Christmas and New Years I spent in Ephesus re-visiting the house of Mary and admiring Artemis in the museum. You can have a ball with that one, Doc. What was going on in my sub-conscious, maybe something about finding a new women? My first night in Piraeus a copy of the Iliad lay in the captain’s chair. There was a book marker placed in Book 1 where Achilles’ mother visits him. I sat and read like a schoolboy returning from summer vacation. Book 1 introduced me to my new mistress, the caïque Thetis, named after the shape-shifting silver-footed mother of Achilles who always does what she’s asked.
The next day Thetis’ owner was not present at the sale. It was risky to take ownership without him, but wherever Cacoyannis was I owed him. He provided my 1st mate Evander and other things that have made life easier. Sailing to Santorini the origin of the blue and white colors in the Greek flag hanging from the stern became clear; they were a perfect match for the cloud-speckled sky over the Aegean.
We docked just after sunset and rode the cable car up to a cafe. I died and went to heaven sipping Assyrtiko and munching pieces of fried fish. Forget dying - Fira’s sunset and wine energized my soul.
The 3rd or 4th day in port a leathery Greek named Niklos brought coffee to the Thetis and introduced himself; I wondered how he knew me. “It’s a good caïque you bought, mister. We’ve sailed many places. Mr. Cacoyannis wants me to take you to Oia.”
“Where is Oia?”
“I’m sorry. I forgot you have much to learn. Oia is another village on the island. You should see it, you might like it.”
“We have to wait for Evander. He’s my 1st mate.”
“Evander’s a fiend, I told him to take the day off. We’ll use my motor boat. Come, it’s a very short trip.”
Oia had been dug into the edge of the Santorini caldera formed by a volcano long ago. According to the Big Orange there were more people in Washington for his inauguration that day. This was not ‘fake news.’ Amoudi Bay was deserted and Taverna Katina closed - both places often seen in travel photos. Blinded by white walls and blue doors, I agreed with Niklos. “That was a helluva climb. I didn’t think there could be a more attractive village than Fira but Oia is incredible.”
“You’ll like it here even more in the summer. The cruise ships docked in Fira are a nuisance but you’ll need the business.” We walked the village. “This road actually goes to Fira. There’s a bus and taxis if you anchor in Fira. You will find everything is convenient.”
“I’ll be sleeping on the boat and working. Not often that I’ll be going to Oia.”
“Mister Cacoyannis didn’t tell you? You have a house close by in Finika. I lived there for a while before I moved in with my wife Electra. We’ll be there in a few minutes. Finika is a protected village. No cars, just walking allowed. Your house is an old winery that the Caccoyannis family turned into a canava - a cave house. We are almost there.”
Five minutes later we entered a house built into the caldera.
“Warm in winter and cool in the summer. It has natural insulation. Look around. I lived here for 2 years. Loved it.” Niklos was right. January is Santorini’s coldest month but I didn’t need the jacket I was wearing. Inside the house the walls were white, the doors blue, the floors and furniture blonde. The bed, covered with an intricately woven duvet, was built into the wall .
“I like it. How much?”
“You have much to learn, my friend. Greek xenia is handed down from the ancients. They never knew if a stranger was a man or a god so strangers were treated with hospitality. The house is a gift.”
Cacoyannis’ Greek hospitality was in the form of a crib lifted from the pages of Architectural Digest. Standing in my living room in Finika, imagined echoes of Grandmother’s - “You are a lucky child” - reverberated off the walls.
“I hope I get to meet Mr. Cacoyannis soon. Is he around?”
“He travels. His work is international, but he lives on the island. You will meet him when he’s in town, I’m sure.”
“Tell him I’m grateful - his xenia overwhelms me.”
I slept on the Thetis for 2 more nights before moving to Finika.
Our first charter wasn’t until February. Evander and Niklos were old sailing buddies who took it upon themselves to take me around the island. Niklos was a fisherman with part ownership in a winery whose time was his own. Evander refused taking any money from me saying he’d been paid for the month by Cacoyannis.
The 10 kilometer walk from Fira to Oia should be on the list of the most beautiful on the planet. Cerulean vistas ending with a magenta sunset give off the intense hues of Matisse’ cut-outs. I’ve been walking from Fira to Finikia twice a week on average, but the first time is still the most memorable. The sunset over Oia was like the scene from the Godfather when Michael Corleone is hit by a purple ‘thunderbolt’ named Apolonia. I didn’t meet Apollonia but I walked under Mother Nature’s spell with Niklos and Evander like Michael walked Corleone, Sicily with his 2 bodyguards. How xenia flows from generation to generation is beyond my comprehension, but being cared for by my two Greek friends was not. No Mafia treachery was to be found in their brotherhood.
