We get off the ship in the hot breezeless port of Gavrio and head for the first cafe to get a frappe and make our plans. I like the town. It has a tourist-less feel to it mainly because there was no reason that any tourist would want to be here. It's ugly, almost industrial looking. As we walk down the large main street that borders the bay we are pursued by a man in a Mykonos fisherman cap yelling, "You want room?" He sits at a table close to ours. I ask if anyone in town rents cars and he takes me to his brother's agency. Then he takes me back to the cafe which belongs to another brother. He shows me the restaurant that still another brother owns. He has six brothers and I take that as a good omen. We arrive at an island and meet a man who is one of seven brothers. As ugly and un-charming as the port is, maybe we should stay. But Andrea won't hear of it.
"Go call Dorian and see what he says," She tells me. The man brings me to his brother who has the store with the telephone. Dorian tells us to go to Batsi, a fishing village down the coast.
"Unless you have a brother with a taxi this might be the end of our business relationship" I tell our host. It's the one job that isn't filled by someone in his immediate family so he reluctantly calls to his cousin who has a cab and we wave good-bye to our helpful friend and drive down the coast.
Batsi is a small fishing village, or was a small fishing village, or perhaps still is a small fishing village when it's not summertime. Whatever it was has been annexed into a medium sized tourist village full of Brits and Swedes on low-budget package tours. We dump our bags in the main platia and while Andrea walks off with a fat Greek woman on a wild goose-chase to see her rooms whose only redeeming value is that they are next to a supermarket. Amarandi sits on a little train that goes around in circles and plays Italian circus music for two minutes every time I fed it a hundred drachs. It's an expensive way to keep her occupied but after five or six trips she is bored with it. Andrea reappears drenched in sweat after climbing several mountains, and collapses.
I continue the search and find a small room in a beautiful enclosed garden, shaded by lemon trees and a grape arbor. It's in a house right across from the beach and our room has a small kitchen. There are two little children belonging to the son of our landlady. He is a violinist named Yannis, with the National Orchestra. His brother is the violist, his father the cellist and his grandfather the contrabassoist. "A family tradition" he tells me. He also tells me the best places to fish, eat, drink, and watch the Euro-basketball Championships, of which he is very interested in and watches every night.
Andrea, Amarandi and I take a nice swim on the town beach, which except for some tiny bits of plastic that look like they had been endlessly shredded by propellers, covering every inch of the sea, and a prophylactic that unfortunately is intact enough to be recognizable, is surprisingly clean. After, we shower and start to walk the few meters into town. We don't get ten feet when we see a free cocktail party complete with mixed drinks, retsina and ouzo, catered by the Oasis Taverna of which we have seen signs for all over the village. There are big plates of keftedes, sausage, sadziki, dolmades, olives, feta, potato keftedes, vegetable fritters and several salads. We enjoy the hospitality of the jewelry store that is putting on this nice little party. We drink several ouzos and eat most of the food while discovering that many of our fellow partygoers are foreigners who live here.
I speak mostly to a man named Roger, who is the unofficial representative of the Oasis and acts as the host as well as a talking billboard that gives directions to the restaurant which is on the other side of town. Roger is a retired salesman who spent twenty years selling the giant staples that gave me so much trouble when I tear apart packing crates to make my traditional Byzantine Icons in America. I think of the many times I had cursed them in frustration while trying to pull them out of the wood that they had been so efficiently stapled into, or the time I had impaled my thumb on one while trying to pull out another. With Roger I have someone I can project my anger on, a face rather then a company name. But it is my holiday and the ouzo is flowing freely and Roger is a nice guy. Besides, when he first explained what he did, I misunderstood and thought he sold the metal detectors that lumber companies use to detect where Earth-First activists had spiked trees to keep them from being cut down. Finding out that he is not the enemy makes it easier to drink his wine and eat his food, as a sign of friendship rather then a sign of protest.
Finally Andrea drags me away. Amarandi has been laying on the floor pretending she's a dog and talking to the big old lab that has been coming from England every summer for fourteen years. I could stay for hours or at least until the food and ouzo is gone, but I agree to follow Andrea, knowing that I can ditch her at the first boutique and return for more.
