Thursday, May 22, 2008


Dear Friends,

When most of us think of passion, we usually think in narrow-minded, simplistic terms relating to romance, love or lust. But, since I have been here on Crete, I think that I have gained a fuller, more complete understanding of passion, and I don’t think that I will ever view passion in quite the same way again. I didn’t set out to learn about just seemed to confront me here - at every turn and around every corner. Sometimes I think the Greeks must have invented passion, and who knows, perhaps they did. The Greeks do everything with a passion: They come into this world kicking and screaming; they live their lives kicking and screaming; and, they go out of this world the same way – yes, kicking and screaming! And, in between the birthing and the dying, every living moment is a passionate involvement of one sort or another. Everything a Greek does is done with passion. They cook their meals with passion, and they eat them in the same way – with passion. They drive their cars with passion – just climb into the back seat of a taxi and you will learn what passion is at 90 miles an hour! They raise their olive groves and grape vineyards with passion, attacking the rocky soil to produce some of the finest olives and grapes the world has ever seen, and subsequently, the finest olive oil and wine the world has ever tasted. And, when they drink, they consume their Ouzo and Raki with a conservative form of passion, that is, until the alcohol has displaced reason with passion! And when they talk, it is with wild abandon, waving their hands and arms about as if they are attempting to flail some unseen demon in the air, voices raised, shouting like they are angry, faces red, veins protruding from their necks and foreheads; you’d think at any moment an aneurysm would burst resulting in instant death. But when they finish talking, they depart company with smiles, firm hand shakes, and pats on the back. Even the Greek women dress with passion. I call it provocative conservatism - or fashion passion. They love to reveal the bust line with V-neck shirts and blouses plunging to the greatest depths. And with the aid of prosthetic devices that push-up, lift-up, raise-up, emphasize, accent, elevate, separate, inflate, accentuate, escalate, and exalt their busts, the female form is raised to the highest levels of admiration! And they wear their slacks and jeans so low in the front their gender is barely concealed, and in the back, they wear them so low that it hardly covers their ass...ets (sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun!). And, while they appreciate those who appreciate their God-given endowments, make no mistake about it, they maintain only the highest moral standards, and God protect any man who might think otherwise! They also work with a passion. Just watch as a linesman is up an electric pole working with thousands of volts of electricity just inches away, and there will be ten passersby on the ground shouting instructions, telling him what to do and how to do it – none with any more electrical experience than having inserted a plug into an electrical outlet! And, don’t ever engage a Greek on the subject of religion, politics or sports: Any one of those topics is fodder for war, or at least armed confrontation! They also write with passion: Look at the old philosophical writings of Socrates, Plato or Aristotle, or THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY by Homer, or something more recent, such as, ZORBA THE GREEK, by Nikos Kazantzakis. Alexis Zorba lived every minute as if he might die any moment!

So, in the final analysis, what is “passion”? Passion is simply life lived to its fullest...anything other than that or less than that is merely a life of mundane mediocrity, incompatible with passion.

That brings me to the conclusion of this entry: I want to live life that same way, so that when I have drawn my last breath and have closed my eyes for the final time, and as others pass before me paying their last respects, they might say, “Truly, his was a life well lived – a life full of passion!”.

As always, take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob (Midget) Armistead


Dear Friends,

Although I am not a “computer person” or a “computer geek”, as my son will readily attest, I think that I have finally figured out this blog thing. I have decided that when I post photos, I will do so only with a caption beneath the photo and with no accompanying commentary. If I have something to say, I will do so in a separate entry. I think that mixing photos with commentaries is kind of like mixing fine wine with good whiskey – it tastes terrible and usually ends up ruining both. Thanks.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Above left: A street person plays what he called a "Lira" or "Lyra". Is this a "lyre"? Perhaps some of you might know. Downtown Heraklion.
Above center: A gold casque purportedly containing the skull of St. Titus in the Church of St. Titus in Heraklion just down from Lion's Square in the direction of the port.
Above right: The sanctuary in the Church of St. Titus in Heraklion not far from the port.

