On Wednesday, I thought I was over my jet lag. It seemed so simple. Stay up the first 30 hours or so of the trip, get a good night's sleep and you're ready to go. And Wednesday was a long, hard day with plenty of energy drained.
But at the end of the day, after Wednesday turned into Thursday a.m., I couldn't sleep. From my fifth floor hotel room, the party on the street below sounded as loud as though it was coming from next door, where photographer Frank Wiese will reside until Aug. 31. People screaming, motorcycles and scooters revving their way loudly up and down the streets. Music from beyond where people were screaming in Greek words that sounded like curse words in English.
That's the funny thing about languages. You think you're saying one thing, and if you use the accent wrong and add an extra syllable somewhere, you may be insulting someone.
So far, I know that (please forgive me my Greek pronunciations in case I offend any Greeks here), caul-E-spera means good day (in the caul, the hard "c" is pronounced from the back of the soft palate); caul-E-mare-uh means good morning and yazoo means hello. Eff-hairy-STOW means thank you.
Some of the local merchants outside our hotel near Syntagma (sin-tug-MA) Square appreciate when you greet them in Greek. The vendor I buy water from every morning calls me Americanaki, which he said means great lover of freedom or human beacon of democracy.
American-ah-key. I like that one.
When I got to the Main Press Center today, a security guard commented on my hand-dandy pedometer. Since most of the exercise I get will be practical (walking from venue to venue, subway to bus, etc.), I figured I'd better count my steps to make sure I'm not clogging any arteries with the Souvlaki and baklava and cheeses that are so abundant here. The same guard asked if I had any pins, and when I gave him one of my Morning Call Olympic pins, he said thank you and sat still. When I asked him for a pin, he suddenly forgot how to speak English and another guard spoke to him in Greek, telling him I wanted a pin. He pretended not to understand the Greek. I just let him have the pin, not trade.
At least I am an Americanaki! When I told that to the guard, he laughed and told me it means gullible American.
My backpack was a lot heavier today. I toted around my official Tribune safety kit, which includes a chemical hood for breathing in case of chemical, biological or radiological attack. At one of the security checkpoint, a guard made me open the bag to see the mask and said, "I hope you don't need it. I wish I had one. Can I get one someplace?"
My big moment in the sun came literally in the sun, in front of NBC's Today Show, which is shooting live each mid-afternoon in the middle of the OAKA Complex. Some Greek-looking guy was getting into a limo and being whisked away by Greek-looking security service types as I got there. A few armed guards followed in some splashy automobiles and a few police cars followed them.
Some Greek guy told me that the Premier of Greece was just on the show, but I told him I am not an Americanaki!
I stood behind a fence line with 20 people watching a part of the show when Katie Couric interviewed U.S. basketball star Dawn Staley, who will be the flag-bearer for the U.S. Team during the Opening Ceremony. If any of you were watching that, I was the chubby guy wearing funky sunglasses when the camera shot from the right side of Katie's face.
Look for me tomorrow on Today!
Morning Call Sports Reporter Gary Blockus is on assignment in Athens, Greece for the 2004 Summer Olympics. Gary's Athens will be providing updated reports from the Games as well as the various sights and sounds from Athens in his daily blog.