Fishing for Lunch and Tales of Samson

Samson
Photo courtesy of  Enimerotiko

July 3rd

The alarm rings this morning like a voice from the distant past and Andrea goes off to her watercolor painting lesson with James Crispy, the famous English painter from Cornwall who has taken up residence in Kalohori. I go down to the sea to catch lunch. It's calm, compared to last night and in my hurry to get started I forget my knife that I usually keep strapped to my leg like Lloyd Bridges. With my first missed shot, the spear plunges into some kind of simple form of sea life, one of those that straddles the dimension between animal and plant. It's impossible to remove without my knife so I have to swim back to the beach. When I get back out to the ruins of the old police station and extricate my speargun, I see an octopus being harassed by some perka. He looks too small to shoot. Almost big enough. Perhaps a teenager, a few months away from his first tattoo and body piercing, so I take a shot at the most obnoxious of the perka instead. I miss and the spear continues into infinity. It has become untied, the spear-fisherman's worst nightmare. Who knows to what depths an errant spear may fall? I could spend days, hours or weeks trying to retrieve it, perhaps without success, my spear entombed forever in the icy deep. Perhaps the years would dull the pain, but that spot would forever be known as the place where I lost my spear, just as near the rocks at the church of Saint George is the hole where I lost the little round metal thing that keeps the spear from flying away, which was last year's catastrophe and effectively ended the spearfishing season for me.

But this time I'm lucky. The string is still attached to the spear and dangles behind and all I have to do is reach out and retrieve it. Tying it back on is another thing. The ends keep separating and it's like trying to thread a sewing needle with yarn underwater. I keep cutting it, but it falls apart after the first attempt. Adding to the humiliation, the fish have realized I am no longer a threat and have gathered around to watch as the octopus climbs onto my spear. He begins to eat the little bits of fish that are stuck to the barbs and to amuse his fish friends with his routine of underwater gymnastics on the shaft. By the time I re-rig my weapon they are all gone, probably to some sea cave where they continue to laugh about the stupid human.

I swim down the coast until I hit a pocket of fresh water that makes the sea so cold that I can't go any further. When I return to the bay the flying dolphin is just arriving. Normally I would have been there to meet it but I just watch the people get off from where I'm swimming. Still no James. Maybe he wants to do his Greek trip on his own terms with no interference from me. I think the memory of our last trip together is so bitter that he will avoid spending any time with us until the last possible moment, even if it means sacrificing some fun-filled nights with Jack and Sue.

I'm in the water for three and a half hours and catch a dozen fish, all of good eating size. We have lunch at Katina's and Andrea returns from her lesson in time to join us. She spends the first half-hour cleaning fish for Amarandi who keeps saying "More fish everybody", every time she finishes a piece.

We set up our stereo at home, though the speakers are running on walk-man power and don't sound that great, but it's almost as loud as the cicadas. Ben Folds Five has calmed down Amarandi who a few moments before we put it on was hysterical. It's funny hearing this music from home. It almost makes me romanticize Chapel Hill as much as I do Greece when I'm there. We have a frenzied dance marathon while Andrea works on her watercolor homework.

Jack picks us up around 8:30 and brings us to his house in Vrissi. By the time we arrive, Amarandi is asleep so we just load her into her stroller and sit her in the courtyard while we drink ouzo, eat local olives, and tell Greece stories. Each of us has a story about Samson, the circus strongman who used to travel all over Greece breaking out of chains and pulling automobiles with his teeth. Jack and Sue saw him at a panigiri for crippled people in Methana. This was in the early seventies and he was getting on in age. They were with a woman named Lily, from Hydra, when they came upon him doing his routine in the town square. For the grand finale, his female assistant was to drop a sword on his chest from a stepladder. Her aim was flawed and the sword hit him in the ribs and made a deep gash. He appeared to be OK, but as the show ended, their friend Lily ran weeping from the square. "Why is Lily so upset?" they asked a friend who had traveled with them.

"She used to be his lover." came the reply.

Andrea was the last to see Samson, in 1989. By then he was in his sixties and still doing the same tricks.

My story was the least interesting I had taken his photo from a book of Greece published in the fifties, when he was a young man, and made it into a T-shirt that I sold at my gigs.

We were drinking at a steady rate and by the time we had heard the last of the many yarns that evening, Andrea was drunk and rowdy, dancing around the living room to Ben Folds while Jack and I scrutinize the lyrics and Elaine wonders what has happened to the shy little girl she had so carefully brought up. We finally make it out of the house and walk two doors up the hill to the Taverna of Lefteris where the insanity continues as Andrea, Elaine and I put on a show that borders on domestic violence, but seems to entertain the Marlowes, at least until the final act when Amarandi wakes crying and I buy her an ice-cream to appease her. Both Andrea and her mother start yelling like a couple old ladies confronting a crooked butcher. That is enough for Sue and she rushes us out and says goodnight while Jack drives us home.

I don't feel like a continuation of the scene at the taverna so Amarandi and I go to the bar on the dock where we talk to James Crispy until two-thirty in the morning, about Andrea's potential as a water-colorist, and what it's like to be gay in a traditional Greek fishing village.

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