The Sifnos Monster
and Other Tales

Matt Barrett live at the Old Captain


I've been coming to Sifnos since the late seventies. My parents and brothers and sister first came in 1972 during the summer while I was off in Mykonos. Back then Sifnos was primitive and totally undiscovered. There was no dock and the ferry would pull into the bay and be met by the fishermen who would take people back and forth in small boats. There were a few foreigners living in rented rooms or tents, mostly seasoned travelers who would rather experience the real Greece of the time, than be partying with me and my decadent friends on Ios or Mykonos.

By the time I made my first trip to Sifnos there was a ferry docking at a real dock and cars were unloading and driving the newly paved roads. It was still un-touristed compared to other places, but it was on the way to becoming what it is now, a charming island that loses much of that charm in August when the Athenian hordes invade.

My first visit to Sifnos was the fateful summer of hiding from the Greek army. I assumed it would be the last Greek island I would ever go to but it didn't turn out that way.

The next time I came was in 1978 with my pal Leigh Sioris. We had been in Mykonos and Ios and we were meeting up with some friends in Sifnos. We camped on a small beach near the community of Pharos. There was one restaurant, one grocery store that served eggs for breakfast, and little else. There wasn't even a bus. We had to take a bus to Platiyialos, get off above Chrissopigi and walk down the mountain and along the coast. I don't think we went into town more than once in the ten days we spent there.

After a break of about 6 years where I didn't even come to Greece, I finally returned to Sifnos at the instigation of my friend Dorian who had opened a live music bar in Kamares. Dorian and I became the live music, doing a two hour show every night from June to September. It was my favorite Sifnos summer, the year that I bonded with the island and made most of the friends that I still have. It was a tumultuous time for the Old Captain Bar. Because of the live music there was always a crowd while the few other bars remained empty. This created some friction between the owners of these other bars, who were locals, and the Old Captain, whose owners were from Athens. Every few days the rules of the game would change. One night we could play only until midnight. A couple days later it was until eleven. Then we were told that we were not licensed for live music. The next night one of the stereo systems had left the bar and taken up residency in the police station and we were allowed to play again. Finally towards the end of the season a policeman came up to me after the show and asked for my passport. When I gave it to him he told me I could pick it up the next morning at the station.

The next day I took the bus up to Appolonia and found the police station. I was sent in to speak to the Chief. He asked me if the day before I had been walking in the valley where the farmers have their fields. I told him I had, that I liked to walk around there and look at the goats and sheep. He asked me if I had stolen a watermelon. I hadn't. I had seen many watermelons but I hadn't taken any. He said that was interesting because a watermelon had been stolen and that I was seen walking in the fields by a farmer.
"Did the farmer say I had a watermelon with me?" I asked innocently.
"He didn't mention it."
"Then why am I here?" I asked.
"Because right now you are our only suspect" he said, trying to crack my cool facade with his stare. He changed the subject. "Can I see your working papers for playing music at the Old Captain." I didn't have any. "OK. Let me tell you this once. You are not to play at the Old Captain any more. If you do I will send you to Syros (where the jail is) and then have you deported from this country and you will never be able to come back."

I didn't know if he was bluffing or not but I wasn't about to test him. I agreed not to play. When I returned to the club and told them, Dorian told me not to be ridiculous. Of course I would continue to play. He was just a village cop. He couldn't deport me. "Besides, you are Greek." he said. I argued that if the cop knew I was Greek I would be in even more trouble because they would want to see my Greek identification papers and instead of kicking me out of the country they'd throw me in the army.

Dorian's answer was "Don't worry about it. You're over-reacting." Easy for him to say. All he was jeopardizing was one half of his live music show. It was my life. I refused to play.

The next day Dorian came up to me and said that it was all taken care of and I could play again. I told him the only way I would play was if I had a note from the head cop telling me that it was OK. I was not convinced that Dorian had my best interest at heart. That note was never written and that ended the best summer job of my life.

If islands could have human personalities then Sifnos would have that of the bumbling well intentioned fool whose great plans seem to go astray. The year I arrived to play at the bar, for example. They had been planning all year to put in a sewage system before the tourists arrived in July. When I arrived on July 1st the roads were all dug up. There was a long trench the length of the harbor road with a pile of dirt just as long. The tourists had to cross over plank bridges and the noise of the workmen did not make for a quiet holiday. Finally by the beginning of AUGUST they had all the pipes in place and covered with concrete. That night around two in the morning the Ferry Mykonos, which only carries trucks, arrived with two gas tanker trucks to refuel the island's two gas stations. They raced through the sleeping town and shattered the newly installed pipes beneath the newly cemented road. The next day and for the rest of that summer the stench was unbearable. It was a major setback to Sifnos' plan to become one of the elite islands of the Aegean.

But now Sifnos has the finest waste-treatment and disposal plant in all of the Aegean.

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