Above left: A row of seats in the Church of St. Titus in Heraklion, not far from the port.
Above center: The exterior of the Church of St. Titus in Heraklion, between Lion's Square and the port.
Above right: The atrium of a stately looking building between Lion's Square and the port of Heraklion.

Above left and above center: An old man dozes with his hand out while begging for money. Just across from the Church of St. Titus in Heraklion. Above right: The old Venetian fortress in the harbour of Heraklion.

Above left: The entranceway into the old Venetian fortress in Heraklion harbour.
Above center: Further into the entranceway of the old Venetian fortress in Heraklion harbour.
Above right: A man plays his accordian for money while sitting against the walls of the old Venetian fortress in Heraklion harbour.

Above left and above right: The old Venetian fortress as seen from the seaward side of the harbour in Heraklion.

Do these photographs bring back any memories?

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob (Midget) Armistead

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Above left: Lion's Square (Morosini fountain) undergoing restoration.
Above right: Elefterias Square across from the Astoria Hotel; it used to be a nice park with lots of trees and bushes.

Above left: The view of the Aegean Sea as seen from the balcony of my substitute apartment (I am now in my originally reserved apartment.
Above right: Saint Minas Church

Above left: View of Market Street from the newer end of the street where many of the shops have more permanent store fronts.
Above right: View of Market Street as seen from the older end of the street.
(Note: They are in the process of paving all of Market Street)

Above left: A typical street scene of one of the many narrow backstreets in downtown Heraklion.
Above right: A new Pizza Hut in one of the stately looking buildings in downtown Heraklion (This is progress?).

Above left: An old man watches me with a suspicious, yet a curious look.
Above right: Older men gather to sip strong Greek coffee and discuss the problems of the world as seen through their eyes.

Above left: An old woman at a kiosk.
Above right: An old man asks for money.

I hope these photos will cause you to recall pleasant memories from our collective past.

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob (Midget) Armistead

Monday, May 12, 2008

"New" versus "Old"

Dear Friends,
I took just a few photos in downtown Iraklion (Heraklion) the other day. They are probably in stark contrast to what you remember. I'm new to this - so bear with me. Ha. Ha. Remember, I was not raised in the computer age! When my son was a little boy, he once asked me, "Dad, what did you used to do for fun in the "olden" days when you were a little boy?" "Well, son," I replied, "after dinner we used to sit around the fire in the cave and draw pictures on the wall". That should illustrate just how far removed I am from the computer I said, bear with me! Ha. Ha.

Top Left: Errik Grimm, son of the late Helmut Grimm, in front of his father's jewelry and gift shop at Lions Square. Top right: A little street girl plays her accordian in Lions Square for money.

I will try to post additional photos later. Right now, my battery tells me that I had better close or else lose what I am working on. So, until later...

...Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow "Silent Warrior",

Bob (Midget) Armistead

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Dear Friends,

This entry is pretty much a continuation of the previous entry which recounted the unfortunate events of Saturday afternoon, May 3, 2008. After the attempt to hook up my laptop had failed, and my surge protector destroyed, I really had no idea how I would get power to my laptop to write the posts for my blog, or get the entries posted on the internet. One thing that I did know was that without power, the battery in my laptop would last only a little more than two hours. The following morning, Sunday, May 4th, I was walking toward the bus stop from my apartment to head to Iraklion, when I passed the Marirena Hotel. There seated at a table in the dining area of the hotel was a gentleman, probably in his late thirties, using a laptop computer. I entered the hotel, came into the dining area, and approached his table. I apologized for the intrusion and explained to him that I had seen him through the front window of the hotel using his laptop computer. I further conveyed to him my unfortunate experience with my attempt to hook up my laptop the previous afternoon. He told me that, while he was certainly not an electrical engineer, the transformer that is attached between the computer and the electrical outlet has the ability to operate between 100 volts and 240 volts. And that he has never had a problem just plugging his computer, via the transformer into an adapter plug, directly into the wall outlet. He further stated that perhaps the surge protector and the current converter had somehow worked against each other, resulting in the destruction of the surge protector. But...once again, he reminded me, smiling, he was not an electrical engineer. I thanked him for the information and expressed that it was certainly something for me to consider. I then asked him if he was on the internet. He replied that the Marirena Hotel had wireless internet available to its guests, but that the proprietress might allow me to use it. At that moment an attractive Greek lady appeared and placed some plates of food on the gentleman’s table. I introduced myself, told her where I was staying, and then inquired about the possibility of using the wireless internet at the Marirena Hotel. She replied that I was most welcome to come to the Marirena Hotel, use their wireless internet access, and either sit in the dining area or use one of the tables around the pool area of the hotel. She was a most gracious lady, and very kind. I later found out the Marirena Hotel is a family owned business run by her father, George Stamataki, and that she was the manager. I would later learn that her name was Eirini Stamataki.

