People had warned me about Paros, one of the Greek Islands. “It’s no good. It has no character. Only low class greeks go there.” I was prepared for having a bad time. I wasnt prepared for what happened though. I arrived Thursday afternoon, without a plan, without accomodation. Many people met the ferry, and one man told me he had a small flat to give me for 45 euros for 2 nights. Even the other shills told me I should take it, I wouldnt get anything better. It seemed perfect. Just 5 minutes walk from the port, the city and the beach. Ok, the guy try to charge me 5 E extra for using the air-con but I thwared him. I made good use of my time, finding places to eat, visiting the beach, and looking around, the city. There was a beautiful church and it was full of people when I arrive around 6 pm. These locals were obviously a pious people,coming on Thursday night. The steets were winding and confusing, intentionally so according to the guide, to thwart the pirates, particularlly the infamous Barbaroso. They were made from stone and the houses were also of the style I saw in Santarini, whitewashed houses of original shape that often looked more sculpted than built. There were surprising variations of porches, stairs, tunnels, ancient and more modern. It was charming. What’s wrong with Paros I wondered.
Around 9 I started looking for a place to play, no easy task on these small streets. The tourist shops were open and the streets were alive with strolling tourists, languidly walking after full days of doing tourist stuff, going on tours, sleeping, laying on the beach, eating. They were ripe for a relaxing evening and then a good meal. I didnt want to disturb their reveries with unasked for music. There was a broad staircase leading up to the Frankish (no relation) Castle. Next to the stairway was a nice shop that sold things made from olive wood. Outside, the shopkeeper was leaning against the wall, relaxing and waiting for some customers to come in. I approached him and asked him if it was ok to play music here. “Absolutely. You should play. What do you play? Last night 2 guitarists played until 1 am.” I could tell right away he was a very nice guy. We had a nice chat. His name was Yorgas….George. He was from Paros but now lived in Athens. He, like thousands of other Greeks, came to the islands in the summer to work, because there wasnt any other work to be had. After talking for about 30 minutes, i started to play. It was nice, because George was always there, listening, and other people walked by (mostly) and sometimes stopped. At the end of the night I had collected a surprising 50 Euros. At some point a beautiful woman seemed stopped by the music. She sat a discreet distance away. After the song was over I went up to here. I tried the direct approach. “I felt a connection between us just now. My name is Frank.” She was surprised and delighted. Her name was Paschalia. She was studying to be a teacher and leaving for Germany in september for an internship. And she was……you guessed it? George’s girlfriend of 3 years. Yikes. It was ok. I hadnt said anything too incriminating. She was beautiful, down to earth and very charming. When George came out, we all shook hands. The young couple seemed taken with me, the traveling musician. (When people asked me where I was from, now I just said, Im a traveling musician and that seemed to satisfy them). I stopped playing at 1130 pm, (I didnt want to tourture the sleeping neighbors too much) and the three of us went out for a beer. It was a mistake. I had a hard time keeping awake.
Friday was my first full day in Paros. I slept in, went to the beach, walked around, saw the tourist sites, got lost. I arrived back at the spot early and played again. Around 10, an interesting woman put some money in my hat and I asked her to come back at 1130. She did and along with her friend (grrrrr) we had a bite to eat. She surprised me by buying everything in advace. Ok, she was well off, a DA in Athens. Very sophisticated, and aggressive. She was hunting. I guess I was maybe a fair catch for today. after we went to the appropriately names Pirate Cafe where they had live jazz. DA went right up and asked if I could sit in. I did and everyone agreed that I played with more feeling if not technicality than the sax player in the bar. We all made plans to go touristing the next day with George and his girlfriend.
