Ferryboat day!

Greek ferry Theseus

Ferryboat day! I assume Mitch will wait until six and leave on the Theseus. He'll arrive in Pireaus by midnight and if the schedule holds true he can catch a boat to Kos at one-thirty in the morning. What could be more perfect? But Mitch is a desperate man and not thinking very clearly. He's taking the Flying Dolphin come hell or high water... if it comes. We wait on the dock and when it rounds the bend, Mitch is so excited he almost gets on board with the passengers on their way to the southern Peloponessos. We have to convince him that it's going in the wrong direction and promise that it will return on its way back to Pireaus. Mitch is suspicious but has no choice but to trust us. To further complicate matters the Captain refuses to dock in town again. It's still too rough. The ticket man tells us that Mitch has to catch the boat at Saint Demetrios, a two-mile walk with full combat gear. We attempt to reason with him, trying to appeal to his last shred of sanity that not only is the boat more convenient, docking close to his next ferry within an hour of its departure, but it's half the price, and he won't have to walk for an hour in the boiling hot sun to catch it. And need we mention again how terrible a trip on the Flying Dolphin can be in rough weather? It doesn't matter though. Mitch is set firm on his goals and his schedule. What has seemed like paradise for us with it's beautiful sea, delicious food, friendly loving people, lush vegetation and free-flowing wine, has been a hell for him. Addicted to form, Mitch has found the formless existence of life in Kalohori maddening. We have one last meal together at Katina's, with Elaine and I putting on a final performance for his benefit. But it's too late. We can see it in his eyes. The Mitch we had grown to know and love is gone. Our bickering is wasted on him. He stares at his salad while his head fills with ferry schedules and exchange rates. Indeed, he is already on the move, his brain set on traveling mode. He will walk through hell to catch that damn dolphin if he has to. Even the return of the Hulk Hogan movie with Parthenon Huxley's song won't deter him. All we can do is wish him well and send him on his lonesome way. I hope his painful experience here will not damage our friendship too severely.

In a show of solidarity and that there are no hard feelings I walk part of the way with him until I feel my legs giving out, my heart beating furiously. Andrea waves to me from the restaurant to keep going but it's no use. Mitch will have to walk the rest of the way to Metropolis and through the olive groves beyond. His lips will be cracked dry by the dusty road, his clothing soaked with sweat. His muscles, already weakened by two days of body-surfing might scream in protest, but Mitch will push himself on. That's the way he is and we respect him for it, even though we all think taking the dolphin is a really dumb idea.

I return to Katina's in time to see Jillian and John, the strange English couple, walking towards the dock with their packs. They had been told that the dolphin is coming to the town dock. I think of Mitch, finally reaching his destination only to watch helplessly as the Flying Dolphin comes to the other dock and then sails away to Athens. For a moment I feel his anguish, just before the laughter sets in. We begin our own investigation into where the Flying Dolphin is going to land. Everyone has a different opinion. It's finally agreed upon that it will go to the far dock. An end to Mitch's suffering is in sight. Elaine tracks down the taxi-driver and sends Jillian and John off in his jalopy, James and Joan, joining them just for the joy of driving.

Amarandi, Andrea and I go to the beach to swim and reflect on the days events. On the way we harass the geese. They seem to tolerate me, sensing a kinship. Having owned ducks I do speak a sub-dialect of their language and they treat me with respect. But the moment I turn my back they go after Amarandi with a vengeance, sending her screaming into her mothers arms. They continue their onslaught coming at Andrea in waves, flapping their wings and honking madly like East German cars at a broken toll-booth. Andrea swings her bright orange bag, scattering them in all directions. Holding our terrified daughter she charges through their broken ranks while they try to reorganize their offensive. It's too late and the geese know it. Complaining loudly they go back to their food. I admire Andrea for her courage. Her only thought had been to save her baby. She had braved a flock of angry geese to do so.

"What a woman," I say to myself. "I'm glad she's on my side."

While Amarandi happily screams on shore, Andrea and I discuss the departure of Mitch. "The way I see it, Mitch is one of those nine-to-five guys who has become addicted to structure and schedules. If you take it away he is paralyzed, a stranger in a strange land. When he travels he has to create new structures and schedules to take the place of those he follows at home. Remember our trip to the beach when Mitch had spent hours and hours taking the meat out of tiny blue crabs with a pair of tweezers. When he had finished picking the crabs clean he had a bowl of delicious crab meat which we ate in about five seconds. It was the endless hours at the beach that had forced Mitch to create this job for himself, a set of boundaries that he could stay within for a period of time and feel safe. His travel plans were the same. We, on the other hand, didn't mind being in limbo."

In America neither I nor Andrea had ever worked a nine-to-five job. We didn't even know how to set an alarm clock. "We are comfortable with a lack of structure. Mitch isn't and had created this plan that made him feel in control. When the Flying Dolphins were canceled his plans fell apart and he was trapped here. The realization that he was not in control was frightening and he reacted like a desperate man. He had to escape by any means necessary and get back on schedule."