I left Amoudara that morning for my second trip into Iraklion in as many days. When I got off the bus in Elefterias Square in downtown Iraklion at a little after 8:30 AM, it was eerily still...very quiet. The streets were devoid of traffic, as were the sidewalks with people. At first, the only ones I encountered were those workers whose task it was to sweep the street gutters and edges of the sidewalks clean. Then it occurred to me - it was Sunday! No wonder the shops were closed, and no one was about. I enjoyed the peace and tranquility that Iraklion offered me that morning – it was such a drastic contrast to the previous day, Saturday, when everyone came to sit...sip coffee or espresso and to people watch. I think the Cretans love to watch people...I do, too! Even though I had taken my camera backpack with me, I never took out my camera, never took a single photograph. I seemed content just to walk the quiet streets of Iraklion at a leisurely pace, getting reacquainted with my old friend - the “new” Iraklion. A little later, people began to stir, some shops opened, and the traffic and subsequent noise began to increase, not unlike an incoming tide.

I caught the bus back to Amoudara and my apartment, changed into shorts that I usually wear when I work out at the gym, and went out shirtless for a quiet walk along the beach. I seem to have a problem; every time that I hear someone speaking English, I want to stop and ask them where they are from. As I trod along in the sand by the shore, I heard what sounded like English...not just any English, but American English. There were two ladies who were just preparing to lie out on beach cots. I approached them, apologized for the intrusion, and then asked if they were from the United States. The closer one to me responded that she was from New York and raised in the United States, but that she now lived here and ran a little taverna on the beach. She pointed to a small wooden structure...not much more than a shack, but it had personality. If it had been any nicer, it would have been out of place. A sign reading, “Frank’s”, was swinging in front of the shack. I turned to the lady and asked, “Who is Frank?” “My Father”, she replied. She went on to say that her father and mother were Greek and they had returned to Crete, and she along with them. We talked for just a few minutes longer, and I again apologized for the intrusion before heading back to my apartment.

Later that evening I decided to hook up my computer...first the plug adapter into the wall receptacle, then the current converter into the plug adapter, next the computer transformer into the current converter and the other end of the transformer into my laptop computer. I had the current converter set on “Low”. The light on the transformer came on, and then began to flicker and fade as if it were not getting enough power. I remembered what the gentleman at the Marirena Hotel had told me about the transformer being able to handle current between 100 volts and 240 volts and that he had never had a problem. I drew a deep breath, and while also remembering the fireworks display produced by my now deceased surge protector the previous afternoon, reached down to the current converter, moved the power setting from “Low” to “High” and then ducked and winced. When there was no explosion, no sparks flying, no smoke, no sizzling sound coming from my computer, I peeked over the edge of the dresser and cautiously moved closer. The light on the transformer glowed steadily and brightly – it was also humming – not a tune that I knew - but, never-the-less, humming. I then turned my laptop on and it came alive! I was back in business!

The following morning, Monday, May 5, 2008, I returned to the Marirena Hotel, set up my laptop computer in the dining area and posted the first entry on my blog since my arrival on Crete. I had a warm and dry place to stay, food in my stomach, clothes on my back, new friends, my computer was working, and now, I was online. As my son, Robin, would say, “Life is good!”

