The Ferryman of Paros
“Tickets,” demands the man in the uniform, his hand out stretched with impatience. His face is filled with disgust and disapproval. I can hear him tapping his foot. We are seated in four very comfortable, squishy chairs on the air-conditioned interior of a ferry headed from Athens to Paros. In our group is my husband, Frank, my 2 year old son, Max, and my 14 year old daughter, Claudia.
We found these beautifully vacant chairs after searching high and low on the gigantic ferry. On the deck of the ferry the heat of the summer and the smoke of the cigarettes cling to the deck like a frightened sailor, afraid of being swept into the sea. This combination of smoke and heat is suffocating. There are no available seats. We boarded late and now everything is taken. It is like a game of musical chairs and we arrived after the music stopped. As we search desperately for a place to sit for the five hour journey, we drag our suitcases behind us like balls and chains. Finally we spot four large, beautiful, cushioned chairs side by side in the cool air conditioned interior of the boat just around the corner from the bathroom. They are tucked in a corner as if forgotten. Gratefully we sink into this heavenly oasis.
Sadly, our reprieve is fleeting. Now the angry ferryman of Paros is standing in front of us demanding tickets. I hand him the tickets. In disgust he flips every ticket back at me saying one by one as he reads them “deck, deck, deck, deck.” Clearly “deck” is not where are now seated. When in Greece it is important to have appropriate words of indignation to toss back in defiance when being wrongfully accused. “Έλα τώρα,” I say with a flip of my hand. Éla tóra means “come on now.” “Δεν ξέρω. Δεν καταλαβαίνω καλά ελληνικά .” (Den xéro. Den katalavaíno kalá elliniká) “I didn’t know. I don’t understand Greek well.” His eyebrows raise. The sides of his mouth fight to smile. His face shifts from disapproval to amusement.
I realize that this moment was the perfect Έλα τώρα moment. It is the “come on now” moment. It is the moment when you pat an angry complaining friend on the back and say “come on now, aren’t you overreacting a bit?” Your friend laughs and the party continues. I had used the well played Έλα τώρα. The ferryman laughes and explains that we needed to find a seat outside on the deck of the ship. Sadly we stand up and leave our cozy sanctuary. As the exterior door opens, the heat and a cigarette smoke slaps us rudely in the face.
The Akteon Hotel
Piso Livadi in Paros is a magical place. A carcass of a car miraculously drives down the road next to the beach, its front bumper consists of only tar. A skeleton of a building stands naked on the hill above the beach. However, no one notices, distracted by the breeze off the water, the sparkling blue of the waves and the perfect temperature.
The Akteon Hotel is directly on the beach with a restaurant in back that languidly stretches its tables onto the sand. It is small but incredibly complete. Our two bedroom apartment has four beds, air conditioning, television, a kitchenette, a private outdoor terrace for dining and a bathroom. The beach is but a step from our room. Costas gives us Greek moonshine that he makes in a bathtub. He tells us that the first batch is so strong, he uses it as an anesthetic.
The Princess of Paros
Max has fallen in love with a beautiful Greek girl. She has big brown eyes and long curly golden brown hair. He is so overcome by emotion that he craps his pants. Luckily, he is two years old and still wears diapers. Frank brings him back to the Akteon to change his diaper. Then Max and I go back to “find the girl.” He does not know how to say much, however, he is very clear to communicate to me that he must find her.
Immediately, upon hitting the beach, Max begins to trot barefoot down the narrow wooden board walk, his little body leaning forward with determination. Sadly, at the end of the board walk, he does not find her. He wants to go further down the road towards the port “to check.” When I tell him that we could go back and check in the restaurants that line the board walk along the beach, he agrees.
As we walk back, he stops in every restaurant, looking for her as bemused French tourists look on in amusement. I tell him “you lost your girlfriend.” He says “Let’s go home and tell daddy the story.” When we return to the room, Max announces “I lost my girlfriend.” “Story of my life,” says Frank. I put my hand on my hip, toss my head back and say “Έλα τώρα!”
Life is an adventure, not a destination. Live it looking for love with determination.