The quiet little village has magically transformed itself into a tourist haven. There are cafes and clubs and restaurants everywhere. We walk to the end of the town and check out the rocks on the other side for fishing possibilities. On the way back Amarandi becomes interested in a group of children so we find a nice taverna called Stamatis, and have dinner. The food is exceptional and the servings are huge. It's by far the largest Greek Salad I have ever eaten. We order some homemade rose wine but I can't drink it and switch to beer which seems more compatible with the chicken and vegetables I have ordered. When we get back to the room Yannis and his wife are sitting in the garden watching the basketball game on television. I watch for awhile and we talk but the game is a hopeless slaughter and I want to read my Herald Tribune. Unfortunately Andrea has fallen asleep and Amarandi wants me to read her a story. We both fall asleep the second time through Little Red Riding Hood.
I sleep great here. I awake refreshed and feel even more so after two cups of coffee. For the first time in awhile Amarandi does not wake up crying and I think that maybe we are over the hump and she has become adapted to life here and will be happy from now until the end of August when we will have to go through the same adaptation process in America. As it turns out she was merely saving her sadness, and she whines and cries and screams until Andrea, who for some reason slept terribly, begins to unravel, and as it has been so often this vacation, I am caretaker to two unhappy, complaining Greek females. We decide to walk through the town before it gets too hot. The wind is blowing cool and refreshing. Despite the bitching going on I feel very happy to be in Batsi. I don't care that there are tourists around and that signs everywhere shout "ENGLISH BREAKFAST SERVED HERE!" The sea is my favorite color of blue and I could stay here all summer. I also know that I better enjoy it while I can because Andrea does not share my feelings about Barsi and I will be lucky if she agrees to stay until tomorrow.
Amarandi wants to be held continuously. "Let's donate your feet to someone who needs them", I tell her. "You don't use them. We have to carry you everywhere." But she refuses to part with them, knowing in the back of her mind that someday she may be too big for us to hold. We wander over the hill on the road out of town and look down the cliff at the sea breaking on the rocks below. It looks great for snorkeling. A light turquois along the shore that drops to a deep blue. There's got to be fish here. On the way back through town we stop for breakfast which cost a fortune, before coming back to our room which seems like one of the nicest spots on the island.
Again it's hot as hell, and humid too. If this is June, what will July and August be like? I had great dreams last night. I think Dorian's psychic energy has permeated this village because in my dream I realized I was in love with Gigi Nivison. I haven't seen her in 20 years, or even thought of her in all that time. Nor have I ever said more then ten words to her in my life. But she was the standard that Dorian measured all the girls in his life. She was his most beautiful girlfriend, though I don't know if she would have called herself his girlfriend. She was blonde, blue-eyed and seemed perfect in real life just as she was in my dream. Perhaps knowing what reality had in store for me I didn't want to wake up. I always thought that I deserved a Gigi Nivison, but when given the opportunity I have always thrown it away with my talent for self-sabotage. When girls were attracted to me for my sense of humor, I became serious and morose. I remember when Candy Tester, the most desirable girl in the school told Kirk Esco that she liked me and he set up a date for us, I trailed behind the two of them acting moody and distant. It was a defense mechanism I guess. In those days, If you wanted a girl you act cool until you attract them. Unfortunately I didn't know how to turn it off. Even after she made it clear she was interested I carried on the act because I was afraid to face her in person. Lack of confidence has destroyed many a potential romance for me.
The day takes forever to get to seven o'clock. Yesterday Amarandi and I walked through the valley looking for goats. Our original intention was to go swimming but she stood on the shore and cried while I was able to cool off for about thirty seconds. We walked back towards our room along the beach and we found a big dead eel. As soon as we pulled it on to the beach for a closer look we attracted a crowd of people, each eager to tell us their life story. That's one of the things I like about Batsi. It's full of middle-class holiday package tourists who enjoy telling you about their simple lives in England. Actually they are desperate to talk to anone but their partners, especially if that person speaks English. Last night I was given a complete tour of the Midlands by the couple at the next table during dinner. That was after Andrea had sent me to another table at the next restaurant to talk to a guy who promoted bands in New South Wales. Amarandi comes alive after sundown and attracts lots of comments. One guy said she looks like she is practicing to be a street-urchin. I thought he said "street-walker" and I said, "Good. I can retire". He looked at me uncomprehendingly and that's when I noticed the giant wooden cross around his neck.
