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Platia Delapitsa

Ioulida, KeaAs we get closer to the 15th of August and the celebration of the Virgin Mary, the biggest holiday night of the summer, the island is filling up. Few if any hotel rooms are available on Kea and George at Fantasy tells me the other islands are just as bad. Supposedly tourism is up 10% this season and if you add that to the Athenians who traditionally travel at this time of the summer you have a big mess. Tourists with hotel reservations and no ferry tickets and others with ferry tickets and no hotel. Still I suppose if the timing is right you may find something. It may take a little luck. Like for example you arrive on the island at the exact moment that someone is leaving and the hotel owner has one extra room and decides to hang out and hustle up a guest for the night. But in Kea there are no hotel owners waiting for ferry boats or little old ladies offering rooms in their homes. Tourism in Kea is 99% Greeks amd hotels are full all of August and most weekends in July since it is only an hour from Athens. But most of the people here are Athenians with houses and villas on the coast, clogging the narrow roads with Jeep Cherokees and Toyota Landcruisers. Not that I should talk. I have a Suzuki Grand Vitara. But it sits in the parking lot below the village. I have not driven it in days because I have such a good spot I don't want to lose it. If I look out the window I can see cars lining the road on both sides at least a kilometer up the mountain and half a kilometer down the mountain. Last time I left the village was to take my mother-in-law to the ferry to go back to Athens and then to the states. I came back before everyone returned from the beach and vowed not to move my car until after the 15th and all the Athenians have gone.

Panigiri in KeaI almost left today though. I am feeling a little rotund after so much eating and drinking and no swimming. Andrea and I left the house and got as far as Rolando's where we met George Kralis (the famous Greek artist from Sweden) and had a coffee. Coffee turned into lunch and wine and in the end we went home congratulating ourselves for not leaving the village.

Last summer we left before the 15h of August because the previous summer the music in the platia went on until past dawn and nobody got any sleep. I didn't really mind. I stayed at the festivities until about 2 or 3 and then kept on waking up to hear Antonakis Zoulos playing like he was possessed. He must be in his late seventies but he will start at 11pm and occasionally play til noon if there are still people dancing and throwing money at him. Last August we spent in Athens at the Grande Bretagne courtesy of Fantasy Travel and that was fine with me. I will take the GB over any panagiri even if they are sacrificing bulls in the church or dancing naked over hot coals.

But this summer Antonakis is playing at the big taverna in Kato Meria and Yannis has brought in another band to take his place. Whether they will feel the need to out-do him and play louder and longer we don't know.

Platia DelapitsaDelapizza is just about finished with the park he has built where the old butcher shop was torn down years ago. Its a work of art. Apparently the town tore down the building and he got tired of it just being an empty lot and decided to do something about it. I think his plan is to do a show of his art, probably beginning on the 15th when he will have a large audience. Last night we were talking about Del with Tassos and Margaritta. Tassos is the man who wrote the walking guides and maps to Kea, Syros, Tinos, Amorgos and I think Andros and is responsible for numbering the paths that criss-cross the island so people don't get lost. Margaritta is his beautiful wife who is the subject of many of Del's paintings. We were talking about Del's lack of money. I wondered why it is that Fasianos, Greece's most well-known painter, tells people about what a genius Del is and how he is like the second-coming of Theophilos, and yet does nothing to help him. He could finance his exhibitions or take him to Athens and introduce him to his important artist friends, or even to Paris. "It doesn't matter" Margaritta says. "Even when he has money he gives it away." Part of the problem is that Del refuses to sell his paintings. There are hundreds. Maybe thousands. But there are postcard-sized prints that I am going to take to Melissinos to put in the sandal-shop so people don't have to come all the way to Kea to buy them. Anyway that's part of his garden in the photo.

The Artist DelapitsaDel works for the demos of Kea (town hall) as their odd-job guy though mostly he defines himself as a skoupitzis (trash collector).But if you walk around the village you will find many places that Del has created. He has uncovered ancient fountains and springs around the village and made little parks and sitting areas and small gardens and keeps the village streets whitewashed and the plants watered. My next project will be to photograph all these places and make another page for him. I talked to the mayor and told him we need to make a statue of Dellapizza and put it in the platia. The world's greatest skoupitzis  "The best thing about Del is you just send him out and let him do whatever he wants." the mayor told me.

When my friend George Gerassimides from Fantasy Travel came to visit us one day he looked around at all the well watered plants, the clean streets, the whitewashed walls, and all the little places Delapitsa has beautified and he asked me who is responsible for this. Just then Del walked by with his broom and garbage bag and I pointed to him and told George that he worked for the dimos (municipality) as the garbage man. George said to me "Whoever is the mayor should make sure they keep this man and no matter what, never let him go. Even if the mayor has to pay from his own pocket. Because what he does here is special and he makes this village special."

Think I will sign off and see what he has done today.

Be sure to visit Delapitsas website and see some of his wonderful paintings.

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