We are both silent, reflecting upon my profound summation. It seems to make sense. "Plus he was really sick of listening to us argue all the time." I add.

During our swim Andrea suggests we make a pact to stop bickering. It's annoying to everyone who comes in contact with us. For example, today James and Joan had eaten lunch in the same restaurant, hidden from our view outside, hurriedly downing their food in terror that we would discover them and want to join them. It was only because I had walked Mitch out of Katina's that I found them, and only because James is my brother that I did not betray them. When I returned to find Andrea sitting there with them, she asked me why I didn't carry one of Mitch's bags for him. Not even having considered it I responded defensively something about Mitch's luggage problems being his cross to bear and though my helping him might offer some short-term relief, in the long run it would be anti-therapeutic and might even delay his finding the answer himself. Andrea somehow sensed I was not being 100% honest with her and within moments James and Joan were trapped in the middle of our argument.

"Hey, we came out here to get away from all this," pleaded James. But it was too late. In a flash Elaine had heard the call to arms and discovered their hiding place and began a frantic explanation of the dangers of stress to the human body and how many of her ancestors had heart conditions. Andrea cut her short and ended the discussion.

I think about that last incident as I ponder her pact, an offer of peace in our time. At first I agree, but then think about it on a deeper level.

"Forget it," I tell her. "If we don't bicker what will we do, talk about things we agree on? Our only conversations will be about the weather, what time it is and what color to paint our new bathroom. Our bickering is the basis of our relationship. Without it there is nothing."

She knows I'm right.

"OK then. But I'm going to swim out to sea and drown. You can raise Amarandi with my mother." she tells me.

I call her back and agree to her pact.

Ceremoniously the ferry comes in and leaves, taking Panayotis The Fisher of Kefalo, Niko the contractor from Egalion, his crew, and several other notables who are saying goodbye until next year. As Panayotis steps onto the ferry for the last time a school of kefalo lift their heads out of the sea to pay tribute to the man who had been their most feared adversary. In fish language it is a sign of respect. They are honoring him in their own special way for though he had been a powerful enemy to them, he had always been fair, taking only what he needed to eat and feeding the rest to his cat. They will have ten months before his return. They will use that time to reproduce and grow strong and perhaps study the ways of men. Next year they will send their biggest and strongest to challenge him, but for now it is a time of celebration.

While the villagers watch the arrival and departure of the ferryboat, an old man dressed in strange robes circulates through the crowd, peering into cars for something to steal. We had asked about him this morning as he sat at the bar eating from a can of spam.

"He is a thief from another village," said Crysanthos. James had seen him take a pair of sunglasses out of a car and watched as their owner screamed bloody murder until the old man gave them back. Andrea had sent me back to the house to lock it up and to bring our money back here. I argued that if I was locking up the house, why bring the money back?

"What do you want to lose two thousand dollars?!" Andrea shouted loud enough for the entire village to hear. When locked up the house was as impenetrable as a fortress. In Andrea's mind this man was a trained thief, a master safecracker who could get into anything. To me he was a sad old vagrant who took the sunglasses because they were easily take-able. I went and locked up the house and left the money where it was. I left the computer on the table. If the old man could get into the house let him have it. He'd have earned it.

Now he mingles easily in the crowd which is oblivious to him as they say farewell to loved ones. He's a sad figure on the dock and I feel a tinge of compassion. Then I have a great idea.

"Let's go stand next to him and just as the ferry is about to leave we'll pick him up and put him aboard." I tell my brother.

He agrees that it is truly a fine idea. With the old man's talent for scrounging and kleptomania, Athens will be paradise for him. Plus we'll be rid of him. We can breath easier and unlock our shutters once again. We will have solved a serious problem in the village perhaps eradicating crime totally. Maybe they'll erect a statue of us in the new village square, right next to one of Niko the cop.

But like most good ideas our window of opportunity opens and closes before we can act as the ferry lifts its ramp and sails off towards Pireaus. Like the rest of the villagers we will spend another sleepless night as a hardened criminal prowls our streets. Where will he strike next?

I'm sent to claim a table at Katina's while Andrea and Elaine try to call Athens and arrange a place to stay. I take Amarandi with me. To my surprise there are no other customers here. I have my choice of any table I want. It's almost too much and I ponder over a difficult decision. I finally sit at the table closest to Vassili the Greengrocer who is chatting with old Panayotis. I order a half kilo of wine and drink two whole glasses before the ladies return. We order a chicken and some vegetables. As we sit there, the ever rebellious James and Joan race past. They are going for pizza, they announce defiantly and disappear before we can bring them to their senses. James had said he found Elaine's behavior offensive. He feels that some of the villagers might be insulted at her manner. Though in a way I can see his point I speak to him as a wise older brother.

"Young James. You must treat Elaine like the weather. She is the way she is. You can't change her. You can only accept her for what she is."

"We can leave," says Joan.

"Yes, but I can't," I admit sadly.

