Part 2: The Sifnos Monster and Other Tales
King of the Kamakis
Kostaki is the uncrowned King of the kamakis. There is no question about it.
First of all, I know that you are wondering what a kamaki is. It translates literally as harpoon. What it means is Casanova. It's practically a profession in Greece. It is seasonal and the pay is meager, but it keeps the young men, and some older ones, busy during the summer. Most of the victims are tourist girls. Actually all the victims are tourist girls and many of them would not classify themselves as victims. Many women, mostly from cold Scandinavian countries, come to Greece with the intention of spending their vacation with one or a few of these semi-professional hot-blooded lovers. A trip to Greece without a romantic experience would be an empty one. I have been told that on islands like Rhodes and Kos where there are hourly flights from Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen, the kamakis are organized. They know that the bars with the most kamakis will be the ones that the women flock to. If they are not being paid for sex they should at least get their drinks for free. They say that one summer they went on strike and nearly crippled the tourist industry. Luckily the bar owners and union negotiators came to terms after several closed door bargaining sessions.
But I don't care what anybody says. There is no better kamaki then Kostaki who might also be known as the W.B. Yeates of Ceramics if anyone around here knew who W.B. Years was. Kostaki is acknowledged as one of the modern masters on an island whose history of ceramics goes back a thousand years or more. Kostaki has realized there is a connection between sexuality and creativity, just as WB Yeates had nearly a century ago when he had the gonads of an ape implanted to enhance his creativity when he feared that age was diminishing it. This won't be a problem for Kostaki. The line between sexuality and creativity is clearly drawn. Ceramics and painting is for the long, cold and lonely winter. The summer is for sex. By keeping the two in balance he plans to be fucking at least until he is 100.
Nobody knows how many women Kostaki has slept with. Some say thousands. Others say none. The truth lies somewhere in between. But he is a man larger then life, dark and handsome, driving past the cafes of Kamares with three beautiful Swedish blondes on the back of his vintage BMW motorcycle, his new Alpha-Romeo, or in his speedboat, on his way to the Greek music nightclubs of Appolonia where he will entertain them with acrobatic dancing, back flips and jokes about the government. "I no worry about AIDS", he says in his charming broken English. "Papandreau fuck everybody in Greece and he no have AIDS." And even as he is promenading on his motorcycle, the envy of every man who would be happy with just one of the beautiful blondes, he is oblivious to them because he is busy scanning the cafes for more women.
"I think you have sex last night", he says to me. "I know because your eyes very clear like the sky." He's right. "Last night I pass by your house and I hear you have very good sex. I very happy for you so I give you one ceramica." Ah ha. So that's how he knows. Sure enough he comes back with a beautiful vase glazed and decorated with painted flowers that I give to my mother as a gift when I return to America.
One summer we were in love with the same girl. She happened to be my girlfriend. I was living in Old Markos hut and she was a beautiful tourist girl from Denmark named Tine Beck who I had met one night at the Old Captain and invited her to move in with me. Every morning I would wake up and go out the front door for a swim. Every morning I would painfully step on a sticker bush that I assumed the wind had blown against my front door. It never occurred to me that someone was leaving a sticker bush for me to step on because they were jealous as they watched me and my summer lover at night. It wasn't until Lefteris gave me a blow by blow account of my previous night's activity that I realized what was going on. I approached Kostaki and confronted him about being a peeping Tom. "You make love so beautiful I very jealous." I was flattered but asked him not to leave the sticker bush anymore. "Is OK that I make looky-look?" he asked. I told him that I didn't care. Actually I knew I couldn't stop him so why make him feel bad about it. He embraced me and looked like he would cry in happiness. "Wait here", he said. He was back in a flash with a ceramica. Another gift for my mother. Unfortunately I made the mistake of telling my girlfriend who never slept with me again, luckily for my mom.
Every night at the Old Captain Dorian would play on guitar a special song by Theodorakis that Kostaki would sing to whatever girl he brought into the bar or had seen in the bar and was trying to impress. He had no voice and no ear but it was very sweet and people would applaud loudly. The balcony of his house overlooked the courtyard of the Old Captain so Kostaki always had a clear view of what the customers looked like and whether or not it was worth coming down and singing his song.
I often asked him for a ride on his speedboat but he told me that it was bad luck to have a man on the boat. He did invite all of my girlfriends though.
"I love you. I want to marry you" he says to the new girl drinking a coke at a cafe. It's as good a line as any because two minutes later I see her watching in admiration at his shop while he molds a piece of clay into a beautiful shape. Then they drive off for lunch to the taverna at Chrysopigi. Will she sleep with him? Nobody knows for sure, because though he will openly admit to failure ("Last night self-service"), he's not the locker room boaster that most kamakis seem to be ("Last night I slept with eleven virgins”.)
He's always the talk of Kamares. Most breakfast conversations start out with "Did you hear what Kostaki did last night..." and then continue as newcomers are filled in on his exploits as we repeat all the stories we know by heart.
"Why you say lies about me?" he asks Yon from Holland who was trying to protect the virtue of a female fellow traveler. Kostaki is angry and gesturing wildly but soon they make peace and he is smiling. "Now we must show all the people we are friends. You must ride on the back of my motorcycle." A rare honor for a male. Minutes later they are riding down the street smiling and waving to the strangers seated at the cafes like they are part of a parade.
His parents want him to get married, which is not surprising because he is well over forty. He confided in me when I asked him about it one night. "Yes, for me this is the most important thing. When I fall in love and I get married I will never look at another woman again. All the girls who come here they like me for ha-ha and then they go away.”
They say Kostaki went to Sweden for a cup of coffee. He had fallen in love and took the three day train ride from Athens to Stockholm. When he arrived, his true love met him at the station and told him she had a new boyfriend. They had coffee together and he got right back on the train and went back to Athens.
The King of the kamakis. I used to be alone often, thinking about guys who have lots of women, wishing I could be more like them. And here is Kostaki, with three women on his motorcycle, two more in the cafe, dozens on the horizon. He's the King of the kamakis. And he's just as lonely as anybody else.