Paros had and interesting history. In ancient times, around the birth of Jesus, it was famous for having the best quality marble in the world. Artists and building from around the Mediteraenan wanted the marble of Paros, it was possible to visit the marble mine, though not legally, george knew where it was and how to get in. At the last minute the DA from Athens cancelled. It didnt affect us much. We took the bus and walked way down, at least 60 meters sometimes at a 45 degree angle over the ancient marble mine. We found ancient paintings showing the 12 Greek gods and the names and dates of the managers or owners of the mines. It was a little dangerous and a little scary. Perfect. We took curves and kept walking farther than George had ever been. All we had for light was georges cell phone and a tiny led pen light that I had. I have a terrible sense of direction and kept panicing that I would get lost in her forever. There were also greek legends about monsters trapped in labyrinths. THis felt like one. So it was with a sigh of relief and a gulp of fresh air that we finally climbed up to the top of the mine.
After that we went to a small village of Lefkes. It used to be the capital city of the island. It is in steep narrow valley. It looks like a giant egg cup. They built it there because it was hard for the pirates to see it from and sea or find it at all. It was charming, and we stopped and had a coffee under a sprawling tree that resounded with the combined sounds of chicates and backgammon dice before heading back.
Instead of arriving early, i went on a free walking tour of the small city of parikia. It was a lot about fantastic stories of the church, (the architect was pushed off the roof of the church by his teacher because he was jealous of the church…they both died; the Saint of the island has her foot print encased in the marble inside the church…you can put your foot in there for good luck; there are a number of “sacred” pictures of Mary and Jesus in silver that people kiss (I saw it and it seems very unhygenic to me), and the legend of 100 doors and windows. Apparently the church has 100 doors and windows but there are only 99 they can find. When they find the 100th, then the church in constanstinople will become Greek Orthodox; and of course lots of pirate stories. By the time I arrived at the stairs and the Olive wood store, the guitar boys had grabbed the spot. Curses. it was ok though. i was tired of the shop-keepers from across the way giving me a dirty stare.
I walked all around looking for another place to play. In the square there was a greek band playing dance music. It was interesting for about 10 minutes. They kept playing the same thing over and over. It was almost like a drone. But it was ok becuase there were hundreds of villagers listening and dancing. I watched for about 30 mintues then walked around looking for a place to play. My ferry for Athens was scheduled to leave at 130 am. I had to catch that ferry because my plane for prague left at 845 am. I would go directly from the ferry to the airport. It was now 1130. It was important that I get that flight because it was a special very cheap fare.
Finally I saw a place where I thought I could play outside a store where there was an opening. 2 guys were hanging out in front, the store owners I guessed. I asked them if they thought it was ok to play here. “You should play here, they said.” Wow, store owners were really supportive here. I started playing. A few minutes later the 2 guys left. They werent the store owners, the were just sitting there, like me. I looked in the store, the owner didnt looked thrilled, but didnt look homicidal either.
I played until 12 am until a woman came and tapped me on the shoulder and pointed up at the window. There was an ancient grandma in her nightgown, looking sleepy and imploring me with her expression to be quiet. Ok. I packed up. I went back to the olive wood store. There was George listening to the guitar guys. They were just kids. they couldnt play very well. I had some time to kill. I talked with George for awhile and then figured, what the hell, I need to play and asked the boys if I could play with them. By now there was an older man playing a minature buzuki. It looked like an anorexic ukelele. The guy had a great ear and surprisingly the insturment cut through everything else. I asked the boys and they were so gentle and nice that they agreed immediately. I started playing some song with them. I was obviously the best player but we had fun. I brought their level up and the boys were thrilled. The buzuki player always sounded good. For the second song they played one my least favorite songs ever, “Hotel California” (i had mentioned I was from California…at least it gave me a new line….I’m from California, but not Hotel California…guarenteed to get a laugh among musicians and most people under 60). As I was playing I looked up and saw ever faithful George listening attentively. On the next stairs, not 1 meter away was an attractive woman also watching attentively.