Take care, stay well, and keep in touch.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob (Electro-Man) Armistead


Dear Friends,

I feel that I should inform you as to why it took me from May 2nd until May 6th to make the first entry to my blog after my arrival on Crete. When I got back to my apartment from my first trip into downtown Iraklion on May 3rd, I decided that I would set up my computer, write an entry, and then post that entry as soon as I was able to obtain access to the internet. But first, remember: The standard wall current here is about 220 volts, while in the U.S. it is 110 volts. That is why I purchased and brought with me two current converters before leaving for Crete. So, I plugged the receptacle adapter into the wall outlet in my apartment, plugged the current converter into the adapter, and plugged my computer surge protector into the current converter; however, something inside of me told me to refrain from plugging my laptop computer into the surge protector just yet. The current converter has a “High” and “Low”, to be on the safe side I put it on the “Low” setting. When I flipped the “On” switch on the surge protector, nothing happened – no lights - no bells - no whistles ...nothing. Therefore, I assumed that the “Low” setting on the current converter was insufficient, so I flipped the current converter setting to “High”. Big mistake! There was a sudden and intense display of fireworks as multi-colored sparks flew in all directions followed by a plume of white smoke as my surge protector gave up its existence in the performance on its duty – simultaneously, the lights in my little apartment went out. To go from a brilliant array of lighting to pitch black in a nano second is rather breath taking...and scary. When I got up off the floor, I had suddenly developed an intense urge to urinate, but I knew that water and electricity did not mix, so I attempted to exercise restraint. There was just enough light coming through my window that enabled me to reach down and unplug the surge protector from the current converter; next I unplugged the current converter from the adapter plug, and finally the adapter plug from the wall receptacle. Fortunately, the circuit breakers were located just above the wall receptacle in which my current converter and surge protector had been plugged. I opened the little box and reset the breaker that had been tripped and immediately my apartment lights were back on. I reached down held the still warm, but quite dead surge protector in my trembling hands. I decided something special should be said over any piece of equipment that gives its all and then succumbs because of the ignorance of its handler. So, I walked over to the trash can, gazed down at the surge protector one final time and said, “Sorry. S#!t happens”, and unceremoniously, dropped it into the can. I then decided to go back and re-read the instructions for the current converter...notice I said, “re-read”. I had originally read the instructions that came with the current converter about three months before, but didn’t recall anything having been said about which setting to use with a surge protector. Aha! That is because the instructions did not address using the current converter with a surge protector; however, it did say, “Do not use with a power strip”. Hmmmm...Power strip...surge protector...power strip...surge protector. I glanced over at the trash can which had become the final resting place for my surge protector. I felt a twinge of guilt knowing that I had probably caused its untimely demise. I raised my glass of Raki in tribute, and said, “Sorry. S#!t still happens”, and then with one final gulp, both my Raki and my guilt were gone!

Stay tuned for further exciting episodes in Bob’s Three Month Cretan Adventure!

