On the road to Madrid part 1

 

-1-

      It’s taken two days to come unglued from the island. Yesterday we sat in the little airport waiting for a plane that arrived, took one look at the cloudbank that was enshrouding Ikaria and turned around and left. It rained in the early evening, cleared for a while and there was a bit of lightning over distant islands, but none close enough for us to hear their thunder.
      When we woke, this second day, It was not a rosy fingered dawn. The morning was light grey at first and then morphed into deep grey dense clouds. But they began to clear and we were seeing sun breaking through the cracks by the time we left for the airport.
      In the tiny waiting room we waited along with a couple of dozen others and watched the clouds roll back in and the rain begin. The guy at the coffee bar looked over his shoulder out the window and said no way.
      Mina roamed restlessly around the airport while I tried to go into neutral. Finally I realized that if I didn’t do something fast we were not going to get to Athens which meant we would miss our flight to Madrid. Our prepaid hotel nights would vanish without a trace of our presence and the airline would take its pound of flesh for changing our tickets.

A Passage between Two Islands

 

-1-

      We watch from high on a cliff road as a sailboat releases itself from the island across the way and fights the wind until the right balance of sails is achieved. The wind coming off our little Greek island is notoriously difficult, and corkscrews down to the sea through deep valleys, clockwise and then anticlockwise, until sailors pull their hair out, and their kids hide down below.
      The boat is a sloop, and looks to be about forty-two feet, and she sure as hell is well-captained. Most sailors drop all their canvas at the very sight of this passage and hope the engine doesn’t fail. But the captain of this boat knows what he’s doing, and plays with the sails, even as the vessel is threatening to broach. He gets it right, like a singer hitting one of those notes. The foresail furls down to the size of a little pennant, and the main winds itself into the mast until the balance is struck just right, and the boat settles in for the passage.
      From our vantage point, we watch as he does it just right. There are whorls and eddies and wind-caused current, and gusts strong enough to shock the mast with their suddenness, but the artist at the helm of the boat does it all as if following the textbook – up on the puffs, down on the lulls, but on a breathtaking scale.
      The Aegean is a blue that makes my Vancouver home-port waters look tentative. This blue has had centuries of civilization to improve itself, poets to give it spit shine, sculptors to adorn its shores, and wooden boats to grace it with colours an artist would choose if he only knew of them beforehand.

Gassed in Athens

teargas

But the smoke from the tear gas made its way into the tiny crowded room and there was no relief. Finally we realized that the only escape was to force ourselves out of the room, through the restaurant, into the street and away from the scene. The manager held us each by an arm as we opened the door. I glanced to my right and saw a smoking gas canister five feet away. We were hit even harder this time and almost overwhelmed.

The Gents Piaget

subway2

      The train is an express that roars along between stations for several minutes at a time, with the car’s lights blinking off for thirty seconds or more at a stretch. In the midst of one of the blackouts, the door to the next car suddenly bursts open, the lights pop back on, and three teenagers in track suits burst into our car as if laying claim to it.

      “Don’t nobody move,” the biggest of them shouts.

      Don’t none of us move. Don’t nobody even notice them except me, and I instantly try to become as invisible as possible for an eleven year old in a suit and tie with shoes that have just been “chrome shined” by Eddie the shoeshine guy. And, oh yeah, with a piece of jewelry in my pocket worth as much as a new Cadillac.

The Christmas Survival Suit

Christmas-1991-40

      When I picked him up off the southeast tip of Bowen Island, the old man was half-drowned. Even though he was mostly submerged, I could tell that he was big, and I knew it would be tough to get him out of the frigid December water of the Strait of Georgia. I started up the engine, unpacked the lifesling, threw the yoke overboard, and motored around in tight circles until I was near enough for him to maneuver himself into it.

Right Now

fly alex

      Travelling time was over twenty hours between Greece and Vancouver and on the journey we changed time zones by ten hours and airplanes three times. We’d saved up a bunch of points, and by adding the same amount we’d normally pay for two off season tickets, travelled business class. Athens to Frankfurt to Toronto to…