Thursday, November 29, 2007

Here's Looking At You... Or Not

Since moving to Greece I have resurrected my belief in the Evil Eye and lately every mysterious bump, bruise and pain is gravely proclaimed to be the work of the nasty, toxic Evil Eye. Sounds creepy, doesn’t it?

The Evil Eye can be interpreted as bad vibes, bad energy or the evils, created by malice, jealousy or envy. We have the same concept in the Home Country, though there, it is not warded off with blue eyes. Black is the predominant colour to get rid of nasty vibes, though wearing all black seems to have a cancelling out property and is not really recommended.

Bits of black fabric are tied to great lumbering trucks and a baby’s face and eyes are marked with a smudge of black kohl by way of creating an imperfection which will put off evil spirits. When my youngest sister was born, a friend arrived with teeny tiny black glass bangles for her to wear and keep the evil eye away. Girls and women including me wear kohl in their eyes for the same reason.

Superstition, myth and mystique are rampant in both countries and so warding off evil eyes is done in hundreds of different ways; the above are just the most common.

So what to do if the bad energy gets through your defences? Once again, there are hundreds of ways and prayers to get rid of it. The concept of the evil eye most likely existed before any religion, and so they continue today under the cloak of whichever religion is dominant. Both the Home Country and Greece lean heavily on their respective religions to magic the evil away.

By far the most fun technique I ever witnessed was on one of the many occasions one of my sisters was de-evil eyed. She has very unusually coloured eyes for the Home Country and this attracted the evil eye with impressive regularity through the envious/jealous looks of others. In fact, if I hadn’t witnessed her unexplainably fall ill so many times after an innocent outing, I doubt I’d believe in the powers of bad energy.

A green chilli was produced and one of her hairs wrapped around it. The chilli was then wrapped in paper, twirled around her head and set on fire. Depending on how the paper burned, we were informed that she had indeed been eviled but was now cured.

Now really, would you rather have the dramatics of that or a boring old Yiayia making a cross over you?

Some might call the evil eye nonsense and a belief in it the sign of backwardness. But that’s only because they’re jealous they never had chillies set alight over them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Yes, but can you do THIS!

Flicking channels last night after getting a bad review for my attempt at being fashionable from Mr Zeus (he said between laughter that I was fashionable by UK standards - not a compliment) I started watching this, Alicia Keys' new video.

And watching her shake her big curly locks I realised to my delight that we have almost exactly the same hair. So there! I may not know how to dress, but my hair is effortlessly wonderful, all it takes is a wash and dry and BOOM! Ready for action! How do you like them apples?


Monday, November 26, 2007

Bolly Badly Dressed No Mates

On Saturday I had tickets to see Beauty and the Beast with a friend. Now, mostly I said yes to going because I like this friend and wanted to spend some time with her, the show itself didn't really interest me that much. Also I'll jump at an invitation for anything because having worked from home all week, come the weekend I want to get out.

My company had to bail at the last minute which left me with a mission: either get rid of both tickets, get rid of the extra, or find someone else to go with me. Z2 was my only option, but he made it clear he'd rather stick hot pins in his eyes than sit through the show with me. After being showered with refusals from everyone I knew, I tried my luck at the Badminton Theatre and waited.

And waited. And waited. While I was waiting, I noticed how nicely dressed some of the children were. Then I looked around. There was not one badly dressed child there. They all looked like pictures out of a catalogue. Raising my eyes above floor level I was horribly reminded that I live in Greece, where the women dress to kill come what may. And there I was with helmet hair, dressed like trash. I made an observation - not one single other female there was wearing sports shoes, and hundreds must have passed me as I loitered trying to get rid of my tickets. Hundreds of women, wearing good shoes. I bet they didn't even own a pair of runners.

I don't know why I keep forgeting to make an effort when I step out and then end up feeling hideously out of place. This for me was a disaster. My own lack of style is one issue, but obviously people dress their kids here at the very cutting edge of fashion. My future children are doomed, I tell you.

"You know those kids, the slightly dark ones?"


"Those kids, you know them, they have a foreign mother."

"Several kids at this school have a foreign mother."

"Yes but it's those kids, the really badly dressed ones."

"Ooooh now I know who you're talking about."

