Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Greece '05

June 30
We all know what to do in Rome. But when you’re in that other ancient European civilization, it can be less clear. As it turns out, When in Greece, take off your clothes.

If you’ve been to South Beach or Ko Samui the concept of the topless beach isn’t so foreign. The Greek Isles are much the same, without those pesky bottoms.

As sister Quinn and I knocked a paddleball back and forth the other day, a stray shot fell a few feet to her right and when she bent down to pick up the ball she was confronted by the well-tanned hip region of a passing middle-aged man. She picked up the ball, unfazed but fully clothed and observed, “My goodness we are outnumbered.”

I have no memories of naked Greeks from my first trip to Greece. But I have no memories of that trip at all.

I was 18 months old when my mom brought me here for 100 days of backpacking around the islands and this is something of a reunion trip. Some of my first words were supposedly Greek and the stories of me getting lost in a Santorini arcade or lighting up at the sight of a Zeus statue have been so well worn in the intervening 25 years that it almost seems like I have memories, but of course I don’t. I have an image of dusty, almost colorless streets, and canvas colored plazas with ancient statues strewn about. They’re the images of photographic slides that sat stacked in our basement for a couple decades but made enough spins through a projector every few years to fix a memory of an image in my mind.

Even before I planned this yearlong trip our family had marked “Greece - Summer ’05” on our vacation calendar. Mom wanted to take me back, wanted to go back herself, and wanted my dad and sister to share the experience as well. What she promised she understood, but what she didn’t really understand at all, was that the experience wasn’t available to share. Greece ’80 can’t be visited by going to Greece ’05 any more than Hawaii can be experienced by going to Jones Beach.

And so we found a parking spot in Santorini’s Old Town and wound our way through the Gucci laden alleys. In place of the plaza where I had played, was a café selling dishes of ice cream for $14. On the slope where donkeys had carried us up from the port, there was an Aspen-style tram. Santorini—the Santorini where I got lost in the arcade—was lost for good.

Mom cried, wallowed, and cursed for a few minutes and then decided we should get a drink at a café overlooking the volcanic Caldera which, with the exception of a few extra cruise ships, looked a lot like it had for the past couple thousand years. We each had a coffee, paid our $26 and went back to our place.

Secretly, mom held out hope that seeing Greece for myself would trigger memories that the slides couldn’t. But the Greece we visited then isn’t here to be re-seen; only remembered by those with memories. And surely when I find myself in Sapa or Christchurch or Katmandu some decades from now, I’ll wonder where all the donkeys went. I won’t be counting pennies then, in fact I’ll buy my $8 cappuccino without a second thought. But the time when there was less money and more donkeys will be missed, for reasons real or romantic.


At 3:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Movie recomendation

To glimps a small view of the old Santorini watch the movie Summer Lovers with Peter Gallagher and Daryl Hannah. Released in 1982, it was probably shot in 1981.



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