Amelia Kanan

Writer + Photographer + Producer

Category: Uncategorized

The People of Sifnos

11 or so years ago I first experienced Sifnos, in the Greek Cyclades, through late night Skype chats with my best friend, as well as her blog where she confessed the curious truths about everyone she met. She lived and worked on the island for two summers in a row and has visited regularly ever since – despite everyone finding out about her blog and their curious truths which she had shared with the world. While she is an insanely talented storyteller, who needs to be writing more, I had a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the magic came from the characters themselves.

Sure enough, that was true. Not only did I get to meet the owner of the bar where she had worked and who had hated her for two minutes and then unofficially adopted her as the daughter he never had, but I also got to watch her and her husband introduce their baby to the magical Greek village that has become a second home to them.

While I don’t have much mileage on the island of Sifnos (that’s meant to be a metaphor, but I also literally can’t drive there…), I have never felt more at home. It was the comfort, familiarity, simplicity of living, lifestyle and obviously the aesthetic pleasure. Most of all, it was the people. Most everyone I met in Sifnos was of my favorite variety: funny, argumentative, loyal, hardworking, resilient, kind and a unique pairing of stubborn and humble. They’re nothing like the Italians. Just kidding…kind of.

George (1 of 1)

This was George and his daughter…or maybe his wife. I couldn’t be sure but he kept trying to send her back to LA with me. Neither of us really spoke the same language, but judging by all the hugs, I’m pretty sure George and I shared a bond. My favorite story with George: on my second night, I couldn’t find my passport. After searching through my entire room and googling “losing passport aboard”, I mustered some hope and went down to the front desk – the last place I remembered having it. It was midnight and George was sitting alone on the patio, happily listening to music. Once we greeted each other, I said, “George, I lost my passport.” He then got very anxious and worried about me, “Oh, no! Big trouble. You must go to the Consulate!” My stomach dropped, thinking this surely meant that he did not have my passport. However, due to the communication fog, I had a feeling things might not be completely clear, so I decided to clarify, “George, do you have my passport?” His face immediately changed, as if a light bulb went on, and he hurriedly walked inside to his desk, where he opened a drawer and pulled out my passport. Seeming just as surprised and relieved as I was, he said, “I thought you give to me, for safe keep!” We laughed and hugged each other as he kept saying, “Very good now. Very good.”

Street Boys (1 of 1)

While I was slightly scared of this crew of boys, I also wanted them all to be my sons. My first experience with them happened when I was walking back to my hotel – well after midnight – and found myself in the middle of this rowdy clan arguing. They were divided into two sides, yelling things back and forth to each other – like the Sharks and the Jets from West Side Story. For a moment I felt like I should intervene and prevent a possible fight. Instead, I just kept walking. Every day afterwards, I kept seeing them around town – walking around, eating ice cream or just sitting on their phones. As I walked to meet my ferry to leave, I creepily said goodbye by taking this photo.

While some may feel uncomfortable with these photos, I think it’s more important to talk about the fact that we (Americans) don’t let our daughters feel uninhibited or unabashed about their bodies. There is no doubt that there are unfortunate dangers and fears that exist in our society, but how much power do we want to give them? And what is the price we are paying for it?

Boat Boy (1 of 1)

I watched this boy stand still for 15 minutes (I was waiting for Stephanie…not just being a creep). That man in the pink shorts never said a word to him the entire time.

 

Vathi was my favorite beach. It seemed like the most relaxing, the least crowded (other than Faros, a not-so-great beach) and had the warmest water). There also weren’t a lot of boats in this bay because there wasn’t a marina.

Cool Chicks (1 of 1)

Bike babes #slay in Apollonia.

These two bosses sat in the same spots, making the same faces, every day.

 

 

Advertisements

Dirty Laundry

476528_987241079287_989595418_oIt’s been quite a while since I’ve written on this ol’ blog of mine. I won’t bore you with the reasons for my absence, but I will bore you with a story.

