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Crisis in Lavrion: Back in Kea!

Beach in KeaElias from Swift delivered my car and we met at Bakalogatos for tsipuro and dinner. We were joined by Pandelis Melissinos who most people know as the son of the poet-sandalmaker, or the current poet-artists-playwright-musician-sandalmaker. The master chef of Bakalogatos is an artist named Panayotis Papanicholaou who by chance went to the same small college in Ohio as Pandelis. We all sat and talked about Greek society until 2am and the last customers had left. The next morning I woke up really early and went walking around Fokionos Negri, looking for a good place to have coffee since it was so early and most places were still closed. I ended up at the old man cafeneon at the top of Fokionos by the Platia where I got the Herald Tribune from the corner store. I remember when I was a kid my father would give me money and send me to Syntagma to buy the Athens News because that was the closest place to find it from our apartment in Goudi. Now I can buy the Herald Tribune in several different shops in Kypseli and the Athens News and the Athens Plus are in almost every kiosk. After reading the news-fishermen had blockaded the port of Pireaus for 4 hours not letting the ferries out because they were mad at the government for requiring them to issue receipts for the fish they catch in the continuing effort to crack down on tax evading fishermen to make up the deficit- I went back to the apartment to see what responsibilities I had before driving to Lavrion and catching the ferry to Kea, which hopefully would not be blockaded.


My only job was to take my Greek ID card to the phone store and register my daughter's phone. This is another new law which is going to help end domestic terrorism in Greece. They are requiring everyone in the country who uses a pay-as-you-go card phone to register so they know who all the numbers belong to. This sounds like a good idea when you think about it but if you scrutinize it carefully it does not make much sense. Let's assume they are doing this to catch the people who use the phones to set off the bombs they place. I would imagine there is not much left of the phone after the explosion so how will you see which number called it? More likely it is to catch the bombers when they call the police and the newspapers to warn them that they have planted a bomb in this specific location so they can get people out of the building and cordon off the area because in reality the people who bomb banks and other symbols of power don't really want to hurt anybody. They just want to make a statement and cause some damage. But if all the phones are registered how will they be able to make the warning call? In a pay phone? You can rarely find them anymore and when you do they are broken. So while this conscientious bomber is looking for a working pay phone, the clock is ticking and lives are in danger. Oh well. It's the law so I stood on line with everyone else while the girl took our information and programmed it into her laptop, then pressed print and had to run to the back of the shop where the printer was so we could sign the official government document that said we were the owners of the phone number that she brought back with her. Seems like there must be an easier way, maybe one that requires less paper. In the meantime Andrea went to the tax office which is piled high with stacks of paper and the woman had to fill out everything by hand. The reason there are so many people in the civil service is because there is so much paperwork because there is so much paper. Stuff we do on computer and put in a database which can be easily accessed is done on paper and added to the piles which may be filed alphabetically, or by date, or by type of property, or more likely just thrown in any pile and never looked at again.


We got in the car and had an uneventful journey to Lavrion. Even though I was expecting the worst since buses, trolleys and the metro were all on strike yesterday, there was little traffic and we made it from Kypseli to Lavrion in about 55 minutes and got to the ferry which we did not expect to catch, with ten minutes to spare. In fact everything was running like clockwork right up to the moment I ran over my sister-in-law with the car.


It was not my fault. Well, it was but there were extenuating circumstances. You see, Andrea and her sister were arguing for most of the trip. Not really arguing because neither actually listened to what the other was saying. They were just sort of antagonizing each other by disagreeing with anything the other said. By the time we got to Lavrion and bought the ferry tickets my head was spinning. Those who have been reading my blogs know that one of my least favorite things to do in the world is drive my car on to a ferry. When I have a trip, for several days beforehand I will be thinking about it, the way a quarterback or a pitcher thinks about the big game, practicing my dexia (right) and aristera (left) for when the ship's crewmen are shouting directions to me to back my car into a space less than an inch from the cars next to me. (My friend Rob told me the secret is not to look in the rear view mirror or behind you but to look into the eyes of  the crewman and follow his instructions. "You have to trust them.") So I was in a state of ferry boarding anxiety.


When you get to the ferry the passengers have to get out and walk up the ship's gangplank while the driver goes through the torture by himself. Andrea had taken her handbag with all her reading material for the one hour ferry ride, and her sister Pam was in the process of leaving the back seat, doing whatever it is that women do when they arrive somewhere that could not have been done on the way. I was watching her through the rear view mirror, waiting for her to get out and close the door, while out of the corner of my eye the lady port policeman was walking towards me. "Are you getting on this ferry?" she asked in Greek. I told her I was. "Peraste!" she commanded. (Ferry boat people are always in a hurry.) Well, I perastayed right over Pam's foot as she was still getting out of the car. I had totally forgotten about her and if she had not started yelling at me I probably would have kept on driving until I knocked my door off on the side of the ship's garage. It was mass pandemonium with both sisters screaming bloody murder and the guys from the ship beckoning me to hurry and get my car on board so the ship could leave. I wanted to yell back at Pam "How long does it take you to get out of a F#@%ing car? No wonder I ran you over!" (I have to admit my first reaction was not of compassion but of being angry at being screamed at by two hysterical women, one of which might be a cripple forever because of me.) So while Andrea helped her hobbling sister on to the boat I went through my own personal hell trying to focus on the guy giving me instructions on parking my car in the ship's garage while not being distracted by the havoc I had left behind on shore.