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob (Electro-Man) Armistead

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Dear Friends,

I must say that I was pleased with my surrogate apartment, but I was also totally exhausted, both mentally and physically. Since getting up early Wednesday morning at 4:00 AM, I had slept very little – in fact, I didn’t sleep at all on the flight from Nashville to New York, and at best only a couple of hours on the flight from New York to Athens, and Thursday evening I only dozed sporadically at the Athens International Airport as I tried to remain awake and alert enough to hold onto my luggage, camera bag, and computer bag while awaiting my departure flight to Crete at 1:30 AM Friday morning. So, here I was, finally in my apartment, it was Friday morning and since Wednesday morning I had slept not more than about four hours. I tried to stay up, but by 11:00 AM, I went to bed, totally spent! I awoke on May 3, Saturday morning at about 3:00 AM, but forced myself to stay in bed until just after 6:00 AM. I got up, showered, dressed, threw my camera backpack over my shoulder and decided that it was time to find out if the Iraklion I once knew and loved even still existed. I walked to the bus stop that was located about 100 yards from my apartment and waited. As I did not have a bus schedule, I had no idea when the bus would arrive, which bus would take me to Iraklion, what the bus fare would be, or if there was even a bus that went to Iraklion. After waiting about 20 minutes I saw a bus coming up the road toward me, swaying back and forth like a tired, overweight, aging hog. It stopped in front of the bus stop, its door opened wide; I took one step up through the door and asked, ”Heraklion?” The bus driver nodded and I handed him a 5 Euro note. He mumbled something as he gave me change and a ticket. I didn’t know it at the time, but riders are supposed to purchase tickets in advance, so that as they board, the driver tears the ticket in half, and off they go. The very next time that I boarded a bus with no advance ticket, the driver stopped at the first bus stop where there was a kiosk selling tickets, made me leave the bus, purchase a ticket, and then re-board the I knew! As the bus approached Iraklion, I became nervous, anxious, was the kind of anxiety and fear that you experience when you are about to meet an old friend whom you haven’t seen in almost forty years. Will the two of you recognize each other? Will you remember each other? Will either of you even care? Over the years I have come to realize that most of our fears are unfounded, self-induced. We are usually more afraid of what might be, than the reality of what is - so it was with me. The bus made its way through narrow, winding streets filled with people, honking horns, and more stores and little shops than I remembered. I looked for recognizable landmarks and then passed a church on the left that looked familiar – it was St. Minas Church. I knew that I was not far from Elefterias Square, which had been the main stopping point for the Iraklion Air Station shuttle bus...directly in front of the Astoria Hotel, and one of my most memorable landmarks. Suddenly we came out of a side street and opening before me was Elefterias Square...or was it? Everything looked so different. As we went round the square, I looked for the Astoria Hotel. The bus came to a stop and everyone got off, including me. There, across the way and a little to the left was the Astoria Hotel...but even it somehow looked different. I walked toward the Astoria, crossed the street and stood in front of the hotel. I knew there used to be a small park with lots of trees, shrubs and bushes just across the street and directly in front of the Astoria. I turned and where the park used to be there was now a giant plaza of sorts – a great expanse of smooth marble and giant, towering aluminum polls leaning at about a thirty degree angle. Oh, the statue with the soldier holding his rifle was still there, but only the largest of the trees remained, and all other bushes, shrubs and greenery were gone. Somehow it looked cold and harsh, almost longer with personality or character. I turned a full 360 degrees...looking...standing in awe and amazement. I thought to myself, “Where has my Iraklion gone? What have they done to my Iraklion?” I felt my heart sink and the air go out of my lungs as if I had been tossed inside of a great vacuum. Without really intending to do so, I entered the lobby of the Astoria Hotel. Hanging in the center of the lobby was a huge chandelier, glistening and sparkling from the rays of the morning sun. To the left was the reception desk. I walked over to the desk clerk and told him that I used to come here forty years ago to have a drink in the bar or dinner in the restaurant when I was a young man in the Air Force. I asked him where the bar was, and he said, “It is in the back – where it has always been”. “No”, I said, politely, “forty years ago it used to be right over there”, pointing to the right side of the lobby. He appeared obviously agitated that I had corrected him. “Well, forty years ago, I wasn’t even here”, he snapped. I turned and as I walked away, I muttered, “No. But I was”. I left the lobby of the Astoria Hotel and stepped back out onto the busy streets and sidewalks of the “new” Iraklion. I felt a little numb. I decided to try to find some of the other landmarks that I remembered, but first I needed to orient myself...if I could. The streets around Elefterias Square radiate outward like skinny, twisted fingers winding their way through Iraklion, and from those streets, even smaller passageways and narrow alleyways continue their twists and turns. I began walking. I wanted to find Morosini Fountain (better known to us Airmen as Lions Square), Market Street, and St. Titus Church. I was also hungry – it occurred to me that I had not eaten since Thursday evening at the airport in Athens, and here it was, almost midday Saturday. I found a little bakery and bought something that looked like a cross between a bagel and a donut. I don’t know what it was, but it was good. I was hungrier than I realized. I think that I could have eaten the south end out of a north bound mule! After looking for the previously mentioned landmarks, and not finding them, and getting lost several times along the way, I finally made my way back to Elefterias Square. I stopped a waiter at one of the sidewalk cafes that line one side of the Square and asked for directions to Market Street. He told me, and off I was. Following his directions, I found Market Street with little difficulty, but even Market Street was different. The tiny, narrow shops with sagging awnings that once lined either side of Market Street had now given way to more permanent stores and shops, some with glass doors and glitzy showcases displaying their wares. Even the butcher shops that used to have fly-covered goat carcasses hanging in front of their shops like Christmas hams, have now been replaced by little meat markets with coolers out front displaying freshly cut and neatly trimmed meats. Before, you could scarcely pass a shop without the proprietor coming out, taking you by the arm, and firmly guiding you into his little store with promises of a good deal on any item...just because he liked you. And, heaven forbid if you should pay the asking price for any item; that was like an insult. You could bargain, argue, cajole, and then stomp out of a shop with the owner on your heels begging you to return, pulling at your sleeve, just so that he could give you his special price! Today, the prices are marked on the items and that is what you Euros, of course; even the Greek Drachmae has disappeared!