As it hit showtime I gave up and took my seat plus spread all my stuff over the spare. Actually I can think of worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than reliving childhood memories of that moment of excitement in the Home Country when our mother would come back from the video store and wave a very badly pirated copy of the latest Disney cartoon infront of us. At least I knew all the songs.

But I can't escape the fact that the money I spent on those tickets should probably have been spent shopping for Greek lady wardrobe staples such as:

1) Several very tight turtle neck tops (current ownership: 1)

2) A gillet (current ownership: 0)

3) Several pairs of boots (current ownership: 1)

4) A few jersey dresses, knee length (current ownership: 0)

5) Bug-eye glasses (current ownership: 0)

It would be okay if I had a unique sense of style which looked good, because I don't really want to turn into a drone who looks like everyone else. But my own sense of 'style' can't even be called that. I just want to not be given that "bloody hell!" once-over the other women give me, I'm scared of them, remember. Tips, anyone?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Fish In Greek

Ever looked up a recipe and run off to the market to pick up the ingredients, only to realise you don't know what a sea bream looks like and don't know what it's called in Greek? Worry no more with this site that gives you all the popular table fish in English, Greek and Latin. Happy cooking!

I'm an idiot

I'm in trouble. This morning as we were sipping our hot bevvies in bed, Mr Zeus told me off for not bothering with my Greek anymore, and I didn't protest the truth of this statement.

Somewhere in October I called up my regular free classes to see what was up, since they were meant to call me with dates and times and had not. Turns out there is no third level class, which is interesting because these are the classes that immigrants are supposed to attend in order to sit an exam that proves their proficiency in Greek, so if nothing beyond level 1 and 2 is on offer, what are these people supposed to do?

I should speak more Greek but the problem is this: sometimes I speak perfect Greek and other times I can barely string a sentence together. It's irritating and makes me feel stupid, so I avoid it if I can. I tell myself that if my Greek is good enough to give relationship advice to a Greek friend, then I don't need classes, but the reality is it takes me thrice as long to say "Your boyfriend is a loser" in Greek than in English.

It's infuriating to me that I am still so crap at Greek that I need more classes. I hate being reminded that instead of frolicking around online, I should be brushing up on my grammar. It feels like being five years old again. I'm 25! I should be able to do what I want godammit!

But Mr Zeus is right. He has no sympathy that the 3 year old next door has overtaken me in vocabulary and my godson is bound to follow soon. Can you imagine the buttock clenching mortification of that? Anyone got any ideas? I don't want to go back to Hellenic American again, they were barely average.

Another more interesting problem is that I want to learn how to swim better. I can just about swim to save my life if I had to, and I have, but I thought I'd use the winter to get better. Unfortunately for a former desert-dweller like me, a grown woman who can't swim is so unheard of in Greece that the only classes on offer at the local pool are for those parentally neglected midgets who were never taught to swim before they could walk like all Greek children are.

I complain, but I can guarantee you that if such a class existed, I'd be too lazy or socially anxious to attend. Social anxiety is something that I abandoned in my late teens and has revisited me here in Greece where I am self conscious of the fact that I look like good company until I open my mouth and then I just come across as an idiot who has been in Greece since last June and still can't hold a conversation in Greek.

An impressive amount of complaints on this sunny Greek winter day. Oh well, at least it's the weekend.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tea for 200, olives for 2000

Mr Zeus calls me a monkey. He means it affectionately though and I can't really argue seeing as I enjoy mindless monkey-see-monkey-do tasks.

At the moment it is olive harvest season in Greece which means we have our work cut out for us. Most blocks of flats have a couple of olive trees growing outside which belong to the family that owns the flats. This year has been a bumper crop.

When you collect olives for oil, like I did last year, you basically bash at them with a kind of wide-tooth mini rake to untangle them off the branches, which was not all that tiring because it was just like my average hairwash, all that hacking and untangling and cramps in your arms.

Oil olives can get bashed to bits and it doesn't matter because they're going to get squashed into oil anyway. Table olives are a different matter and require collecting by hand to preserve their form. You can either do this by giving your trees a trim and collecting the olives off the fallen branches or make like a monkey and perch in the branches with a plastic bag slung over one wrist.