Remember, the genre is called creative non-fiction. As for the truthful parts, it happened so long ago that I can’t even remember his name…

Technically, I broke up with him…in a voicemail the day after Thanksgiving.

Yet, that came as the result of when he had abruptly moved across the country and only called me to complain about moving across the country. Granted, his dad was dying of cancer. Allegedly.

I digress.

Three weeks prior to his move, he put his possessions up for sale on Craigslist and told me that he was thinking about temporarily moving back to a place that he so despised, to take care of a man who he equally despised. Naturally, that rekindled the flame I had initially felt when we had first met. How noble a man to sacrifice his successful career and loving relationship to nurture his cruel, undeserving father on his death bed? Swoon.

And, oh how I swooned. Easily comprising my precious alone time and personal space to fulfill his never-ending need for my physical presence. My quick to surrender behavior wasn’t due to new love, but rather another smooth tactic he used in wooing me, very early in our relationship. Some women are attracted to ambition and perseverance, but not me. I like the man who tells me, on our second date, that his mother never held him as a baby. That’s when the swooning began.

He was the youngest of five and his homeschooling mother was too burnt out on child-rearing to pay him any attention. His abusive father wasn’t any help, either. Luckily, he was a child prodigy who taught himself how to read, do arithmetic and start a business at the age of 8, raking lawns. By the time he was 10 years old, he had saved enough money to buy a lawnmower and at age 12 he was successful enough to have finally won the approval of his family members, aka his new dependents. While his parents and siblings relied on him for money, domestic duties, and decisions, he started public school. There he found comfort in teachers who were eager to mentor the young genius. It was their faith and support that encouraged him to attend college, where he discovered how bored he was of education. The physics major dropped out when he sold his first feature screenplay to Paramount and moved to Hollywood. His quick rise to success brought him the stable, predictable and quiet life he had always wanted, as a screenwriter in Los Angeles.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good story, especially when it involves an underdog (go, Cubs). The funny thing about underdogs though is that they have to fight, not complain or feel sorry themselves, in order to get to the top.

Although he hated being alone and we slept together every night, his future fantasy of us included separate bedrooms. Nonetheless, in spite of his distaste for sharing a bed, he had to be physically connected every other minute we weren’t actually sleeping. Do you know how difficult that makes things when you’re doing laundry? Don’t get me wrong, I’m an affectionate person too but, I was constantly scolded for pulling my hand away too quickly when I needed to use it to pay for something…because his AMEX card had been declined.

The list of problems was endless:

  • He only had an AMEX card
  • He was skeptical of every male in my life, including my brother (gross)
  • He didn’t like to travel
  • He didn’t like when I traveled without him
  • I was never giving him enough attention
  • I gave everyone else too much attention
  • He thought I was secretly in love with his best friend
  • I had to apologize for giving everyone else too much attention (especially if it was his best friend)
  • I had to apologize if I didn’t laugh when he said something funny
  • I had to apologize if I laughed when he said something serious
  • I had to apologize for falling asleep during movies
  • I was always apologizing
  • He never apologized

Why, you may ask, did I stay?

Shamefully, it was the shameless, dirty, uninhibited and, at the same time, incredibly kind and gentle sex.

In the back of my head, I knew it was just sex and even when I loved him at my hardest, I had never wanted to marry him. This newfound detachment between my heart and body was quite liberating. I felt powerful, knowing I would be the one to leave him and that my heart wasn’t all in like in the past.

I’m sure it was due to the fact that I never trusted him and I am not the kind of girl who has trust issues, I’m actually the opposite of the girl who has trust issues (obviously).

One day, his 1984 BMW stopped working and months went by without any real sign of a new car on the horizon. He felt torn, he said. Wishing he could just buy a shitty car (which I supported), but feeling “business” pressure to buy something more luxurious (which I also supported). These little conversations out loud ponderings often happened as he comfortably rode in the passenger seat of my car. Which, by the way, was another red flag. My driving style is quite commonly a point of real contention. No one, especially any man, has been that content as my passenger.