Later, I was able to find Morosini Fountain, or Lions Square as we called it. There was a blue vinyl tarpaulin encircling the entire fountain, but I pulled it down just far enough to take a peek. There was no water running in the fountain, and it looked as if they were preparing to perform some type of restorative work. There are still shops and little cafes surrounding Lions Square, however, traffic is no longer permitted around the fountain. As I stood there, I remembered a little shop that sold trinkets, jewelry and other souvenirs, owned by a man named Helmut Grimm. I recalled he was German. I looked around, and saw a small shop with the name, “Eva Grimm”, stenciled on the window. I walked inside from the bright sunlight; it took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dimness inside. A rather husky looking fellow with dark hair and bushy eyebrows stood behind the counter. I told him who I was and then asked if the “Eva Grimm” whose name was on the plate glass window of his shop was related to Helmut Grimm. He explained that Eva Grimm had been the wife of Helmut Grimm, but that both Helmut and Eva Grimm were now deceased. He then went on to say that his name was Errick Grimm, and that he was their son. I told him that I remembered his father very well, and that I used to visit his shop almost every time that I came to Lions Square. I also shared with Errick what a pleasant man his father had been, and how he always seemed to have plenty of time to talk with me. Errick seemed genuinely moved that someone who remembered his father from nearly forty years before would take the time to come by his shop and inquire about his father. Before leaving, we shook hands and as I walked out, he said something that reminded me of his father; “Come back...anytime. You are always welcome here.”

I returned to Elefterias Square and stood just a little ways down from the Astoria Hotel and waited for the bus back to Amoudara. When I arrived back at my apartment, I lay down on the bed, stared at the ceiling and tried to place into perspective the events of the day. Then, quite suddenly, I had an epiphany, a realization, an awakening. I got up from the bed and stood in front of the mirror that was above the dresser. That young man who had just turned twenty years old barely two weeks before arriving on Crete had been replaced with the image of a man, with thinning, graying hair, lines beneath his eyes, and with a blonde mustache and goatee that were fast becoming white. I smiled at the reflection and began to laugh: If I could change so dramatically in forty years, then how could I reasonably expect Iraklion not to do the same? I think at that point, I, Iraklion, and my past had become reconciled. Now, I can start to really enjoy Crete!