February’s charters were chilly. By the middle of March the temperature broke 60 and my loneliness turned constant. Spring brought wildflowers and memories of Sana. Three months had passed since she had gone. I sent an occasional email. She trashed the Style Agency’s phone at my urging to avoid satellite tracking. I invited her to Santorini, expecting her to decline which she did. I asked why and she told me money was tight. I asked if that was the only reason she wouldn’t visit me. When she said it was I convinced her to let me buy her a ticket. Lufthansa’s Airbus320 arrived on Thira’s one and only runway just after 7PM the Tuesday of Easter week.
“Half a day traveling and you still look great.” Sana wore a sky blue wool and leather sweater over a white cotton blouse and white jeans; I took her hand.
“The flight was good. Only a 2 hour stop in Munich.”
“I had to book a shuttle.” His flight from Athens had been cancelled and Cacoyannis wasn’t arriving until midnight. “The man I bought my boat from is coming home for the holiday and was going to give us a ride.”
“You live with a family?” Sana’s shoulders seem to sag.
“No, no. He owns a winery and my house. He’s invited us to a party on the weekend.”
We joined 2 couples queued with a driver holding a Santorini Transport placard.
“Finika?”, I asked.
“Yes, sir. Follow me, people.” He waved us to a late model black VW bus. After 2 stops he dropped us off. Luckily the moon was just past full so there was plenty of light on the stone path we trudged to my cavana.
“How did you find this?” Sana waited as I fumbled for the key.
“Same guy I bought the boat from. Guy’s been a lifesaver. He supplied me with a first-mate and this house. I pay Evander by the month, but the house is free. All part of his Greek hospitality.” Premature as usual, I hoped I might lift Sana over the threshhold someday as I pushed through the door.
“I like it a lot.” She twirled her way through the living room and dining room before flopping on the bed. “This is romantic. Another Disneyland, Clifford?” She opened her arms and I snuggled against her.
“I’ve missed you.”
“What about Virginia?” She separated from me.
“I told you we’re history. She wants nothing to do with me and she’s declared a moratorium between me and Freddie. She was really upset when they called her looking for me.”
“Understandable. You didn’t tell me they called her.” Sana took my hand.
“Yeah, too many bad things between me and V. I understand she’s Freddy’s mom, but he doesn’t matter to them, it’s me they want.”
“They have no clue you and you sister are in the States.”
“See.” She handed me her cell phone with two smiling faces - Aamira and her son.
“He’s gotten big. Hungry?”
“A little.” She wrapped her legs around my waist and hugged me.
“How about oysters with shrimp salad?”
I took a plate of food from my refrigerator. “Aphrodite’s aphrodisiac according to the Greeks.”
“Botticelli and Venus in Italy.”
“You know the myth then.”
“Of course, Venus was goddess of beauty in Rome and Aphrodite in Greece.”
“Shellfish are the best.”
“Symbol of the vulva for the ancient world.”
“Of course.” Sana slid an oyster from its shell and drank some wine.
A half an hour later we were making love.
The next day Evander and Niklos stopped by as planned. Evander suggested, “I have my car. How about if if we go to Akrotiri?”
“Of course, my friend, you’ve been promising to take me.” I turned to Sana. “It’s a village on the island.”
“I know.” She responded with a you-think-I’m-stupid look. “Some of Plato’s readers say it’s Atlantis.”
“Where did you find her? A beauty who reads Plato.” Evander led the way to his car. He had parked on the road below.
“I always was fascinated by the myth of Atlantis and Plato.” Sana sat in the back.
“And Edgar Cayce?” Niklos asked.
“Never read him. Plato was a teacher. Atlantis was a teaching device not history.”
Niklos laughed. “You had me worried.”
“First the museum, then the excavation, then lunch at Asterias and the sunset.” Evander lashed his dark blue 20 year-old Fiat Ulysse forward, grinding gears as if to take vengeance for the cars Italy’s given the world. We parked and walked to the museum.
“You know about the name of the island?” Evander directed his question to Sana. I had become invisible to him and Niklos; I didn’t wonder why.