As usual parking the car was a lot less stressful than it is thinking about it for three days so I went upstairs and after two trips around the ship still had not found them. Had Pam's wound been spouting blood so badly that they would not allow her on the ship? Had they called an ambulance and rushed her to the hospital leaving me to try to explain what happened to our friends on the island? Had she passed, Andrea along with her, and the ship just left, not knowing these two women laying on the dock were passengers. I started getting that nauseous feeling I have when I think that my life is about to spiral out of control and I have passed the point of no return. Then I spotted them, Andrea supporting Pam as she limped across the deck and into the lounge.


By then I had pretty much accepted that it was my fault and I apologized with as much sincerity as I could muster. Pam's ankle was a reddish-purple and Andrea had gotten some ice and put it on the injury but I could tell by the way she was moving it that it was not broken, nor was it crushed as it would have been if it had actually been run over by a Suzuki Grand Vitara which is like a small truck. Pam, after her initial reaction was taking it quite well, in fact it was Andrea who was still in a state if hysteria, doing her best to channel her RN mother. It was pretty clear that Pam was OK but Andrea was expecting the worst was yet to come. OK the ice had temporarily stopped the swelling but what would be next? X-rays? Surgery? Amputation?


When we arrived in Kea and I went down to the garage to drive off the boat I looked at the tire and saw what had happened. There on the side of it was a white smudge, Pam's skin that had been left behind when the tire scraped her foot. So I didn't run over her foot. Not to excuse it or make it seem like I did not do anything careless and that it was her fault for being in the act of getting out of the car while I was in the act of driving away. But to prove to myself that it was a less calamitous situation then it first seemed and she would probably recover.


Anyway this was not the way I wanted my first day on the island to start out. That night during dinner at Rolando's Andrea was still bugging her about putting more ice on it and by this time Pam was not even limping. Finally I said "Andrea: Pam is the victim. I am the perpetrator. We are both over it. We have moved on with our lives. So there is no reason for you who were just a bystander to keep bringing it up. It's in the past. Get over it!" She finally got the message.

otzias, kea, greeceAt least I think she did. I have not seen either of them today. I woke up at 6am and went down to the port for a coffee and then came to Otzias for my first swim of the season. The sea was a little cold but beautiful and I paddled around and stretched my attrophied muscles which had done little but walk, type and pass food and alcohol to my mouth for the past year in North Carolina. It is often during my first swim in Greece that I come back to earth and bodily sensations and stop living in my head. After my swim I came to the Otzias taverna right on the beach and began typing this at one of the freshly painted blue tables. Yannis, the owner treated me to an espresso and I am feeling pretty good. Our house is getting the roof replaced so there is the constant banging above our heads and an endless parade of donkeys carting debris away, making it impossible to work there, so if I can get over the fact that there is no wireless internet here, this makes a pretty nice office. (Yannis says he is getting wireless internet on June 20th. He also put a little beach bar by the sea). I will probably keep working until the battery runs out and then maybe have another swim before heading back to the village. It is about 10 degrees cooler up there. Last night at Rolando's we were wearing jackets and sweaters. I have to say that it feels like I never left Kea. I just spent a year in America and that time sort of collapsed and I am back in the place I was imagining being and it just seems so normal. The things I pined for are all around me. Beautiful blue sea, tanned women in bikinis with blonde hair and black roots, the terraced hills and summer houses, my favorite foods, boats, people speaking Greek, Greek music (well they are playing a radio station here that is playing House of the Rising Sun in Greek at the moment but that's besides the point.)

Guess I'll have lunch now. See ya!

Kokouvalia salad in KeaYum. That was great. I have made it my goal to eat horta or vleeta at every meal. They are domesticated wild greens and I have noticed the more horta and vleeta I eat, the healthier I feel and my toenails get so hard I can't even cut them, like superman. I also had sadziki for my garlic and yogurt intake which as we all know are both very good for you. Yannis makes a salad he calles koukouvalia which means owl which is similar to a Cretan dakos salad. It is a piece of dried whole grain bread, covered with chopped tomatoes, chopped olives, capers, and the local xino cheese which has the consistancy of cottage cheese and is a sort of sour feta. The whole thing is covered with olive oil (extra virgin of course since that is all there is here). Otzia Taverna is a must if you come to Kea for lunch. They have great fish here too but I am saving that for tonight at Rolando's. The restaurant also has one of the few remaining Turkish toilets. (Sorry ladies. It's only in the men's bathroom). Two famous people live within walking distance. Kosta-Gavras who directed Z, Missing, State of Seige and several more political thrillers that are incidentally some of my favorite movies, and Aglia Kremezi the journalist, chef, and cookbook writer who at this moment is having a farewell lunch for the dozen people who came for her cooking (and eating) classes, (Check out her website) who happens to be my favorite chef, even more than Jamie Oliver. Which reminds me, I saw the video Jamie Does Athens the other night. Well, I saw some of it. It made me so hungry watching it I had to go to Rena's for an ouzo and snack but Andrea watched the whole thing and she and I were both in it. In fact she is featured quite prominantly she says. I will have to watch the rest of it. But to further tie this little bit of information(or name-dropping) awkwardly into this paragraph, Kea is known for having the best honey in Greece. (Many islands are actually) In one segment of Jamie's show he is with a beekeeper who tells him that when he puts his bee boxes somewhere that he has no cell phone reception the bees all return. If he puts the boxes where there is reception, he loses two-thirds of them. The cell phone towers interfere with their sense of direction. So if you are wondering why honey is getting so expensive now you know. Two thirds of our bee population is lost because we are talking on our cell phones. Add this to the list of man-made crisis.


Oh yeah, and speaking of crisis Pam's foot is fine. She does not even have a bruise.


You can click on these photos to see them full size. You can read more about Kea at

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