*NOTE: I should probably mention that Heraklion and Iraklion are one and the same city. The Greeks usually spell it Heraklion, while most Americans often spell it Iraklion.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Dear Friends,

Well, here I am...finally. Not only am I here on the island of Crete but I am online as well. I have to admit, it was quite an ordeal to get here...both on Crete and online! Everything started out well enough, but have you ever had those moments when everything was going so smoothly that you knew that it just couldn’t last? When I checked in at the airport terminal in Nashville on April 30th (Wednesday morning), the Delta ticket agent had a problem checking my one piece of luggage. According to his printout my luggage wanted to go to the island of Corfu, next it wanted to go to the island of Cyprus. We finally got it straightened out and was able to check my one piece of luggage straight through from Nashville to HER, which is the three letter designation for the airport at Heraklion. The flight from Nashville to New York was on a Boeing 727, was smooth and we arrived on time. After disembarking the Delta flight at JFK Airport in New York I asked for directions to the terminal from which Olympic Airways aircraft departed, and was told that it worked out of the terminal directly next door to the Delta terminal. I was pleasantly surprised that I would not have to travel halfway across JFK International Airport searching for the Olympic terminal. I left the Delta terminal and in less than three minutes I had walked to the Olympic terminal. After checking in at the Olympic counter, I was given my boarding pass and then proceeded through security to the waiting area for boarding passengers. As I sat there waiting to board my flight, there was an older, white-haired gentleman wearing a Greek fisherman’s cap sitting not far from me. He was sixtyish with a tanned face, a broad smile, and a knack for conversation. He had sat down beside two older American ladies who were with a tour group heading for Greece. He talked with them enthusiastically and gestured wildly with his hands as he told them stories about his native Crete. Crete! That’s it! I knew that he reminded me of someone – Zorba... Zorba, the Greek! I had just finished reading ZORBA THE GREEK only a few weeks before, and here was the living embodiment of Zorba, a man who loved life and enjoyed living to the fullest, sitting just a few seats away. I could tell from his talk and his demeanor that he was the kind of man who would never settle for just half a glass of wine...he would have nothing less than a full glass...or perhaps the entire bottle! I enjoyed the way he told his stories and the way in which the ladies responded...sometimes with amused smiles...and sometimes with embarrassed laughter! When the call was given to board the aircraft, I lost sight of “Zorba”, and never saw him again. We all boarded the Olympic flight on time and the plane taxied toward the runway at about 4:30 PM...and there we sat – waiting. After about a 35 minute delay, we took off. I have to say that the French-made Airbus 340 was comfortable, smooth and quiet. I was half expecting the food to rival some of the meals which we were served at midnight chow at Iraklion Air Station, but mine was actually rather good. The pilot was able to make up the 35 minutes which we had lost sitting on the taxi way awaiting takeoff at JFK in New York, and we landed on time at about 9:15 on Thursday morning, May 1st in Athens, Greece. This was where things began to go awry. After entering the airport terminal, I proceeded to the area to make my connecting flight to Crete. It was there I was told that my flight to Crete had been canceled due to a national one-day general strike affecting all of Greece. The lady behind the counter suggested that I get my luggage and then make my way to the Olympic ticket counter to arrange for a flight out of Athens to Crete for the following day. I went to the baggage claim area to get my one piece of luggage...only to watch the baggage belt go around like a carousel multiple times without producing my luggage. When I was convinced that my bag was not going to appear, I went to the complaint counter to inquire as to the whereabouts of my luggage...all the while thinking that my one bag had landed on either Corfu or Cyprus. After about an hour, a baggage handler appeared with my luggage. I didn't know whether to hug the baggage handler or hug my luggage. I decided that if I hugged the baggage handler, he might like it; and if I hugged my luggage, pleople might think I was crazy - so, I did neither! But, I have to admit, I was never so glad to see a piece of luggage in all my life – after all, it contained my provisions for my entire three month stay on Crete! After that I went to the Olympic ticket counter to get booked on a flight out of Athens to Heraklion for the following morning. The lady was very apologetic about the strike and the ensuing cancelation. She informed me that I was eligible to stay at a local hotel located about 25 kilometers outside of