“Phoenicians named it Santorini after the Crusades. There was a church here dedicated to Saint Irini. ”
Niklos turned from the front seat. “Correct - the Chapel of Aghia Irini was on the bay where they landed. The name before that was Kalliste, the most beautiful one.”
“A better name.” I tried to be visible.
“The islands of Greece are named after women. Kalliste’ story is from the Argonauts. This island was formed from a piece of earth given by Triton to an Argonaut. He dropped it in the sea and Triton’s daughter, Kalliste, changed into this most beautiful island.” Evander put his right hand to pursed lips and smooched. “To a beautiful woman on this most beautiful island.”
“Evander lies often, but in this instance he’s told the truth,” Niklos said.
“I’ve heard Greek flattery is meant to be harmless.” Sana smiled.
“Harmless, but true in your case. Come let’s go inside.” We followed Evander up the steps.
The Museum of Ancient Thera contained frescoes and artisan objects removed from the excavations at Akrotiri. Like Pompeii, Akrotiri had been covered in ash, but unlike Pompeii there had been no loss of life. Residents evacuated the city before the lava arrived. The objects they left behind have been well preserved. The techniques and colors of the Minoan artwork done more than 3,000 years ago are as good as it gets. Frescoes removed from the walls of the houses show the Cyclades’ lifestyle and Minoan culture. A fisherman holding strings of fish, 2 guys boxing, a young woman collecting saffron and flotillas sailing from town to town remain etched in my mind’s eye like images profected on an Imax screen. Life looked good in Kalliste in 1600BC and felt good in 2017AD walking the streets of Akrotiri surrounded by my friends.
The second leg of the Santorini Grand Prix from Fira to Akrotiri was one hairpin turn after another driven by Evander at breakneck speed.
“You learned to drive from Monsieur LeMans Kriestensen?” Sana gave me an eyes wide-open look as we screeched to a stop where the road forked.
“He learned to drive in Athens.” Niklos shook his head in disgust as Evander did a u-turn for the parking lot we’d just passed.
“That explains a lot.” I tapped Evander’s arm.
“She knows Plato and LeMans’ most famous driver. Where do you find such women?”
“You don’t want to know.” Sana flashed a secret smile.
“The digs are down there.” Evander pointed to an enclosure just below ground level.
“Closed for 7 years, the museum re-opened with a new roof. Now Greece has run out of money for restoration. The volcano at Thera was one of the worst natural disasters ever. The end of Minoan culture and part of our history. Plato put the lost island in his book after a thousand years of Greeks talking about it.” Niklos handed our tickets to an attendant.
“Or he just made up a story to make a point.” I put my arms around Evander and Niklos as we entered the unfinished excavation. “This place is surreal.”
A maze of wooden planks with railings served as walkways through lava-covered buildings. Some buildings were still standing and some had crumbled. We came to a spot where you could stand in a 3000 year old street next to a two story building with a toilet. I still shake my head when I think about Akrotiri. The ancients built their houses and walked the streets; Easter week 3500 years later, 2 Greeks, one Syrian and an ex- SEAL envisioned them.
“Red Beach.” Evander pointed to an inlet of blood-colored sand as we left the excavation.
“I don’t know about you guys but I’m hungry.” Sana looked around for agreement.
“Me too”, I said.
“Lunch it is then. Come with me, first Asterias, then the beach and we’ll end the day with the sunset.” Evander gunned the engine.
“Don’t hurry on our account,” I was bewitched by another of Sana’s wide-eyed looks as she pulled me into the back seat of the van and kissed me. “We prefer to sit back here.”
Niklos turned. “Me too.”
Evander drove an ugly road dotted with pumice and weeds on both sides. A kayak rental shack, roadside cafes and a car park did not prepare us for Asterias - ‘starfish’ in Greek. The restaurant was set at the water’s edge of a half-cirle cove that glittered saphire-like under an early spring sun. Tables with umbrellas studded the dock with blue-and-white Edwardian cabachons for alfresco dining.
“Wow! You can drive me here anytime.” Sana kissed Evander’s forehead.
“Not the best food on the island, but the view is pretty damn good.” Niklos sat at a table at the end of the dock. He waved to a middle-aged man who hurried toward us with menus.
“Yassou, Niklos, Evander. Yassas.”
“Yassou, Dmitri. This is Sana and Cliff.” Evander made the introductions.
“Kalispera,” Sana and I said almost in unison.
“Ti-kaneis?” Dmitri handed Niklos the menus.
Niklos spoke to Dmitri, “Our friend here bought the Thetis. Cliff’s the new skipper”; then said to Sana and me, “Dmitri’s family owns Asterias.”