We found a nice place on the dock for ouzo but a couple of the mezedes were pieces of spam on bread and not even Amarandi would try them. I had to run into town to buy some canned sardines and delicious Amfissa olives from the old fashioned grocery store. The sardines go great with ouzo, especially the spicy ones from Portugal.
Andrea went home to read. Amarandi and I stayed in town because she had found a small army of children playing around the little train that plays the Italian songs. The town was hopping, I guess because Friday is the day that the new tour groups arrive. On the way home there was a guy with a guitar auditioning at one of the bars, stumbling through "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" and "Blowin In The Wind" with the chords and lyrics spread out on the music stand in front of him.
Thank God for Euro-Basketball. From 9:30 in the morning until midnight there are games. So far I have only seen the Greek team. I haven't watched very diligently, just bits and pieces. I'm waiting for the stakes to be higher but with Greece on the brink of elimination, I may be waiting for next years Olympics, though should they lose another game Greece won't be a part of it.
Tonight we go to dinner with Jim and Helena, along with their two kids Petros and Christos and Jim's mother who for some reason is introduced to us only as 'Jim's mother' or 'Ya ya', meaning Grandmother. I had called Jim's father in Athens and he gave me their number in Andros. It was right down the road from Batsi and we arranged to meet. They show up around nine, just as we are getting ready for round two of ouzo and meze in the courtyard. We had gone to the mini-supermarket next door and bought tins of sardines, some oil-cured olives to go with our Amfissa olives, feta and a big bottle of Ouzo Mini. Jim's entourage walks into the yard with the Yaya trailing behind. I wasn't sure if she was part of their group or just some curious old woman using the confusion of their entrance as an opportunity to sneak in and look around. When we all sit around the table and she joins us, I realize that she is part of our "parea" or group and I offer her some ouzo which she refuses. She immediately lights up a cigarette and smokes continuously throughout the evening. Jim says we should speak in Greek so she won't not feel left out but after awhile it's obvious that by including Yaya in the conversation, we are excluding nearly everyone else and Yaya isn't even interested in anything we have to say. She just keeps smoking and blowing smoke in our faces until she stands up and announces in Greek, "I have to urinate". No polite query as to the whereabouts of the bathroom, just that proclamation. Andrea takes her away. When she returns we all jump up to go to Jim's favorite restaurant in Gavrio. Everything seems a bit hysterical and confused so I just follow our friends as they squeeze us all into Jim's father's BMW, and with Helena driving, we speed up the windy mountain road to the port.
When we get to the restaurant we are pleasantly surprised. The port is as desolate as a village can be at 10pm but the restaurant, which is in a small platia on a back street, is jumping. We sit down at a big table while Andrea and Amarandi run off to find a phone and call her mother. The waiter recites the menu for us but does it entirely in hyper-speed-Greek so nobody really understands it except Jim and his mother, and she isn't really listening. Helena asks what they have and I try to recite it back but all I can remember is the Bacalaro. Jim snaps at Helena and she snaps back and they continue that mode of communication for the rest of the evening. Yaya just smokes until the food comes. I had ordered the bacalaro but the waiter places it in front of Yaya and I watch in disbelief as she devours the whole thing without looking up to see what has become of the stuffed tomatoes she had ordered. I reorder, and Petros, Amarandi and I walk over to the television to watch Greece beat Sweden in basketball. Eleven year old Petros tells me how to make bombs out of the different chemicals in common fireworks. In the meantime Jim's mother, tired of all the English being spoken calls us all a bunch of donkeys and moves to the next table where she complains about us to a middle-aged couple while enveloping their table in a cloud of smoke. They don't seem to mind. They shake their heads in sympathy, glaring at each of us individualy everytime she tells them something new.