Anyway, there we were, sailing through a yellow/maybe red light when I casually asked, “So…what are you thinking? ” Well, my tone wasn’t aloof enough because an explosion of accusations blew up in my face. How dare I question how much money he has? How could I be so insensitive about his childhood poverty trauma? He also managed to throw in the whole in love with his best friend stuff, too. Who for, by the way, I had zero attraction and was only overly nice to him because I wanted him to like me enough to stick up for me when/if my boyfriend ever doubted my commitment. Which, evidently was the case.

I could more than understand when he explained that his modest upbringing made him feel very uncomfortable spending money on himself or us. This was fine. I’m not a materialistic person and don’t look to boyfriends to pay for me in any sense, but this was weird.

Just as he questioned my attraction to him, I couldn’t help but question everything from his past to his present. Sometimes I wouldn’t even realize my skepticism until he would defensively react to a quizzical gaze or a question that prodded too deep. Why didn’t he have to go into his office – ever? Why did he only have an AMEX card? I was forced to pay for things too often and, I’m sorry, but “paying” me back by covering my portion of concert tickets gets really old, really fast. Specifically when it is a concert that I didn’t even want to go to, in the first place.

And why, if his family had treated him so awfully, did he talk to them almost every day? I mean, compared to his upbringing, my parents were gold and I only talked to them, maybe, once a week.

Combining this ever-expanding collection of suspicions along with our incompatibility, I was right on the verge of calling it quits.

Alas, things got more complicated when he decided to tell me that he had Asperger’s.

What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to respond? “No, you don’t” or ,”I think we need to break up?”

That next week was brutal. I was so consumed, tracing every memory with a fine tooth comb hoping to find hard evidence to concretely prove to him that he was a liar, that I could barely look at him, let alone sleep with him. But, I did.

Towards the end of that week, he told me that he needed to tell me something.

I just kept thinking, please break up with me, please break up with me.

His dad had 6 months to live.

Was he lying? Was this real? Was it bad that I felt like everything was all about him? When was the last time he took care of me?

Call me old fashioned, but I can’t abandon a person’s heart once they’ve told me, “No one, including my parents, has ever loved me,” or  “I have Asperger’s,” or “My dad is dying of cancer.”

When we said goodbye at the Burbank airport in August, he made me promise that I would come visit for Thanksgiving. Considering he had a flare for theatrics, he asked to communicate mainly through hand written letters and only Facetime twice a week.

A normal person might have wondered if he was going to jail. Or they may have felt relieved. Or, most likely, a normal person wouldn’t even be in that situation. Unfortunately, I’m not normal and I felt abandoned, even heartbroken, by someone who I never actually loved or trusted.

To make matters worse, he didn’t write me one letter and barely Facetimed. His phone calls were infrequent and I couldn’t help but want more. In the times that he did call, I would stop anything I was doing to find a quiet spot alone to talk to him. He hated when I was with other people, especially when those other people tried to say hi to him and wish him well.

The conversations revolved around him being a hero to his family. He spoke about how exhausted he was from taking care of his irresponsible sister and her out of control kids, his brother who had just been arrested and their needy mother (his adjectives, not mine). All of whom, he was also financially supporting.

Mindfully masking my doubt and contempt, I would ask, “How’s your dad?”

He would groan in response, “He’s fine, just creating more problems like usual.”

Then, he would say something dirty, instigating phone sex.

Being the devoted, distant girlfriend I was, I would comply.

I felt emptier after talking to him. The worst of it all was that he never once asked, “How was your day?”

One night, a few weeks before I broke up with him, I went home with someone who I had known for years. He was smart, funny, attractive, and most meaningful of all, he actually enjoyed talking with me. Something my absent “boyfriend” saw as an obligation, even when he was present. After we started kissing, I awkwardly stopped and fled from his apartment in the middle of the night, knowing this was a betrayal of some sort that I couldn’t commit, even to my nonexistent, lying boyfriend, who didn’t like talking with me.

It’s embarrassing to admit that I cried when I ended things in that voicemail. They weren’t sad tears for him, they were angry tears for me. I’m not an angry person, so I was also just angry that I was angry, in the first place.