“Everything on the menu is complimentary. Enjoy.” Dmitri turned to leave.
“Don’t go yet, my friend. We don’t want you to go to any trouble. Just bring us what you think we will like.”
“In that case, I’ll join you. It’s slow today.” He summoned a waiter and spoke in Greek. “I haven’t seen Mr. Cacoyannis since Christmas. I guess he’s been busy.”
“Of course. To his vineyard, wine and politics.” Niklos raised his hand to the waiter placing carafes of red and white on the table.
“How well do you know the island?” Dmitri asked Sana; my invisibility re-appeared.
“My first time here.”
“Welcome to the most beautiful restaurant on the world’s most beautiful island. I quote from a Zagat comment. I was flattered and agree. Our natural setting is unmatched. There are more beautiful restaurants in the hills, but for nature lovers this is the best. Agreed?” Dmitri looked to Niklos and Evander. They nodded. “There may be a few places where the cooking is better...”
“Not many.” Evander poured himself more wine. “We bring our charter clients here when we go to Red Beach in summer. In Santorini it’s about the fish not the cook. The fish is so fresh, a little oil in the pan, a few spices and opa, you have a world-class meal.”
“Every time I come here I sit at this table and feel like Triton.” Niklos dropped a pumice piece into the water.
Sana rose, walked to the end of the dock, stood looking for a few minutes and returned. “I feel like Alice in wonderland.”
“”Would you like some wine, Alice?” Dmitri lifted the decanter.
“We haven’t any and you’re too young.” He filled her glass.
“Oh my god, a Greek restauranter who can quote Lewis Carroll.” Sana’s eyes opened wide again. “Have you read him in Greek?”
“Sorry to say I haven’t read him at all. I went to training at a culinary school in Athens. The instructor there said much of Alice in Wonderland was about eating or being eaten and quoted the passage. I try to remember the Mad Hatter quote when I pour wine for pretty young women. You gave me a perfect opening.” Dmitri filled our glasses.
“Did you know the book has been translated into almost as many languages as the Koran and the Bible?” Niklos stood and stretched.
“I did.” Sana sipped the wine.
“And do you know Vladimir Nabakov’s opinion of Louis Carroll?”
“He called him Louis Carroll Carroll, because he was the original Humbert Humbert.”
“The character in Lolita? Why?”
“Carroll took photos of naked little girls.”
“You’ve ruined the book for me.”
“There’s no proof he ever touched them, but Carroll was strange.”
“Start with the oysters while they’re cold. Here’s a fish stew to follow.” Dmitri placed 2 tureens on the table.
“Red mullet in 15 minutes.” A waiter placed salads sprinkled with feta and kalamata olives on the table.
An ice-laden tray of shrimp, clams and mussels was set down by another waiter. “Enjoy.”
“We are lucky. The red mullet is always very good.” Evander shook vinegar onto an oyster, then raised his glass. “Yiamas!”
It was after 6PM when we pushed away from the table. “Dmitri, that was delicious. Thank you.” I drained the last of my ouzu.
“You are welcome, my friend. If you are able to eat a red mullet when it is caught you are eating the fish of the gods. I love my kitchen staff, but they have no risk with fresh red mullet.”
Leg 3 of Evander’s Grand Prix ended at the southwest tip of Santorini. The island’s caldera crescent faces west and its renowned sunsets.
“The lighthouse is where the locals mingle with the tourists. It’s not as crowded here as Oia and Fira. In early spring there are no crowds anywhere but I still prefer Akrotiri.” Evander spread one blanket on the caldera, Niklos the other. We sat down 1000 feet above the Aegean under a cloudless sky.
“How often do you come out here?” Sana took a cigarette from the pack Niklos offered.
“I thought you quit.” I took one also.
“Leave her be. There are no No Smoking signs here at the most relaxing place in the world.” Niklos lit our smokes.
“You think God or Mother Nature made the volcano so we could enjoy this spot?” Evander stretched both arms over his head.
“God made the universe, Mother Nature schedules the events.” Niklos tossed his friend a cigarette.
“Week after week I see something I didn’t see before. The light is always changing. How can you be so comfortable here?” I sat and wrapped my hands around my knees.
We watched the sun sink into the sea as swipes of yellow, gold, red, magenta, blue, and purple bid adieu to the star-stippling sky.
“We are Greeks, Cliff. The gods gave us the Cyclades to take care of.”