The boys started another song. For them it was easy, but for me it was almost impossible. It was in 4 +5 time. In other words, one measure had 4 beats and the next had 5 beats. The chords were simple enough but playing in irregular times in very difficult for me and most jazz musicians because, although we are used to rapidly changing chords, the time time almost always, stays constant, in 3 or 4. Dave Brubeck was considered a great jazz innovator because he wrote some songs in 5 (3+2) but even that was constant. I tried playing a little but got hopelessly lost.I couldnt do it (yet) . I went over to talk to George for a minute, then headed over to the woman. I asked her if she was a musician and she wasnt. I explained to her why this song was so simple for greeks but hard for americans. She has a mischievous look in her eyes. She had on a kind of turban tyed around her head that made her look exotic. She was attractive, about 30-40 I guess, with lovely exotic clothes, and an intense challenging style. I liked her immediately. She seemed to like me right away too. Unlike most attractive woman who give you negative signals at first, she gave me positve signals from the start, touching my arm and showing interest in what I said. I dont remember what we said, just that as we talked I kept thinking, “This is a woman I could fall in love with.” How tragic to meet her with only an hour before I had to leave. “What do you do?” I asked. She wouldnt tell me. She was unconventional. She didnt want to fall into the normal pattern. She was spontaeneous, a cosmic prankster. Finally I said, ok, we have 30 seconds to say what we do only.” She agreed. I blurted it all out, my current spin. “Ok, I teach conceptual physics and public speaking in south Korea 7 months of the year, 2 months I spend with my parents in Ohio, and 3 months I am a travelling musician. I also like to write and have 20 stories published, I am the Korean national speech champion in 2011” she interrupts me by tapping her watch. She is grinning. “Your time is up.” She liked to push.
For her time she would only say, “My job is to play with children.” “You mean you are a teacher?” No I dont think of it like that. I play with them only. but I have to be clever and think faster than them. She was a kindergarten teacher. That was all she would say. “I told her that I tried teaching childer but wasnt good at disciplining them. “its easy, you can do” “ok, I want to watch your class and see how you do it.””ok” as we walked to the port (about 5 minutes away, I held her arm because “I want to be close to you.” She didnt mind as most woman, she seemed to like it. We sat on the side of the water, feet dangling over the edge, watching for the ferry. George was coming and didnt know where we were. We kept talking and the more we did, the more I liked her. She was single. She was in Paros alone and then would meet her friends in another island in a few days. We talked about love and how hard it was. “I should stay here a few more days.” “No you should go.” “yeah maybe if I stayed I might find that I hate you.” “hate? Hate is a very strong word. “”you are right, dislike. I might find I dislike you very much.” She smiled. If only I didnt have that flight, I would do . Just then, we saw the ferry coming over the horizon. I was tired, I was thinking slow. Was I willing to take a risk? To jump off the cliff without knowing where I would land? I had a special airfare. I needed to be in prague by the 18th. Could I burn my ferry ticket and my 250 dollar air ticket. I should have asked her a few questions. “Can I stay with you tonight? I have no room. Will you call the airline and make another reservation for me maybe get credit. My mind was slow. I wasnt prepared to jump. Here was possible love, what I really wanted yet was I willing to risk 500 dollars for that. I wasnt alert, wasnt prepared. Could I do it? To show you want kind of free thinker she was, here is the best example. “I want to take your picture.” it was too conventional for her. “NO. I will take a picture of you looking at me, Afterall we are all mirrors.” The novelty of the idea enchanted me. “Ok now look at me and take me in fully.” I did and she snapped the picture. That is the only picture I have of her. The ferry was getting closer. we sat close like old lovers, talking about nothing and everything. We went over to sit with George. He had seen us. “You should stay frank.” I heard him and considered it. The ferry docked and people were disembarking. I wondered what I was going to do. “How about a hug” and marina smiled seductively. She gave me a warm full body hug. My hands felt her slender waist and my chest felt the soft warmth of her chest. Then I gave george a big handshake and a hug. I felt like he was an old friend. It was decision time. I looked at Marina, and she just smiled. I gave her another hug and then a friendly kiss on the cheek. She gave me a kiss on the other cheek but missed and approached my lips. What was I doing? was this real? Should I get on the ferry or stay? what would you do?