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 Museumof 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. Alot 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. TUESDAY 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. Ralph Skazopoulos 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, Ralph was yelling at Poindexter for sitting
in the back in his. I was hoping Ralph 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 wetbathing suit then it wasn't much of a friendship, was it? I think Batsi is getting to me.
Bari Express: 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
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.
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