“Caretakers of the Cyclades. Sounds like a movie.” Sana stubbed out her cigarette and put her arm aound my shoulders..
“You two should have a drink at the Villa Bordeaux,” said Evander.
“Wonderful idea, my friend. I’ll call the owner. It’s open for Easter. You can trade days on the Thetis for a room there. It’s newly made for the rich and famous.” Niklos reached for my phone on the blanket and spoke in Greek.
“Provide them with a 2 day guest cruise and you can stay one night. I booked tomorrow for you.”
Thankfully, the ride back to Finika was not like the other laps of Evander’s Grand Prix. He took it easy because he’d been drinking although I’ve been in the suicide seat when he’s driven Santorini quaffing from a bottle of ouzo like Zorba teaching the ‘boss’ to dance.
“What time can I drive you to the hotel tomorrow?” Evander pulled up at the walkway to the house.
“I think we’ll walk. I want to show Sana the flowers and views tomorow.”
“You will be able to find it?”
“Yeah, Niklos said it’s close to the museum.”
“Ok. Call me if you get lost.”
“Thanks for today.” We waved as Evander drove off.
“I heard that Santorini was beautiful but I wasn’t prepared for it. Did you know what it was like before you came?” Sana’s eyes gleamed under the full Pink Moon’s moonbeams glancing off the white of Finika’s yposkafos - ‘dug into the rock homes.’
“No, I figured it was a resort.”
“Nature’s most beautiful resort.”
Our yposkafo morphed into a tea room as Sana made chamomile for two. No one could see, no one could hear, no friends, no relations, no weekend vacations; we turned off our telephones, made love furiously, then rested in the arms of Morpheus. I hope Sana’s dreams were as erotic as mine.
“I hope you like prosecco.” The owner of Villa Bordeaux ushered us to a natural turret cut-out in the caldera. We both sat on a sand-and-blue cushioned divan.
A waitress put a bottle on the table between us before I could wave her off. “Serge, this is not necessary.”
“I’m sure you will treat our guests the same on their cruise.” Serge’s English was thickly Russian.
“Delicious! Magnificent view and to think you had to do nothing to get it.” Sana sipped her wine.
“I had them chisel a little of the caldera, but not much. We call it Trump’s Look-out. He sat at this spot last summer.”
“Where was the Secret Service?” The prosecco went well with the figs and walnuts the waitress had left us.
“No SS, it was before he won the nomination. I still can’t understand how he got 50 million votes. Don’t Americans understand hotel developers lie more than politicians.”
“Eighty percent of the white men in the US without a college education voted for him. Either they can’t tell the difference between the truth and a lie, or it doesn’t matter to them.” I cut open a fig and shelled another walnut.
“It wasn’t until I began living there I realized how little US citizens know about politics and politicians. In a country of immigrants an immigrant’s grandchild is closing the country to the rest of the world.” Sana took the fig-walnut sandwich I had made. “How could any woman vote for him after the Billy Bush tape about grabbing a woman’s pussy?”
“I guess some women like the idea of being treated badly. Irony is the way of life in Russia. When Aras Agalarov helped me buy this hotel donkeys slept and shit here. Now only the super-rich sleep and shit here. We beat Germany. Now we are making a fool of the American president. Hitler had no idea of what he was getting into when he invaded Russia and neither does Trump. Putin is KGB and Kompromat is done to win their way. The basis of KGB’s politics is Kompromat. An ex-KGB officer is no New Yorker Trump can manipulate. Putin plays by rules that have nothing to do with the Wharton business school. When Vlad wants to change the rules he changes them. Ask Oleg Erovinkin what happens when you break one of the rules. Don’t wait for his answer.”
“The ex-KGB’er?” Sana’s question implied she knew more than I did.
“Yes, but in Vlad’s own words ‘there’s no such thing as former KGB.’”
“Putin had Erovinkin killed?”
“You’ll never hear it said in Russia but KGB is taking over again. Putin created the Ministry of State Security to make sure he stays on top. Kompromat and killing are back in style. Trump makes deals, but KGB’s deals usually end up with someone dead. Put your money on the spy who never comes in from the cold.”
“Trump’s Look-out should be called Look Out, Trump.” I put my arm around Sana.
Sana disengaged. “The US elected a fascist. Trump’s a KISS president like Hitler and Mussolini were KISS. Keep it simple, stupid, and make our county great again. That’s their message. Inflated egos make for the worst leaders. Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Putin and Trump. Obama doesn’t have an inflated ego. He knew he couldn’t change the Deep State and military-industrial tactics when it came to foreign policy so he focused on health insurance.”
