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Rainow_3.doc

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Rainow_3.doc

    Cross Section through a Cross Section through a Cross Section through a

    Rainbow Rainbow Rainbow

    Athens, Corfu, and Rhodes Athens, Corfu, and Rhodes Athens, Corfu, and Rhodes

    April 1997

    Carl Lahser

    I

     We arrived home from Greece via New York and St. Louis about noon on Monday. It’s two A.M. in the morning Tuesday, and I can’t get back to sleep. Jet lag from eight time zones has my body thinking that its about ten in the morning. Might as well do something useful. Maybe I will write a report of the trip. Why not?

    *****

    A Starting Place

     As our 29th anniversary approached in 1996, we began to

    plan something special for number thirty. Adventure doesn’t come easily, so we began looking for a place for two weeks at one place or two places relatively close together where we could trade two timeshare condominium periods and get back-to-back weeks in the spring of 1997.

     I like beaches and had never been to Africa, but nothing was available in the whole Pacific area or in Africa. We decided not to look at Canada or Mexico just yet. We looked at Europe and decided to concentrate in the warmer Mediterranean region. Nothing that fit our requirements was available in Spain or Portugal, but we found back-to-back weeks in Greece - a week on Homer’s Corfu followed

    by a week on Rhodes with a day or two in Athens.

     This sounded good to me. In the summer of 1962, I had flown out of the US Air Base at Athens as a young Navy aircrewman. It would be interesting to see how things had changed. It had been tough duty - living on Glifádha Beach on the Apollo Coast, visiting the royal palace in Athens, seeing the Evzone guards, climbing the

    Acropolis, and walking through the Parthenon. I had also visited Corfu, taking Oúzo and mezédhes under a big oak tree, and had

    flown over the islands of the Aegean. The books of Lawrence Durrell had been read in the 60’s and their fire still smoldered. This would be

    an opportunity to look at present day Greece from a different

    perspective in education and philosophy and to contrast the realities of the present with the memories of the past.

     Reflecting on my all-too-short stay in Greece, I had two poems from 1962. One poem describes Glyfáda Beach. The other poem describes a portcall in Corfu now called Kérkyra. Considering the political changes in recent years, it would be interesting to see how Athens and Corfu had changed in thirty-five years and to compare present day Greece with accounts from sixty and 150 years ago.

    *****

    Corfu Afternoon

    In the shade of a large oak tree

    near the customs house

    the Venetian-style new fort looming overhead

    we listened to Greek music at a mesedhopolía

    feasted on a pikilía of mezédhes -

    feta cheese, dried squid, roasted lamb,

    and sampled licorice-flavored oúzo to excess.

    We were anchored off the commercial Port.

    The Pindus mountains and Albania,

    an ancient and Cold War adversary,

    lay just two kilometers across the strait.

    carl July 62

    *****

    GLIFA'DHA BEACH

Four thousand years of

     beachcombers,

     philosophers,

     soldiers,

     poets and kings

    trod this beach.

Their eyes have feasted on

     hills covered with oak and olive trees

     good anchorage in the Saronic Gulf

     fair country girls

    as they approached Athi'nai from the south. Forty civilizations spilled their blood and seed

    on this beach and on these hills.

I came as a warrior

    but my summer was spent in peace

     in a small family hotel

     on the shore looking south

     and west across the Gulf.

    Up each day to catch the morning, awakened by the soft knock of the maid

     who left croissants, jam,

     and tea on a terrace.

    Alone in the pastel dawn

     I watched the sky soften

     and the fog lift

    Seeing the yellow and white Caroline

     anchored a mile off shore,

     I wondered if Onasis

     was joining me for tea,

     waiting for the sun,

     listening to the gentle slap

     of wavelets at the changing of the tide.

I watched as fishing boats returned silently

     lamps trimmed,

     oars and nets shipped.

    Baskets of squid and cuttlefish

     were the reward

     of those who correctly answered

     the nymph’s question,

    "How is it with Alexander?" “He lives and reigns still.”

My war went well

     as I dressed for the day's flight. Like Icarus of old

     we strapped on wings

     and chased the wind east

     to Keá and A'ndros

     to Sa'mos and Ephesus

     north to Ankara

     over forested mountains

     to the Black Sea beaches.

We raced the sun west

     across the Bosporus

     down the fields and pastures

     of the Ergene Valley

     to Xanthi and Dráma.

    Banking left, we drifted southward

     to Thessalonniki

     across the Gulf of Thermaikos,

     across the bottomless blue Aegean

     under a cold clear blue sky,

     over rocky islands and narrow beaches

     to Athi'nai.

Warm nights

     of oúzo and retsina,

     slabs of white feta cheese

     raw squid,

     fried fish cakes with garlic sauce

     beneath spreading oaks,

     bif stek and stuffed grape leaves

    in tavernas where no Greek was spoken

    and drachmas got dollars in change.

    Overcast nights were like

     a large room with carpeted walls.

Warm breezes filled with the smell

     of acacias

     and the sea

     as lights of the Caroline

     disappeared into the dropping mist.

I waited on the beach

    for the dawn

    when we would fly again.

