Showing posts with label Greece. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greece. Show all posts

Saturday, May 11, 2024

I Remember the Song of the Mediterranean

The weather is worth writing home about, beautiful, sunshine, and air pre-birth warm.The maple tree is forming a silky green canopy over the yard, and the dogwood tree is in bloom. It’s been one year since I began writing Your Story Matters.

I pushed my husband’s wheelchair outside and settled into a chair beside our outside table. (My husband in a wheelchair is a recent event.) In the spring glory of the earth, I began reading a hard copy of my book, Your Story Matters. It’s a final clean-up. 

I’m afraid my computer is becoming like Hal in the movie 2001 when Dave began dismantling him. This morning, my keyboard stopped working, and now collecting pages from my printer,  I find it has skipped pages.

And now, dear ones, for those who have followed me on this memoir, How-to, Mind, Body, and Spirit journey, let’s have fun and keep going. I won’t send you off anywhere else. You have been faithful readers, so let’s continue. 

The Next Chapter, Chapter 21 of Your Story Matters.

Revisiting Venice, Italy, cheered me. I hope it does the same for you.

 21. I Remember the Song of the Mediterranean


Isn't it strange, the moments we remember and those lost in the black hole of forgetfulness? Neil says some events are like writing them on paper and throwing them into the Grand Canyon.

That’s how I wrote this, not like a novel, as some suggest, but on scraps of paper. 

Moments plop into my mind, such as the topless swimmer in Greece, a young girl with small pointy breasts who stood proud, gorgeous, and not self-conscious.

We were the strange ones wearing tops to our swimming suits. Locals must have said, "There go a tourist."

Did I tell you we rented a Yacht in Greece? After hiking to the Acropolis at sunrise—beautiful—and as we were on jet lag up before the restaurants were open, we hiked up that hill and walked the steps of the ancients. Sunrise on the stones. We were photographed by another tourist with a video camera, a rarity in those days. 

When we returned to our hotel room, having maneuvered a taxi and the language and not in a rush to do it again, I stood at the window overlooking the rooftops of Athens. I weirdly thought they looked like Tijuana, Mexico. When I saw a brochure on the coffee table titled "Rent a Yacht," I pointed it out to the girls. 

We all agreed it sounded like a plan: a three-day tour of the islands, less expensive than a cruise boat.

Knowing me and my propensity to be seasick, I came prepared with seasick ear patches, so I decided to chance a water voyage. 

Within a couple of hours, with the food we had chosen loaded onto the boat and roses for me, we were boarding The Alexandria, named after the owner's daughter.  

Before boarding, I had placed an ear patch on each ear. Within the hour, while walking to the boat, my mouth was so dry I could hardly pull my tongue off my cheek. 

I slept on the way to Hydra, where Marilyn awakened me to what looked like Shangri-La. Orange, ochre, and burnt sienna houses crept up the hillsides in an awe-inspiring display of artistry. I sat up, sucked in a great gulp of air, overcome with the majestic view, and declared, "I'm not seasick!"

The captain drove straight into the center of the town and docked the boat, among others. He put down the gangplank, and there we sat the village at our feet. 

However, when I packed my bags, thinking I was leaving the hotel and not on a yacht, Marilyn said, "Those patches are too strong for you; take them off and wash your ears." 

I did, but double vision lingered for two days.

Later, I found that those patches contained scopolamine, a drug they used to give women during labor so they would forget the pain.

I remember a few things, how we had a perfect parking place and time to shop and walk the white stone steps of Hydra. As we lounged on Alexandria's rooftop deck, a cruise ship arrived, poured out passengers, and a short time later, sucked them back in, and left. We believed we had the better deal. 

The following morning, in Hydra, I was awakened to the clanking of soda bottles as donkeys carried them up the hill to shops. There were no vehicles. I remember the steward stacking up glasses, pouring champagne into the top glass, and letting it avalanche into the others.

Strange that we weren't hungry in Greece—that would come when we got to Italy—good timing, as we all loved Italian food. But Greece had the best yogurt, and someone served us fish on the wind-swept banks of the Mediterranean Sea. We bought a watermelon and carried it onto the boat. And the steward was insulted if we got our own glass of water. 

A crew of three served the yacht: the captain, his wife, the cook, and the steward, who had a motorboat on board. Since none of us knew how to water ski, he dragged us bodysurfing on our backs.

We couldn't sink in the Mediterranean Ocean, a fact I didn't know and had never experienced, plus the water was warm. 

I remember the song of the Mediterranean.  

It came faintly on the breeze at first.  As we approached an island, the sound rose to astounding heights.  It was a singing, ringing, buzzing sound that vibrated, riding the heat waves that shimmered from the island.

It appeared that the air was vibrating. As we got closer, I could identify the sound. It was the cicadas strumming their legs, and I wondered if the sound the Greek sailors of old thought that sound was the songs of the sirens, luring them onto the rocks. 

One night, when the kids were asleep on the upper deck, their chosen sleeping arrangement, the Captain and Steward invited me for a drink. We walked a trail along the edge of a cliff and came to a pub perched on its rim. We couldn't converse well as they didn't know much English, and I didn't know any Greek, but I learned that it snowed occasionally, and there, perched on the rim of that cliff, I had the worst drink of my life.

