When we set out on our yearlong tour of Europe, Greece was never on the radar as a “must-see” destination. A country with a language that uses an entirely different alphabet, a culture that I’d only experienced during the annual Taste of the Danforth and an occasional dinner east of the Don Valley in Toronto and an average temperature that beyond my normal comfort zone of 25 Celsius, the birthplace of Western civilization held little appeal despite it’s intellectual impact on everything from politics to literature, religion to art.
That was until our friends invited us to join them in a villa in Molyvos on the island of Lesbos for a weeklong beach vacation. In typical lesbian fashion the guests for the week would be myself and my wife; her ex-girlfriend and her girlfriend of almost a decade and their three-year-old son; and an old friend/well-known Montreal dyke about town and her lover, who would be joining us from Paris. With the right lighting, a stylist and a little script development, it could be a mini-series for sure — or at least a study in the inner workings of the lezzie community. How could any self-respecting lesbian turn down the chance?
We had arranged to arrive in Mytilene, the biggest city on the island, via Barcelona where we had spent the previous days at an international fag stag. An old friend, now family really, is getting hitched this August and we won’t be able to make it back for the nuptials — one among many things we will regretfully miss while we are away.
But Barcelona is much closer than Toronto when you’re living already on the continent, so we were off for five days of love, admiration and alcohol with a multinational gang of boys (and one other woman, the lovely Barcelona hostess). After party-kid antics and high-drama hijinks we were ready for the low-key high-heat week of Greek.
Landing a night earlier than our travel companions in Mytilen — via plane rather than the 12-hour overnight ferry that would carry our friends the following morning — we hopped in a cab to our hotel. The taxi driver and informal tour guide dropped us off behind the harbour road lined with cafés and restaurants, motorbikes and cocktails. Portos Lesvos, our home for one night.
We checked into our modest room (two twin-beds pushed together, no shower curtain) and immediately went out to scope the town and get some dinner after a long travel day. Within five minutes we were by the sea, away from the hustle and bustle of the harbour and seated at a small restaurant with a view of the Aegean. We were in Greece!
After six-months of real-life sabbatical it still feels surreal. Like it’s not quite my life and a little like Disney World.
When I used to write a music column and cover entertainment I would ask all of my interview subjects if they ever looked around at their life and thought, “Holy shit! Wow! This is my life!” I’m kind of feeling that way these days. Since I left, to be honest. Sometimes it prevents me from actually experiencing, creating a separation, making me an observer rather than a participant.
There are things that do keep me grounded including writing and my ever-fluctuating bank balance. But to stay present and achieve the small goals I set for myself before leaving home — like figuring out what I want to be when I grow up and where I would like to spend my golden years — I’m having to develop strategies. I’m not sure if going to museums and site seeing would make it more real, or less real. Would going up the Tour Eiffel when in Paris make the city more Paris or the memories more vivid and alive? And although I don’t want to go on a donkey ride, would it help reinforce the idea that I am actually in Greece? Or would it make it seem all the more extraordinary? “Look Ma, I rode an elephant in Thailand and a donkey in Greece.”
Seems a lot like a checklist and a lot less like living.
I want to feel like I am living somewhere else, and maybe that’s what this is. What I am confusing with ambivalence is my desire to experience everything this year as part of my life now rather than a dream reality cooked up over dinner with friends and too many glasses of wine. Seeing friends who have come to Europe on vacation and taking short trips to places I have never been has quickly become my current, although temporary, day-to-day. The question is, why is it not more mind blowing? Perhaps growing up with a mother who dreamed anything was possible and now a wife who believes the same, I never thought it out of reach, just another way of living in the world.
I’m in Lesbos for another three days and my plans involve nothing more taxing than sitting on the beach in a rented chair, covered from the blaring sun by a rented umbrella. Once we leave the island (this time by ferry) the plan is to spend a night in Athens, see the Acropolis and head back to Berlin, which feels more and more like home each time I return to it.
I guess that’s what I was looking for. ‘Cause nothing, as it turns out, is impossible.