I’ll never know why he actually moved. Did he want to break up with me, but didn’t know how to actually do it? Did his dad really have cancer? Could he not afford to buy a car? Was his family actually very loving and insisted that he move home due to his Aspergers and finances?

And, then I think, “Did he even move?”

“Amelia is SO nice.”

Stranger (1 of 1)

No. I’m not. In fact that word “nice” is the exact word I use when I have to describe someone who I don’t like. I mean, if you can’t say anything “nice” than don’t say anything at all, right? And…let’s be real, it’s way too difficult for me to keep my mouth shut.

“What do you think of Eddie?”

“Oh, Eddie is so nice!”

Eddie – the guy who took me on a date to Red Lobster and drank boozy milkshakes all night and told me he was drunk. (And..no, that isn’t Eddie pictured above…)

“What do you think of my new girlfriend?”

“She’s so nice!”

She was nice – but she wasn’t funny, she wasn’t cool, she didn’t say anything intelligent and I didn’t like what she was wearing.

Before you think I’m a cold hearted bitch, when was the last time you were honest about your inner dialogue? My inner self is kind, sweet, generous and full of love for all humans but that doesn’t give me the responsibility of having to “like” everyone or for that matter, pretend to “like” everyone. That’s fake – and homie don’t know how to play that.

I don’t like how we make our kids invite everyone to their birthday parties. Or force individuals to have the obligation of including everyone. That’s highly unrealistic and, in my opinion, unhealthy. We’re encouraging fake relationships devoid of honesty. “Hey kid, ignore how you feel and put a smile on your face.” Sure, exclusivity isn’t cool but, I don’t think it would exist if we could all just be a little more honest in our relationships. Different strokes for different folks, you know?

I used to be a “nice” person. You know how some people bring home stray animals? Well, I used to bring home stray people. Also during those days, I hugged random people every day. I never kept a tally because that would’ve been weird but, I probably hugged at least 20 people per week. Homeless men, an old lady I met waiting in line at Jewel-Osco, the embarrassing drunk girl at a party, saying goodbye to someone I met on the train or the maintenance man in my building. People around me thought I was so nice. But, the truth was, I didn’t actually like any of those strangers, rather I felt sorry for them. Those “nice” gestures were inauthentic because I thought I was better than those people. My motives were completely self-righteous. Never once did I consider that maybe, just maybe, one of those random strangers didn’t want me to hug them. Or, maybe they weren’t sad at all. Or even worse, they were the ones who were pitying me and thought I was the one who needed the hug. Here I thought I was this Queen of Hearts, gracing all the sad, little people with hugs, rainbows and sunshine. #ignoranceisnotbliss

Today, I’m proud to say that I’m not nice anymore. No longer do I hug strangers nor do I pity anyone. And, if I don’t like someone, I have enough love and respect for them to call them “nice” and avoid hanging out with them. Yeah, I’m totally not self-righteous anymore.

All I have to write are construction paper and Crayola markers.

I have eggs in my pocket.

I like to be prepared.

Yesterday, I wasn’t.

Prepared.

Wednesdays are always like that.

But it wasn’t Wednesday.

It was Thursday.

I had to be patient.

I actually like being patient.

No, I don’t.

That’s a lie.

I lie sometimes.

Usually about stupid things.

Like….

“I like being patient”

Or

“I like rainbows”

I hate rainbows.

Well, I don’t hate them.

I just don’t love them.

Like everyone else does.

Why does everyone get so excited?

For a rainbow?

Other things that I don’t love:

Unicorns.

Parades.

Balloons.

Fireworks.

Giant lollipops.

Giant anything.

There.

I said it.

Sometimes I feel supposed.

Like I’m “supposed” to do something.

Like I’m supposed to like rainbows or giants things.

Why?

I’m still nice.

And funny.

And fun.

I don’t like to feel supposed.

It makes me feel unfair.

To everyone.

And to me.

Devious.

I don’t like that.

Just like I don’t like rainbows.