Tales of Uncle Panoutsos
and the Civil War

Uncle Panagiotis
Uncle Panagiotis from Nick Econopouly's Greece in the Sixties Photos

We have a dinner party for Jack at Katina's restaurant. I sit across from my cousin Takis who I have never met and didn't even know existed. He moved to New Zealand where he lived for thirty years before moving back to Athens two years ago. He knew my grandparents. My grandmother had stayed with his family in Athens in 1955, before she became ill and returned to America. He told me about how my grandfather couldn't stand Kalohori. After forty years in the USA it was too uncivilized and backwards. It was my grandmother's village and he kept on putting it down in comparison to his own village of Zarafona which is just over the mountain. But after returning from a trip to Zarafona my grandmother was overheard saying to him, "There. Now I don't want to hear another word about how terrible Kalohori is." Apparently Zarafona had it's faults too.

Takis told me a story about how my Uncle Panayiotis built the first toilet here in the village because my grandfather was coming for a return visit and they wanted to impress him. On his previous trip while staying in the small house that belonged to Uncle Panayotis he said to him, "I have to go to the bathroom." Panayiotis didn't understand what he meant. Did he want to take a bath at such an odd time? He ignored my grandfather, assuming he had misunderstood some Zarafonian idiom. Finally my Grandfather shouted "I HAVE TO USE THE TOILET!" Panayiotis now understood and led him by the hand to the dry riverbed that passes by the house where we now stay.

"Here is your toilet. It's also my toilet and everybody in the village's toilet. Choose your spot."

Takis tells us about my Uncle Panayiotis who in the village was known as Panoutsos. He didn't like to work much. He survived by selling off the family property a little bit at a time. If he hadn't we would be the wealthiest landholders in Kalohori. He had a fishing boat but he didn't like to fish much either. What he did like was playing cards. One day he was playing cards in the cafeneon by the dock when the sea began to get rough. The other fishermen took their boats to the shelter of Agios Nikolaos but he kept playing because he was winning. The other men in the cafeneon kept telling him to move his boat but he kept saying "Yes, yes in a moment, I'm having a lucky streak." Suddenly a huge wave picked up his boat and smashed it to pieces on the rocks. When they told him he dropped his cards and ran out the door.

"Now that it's too late, you hurry?" they called after him.

Uncle Panayiotis had a daughter named Maria who took care of him as he got older. They lived together in the house my Grandmother was born in. They left Kalohori and moved to Argos where they bought a house. When my parents heard that Panayiotis was ill they drove down to see him. They arranged to pick up Maria in the town square so she could take them to the house since the directions were difficult. They came to a fork in the road. There was a sign that pointed to one fork that said "TO THE DUMP." My father instinctively started to take the other road but Maria said "No, no it's this way." Sure enough, the house was in the middle of the dump.

"It was unbelievable," my mother told me afterwards. "Everything was covered with flies including Uncle Panayiotis on his death bed." He died soon after and Maria was institutionalized. My grandmother's house has been empty ever since.

Cousin Takis and Vassili the Greengrocer begin talking about a murder in the cafeneon up in Vrissi that took place in the mid-forties. The government soldiers who were stationed here set up an ambush for two communist andartes who came to the village. They set up two machine guns in the building across from the cafeneon and when their suspects walked in they opened fire, even though the cafe was full of villagers. Five people were shot, two killed, one of them a suspect. I asked how this could happen. Why didn't anyone appeal to the authorities? They laughed. "The killers were the authorities."

Dinner is fantastic. Plenty of roast chicken and potatoes and the delicious wine that we are now addicted to after one day. As we are leaving I talk to my cousin who tells me he is an environmental engineer. We plan to get together where he lives in the Athens district of Moschaton which Jack says is full of Tavernas and Ouzeries and is quite beautiful. The idea of discovering a new neighborhood in Athens has a great appeal to me, especially when they tell me the carnival parade rivals Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

The next morning after a topsy turvy night of Andrea, Amarandi and I switching beds and sleeping partners, we wake up late. I had actually gotten up around seven with Amarandi and we entertained each other until Yaya woke up and took over for me. After coffee I walk next door to Monemos house. On the outside it looks like a traditional Kalohori farm house. Inside it's a modern bachelor pad with slate and wood floors, built-in stone couches, a great stereo system and a loft. He has a library of Greek books including translations of Casteneda and other visionary works. I decline his offer of coffee, having just finished two cups of Andrea's industrial strength and tottering on the brink of insanity but I accept some lemonade and we sit and talk about life, work, family and particularly women. Then my women arrive and the conversation turns once again to how we are being ripped off for the rent of our house and similar matters. Luckily, we hear the sound of the Flying Dolphin approaching and since Monemo is expecting his sister, and I am expecting my brother James and his wife Joan, we hurry down to meet it.

For the second day in a row I watch every head emerge from the hydrofoil and not one of them is James or Joan. I had told him that if he wanted to see Jack and Sue before they left for America he should change his itinerary and come to Kalohori first. But as Andrea so gingerly put it, "He's just like your father, a stubborn mule." I don't disagree but maybe there are mitigating circumstances beyond his control. Maybe his luggage hasn't arrived. Maybe there were no tickets. Maybe he hates me. Most likely he resents me gently attempting to guide him around the pitfalls and barricades of Greece because he sees it as manipulation and egoistic power-playing. When I suggest something he wonders "What's Matt trying to do here?" Rather than trust my experience and the fact that I am his older brother he will go his own way, perhaps following the itinerary he made up in the USA or on the plane which doesn't take into account the fact that there is a ferry boat strike, Jack's premature return to America or half of Athen's five million people also trying to leave the city at the same time as he and Joan.

So instead of having to help my brother find a room I go snorkeling with Andrea along the coast south of the village. The sea is rough and a little scary but I catch lots of fish. We come upon a school of large gopas and with my first shot I spear one and knock another senseless. I'm able to grab him with some difficulty as he flops around and I put them both in my bag. It's a shot that nobody will believe so I'm glad to have a witness, even though Andrea can barely see underwater without her glasses and I have to tell her what I had done. I also shoot several large kefalo for any cats I may run into, a small rofos (grouper) and a couple other good-sized fish that I had never shot before but turn out to be delicious. I also locate the homes of a couple very big fish that I can go after when I feel brave. Andrea goes back home after half an hour and I continue for a couple hours more. When I return and finish cleaning the fish we take them to Thea Katina's and her husband Panayiotis fries them up for us. It's a feast. When we finish we go back to the house to recover from it.

Return to Spearfishing in Skatahori Index

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