At the end of Athens, Day Three: Museum Date I ended up getting ‘steamboat’ with three Scottish girls and an American couple from Tennessee. I found out there are more cool Americans out there, and from the Scots, I learned the term,’Steamboat’ and about an amazing wonder beverage called Bucksomething that is like a mix of mad dog 20-20 and red bull: Cheap, highly alcoholic, and caffeinated.
Before I put off to bed, I set my alarm for 5:00, mostly because I knew it would take a couple snooze buttons for me to make it outta the place by 6:30, but partly out of spite for the family for waking up at sparrow’s fart all the time.
I managed to get to the metro by 6:30, had my ticket in my hand and was relaxing on the front deck of the Paros Star by 7:15.
By about 7:22, I passed out for next three hours, rousing occasionally when the refreshing breeze picked up, catching glimpses of islands off in the distance, shrouded with the low lying fog that hazed the horizon in all directions.
Right on time, at around 11:45 we docked in Paros.
I had not yet booked a place to stay. I became immediately conscious of the fact that this was one of the first times I had gone anywhere without knowing where I would sleep.
It was most certainly the first time I’d ever gone anywhere on a boat not knowing where I was staying.
Climbing down the stairs, into the heat of the Aegean sun, the concrete slab of pier sparkled. Up ahead, behind guard rails, about 20 or so very noisy, besunglassed Greek guys awaited the unsuspecting and suspecting tourists at the dock.
I, fortunately, was suspecting; forewarned by a friend who worked the Olympics in 2004. Silently, behind shades of my own, I observed the nature of the hecklers and their pack animal behaviour: They would wave their arms at passersby and seemed to pick up on on the volume and frequency of waving as said passerbys passed by. The tourist in return, picked up the pace of the stride. These men were also not colluders and comrades, but vicious anglers, actively fighting to hook a fish. What these hairy, mirror-eyed men did not know, was that I have become an expert money wrangler since doing business in a developing nation. How much for the these fake beards? “What, don’t you want to haggle?”
They lined the sides of the guardrails like a mob at a medieval execution, a gauntlet of pamphlets and glossy signs on the outside of the deep blue metal bars, keeping the creature at bay and forcing it to lean. A few tourist seemed to have completed their running of gauntlet a little more pale than whence they entered.
I decided to have a little fun.
I began to walk towards the demon, and the chatter rose to a mild roar.
But then I turned back.
The clamor subsided.
I turned left and hung out for a little out of its sight, listening most likely to Coheed or DFA1979.
Then I began to walk towards the gauntlet again.
The roar and the waving increased as my presence drew closer.
I looked stern, but slightly daunted, turned around again, hid behind a wall, and the sounds decreased, I tried to control my laughter.
I popped my head out and then back.
“Uhaaahooo,” went the gauntlet, but it did not completely die out.
I think I had confused the monster.
I waited a moment, then walked right out into the mouth of the brute.
The roar incrased and brochures were waved in my face.
I raised my arms to the sky, looked around and the shiny lensed eyes of the writhing beast that stared at at me with hunger, apprehension, and wanton lust of funny coloured money.
I opened my mouth, “whatchu got?”
“Veddy nice! Pool!”
“My friend! Over here!”
“Are you Australian? English?”
“Come meet pretty girls!”
I always like to be in control.
“My friend,” said one absurdly tan man in the front sporting Oakley-style wraparound frames. I will give you special price. You come talk to me.”
“Tell me now.”
“Ees best price on island.”
“We’ll see about that.” I turned around and grabbed another guys brochure out of his hand. He was taken aback. “That’s a nice pool. How much?”
“I give you room with balcony. Overlooking ocean.”
“I said, ‘how much.'”
“Pfffft,” I waved it of with flick of my fingers in disgust. “Who can beat fifty with a pool?”
“Forty-five!” called one guy with sunglasses.
“Forty!” hailed another.
I walked over to Forty. I inspected his brochure. I leaned in. He leaned back a little “Can you do thirty five?”
Forty emanated a prolonged grunt from deep behind his molars. After a moment, “OK.”
“Alright everybody, I got thirty five with a pool and a balcony. Who can do better.”
I think the swindlers slowly conluded that they were getting swindled and did not like it one bit. But Absurdly Tan had followed me. He was there smiling at the circus with his bronze arms crossed in front of his black sleeveless shirt. He waved me over.
I sauntered across to him.
“Let’s hear this deal, sir.”
He looked around like he was giving me the inside draw on a horse race and then whispered in my ear, “Twenty-five.”
My bottom lip pushed my top into a pensive Tom Hanks frown. “You got a pool?”
“Uhh. . .”
I turned away, but he was quick to recover from his vacillation.
“We have no pool because we are right on the beach.”
Now he had my attention. “Right on the beach?”
“Right on the beach. Bee-yoo-teee-ful beach.”
“Are you sure it’s not a short walk from the beach?”
“Ees. . .”
Hesitation. “Twenty Euro per night.” I stuck out my hand.
He took of his sunglasses, cocked his head and inhaled to tell me how I would be robbing him and his sick mother and lame child at such an absurd price.
But before he could think of a retort, I moved to turn back to the gauntlet. But I kept my eyes right on his.
He twisted his mouth into shapes of anguish, grumbled and turned his palms and twitched his head to his shoulders like DeNiro in The Godfather II.
Then he looked at me and said, “how many nights you stay?”