The Collage Bap

Kamares, Sifnos

Kosta, who owns the Collage Bar, is hard-headed. He has been trying to sell his bar for an extraordinary amount. They call it "selling air." He isn't selling anything but the right to pay rent and have a bar there. He is selling a business whose customers live thousands of miles away and have never been here and may never come. He was here all winter keeping the bar open for the locals. Stavros told me about one night when he and Antonio Boulis were in there drinking with friends and Kosta was playing his heavy metal music when Stavros said, "Hey Kosta. Why don't you play some nice Greek music."
Kosta replied, "This is my bar and I play my music."

It's insane. The only place open on a Greek island and he refuses to play anything but Uriah Heep and Smoke On The Water. Tony told me that he had to come to pay taxes in March and they went to Kosta's to spend some money to let him know how much they appreciated the fact that he was open. One of the girls he was with went up to Kosta and asked him if he would play a couple songs from a tape she had brought from home that she really wanted to hear. He looked at the tape and threw it scornfully down on the bar.
"This is not music." he said.

I went up to pay my once per summer visit. I hate going there because everything I say, he disagrees with me. He hates everything and you can't tell him anything. This year I came up for one beer and asked him different questions about fish. It seemed safe though I still was able to offend him several times in the course of my drink.

My first summer in Kamares, Eleni told me that she couldn't wait for me to meet Kosta, who was away in Athens. When he returned, not only did we become friends, but he became my sister's lover for the summer. He had been the bartender at the Old Captain, the year before. The story Eleni used to give me an idea about his personality was the day he was washing the glasses. Outside the sea was rough, the wind was blowing and the KIMILOS was attempting to dock. Suddenly a blast of wind hit the ferry broadside and sent it tearing through the fishing boats and onto the shore. Kosta looked out the window and said to the customers at the bar "The KIMILOS is on the beach." Then he continued washing the glasses.

When Dorian bought the bar he was a bit threatened by Kostas who had a little bit more Greek machismo than Dorian could handle, and did not re-hire him. Halfway through the summer Kosta finally got a job at a bar up in Katovathi, owned by a singer named Thanos Adrianou. His most popular song at the time was called "Coca-cola" which was actually the instructions for making a Molotov cocktail, put to music. He was a great singer, songwriter and performer and we spent a lot of time with him. He was also the most diplomatic person I had ever met. One afternoon we were eating at a restaurant that had a reputation among the locals for serving bad food. In fact the nickname was 'Chernobyl Kitchen.' One day they served Thanos a dish of briam, a stew of eggplant, squash and potatoes, that had obviously been in the sun too long. He called the waiter over. "Yannis" he said. "You have the finest service in the Cyclades, your wine is excellent (he lifted his glass in salute) and for the most part the food is delicious...but tell me, when you see something that looks like this, how can you serve it without smelling it first?"

Thanos bar didn't make it past that first summer. Supposedly he got a lot of heat from the locals and the police eventually closed him down. When we left the island that summer, Thanos, Kosta and I all took the same boat together and I moved into an apartment with a girlfriend of theirs named Sofia. The next summer Kosta opened his own bar and because I was doing the music at the Old Captain and we were getting all the business, he seemed resentful, though I think he was too proud to admit it. Most of my friends spent equal time between the two bars but I never really felt comfortable there. He hired his friend to paint a sign for the bar. It was a beautiful sixties looking ornate peice of artwork. Except he spelled bar: "BAP."

His bap has been limping along for years now. It's never made the kind of money the Old Captain has and it's sad because despite his rough exterior and hard-headedness Kosta is a sensitive and good-hearted fellow. Like many of the business owners on the island he is not from Sifnos. He's from a small village near Sparta but he's married to a beautiful girl from Switzerland where he usually spends his winters. I suppose if he ever finds a buyer he will take his fortune and open a bap there.

Every Sunday all the restaurants make a thick chickpea stew or soup called Rivithia. It's one of the local specialties. They also serve it at the panagiris (religious festivals) in the monasteries on the tops of the islands tallest mountains. As everything else we have elevated Rivithyia day to the status that Americans have with Martin Luther King's birthday. When life slows down to a Greek island pace you find it easy to get excited that once per week all the restaurants serve chickpeas.

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