     Carl July 62

    *****

     As homework, I reviewed my 35 year old 35mm slides of Greece and read several travel guides including Baedeker’s Greek

    Islands, Fodor’s Greece, The Real Guide to Greece published by

    Prentice Hall Travel, and Mainland Greece by Victor Walker. I

    listened to the Berlitz Greek language tape several times and

    relearned a few terms and common phrases. I reviewed reading

    Greek and read parts of Homer’s Odyssey and the epic poem, the Argonautica, about Jason and the Argonauts whose author, Apollonius Rhodius, had lived on Rhodes for years.

     I tried to find books on the wildflowers, seashells and birds of

    Greece with little luck. I eventually found Peterson’s A Field Guide

    to the Birds of Britain and Europe and the Collin’s Pocket Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe plus a couple of big coffee table books of European birds. For plants, I discovered Mediterranean

    Wildflowers, a Complete Guide to the Plants of the

Mediterranean Area. I looked at Sea Shells of Western Europe by

    Bouchet, Danrigal and Huyghens, the Compendium of Landshells

    by Tucker Abbot and the Compendium of Seashells by Abbot and

    Dance. Tom Rice’s shell catalog offered distribution information.

     *****

     For modern historical insight, I read Hans Christian Andersen’s A Poet’s Bazaar, recounting a trip to Athens in 1841 and Laurance Durrell’s books, Prospero’s Cell and Reflections on a Marine

    Venus, on Corfu (Corcyra) and Rhodes respectively.

    *****

     Checking with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) I got their latest anti-terrorism briefing and found the terrorist threat for Greece to be moderate.

     I checked the medical area intelligence reports for Greece, Turkey, and Albania in the Monthly Disease Occurrence (World- wide), reviewed the Disease Vector Ecology Profiles (DVEP) prepared by the Defense Pest Management Information Center, and called the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) Malaria Hotline. Everything looked like it should with the exception of hepatitis A for which we got an Imunoglobulin shot.

    *****

     Reservations had been made in September and had gone through numerous minor changes prior to tickets arriving in March. The only significant change was thatTWA no longer flew to Athens.

    II

     It’s 3 AM and I’m still wide awake. Maybe a little

    more typing will put me to sleep.

    Off and Running

     I got back from a business trip to Albuquerque about midnight on Wednesday, the second of April. I unpacked, washed clothes, and packed up again for the trip to Greece. We were up at 0400 Friday morning ready to go, but the taxi that was supposed to pick us up at 0430 called at 0435 that they would be a half hour late. Our son drove us to the airport a little after 0500 for a 0710 flight. Since there had been a number of changes since the tickets were issued it took almost an hour to rebook everything. This was completed by 0615.

     Cool mist accompanied us off the runway. Dense clouds hid the ground all the way to St. Louis where we changed planes. Takeoff from St Louis was delayed half an hour for a Muslim man who refused to be seated until his three Muslim women were properly seated. He would not allow them to be seated next to men.

     Over Indianapolis the cloud cover broke. I could see a trailer park with the trailerhouses arranged in circles like big silver flowers waiting for the next high wind. Snow still covered the fence lines and streams of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

     We landed at JFK about 1330 and had a four hour layover. A half mile trek through oval precast concrete corridors as big as a 747 took us from gate 23 to 37. Carol dozed while I watched people and airport operations. I even got to see a supersonic Concorde land.

    *****

     Loading began about six in the evening, and we leapt into the dusk heading north and east for Gander, Newfoundland. We would be east of Paris for sunrise, then to Rome for a change of planes.

     After sunset the Hale-Bopp comet was visible in the northwest.

     Saturday morning, I woke south of Geneva to the sight of snow covered peaks and fog-bound valleys of the Alps twenty thousand feet below.

    *****

    The Alps from the Air

    Those narrow twisting roads

    through steep, green valleys

    around snow capped peaks

    of mile-high mountains

    present a different aspect

    when seen by Phineas Fogg.

    Days of driving

    in thin, crisp air scented with evergreens

    took minutes in sterile shirt-sleeve comfort.

    *****

    Alps from 30,000 feet

     We continued over rugged mountains east of Turin towards Genoa. (The Genoese had raided Corfu twice in the 15th century.)

     Early morning bluegreen water of the Mediterranean contrasted with the snow covered Maritime Alps, the tan beaches of the Italian Riviera, and red tile roofs of San Remo and Monaco. There appeared to have been recent rainfall with brownish eddies drifting parallel to the coast.

    *****

    Monaco Memory

    The little beach

    below the Prince Albert Museum

    spawned a magic maid

    with long black hair

    who tossed stones into the water

    so her full-size poodle would let us talk.

    She disappeared

    over a cold sweet vermouth.

    *****

    Italian Coast

    As we passed over the northeast corner of the Ligurian Sea towards Pisa and Livorno, a hint of Corsica appeared faintly on the horizon under thin clouds. The outside temperature at 30,000 feet was about -55?F, and the numerous aircraft contrails showed no jet stream and little wind. Contrails were caused when the heated jet exhaust provided condensation nuclei and water vapor to form long, thin man-made clouds.

     The Italian coast slid under us, and we continued southward down the coast of Tuscany over a solid cloud blanket. The approach into Rome took us out over the Tyrrhenian Sea. We turned east and

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