So I spend my first dinner with my nuclear family in over a week. Andrea prefers it. "Away from the hordes" as she puts it, but those hordes are the only thing keeping us together. With virtually no competition, Andrea and her mother monopolize the conversation with a deluge of uninteresting, uninspired trivialities while I sit helplessly eating the minuscule chicken we have been rewarded with for our steady support of Katina's restaurant. I am imagining the fascinating conversation James and Joan are probably having right now over pizza. Perhaps the chicken is punishment for eating at Lula's the night before. Once again it seems like my life is falling apart. Today as I walked on the beach I came upon the decomposing body of a small smyrna, coincidentally with a spear hole in the very spot I had shot the giant one. Apparently I am not yet free of the curse.

"This pigeon tastes just like chicken!" I joke to my un-amused companions. They glance disdainfully and go back to their chatter, immune to my attempts to bring up interesting topics. Finally I tell Andrea the truce is over. I unleash the flurry of invectives that I had been saving up all day. I had discovered her plan. She would say something completely critical and demeaning about me. When I defend myself, that's bickering and she cuts me off. So her idea of a truce is for me to become a receptacle for her antagonism. Elaine breaks in with a little story of how she had "impressed with her impressiveness" a group of gay men when she told them she had seen the original Broadway version of "A Streetcar Named Desire."

"Impressed with your impressiveness?" I ask almost innocently.

"Don't be condescending towards my mother!" shouts Andrea. (The treaty is breaking down). "I don't talk to your mother that way."

Amarandi wanders off un-noticed and is spared the rest of our conversation. I end up alone at our table. Elaine has snuck off for a cigarette and Andrea is at the table of Maria, my secret lover and her husband so out of nervousness I walk down to the bar and talk to Lea and her husband who want to move to Greece, even though they now live an hour from Vancouver, the best city in the world. I speak of Vancouver's merits while pointing out the folly of entrusting their lives to a city as screwed up as Athens.

Lea talks of her efficiency. She is a perfectionist and a work-a-holic. Her husband agrees.

"Then your life will become a particular hell." I tell her. "You will work hard to start your company and your efficiency will be undermined by the total inefficiency of others. You will complete your part of a project and spend months waiting for a small piece of crucial information that is sitting on the desk of some bureaucrat who hasn't even looked at it. You will assign projects to your staff and listen to weeks of excuses about why they haven't done the work. In the end your own efficiency and perfectionism will be your downfall. You'll be a perfect person in a totally imperfect world, and in the end you'll be just like them."

I'm out of breath. They are silent. Finally Lea speaks.

"Vancouver is nice", she says.

I return to Katina's where Andrea and Maria are deep in conversation.

"Guess what. Maria and her family are coming to Kea with us!" Andrea tells me excitedly. Either she doesn't suspect anything or she is having an affair with Maria's husband. Somehow I am left alone at the table with Maria. We talk familiarly but never bring up our late-night swim of a week before. She has three children that she can barely handle and wants to know why I didn't have more. "To tell you the truth I would have liked to have less, but having Amarandi I'm happy." I watch Maria holding her infant daughter, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. I remember her lighting a cigarette on the beach. That's probably why I didn't kiss her. Her husband is a disciple of Fasianos, the famous artist who has several houses in Kea. That's the reason they are going there. She and Andrea really like each other and are hitting it off. That's typical. The woman I nearly have a wild affair with becomes my wife's best friend. Her husband who seems totally indifferent to her will probably become infatuated with Andrea. We'll all be sneaking around the tiny streets of Kea hiding from one another. Andrea and I will be staying with her two ancient aunts who will be witness to all the suspicious comings and goings while receiving all sorts of strange reports and gossip from the villagers. I can hardly wait. No matter what happens it will be great material for my story. I might even be able to put my imagination on hold and relate events exactly as they unfold. It's something to look forward to.

On the way to the bar we stop at the store to buy coffee. To my shock there is only instant and Greek. They are all out of the packaged filter coffee that we have become addicted to. The next few days could be tough. I might have to hitch to Molaos, or take the Flying Dolphin to Monemvasia. I need to inform Andrea but she has gone home to bed. She'll find the terrible truth tomorrow. Let her sleep.

I rejoin Lea and her husband and a beautiful girl from Montreal named Helen who is saying that the sea in Kalohori is not as clean as she remembered it. There is oil everywhere. I point out that what she thought was oil is actually a layer of fresh spring water, sitting on top of the denser sea water. We all talk of Kalohori cleanliness compared to other places and it's other attributes. Helen dogmatically sticks to her belief. The sea seems dirty, even if what she thought was a greasy oil slick is actually clean, clear, fresh, mountain spring water. It's a perfect illustration of how we cling to our beliefs. A question asked in "A Course In Miracles" says, "Would you rather be right or happy?" Most of us would rather be right. Instead of happily playing in the beautiful clean water, Helen will sit on the beach, shaking her head mournfully at the sad state the sea has fallen into, rather than admit she might be mistaken.

Return to Spearfishing in Skatahori Index

Athens Survival Guide

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