This morning I awoke...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

This morning I awoke...

...and discovered it was the day of the Feast of the Sacred Virgin.

I immediately informed my wife of this fact and a large "wtf?!?" thought balloon popped up over her head.

"When did you turn into a bead-mumbling, mackerel-snapper?" she demanded.

(Jeanne doesn't actually talk that way, being a good little Catholic girl from Lin­denhurst, but she heard the phrase uttered by my old college roommate and it always caused her to giggle.)

I re-assured her that no conversion had taken place, only that on this date in 1963 I had landed in Greece, and after convincing im­migration officials that my family name1 was Scots in origin and hadn't ever been anything like "Spero," was allowed to enter the country.

And there I was, a midday Thursday in Athens, a historic city of 850,000 at the time... and it was closed!

I mean, sitting in Syntagma (Constitution) Square, all one could see were Canadians, Germans and other Americans. It was as if I'd stumbled into a Rod Serling teleplay.

Many of the native populace, I quickly learned, observed the Feast of the Sacred Virgin2 by getting in boats and making some sort of pilgrimage to one of their islands of family origin in the Aegean.

Being inserted in the middle of a foreign city with little in sight aside from other tourists, doesn't have much to recommend itself, so after I reconnected with my friend Simon-the-one-they-call-Richard, we drank ourselves into a torpor of Fix beer and ouzo, slept on a hotel roof and headed off the next morning on the first boat to Mykonos in the Cyclades.

It was a small island with a land mass of just over 40 square miles... and over 250 churches!

There was, though, a fair mix of genuine Greeks along with the by now obligatory Germans.

So that part of the trip was a success, and a valuable lesson was learned...

Local intel can be critical, so it's smart to reconnoiter local customs before arriving.

Notes
  1. It was shortly after the assassination, by club, of Gregoris Lambrakis and leading up to the contentious legislative elections followed by the "Time of the Colonels," the military junta. Greece was in turmoil, and its Government was actually attempting to press into military service second genera­tion Greeks no matter their country of citizenship.

    Z (See Costa-Gavras' stirring and Oscar-winning film "Z.")
  2. In Greece this date is also referred to as "Dormition of the Theotokos," while in the rest of the Roman Catholic world, it is called the "Feast of the Assumption."

Comments

1. Jeanne Speir said...

Billy Thorne would have outed you, "Spiro Agnew!" Off to the Greek military with you!

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