Serge raised a finger to our server signaling he wanted to speak with her. “Enjoy. It’s the best view we have here at the Bourdeaux.” Serge left.
“What do you think?” Sana sat back, looking over the Aegean.
“A heterosexual white male who can’t get it up anymore.”
“Believe it or not, it’s probably true. I volunteered to fight for my country and feel like my life’s been invalidated. I ran off to get even for 9/11 before I found out the Berkeley dreadlocks were right - I went on a crusade for Bush, Cheney, the Saudis and the oil industry. Afterwards Obama and his men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. Now there will be blood in the streets because Trump wants to make America great - a not-so-subtle way of saying make America for rich white men and fuck everybody else. Lucky for me I got outta there. Didn’t plan it but it’s for the best.”
“Ironic that you left and arranged for us to arrive.”
“Maybe we should move to Russia. Serge says irony’s a way of life there.”
“No thank you. I could get used to Santorini though.”
I smiled at her joke. “I can help you get used to living here.”
“Maybe I will.”
“You’re not serious, so don’t fuck with me like that.”
“I’m not fucking with you. If it’s really over between you and Virginia I could live here.”
“I need another mate.”
“Slow down, you’re always in a hurry.”
“A mate on the boat.”
“I like it, your sense of humor is back. Your country’s not a democracy anymore. The system relies on checks and balances that aren’t working because the corporation, the military-industrial complex and the deep state have all the power. Your president is a fascist idiot, the lawmakers have been paid off by corporate lobbies and the CIA controls foreign policy in the Middle East. The CIA, banks, weapons makers, arms dealers, money launderers, energy and mining interests pull the strings behind the scenes. Your mainstream media is servant to the corporations, so the message you get is the corporate message. Einstein had profound concerns for the future after WWII. There was going to be hard times ahead for the American people, troubles from within and without. The US couldn’t and still can’t smile away the Negro problem; can’t smile away Hiroshima and Nagasaki; can’t smile away Al Qaeda and the Middle East. Why? Because there are cosmic laws. When you fuck things up you pay the price. US politics is not Republicans and Democrats, it’s elections that are bought and sold when there are not limits to what can be spent to get a candidate in. As long as a corporation is a person the corporation will own the vote. Your Supreme Court has fucked you.”
We spent the afternoon drinking prosecco, eating fig-walnut sandwiches and talking politics as we watched the sun wander westward. Fot a professional photographer the cballenge was where to focus. Nature or the model next to me. The Aegean’s beauty was as memorable as Sana gazing at it. I felt like Nefertiti’s paramour watching her dip a dimming orb into a basin of blue water. We adjourned to the Terra Suite - a room resplendent in white and beige drapes billowing in the breeze. When the breeze died a dipping pool and the darkening sea came into view.
“For sure Washington never slept here. There’s a one-in-four chance Trump slept in this bed.” I cradled Sana’s head on my shoulder.
“Stop it, you’re giving me the creeps.” She slapped me gently.
“I think of Santorini as home. The Greeks honor life’s search. In the US we’ve forgotten that life is a search. They teach us we live in the best country in the world. Can’t get any better than that but it can. In Greece friends are like brothers. Niklos and Evander do for me and I do for them. We ask for nothing in return. Since I’ve come here I woke up and think about what I’ve missed. I had Cal-Berkeley, all-American rugby, SEAL trident, good job with money and privilege, but there were some things missing. A mother, a father, close friends, sex that was more than in-the moment. My life has been a journey. That’s what it should be, what all lives should be. Now that I know it I’m won’t take anything for granted. I know a little about Einstein too. He thought the USA was the greatest. Loved the people and the place when he arrived from Germany. Really admired us, how hard we worked, our honesty. Fifty years here, after he saw the flaws he said what you said. The universe reacts to injustice. Time fo payback now.”
Sana lifted her head from my shoulder with understanding in her eyes. “A Navy SEAL who’s read Einstein? Too bad there aren’t more.”
“Thanks to Aleksy.”
The sleep of contentment followed.
We missed the Easter sunrise. In the few days Sana was in Finika our yposkafo became our sanctuary. I made us a breakfast of yogurt, fruit, toast and coffee.
“Tell me about your man Cacoyonnis. How did you meet?”
