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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

RECOLLECTIONS OF MY FORMER LIFE

Roberto and me

"Know thyself." Socrates

It's hard for me to describe how I feel when I return to Athens. It has become so much part of my life, a special part of me, and the minute I arrive here I feel myself transformed.

On the plane, as we neared Greece, and as I anticipated the dinner we'd have that night at the To Kati Allo, I was suddenly overcome with a deep sense of grief, seeing in my mind's eye an image of my friend Graham, hearing his usual cheery "Hello, Ruthie!" And the realization struck that he wouldn't be there at the taverna to greet me as he has always been. That he, along with Roberto and Kaye and many others of the old ex-pat gang have left us forever. When I did go to the taverna later that evening, the vacancy was noticable and the sense of sadness prevailed. We drank a toast to the absent ones, and spoke about them, their presence always hovering near.

It's amazing how, as soon as I hear the language I remember it, and I managed to carry on some conversation with Anna, the owner of the TKA. She was so pleased to see me. Her son, Dino and husband Leonidis were there to greet us too. Anna is a gypsy woman from Hora, a small village near ancient Olympias in the Peloponnese. We have an odd connection with 'the man from the bus' (that's the #20 bus in Vancouver), Jimmy (Dimitris) who I see sometimes when I'm riding up the Drive or across Broadway. He calls her regularly from Vancouver and exchanges news, asks about me or tells her if he's seen me. I hadn't seen him in awhile and wondered if he was here, but she says he's in poor health with heart prolems. No doubt, though, she'll relay the news that I'm back here again and one of these days, on the #20 we'll meet up. He's my Athen's connection in Vancouver.

Anna has mellowed so much over the years. I recall our early meetings in the late '80's when the old gang hung out at her brother's sandwich shop up the street from the TKA. In particular I remember the fateful "Summer of the Vipers" in late '87, the night I had a near fatal quarrel with my boyfriend Terry and she intervened, grabbing me by the hair and flinging me onto the road in front of a taxi that just stopped in time! Traumatic to say the least, and it took me a long time to get over it, or to get the courage to go to her taverna. Of course she has long since appologized and now we are friends. She asked me where I was last year and when I said "Havana, Cuba" she got very excited and explained, with Dino's help, how she likes Cuban music and jazz and would I burn some CD's for her?

It's been fun showing Ingrid my old haunts, the house where I lived on Vironos St (Byron's St), and other places where my friends and I used to hang out. Today we ate lunch at the taverna next to the Poulakis (which is now closed) and the waiter, Aris, greeted me as he always does. I've known him for 27 years since I first started coming to Athens and he never forgets me.
It's like that here, for those people who are still around from the old days. They never forget and I am always warmly welcomed 'home'.

Friday is my birthday at the garden taverna. I spoke to Dinaz last night and already Ove had called about it, and she was calling Mike. Zoe's supposed to come and maybe Carola. I hope a few of the old friends will show up.

We are enjoying being at my friend Christina's too. She had kindly set everything out for us, even cooked us a dinner (which we didn't notice til we were almost out the door on Mond. night) but last night we all sat together in the courtyard, ate the dinner, drank lots of krasi and talked for hours. Daniella has grown into a lovely young lady (she's almost like a granddaughter to me as I used to baby sit her before she could even walk or talk!) She wants us to come to her school dance and sports performance on Sunday night so of course we'll go. After that we'll head for the Ionian islands. Meanwhile, tomorrow, more sightseeing. I do enjoy being the tour guide!

Yesterday we went up the Acropolis. Ingrid's main focus was the Karyatids, the lovely ladies which are now standing in all their glory without scaffolding. She took a lot of photos of them in various poses.
Today we went around the Roman agora and also the ancient agora. I'll go back to capture Phokion's spirit. I've already noticed a couple of errors I made in setting details in my recent novel chapters and being such a nit-picker as I am with that sort of thing, I'll have to correct them, or perhaps just take some poetic license. More about this later.

The weather is pleasantly hot but yesterday, just as we were dismounting from the Rock, Zeus started throwing around his thunderbolts and we had to take shelter under a tree til an enterprising young Bangladeshi guy came along selling umbrellas. He made two quick sales. I recalled my famous last words as I ditched my old umbrella in London "I won't be needing this in Athens!" HA! Well, at least the rain keeps the air fresh and fragrant and cools things down.

"He who exercises his reason and cultivates it seems to be both in the best state of mind and most dear to the gods.'" Aristotle.

1 comment:

Sam said...

I've been reading your travel-logs, it sounds like such a lovely time!
Enjoy! Enjoy!