As the years continue to roll by, I notice that my mental faculties have begun to diminish. Now, whether this deterioration is the result of sipping raki (Cretan moonshine) on Crete, sipping Southern Comfort in Tennessee, sipping Tennessee moonshine at my home in Tennessee, or just plain ole old age, I guess I’ll never know. And, perhaps it is best that I never know, otherwise I might attempt to alter my way of life and inadvertently destroy a beautiful lifestyle! Anyway, as I attempt to recall and share memories of my distant past, some details have become a little fuzzy...sort of like when you have indulged in a bit too much of the aforementioned beverages! Keeping that in mind, I am going to try to recall and present, as accurately as I possibly can, an incident which occurred many years ago when I was stationed on Crete. None of the names have been changed to protect the innocent...Hell, none of us were innocent!
I believe it was in the spring or maybe the summer of 1969 that several of us airmen assigned to Charlie Flight with the 6931st Security Group on Crete, had decided to take a plane into Athens and visit the Acropolis and the Parthenon, the ancient Agora, and the archaeological museum over our four day break.
I believe there were four of us...perhaps five or as many as six, who had flown into Athens together. Even though I don’t remember who all was in our party, I do recall a rather tall, lanky fellow from the Deep South being with us. He was from either rural southern Alabama, rural southern Georgia or somewhere in Mississippi (all of Mississippi is rural) . After checking into our hotel, we decided the following morning after having had our continental breakfast, to visit the Acropolis and Parthenon, the ancient Agora, and the archaeological museum. After forty-plus years, I don’t recall the order in which we visited these sites, and it most likely doesn’t make any difference. Anyway, when we got to the archaeological museum, we were all walking down a rather long corridor that was lined with wonderfully preserved statutes...statutes of warriors, of royalty, of gods and goddesses and wannabe deities, of political figures, of mythological heroes and beasts, and of beautiful maidens and handsome young men in their prime. We paused at each one, eyeing them closely and intently as if pretending to know something about ancient art, sculpture, Greek statues and historical figures. As we continued to move along the corridor, we came upon one statue from its left rear quadrant. The figure had long, wavy hair flowing down the back, feminine curves, flaring hips, and a cloth that had been allowed to slide from the body, down past the round but firm buttocks and finally coming to rest elegantly draped below the knees and around the lower legs and ankles. The statue appeared to be that of a young Greek maiden, perhaps as she was about to step into a bathing pool or maybe as she was preparing to meet her lover. As we came alongside the left side of the figure, we could see the breasts were full and firm, but not unrealistic. Then we came round to face the full frontal figure. There was a small crowd of other tourists gathered before this statue, discreetly pointing and quietly whispering among themselves. The collective gaze of our little group of airmen glided from the top of the head, down the swanlike neck, past those beautiful full breasts, beyond the navel, down to the soft roundness of the lower belly and finally coming to rest upon the parting secrets of the Universe. WHAT THE HELL!!!! At that point we came to the sudden and shocking realization that the upper half of this statue was that of a woman, while the lower portion was that of a man! We stood there for a few seconds in a tense and uncomfortable, shocked stillness. Then this uneasy truce between silence and sound was broken by the boy from the Deep South who, with mouth agape and lacking even the slightest semblance of self-control, loudly proclaimed, “Gawwwwd dayummmm! (God damn!) Venus with a penis!” Heads suddenly turned in his direction to see who had broken this sanctum of silence. Now, I’m sure that ALL of us at one time or another have been in a gathering such as a wedding or funeral or in Church, when it would have been most inappropriate to laugh out loud, and this was one of those times. However, someone started to snicker, followed by a few nervous giggles of others, then a simultaneous, concerted outburst of uncontrollable laughter from the whole of the group standing in front of the statue. If the statue could have been animated, surely it would have drawn the cloth up from around its ankles and stormed off in humiliation and indignation! Now, I don’t fault the boy from the Deep South from blurting out; he was merely expressing aloud what all the rest of us were feeling inside. For weeks and even months afterwards, when I would be alone and think back on what had transpired at the archaeological museum in Athens, I could not help but burst out laughing. And, I am quite certain if anyone could have seen me laughing out loud while completely alone, they would have thought I had lost complete control of my senses! Even today, forty-six years afterwards, when thinking about those events at the museum, or when I see a photo or drawing of “Venus de Milo”, I will start to chuckle. But at my age, it no longer matters if others think that I have a few screws loose...because I am now at an age whereas I am entitled to have as many screws loose as I want, and furthermore, I don’t care!!! “Venus with a penis!”...got to be the shortest and most profound poem I’ve ever heard!!!