“I have an Irish passport now. My connection with Santorini was made through Ireland. An ex-IRA officer in Mexico told me about a charter for sale in Greece. Cacoyonnis owned the boat and I bought it. I’ve never met him, today’s our first meeting.”
“Too good to be true. You deserve it though.”
The winery was close enough that we could walk up the hill through Finika before the terrain sloped toward the water. We reached Sigalas Domaine vineyards on a flat stretch of pumice-inbedded land extending to the sea. Not much to look at. We learned history was the explanation.
A curving one-story building housed the wine shop and tasting room with wooden latticewok shading the store’s front. The wamth of the April sun felt like a guiding hand. A weather-beaten man met us at the door to the shop.
“Welcome. Aristotle Cacoyonnis. Finally we meet and you’ve brought a goddess with you. You’re welcome as well.” Cacoyannis’ bow was informal but gracious.
“Sana is thinking of bringing her kingdom to Santorini.”
“You will be happy here, I’m sure.”
“My first time to Santorini. I feel like Alice in Wonderland.”
“I heard.” Cacoyannis laughed. “Come into the shop I have something I’d like to talk over with you before we celebrate. There is much to celebrate.”
A few tables were scattered within a room stocked with wine bottles to the ceiling. It was neatly done and spotless. “Red or white?” He held one bottle of each.
“Whatever you recommend.”
Cacoyannis poured 2 whites and a red. “I prefer the sweet of mandilaria, but most of our customers want the assyrtiko. I have you at a disadvantage.” The whites were for us.
“Our pleasure, not a problem. We are happy students when it comes to wine.” Sana raised her glass.
“You’ve come to the right place. The history of this place goes back 3000 years to Thera’s volcano. Our vineyard lost its good looks, but the taste of the grape has stayed. Your disadvantage is not only how much I know about the wine, it’s what I know about you. I wanted to chat before we joined the others so you could understand why we’ve come together. Easter has special meaning in Greece. It’s the link between the ancient and the modern world based on the the cycle of life and death. The body is mortal but not the soul. It finds new bodies to inhabit. Easter is the day in Christ’s life linking him with the ancient world. I’d like to invite you to join another world too. It’s a world you’ve been living in without realizing it. I was Alexy’s friend. My friends call me Ari. You did us a service and we are grateful. Santorini and the Thetis is my payment.
”I have something to ask and a proposition to make. You have been on a journey that began almost 20 years ago - your odyssey, so to speak, began with 9/11. You went to the cradle of civilization and helped destroy it now you’ve come to another cradle of civilization. You can have a new beginning here. What is missing in your life at this moment?”
Ari’s question brought discomfort. My week with Sana had been good; I was focused on how we might build a future, not on what I was missing in my life. Regardless, an answer came gushing from my mouth without me willing it.
“My son.” Sana squeezed my hand. “He lives in California with his mother. She and I have separated and she knows what I’ve done and will not endanger him. She will not let me see him. I can’t blame her.”
“I might be able to help. I founded Minoan II, an international group focused on bringing things in balance. Right with wrong, inequality with social justice, left-wing and right-wing politics. People don’t know I was raised in the US. My father was Greek. Married an American. They sailed the world together and taught me to sail. It’s in my blood. We come from a country founded on checks and balances but our country has lost its way. It goes back to the natural consequence of power. United States began as a place of power for the many and now it’s a place of power for the few. Americans don’t see the changes in their freedoms and want individual privilege without social responsibilty. We need a new power base. Fifty years ago the American dream became the American lie when the government covered up the JFK assassination. The American lie is now a way of life.
Each day I awaken with fear of the master of the world’s most powerful nation. Trump walks among like ‘spiritus mundi’ with a gaze blank and pitiless like the sun. Fear is his weapon along whith his lack of compassion for the less fortunate. The slouching beast best be confronted. I hope you will join me.
“If your son’s mother is agreeable we can get them a new identity like yours and move them. Their life will be taken care of by Minoan II. Money, work, education, housing.”
“What’s Minoan II? Nobody offers all that without something in return.”
“Minoa was the first civilization of Europe. It died with the volcano. Minoan II is rebirth. We will discuss your son’s future education before I leave this week. It has nothing to do with whether you accept my proposition. Your life here will be as it has been with Niklos and Evander. You earned it for having done what needed to be done to even the score for Aleksy. Your friendship showed you value our principles - the rights of the West Papuan people, the right to know the truth about Saudi Arabia, the rights of women in the Middle East. American media are now the voices of corporate America, the Supreme Court is the architect of the corporation as a person and America’s lawmakers are made rich by corporate lobbies. We must do what we can to reveal the hidden truths of the American lie.