We've ended up with a lot of really nice, fat olives. And seeing as each day I have a few hours to kill before work, processing these thousands of olives is my happy task. I must wash them then make a slit in the side of each one, with a blade not a knife, then drop them in giant plastic vats of water where they will stew for a week or two before they get a water change and salt and vinegar pickling solution.

I quite enjoy the mindless repetition of the job. It takes my mind off things. For those of your who are curious, take it from me that there is no such thing as a fresh table olive. I didn’t believe Mr Zeus when he told me you had to pickle olives to eat them and boy did I learn my lesson when I took a bite out of an olive fresh off the tree.

At the moment I am sipping on a hot cup of ceylon tea which I bought from a Lebanese shop downtown after my own supply of cardamom flavoured tea ran dry. As I’m starting to get used to finer tastes in life, I’ve become snobbish about my tea after learning that teabags are made of what is basically the dust of tea leaves left at the bottom of the barrel.

“How ghastly!” I thought, and switched to whole leaf tea. I bought myself a kilo of Canary Island Birds Sri Lankan orange pekoe tea. A whole kilo. It was either the whole kilo or a tiny box that looked like it would last a week, they seem to have no in between. So pop around folks, I’ll put the kettle on and you can help me with my olives.

By the way if you don't have your own olive tree, I am told that the trees in the local squares don't belong to anyone, but don't take my word for that. You could always just relieve me of some of mine.

Monday, November 19, 2007

She's STILL talking about her appetite...

When a religious person fears she is losing her faith, she probably takes comfort in dreaming about God.

As my appetite continues to come back in fits and starts, on Saturday night I dreamt of my favourite food critic and one of my favourite writers, Adrian A Gill.

I love A A Gill. I love the way he writes. I love how he makes or breaks careers with his reviews. I love how all the top restaurants in London have his picture pinned up in the kitchen by way of warning – be careful if this customer shows up. His passion for words easily surpasses his passion for food. He loathes Greek cooking, and would probably not talk to me at all purely because I now live in Athens. Maybe he’s a complete monster in real life and would kick me into the path of oncoming traffic without a second thought if I dared approach him, but I *love* him.

In the dream we were in some restaurant or other and I had somehow twisted his arm into having lunch with me. Him, a well-heeled journalist who writes for the Times on a salary of £300,000+ about what he ate; me a literary nobody. Having lunch at the same table. It could only happen in a dream.

Seeing as I was dining with the Godfather of gastronomic choice, I probably should have asked him what to do about my ailing food mojo, but I didn’t. Still, waking from that dream was inspiration enough, a sign of sorts. A A Gill had come to me in a dream and we had had lunch together. That’s got to mean something positive.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cubanita, Negrita, Morena

The other night I went to this place which was doing or at least attempting to do a Cuba night and it brought back some sweet memories.

At university, there was a bar I would go to every Tuesday night without fail because Tuesdays was their international night where they played music from all over the world. I would arrive early to get in for free and not leave till they closed at 2 am. And I danced from the moment I stepped in till I left. This place was Bar Cuba in Cardiff, and I adored it for the music and dancing, despite its sticky floor and questionable clientele.

Random strangers on the street would stop and say "Hey, Cuba girl, are you coming tonight?" and I would say "Yeah of course, I have no idea who you are but sure I'll be there, where else would I be!" Twice I went there the night before a final exam, studying all day and then figuring I might as well let some exam stress out by partying. I earned various nicknames as titled in this post. I was an addict.

Sometimes in Athens I will hear a song that was a regular number at Bar Cuba and it will take me right back to those nights with my best girlfriends dancing like there was no tomorrow. Trying to run up the stairs to the DJ booth without getting groped to request songs, battling to the bar to ask for glass after glass of water; three years and that place made next to no money from me except for the times when I was late and couldn’t get in for free, in which case I would set my watch back 5 minutes and argue fruitlessly with the bouncer that it was still before 10.

Happy, unforgettable days, the glory days. By the time I graduated Bar Cuba had started to lose its shine. The once cute DJ Michael’s hot bod had started to fill out and not that I’m still stalking him or anything, but I found out recently that he left there to move back to London. Ahem.

