During our first few months on the island, the Journal was our most efficient means of conveying to the outside world the experience of setting up shop. Later, it served as a Guestbook for the many friends who came to stay with us. It’s no longer maintained, but preserved here for posterity.
Last night we cooked dinner in a kitchen whose walls had to be scraped clean of paint chips before it was suitable to use. We stayed awake too late, smoked multiple cigarettes, and I relied on candles to provide light for my letter-writing. I slept in a dirty sleeping bag within an old womb of a wine-cellar cave dug out of a mountainside, given to us – given!- by a gorgeous musty old French woman named Maria who hardly knows us beyond our smiles. (This changes everything, by the way. Details will come when someone more eloquent takes the helm.)
We awoke without an alarm and I put on the same dirty clothes I’ve been wearing for weeks now. I opened the windowless sliding backdoor of our hiccupping blue van Danny and sat on the floor because we are without back seats. On a whim frog-eyed Tim took us down to the sea where we looked to the south and saw the profile of Crete, the sleeping giant. The sun washed on our faces and the sky was so clear one could not imagine ever seeing another cloud. Following the bravest, I stripped my clothes off, hopped naked over sharp rocks and jumped into the clear blue sea. It was so cold and strong I lost my breath. And then it was warm and I breathed deep. And it was still January. We’re not in Memphis anymore, Toto.
I’m sitting in a room with a new and now truly dear friend Will who joined us three weeks ago for reasons I don’t know. He traveled across the continent in his sleeping bag and let himself be teased by Alpine views and Italian piazzas just to sleep ten days in the cold and damp of Aegean winter. Now the sun shines and he will leave us once it rises twice more. Will does not wash his hair and now neither do I. (To be fair, Tim never washed his hair but as a rule I do not follow Tim’s practices without a second opinion.) Together we ooze salt and the clear blue sea. We’ll all miss Good Bill Brady and moan when he takes off but he will be back. Will be back. Please be back.
My day is mine. I have no commitments that I have not created of my own accord on an empty landscape. Waste it or wring it, the day’s fate is up to me. Even the small things I don’t want to do – even they make complete sense. Maria and Tim are doing such things now, talking to strangers in the night about rubbled holes we want to build into palaces. One of these fertile grounds shall be ours in the days to come. You’ll see.
In the middle of the coming night we must venture to the harbor to net a new friend and take him to the cliffs north of Imerovigli where he will lose his breath in the sunrise. As Chris enters things will change. Everything is always changing and we don’t read about, we don’t hear about it, we feel it. Specifically, "oh, Biddies are coming tonight," says Maria in an Indian accent. Welcome Chris.
I am completely, inescapably alive. I am aware of the elements. I am on a clear mission whose success or failure cannot be rationalized away. Vast spaces – red rocks, still water, dancing air and superior stars – these do not allow for rationalization. And so I am haunted. By past sins and failures, by designs on happiness so very close and possible, by a love so very far and impossible I am haunted. No clocks or televisions to make me feel good. Only the elements to beat the Life – LIFE – into me. Perhaps my head will explode.
Check back for further updates.
Cats: +6 (or is it 7?)
Shitty cold and damp rooms to live in: -1
Fucking spectacular warm rooms to live in: +2
Loaves of bread: 1/2 for tonight, 1/2 saved for the morning
Sailor shirts: 1 (thanks Beck, says Will)
Sailor Coats: 1
Marias: 5 (our own, our new den mother, hardware store, community office, and Petros’ much maligned wife)
For that matter, Petroses: 3 (2 of whom are confirmed married to Marias)
Demetrises that look like wizards: 2
Flying Elbows: Lurking like trains in the night.
The Gods, it seems, have favoured us. With the weather at least. Just when you thought we might be suffering a mild form of collective cabin fever, the clouds lifted and it became altogether more clement. We are dancing in the streets once more. A little more progress on the property front; we’ve got a couple of useful leads. More importantly though, we found a purveyor of falafel at last, though Craig informs me that this offering was ‘mediocre at best’. I’m holding out now until the competition sets up shop in summer.