“We need men who can speak from inside the American heart and soul about the truth of our history and how the future can change. To any thinking person the American future is bleak. Many intellectuals have seen it coming. The US has become a shadow of itself. The right-wing has been eroding the American IQ. Middle class American education lacks quality and its graduates don’t think critically. The rich want it that way because then the poor lacks the willpower to change it. They are not able to think or articulate. The USA thinks in simple terms - two parties, republican/democrat, right-to-life/right-to-abort, black/white. How else could you elect a self-interested moron like Trump? The world is complex. It’s time to wake up!”
Ari was spot-on. What could I say?
“It’s been a sore spot with me. Aleksy opened my eyes in Iraq and I kick myself for being so dumb.”
Sana got up; I could feel her stress as she circled us.
“You’re not dumb, baby. It’s men who think might makes right who are dumb. Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Trump, Putin, Hitler, Stalin whoever. Same minds, different times. Einstein thought America was different but in fifty years it became a world power singing the same old power song. Power corrupts. You’re standing at the end of a long line.”
Ari embraced her. “Sana’s right. Now is the time for counterpoint. Might does not make right, critical thought and planning do. Are we going to watch and wait for the end of the planet? Is plundering the earth’s resources for thousands of years the way to go? How about the ocean or the stars for energy. E=MC(2) gave us the atom bomb. It also gives us a way out - the transformatiion of energy to other forms. Today’s corporations and politicians don’t want change. Fossil fuel makes them richer. The Saudis and US oilmen have the power and money as long as oil is king. The Caspian Sea and building a pipeline was always the deep state’s motive for the invasion of Iraq. We need you to help us shine a light on the truth as the counterpoint to self-interest.”
“What is your proposition?”
“There will be Minoan II missions to adjust the balance of power to people with a social conscience. Increased awareness of Angela Merkel’s idealogy, Black Lives Matter, the CIA’s use of drugs and money laundering in the Middle East all need more exposure. I can’t define all the mission details because they’re not all in place. Some of it will be idealogical, some of it will be action-oriented. We will be ethical in all that we do.”
What did Ari want from me? I had my soul back, I did not want to give it up again. When you kill you lose part of your soul. “What do you want from me?”
“It’s not defined yet. We want committment. There has been too much destruction of the planet by oil and mining. It has to stop. The people of West Papua have been robbed. The Middle East too. We have to make amends.”
“I’m done killing.”
“We won’t ask you to. Killing Lester was not an ordinary mission. Aleksy was dead and Lester had to pay for what he had done. Sometime in the next year you will be asked to help us again. I don’t know how, when, how long or where. Think of it as becoming a volunteer like Doctors without Borders. What we will ask of you will make a difference for the good of the planet and its people. You too, Sana, if you join us.”
Ari and I were to meet over the Christmas holiday to discuss a Minoan II project he wanted me to work on.
Virginia had moved to Granada with Freddie in July. Ari bought a building for her in el Albaicin and turned it into a flamenco club. Freddie stayed with us at the end of August with instructions from V to give me a letter. Inside the envelop were the pendant, her thanks for the connection with Ari and instructions about what to do with the pendant. I called her to make sure he returned safe and sound.
“Bueno.” The sound of Virginia’s voice still triggered bittersweet longing for a long ago and far away lover.
“Hi. Freddie and you good?”
“Yes. Thanks to Minoan II and you. He hasn’t stopped talking about your house and his Aunt Sana.”
“Come to Santorini and you’ll understand.”
“Not a good idea. I’m sure Sana would feel the same. You’ve read my letter and given her the pendant I hope?”
“I’m giving it thought. Wanna wait a while. See how things go. I’ll tell you when I do.”
“Feels like I left LA at the right time. Maybe the NFL players’ protests will wake everybody up. Nothing else seems to.”
“Don’t count on the people waking up.”
“Trump talks about honoring the flag while floods and fires destroy Houston, the wine country and Puerto Rico. The good news is I’m still pinching myself over how the building turned out and that people are coming to watch Las Meninas. The critics gave it good reviews.”
“Good for you.”
“Freddie keeps your rugby photo next to his bed. Did you tell him you were an All-American at Cal?”
“I will. A son should be proud of his daddy. You weren’t always someone to be proud of but you are now.”
Let V’s words be my last epiphany for a while, Doc.
Published by Bill Snyder