Sometimes I throw together a mix for my mp3 player and realise it's made up entirely of Bar Cuba classics. It’s been tough picking a mix to reflect these days, but here are some favourites to share in a memory:

Click here
And here

Ps: my food mojo is still not back. Damn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sudden Loss of Appetite

This time when I went to the UK something was Not Right. I'm fed up travelling because I have to do it so often, but I can usually enjoy my trips for two things 1) family and friends 2) sharing food with family and friends.

One was present in abundance, but two just didn't capture my imagination, and I can usually not get enough of London's international cuisine. Usually I plan in advance that this time I would like to try so and so cuisine from that country, look up the restaurants and go armed with this info to innocent coffees with friends before casually asking if anyone's hungry because I've heard of this great place etc. etc.

I usually love food, revel in its complex flavours and soak up the love I can taste in my mother's cooking. But this time, nothing. Zip. Somewhere along the road I lost my food mojo. I got hungry, starving even, but had no appetite. There was nothing that came to mind as in "If I could eat that I would be satisfied." Whatever I thought of I sought out, and when I got it I didn't want it.

My mother was beside herself as if you know me, you know what a freakishly healthy appetite I usually have and also that I can't exactly afford to lose any weight. But what could I do? Nothing brought my appetite back, and so I ate literally enough to keep me going but whatever I put into my mouth might as well have been cardboard. Was I missing Mr Zeus too much to eat? I don't know, this has never happened before.

My relationship with food seriously soured, and I have yet to get it back. Yesterday after a third day of feeling like death I decided I couldn't be complacent any longer. I love food too much and if I lost my passion for food, what would follow next? I lead so heavily with my stomach that pretty much everything else branches off from that.

Being in a patient mood, I opted to take things slowly. We were low on ground pepper so I raided the spice cupboard and sniffed various jars along the way. There is cardamom that reminds me of festivals, tangy smelling paprika from Tunisia, heady fenugreek seeds, chilli powder that gives off a scent like it was sleeping and is mad that you woke it up. I poured black peppercorns into the pestle and mortar and pounded away, enjoying the peppery, lemony aroma.

The flat sort of turns into a bachelor pad when I am away so I tried to find something I could eat, something that would capture my imagination. I spied two forsaken oranges on the counter top and inspiration struck. What better way to kick start my depressed taste buds than a sweet orange eaten Home Country style with chilli powder and salt?

It never occurred to me how weird it was to put chilli powder and salt over your fruit until I left the Home Country. But there it's the most normal thing in the world. Our mother would set us off to the fruit market with an empty jug where we would get a man to fill it up with freshly squeezed oranges, finishing it off with a dash of salt and pepper.

My little experiment did help somewhat, and when Mr Zeus came home we jumped in the car and headed to the local fruit and vegetable shop. There I bought a colourful combination and decided to try something new. I bought three large quinces (kudoni). I’ve never eaten quince before but after reading Pim’s blog I thought since it was the season, and I needed my gastronomic fires relit, trying something totally new might be helpful.

Anyway today I have some colour back in my cheeks so I don’t think all is lost. My food mojo should be returning soon and in the meantime I will keep tasting, sniffing, combining and inventing. Of course it does help that Mr Zeus is a ridiculously good cook.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What Not To Wear

Correct me if I'm wrong but Greeks don't like rules and they don't like order. The exact opposite of the Swiss, so it's always fun to travel to Greece with Swiss airlines.

Yesterday I was in transit in Zurich surrounded by Greeks when the boarding call went out. We'd like to invite passengers seated in rows 26 to 35 to board first. My seat was 31A. All the Greeks got up and everyone tried to board at the same time, because like I said they don't like such rules, and such behaviour is called ellinares by Mr Zeus. The comic quality of this can only be appreciated in Switzerland, where the Greeks won't listen and the Swiss are too polite to say no your seat is 5F, I said rows 26 to 35, get out of the queue until you're called. So everyone was trying to board at the same time. Ha ha!

I noticed that I was almost dressed like a Greek girl on a journey, but I say almost. All was in order until you got to my feet. I tend to travel in trainers/sneakers/sports shoes. Sometimes I toy with the idea of boots or heels, but I abandon it in favour of comfort. In all my travels I have NEVER seen a Greek girl travel in trainers. It's like they'll die, but they won't travel in trainers. Actually I lie, once or twice I did see a Greek girl in trainers but she was usually a sporty type. The shoes you travel in are practically a second passport. Hey, see that girl over there? Her skin tone is a little suspect, but she's dressed like an Ellinida. Hair, coat, bag, tight jeans, oh wait. No, she's xeni. Look at her shoes!

