The Fourth of July in a Small Greek Village

July 4th in Greece

Independence day. So what? Big deal. Who cares? Unless you are in a small Greek village in the Peloponessos and anything is an excuse for a celebration. Actually it's just the continuation of an on-going celebration that begins at sundown with the evening's first ouzo. Tonight is special. We explain the significance of this date to Katina and she is making roast chicken, kontosouvli, and potato salad! Then, as expected, James and Joan get off the Flying Dolphin. I don't go to meet it because I am fishing in a new area and doing quite well. I catch fourteen fish and we all have a delicious lunch. Martha, the girlfriend of our old friend Arthur Anderson from high school, also arrives with her entourage of four Americans. Two of them are her teenage daughters. So in one day we have doubled the number of Americans here, and it is only fitting that today is Independence day.

It is also incredibly hot. I had been in the water for hours, so it took that long for my body to warm up to the point where the air-temperature bothers me, but now I am ready to spend the rest of the day swimming.

James and Joan had been stuck in Athens trying to locate their lost luggage. The problem was that nobody would admit they didn't know where it was. Joan told us, "They would just make something up to send us to the next place and get rid of us." They had to go to both airports and when they finally found their bags, they were locked together with some other lost luggage and nobody had any idea who had the key. When they finally retrieved their belongings and tried to get out of Athens they were hit head-on by the ferry strike. No boats anywhere. Hordes of angry travelers lined up in Pireaus with nowhere to go but their island holiday destination, and no way to get there. Not to forget the thousands of tourists stranded on the islands who had missed their return flights. And they wonder why tourists have stopped coming. The only ones who come are the ones who are so hopelessly nostalgic that they put up with all the crap, or have learned to maneuver their way around it, like us. Or the people who have never been here and romanticize the place, expecting to find the descendants of Homer. Good luck to them.

So James and Joan decided to take our initial advice and go to Andros. The only problem was they couldn't find out if the Flying Dolphins were running because it was a different company than the Flying Dolphins that come here. They were not sure if Flying Dolphins are considered ferryboats and would be on strike. They should be. Ferry means "to carry" in Greek. There's no mention of cars. They went to twenty different travel agents and nobody could help them. Finally, one nice guy spent half an hour on the phone and got them the information they needed. The Flying Dolphins from Rafina were on strike. They took a bus to Naphlion and then came here when the strike ended. I didn't have the heart to tell them that the dolphins have been coming here everyday.

Andrea's mom keeps sneaking away for a smoke. It's hard to believe that her daughter hasn't caught on yet. Twice I have surprised her, hiding with her cigarettes. The first time she tells me "Matthew, if you love Andrea and if you love me, you won't tell her." The second time I happen to be the first one to turn the corner and see her jump up from her table at the bar and run behind the building to hide her ashtray. The third time is total slackness on her part. I am in Yannis store when she walks in and purchases a pack, not even noticing me, probably suffering from the beginning phases of nicotine withdrawal. "How many packs is she buying a day?" I ask Yorgo. Elaine is shocked to see me standing right next to her and tries to filibuster me. She needn't worry. I won't tell. It would be a shame to lose such a good baby-sitter.

We meet Jack, Sue, James and Joan at the Trocedero and have ouzo and a meze so beautiful we want to photograph it before we take the first bite. It's a big plate of tarama, sadziki, skordaya, olives, dolmadas, feta, potatoes, and strangely enough, little hot-dogs wrapped in bacon, perhaps a sign that they know it is our Independence Day. Amarandi is unhappy so I don't get to spend much time with the older people. We adjourn and go to Katina's where she has set a long table for the Americans and the chicken and kountosouvli are turning on the spit. We are joined by Martha, her two daughters and her friend Christine. James Crispy, being British and perhaps fearing hostility from the colonies, never shows up, to all our disappointment and we joke about going up to his house dressed as Indians and dumping his tea down the toilet.

Jack tells us a wonderful story about his cat named Muffy. He was living in San Francisco and one morning while walking to his car on the way to work he saw Muffy standing on the sidewalk.

"Shit," he thought. "I accidentally let the cat out." He called it's name and walked over to it but the cat takes off running. Jack is concerned because Muffy has never really spent much time out of doors so he runs after it. He corners her by a fence but when he grabs her she scratches him and jumps into someone's backyard. Jack scales the fence and rips his pants, chases the cat through a garden and over another fence. The cat jumps on to a roof and Jack climbs after him. He chases the cat all over the neighborhood until he finally corners it. He grabs the cat which puts up a terrific fight, scratching, biting and clawing and continuing to struggle all the way back to the house. When he gets home Sue is just leaving for work. She sees Jack, clothes torn, hands bleeding, holding the cat by the scruff of the neck as it yowls and cries, trying to get away from him.

"What are you doing?" She asks him.

"I accidentally let Muffy out when I was leaving." He tells her apologetically.

"Muffy's in the house." Says Sue.

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