Four girls visited Venice, where we stood on a bridge overlooking the Grand Canal. Leaning over and looking into the water, we saw a gondola floating toward us, carrying Liza Minnelli and Walter Matthau. We yelled, "Hi Walter!" like teenagers, which one of us was. It probably wasn't anything to him, but it was astounding to us. 

Wonderful how miracles happen when you least expect them. My miracle happened this morning when I searched for a book from a stored box in the Wayback. I came upon an article I had written on Venice thirty years ago. 

You know you can get rummy on a trip, whether on a plane, train, taxi, or, in the case of Venice, a canal boat. We stood on a platform in Venice, spelled Veneziaon the map, expecting it to drive away with us when a boat appeared. 

Oh.

Walls of buildings surrounded us, buildings in ill repair, siding chipping away, facades careworn, green moss clinging to the foundations, and stairways going nowhere or disappearing into the water—ghosts of an elegant past. 

I thought, "How beautiful and elegant it would be if all was repaired, cleaned, and shored up." I felt like protecting it as I would a baby bird. It seemed so delicate a shudder of the earth would send it crumbling to the ground. 

Magnificent Venice. It must consider me an infant, for it has existed for centuries; I, only a fraction of one. But I hear it calling for help. I hear it whispering its secrets. How could anyone not love Venice?

We rode a gondola that first night, relaxing with no traffic sounds, only the whisking of gondolas, and off in the distance, a baritone voice sang an Italian serenade. We replaced travel clothes with dresses and rode in luxury, and from a bridge above us came a complementary hoot from a young Italian. 

Some think Venice is ramshackle and falling into the sea. It is sinking, but if one only sees the crumbling facades, one misses the magnificence of Venice. 

The following afternoon, while the girls went shopping, Marilyn and I sat at the edge of the Piazza San Marco, St Mark's Square, the center of Venice. In this piazza, my father once fed the pigeons. Someone took his picture and placed it on a postcard—or maybe it was only for us. No matter. We were drinking iced tea and champagne. (They serve it with potato chips.) A fellow beside us asked, "Do Americans always drink iced tea and champagne in the afternoon?"

We laughed and responded, "When in Venice, they do."

After we left magnificent Venice, with its gold leaf ceilings, we would see through windows as we toured the canals in our gondola, and there we found the four beautiful bronze horses of Venice. Legend says they were made in Greece during the time of Alexander the Great, the four horses of a chariot. They are a testament to survival. They had been stolen, survived emperors and conquerors, and returned to Venice, where they are magnificent still. I took a perfect picture of them, which I no longer have. 

We left on an early Tuesday morning aboard a speed boat to our next destination, the train depot, and eventually Rome. I stood on deck and watched the peeling buildings that appeared perfect. In two days, they had repaired themselves. The bridges and canals and pigeons were there, the little balconies with geraniums, the moss, and vine-covered buildings, and I wouldn't allow myself to feel sad, only the thought that I'm coming back, for I believe Venice exists only when I am there to see it.

We took the train to Florence and visited the Accademia Gallery, home of Michelangelo's David. He is the size of a two-story building, meant initially to be placed on a rooftop. And he stands on a pedestal, putting his feet at eye level. His feet seemed immense. He was a beautiful youth with determination in his eyes, and how Michelangelo carved such a fearless-looking figure is beyond me. I read someplace that he had first carved a wax model and placed it in water, and each day, he would carve the portion that floated above water. 

After visiting David, we had dinner where the chefs were in full view of us, and they could see us. 

One of the chefs prepared a heart-shaped pizza for my thirteen-year-old daughter. And many of the clerks often called my 16-year-old red-haired daughter "Bella Rosa."

From Greece to Rome:

The contrast of it.

From the Islands in Greece, where there were no vehicles, to Rome, a Metropolis where sirens sounded daily.

We entered a church, and as I was wearing a sundress with spaghetti straps, a lady motioned to me to cover up. Marilyn offered the scarf she used for a belt so I could hide those embarrassingly bare shoulders.

But then, I remember that Catholic women used to be required to cover their heads in church. If the ladies wanted to pop into a church for a moment but had no hat or scarf, they would lay a handkerchief over their heads. 

Would a Kleenex work? Who has handkerchiefs anymore? 

Am I being disrespectful? But for crying out loud, folks, be reasonable. God loves your beautiful hair and your beautiful body, and sex is not only for making babies.

We have sparkling moments, but if we bump into pain, we should address that, too.

Why?

Because it's all life.

I am swiping the page--red, pink, and yellow, and yes, weeds grow among the flowers--the weeds are beautiful, too—they are life. And with the passing of years, I understand that life isn't all manicured and perfect.

We visited the Colosseum, and Marilyn and I visited the Vatican, where we saw the Sistine Chapel. I was astounded to see that the paintings surrounding Michelangelo's famous painting of God bestowing life (or knowledge) onto Adam did not have the finesse of the central one of God reaching out to Adam. I'm sure someone else painted them, or Michelangelo did after he was bone tired from having paint rain on his head all day. 

And then the immensity of the Vatican hit us. 

It was too much.

There were too many religious artifacts, references to death and dying, filigrees, frescos and gold leaf, and paintings covering every square inch. It was, to us, an assault on the spirit.

We ran.