The Sifnos Monster and Other Tales:
Sunday June 11 1996
When we arrive in Sifnos it is three AM. There is a small group of people on the dock including Kosta who owns the convenience store, there to pick up the daily newspapers, and Bouli's brother who is there because it is his job to catch the rope and help tie up the ship. I like getting in so late because I can walk down the street in quiet anonymity and not have to say hi to every single person I know from twenty years of visits. We dump our bags in the lobby of the Stavros and are met by Tony who escorts us to the Old Captain where we have a couple of ouzos to unwind. Amarandi plays with Lefteri's girlfriend Anna and walks around chasing after the cat and ducks. We eventually make it up to our room and fall asleep around five.
The next morning we wake up about eleven and go downstairs to test the coffee. I talk with Sarah in the cafe of the Hotel Stavros and eat a bowl of yogurt with honey and nuts. Our high school friend Beau comes in and sits with me before going upstairs with a cup of coffee to try to pry his girlfriend May Ping out of bed. When he returns he tells me that he had been with our friend Arthur, from Boston, Beau's ex-girlfriend Martha and Arthur's girlfriend but they had a falling out and they all changed their tickets and went to Ireland. Apparently Arthur couldn't get into the pace of life here, not to mention the intense heat and his girlfriend had been critical of everything. When Martha accused May Ping of being anorexic and throwing up in the bathroom it began a screaming fight that ended with them leaving the island. Beau didn't seem sad to see them go but he plans on leaving the island ASAP himself. He wants to show Santorini to May Ping but unfortunately the next boat is at 2:30 Tuesday morning, and in a typical example of Greek ferry scheduling the next boat is a half an hour after that and no others until Saturday.
We spend a few hours in the cafe by the water. Amarandi and Andrea join us and we pass the day until around 4 o'clock when Beau and I get in his inflatable boat and sail to the rocks on the other side of the bay to go spear-fishing. When we get there I discover that there is no string attaching the spear to the gun which means that if I shoot at a fish and miss, the spear could fall down a hole and never be found again, or if by some chance I shoot a big fish it could swim away with my spear. I realize the only thing to do is walk to the nearest group of buildings and see if I can find some clothesline. Just as I climb up to the main road my friend Dimitri rides up on his motorcycle and gives me a ride to town where I get a piece of elastic from Dario at the Italian restaurant that he uses to tie down the tablecloths. I promise him a fish in return. Dimitri gives me a ride back and confesses he is concerned by some white foam he has seen in the water. Being a chemical engineer he suspects it is some sort of agricultural run-off and he, in the interest of his own well-being is going to Chrysopigi on the other side of the island to swim.
But chemicals cannot stop us from our purpose and within a few minutes I have caught two barbounia, which cost about 1300 drachs per kilo in the restaurants (about $25 per pound). The only problem using Dario's elastic string is that when I miss a fish it sends the spear back the way it had come, towards me twice as fast. But soon I master this problem by learning to get out of the way as soon as I shoot. We swim and float around for a few hours and catch two more fish before heading back to town for a night of ouzo, octopus, kalamaraki and salad. We end up at the Old Captain where there is a wild celebration of Lefteris birthday.
Tuesday June 13th
I wake up at 7am and walk out on the balcony. It's cloudy and there is a crowd of people waiting for the ferry to Santorini that was supposed to leave at 4 AM. I'm thinking that maybe Beau and May Ping are among them since they had made up their minds to leave. Though neither of them wanted to go, nothing we said could convince them to stay. I go down to the dock where it's cold and rainy with a strong wind.
My friends are not among the unhappy passengers and I am told by Stavros's father that the other ferry was "on time", meaning that it was only about eight hours late. With nothing better to do I decide to wait for the boat to come in. While I'm standing on the dock a small freighter filled with sand for building the new road to Vathi, sails into the bay. Since I'm the only one in the crowd who is not a tourist I step forward and catch the rope so they can tie up. Just as the ferry Apollo Express arrives, a big rat jumps off the freighter and runs across the dock. As soon as they spot it, the port policeman, Andonis the fisherman's dog, and an unknown tourist run after it and chase it off the island and back on to the boat from which it had come. Then the port policeman has a word with a member of the crew who stands watch and makes sure the rat does not get back off the ship. The ship continues to unload sand for ten hours and for all I know the crewman may still be on guard.
After the ferry leaves, I return to the room and sleep until nine when I am awakened by Stavros calling my name. There is a telephone call for me and I run down the stairs dreading it. It's Mitch, calling me from Carrboro. He tells me he is coming to Greece in July. I thought he was going to tell me our house had burned down.
The day is now sunny and hot. All day people are commenting on how hot it is. "Poli zesti" they say to one another in greeting while shaking their heads. Andrea, as is her nature, is suffering. We take a ride up to Appolonia where Stavros shows us the new hotel apartment complex he is building on a sight overlooking the town, with a view of the sea and the islands of Paros and Antiparos. Then we go to get some string for my spear-gun and then to this beautiful old cafeneon that Andrea likes. Now it has gotten cloudy and rainy again and I am waiting to go down to Spilia for more snorkeling.
Wednesday June 14th
Yesterday evening I went to Spilia to fish. I swam over to the giant rocks that they use as a breakwater for the pier. There were huge fish and I shot my biggest one ever. At least it was the biggest, good-tasting fish I ever caught, a melanouria. It was exciting fishing there because the rocks piled on each other create a labyrinth of caves and I was playing a cat and mouse game with the fish. The one I got was a pretty lucky shot. I also caught two barbounia and unfortunately wounded a couple kefalo, which I was not able to retrieve.
When I got back to Spilia, Andrea and Amarandi were waiting for me. Amarandi saw my mask and said "Da-Da. You wearing sunglasses". She loves the water now. Last year she was terrified of it.
We had our fish with ouzo at Kamborakis restaurant and then went over to the Italian Restaurant for spaghetti. When we finished we went next door to the little children's park for Amarandi to play. While we were watching her on the swings Dario came over from the Italian restaurant with four shots of grappa on a tray. He told us it was the best thing for digestion. He was right. It knocked me out.