Trippin’ to Athens

Eyes on the yellowing grass of the Gardens, my mind trudged with my feet through those ever-present sullying remembrances of the tasks at hand, the completion of which being imperative if I wished to make up for another weekend’s worth of procrastination. Flashes of polyandry and Plutarch, profit motive and perspective, public policies and prejudices plodded across my consciousness, until suddenly a sound startled me from my dwelling on dull drudgeries. Blotting the striking sunset of the September sky was a reeling and whirling vortex, heading straight for naught but little old me! Before I had time to so much as think, much less run, it frisked upon my frail freshman frame and whisked me away into a what appeared to be a hallucinogenic hallway of undulating color. I thought nothing but merely drooled with fascination at the succulent spectrum: I could have stared into this vibrant nothingness forever, but indeed fate would have it that I needed to be in Ancient Greece, and not in a funkadelic fantasy duct. And so there I plopped, right in the middle of Athens on what was indeed a fine day.

Recovering from this somewhat violent plop, I stood myself up, rubbed my bum, shook my head, and looked around, only to have my eyes greeted by quite an odd spectacle. I noticed first that the street reeked of the wine that puddled amid the shards of pottery littering the streets. The cause of this rather pungent assault to the olfactory could be seen some meters away, as a group of obviously drunken young men took a running start and hurled several wine jugs, javelin-style, against the stucco of the local temple for Dionysus, cackling as the jugs and their precious contents shattered and splattered. Other sloshed revelers giggled gleefully as they tossed their wine glasses in the air while dancing lustily with nearby girls extracting painful utterances that sounded like crickets retching from what looked like flutes. I noticed however that not all were so entertained: a crowd of drunken men were circled to my left, shouting expletives and encouraging what appeared to be a brawl of some sort. I sidled to the noisome gathering and peeked between the men to see what was going down on the streets of Athens. As I listened I learned that the two hulking ekkthroi had been disputing the attentions of a flirty flute girl, each seeking timé from the surrounding men, when the larger man, in his drunken wrath, threw a punch that leveled his smaller adversary, and while the assaulted wallowed in pain on the ground, the assailant displayed some much-despised hubris in the form of the popular rooster dance. He was thus being tussled by the men in the circle, whose gathering now resembled a mosh pit, as they endeavored to punish him and give him aidos for his immaturity, however alcohol-inspired.

Intrigued by this entertainment that certainly far outdid that of any frat house, and maybe even that infamous freak show provided by Jerry Springer, I grabbed the arm of a nearby robed and liquored man with the intent of inquiring as to the reason for their revelry. But as I looked the man over and he me, I got an odd chill down my spine: he was far more than a stone’s throw from the splendid physical specimen that I imagined were all Greeks. In fact, he was downright hideous, with a huge head and disharmonious features, the most piercing of which were his eyes. Feeling as if these eyes pored into my empty intellectual soul, I loosed my grip on his arm as my tongue tied. It suddenly dawned on me that this man could be none other than the legendary Socrates!

I braced myself for the infamously frightening onslaught of mind-blowing rhetoric, but found myself spared, perhaps by a winning combination of my silence, my astonishment, and my somewhat asexual haircut and boyish figure that made him think me a male. Socrates thus found a friend in me, and proceeded to explain that the occasion was ripe for the partying thanks to the good graces of the city’s most excellent host, none other than the legendary Alcibiades. Socrates had convinced him that in the wake of the recent blow to his public reputation at the hands of allegations of destruction of the Hermaeic statues, it would only be fitting that he give back to his nearest and dearest in the form of a large-scale symposium. The palatial residence before us was indeed that of Alcibiades, and Socrates led me by the arm inside.

Around the immense table, I saw first a man telling jokes and thus extracting from his fellow revelers great chuckles. Listening to him, I recognized his flowery and distinct language as quite Aristophanic in quality, and it was only when I heard him discussing his upcoming plans for a satiric comedy presenting a warped communist dystopia that I knew I was in the company of dramatic greatness. As he jested, I noticed that he stroked the curly-tendrilled head of a male youth, and he was not the only one. Many other men around the table also petted their own strapping male specimens, physically resembling the aforementioned paradigm that Socrates did not fit, and it was here that I realized the tales of rampant homoeroticism were not far-fetched. I watched from a quiet corner as Socrates launched into some philosophizing about the nature of religion and engaged the interests of the more sober of guests. Various oiketes brought me my own wine cup and some goat cheese, which, as a college student accustomed only to cheap Milwaukee’s Best and leftover pizza, I guzzled ravenously. I was just starting to feel tipsy, laughing heartily at Aristophanes’ jokes while admiring the beauty of the oh-so-hot Alcibiades, and even venturing to inject my own controversial two cents about religion into the conversation, wherein I snidely speculated on futurist monotheism and the possibility of a savior, when I heard a distant and familiar whirr. Knowing my time with the Athenians was about to draw to close, I offered my sincerest gratitude to these hosts and warned them to take cover from a coming storm. I dare say they thought me a bit of a prophet when that vicious vortex roared into the dining room moments later to whisk me back to the setting sun of the September sky.

As I pretended to study later that night, my thoughts inevitably turned to Ancient Athens: it was all that my favorite professor in the entire world, Professor William E. Hutton, promised it would be. But being the doubting being that Descartes promised I am, I could not help but think this experience incredible–as much as I wanted to share my story with my seminar the next day, I knew they would never believe me. It was quite possible that the whole thing never happened at all: maybe I should have listened to my mom when she told me I needed more sleep. I mean you hear horror stories about freshmen cracking up all the time, but not even the worst of cases have mirages of Ancient Athens!

Thus pondered, I (understandably) decided to call it a day.

And what a day it was . . .