Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Duel

We've spent the past two days tramping through the mountains. It's been amazing - we are finally seeing the Greece of myth and memory. The mountains are rugged, & full of surprises. I can easily picture the Huntress, chasing her stags through these forests; or Pan, preparing the sacred grove for the revels of his king. We explored a burned out monastery at Monti Vroda, ate rabbit in wine sauce at Vourliotes, lit candles at a crumbling Byzantine chapel at Potami, and wandered the medieval streets of Manolates.

First, though, we had to escape Vathi. The hotel was fine for the first day, when all we did was sleep & recover from Mykonos. By the second morning we both realized that it would not work at all for another day. The problem was, we had paid for two days and promised for two more - and had gotten a discounted rate because of it. Dawn was adamant that we confront the owners and get our money back. I was more hoping to avoid confrontation, and slip out in the morning & just eat the 40 Euro. Appeasement, baby, that was my motto. Add an umbrella and I'd be Neville Chamberlain.

Dawn wouldn't have it; she wanted to tell the owner exactly why we didn't like her hotel. So we woke up the mom & told her we were leaving. She speaks almost no English, and so called her son Demetrius on the phone and put me on with him. Great. Get a conflict between two women, and it's the men gotta fight. History of the world, right there. I tell Demetrius we're checking out. He gasps. Sorry, I tell him. We want to go to the countryside. What countryside? he demands. What is in this countryside? Why don't you like my mom's hotel? I hold my ground, he gives in, and I give the phone to his mom.

Mom was not going to be easy. She talks to Demetrius, puts the phone down, and then fixes me with her best Catholic martyr's stare. I already think I'm doomed ... and then she starts working the hands. She drops her shoulders, turns up her palms to heaven, and whispers why do you want to leave? There are problems here? I open my hands up too. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry. I'm almost begging. And then she clutches her hands to her chest. She doesn't say anything, just stares. She doesn't have to speak. I get the message. It's International Babushka for all my sons have let me down and now you ... you too must break my heart ...

I try and counter with my best Irish / Hawaiian smile. For a few moments time stops. It's old world martyrdom versus the spirit of aloha. I can't imagine I have a chance. But shoots if I don't think I drew her into a tie, because after a few seconds she dropped her hands, said ok, and gave us 20 euro back. Good enough for me. I kissed her on both cheeks, and then Dawn and I hit the road.

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