Posts Tagged With: Greece

THE OLD MAN IN THE TABERNA

 

Yesterday I wrote about grayness. Today, an excerpt with sunlight, from a work in progress…

 

The Old Man In The Taberna

 

It was August. I lay stretched out on the beach soaking up the sun. I’d been lying there for most of a month, living on the beach with a sleeping bag and a small tent, staying as drunk and as stoned as possible and balling a German girl I’d met on the beach. At the taberna up in the dunes behind me I could hear a donkey braying, probably the one that the grizzled old drunkard’s wife would bring at the end of the afternoon or evening to drape him over and drag him home.

One evening I was sitting with the German girl in the taberna, plying her with ouzo to get her in the proper mood for a long night of lovemaking on the beach when the unshaven old man stumbled onto the tavern’s veranda, sat down at our table and ordered ouzo. He spoke no English or German, but indicated that he wanted to know where we were from. When the girl said Deutschland a real mean and nasty look filled his face. “Germania?” he said in a hoarse voice, “Germania!” He looked at her intensely with his dark eyes growing sharp and deep and repeated, “Germania?” He then took his wrinkled finger and dragged it in a swift movement across his throat. A look of shock coloured her face. Obviously he sill had memories of the war, when the Nazis had committed numerous atrocities during their occupation of Greece. He continued to scowl at her and slid his hand across his throat again. Then he turned his attention to me, waiting for a reply. When I told him that I was from America, the old man’s face lit up and he became animated. “America! America!’ he exclaimed, enthusiastically shaking my hand and kissing me repeatedly on the cheek. I can still feel the stubble on his face and smell his cigarette breath. He even got up a few times and staggered around to slap me on the back. “America, America,” he kept repeating and then started ordering one ouzo after another for me, while every now and then giving her a dirty look, another throat slitting sign and grumbling, “Germania.”

After one too many ouzos he finally nodded off, just as his wife showed up with the donkey. I helped her drape him over it and they waddled off into the night. The girl and I finished our last ouzos and stumbled down through the dunes, first to smoke some hashish and then spend a rather blurry night balling in the sand under a clear black sky filled with millions of stars. I left the island not too long after that and never saw the German girl again. Over the decades since then I have often wondered if, on one of those nebulous nights on that beautiful Grecian beach under all those twinkling eyes of the universe, I didn’t somehow plant a seed. I suppose I’ll never know. Ah, but then, I might be forgiven my youthful impudence, after all, it was the 70’s, when we were young, loose, carefree, foolish and, above all, so very much alive…


Naxos 3A view of the beach on the island of Naxos, seen from up in the mountain range that ran along the shoreline. Photo taken with a 110 format pocket camera in August 1979.


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Categories: Perspective, Photography, Prose | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

POET’S PERCH

 

When I was 29, after having worked for three years as a drug, alcohol and crisis streetworker-counselor and volunteer trainer for a drug outreach center, I took what little savings I had accumulated, left my life in Virginia behind and hit the road for England and Europe. I wanted to explore and write. I wanted to breathe deeply and live free. Before my funds began to run out I managed to get as far as Greece and spent a month living on the beach in my tent on the island of Naxos. It still was a beautiful island back then, not yet built up with hotels and less touristy than some of the other Greek islands. I had taken a ship from Piraeus, the port by Athens, out across the Aegean that stopped at three islands, first Siros, then Paros and finally Naxos.. It was one of the most beautiful and amazing times I’ve ever experienced, the Aegean in the hot August sun, flat and calm, the dolphins playfully running along the bow, the seagulls’ cries echoing out across the water. It was like a dream, the islands, the sea, the stars, the air, the history, just the feeling – if you’ve ever traveled there perhaps you understand. I had first read about Greece in the 1950’s, when I was seven years old, in one of those supermarket-special encyclopedias that my mother had bought me at the A&P. From that time on I had always dreamed of seeing Athens and sailing in those waters. And now that dream had finally come true. After staying a few days in Athens, cavorting with an Aussie lassie I had met and gotten to know on the long bus ride across Europe, on Naxos I caught up with some English friends who had traveled out before me and I spent my time on the beach, exploring the mountains, eating, drinking, smoking and tripping in the tavernas near the village of Agia-anna, and of course, writing. As times are when you are young and filled with energy and spirit, the days were overflowing with wonder and magic and mystery.

Somewhere in my literary studies I picked up the idea that a poet should have his or her chair, or perch. It probably has its origins in Celtic or Irish literary tradition. A place where the poet could look down upon the world with eyes wide open, a place with a view that both inspires and gives cause for meditation. I always envisioned it as being on a high promontory, far from civilization and surrounded by nature. Wandering along the coastal cliffs and mountains of Naxos I found just such a place and claimed it as my own. It was perfect, a large square rock near the edge of a cliff with a beautiful view of the clear blue sea. In my youthful dreamy perspective it almost seemed that the Muses had led me there and granted me the beautiful vista. What more could a young poet seeking inspiration ask for? I found a small flat stone and inscribed it with with the chair’s name, my nom-de-plume and the date. I spent the afternoon sitting on my chair in contemplation and with my notebook and lead pencil I wrote what I could.

Over the years since I have often wished that I could return there again. But there is no going back for all is changed. Where once there were just ramshackle tavernas in the dunes today stand hotels and tourist cottages. The deserted beach where I slept in my small tent is filled with beach chairs and sun umbrellas. Naxos now has its own airport and many more tourists. The sad truth and yet the beauty of life is that you can never really go back. The fleeting moments of our lives can only be captured in memories, sounds, films and photographs. And there they live stiffly captured in those cages, for they are removed from reality through the delusion of the passage of time and a distance that gives no quarter and shows no mercy for the prospect of a return. Robert Frost was so right when he said that all he learned from life could be said in three words. “Life goes on.” It does indeed, eventually without us…

poet’s perch

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i sit upon my poet’s chair
with the wind wrapped
in the ribbons of my hair,
the aqua clear blue sea
at which to stare,
lizards and thorn bushes
for companions,
in the distance
i hear chickens and children
across the sun fried fields of naxos –
the dry winds weave
through the boundaries of bamboo
like coarse hair through a comb
and for one afternoon in my life
i am a king,
content upon my throne,
surveying my kingdom,
happy all alone…

near agia-anna, naxos, greece august 21st 1979

000 Poets Chair 1 AThe Poet’s Perch, Erik’s Chair near Agia-Anna, Naxos, Greece. Photo taken with a cheap pocket camera  in August 1979.


000 Poets Chair 2 AThe inscription at the base of the Poet’s Perch. Photo taken with a cheap pocket camera near Agia-Anna, Naxos, Greece  in August 1979.


000 Poets Chair 3 AThe beautiful view of the clear blue sea from the Poet’s Perch. Photo taken with a cheap pocket camera near Agia-Anna, Naxos, Greece  in August 1979.


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© 2014 nightpoet all rights reserved


Categories: Perspective, Photography, Poetry | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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