The owner of the restaurant is dressed provocatively enough to be a hooker and even Petros expresses an interest in her but before he can formulate a plan
Jim runs out of steam and sends us home with Helena. We stop at the newspaper store where there is another woman who looks like a hooker but she may be a man. What is it with this town? No bars or clubs, just one lousy restaurant and every woman I've seen is either a prostitute, a transvestite, or both. Maybe Gavrio is the Siberia for women of ill repute. What could they have done that is so terrible that they would be sent to this God-forsaken outpost. "It is a port", Andrea had pointed out in reference to the possible comming and goings of horney sailors, but the only ship that comes here is the ferry stopping for only five minutes. Not really enough time for any meaningful action or sexual satisfaction. It must be a frustrating life for the hookers of Gavrio.
The next morning we are barely awake when Petros and Jim show up to take us swimming as we had planned. They drop us off at a crowded beach while they go up to their hotel to pick-up Helena, Christos and of course Yaya. I dread the thought of seeing Yaya in some stylish bikini so I put on my mask, snorkel and flippers, and swim for the rocky peninsula at the end of the beach. I expect Petros and Jim to follow me out there, but I spend two and a half hours swimming alone. When I return, only Petros is there. He had come after me but never caught up. There's a note on Amarandi's stroller saying they will pick us up at three so while we hang out, Petros shows me his idea for an air-bag that you can take underwater with you to give yourself an extra breath and an added advantage over the fish. Finally I hear a beep and we gather our stuff and put it in the car. Jim drives back to Batsi like a maniac. I had considered suggesting we go to one of the cheap tavernas in the mountains tonight but after Jim's gutsy display of driving home from the beach, I reconsider. When we get home Andrea tells me with a horrified expression how after lunch they had gone back to the hotel and Yaya had stripped off her clothes in the living room and then paraded around in a see-through chiffon nighty. Thank God I wasn't there.
CHORA: The Secret of Andros
We rent a car today. A Fiat Panda. No frills, just basic car. We leave Batsi around ten in the morning and drive towards the town of Andros or what the locals call Chora. The interior of the island is a lush green with tall Cyprus trees and valleys filled with exotic plants and insects. When we get to Chora we park the car at the entrance of the village, which is closed to traffic, and walk to the end of the peninsula that the town sits upon. When we reach the last group of houses we find a large platia that overlooks the ruins of a castle, and the sea which is incredibly clear and blue. Andrea picks that moment to get mad at me for listening to Dorian's advice and staying in Batsi instead of following her will and going directly to Chora. I can see her point but how was I to know that Dorian's information was totally wrong? Was I to blame for taking the advice of a trusted friend? And anyway, wasn't she the one who told me to call him? It could have been worse. If I hadn't called him we might have stayed in Gavrion with the tranvestites and hookers. One bad arguement with Andrea and I might have ruined my life forever. Gavrion chicks are too easy, or whatever they are. We go for a swim off a pier at the end of the village and are soon joined by a dozen young nymphs and one old lady. I visualize swimming out to sea with them to a small island spending our lives in simple sensual bliss. Even the old lady is there playing grandmother to our dozens of little children while giving the girls advice on how best to please a man. My fantasy is shattered by Andrea who wants to go to the art museum. Just as I am getting creative.
There are several museums in Chora. The first one we visit is the Nautical museum which consists of two rooms and a bunch of photos of oil tankers, most of them from the last twenty years or so, but a few old ones too. The place is falling apart and the curator just sits there smoking cigarettes and reading her fashion magazine. There is no admission charge, and nothing to buy and really, nothing to steal so why she is there I don't know. Maybe she's on some kind of community service, or social assistance work program. Maybe she's an expert on oil tankers but I can't even think of one good questions to test her with, so we move on to the Goulandris Museum of Modern Art. Apparently Goulandris is or was a Greek shipping tycoon who decided that after half a century of exploitation and pollution of the sea, he would give something back to society by building a museum in a place so remote, that only he and his friends could enjoy it.