Athens and that Olympic Airways would pick up the tab. I told her that I just wanted to get out of Athens and get to Crete as soon as possible. So, she booked me on an Olympic Airways flight leaving about 1:30 Friday morning. I purchased a phone card for 4 Euros and then made a telephone call to my landlord, Mr. Mavrakis, explaining that I would not arrive until the following day due to the national strike. He seemed understanding and indicated that he would hold my apartment until my arrival. I spent the night in the Athens airport...sometimes dozing, but mostly trying to remain awake with my hands on my luggage, my camera bag, and my laptop computer case. I flew out of Athens early the next morning and landed on Crete at about 2:20 AM, Friday. I knew that my landlord, Mr. Mavrakis would not be awake at that hour, so I waited in the Heraklion Airport terminal until 7:00 AM, then I went outside to hail a taxi to Amoudara. The first taxi driver who approached me said that he would take me there for only 20 Euros. Now, folks, I don’t know if you have kept up with the decline of the American dollar against the Euro, but to put it mildly, the Euro has been kicking the American dollar’s butt! Those 20 Euros are equivalent to about $31 or $32 dollars! To put it more in perspective, the trip from the Heraklion International Airport to the village of Amoudara is only about 15 kilometers or about 9 miles or so! I looked at the other taxi drivers lined up outside the airport and asked if anyone else would take me there for less money. There were no takers. So, I put my one piece of luggage into the trunk, and climbed into the back seat of the Mercedes taxi with my camera bag and my laptop computer. Now, this is where things began to get a little interesting. We left the airport with the squeal of tires, a puff of blue smoke, and a hearty, “Hi-Ho, Zorba, awaaaay”. I was immediately pressed back into my seat by the G-forces, then slung from side to side of the taxi as Mario passed other cars on the road, shouted obscenities, and made gestures with his hands which were not on the steering wheel most of the time! I felt as if I were hurling down the Highway to Hell with Satan behind the wheel! However, in just a few short minutes we stopped in front of a market in Amoudara that had a sign indicating the Rania Apartments were behind the market. With shaking knees, I emerged from the taxi and felt like I should kiss the ground or make a burnt offering to whatever deity that had allowed me to arrive in one piece. I gave Mario the 20 Euro note, we shook hands, and off he went again, in the now familiar squeal of tires, puff of blue smoke, and the still hearty, "Hi-Ho Zorba, awaaaaay!” I walked down a narrow alley-way beside the market, and saw a hanging sign indicating that I was in front of the Rania Apartments. I tried to gain access, but the door was locked. I went back to the market, which was closed, and waited until a lady arrived to open the market at about 8:00 AM. She spoke little English, but understood enough to telephone Mr. Mavrakis. A few minutes later Mr. Mavrakis drove up in front of the market, got out of his vehicle, and introduced himself. He then informed me that my apartment was not ready. I tried to explain that I had reservations, and that meant my apartment was supposed to be ready and available for me upon my arrival. Still, he persisted, but then informed me his brother had a small apartment building just a block or so down the road with an apartment where I could stay until mine became available at the Rania. What else could I do? I was in a foreign land, and unless I accepted his offer to stay at his brother’s apartment, I would have no place to stay. I felt that I had no other option but to accept his offer. I loaded my belongings into Mr. Mavrakis’ car, and he drove me a short distance down a narrow road in the direction of the beach. We stopped in front of a small, new looking apartment building that was a mere 75 feet from the beach. Mr. Mavrakis’ brother met us out front, gave me a building key and a room key, and then led me up a winding flight of stairs to an apartment marked, “1”. I opened the door to my temporary dwelling. It was small, neat, clean, and had everything that I needed...a small bathroom, a kitchen sink, counter, cabinets with cooking and eating utensils, a small refrigerator, a microwave oven with three stove burners mounted on the top, a color cable T.V., a small dresser, a wardrobe, a small eating table with two chairs, and two single beds with a nightstand between them. Then I opened the balcony and stepped out. I stood there and looked around; toward my left was the Aegean Sea with Dhia (Dragon Island) in the distance. I watched as the waves rolled in and kissed the shoreline, then gently caressed the beach as they retreated back into the sea. I was immediately reminded of a line from Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel, ZORBA THE GREEK, and as I stood there on that balcony, I quoted that line, "'Crete,’ I murmured, ‘Crete...’ and my heart beat fast.'” I felt as if I had come home!