saved leftover food for him. When we left we saw that they’d also given him water in his own little glass.It was magical, the whole night. By the time we arrived back home, Kypseli was silent, that rare window in the middle of the night when most people are dreaming, too sleepy to make noise and terrorize their neighbours.