The featured artist for the summer is Georgio de Chirico, one of the most famous of the surrealists. Born in Greece of wealthy aristocratic Italian parents he had the luxury of becoming an artist rather then going out and finding a job. His persistence paid off and he became a major figure in the world of art and an international celebrity. I don't really get it. His early sketches and paintings seem like he had been struggling with the human form and then decided "The hell with it. I'll just create my own forms". He did a bunch of sculptures based on these humanoid creatures of his imagination but it all looks like the workings of a bored rich man with too much time on his hands.
I suppose the sad truth is that the only people who had time to create art in those days were the rich. The poor people were too busy struggling to feed themselves and their families to worry about expressing themselves artistically. It was like rock music is today. The guys who make it are the ones who have equipment, money for recording, and don't have to work day jobs. I'm sure there are exceptions in both the world of music and the world of art. The cream eventually rises to the surface. Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life and now a single piece sells for millions. A lot of good that does him though.
Guys like de Chirico were the superstars of their day. And look. He's being exhibited in a gallery that nobody goes to on the far side of an unpopular island in Greece while every museum in the world would kill for a Van Gogh. Things do have a way of working out in a really pointless way. But we have a good time at the museum and Amarandi loves riding up and down in the elevator.
We continue our journey by following a tiny road that runs beside a small algae filled river which eventually hooks up with the main road. That takes us to the town of Cortheon, which is semi-deserted except for a great taverna on the beach where we have lunch. We drive to the far end of the beach for a swim but it's filthy, covered in plastic and tar that had washed up from across the Aegean Sea. We get in the car and drive back over the mountains where we stop at a tiny roadside cafeneon covered by grape vines where we enjoy a spectacular view while being serenaded by Motley Crue from the young proprietors ghetto-blaster. We stop outside of Gavrion and while Andrea and Amarandi pet his donkey, a farmer tries to sell me a house for twenty million drachma. This end of the island is poor and people are desperate to sell to foreigners.
After taking an hour break from our vehicle in which Andrea reads and Amarandi and I watch a basketball game in our favorite restaurant, we get back in the car and drive up the mountain to the village of Katakilo and have dinner at a nice taverna owned by a guy named Vassos who gives us the best home-made tsipuro we have ever tasted and some excellent retsina. He's a total basketball fanatic and in a restaurant whose clientele is mostly farmers and shepherds, he is desperate to speak to anyone else who is interested in the game. The girls get bored and sit in the car while he tells me everything there is to know about Greek basketball. Even though it's more then I want to know I really enjoy myself. It's a beautiful setting with plants and sweet smelling flowers. It's also about ten degrees cooler then Batsi which is a furnace when we return. We were planning to leave for Athens tomorrow but perhaps that might be unwise.
It was unbelievably hot in our room last night and I spent hours wondering why I had been so compelled to come to Greece this summer. I never thought of it as an illness before but like alcoholism, that's what it is. While I'm in the USA, sometimes the desire to come to Greece is so strong that I feel like I will do whatever it takes to come. Sell all my possessions, work at a relentless pace, beg borrow or steal. Then I get here and once again I come to my senses. "What am I doing here?" I wonder. America was like a dream and here I am continuing my lifelong vacation that stopped being interesting ages ago, probably about the time I stopped being single. Face it. Meeting women here is half the fun. Without that all you have is the hot sun, the sea and an occasional moment of philosophical clarity somewhere between the first and third glass of ouzo. Without the prospect of romance what's to look forward to besides dinner?
So here I am with my little family unit. Most lonely men would be envious of my situation. They'd believe that life is incomplete until you have the solid foundation of the family structure, not realizing that the grass is always greener on the other side and there is probably not a married man here who would not risk everything for a fling with the right person. If the married women felt the same way things would be a lot more interesting. Are we ever satisfied in our relationships or does the hunger for romance or something more, persist until spiritual numbness sets in?
