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 not super attractive, almost industrial looking, like a place you go to on your way to somewhere else. 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, 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
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 costs a fortune, before coming back to our room which seems like one of the nicest spots on the island.
Saturday Afternoon: 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 or even had a crush on her. 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 beautiful 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
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 Ralph and Priscilla Skazopoulos, along with their two kids Poindexter
and Lester and Ralph's mother who for some reason is introduced to us only as 'Ralph's mother' or 'Ya ya', meaning
Grandmother. I had called Ralph'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. Ralph'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. Ralph
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 we all jump up to go to Ralph's favorite restaurant
in Gavrio. Everything seems a bit hysterical and confused so I just follow our friends as they squeeze us all into
Ralph's father's BMW, and with Priscilla 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 Ralph and his mother, and she
isn't really listening. Priscilla asks what they have and I try to recite it back but all I can remember is the
Bacalaro. 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 Poindexter, Amarandi and I walk over to the television to watch Greece
beat Sweden in basketball. Eleven year old Poindexter tells me how to make bombs out of the different chemicals
in common fireworks. In the meantime Ralph'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 young
Poindexter expresses an interest in her but before he can formulate a plan Ralph runs out of steam and sends us
home with Priscilla. 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 coming 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 Poindexter and Ralph 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 Priscilla, Lester
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 Poindexter and Ralph to follow me
out there, but I spend two and a half hours swimming alone. When I return, only Poindexter 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, Poindexter 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. Ralph 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 Ralph'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.