With the day’s work done, we set off in Danny the Tranny to catch the last pastel hues of the sunset at the lighthouse-capped southern extremity of the island, and for balance, a potentially hazardous stroll through the darkness to the northern tip, on the beach at the base of Oia, where we shared a couple of beers and revisited fragments of songs by Prince and other artistes inhabiting that terrifying sonic landscape, the The Nineteen-Eighties.
We’ve also made more bread and altered the feng shui of our living space, having accepted our fate on that count. The legacy of that fish still curses the interior of the fridge, and the bathroom floor stubbornly refuses to relinquish the omnipresent puddle of dubious origin, but we are happy: we can venture into the great outdoors again.
Frying pan: -1
Embarrasing scenario with electrician when problem with light transpired to be our inabilty to operate a wall switch: +1
Steam-Rollers sat in: +1
Skirmishes with local children: +2
We were going to move out of our damp concrete home on the windy side of the island to a cliff top two up two down balcony paradise when the man came in the dark rain and told us that his boss wants to quadruple the price. Maria sighed. Surprisingly Craig still wants to jump into the big business bed with this don though I am reluctant. He has a café shop on the main street that he said we might use.
We are all fed up in our own special ways. William has been pale with computer screen concentration coding for England, I thoroughly enjoyed my blusterous walk up the hill into the grey where there is a view of sea as far as the louring clouds will allow, Craig is positive with progressively gritted teeth and gold tooth so Maria has had her shoe stolen in the night by one of the ubiquitous hungry dogs. Perhaps we should feed them the last of the fish stew though after our disappointing sally therein at lunch I would forgive even them for turning their noses up. And yet the sword of purpose is sharp. We continue to soldier onwards undeterred.
Wine Jugs: +1
Soggy Feet: through the roof
Foot Massage: +1
References to England as ‘this country’: 3
References to USA as ‘this country’: 1
Conclusion: Five is right out…
– Tim ‘sunshine’ Vincent-Smith
Weather report: cold! It got up to 60° F today; frankly we were hoping for a little more. But now the wind’s come back and we are shut up in our little rented room with cold walls, cold floors and a very, very cold bathroom. However, Maria has just made some Lapsang to warm our cockles and may we take this opportunity to say she did an excellent job of cleaning the frying pan of Craig’s ‘Potatoes a la Rattlesnake’. Tim strums – what else – Radiohead riffs in the corner, ‘Where I End and You Begin’, to be precise, his bread is in the oven, rising slowly. We (Craig and Will) are huddled in the glow of a laptop sans internet connection. We’re going to have to visit our new friend Petros this afternoon to lock and (up)load.
On that note, the locals have been spectacular, and endlessly entertaining. We’re going for coffee tonight with Demetris, the icon painter, who is currently down in Fira coaching the local football team; and the Mayor, Mr Giorgos, has warmed to us – congratulations to him on his 50-day-old baby boy.
Daniel shipped off last night back to Paris, where he’ll be telling stories to Quinn that will make him jealous – he struck up quite a friendship with the stray dogs here – and they should be uploading the video this weekend.
On the business end, no obstacles in sight; it seems that property will cost less than initially anticipated and the town is teeming with beautiful buildings, any of which we would be thrilled to call home.
Laundry Situation: Negative
Foot Cheese Factor: Highly positive, spreading to fixation
Peanut Butter: Half a jar consumed
Ashtray: olive pips, too many cigarettes, not enough biddies
Bread: Orgasmic, says Maria. Just out of the oven, soft and hot and best dipped in olive oil
Music: rockin’. Tim and Will hooked up the amp and speakers last night. Craig’s iPod trades licks with Will’s mp3 collection; we’ve yet to decide which is sulkier
Greek lessons: an uphill battle. Tim’s chalkboard is covered in letters, numbers, greetings, and ‘watermelon’ (karpouzi)
Donkey factor: Looking good.
– CW, WB, TKVS, MP