August 1,2013

One more day

                Ever since arriving in Crete, I had heard about a big “modal music festival” in a village called Houtedsi. It was about a 1 hour bus ride from the main city of Heralkion. I had already been on the island long enough for my tastes. Sure I hadnt seen all the sights but enough for me. I saw the archeological museum, the important historical archeoligical site of Knosses, and walked around. The beaches were not interesting to me (no waves and no coral…whats the point of getting wet them?), but as usual, my timing was off a bit. I had to wait an extra day to go to the festival. I decided to do it.

                I stored my bag at the youth hostel for 2 Euros a day and took just the necessities, saxophone, a sheet, personal hygene stuff, and a computer so I could charge my phone and mp3 player. I arrived at 3 pm and immediately saw that there was nothing to do until the program started at 930 pm.  I found some people who were speaking English and asked if I could sit down with them. They were agreeable and I spent the next 2 hours eating Greek salad and bread and talking small talk.

                At 5 I walked around the village. Houtedsi was really small, you could walk it in 5 minutes. Everywhere I looked there were fig trees, olive trees, grapes, and blackberries. I was like a dream. This village was lucky enough to have a resident musician named Ross Daly, who organized this festival every year. So now, thousands of people flocked to this small town at this time. And the people of the village were ready. Lining the small roads of the villages were scores of tables in which the villagers and nearby villagers were selling stuff. I, being the thrifty backpacker traveler that I am, didnt consider buying anything that I would have to carry around, though I was tempted, but there were samples to be had. Wonderful homemade cheeses, homemade raisons, alchohols of all kinds, breads, delicious marmalades, and other non-edible handicrafts. I went to all the booths to try things and some of the foods were delicious and different than I had ever tried. I just had to make sure to go only once. The old Greek men, forced drinks on me, and looked so disappointed when I refused (after the 3rd one). This was a big part of their culture and hospitality. I was insulting them after a fashion but I think they understood I just wasnt a drinker and I appreciated their gesture.

                By that time it was about 7 and still time to kill. somehow I started feeling isolated a bit. Most people were with their friends and most people were speaking Greek. I just sat down and watched the goings on, a little alienated but fine.  I went over to the house of Ross Daly, which was also a musical instrument museum. There were all kinds of strange violins, lyres, things that looked like autoharps, flutes, etc.  He was a very interesting person. He was Irish, but emigrated to Crete, 30 years ago. He opened a music school, and became an internationally acclaimed Greek musician and composer. I knew it was him when I saw him. Tall, lanky, a great shock of white hair worn shoulder length and a red face. He walked around as if on a mission. I saw his first stage, 6 musicians, a cello, a percussionist playing a big round hand drum, and 3 other instruments that I had never seen. 2 called a lyre were shaped like violins but played upright with the base sitting on the lap of the musicians. the music was wonderful. Very serious, very fast, with the depth of classical music and readily accessible if you were paying attention. the 2 lyres were playing in unison so I could see the music was memorized. It was fast, very fast. The only problem was that people were talking. I shushed some people behind me, and  when that didnt work, i moved. I moved 3 or 4 times. Finally I gave it. It was impossible. still I enjoyed the music. The 3 other stages I saw were also great, but very different.

                At 130 am the music ended. I started talking to some greek people selling barbeque on a stick. . They were very friendly and told me I could sleep at their house if I wanted to. I had come without a plan for sleeping and it was getting cold surprisingly. It had been so hot in Heraklion that I never suppossed it might get cold at night. I took them up on their offer and decided to go to sleep. that was a big mistake. What I didnt realize and should have, is that the real action starts after the stages closed down. Thats when everyone came out and started playing together. I should have know that would happen, but I wasnt thinking.

                the house was just nearby. It was Adonis’ grandmothers house. She had moved to the city a few years ago and now it was empty, only to be used when the kids came once or twice a year. It was a treasure. In the front yard were grape vines with luscious grapes hanging seductively from vines that were interwoven into the fig trees. It was a typical village house made from blocks and painted white. In the kitchen was a huge fireplace that served also as a place for cooking. The house had been deserted for years and looked that way, but it was fine for me. I woke up early at 5 am and went outside. Sure enough, there were about 100 people playing music dancing, smoking, and generally relaxing. They had been at it for hours.

                I had to make a decision soon. The only bus would come at 730 am. I watched for a while, then went to take a nap and decide what to do. My next stop was suppossed to be santorini island but i had to get on a ferry to do that and i didnt have a ticket. I could leave on the 730 bus and try to get the ticket for that day, or I could take the bus and get the ticket for the next day if it was available, or I could just be free and see what would happen. Right then I saw a very nice young woman I had met on the streets with a street musician, the other day. She came over and gave me a warm hug. Suddenly I didnt feel so isolated any more. she was so nice. She told me, the other musician friend I had made in heraklion would be coming later and she would stay. We sat down and had a nice deep talk. I decided to stay one more day. What was one more day? I was standing near the bus stop at 720 tryig to decide, then I just said, “forget it” and went back to bed until 10.

                I wanted to hang out with my friends one more day, and stay up all night and listen or maybe play along with the Greek musicians. There were practical considerations to be made, I needed to buy a ticket, I needed to reserve a hotel room (and cancel the one I had made already, but I was practising living free and in the moment, and trusting that things would work out. Afterall, what was one more day? 

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