The International Writers Magazine: Hacktreks Travel
Greece is the Word
John M Edwards
When you are an uninvited guest dropping by the house of friends on the sizable baklava-shaped mound of Mediterranean Crete, home of the legendary beastie
“The Minotaur,” be prepared to camp out instead and sing for your sup.
Ah, Crete! Most unique of Greek islands. Indeed, downright enchanting or merely breathtaking.
Where the word “cretin” most probably comes from, perhaps based upon the extreme ravages of taverna life and the unlucky consequences of blood feuds, Crete was also where I was once confronted for a cigarette in a crumbling ancient ghetto outside Heraklion by an idiot boy apparently just happy to be alive.
As I felt somewhat sorry and inexplicably guilty about his deformity, I wondered, like a seeker poring over the leafy pages of The Golden Bough, whether the centaur might have once been real, the result of an unholy romance between a man and a horse! Indeed, all venereal diseases can claim origins from such “irreconciliable differences”: gonorrhea from horses, herpes from goats, AIDS from monkeys. Which, I suppose, adds new meaning to the erstwhile farming term “animal husbandry.”
You see, there was something a little bit off-kilter about this wee lad with a big heart and terrifying face. And not just his drooling grinning mongoloidism and natural inclination to bother tourists—inexplicably placed upon the very center of his broad “Gary Larson”-like Dark Side forehead lay a rare and curious embellishment: a unibrow underneath which rapidly blinking an unseemly Third Eye!
Then the retsina dream (that’s Greek for cheap wine) dissipated and I stumbled out onto the beach like a hungover stumblebum to blatantly ogle all the game topless women, who seemed to like the attention, as long as you wore sunglasses and a Yankees cap tipped at an erroneous angle.
Whoodoggie! One such lovely with beads of oily water dripping down her goosepimpled epidermis, carrying a chic spear gun, like a love interest in an unreleased “lockboxed” James Bond flick starring lazy George, emerged with an Aphrodite frown (an ambiguously cunning and comely curl of the rose petals) from the pursed harelip of where waves meet sand with the catch of a day: a moppy squid.
She smacked it on a black-and-white slab of unusually placed granite, resembling a leftover chunk of lemon poppy seed cake, in the sand over and over like a desirous charwoman whistling for anisette spirits, and then, she furiously feather- dusted it to avoid looking like she was really working much.
I’m afraid in this case, not at all.
This was in fact the second time I had been drawn like a cutesy kitchen magnet to Crete--and the first time I had toured the famous ruins of the famed Temple of Minos, home of the amazing mythological maze holding the legendary beast, known to one and to all as “The Minotaur”--half man, half bull.
I remembered back to a much simpler time, resembling an undecipherable Aesop Fable, when a last-ditch effort abroad by “standby” to any of the Classical Hellenic hot spots mentioned in our Fodors, Frommers, and Lonely Planets--where The Beautiful People partied up a storm at discos full of vaguely jealous Greek locals and carefree Nordic “dancing queens,” while I remained apart, gazed out to sea with marbled faun eyes of anticipation and dread, attempting to enter Plato’s “copy universe” (wherein every object has its alternate universal form of illusory perfection), producing what I called “thrill chest.”
Including me, you see, I was here to meet my “soul mate”—a doppelganger female of style, wit, beauty, and grace.
Now nothing beat mucking around boats through the Cyclades and Sporades, sprawled out on the deck, lying on your backpack like a stone telamone with its arms behind his or her neck (angled elbows arrows) and feeling the sun flush on your face, developing a deep rich orangey hue much more convincing than a quickspray touchup of icky Quick Tan ™.
The first time I went to Crete I visited the ancestral home of the family of a high-school friend, but unfortunately the house of tarot cards was full. My friend’s mother, who clearly did not approve of my unexpected arrival without any warning at all, humorously sniped, “You should really cut your long hair, John: it might frighten the children. . . .”
I wasn’t laughing.
Instead I stayed at a cool campground down the road, suffering from pasteurized and homogenized cow-milk withdrawals, when even UHT wasn’t readily available, but then again there was lumpen prole organic goat’s milk and rancid feta cheese!
I opted instead for dispensing with endless bottles of rejuvenating sickly sweet Fanta Orange--surrounded by a buzzing cartoon caption of evil bees! --and spinach phylo pastries, ready to rage with my new acquaintanceships, including a rambunctious muscle-bound English playboy with a curly blond Roger Daltry doo and way powerful lungs: “We’re in the army now, whoa-oh-oh, we’re in the army now; we’re in the army now, whoa-oh-oh, we’re in the army now!” (Conscription in the army here in the Aegean was universal.)
The Brit looked more Greek than the Greeks (and I naturally assumed he might have “rellies” here)--kind of like that laurel-wreath-crowned and appropriately togaed Apollo dude on a memorable “Star Trek” episode (original series)--and he claimed with a cocky snigger that one night here he just might have gotten so drunk that he ended up doing a Danish tart so ugly on the beach he had to put a paper bag over her head.
You know, I felt like that some times. Here I was vagely resembling Alexander the Great on holiday, trying to drum up a new expedition to find the Lost Continent of Atlantis, way out there in the middle of the Atlantic, and there were no takers.
I couldn’t wait to get home.
© John M. Edwards April 2010
The Late Great Bruce Chatwin:The Great Pretender
John M Edwards
Obsessed with nomads, he became one himself, ditching two successful careers, as Sotheby’s art expert and Sunday Times columnist, to roam the exotic edges of the literary wilderness
Bio: John M. Edwards has traveled worldwidely (five continents plus), with stunts ranging from surviving a ferry sinking off Siam to being stuck in a military coup in Fiji. His work has appeared in such magazines as Amazon.com, CNN Traveller, Missouri Review, Salon.com, Grand Tour, Islands, Escape, Endless Vacation, Condé Nast Traveler, International Living, Emerging Markets, Adventure Journey, Literal Latté, Coffee Journal, Lilliput Review, Poetry Motel, Artdirect, Verge, Slab, Stellar, Trips, Big World, Vagabondish, Glimpse, BootsnAll, Hack Writers, Road Junky, Richmond Review, Borderlines, Mango, ForeWord, Go Nomad, North Dakota Quarterly, Michigan Quarterly Review, and North American Review. He recently won a NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association) Award, a TANEC (Transitions Abroad Narrative Essay Contest) Award, a Road Junky Hell Trips Award, a Literal Latté Travel Writing, a Bradt Independent on Sunday Award, and a Solas Award (sponsored by Travelers’ Tales). He lives in New York City’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” where you can eat ethnic every night with soul survivors from Danté's Inferno. His future bestsellers, Move and Fluid Borders, remain unpublished. His new work-in-progress, Dubya Dubya Deux, is about a time traveler. His upcoming annual, Rotten Vacations: The Magazine of Misadventure, is accepting submissions.
see also: The Moa Stalker Parts One and Two