Crete: Winter 1988.


I hate green’, Gianni grimaced. ‘Give me concrete and glass,cars and pollution! Can you imagine? In Toronto I used to walk the streets all the day. Good shops! See this watch? Twenty dollars Canadian! It’s a good watch!How much would you pay in London, England for a watch like this? The dollar’s strong now. Do you think I should  transfer my money to Greece? Greeks!  They’re all fucked up. Conservatives! Can you imagine?

My mother! She wants me to get married! She’s crazy! I’m forty years old!  These Greek women, they like sex too much you know, you marry them and you have to work your ass off. Panic attack!

Do you think I can work in London, England? How much does a waiter earn in tips in London?I had a good job in Toronto. My boss, he loved me. Johnny Boy’  he used to call me. ‘Johnny be Good’.

‘And my darling sister? While Gianni is being the dutiful son, with a dying father, a mad mother, a village full of Greek sons-of-bitches, and all these fucking olives! My darling sister  flies from Toronto to Cuba  for a holiday! Can you imagine? Kindhearted Gianni gives up his apartment and his job and comes home to these conservative people. They’re all fucked up!

‘And now I have to go to the factory to supervise our olives in case these sons-of-bitches rip us off. Olives! Next year I’ll give them away. Get someone else to pick them and split fifty/fifty. These people! You know, every year, three months, November- olives, December- olives, January- olives! Can you imagine? They hate this work! They love the baksheesh but they hate the work! Hitting trees with big sticks! Like monkeys! Can you imagine? And now some big-shots do it with a machine, sounds like a machine gun. And they pray each night for rain. First,rain for big, fat olives, for big fat baksheesh, and then they pray for rain so they don’t have to work! Then they make their dutiful sons and daughters come from Athens and Iraklion and Toronto, Canada, and make them pick olives for their Christmas holidays. And tell them ‘ One day all this will be yours’. Can you imagine? Panic attack!

‘Easter I like it here. When I was in Toronto I would think of Easter here in this village, when I was a boy. Tradition, not just baksheesh like Christmas in Canada. They spend money there, can you imagine? If you’re a waiter… a good waiter like me…..I get of lot of  baksheesh at Christmas…. they love me there. My boss, he loved me…. Johnny he called me. But sometimes he screwed me too, he owes me a thousand dollars and never replies to my letters. They rip you off there if  you’re not careful.

‘Easter I like it here, even now. This place, when I was a boy,no tourists then, no road! No cars but plenty of donkeys. Can you imagine? This Libyan Sea, it was clean, but we didn’t swim in it. Swimming is for tourists. These old men, they can’t swim.

‘Libya! On a clear day……you still can’t see it! And now Reagan bombs Gadhafi and these people think Gadhafi will fly over here and blow up this village because there are American bases here! Can you imagine? They’re all fucked up. But I’m glad you’re here at Easter, that’s one thing they do ok. Not too much baksheesh!

‘I don’t need my twenty dollar Canadian watch here, I always know what the time is, more or less. See him, the guy with the nose. I used to call him Mr Raki. He started  drinking at    8 a.m. exactly, slept from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. exactly, and then started drinking raki again. Then the doctor told him if he didn’t stop drinking he’s a dead man. So now he drinks wkiskey!  Mr Whiskey…….. starts  8 a.m. exactly.

”And that sleeping dog in the road. It follows the shadow around the square. When it reaches the door to Pelagia’s cafe it’s 1 p.m. and I must go and feed my father. He’s a bit better now. Sometimes it’s like having a baby, but this morning he dressed himself. One morning he’ll be ok and the first thing he’ll do is stab my crazy mother.

‘I go to Egypt to escape these people. A few weeks here and there and now and then. Cairo. Can you imagine?I enjoy this beautiful place. Many people in Egypt are good people, and by speaking English of course  someone that I would open up a conversation with….. he would have to speak  English…… and in that case educated people would do so! In Cairo I have many good friends….. doctors……engineers. People don’t think so very high of themselves like in other countries. Egypt! They like me there! Food is plenty and very cheap. I was never alone there. I have a good amount of solid, good friends they never use me and they even take me to their villages, very helpful of course, but someone has to be careful sometimes. I was thinking of going to India as well. Even cheaper than Egypt for a man with dollars Canadian! But my travel agent, he knows me very well, told me, if I like Egypt why go to a faraway place like India? But cheap! Can you imagine? Anyhow, here in this Greece I get depressed. Maybe I should go to Athens? Expensive Athens and they screw you there! They think you’re rich. Seventeen years in Toronto, Canada and they think you’re a millionaire. My doctor friends in Cairo are so nice to me, very simple they are. And they like tourists! A day there costs fifteen…. twenty dollars Canadian, provided no drink and not showing off the big shot.

‘You hear that loudspeaker? That’s my uncle broadcasting from his cafe. Once he had the only phone in the village , so, when someone called for one of the people in the village, he had to go and find them. So he got a loudspeaker and you can here him everywhere, even out in the fields. 

‘He’s the biggest landowner here and a communist. Can you imagine? He gets the latest agricultural magazines from the States so that these peasants can improve their olives and improve their baksheesh! He’s a good man. There are some good men here. He would only go to communist countries for holidays……Bulgaria……Poland…….Moscow. Now? I don’t know. Next year Berlin. Me? I say ‘ Next year Toronto’.