Taking my seat I wished I could tune out the buruburu around me. I was having a rotten day, the sort of day where you'd only be satisfied if you were the only person on the flight and Antonio Banderas in a sequined thong was your flight attendant.

Now that I can understand Greek, I find it hard to recall what it sounded like before. Every so often, though, I am reminded when someone says a word that I don't know. To understand how that feels, imagine you are listening to someone and they are saying how the weather yesterday was cjjebsuyk but not that terrible. Cjjebsuyk is just a sound, a collection of noises until someone explains it to you. And just like that, a noise becomes a word.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bollybutton's Festival Friday Beatbox

Continuing my obnoxious efforts at multiculturalism in Greece, today all Hindus everywhere are celebrating the Festival of Light. And all non-Hindus like me are jumping on the bandwagon because well, we love an excuse for a party.

So here is a song from a very famous movie which is not all that ha ha hee hee, but I'm posting it for two reasons. In the movie, this is the last Festival of Light the family spend together before disownment strikes. And it showcases my favourite actor, Shah Rukh Khan, who I met yesterday, *heart*. Watching how short the actresses are next to him is kind of scary. He himself was shorter than I am, so these women must be pocket sized.

In a separate but unrelated incident, I passed my driving test this morning so here is a silly song which makes deliberate fun of 40s, 60s and 80s Bollywood, including a ridiculous 60s car scene. And they say Bollywood takes itself too seriously.

To the paranoid nationalists, I'm not trying to wipe your culture out. I know how much Greeks love to party and if you were more aware of the cultures living within your country, you'd have an excuse to party practically every other day of the week. Don't tell me being able to officially avoid half a year's work doesn't appeal to you, because I won't buy it.

Enjoy and keep the dream alive!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Dreams and Realities

One of my all time favourite jobs was when I was an entertainment journalist years ago for a small newspaper in London. I loved going to press conferences, doing interviews and spending my nights walking along the queues outside clubs and restaurants and saying to security, "Bollybutton plus 1, I'm on the Media List." The job was a dream, but the crap money was only out-crapped by the chief editor who withheld all my bylines.

This afternoon I got to attend a press conference after years and years for the first ever world premier of a Bollywood film in London, and I got to meet one of my favourite stars. When I say meet, I mean I was within touching distance of him. Actually, he walked right past me and I could have sat on his lap in the moments before everyone else realised he was there, but I didn't. Professionalism and all that.

What struck me was just how short he is. How do they make these people look so tall in the movies? And why can press conferences never keep to the advertised time schedule? By the time they wrapped up, I was already an hour over my permitted one hour lunch break.

Tonight I was meant to go to the red carpet premier, but my co-conspirator was only able to secure one pass. So my question of what the deal is with Bollywood and curly haired girls (as in the lead is NEVER curly haired and the curly haired girl is always a home-wrecking seductress or the asexual friend) will go unanswered.

But it was a glimpse of a star and a glimpse of a really fun part of my past and that's enough for me for now. Besides, running across London, up and down tube station stairs and the adrenaline of pre-meeting-your-idol nerves and dealing with rude media types means I'm kind of deflated and my legs are killing me.

Hasn't moving to Greece cost me all that? Don't I wish I was still announcing myself on media lists and living my journalistic dream in London? No, because right now my life is exactly as it should be, and besides, where there's a will there's a way. No matter which turn I take in life, I can't let go of writing. And so I work to keep my dream alive, and up till now, it's going okay.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bollybutton gets Bitchslapped

Posted as a comment on 'It's not Me it's You'

"Yes, we meds are all crazies. You wanna know what we think of you subcons? You really wanna know? Really?

I think you inadvertently highlight the insanity of pursuing "multiculturalism". Because the fact is we like our countries the way they are; they suit us. If they don't suit you, well don't come to live in them. Get it?

I mean, we have a right to determine our own lives, don't we? Or are we to be hostage to the whims of some subcon like you, to whom living in our country is just some "experiment" -- which presumably means that if it fails you'll simply depart, leaving us holding the pieces of the carnage you've wrecked. Follow?