So I wake up this morning to a beautiful cool breeze. I take the car up the mountain to fill it with gas so I can return it. I feel rejuvenated by the wind and I wander around town before coming back to the room. We were planning on leaving today but the man at the newspaper store said it is sweltering in Athens with people falling down gasping in the streets from the heat and the polution. Andrea thinks that would be an improvement over Batsi, but when I go to buy tickets for the hydrofoil they are so expensive that we decide to take the ferry which isn't leaving until five in the afternoon. Then Andrea decides she doesn't want to spend three nights in Athens while we wait for her mother to arrive from America, so now we are going to leave on the 11am ferry tomorrow. That means we have another day to spend in limbo, doing whatever we can to avoid the heat. If you think of a vacation as a narrowing down of needs so that all or most of them can be simply met, then this is the ultimate vacation. We have one lone desire and that is to keep cool. When that is taken care of we are quite content. Then we can move on to the next project which is relief from boredom.
I told myself I would not attempt any crossword puzzles this summer. To me they epitomize my inability to entertain myself through my own mental efforts. Why do a crossword when I can use that time for spiritual reflection, meaningful literature or chronicling my thoughts on the computer? These are all very valid reason but the truth is why should I spend time doing something that makes me feel stupid. It was Socrates who realized that he was wiser then other men only because he was aware of his own ignorance. A crossword puzzle not only makes me aware of my own universal ignorance but of my own relative stupidity. How can I do so poorly on the NY Times Monday puzzle when the loser at the next table who spends his day baking on the beach reading Steven King is one word short of completion. I suppose you could classify crosswords as meaningless knowledge but if, as A Course In Miracles says, it is our spiritual inheritance to be all-knowing, why can't I access any of this shit now? Steve Gratz says it's just a technique that once you master, you can solve any puzzle. It doesn't have as much to do with what you know, but knowing what the puzzle wants. So it's a Zen thing, like recognizing octopus on the ocean floor. Once you learn to see them they are everywhere.
I think I'll go fishing.
We are cold. I can't believe it. Thanks to Andrea my body is going through sensations that are very pleasurable even though the air temperate is still hot and everyone else is miserable. Amarandi fell asleep and we took advantage of the situation to take a long swim. I was ready to get out after twenty seconds but Andrea made me stay in an extra twenty minutes and now I feel totally revitalized. It's too bad Andrea doesn't feel the same way. The end of her fingers have gone numb. We ran into the British couple who promote hard-core music in New South Wales and they confided in us that there is the possibility of a ferry strike this week. It makes sense to me with half the country taking their vacation this weekend what better time to have a strike and piss-off as many people as you can. It's really annoying. Not that I have any compassion for the lunatic hordes who in a few days will be screaming at each other and trampling children for a good seat on the ferry boat as they begin their month of non-stop gluttony, cigarette smoking and complaining during what the Greeks call "diakopes" and we call holiday. This is the time when all the nice quiet places are no longer nice nor quiet. The tavernas hide the best home made retsina and serve the bottled crap from Athens. The once pristine beaches will be full of plastic containers and every wave will bring in a fresh pile of cigarette butts. If there is a shady secluded spot, hidden away behind some rocks or trees you can be sure that someone will have discovered it and taken a dump there. Amateur divers with bulging bellies will seek out and harpoon every octopus in sight, no matter how small they are and their stupid wives will beam proudly as their husbands display their catch. I hate "diakopes". I remember twenty years ago when the Greeks didn't even go to the islands unless they were from there. It took the influx of foreigners to show them that they had a national treasure and in that short time since they have almost totally destroyed it. Tiny villages of one and two room stone dwellings have given way to cement apartment buildings. Our landlady, as nice as she is, built a three story apartment building and supermarket in what used to be her garden, that obscures the entire view of the old stone house that had overlooked the beach for a hundred years. Andrea's house in Kea has suffered a similar fate. Her grandfather built roads, schools, churches, fountains and the town hall, and had a beautiful neo-classic house overlooking the entire village and the hills beyond. Some yuppie couple from Athens either inherited or bought the house across the street and added another story. The view now is of their kitchen. We can sit on the balcony at sunset and watch the woman do her dishes. We could even light her cigarette so she doesn't have to take her hands out of the water. The only suitable response is for us to turn the ancestral home's basement into a disco. If you can't beat them, join them in the destruction of all tradition. But word has it that the aunts are thinking about selling the house which would deprive us of our chance for revenge.
