Battle of the Bands Panigiri

We know when we wake up that this is a very special day. The whole village knows. Tonight is the "Battle of the Bands Panigiri." We were never quite sure which saint this holy day commemorates. What we do know is that every year on this day, following a church ceremony that nobody has ever been to, all, most, many, or some of the villages go to the two tavernas in Metropolis to eat, drink and dance to two bands. The band at Lula's is the traditional band from Kalohori that features old Mitsos and his son Kosta. Right across the street at Tiri's they usually hire a professional band from Molaos which plays popular music and some old rembetika songs. It seems like a great idea except both bands play simultaneously and each tries to play louder then the other. With the restaurants so close together, what you hear is ear-blasting, nerve-shattering noise. But the villagers seem to enjoy it.

First, we have to get through the day. Amarandi has decided to make it as difficult as possible. She doesn't want to do anything but be held and carried. When we go to where she wants to go she doesn't want to be there. When she cries for Elaine and we take her to her, yaya she'll then cry for someone else. It's nerve wracking and the only antidote is to go underwater. Plus James and Joan have made up their minds to have nothing to do with us. We see them passing in the street or eating by themselves huddled in some forgotten corner of Katina's.

Luckily for me the waves have died down and at five o'clock I walk to the small beach south of town and begin fishing again. It feels great to be underwater once more and the fish look happy to see me even as I shoot at them. I suppose they have been bored without me menacing them for the last week. I'm a little rusty. It seems like I either miss or wound the fish and have to chase them down until I catch them, or they escape to deeper water. To make it more difficult the sea is not entirely calm and as I swim to the point beyond the small beach I find myself in dangerous waters. The waves are breaking against the jagged rocks and I hurry to swim around the bend where it's more sheltered. I continue towards Agios Georgios through a mini Sargasso sea, where seaweed has collected from a week of wind and waves. Living dangerously, I take a shot at a smyrna but miss so badly I decide to avoid him and swim off, occasionally looking back to make sure he isn't following me. When I get to Agios Georgios I swim a little further and turn around. By now it's getting dark and the thought of returning through the rough sea scares me enough that I decide to walk back barefoot. My brother David had done it once before and it impressed the hell out of me. The path is littered with tiny pebbles and sticker bushes and there is no doubt that my feet are going to hurt. As I start on the long, rocky path carrying my mask, snorkel, flippers and speargun, I begin to notice that if I focus on the pain, it doesn't really exist. It's as if pain is some sort of illusion of the mind that only has power because we give it power. It's the concept behind the fire walkers of Epiros. I won't call what I'm feeling pleasant, but it is not painful. It's nothing. Even so, when I get back to the beach I'm glad to see my shoes. I start to clean my fish but meet with disaster. The first fish I clean is stolen by a giant crab. I make a grab for it just as it disappears into it's hole. Then a horde of bees surrounds me and makes me very nervous. After cleaning just four fish I give up and walk back home. I clean the rest outside the outhouse, using the shower hose.

When I go to the bar I find Andrea and her mother. It's almost empty. It seems as if everyone has left town, but on the way back from fishing I could hear old Mitsos tuning his violin almost a mile away. That's where everyone is and I am anxious to be there too. Andrea has her doubts about the authenticity of a Battle of the Bands panigiri and James and Joan seem dead set against it if we are going. I tell them that if it's unbearable we will come back. I didn't want to spread rumors or create hysteria but I had heard earlier today that this year there would be no battle of the bands. There would be only Mitso's band at Lula's. We could go to Tiri's if we wanted quiet, which is what we do. Elaine, however meets her lady friend from the last panigiri and goes to brave the music at Lula’s.

Amarandi is terrible. The only time she is happy was when she has food in her mouth. As soon as she finishes eating she cries for her yaya. When we take her to Elaine she cries for something else. We hear the band do one song and we leave. So much for the Battle of the Bands panigiri. On the way down the road we meet James and Joan. They ask about the music and I tell them it was OK. They had scaled down the band from six to three members.

"So it's only half as bad." James says smiling.

We keep walking and don't stop until we get home with Amarandi now screaming hysterically. I start to lose it. I pull her out of her stroller and put her on the bed, yelling at her as I do. I even put my hand over her mouth which of course only makes her scream worse and makes her realize her dada is a big powerful bully who would use his strength to force her to be quiet instead of love, compassion and reason. I feel like a terrible father. I spend a sleepless night outside the house, on top of the cistern, tossing and turning and hearing the band play what sounds like the same song over and over again, which is what I deserve.

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