Friday, April 26, 2013


In about the middle of the above photo sits my old home near Kalamata, Greece. If it looks like heaven that's because mostly it was. 

Twice a day I would walk down the concrete steps from our place to the beach, wade a short distance to a large rock, stare down into twenty feet of the bluest water I had ever seen, then dive in. The warmth was like a bath tub. In the morning, the surface of the Mediterranean was like glass. When I bought snorkeling gear I would cruise the sandy sea bottom watching schools of fish graze in the grass.

In the evening, my wife, Maurine, and I would visit either our next door taverna or seek another along the coast road. There, we might dine on whatever was in season; fresh fish, Greek salad, and hard peasant bread was regular fare. Always, ALWAYS, we drank our weight in retsina wine.  BTW--I have yet to set eyes on a so-called taverna in the U.S. that even comes close to the real thing. 

Already long in love with the American Nineteenth-Century, when I first arrived in Greece I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Goats, donkeys, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, sheep, mules, even oxen--animals were every where. Roosters woke me every morning. Every day peasants rode by our place in horse drawn carts, going into Kalamata to buy bags of flour, salt and other staples. And the folks themselves . . . many were missing teeth. Others had facial warts, moles and scars. Some were cross-eyed. Lots more were crippled and walked with canes. This, I thought, must have been the way it was in an Old West frontier town, before corrective surgery.

The "warts" had another way of showing up. I had noticed that the Kalamata candle store was one of the larger business concerns in town. After a few months residency, I found out why. Although Kalamata was not the Third World, it was definitely not the First World either. Our electricity was seemingly off more than it was on. Many of our "romantic" nights by candle light were from necessity. Also, we were often without water. So pure was the spring water we received from the mountain behind us, that we had grains of sand in a cup of it. Getting this wonderful water was the problem. The pipes carrying it were always breaking and it took the Greeks days, even weeks, to fix them. Hence, many were the weeks I hauled a five-gallon demijohn of sea water up simply to flush the toilet. When an earthquake struck one day, we were without water and electricity for a month.

Although we generally got along with the Greeks and had some great friends, Americans, then or now, are not highly esteemed over there. Our CIA and wars for empire have soured Greece and the rest of the world. Still, when we met a Greek, who invariably knew almost no English, they would, with a grin, make a pistol with their fist and say "Dodge City," or "Jesse James." Like it or not, the Wild West is our American identity and that feature which 99% of the world associate with us.

I once asked a Finnish friend who was also staying in Greece, and who spoke pretty decent English, if he would like to visit the U.S.

"No," he said.

"Why?" asked I.

"Because it is too wild. You have Indians and cowboys. And you have bears, bison and porkyscenes."

I asked him what he meant by the last named beast. He said, "You know, that little animal with all those things that stick a person."

Although I told him it was pronounced "pork-e-pine," he insisted his version was correct. I dropped the subject.

(Below: Sunset over Messina Bay.  We never got tired of this sight.)