So this is our last night here unless the strike begins tomorrow. Jim just called to say that he won't be seeing us because his friends from Athens have arrived and anyway we can always see each other in the States. Not that we ever do. We can always baptize Amarandi again and invite them to the ceremony since that was the only time we had seen them in the last two years. I sensed a chill in our relationship the moment he realized I had sat in his car with a wet bathing suit. If owning an expensive car means that you can't sit on its leather seats in wet bathing suits then what's the point in having an expensive car? The extra money you pay for the car should make it more convenient, not less. My friend Dino had a $40,000 Ferrarai that was incredible on the empty highway but useless in traffic. It would sputter and cough and overheat. If I sit on the vinyl seat in my car with a wet bathing suit on in an hour or so it will be dry. But fancy leather seats will never be the same especially if I have been swimming in salt water. So which is better? Actually I felt kind of bad because while I was sitting in the front wearing my wet bathing suit, Jim was yelling at Petros for sitting in the back in his. I was hoping Jim wouldn't notice mine, but when I got out, the expression on his face told me he had noticed the wet spot that encompased the entire front leather upholstered bucket seat. That's why it didn't surprise me when we didn't hear from them for four days. But, if a friendship can be shattered by a wet bathing suit then it wasn't much of a friendship, was it? I think Batsi is getting to me.
We are on our way to Rafina on a ferry that used to sail between Patris and Italy, thus the name BARI EXPRESS. Bari also happens to be the ancestral home of Paul Price who came to visit me several years ago with almost no money and a guitar that had been broken on the flight over. After spiritually exhausting him on several islands, we put him on a bus with his broken guitar and even less money and he ended up back in Bari where he stayed until his family sent him the fare for a plane ticket home because they were worried about a scandal developing between him and his beautiful first cousin. It's a shame he's not here now, but if he was I would be spending a lot more time drinking and talking then writing.
A little old man is walking around with bags of pistachios which he leaves on every table in the 3rd class lounge. His obvious strategy is that if he leaves them long enough we won't be able to resist and open the bag and he will have made a sale. They look pretty good but my taste buds are focused on the kalimaraki and galeos which the port of Rafina is famous for.
It was a pleasant final evening in Batsi. We had an early dinner and discovered that Stamatis restaurant had extremely good home made tsipuro and ouzo. We ate light and Andrea went back to the room while Amarandi and I hung out in the platia and watched the kids. They all wanted to hold her. They were fighting over her and she kept running to me. Finally we went to one of the cafes and watched the end of the Greece-Germany basketball game which Greece won in a flurry of points in the final seconds. By then Amarandi was getting cranky, hysterical really, and we went back to the room where Andrea was already sound asleep. I put Amarandi to bed and I went to sleep in the garden. I woke up a couple hours later to a ferocious windstorm. I tried to weather it as long as possible but eventually had to go sleep in the room with the girls.
I woke up feeling great with the wonderful sense of purpose I get when I know I have to be somewhere. It was a cool windy day, perfect for traveling. We said good-bye to Vasiliki, our landlady who said she was going to miss us. In the platia we ran into Simon, the punk-rock promoter, and his family on their way to the superior beaches of Gavrion and we hung out with them until our boat sailed into the harbor. Andrea and Amarandi disappeared and didn't return until the last possible moment causing me enough anxiety to make a silent proclamation that next time I would just get on the boat and let them worry about catching up to me at the next port.
So my final thoughts on Andros...It took me 25 years to visit the island. For some reason it always intrigued me. I felt like I was missing out on something by not going there. Unfortunately, I was not adventurous enough to go off by myself to Andros while all my friends were going to Mykonos, Ios and Santorini where drugs and girls were guaranteed. Andros seemed a little bit square, like somewhere my father would want me to go to find "the real Greece". It's still pretty square. The bars are for old people, completely unappealing musically, with prices that no hashish smoking adolescent could afford. I guess I came at the right time.
It seems to me that the best place to stay, besides the village of Andros, would be the dusty un-charming port of Gavrion. It has great beaches, good restaurants, a working class vibe, and the coming and going of the ferries for entertainment. It's also got the cheapest hookers in the Cyclades.