So maybe you could get it through your head that *this* is why people object to the "dark little foreign girl", not *just* because she's a dark little foreign girl with ZERO appreciation of what it means to be Greek, who could not, herself, EVER become Greek, but because of what her presence here portends: calamitous change for US, because there is no shortage of dark little foreign girls like her back on the subcontinent, most of them desperate for the chance to bring their hides over here and tell us how we should be running our affairs all the better to serve them.

Get it?"

Ooooh bitchy bitchy! I'll never be Greek eh? Well damn, that was number 1 of my life ambitions: Change skin colour and genetic makeup to become Greek. Boo friggidy hoo! And FYI, I've never taken being called the little dark skinned girl as racist. Read the whole blog before you throw a hissy fit next time, and if you don't like, don't read!

UPDATE: The above poster, Daniel, who has such big issues with immigration and multiculturism and the likes of ME coming to HIS country, is a Greek immigrant living in Australia. Well, well, well! I wonder why he's so uptight about immigration in Greece when he doesn't even live here. Check out Devious Diva's blog to see more of his pearls of wisdom. Really, without such people, where would we get our laughs from on a Monday morning?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Doesn't Matter

Your feedback to my last post made me laugh! I feel my readers may be nearly as kooky as I am.

Back in Britain for a week I have got some more feedback from my parents' visit and it wasn't all good. Actually most of it relating to my relationship was lukewarm or negative. So I give up, because when you realise your friends know you a lot, lot better than your parents, sometimes it's best to just call it quits and get on with things instead of trying to impress people.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mind Bending Without Drugs

Today I will confess two of the weirder aspects of my personality in the hopes that someone else shares them. It’s got nothing to do with life in Greece, so look away now if that’s all you come here for.

The ghosts of the past are something everyone has to confront in their relationships at some point, especially when you’re me and Mr Zeus who are like chalk and cheese. I don’t know exactly how many there were before me and I don’t want to know.

The past generally doesn’t bother me, because it was the women who came before me that contributed to forming the man I am with today. It’s being reminded that there was a past that I don’t like; the ghosts of these other women lingering in the corners.

They turn up in a crack in an old mug, sprawled on the sofa, in photographs, in the kitchen. They come tumbling out of cupboards and most recently I found one in a towel. Rooting around in the towel box, I came across one lovingly embroidered with Mr Zeus’s name.

“Who made this for you?” I asked, hoping the answer would be his aunty JiJi with the mole on her chin.

“A friend, long ago.” He replied. A friend who was not male. A female friend who was not old enough to be a grandmother has to be more than a friend to put so much time and effort into an item. I folded the ghost of the Other Woman up and zipped her away with the other towels and some insect repellant. All the better to repel my imagined memories.

But our bed was the one place where these ghosts of the Other Women haunted me. In the early days, I struggled to fall asleep, thinking of who and how many had been there before me and feeling insecure. Their shadows lay between me and Mr Zeus like so many unspoken words.

Which is why yesterday’s delivery of a new mattress is on par with getting engaged for me. This one is all mine, a new base to start on. No one has been here before me. Crazy, you might think, but psychologically for me this new mattress is a relationship milestone. Currently all the other women are propped against a wall, covered in a plastic sheet and waiting to be taken to the basement. Personally, I’d like to set the thing on fire, but mustn’t grumble.

Coming to my second point, I wonder what new dreams I will spin on this new mattress. I suffer from vivid nightly dreams that have a life of their own. The other night, I was on a wide, flat beach and turned to see Rocco standing there. I hadn’t seen Rocco in years and I clung to his skinny frame, crying like a baby. We sat together on the sand catching up on our lost years. He had finally come out and was now a dance teacher and happy. I vowed not to be out of touch for so long again.

So where in Athens is this wide flat beach? Nowhere. Rocco and the beach are part of the cast of people and places that exist only in my dreams. The problem with this is that I get attached to these people, and when they disappear I am distraught. When they come back I am overjoyed. I don’t get a break from being a drama queen even in my sleep.

What I want to know is:

1) Does anyone else feel the ghosts of the past breathing down their necks in a new relationship?
2) Does anyone else meet, love, enjoy and miss people and places completely invented in their dreams.